Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood, and when we get to this time of the year, there’s rarely much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. Last week, we covered the year’s biggest Fresh news stories, and this week, we’re looking at the ones we deemed most Rotten instead.
Kevin Hart’s Tomatometer has been getting better in the last few years, starting with his partnership with Dwayne Johnson in Central Intelligence (which carried into their Jumanji movies), and including his voice role in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (Certified Fresh at 88%). Before 2016, however, his track record mostly carried a broad series of Rotten splotches, with only a few Fresh tomatoes, and most of those were for his comedy concert films. Hart had several new movies announced in 2019 (including Black Friday, Extreme Job, and remakes of Scrooged and Uptown Saturday Night), but it all started in January with the long-in-development board game adaptation of Monopoly. The idea of a movie based on the classic Monopoly board game has been kicking around for over a decade, including a time when Ridley Scott was attached, but the Monopoly movie we’ll actually get sounds a drastic switch. Kevin Hart will star in Monopoly for Lionsgate and Hasbro, with his Ride Along director Tim Story also on board.
If you were a big fan of Brad Pitt and director Marc Foster’s zombie movie World War Z, February brought some bad news. After years of near-starts and delays, Paramount Pictures finally, apparently definitively, pulled the plug on a World War Z sequel. Pre-production was reportedly already well underway for a six month shoot in Atlanta and other nations around the world, but that also meant the budget exploded to over $190 million, and that was the breaking point for Paramount. Technically, it sounds like World War Z might come back, even with a sequel, in the future, but if it does, it would be with a much lower budget, without Foster directing, and possibly without Brad Pitt as well. [Editor’s note: an earlier version listed David Fincher as editor of World War Z. This has been corrected and we regret the error.]
In March, Disney finalized its $71.3 billion deal to acquire the entertainment assets of the Fox film and TV studios. The deal was widely applauded by Marvel Comics fans who are eager to see the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters and properties now available for Marvel Studios in their future movies (though probably not until after 2022). However, that also meant that some/many of the projects that Fox had been developing would be shelved, including X-Force, X-23, Kitty Pryde, and Madrox the Multiple Man. We’ll never know what those movies might have been like, and it’s definitely possible some would have been Rotten (given Fox’s record on recent X-Men movies). They’re good examples, however, of the wide scope of Marvel movies we would have gotten if Marvel and Sony also had Fox developing movies every year. How long will it take now for Marvel Studios to go deep enough into their catalog to greenlight movies like Kitty Pryde and Madrox the Multiple Man?
After Bad Moms earned $183 million globally in the summer of 2016, it was followed by the sequel A Bad Moms Christmas in 2017. That second film introduced grandmother characters played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon, and in April, we learned that they’re going to get their own movie called Bad Moms’ Moms. It’s not yet known if Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, and Mila Kunis will reprise their roles as well, or if the third movie might introduce the next set of older great-grandmas (who could then get their own movie called Bad Moms’ Moms’ Moms). Both Bad Moms and A Bad Moms Christmas earned Rotten Tomatometer scores at 58% and 30%, respectively.
Some of the year’s most Rotten stories represent missteps that were eventually corrected, but we are looking at these stories as they were at the time. In this case, Paramount appeared to get the message within the same week, but still, at the time, the reaction was very negative. After all, Paramount Pictures should’ve seen this one coming. In April, the first Sonic the Hedgehog trailer debuted, and the collective fan backlash against Sonic’s design was even louder this time. (The eyes are too small, the nose is at the wrong angle, and the teeth. Where to even begin on the teeth?) The Sonic the Hedgehog missteps were only accentuated by the timing of the trailer in the same week as the first Pokemon Detective Pikachu reviews, as that film has not one but dozens of video game characters that look pretty much exactly like they do in the games. The good news, however, is that Sonic the Hedgehog director Jeff Fowler quickly responded on Twitter, “The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes.” Those changes came later in the year as we got a new Sonic the Hedgehog trailer in which he did indeed look a lot more like he does in the games. Sonic the Hedgehog is now scheduled as a Valentine’s release on 2/14/2020.
It’s now been over four years since 2015’s Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension earned the franchise’s lowest box office to date, domestically earning one fifth less than the first film. The Paranormal Activity movies were also relatively affordable to produce, so it was probably inevitable that Paramount Pictures would want to start making them again. Producer Jason Blum (of Blumhouse Productions) is now developing Paranormal Activity 7 for Paramount, although the premise isn’t yet known (though it seems obvious that it will probably be another “found footage” horror film). The Tomatometer scores for the last three films (24%, 39%, and 15%, respectively) don’t offer much hope for the next installment, unfortunately. Since this news broke in June, Paramount has scheduled Paranormal Activity 7 for release on March 19, 2021, up against the second Tomb Raider movie starring Alicia Vikander, and the week before The Boss Baby 2.
