Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Branagh directs Thor, Seagal vs. aliens?

Plus news about Warner Bros' Yogi Bear movie

by | October 3, 2008 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup sees the announcements of two movies with ties to the JFK conspiracy theories, the obligatory 1980s remake project, and lots of news for comic book projects.


If there’s one thing that always made Thor stand out as a character and a comic to me, it was his vaguely-Shakespearean way of speaking. I don’t know if Stan Lee intended it, but he basically educated generations of kids about antiquated words like “thou”, “thee” and “doth”, and it made Thor seem even more “bad ass” along the way. Thor putting his big stone hammer beatdown on some troll, yelling something like “Verily, thou will not stand!”; you just don’t get better than that in classic comics. Walt Simonson’s 1980s run was also great at that. And so, it makes a brilliant kind of perfect sense that Marvel is negotiating to put the job of directing Thor in the hands of Kenneth Branagh, who has built his reputation on his adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. With a script full of Thor-speak, Branagh will be the guy to make sure that the actors are able to speak that way without sounding, you know, really lame. And now, I will do a little of speculating. Might Marvel also have an eye on getting Branagh to also play Thor’s human alter-ego, the meek, crippled Dr. Donald Blake? Branagh obviously doesn’t have the frame or stature to play Thor himself, but he seems like a very good choice to play Blake, but again, that’s just me guessing. Like Robert Downey, Jr., Kenneth Branagh is an actor who seems ripe for breaking out from the B list into being a major star. Branagh’s got the second star spot in Valkyrie coming next year (presuming that Tom Cruise-pirate-looking-Nazi movie doesn’t flop), and if he were to star in Thor, that might just do the trick for his career.


Warner Bros has apparently given up on their Scooby-Doo film franchise, but they have another Hanna-Barbera classic cartoon in mind as their next animated/live action smash up: Yogi Bear. Although the actual 1961 Yogi Bear cartoon only ran for one season, there was a previous Yogi Bear (animated) movie in 1964, and Yogi starred in several follow-up series, usually ensemble pieces like Yogi’s Space Race (yes, a bear in space), most of which were kind of low rent, IMO. Despite not technically being a hit character, Yogi Bear is definitely a cultural icon, with phrases like “smarter than the average bear” and “pic-a-nic basket” being instantly identifiable. Yogi Bear will be a combination of CGI animation (Yogi and Boo Boo) and live action (Ranger Smith and Jellystone Park), to be directed by Ash Brannon (co-director of Surf’s Up) and written by Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia (cowriters of Surviving Christmas).


You would be challenged to come up with a director/actor match that has produced more classic films consistently than Martin Scorsese and Robert de Niro (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, etc). So, it is very good news this week that they are reteaming for #9 with I Heard You Paint Houses, an adaptation of a book about Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor organizer who claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa, and to have been involved in the Bay of Pigs and having knowledge about the assassination of JFK. The title is an allusion to a mobster slang of “painting houses”, referring to blood splatter on walls. The mobster tell all aspect of this movie feels a lot like Goodfellas, but with a bigger scope. Paramount is the studio behind I Heard You Paint Houses, from a script by Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, American Gangster).


Jack Black is reteaming with the writers of Kung Fu Panda for Universal Pictures on an untitled live-action spy spoof that is basically a take-off of the Jason Boune series. Black is to play a character who wakes up on a beach in Cuba with amnesia, so he assumes that he is really a deadly secret agent, ala the Bourne movies. The best thing about Kung Fu Panda was arguably the writing, and Jack Black has done this sort of physical comedy before (Tropic Thunder, Nacho Libre), so there might be promise here. That Universal is the studio behind the Bourne series can’t possibly be a coincidence.


Although this year’s Diary of the Dead was a certified corpse at the box office, director George A. Romero started filming this week in Ontario on an untitled project which reportedly has the production working title of Blank of the Dead (the “blank” to be filled in later, obviously). The movie is set on an island, so I’m just going to guess here that maybe the title will be Island of the Dead (regardless of the previous movies with that title). Romero wrote and is directing the movie, about the residents of a remote island whose relatives are rising from their graves, and there’s not a single person in the cast I’ve ever heard of.


