This week’s Ketchup includes development news stories for such movies as The Hunger Games (Part 5?), Neighbors 2, and new films from directors Ang Lee and Robert Zemeckis, as well as new roles for Bryan Cranston and Brad Pitt.
Author Suzanne Collins may have been able to finish up The Hunger Games with a trilogy of books (so far), but it’s sounding like Lionsgate may not be quite done with the franchise yet, even as we await the fourth film later this year. That’s right: this week, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told financial analysts that he’s “actively looking at some development and thinking about prequel and sequel possibilities” for the Hunger Games franchise. That simple statement is pretty much all we know about this “story,” but it’s certainly enough for anyone familiar with the books or movies to speculate about. Many writers are doing what we’re going to do, and just set aside the idea of a “sequels” because, well… what would the point of sequels be? Prequels, however, do seem like they have story potential, since there’s decades of “world building” that led up to the moment Katniss Everdeen volunteered as a tribute. This would include the forming of the districts (and what led to it), the first ever Hunger Games, and the various games which were won by characters from Catching Fire, such as Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), and Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) (some of whom would obviously have to be recast because of age). As for a reason Lionsgate might want to keep making Hunger Games movies, as the saying goes, Lionsgate probably sees 2,267,444,367 reasons.
Brad Pitt’s name came up three different times this week, associated with completely different films (only one of which he will actually be “starring” in, dramatically). That film is an untitled “sweeping romantic thriller” which is also described as being “epic”, and that’s about all we know, except that it will be directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Flight, and the upcoming The Walk). Well, that, and that it is based upon a story idea by screenwriter Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke, Dirty Pretty Things). Brad Pitt will also narrate the 40 minute IMAX version of a documentary called Voyage of Time from director Terrence Malick, based on filming he first did for the film The Tree of Life (which Pitt also starred in). There will also be a feature length version of the movie, but it will feature completely different narration from actress Cate Blanchett. Finally, Brad Pitt was represented this week as a producer in the news that Charlie Hunnam has replaced Benedict Cumberbatch in the long-in-development adaptation of The Lost City of Z, about British explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a legendary civilization in the Amazon jungle. Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller will also costar in the film.
The effort to popularize HFR projection hit something of a stumbling block three years ago when Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie was released in the format (which presents images at twice their normal speed), and the reaction was mixed, both popularly and critically. This sort of thing has, however, happened in the past. New advances in film technology are not always instantly embraced (in fact, they rarely are), with sound, color, 3D, and computer animation all now widely accepted techniques, after years or decades of development. The latest director to pick up the HFR banner from Peter Jackson is Ang Lee, who has announced plans to use a new format called Ultra HFR 3D for his next film. Instead of the boxing movie previously expected to be Lee’s next film, the director is now focusing on an an adaptation of a novel by Ben Fountain called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, about a harrowing battle during the Iraq War. Ang Lee is wasting no time, with an April filming start date expected. The next step is for Ang Lee to find his young star, and for the job, he’s considering four fresh faces who are currently nearly unknowns (at least by name). That quartet includes British TV actors Joe Cole and Billy Howle, American/Irish actor Jack Treynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction), and Taron Egerton, the star of the upcoming action film, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
When the frat boy comedy Neighbors finished 2014 with a $268 million worldwide box office (currently ranked at #30 for the year), it was probably an obvious certainty that Universal Pictures would pursue a sequel, and quickly. That was confirmed this week by the news that Universal Pictures has scheduled a release date of May 13, 2016 for Neighbors 2, which currently puts the sequel in between Captain America: Civil War (5/6/16), and the video game adaptation Angry Birds (5/20/16). Director Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement) and stars Zach Efron, Seth Rogen, and Rose Byrne are all expected to return for the sequel. There are currently no known details about the sequel’s premise, but an easy guess would be that the married couple again find themselves in some sort of situation where they are directly conflicted by the same fraternity, or possibly alumni of the fraternity. Rose Byrne also made the news this week because her character, Moira MacTaggert, has been confirmed to be returning in next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Following recent news that Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Tatiana Maslany (TV’s Orphan Black) had also auditioned for the role, we learned this week who is now in negotiations for the female lead in the first Star Wars spinoff film. That role is expected to instead go to Felicity Jones, who is now in negotiations with Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Pictures. In addition to costarring in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (as a character widely believed to be Black Cat), Felicity Jones is probably best known for costarring in the recent Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. We don’t know the premise or title of the spinoff yet, but we do know that it will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla), from a script by Chris Weitz (Antz, About a Boy, Down to Earth), and that Disney has already scheduled the film for December 16, 2016.
