This was a week filled with news stories from the world of film development, and in this column, we bring to you at least ten of the biggest revelations. Included in the mix are stories about a possible Downton Abbey movie, remakes of A Star is Born and Alien Nation, and the latest entries in the LEGO Movie, Star Trek and Marvel Studios franchises.
Last year, the first time most people heard about the possibility of Ernest Cline’s book Ready Player One becoming a movie was when the news broke that Christopher Nolan had reportedly been offered the job of directing the movie. The fan reaction was polarized, with some reactions questioning whether Nolan was a perfect match for a story saturated with a sense of nostalgia for the 1980s (since there are popular directors who have sort of built a career on that). Warner Bros also had another obstacle looming over Ready Player One, which is that although they are a big studio with lots of licenses, there’s a lot of 1980s pop culture to which Warner Bros does *not* have the rights. And that, right there, is another reason Warner Bros has attached Steven Spielberg to direct their adaptation of Ready Player One. Ready Player One is now expected to be Spielberg’s third upcoming movie, after Bridge of Spies (10/16/15), and The BFG (7/1/16). This is also a big deal for Warner Bros, with Spielberg returning to the studio for the first time in 2014 (since A.I. Artificial Intelligence in 2001). With Spielberg now aboard, he presumably brings with him all of the films that he produced through Amblin Entertainment, plus potentially his own films as director. The impetus for this being an issue is that a big part of the book involves the 1983 film War Games, which neither Warner Bros nor Spielberg has rights to, so another 1980s movie will have to take its place. Ready Player One is something of a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? of pop/gaming/retro/geek culture. Set in 2044, the death of the creator of a massive virtual reality framework called OASIS leads to a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory worldwide search for clues to the Easter Eggs and keys which will unlock ownership to OASIS (which is also chased by corporate henchmen, ala The Matrix). And, in other Steven Spielberg news, Bill Hader also signed on this week to play one of the giants in The BFG.
Fans of former NBC series Community are assumedly familiar with the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie which became closer to happening when Yahoo! Screen picked up the show for its sixth season. However, this week, a completely (and very) different show had two different things happen which now make it even closer to actually having “six seasons and a movie.” The show in question is the PBS phenomenon Downton Abbey, which was confirmed this week to have just one more season, its sixth, which will start airing in November, 2015. And that leads us to why Downton Abbey is even in a column about the movies, as Executive Producer Gareth Neame fielded a question this week about a Downton Abbey movie with, “Our position on that is we would be very interested in that. It is definitely something we’re contemplating. It would be great fun to do. I think it would be a wonderful extension of everything that people loved about the TV show, but I can’t confirm that it’s definitely going to happen.” So, he’s not saying it will happen, but there’s a chance. (And yes, we just made that connection.)
With filming scheduled to start in June, we learned this week who might be one of the biggest starts to join the franchise with (the probably-to-be-retitled) Star Trek 3. Idris Elba is now in early talks to play the film’s villain. We don’t know anything about that character, but there are rumors that this film might heavily feature Klingons. Another possible hint came this week from screenwriter (and costar as Scotty) Simon Pegg, who said that this one will “take it forward with the spirit of the TV show… [and be about] frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, you know. Where no man has gone before — where no one has gone before, sensibly corrected for a more enlightened generation. But yeah, that’s the mood at the moment.” Some of that might also be a correction following Star Trek Into Darkness, which some fans felt went too far in trying to replicate the “spirit” of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That wasn’t the only time this week, however, that Idris Elba made the news, as the British star is also now replacing Jamie Foxx in the Harmony Korine crime drama The Trap, along with Benicio Del Toro, James Franco, Al Pacino, and Robert Pattinson.
Before this week, there were already three LEGO movies in the works at Warner Bros, following the success last year of The LEGO Movie. There’s the LEGO Ninjago movie (9/23/16), The LEGO Batman Movie (5/26/17), and obviously, The LEGO Movie Sequel (5/25/18). This week, yet another movie was added to the LEGO movie roster, as Warner Bros hired actor/writer Jason Segel and screenwriter Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) to cowrite a LEGO Movie spinoff called The Billion Brick Race. There’s no other details known about the premise, but based on the title, one could guess that it sounds like a car/racing movie, possibly in the vein of Wacky Races, but… with LEGO pieces and characters (again, just a guess/hunch). As shown in The LEGO Movie, there are a lot of themes within the LEGO Universe that can be incorporated in this.
Matthew McConaughey (and his agent) is making the most of the lingering good will following his awards for Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective, and the box office results of last year’s Interstellar. McConaughey has the Japanese suicide drama Sea of Trees in the can, the Civil War drama Free State of Jones filming, and the jungle adventure Gold potentially filming soon after. Matthew McConaughey added yet another project to his slate this week with another true story called The Billionaire’s Vinegar. Adapted from the Benjamin Wallace non-fiction book The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle, the film will tell the story, starting in 1985, of the controversy surrounding bottles of wine claimed to have been from Thomas Jefferson’s secret stash in France. The story involves both members of the Forbes family, and billionaire Bill Koch (of “the Koch Brothers”), who spent over a million dollars investigating the validity of the wine’s purported history. The script for The Billionaire’s Vinegar is being adapted by the team of Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, whose credits include Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, and the TV series Chicago Fire.
