This week’s Ketchup brings you another ten headlines from the world of film development news (those stories about what movies Hollywood is working on for you next). Included in the mix this time around are stories about such titles as The Little Mermaid, the Blade Runner sequel, and remakes of both Clue and Witness for the Prosecution.
August 4th, 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the release of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who also costarred together in 2008’s Step Brothers. Over the last eight years, Ferrell and Reilly have considered other projects to be their third movie together (including the possibility of a Step Brothers sequel), but none of them have come to fruition yet. Based on the language in this week’s announcement, it’s sounding like that third Ferrell/Reilly movie will be a detective comedy called Holmes and Watson. As the title suggests, Holmes and Watson will be based upon the characters Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson, as created by Arthur Conan Doyle, and as previously adapted to film dozens of times. John C. Reilly is actually replacing Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, The Dictator), who had previously been attached to costar as Watson. In addition to starring, Ferrell is also producing via his Gary Sanchez production company for Sony Pictures, and filming is expected to start later this year after the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s not yet known if Holmes and Watson will retain the 19th century setting of Doyle’s stories, or if the characters will still be British (Ferrell and Reilly are both Americans, but so is Robert Downey Jr). There’s no release date for Holmes and Watson yet, but Warner Bros may give it competition relatively soon, as Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, and director Guy Ritchie have been talking about making a third Sherlock Holmes movie for a few years now. On TV, the fourth season of the contemporary Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, is expected to air on BBC and PBS in 2017. Holmes and Watson will be directed by Etan Cohen (Get Hard) from his own screenplay (Cohen also previously wrote Men in Black 3, and cowrote Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder, and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa).
Even as yet another remake (Ben-Hur) goes into the weekend with a Rotten Tomatometer score and low box office expectations, Hollywood is still developing new remakes of classic late-1950s movies. Within the larger trend of remakes, this particular story is part of a more specific group at 20th Century Fox, which has committed to remaking movies based on Agatha Christie mysteries (the first such film being next year’s Murder on the Orient Express, scheduled for November 22, 2017). The 1974 Murder on the Orient Express was nominated for six Academy Awards (and won one for Ingrid Bergman), and this week’s news concerns a remake of another film which was also nominated for six Academy Awards. 20th Century Fox is reportedly finalizing negotiations with their former Daredevil star Ben Affleck to direct and star in a remake of 1957’s Witness for the Prosecution. Although the prospect of a remake of Witness for the Prosecution doesn’t otherwise seem particularly Fresh, Affleck is currently 3-for-3 as a director (Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo are all Certified Fresh). Witness for the Prosection is a legal mystery drama about a man accused of murder whose wife is called to testify against him because she was already married to someone else (making their marriage illegal, and thus, removing the marital legal protections). Sir Charles Laughton played the attorney in the original film, and Tyrone Power (in his last role) played the accused, but it’s not yet known which character Ben Affleck might be playing. Affleck’s next film as director will be Live by Night (1/13/16), and he is also expected to direct the next solo Batman movie (release date TBD), so it may be a while yet before Witness for the Prosecution gets remade.
If you only saw one thing in your social networking feed(s) this week about actor Jared Leto, it might have had something to do with his recent supervillain adventure, Suicide Squad. Specifically, at a fan event for his band Thirty Seconds to Mars, Leto was quoted (and caught on video) saying that he felt “tricked” into appearing in the film as the Joker, dropping an “F bomb” directed at his studio employers. All of that may eventually require Ben Affleck and Warner Bros to find a new actor to play the Joker in the solo Batman movie (a la Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Banner/Hulk), but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, Jared Leto has joined the cast of the sequel to Blade Runner, which already included Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Barkhad Abdi, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, and Robin Wright. (Back in 2014, there had been rumors that Gosling might have played the Joker in Suicide Squad before Jared Leto signed on.) Whatever this Blade Runner sequel ends up being called, it will be directed Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, The Arrival) and it is scheduled for release on October 6, 2017.
In the 18 years since the Coen brothers directed The Big Lebowski, the film — starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” — has taken on a new life as one of the few true cult films of the last 20 years, including festivals devoted specifically to the film, and so, so, so much merchandising. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, directed, and produced The Big Lebowski based on their own characters, so this week’s news comes as quite a surprise. The Coens have apparently given John Turturro their approval to write, direct, and star in a spinoff of The Big Lebowski, focused on Turturro’s “Jesus Quintana” bowling enthusiast. The independent film in question is called Going Places, and it is also an English language remake of the 1974 French sex comedy Les Valseuses (which is French slang for testicles). John Turturro is already filming Going Places, and other cast members include Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, and Susan Sarandon. It appears that Turturro is playing the character originally played by Gerard Depardieu in the sex/crime comedy about two criminals on the run who compete for the “romantic” affections of Tautou’s character (with Sarandon playing an ex-con recently out of prison). Although the original has a Fresh Tomatometer score, not all critics agreed; Roger Ebert gave it a score of just 1 star out of 5, writing that it was “the most misogynistic movie I can remember; its hatred of women is palpable and embarrassing.” John Turturro’s remake is a tentative “Fresh Development” based on the Tomatometer score for both Les Valseuses and the Coens’ fan favorite, The Big Lebowski.
The 1989 animated Disney musical The Little Mermaid is widely beloved (and credited for Waking Sleeping Beauty), so it was probably inevitable that the studio’s “live action fairy tale” plans would eventually include The Little Mermaid. We heard as much earlier this year, but this week brought the first substantial news that the studio is actively developing their new Little Mermaid. Walt Disney Pictures has hired longtime Disney composer Alan Menken (whose credits include, yes, The Little Mermaid) and Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda to start work on new songs for the live-action remake. Miranda will also be producing the new film (though it’s unconfirmed whether he will also costar), and it will be the third major project at Disney for him, as he also wrote all of the songs for this year’s Moana, and he will also star in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns. British actor Ben Whishaw (the most recent “Q” from the James Bond movies) also made the news this week because he is now in talks with Disney to costar in Mary Poppins Returns as the adult version of Michael Banks. The sequel is set 25 years later after the movie starring Julie Andrews, with Emily Blunt signed to play the nanny the second time around. Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled Mary Poppins Returns for release on December 25, 2018.
