This week’s Ketchup comes to you with a particularly strong batch of movie development news items, especially from Walt Disney Pictures and its subsidiaries (which includes Frozen 2, Star Wars: Rogue One, Star Wars Episode VIII, TRON 3, and the live action remake of… Dumbo). There was also news about a Ghostbusters action movie, and biopics about boxer Mike Tyson, P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl, and comedian Richard Pryor.
When any movie earns over $1.27 billion, it shouldn’t be particularly surprising when the studio eventually announces plans for some sort of sequel or follow up, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not really, really big and good news for all of the fans. Such is exactly what happened for the Frozen franchise this week (just as the short film Frozen Fever is premiering in theaters in front of Cinderella this weekend). The announcement wasn’t particularly lengthy, but it did include a few crucial details, such as the return of directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, and voice actor Josh Gad as the voice of Olaf the comic relief snowman. What was specifically missing in the announcement was the rest of the voice cast, including Kristen Bell (Anna) and Idina Menzel (Elsa), but… their omissions were probably just due to continuing negotiations. For example, Idina Menzel has already talked relatively recently about plans for a Frozen sequel. As for when Frozen 2 can be expected in theaters, fans should probably dress snugly, because the wait in Arendelle might be a few years. Walt Disney Animated Features has already scheduled their next three feature films, which Frozen 2 would ostensibly have to follow. The animal comedy Zootopia is scheduled for March 4, 2016; the Pacific Islands adventure Moana is scheduled for November 23, 2016, and the “Jack and the Beanstalk” adventure Giants is scheduled for March 9, 2018. So, it’s probably going to be at least three years yet before Frozen 2 will be ready for release.
The down side for Walt Disney Pictures now having their corporate fingers in so many franchise pies is that it’s possible for the company to make a series of huge announcements which are overshadowed by their own titles (other studios might file that as “the sort of problems you’d like to have”). After months (more like years, actually) of speculation about what the first Star Wars spinoff might be, we learned this week that the film will be titled Star Wars: Rogue One. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) has also landed the lead role, and Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled Star Wars: Rogue One for December 16, 2016. That Rogue One subtitle quickly had fans speculating connections to both Luke Skywalker’s SW:ANH designation of Rogue 5, and the Rogue Squadron books and video games. Speculation that Star Wars: Rogue One might be about pilots of X-Wings (or other similar vehicles) was quickly followed by reports about the concept art for the film (which manages to give new information without supporting any one theory). Star Wars Episode VIII was also announced this week as being scheduled for release on May 26, 2017, which will be 40 years and 1 day after the May 25, 1977 release date of the first Star Wars movie. The return of Star Wars to a May release date in 2017 quickly led 20th Century Fox to move their Fantastic Four sequel back a week to June 9, 2017, while Warner Bros’ The LEGO Batman Movie remains on May 26, 2017. Star Wars: Rogue One will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla), and Star Wars Episode III will be directed (and written) by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper).
It wasn’t really that long ago that we learned Sony was planning on changing things up considerably by rebooting Ghostbusters with a quartet of female stars. In fact, it was only 6 weeks ago, and in the same week that we first heard about Chris Pratt possibly playing Indiana Jones. Exactly how recent all of that makes this week’s news sort of surprising, but perhaps the best way to look at what comes next in this story is as being a reflection of Sony’s interest in building a “Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe.” Ivan Reitman is producing a “male-driven” Ghostbusters action movie that might be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo after Captain America: Civil War (under their deal which just made the news last week). Channing Tatum and his real-life friend Chris Pratt have been mentioned as possible stars in such a movie. This “action movie” Ghostbusters would be ostensibly part of a planned four movie franchise, followed by a third movie where the ladies and male action stars team up, and then a fourth movie would be a prequel (possibly rebooting the original guys back in the 1980s originated by Bill Murray and friends?). Some of this does read online as speculation, but as of this writing, Sony Pictures hasn’t flat-out debunked it quite yet. In somewhat related news, Jeremy Renner was confirmed this week as costarring as Hawkeye in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.
We’ve known since last summer that Jamie Foxx was attached to play boxer Mike Tyson in an untitled biopic, but this week, Jamie Foxx talked about the project, and dropped something of a bombshell about the project’s director. Pretty much the entire story is in Jamie Foxx’s quote, so here it is, “I just went in with Paramount with Mike Tyson. So I’m going to do the Mike Tyson story. Listen, to be in the same room pitching Mike Tyson to Paramount, Mike Tyson is on one side, I’m on the other side and doing Mike Tyson at the same time. And Martin Scorsese at the helm. This will be the first boxing movie that Martin Scorsese has done since Raging Bull.” If Martin Scorsese does sign on with Paramount Pictures to direct the Mike Tyson biopic (which is being written by his Boardwalk Empire collaborator Terence Winter), it will have to wait until after he wraps the Japan-set drama Silence, which is expected in 2016.
