This week’s Ketchup returns to its regular schedule, after the previous two columns looked back at the Fresh Developments and Rotten Ideas of 2014. As such, this time, we’re actually looking at movie development news stories from not just this week, but also some that date all the way back to before Christmas (but mostly it was this week, because Hollywood takes really, really, long holiday vacations). Included in the mix are Gambit, Ghostbusters, Rambo: Last Blood, and Wicked.
This Week’s Top Story
STAR TREK 3 TO BE FAST AND FURIOUS NEXT SUMMER
As often happens in the first days of a new year, a few studios announced release dates this week and last, mostly for the year 2016, although there were a few release dates in 2017, as well. One of these films was the science fiction sequel we’re still calling Star Trek 3 (until its eventual real title is announced), which is now scheduled for July 18, 2016. The Star Trek 3 news came along with an even bigger reveal, which is that the director taking over for J.J. Abrams will be Justin Lin, who is best known for directing four of the Fast and Furious movies (specifically, movies #3, #4, #5, and #6). Traditionally, there aren’t many vehicles with four wheels in the Star Trek franchise, although the young Kirk did trash a muscle car early in the 2009 reboot. Also in the summer of 2016, Matt Damon’s fourth Bourne movie has been moved to July 29, 2016, and The Purge 3 has been scheduled for July 1, 2016. 20th Century Fox also recently announced several release dates, including Assassin’s Creed (12/21/16), The Greatest Showman on Earth (with Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum) (12/25/16), The Fantastic Four 2 (6/2/17), and the third film in the Planet of the Apes reboot franchise (7/14/17). The film in Fox’s announcement that is arguably the biggest news is the Gambit solo film, starring Channing Tatum (10/7/16). There are multiple reasons for this, but one that is frequently overlooked is that this means that in 2016, 20th Century Fox will become the first studio to ever release three films in the same franchise in the same calendar year: Deadpool (2/12/16)*, X-Men: Apocalypse (5/27/16), and Gambit (10/7/16), with a fourth X-Men franchise film coming within the same 13 month period with The Wolverine 2 (3/3/17). (* Deadpool also made the news with word that T.J. Miller and Ed Skrein are in talks for supporting roles).
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 SHRINKING MOVIE DOWNSIZING CAST GROWS
In the same week as the premiere of the first trailer for the shrinking superhero movie Ant-Man, another movie about shrinking humans made the news twice. We’re talking about Downsizing, the long-in-development social satire about a couple who decides life is too expensive to be lived at full size, which will be the next film from director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska). Matt Damon had already been cast last year, and this week, the actress who had previously been mentioned as a possibility to play his wife indeed signed on to play his wife. That would be Reese Witherspoon, who previously worked with Alexander Payne on Election. The Reese Witherspoon new was soon followed by three actors in supporting roles: Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jason Sudeikis.
#2 ELLE FANNING TO STAR IN NICOLAS WINDING REFN’S THE NEON DEMON
Although his RT Tomatometer stumbled a bit with Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Bronson, the Pusher trilogy) has been something of a critical darling, and he’s also attracted a cultish following of fans. After two films starring Ryan Gosling, Refn’s next lead will be 16-year-old Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), who has signed to star in the horror film The Neon Demon. Details are sparse, except that Elle Fanning will play an “aspiring model caught in a world of beauty and demise” (and presumably, at least one brightly colored demon).
#3 WILL WICKED WITCH WIND UP IN THEATERS IN 2016?
Universal Pictures’ adaptation of the hit musical Wicked has been in development for several years now, but this week, while promoting another fantasy musical (Into the Woods), producer Marc Platt hinted that we might now be within two years of its release. Specifically, Platt said that the target for release is 2016 (one could guess December, as that’s when musicals are often released, though Platt didn’t specify). It was from the same article that we also found out that the director attached to Wicked is Stephen Daldry, whose credits include The Hours, The Reader, and the dance drama Billy Elliot. Wicked is of course a musical based upon a novel that acts as a prequel to L. Frank Baum?s Oz books, telling the story of how a young woman named Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West.
#4 MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY JOINS FREE STATE OF JONES, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS
The current upswing of Matthew McConaughey’s career is no fugazi, fugayzi, woozy, or wazzy. The actor is hot, especially after recent roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, and Interstellar. This week, McConaughey was confirmed to be starring in the Civil War romantic drama Free State of Jones as Southern Unionist (soldiers who rebelled against the Confederacy) Newton Knight. Gugu Mbatha-Raw will costar as a slave with whom Newton Knight had a romantic relationship, inspiring him to lead the movement against the Confederacy, starting with a group of deserting soldiers. Free State of Jones will be writer/director Gary Ross’s fourth film as director after Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and The Hunger Games. Free State of Jones will be a $65 million independent production filming in New Orleands and elsewhere in Louisiana. Matthew McConaughey will also be providing his voice, along with Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron, to the next stop-motion animated film from Laika, the company behind such films as Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Titled Kubo and the Two Strings, the film “kindhearted Kubo, who lives a humble life devotedly caring for his mother in their sleepy shoreside village. But when a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta, Kubo suddenly finds himself on the run from gods and monsters.” Focus Features has scheduled Kubo and the Two Strings for August 19, 2016.