How could a week go by in Hollywood in 2008 without a remake of a 1980 movie being announced? This time, it’s the Mickey Rourke/Robert de Niro Southern-fried voodoo/magic-infused movie, Angel Heart, which is being produced by former New Line Cinema big shot, Michael de Luca (Blade, Boogie Nights). This is an interesting remake, because my initial reaction is “ah, come on, stop with the remakes, already!”, but then I remember my Remake Rule. Which is: remakes are okay if the original movie was flawed. And, Angel Heart, although nostalgia wants to remember only the best (Lisa Bonet sex scenes, Robert de Niro being all evil), was definitely a flawed movie. It was over long, and borderline boring/pretentious. So, I’m going to give the Angel Heart remake the benefit of the doubt, and allow that the basic concept could result in a better movie.


This week, three separate stories about DC Comics superhero movies all strangely touched upon the same subject: filming starts in 2009, two of which are specifically in the spring of 2009. Tying all three together, I have to wonder if this is a direct result of the recent Warner Bros/DC Comics conclave about how best to take on Marvel. Movie people in Chicago are being told to get ready for the third Christopher Nolan Batman project. Kevin Spacey is saying that he’s prepping for another Superman in 2009. And producer Donald De Line (The Italian Job) says Green Lantern is being fast-tracked for a spring, 2009 production start. Of those, the most exciting news is the Green Lantern greenlight, because that is a character with a lot of big screen promise. The most interesting is the Kevin Spacey news, because it runs a bit counter to things we’ve heard, such as the possibility of a post-Singer reboot that probably wouldn’t include Spacey as Lex Luthor. All three are huge titles, and if they all really did film in 2009, would give Warner Bros (which also has some Harry Potter movies) probably the largest 2010/2011 schedule, even bigger than Paramount’s Marvel slate of Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers (which was confirmed this week as going to that studio).


The slow creeping doom of age and impending death is closing in on Steven Seagal, age 57, and so he is trying to get Hollywood to pony up some cash to make Under Siege 3. But oh, being a surprisingly limber chef on a train or a boat won’t be enough time around. Talking to MTV, Seagal says he wants Under Siege 3 to be “more mystical, or maybe extraterrestial in nature.” That’s right, Seagal wants to beat up aliens. MTV speculates that he means something like Under Siege in Space, but I think it probably be more like he’s a chef on a boat, and then it turns out there’s aliens on the boat. Personally, I think what Seagal should do with Under Siege 3 is just have his chef working at a restaurant, and he’s constantly thinking there’s bad guys attacking, but it’s really just, you know, the shrimp delivery guy. That could be comedy gold.


Talking to IESB.net, director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) gave us our first insight into what the planned 300 sequel will be about: the year of Spartan battles inbetween the Battle of Thermopylae depicted in 300, and the Battle of Plataea, from which the film’s narrator was seen in the flash forwards. What Snyder and Warner Bros have to wait for, for more details, is for Frank Miller to actually write the graphic novel sequel to 300, for them to adapt. So, what happened in that year? From what I can tell, the biggest event was a month later, in the naval Battle of Salamis, which involved fleets from dozens of Greek cities, just one of which (and not one of the larger) was from Sparta. So, will Miller’s new book focus on sea battles more than naked dudes with shields?

#10 JFK Part Deux?

Producer John Davis (The Firm, I, Robot), through his deal with 20th Century Fox, has procured the rights to an upcoming expose book called Good Night, Dorothy Kilgallen, about a journalist, Dorothy Kilgallen, who died mysteriously in 1965 following her attempts to investigate the conspiracy theories about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was also a personal friend of Kilgallen. It’s been a long time now since movies like JFK and Ruby delved into the same subject matter, and people are still fascinated with the subject.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.

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