When Disney releases Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales next year (5/26/17), Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Geoffrey Rush are all expected to return, but one costar of the first film who will not is Keira Knightley. That doesn’t mean, however, that Knightley is any sort of persona non grata at Disney, since the actress made some pretty big casting news at the Mouse House this week. Knightley has signed with Disney to costar in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, the studio’s live action adaptation of the 1816 fairy tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. Knightley will be playing the Sugar Plum Fairy, and she will join the already cast Mackenzie Foy (as Clara), Morgan Freeman, and Misty Copeland as the lead toy dancing ballerina. Keira Knightley also made the news this week for negotiations to star in an adaptation of the bestselling novel The Aftermath, as one half of a British couple staying in the ruins of Hamburg, Germany, as the rebuilding effort begins in 1946. Alexander Skarsgard (The Legend of Tarzan) is also in talks to star in The Aftermath, as is Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Terminator: Genisys).
First, we should note that this week’s news is almost certainly not a spoiler for next summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, as it seems extremely unlikely that the trailers wouldn’t be pretty clear about which character we’re talking about. Having said that, since Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios referred to the character in question as “Michelle” (not really her name), we want to respect whatever secrecy they’re striving for. The movie blog The Wrap has confirmed through two sources in the know that the character 19-year-old Disney star Zendaya will be playing in Spider-Man: Homecoming is none other than future romantic interest Mary Jane Watson, a role previously played by Kirsten Dunst in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. As for the expected “internet outrage,” as Devin Faraci of Birth.Movies.Death puts it, “You thought the internet got upset when they cast people with the wrong hair color, imagine how Reddit is gonna react to this.” Mary Jane Watson will not be the only traditionally white character who will be played in Spider-Man: Homecoming by an actor of a different race, as Zendaya’s costars include Tony Revolori (Flash Thompson), Jacob Batalon (Ned Leeds), and Laura Harrier (Liz Allan). Marvel and Sony have scheduled Spider-Man: Homecoming for release on July 7, 2017.
After the two “grimdark” films directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel – 55 percent Rotten, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – 27 percent Rotten), Warner Bros and DC Comics recently gave us another grimdark film (with a few more jokes) in Suicide Squad, and critics gave it the lowest scores of the three. The verdict is (obviously) still out on the next few DC Comics movies (next year’s Wonder Woman and Justice League), but Warner Bros gave a brief theatrical release to their latest animated movie, and it was also critically ill-received. Despite its title — borrowed from Alan Moore’s 1980s story — Batman: The Killing Joke had very little humor and a tacked-on first half hour which drifted far afield from Moore’s version, and critics gave it a Rotten 48 percent score. So, since the dark and serious thing doesn’t appear to be working (at least not critically) for Warner Bros and DC Comics, perhaps that’s why the studio made the surprise announcement this week that their next animated film will see a drastic return to arguably the most lighthearted version of Batman ever. Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar will be providing their voices for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, a new feature length animated adventure which will revive the 1960s TV versions of Batman, Robin, and Catwoman (with other newer actors voicing characters like the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler). This decidedly lighter animated movie will premiere on digital HD on October 11th and on Blu-ray on November 1, 2016. It is not yet known if Warner Bros plans on giving Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders a theatrical release, but we didn’t expect one for Batman: The Killing Joke either when it was first announced.
Sometimes when we set out to say movie news stories are Fresh or Rotten, it’s not exactly that simple. For example, what might be “bad” for the movie might be “good” in other ways. We’re wrapping the column this week with two announcements about projects that were formerly “movies” which will now be going to television instead (and who knows, they might be great TV shows). The spin we’re going to put on both is that if you’re a fan who was really looking forward to seeing these as movies, then it’s bad news for you (and potentially good news for other people). First up, there’s the long-in-development adaptation of the TV series Perry Mason, which Robert Downey Jr is producing and will star in. It’s now sounding like RDJ’s Perry Mason project will instead be developed as a series for HBO, and not as a theatrical film. The first step is to write and produce a pilot for HBO, and that’s what Downey’s partners are now working on, it seems. A similar project (which is further along) concerns the future of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, after the relatively recent movie starring Chris Pine was something of a box office bomb. Amazon has given the greenlight to a 10-episode season of Jack Ryan, with John Krasinski the latest actor to try his hand at going where the likes of Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Ben Affleck have been in the past.
Back in 2008, Universal Pictures and Hasbro (the toy/game company) announced an ambitious development slate which included Monopoly, Candyland, Magic: The Gathering, Stretch Armstrong (all of which didn’t happen), and Battleship and Ouija (both of which did happen). Among the listed projects was also a new movie based on the board game Clue, following the popular 1985 film starring Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, and several others. A few years later, however, Universal Pictures put the Clue movie into turnaround (which basically means other studios can pick up the rights, sometimes at a discount). It took a few more years, but this week, it was revealed that another studio is indeed now developing a new Clue movie. The rights to Clue have landed at Fox, but the details about what they’re planning make it difficult to exactly call their Clue a “remake.” Instead of centering on a murder mystery at a mansion (which the first movie did as a fairly direct adaptation of the game), this new project will be a “worldwide mystery… with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally.” Put another way, this sounds like a Clue movie which is not really a Clue movie, in which the real mystery would be why it’s even called Clue.