Apparently coincidentally, this past week saw news stories emerge about two separate live action adaptations of franchises best known for their portrayals as Japanese anime TV shows. One of them is the long-in-development project at Warner Bros to produce a movie based on Robotech, which is remembered by many as a TV series imported to the U.S. in the 1980s about the efforts to fight back alien invasions using giant “mech” robots. Past efforts at Warner Bros have included personalities like Tobey Maguire and Batman and Robin writer Akiva Goldsman, but the new producers hope to attract the interest of Mama director Andy Muschietti (though he isn’t signed yet). Meanwhile, the Australian production company Animal Logic (which provided the animation for The LEGO Movie, most famously) is now developing a live-action adaptation of the classic Japanese manga and anime franchise Astro Boy. This announcement comes just six years after the 2009 CGI movie Astro Boy proved to be both a box office and critical disappointment. Animal Logic is currently looking for screenwriters to start work on adapting Astro Boy as a live action film.
One of the first announcements to come out of this year’s Berlin film market concerns the English-language remake of the 2011 French crime thriller Sleepless Night. Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan will star in the remake, which will be produced and distributed by Open Road Films (picked up out of turnaround from Warner Bros). Jamie Foxx will play a police detective whose plans to rip off a gang of drug dealers goes horribly wrong when they respond by kidnapping his son. The Sleepless Night remake will be directed by Baran Bo Odar, who made his debut with the critically well-received 2013 film The Silence.
This is definitely a very debatable story which someone else could interpret differently, which is totally what the comments section is great for. This week, after nine years as chairperson of Sony Pictures (and 27 years total at the studio!), Amy Pascal stepped down from her position to focus instead on a new production company based at the studio. This news comes just a couple of months after Amy Pascal was a central figure in the hacked Sony Pictures e-mail leaks, in which Pascal and producer Scott Rudin traded messages joking about what movies President Barack Obama might like. Reasons to consider Pascal’s departure a “Rotten Idea” include the highlights of her career, such as the reboot of the James Bond franchise, the heights of the Spider-Man franchise, the two 21 Jump Street movies, and such acclaimed films as The Social Network, Moneyball, and Zero Dark Thirty. There’s also the most obvious distinction, which is that Amy Pascal is/was the only female executive at any major studio, and with her departure, the conversation now turns to which white male executive will be her replacement. On the other hand, the argument can also be made that “progress” means that a person who should step down because of mistakes does so, regardless of gender (or race). And, finally, there’s also the most obvious reason for Pascal’s departure, which is that in recent years, Sony has been having trouble competing with other studios, especially in the realm of “big blockbuster tentpoles.” That issue may also ultimately decide who lands the job as Pascal’s replacement.
James Franco is continuing his prolific second career as a director with an adaptation of one of John Steinbeck’s less famous novels, In Dubious Battle, about a union strike by fruit pickers in the 1930s. James Franco will also star in the film, along with Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Selena Gomez (who costarred with Franco in Spring Breakers), Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, and Danny McBride (Franco’s frequent costar in movies like Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and This is the End). The critical reactions to most of Franco’s directorial efforts have been Rotten to date.
Considering the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it was inevitable that other stories written by George R.R. Martin would eventually be adapted as movies. Surprisingly, there has never been a movie based on one of Martin’s works (though the Wild Cards superhero anthology epics that he edited and contributed to have been in development since the early 2000s). This week, from out of Berlin’s annual film market, we learned that Milla Jovovich is now in talks to star in a movie called In the Lost Lands, which is indeed based upon three of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy stories (that have nothing to do with Westeros). In the Lost Lands will be a German production, and will be written, produced, and directed by Constantin Werner, who most recently directed the 2009 Czech fantasy The Pagan Queen, which has no RT reviews, but received a “very negative” critical reception in the Czech Republic. Add in the fact that only one of Milla Jovovich’s last eight films received a Fresh rating, and that’s pretty much all the reason you need for this to be the week’s Most Rotten Idea.