The competition for the title of the top U.S. box office total of 2014 was not boring to follow, with claimants to the title previously being Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. This week, however, the final winner was confirmed to have been American Sniper (though most of its $337 million was actually earned within the 2015 calendar year). It’s unlikely that there will be (or could be) a “sequel” to a biopic about a murdered veteran, but such a success can certainly help other war time true stories be greenlit. And that appears to exactly what has happened for director Kathryn Bigelow, whose last two films have been The Hurt Locker (Iraq), and Zero Dark Thirty (the hunt for Osama bin Laden). This week, it was revealed that Kathryn Bigelow’s next film will be adapted from the true story of Taliban P.O.W. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, whose eventual release was followed by controversy and speculation over the events that led to his capture. It’s possible that we will be soon hearing about developments for other similarlyy timely projects, such as Ashley’s War (about female soldiers in Afghanistan, possibly starring Reese Witherspoon), Three Days in Paris (about the Charlie Hebdo massacre), and the period piece The Yankee Comandante (about Fidel Castro’s rise in Cuba, possibly starring Matt Damon).
It’s been long enough since Eddie Murphy’s career as a stand up comedian was still an ongoing enterprise that one might be forgiven for no longer thinking of him as one, but in the 1980s, Murphy was one of the most popular stand ups. In the past, he’s been honest about his debt through inspiration to comedian Richard Pryor, and the two costarred together in the 1989 film Harlem Nights. This week, director Lee Daniels (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Lee Daniel’s The Butler) hinted what was soon confirmed: Eddie Murphy is now in talks with the Weinstein Company to costar in their untitled Richard Pryor biopic as the comedian’s boxer father, LeRoy “Buck Carter” Pryor. Kate Hudson has also signed to play Pryor’s wife, Jennifer Pryor. Murphy and Hudson join the already cast Mike Epps as Richard Pryor himself, and Oprah Winfrey as Pryor’s grandmother Marie Carter.
If one ignores the less successful films that result, Woody Allen’s prolificacy has to be respected. With pretty much every progression into a new calendar year, Allen directs a movie that he also found the time to write. He found critical and box office success in 2013 with Blue Jasmine, last year’s film Magic in the Moonlight was less so, and his film for 2015 will be Irrational Man (7/24/15). As is usual with Woody Allen’s process, we don’t yet know a premise or title for what will become his 2016 release, but this week, we did learn who the next film’s stars will be. Kristen Stewart will be the latest actress to benefit (hopefully) from working with a Woody Allen script, along with Bruce Willis and Jesse Eisenberg (who previously costarred in Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love).
With Cinderella opening this weekend, The Jungle Book coming in 2016 (4/15/16), followed by Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass (5/27/16), Pete’s Dragon (8/12/16) and Beauty and the Beast (probably in 2017), it’s clear that Walt Disney Pictures is thickly committed to remaking their older films. Indeed, this focus is ramping up next year to three such remakes in a single year (well, two if the Alice in Wonderland sequel isn’t counted). And it doesn’t look like Disney immediately has a reason to ramp back, because these films continue to be successful. However, the longer a winning streak keeps going, probability suggests at some point, it’s going to end. In what would have been the biggest story of the week in a less active week, we learned this week that Walt Disney Pictures has found their director for their live-action remake of Dumbo. Their choice is Tim Burton, who previously delivered Alice in Wonderland, the film which basically kicked off this entire recent wave of live-action-remakes-of-Disney-animated-classics. Dumbo, however, seems like a much more challenging project, which seems to have a polarizing choice of results. As for how a live action Dumbo fits into Tim Burton’s ouvre, this writer wonders if maybe it might resemble Big Fish, or Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, since it’s obviously a circus (and if you’re not familiar with Dumbo, a baby elephant and his mom). We may be a few years from seeing Tim Burton actually start filming his Dumbo remake, since he’s currently in Florida filming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and is also expected to film Beetlejuice 2 soon. We’re calling this story a borderline “Rotten Idea” based on the Rotten scores that a few of Tim Burton’s recent films have been earning (51% for Alice in Wonderland, 37% for Dark Shadows).
Miles Teller may not have himself been nominated for an Oscar for Whiplash, but that he may still be benefitting from his association with one of the year’s most acclaimed films. Universal Pictures has cast Miles Teller in their adaptation of the article “The Life and Times of the Stopwatch Gang,” which first appeared at the site Atavist.com. The article and movie tell the true story of a gang of Canadian criminals who robbed over 100 banks without ever having to fire any weapons. The film (whose title will probably be shortened) will be directed by Ruben Fleischer, who remains best known for Zombieland (90% Fresh), but whose last three projects as director (30 Minutes or Less, Gangster Squad) or producer (Two Night Stand, starring Miles Teller) have fared much worse. Fleischer’s recent struggles with finding critical acclaims is why this is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas, and not because an actor named Teller is going to star in a bank robber movie.
Although news about Disney hiring screenwriter Jesse Wigutow (It Runs in the Family) to work on a third TRON movie did break in late 2012, many people probably took the perceived lack of activity over the last two years to mean that Disney had moved on to greener pastures. After all, it’s not like Disney is lacking for lucrative franchises (the list which currently includes Frozen, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Indiana Jones, Disney Animation and live action remakes). The 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy was a mid-sized hit, with $400 million worldwide (from a budget of $170 million), and a Rotten Tomatometer score of 51%. So, it’s not surprising that people expressed surprise this week when the news broke that TRON 3 is scheduled to start filming this fall, 2015, in Vancouver. Or that TRON: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund and that film’s director Joseph Kosinski are also signed to return for the third film. This will be the third feature film for director Joseph Kosinski, whose second film Oblivion also received a mid-level Rotten Tomatometer score of just 54%.