#5 MELISSA MCCARTHY IN TALKS TO STAR IN GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT
Ever since we learned last year that Sony Pictures was planning on a female reboot of Ghostbusters to be written and directed by Paul Feig, the idea that Feig would heavily recruit from the cast of Bridesmaids has been presumed. That notion came closer to happening with today’s news that Melissa McCarthy is now in early talks for one of the lead roles. McCarthy’s involvement is far from a sure thing, however, as her scheduling in between seasons of Mike and Molly is tight, and she has already committed to star in a comedy called Michelle Darnell, to be directed by her husband Ben Falcone. One other little detail that this news brings us is the revelation that Ghostbusters reboot is expected to start filming in June (which is why scheduling is tight for McCarthy). One of McCarthy’s Bridesmaids costars who had previously been mentioned, Rebel Wilson, is reportedly no longer in the running, and neither is Jennifer Lawrence (though Emma Stone still is, to the point that she’s been turning down other roles to leave her summer open for the possibility of starring in Ghostbusters). Other actresses said to be in the running are Jillian Bell of Workaholics and Cecily Strong of Saturday Night Live. If Melissa McCarthy does sign on for Ghostbusters, it will be her fourth film with director Paul Feig after Bridesmaids, The Heat, and this summer’s Spy (5/22/15).
#6 PAUL RUDD JOINS THE REVISED FUNDAMENTALS OF CAREGIVING
For many people, the big Paul Rudd news this week was the debut of the first Ant-Man trailer (more on that below), but there was also a new movie deal for Rudd that nothing to do with founding members of The Avengers. Paul Rudd has signed on to star in an adaptation of the Jonathan Evison novel The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. Paul Rudd will play a character who befriends “a young adult stricken with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The two form a unique bond and gently push each other toward re-engaging in life in an affecting, funny and inspirational tale of broken people coming to terms with difficult lives.” The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving will be directed by Late Show with David Letterman executive producer Rob Burnett, who made his directorial debut in 2012 with the indie film We Made This Movie. David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants is also co-producing this independent film. And now, back to the superhero comedy Ant-Man. One new detail that emerged this week along with the trailer is the revelation that the final writing credit is for both Paul Rudd (cowriter of Role Models) and Adam McKay (cowriter of the Anchorman films). Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish will receive a “story by” credit for their work on earlier drafts of the Ant-Man script.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#3 SHREK DIRECTOR TAKES ON ZOMBIES AND ROBOTS WITH INHERIT THE EARTH
Director Andrew Adamson’s career took off in the 2000s with a streak of four family films (the first two Shrek and Narnia movies), three of which are Certified Fresh. Since 2008, however, it’s been a rougher patch, with Shrek Forever After, Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away, and Mr. Pip all receiving Rotten Tomatometer scores. For his next film, Adamson appears to be plotting something of a career shift. Out are the talking donkeys and woodland critters of Narnia, and in are robots and evil zombies. Andrew Adamson has signed on with Sony Pictures to direct Inherit the Earth, which is an adaptation of the IDW Publishing comic book Zombies vs. Robots. Inherit the Earth will tell the story of a group of robots who team up to protect a young girl who is the last human alive on Earth from a “pack of intelligent zombies.” Hopefully, Andrew Adamson can turn around his recent Rotten streak with this film.
#2 LIAM NEESON TO REMAKE THE ESCAPIST
Liam Neeson is continuing a streak of film prolificacy which makes Michael Caine or Morgan Freeman look like Daniel Day-Lewis. His latest film Taken 3 just opened in theaters today, and thus far has a 12% Rotten Tomatometer, which is low even for an actor whose recent films have included Taken 2 (21%), Battleship (34%), Third Person (23%), and A Million Ways to Die in the West (33%). This week, Neeson signed to star in a remake of The Escapist, the 2008 UK prison movie which marked the directorial debut of Ruper Wyatt, who recently directed the remake of The Gambler, which marked his Tomatometer low point to date, with just a score of 45%. Rupert Wyatt will produce the remake, and the project is apparently still seeking a new director.
#1 NOTHING IS OVER FOR RAMBO… EXCEPT THE FRANCHISE
Sylvester Stallone recently tweeted “Doing Scarpa based on Gangster Greg Scarpa after LAST BLOOD RAMBO…” That posting may have only used a few dozen characters, but it was enough for entertainment writers to extrapolate entire stories about Sylvester Stallone’s next two movies, using multiple paragraphs, sentences, and correct punctuation. Stallone’s next project is going to be the Rocky spinoff Creed, which starts filming this month in Philadelphia. Stallone will play Rocky Balboa, an elderly ex-boxing-champion who coaches the grandson (played by Michael B. Jordan) of Apollo Creed, one of his former opponents. Creed will be the seventh time Sylvester Stallone has played Rocky Balboa. Then, the 68-year-old Sylvester Stallone will direct and star in Rambo: Last Blood, the fifth and final film about Vietnam War veteran John Rambo (who first appeared in an adaptation of the novel First Blood, hence the title’s reference). After Creed and Rambo: Last Blood, Stallone will then start work on Scarpa, a gangster movie based on the life of Colombo crime family hitman and FBI informant Gregory “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa. It’s not expected that Scarpa will end up having multiple sequels. Here’s Sylvester Stallone’s Tomatometer, which has been dominated by Rotten splotches ever since his 1974-1982 run of films with much better reviews.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.