Next year will mark 50 years since the last movie remake of A Star is Born (the first three were in 1937, 1954, and 1976). It wasn’t supposed to take that long, as Warner Bros has been developing a new A Star is Born since at least the early 2000s, and the list of actors who have considered taking on the male lead have included Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith. As of late, Clint Eastwood had been attached to direct, but this week we learned that his American Sniper star has instead landed the job. Bradley Cooper is now in talks to direct (his debut), produce, and star as the aging male “falling” star who falls in love with a woman whose career is on the upswing. Beyonce has been the top choice to star in this remake since the Will Smith years, and Warner Bros still hopes she will costar with Bradley Cooper.
After a sort of slow news week last time, this week was the opposite, with nearly 30 stories that could have otherwise been including in the Weekly Ketchup. And a lot of them involved Marvel Studios or 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Marvel characters. Let’s go through these in order of the release dates for the related movies. First off, there was a rumor that Carol Danvers, AKA Captain Marvel, may have already been cast and will be one of the big surprises in May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1/15). Also this week, we got our first fairly decent glimpse of the face and rock-like body of The Thing in this summer’s Fantastic Four (8/7/15). More officially, Ryan Reynolds took to Twitter today to show off the full costume for Deadpool (2/12/16). A very big Marvel Studios production that starts filming soon is Captain America: Civil War (5/6/16), and there was news about “African extras” being cast, pretty much confirming some of the film will be set in Black Panther’s nation of Wakanda. As exciting as Black Panther’s debut will be, the biggest new character in that movie will almost certainly be Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. An early report suggests that Marvel has held an audition with 16 year old actor Mateus Ward (Showtime’s Weeds). Opening just three weeks later will be 20th Century Fox’s X-Men: Apocalypse (5/27/16), and Jennifer Lawrence told MTV News that after Apocalypse, she will be done playing Mystique. Director Bryan Singer also took to Twitter this week to announce that the latest actress to play Jubilee (there have been a few) will be newcomer Lana Condor, who doesn’t currently have any previous credits. There was also a rumor this week from Latino Review on Instagram that X-Men: Apocalypse will feature cameos from Halle Berry as Storm, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and in his debut, Channing Tatum as Gambit (before that movie premieres on 10/7/16). Finally, in director news, we learned this week that Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War) will follow those films with their third and fourth Marvel Studios movies, the two halves of Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (5/4/18) and Part 2 (5/3/19). Finally, there was a rumor (and speculation) that director Adam McKay (the Anchorman movies, Step Brothers), following his screenplay work on Ant-Man, may be lined up to direct a movie as well. Excluding movies that already have directors, and the rest of Marvel’s upcoming slate for various reasons, Latino Review came up with the remaining possibility being Inhumans (7/12/19), which Marvel might be imagining as their next comedy adventure, in the spirit of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Before Neill Blomkamp ever directed the quasi-Short Circuit remake Chappie, he first emerged on the scene with District 9, which was arguably a quasi-Alien Nation remake. That’s right, Alien Nation, the now-overlooked 1988 science fiction movie with James Caan and Mandy Patinkin set in a near-future after a ship full of 300,000 alien slaves lands on Earth. The movie wasn’t a huge hit, but the fledgling FOX channel was desperate for TV shows, so Alien Nation got its own series, and a series of TV movies. And now, over 25 years later, 20th Century Fox is developing a remake of Alien Nation. The Alien Nation remake will be written by the screenwriting team of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, who were one half of the credited writers on Iron Man, and also cowrote Punisher: War Zone (they’re also working on the Highlander remake). The original Alien Nation has a Rotten Tomatometer rating of 54%, Iron Man is Certified Fresh at 93%, and Punisher: War Zone has a Rotten rating of just 27%.
The CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory is currently at the start of a three-year deal which extends it until the 2016-2017 season, but that apparently isn’t stopping its stars from getting extra work in between seasons. (Having a show on CBS certainly doesn’t stop Mike & Molly star Melissa McCarthy from having a movie career.) We mostly hear about Jim Parsons getting work (such as voicing the alien lead in this weekend’s Home), but this week, the news is all about Simon Helberg, who plays Howard on the show. Helberg has joined Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant in the period piece musical dramedy Florence Foster Jenkins. The movie will be set in early 20th Century New York City and will tell the story of a wealthy “blue blood” woman (Streep) who uses her wealth to establish a career as a singer, even though she has no actual talent. Helberg will play her pianist “Cosme McCoon,” and Grant will play Streep’s butler and best friend. Florence Foster Jenkins will be directed by Stephen Frears, whose critical high points include Philomena, Tamara Drewe, The Queen, and High Fidelity, and whose low points include Lay the Favorite, Cheri, The Van, The Hi-Lo Country, and Mary Reilly. And here’s what Simon Helberg’s own Tomatometer looks like.
It’s a meme as old as Fatty Arbuckle, but especially when it comes to comedy, reactions are sometimes polarized between critics and “regular folks.” Take, for example, the 2002 indie comedy Super Troopers, which premiered at Sundance and was quickly picked up by Harvey Weinstein. The Tomatometer rating for Super Troopers is a Rotten 35% (hence this story sitting here), but the Audience Score is 90% “liked it.” The latter probably explains how and why after just one day on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Super Troopers 2 reached its initial “greenlight” goal of $2 million, the day after it was confirmed that 20th Century Fox had picked up distribution rights to the sequel. Having said that, the Broken Lizard guys are quick to point out that $2 million was just the bare minimum, and that with more money, they can hire more “real Hollywood actors,” etc. The Indiegogo profile also suggests that additional funds will help secure a wide release for the sequel. As for why this is the Rotten Idea of the Week, here’s a link to director Jay Chandrasekhar’s RT profile page, where none of his films as director have ever received a Fresh rating.