There wasn’t much going on in Hollywood last week because of Thanksgiving, but this week, the studios came back with a vengeance, and what they set their sights upon are several remakes and a couple of sequels to successful blockbusters, as well as yet another project for Johnny Depp.
#1 20TH CENTURY FOX REBOOTING PLANET OF THE APES AGAIN WITH CAESAR
The movie site CHUD.com has been following rumors that 20th Century Fox was looking to make a Planet of the Apes prequel for a while now, and this week, that project became very prominent, starting with a comment by Fox honcho Tom Rothman that they were indeed working on what he called a Conquest of the Planet of the Apes remake. Soon after, CHUD revealed that the current writer and expected director of the project is Scott Frank (screenwriter for Out of Sight, cowriter of Minority Report), who made his directorial debut in 2007 with The Lookout. A clarification came to CHUD the next day that the project, which was formerly known as Genesis: Apes is now known as simply Caesar (despite the confusion with a Roman movie that title creates). Rather than the full-blown “ape revolution” story that Conquest was, Frank’s Caesar would be a smaller movie about a single chimpanzee (who isn’t as tall as a man as the original movies showed them) whose intelligence is increased through experimentation. I’m well on the record as being opposed to remakes, but this prequel idea, which strips Planet of the Apes all the way back to its very earliest origins, sounds like it could actually be an intelligent sci-fi movie.
#2 HUGH JACKMAN IS THE BEST AT WHAT HE DOES, AND WHAT HE DOES MAKES LOTS OF MONEY
X-Men Origins: Wolverine might be six months from release, but while he promotes Australia, Hugh Jackman is eager to talk up the possibility of continuing to play Wolverine as long as the fans continue to show up for the movies. Basically, he’s attaching himself to playing Logan with a furvor rarely seen since Clayton Moore refused to stop appearing at mall openings wearing the Lone Ranger mask. Although this article claims the villain in the next Wolverine movie will be the fairly obscure Cyber, what Jackman is actually quoted as talking about is a story set in Japan which suggests an adaptation of the 1982 4-issue Wolverine mini-series. That mini-series has the distinction of both single-handedly launching the concept of a “comic book mini-series” and separated Wolverine from the rest of the X-Men, making him a star. It also had great art by Frank Miller, and was a touching love story of sorts, as well as an exciting ninja adventure story.
#3 HANCOCK 2: HANCOCKIER?
Despite being mostly critically reviled (39% RT score), Hancock soared on the popularity of Will Smith to take in over $600 million worldwide. And so, it’s probably not a surprised that when JoBlo.com asked Will Smith if he might ever play a superhero again, he replied that we will “definitely” see a Hancock sequel some day, saying that “there were a lot of unexplored characters” that would be “ripe for a sequel.” Meanwhile, dozens of projects based upon established superhero characters with adoring fans languish in development.
#4 ROMANCING THE STONE REMAKE: CAN A RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK REDO BE FAR OFF?
Hollywood, seriously, enough with the freakin’ remakes already. Oh well. Anyway, 20th Century Fox has hired screenwriter Daniel McDermott (cowriter of Eagle Eye) to write a remake of the 1984 hit, Romancing the Stone, which was directed by Robert Zemeckis and starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Romancing the Stone was an adventure-infused romantic comedy set in the jungles of South America about a romantic novelist who falls for a dashing adventurer, and was quite fun, inspiring a sequel, Jewel of the Nile. Romancing the Stone was accused at the time of being a Raiders of the Lost Ark rip-off, but really, it owes as much to the same sorts of classic movies and pulp fiction that inspired the Indiana Jones movies. Another movie in a similar spirit, The Rundown, was actually just made a few years ago, and they somehow did it without it being a remake. Buried in the piece is the news that Daniel McDermott is also working on writing a remake of Soylent Green, which seems a bit strange considering that the suspense of that movie is built upon a third act surprise that pretty much everyone knows now. Remaking Soylent Green is sort of like remaking The Sixth Sense or Citizen Kane, or for that matter, any movie which was done well the first time.
