This week’s Ketchup covers a week that is partly busy because of the Cannes Film Festival, but also partly slow because much of Hollywood has taken the whole week off leading up to Memorial Day. We did, however, have ten top film development news stories this week, covering such movies as The Croods 2, The Girl on the Train, Now You See Me 3, Project XX, and Star Trek Beyond, as well as new roles for Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Reese Witherspoon.
Five years ago, back in 2010, before Disney’s multiple plans for live-action adaptations of their animated classics had really started to take off, we first heard of plans for a movie called Tink. At that point, Elizabeth Banks was attached to play the live-action version of Tinker Bell (from Peter Pan) in a movie about the story we don’t know (ala Maleficent). This week, we learned that Walt Disney Pictures is still very much interested in getting Tink produced, but that they now have a completely different lead actress. Reese Witherspoon is now attached to star in Tink, which is being written by Victoria Sprouse, the screenwriter of next year’s Pixar sequel Finding Dory (6/17/16). No reason is given for Elizabeth Banks’s departure from playing Tink, but it’s quite possible that Banks will simply be too busy. In addition to her acting career (which includes the future LEGO Movie sequels and spinoffs), Banks is also now a director (and may be returning for the inevitable Pitch Perfect 3). Walt Disney Pictures has not yet announced a release date for Tink, but there’s a very good chance it will be a major release later this decade.
One of the biggest successes in publishing this year has been a novel called The Girl on the Train by author Paula Hawkins. The novel is attracting comparisons to both Gone Girl and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. So, it’s probably not surprising that someone in Hollywood noticed the book’s success, and has put the adaptation on the fast track. That studio is DreamWorks, and this week, we learned that director Tate Taylor will be reuniting with the studio behind his most successful film, The Help. Taylor also recently directed the James Brown biopic Get On Up, and is developing the business biopic Tupperware Unsealed. The Girl on the Train tells the story of a young woman who is fascinated by a house she sees every day on a commute train, until that compulsion makes her the only witness to something horrible that happens there.
It’s sort of a cliche at this point that comic actors sometimes team up with directors better known for “Oscar bait.” And heck, Will Ferrell already did something several years ago, with the Kaufman-esque Stranger Than Fiction. This week, the director of which we speak is Sweden’s Lasse Hallström, whose filmography includes such films as Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, and most recently, last year’s The Hundred Foot Journey. Hallström and Ferrell are teaming up for Tom’s Dad, a comedy set in 1960s Nevada about a struggling nightclub performer who dreams of becoming a Las Vegas stage act, performing alongside various circus animals (sort of like a straight Siegfried without Roy, we guess?). Filming is expected to start sometime in early 2016, possibly aiming for a release date in late 2016 or sometime in 2017.
Of DreamWorks Animation’s last ten non-sequels/spinoffs, only 2013’s The Croods earned over $500 million in worldwide box office, so obviously, one of their next four movie’s is going to be The Croods 2. It’s been presumed for a while that Nicolas Cage, Clarke Duke, Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds, and Emma Stone would be returning to reprise their character’s voices, but this week, we learned about two actresses who will be joining them for the sequel. Leslie Mann (AKA Mrs. Judd Apatow, and the frequent co-star of his films) will play the mother of a new family that the Croods encounter, and Kat Dennings (Thor, TV’s 2 Broke Girls) will play her daughter. Presumably, Mann and Dennings will be joined by male actors to play the rest of their family, but DreamWorks hasn’t announced those actors yet. The Croods 2 is scheduled for release on December 22, 2017.
Marvel Studios has already announced a release date of May 5, 2017 for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and so, we can expect that sometime soon, writer/director James Gunn will be fully at work on that sequel. In the meantime, however, Gunn has another non-Marvel movie that he has written that starts filming soon, and this week, there were several stories about the film’s cast. The ensemble cast will include Tony Goldwyn (TV’s Scandal), John C. McGinley (TV’s Scrubs), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), and John Gallagher Jr. (HBO’s The Newsroom), with more cast probably yet to be announced. The movie in question is called The Belko Experiment, a thriller for MGM, and it’s about the employees in a corporate building (The Belko Corporation) who are forced to start killing each other. It’s not expected that the Belko Corporation employs any talking raccoons. The Belko Experiment will start filming in Bogota, Colombia, in June, 2015, under the direction of Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Rogue, Wolf Creek 2).