One of the oddest examples of movies that ended up getting two sequels to justify it becoming a “trilogy” might arguably be 1989’s Look Who’s Talking (Rotten at 59%), which was followed in 1990 by Look Who’s Talking Too (Rotten at 14%), and in 1993 by Look Who’s Talking Now (Rotten at 0%). John Travolta and Kirstie Alley starred in those movies about talking babies, and in the third movie, talking dogs. Despite those critical drubbings, Sony Pictures is now developing a Look Who’s Talking reboot to be written and directed by Jeremy Garelick, whose 2015 comedy The Wedding Ringer earned a Rotten score at 27%. It’s not yet known if Bruce Willis or any of the other voice actors might return for the reboot (but they probably won’t).
As with the Sonic the Hedgehog hullabaloo, this is another example of something that was horrible news at the time but has since been course-corrected. We are referring to that period in late summer when Sony and Marvel almost parted ways over future Spider-Man movies starring Tom Holland. Just over a month later, the two studios “made nice” and were able to announce a third Spider-Man movie set in the MCU for release on July 16, 2021. As for what their initial boondoggle was about, Disney and Marvel reportedly wanted 50% of “the cut” of Sony’s Spider-Man movies in return for Kevin Feige’s participation and all of the cross-promotion that a Sony/Disney/Marvel partnership brings with it. Sony then responded with a series of Tweets that used words like “mischaracterized” and “disappointed,” which may have been a response to criticism from some fans who were quick to side with Disney, Kevin Feige, and Marvel Studios.
Superhero movies are what people seem to talk about the most, but movie-for-movie, they are easily outnumbered by the real trend in studio releases, which is the continuing stream of remakes, reboots, and reimaginings. We hear about remakes all year round, but September of 2019 featured an especially high number of such stories, all within three weeks. It started with the news that a remake of the 1997 action thriller Face/Off is now in development. Although it feels like the 1997 action thriller only gets mentioned now when someone wants to make a joke, the film starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta actually maintains an impressive Certified Fresh Tomatometer score of 92%. The following week brought news about remakes of The Craft, House Party, and Set It Off, as well as out-of-context stories about a remake of The Princess Bride. The month ended with another remake announcement, this time concerning 1991’s New Jack City.
In the 1980s, former Get Smart star Don Adams had something of a late career resurgence as the voice of the animated super detective Inspector Gadget. Although that show only ran for two seasons and 86 episodes, its cultural imprint was strong enough that Walt Disney Pictures produced a live-action movie in 1999 (Rotten at 21%), which was followed in 2003 by a direct-to-video sequel (Rotten at 40%). Despite the critical drubbings of those two previous live-action movies, Walt Disney Pictures appears ready to reboot Inspector Gadget, as the studio is now working with the producers of this year’s Aladdin remake and current Saturday Night Live writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell to do exactly that.
Most stories we might consider Rotten are based on Tomatometer scores and such, but few of them inspire the sort of reaction that erupted when it was revealed in November that one of Hollywood’s most beloved prematurely departed movie stars will be “revived” using CGI. James Dean died with just a few films to his credit (three in lead roles, not counting earlier uncredited roles) as the star of East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, all three of which came out in 1955 or 1956 (he died on September 30, 1955). That said, James Dean will “star” in his fourth movie in an independent Vietnam War-era drama called Finding Jack, about the plight of military dogs following the end of the war. The filmmakers plan on using old film footage and photographs of Dean to create a photorealistic depiction of the actor following the acquisition of the rights to his name and likeness from his surviving family members. The news attracted immediate reactions from stars like Chris Evans (who probably doesn’t want someone casting him in a movie 100 years from now), but the film’s director said the backlash came as a surprise to him.
In December, many movie fans were probably surprised when Aladdin star Mena Massoud stated that he hadn’t yet had a single audition following the film’s box office success of over a billion dollars worldwide. Nearly an “unknown” before Aladdin, Massoud had won that role as part of a massive casting call that Disney staged for both Aladdin and Jasmine in 2017. Considering how much attention Mena Massoud’s revelation made at the time, you might think Disney would’ve held back on a subsequent announcement, because the two stories together paint a particularly pretty. Nevertheless, Disney+ has announced plans for an Aladdin spinoff movie starring Billy Magnussen as his minor character of Prince Anders, a minor character who didn’t exist in the original animated film and was newly created for the live-action adaptation. It’s not yet known if any other Aladdin co-stars will also be cast.