#5 THEY LIVE TO LIVE AGAIN
In the 1980s, you really couldn’t avoid the WWF: every kid has his favorite, and I rooted for Rowdy Roddy Piper , a bombastic heel with a great sense of humor. He parlayed his success into a movie career that included Hell Comes to Frogtown and the starring role in John Carpenter’s They Live, a movie that was very similar to the V TV mini-series, in that it was about aliens who were secretly taking over Earth by hiding among us. They Live is a fun ride of a movie, and so of course, it’s getting remade, like pretty much every other 1980s movie that was perfectly awesome the first time. Universal Pictures and Strike Entertainment (the Dawn of the Dead remake, Children of Men) have acquired the rights, but there’s no writer or director attached yet. Buried in the piece is the news that Strike is also developing a remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was itself a remake (but quite different than the original). The question now is who do they think they can cast who can be more bubblegum-chewing kick ass than Rowdy Roddy Piper?
#6 JOHNNY DEPP TO BE IN THE HAND OF DANTE?
Johnny Depp’s Infinitum Nihil production company has acquired the film rights to the 2002 Nick Tosche novel, In the Hand of Dante, in which a fictionalized version of Tosche acquires the original handwritten manuscript of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which sets him off on a journey of the soul that mirrors Dante’s own struggles to write in poetic form an allegory of the human experience. Depp is expected to star, although whether he would play Dante or Tosche is unclear. Infinitum Nihil is developing several properties, including the Dark Shadows movie that Tim Burton is expected to direct, and the company’s first movie to be produced, Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary, which starts production in March, 2009, which will star Depp as the gonzo journalist (and in his later years, a good friend of Depp’s).
#7 RUSSELL BRAND TO GET CAUGHT BETWEEN THE MOON AND NEW YORK CITY?
British comedian Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is working with Warner Bros to develop a remake of the Oscar winning 1981 comedy, Arthur. Arthur starred Dudley Moore as an alcoholic heir who falls in love with Liza Minelli, and gets catered to awesomely by his valet, played by Sir John Gielgud (who won an Oscar for the role). Christopher Cross also won an Oscar for “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)”, and then promptly vanished from cultural relevance. Although the 1988 sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks tarnished the original’s reputation at the time, the 1981 film still holds up as a very funny tour de force for Dudley Moore for his cross of British fop and funny drunk. In other words, Arthur is a great comedy that really doesn’t need to get remade. On the other hand, Russell Brand is pretty much the opposite in every way of Dudley Moore, so one can be sure that his Arthur will be a very different movie.
#8 ROME IF YOU WANT TO, ROME AROUND THE WORLD
As much as HBO deserves credit for long-running hits like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Sex and the City, which were allowed to grow old gracefully and end on their own terms, the network is also semi-notorious for the way two other shows, Deadwood and Rome, were cut off prematurely, with their stories forced to end short. Now, Rome producer Bruno Heller is talking about his plans to continue the show’s story as a feature film, and along the way, he reveals the original five year plan for the series, and how they were forced to squeeze the planned story for seasons 2, 3 and 4 into what became the second and final season. Heller isn’t alone in his enthusiasm, as Rome star Ray Stevenson (who was also this week cast in The Book of Eli) is also talking about returning. The big question mark, however, is how the series would return the character of Lucius, played by Kevin McKidd, who seemed to die at the end of season two. Heller suggests that there are ways around that. Right. Anyway, the first season of Rome was a spectacular vision and reinterpretation of ancient Rome, and the faults of season two are obviously due to HBO forcing it to an end. What they might do with a theatrical return is very exciting.
#9 THE ASSOCIATE: SHIA LEBEOUF, ESQUIRE
Paramount has cast Shia LeBeouf to star in an adaptation of the legal thriller novel, The Associate, by John Grisham, which will be published this coming January. There was a time in the 1990s when nearly every Grisham lawyer novel was adapted as a movie, but since 1996’s The Runaway Jury, which was a movie in 2003, there have been nine Grisham novels that have not yet been made into movies, although some of them have been optioned. The first John Grisham movie was The Firm in 1993, which starred Tom Cruise, at the height of his career as a blockbuster star. There’s no writer or director attached to The Associate, so it is probably a few years from getting made, which given LeBeouf’s current star trajectory, will probably mean that he just might be as big of a star when The Associate eventually comes out as Cruise was in 1993.
#10 SAY IT… OUT LOUD… “ROCK STAR“
Twilight star Kristen Stewart has signed to play rocker Joan Jett in the long-in-development movie, The Runaways, about the groundbreaking 1970s all-girl rock group whose members also included Lita Ford and future Bangles member Micki Steele. The Runaways was written and will be the directorial debut of music video director Floria Sigismondi (who’s worked with Sheryl Crowe and David Bowie), and production is expected to start in 2009, working around Stewart’s commitments to the Twilight sequels.
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 messageand Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.