There’s no way of telling what sort of long-term impact this story will have (just a hunch: very little), but this week, beloved geek/nerd icon Simon Pegg was quoted as dropping a truth bomb, and the world’s blogosphere suffered a mild implosion as a result. It all started when Pegg was quoted as saying, “Nerd culture is the product of a late capitalist conspiracy, designed to infantalize the consumer as a means of non-aggressive control.” At the same time, Pegg also mentioned that he had to get back to work on writing Star Trek Beyond, and in a normal week, the revelation of the title of the third Star Trek movie would have been the news. Instead, people reacted with shock that anyone would describe a generation who has spent 30+ years playing with movie tie-in toys and reading comic books as being “infantilize(d).” A day later, in response to the online reactions, Pegg went into more detail about the next Star Trek, and probably dug the hole even deeper, saying that he was hired to work on the script because, “I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little bit too Star Trek-y.” Comparing the box office of Star Trek Into Darkness to the box office of Marvel’s The Avengers (which made over a billion dollars more), Simon Pegg said of Star Trek, “People don?t see it being a fun, brightly coloured, Saturday night entertainment like the Avengers,” so that the studio’s solution will be to, “make a western or a thriller or a heist movie, then populate that with Star Trek characters so it’s more inclusive to an audience that might be a little bit reticent.” Justin Lin, the four time director of the Fast and Furious franchise (movies #3, #4, #5, and #6, specifically), will be directing Star Trek Beyond, which Paramount Pictures has scheduled for July 8, 2016.
Much like what happened a few years ago at Warner Bros when the Harry Potter franchise came to an end, Lionsgate is currently trying to figure out how to keep up their annual box office in the time after The Hunger Games comes to an end later this year. This week, we learned more about two of what Lionsgate sees as new franchises for the studio. First of all, there was the news this week that Lionsgate is already developing Now You See Me 3, the second sequel to their 2013 magicians-turned-thieves surprise hit (50% on the Tomatometer). This news comes over a year before the June 10, 2016 release of the first sequel, next year’s Now You See Me: The Second Act. Another potential new franchise for Lionsgate is a series of classical Greek adaptations, starting with a two-movie adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, which will be directed by Francis Lawrence, who will continue to work for Lionsgate after the last three Hunger Games movies. Francis Lawrence’s filmography also includes Constantine, I Am Legend, and Water for Elephants.
A pall that continues to hang over the $3.76 billion worldwide box office of the four movies in the Transformers film franchise is the impression among many that the movies just aren’t particularly great. Although the first movie in 2007 almost earned a Fresh rating (57% is three points shy of the margin), movie #3 was Rotten with 35%, and movies #2 and #4 received the lowest scores, with 19% and 18%, respectively. This appears to be an issue that Paramount Pictures and their assembled “Transformers brain trust” appears to be taking seriously, as with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, they have assembled an impressive “writers room” for the franchise, going forward. The idea is to form four creative teams which will then take on assigned parts of the movies forming an expanding Transformers Cinematic Universe. This group includes comic book writer Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies), screenwriting partners Art Marcum and Matt Holloday (Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone), prolific Fox/Marvel movie screenwriter Zak Penn, and Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). It’s not yet known which directors might eventually be recruited to work on any of these Transformers movies, or what they might be about. There are still a lot of question marks, so unfortunately, this story is still at least a borderline “Rotten Idea” this week.
Nine years after the 2006 release of Nacho Libre (Rotten at 40%), Jack Black is now attached to reunite with that film’s director, Jared Hess, for a comedy called Micronations. As the title suggests, Micronations will be a comedic take on the concept of small groups of people who declare themselves to be sovereign states. Specifically, Jack Black will play the head of defense for the nation of Valoria (population 12), that finds itself at war with neighboring micronation Wayne County, Nevada. Although Jared Hess had a promising debut in 2004 with Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre was the first of a streak of three movies which have all received Rotten Tomatometer scores (40% for Nacho Libre, 19% for Gentlemen Broncos, and 40% for this year’s Don Verdean).
In March of 2012, shortly after the “crazy party” comedy Project X opened to a weekend of $21 million (from a budget of $12 million), Warner Bros announced plans for a sequel. And that seemed to pretty much be the end of such plans for the three years since. That is, until this week, as Warner Bros has announced a release date of August 19, 2016 for the sequel called Project XX. It is as yet unknown if any of the first film’s cast will be returning for the sequel. The first Project X received a Rotten Tomatometer score of just 28%.