This week’s first few days, mostly because of the annual Entertainment Exhibitors Expo in lovely Palm Springs, has brought a surprising amount of movie news, so this is an extra early edition of Weekly Ketchup just to keep up with everything. Your regular diet of sequels, remakes and disastrous career decisions is all here for you to enjoy, as usual.
Last week, director Sam Raimi revealed that on Spider-Man 3, he didn’t have complete control over what villains to include, but for the next two movies he does. For Spider-Man 4 and Spider-Man 5 (which are expected to film back-to-back) it’s now been revealed that Raimi plans to tell one big story that will incorporate elements from classic plot lines from the comics, with Spider-Man 5 in particular focusing on one of Spidey’s most beloved tales. In Spider-Man 4, Peter Parker will find the spider inside him lashing out, with his powers going violently out of control. Seeking help from his professor, Dr. Curt Connors, Peter discovers that Connors and his colleague Dr. Michael Morbius are actually both experimenting on incorporating animal blood (reptiles and vampire bats) into humans. When Parker loses control in their laboratory, the antidotes that the scientists were using to keep themselves human are destroyed, causing them to become The Lizard and the vampire-like Morbius, even as Spidey goes fully spider, with four more arms popping out like a true arachnid. The three monsters break out into the streets of New York, creating havok, which soon attracts the attention of a big game hunter named Kraven. Kraven’s introduction will pave the way for Spider-Man 5, which may have the subtitle Kraven’s Last Hunt, in which Kraven returns to New York City after Spider-Man has regained his humanity, to hunt Spidey once more.
Although director Tim Burton is nearing completion of filming of Alice in Wonderland, costarring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, and development continues on a movie version of Dark Shadows, also starring Depp as Barnabas the vampire, Tim Burton is still no doubt always on the lookout for more movies he can make with his favorite star. The next possibility is The Persistence of Memory, a biopic about Spanish surrealist painter and extremely eccentric personality Salvador Dali. Johnny Depp is always eager to find new ways to twist and turn his screen persona, and Salvador Dali is another perfect character for Depp, full of charisma and exaggerated dramatic flair. The Persistence of Memory is also a perfect project for Burton, as it’s expected to have multiple dream sequences in which Dali imagines his bizarre surrealistic paintings before they find their way to the canvas.
Many people who didn’t care for the rest of Watchmen seem to agree that the opening credits that depicted the early days of masked hero adventures were the best part of the movie. And so, Warner Bros is moving ahead with plans to develop Minutemen, a prequel that will expand upon the hints found in the Alan Moore graphic novel and the movie about what the original generation of heroes were up to. The movie will be set before most of the characters in Watchmen got their starts, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Carla Gugino are expected to reprise their roles as the Comedian and the original Silk Spectre. However, for the rest of the Minutemen, who were played by stuntmen and unknowns in Watchmen, entirely new casting is expected. I’m hearing that for the role of the beefy muscle man, Hooded Justice, the producers are considering WWE wrestler The Big Show, while other possibilities are Paul Giamatti as Moth Man (the future mental patient), Aaron Eckhart as Captain Metropolis and Chris Klein (American Pie) as the likeable but doomed caped hero Dollar Bill.
Steven Spielberg’s long-planned biopic about Abraham Lincoln has been plagued by rights issues between DreamWorks and Paramount, but the movie appears finally ready to go, as Universal has worked out a film swapping deal with Paramount. Along the way, Universal discovered a connection that will help the project possibly reach a wider audience than past historical epics by Spielberg like Amistad and Schindler’s List. Through Universal’s development pact with Hasbro, the Lincoln movie will be launched with an aggressive marketing plan as a toy tie-in with Hasbro’s beloved Lincoln Logs toys, including Happy Meal promotions with McDonalds. There’s no word yet to what extent Lincoln will actually feature logs, but Abe apparently did like chopping wood.
Following up on their plans to reboot Marvel’s Daredevil and Fantastic Four, 20th Century Fox has plans to attempt to correct one of their past mistakes by revisiting Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The original Alan Moore mini-series was an extremely British story, filled with hundreds of obscure references only true literary Anglophiles would recognize. Appropriately, Fox has recruited acclaimed British filmmaker and screenwriter Mike Leigh (Topsy Turvy, Happy-Go-Lucky) to make his Hollywood studio debut on the strength of his commitment to keeping all of his movies distinctly Brit. Staying loyal to the original book, there will be no Tom Sawyer this time around, with the story focusing on Moore’s original five characters. Rumored casting possibilities include Brian Cox or Sir Ian McKellen as Allan Quatermain, Naveen Andrews (Lost) or Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire) as Captain Nemo, Colin Firth as Dr. Jekyll, the voice of Alan Rickman as The Invisible Man and Rachel Weisz as Mina Murray who (like the comic) will distinctly not be portrayed as being an obvious vampire.
Although Australia was not the epic blockbuster that Baz Luhrmann probably hoped it would be, that’s not stopping him from reuniting his stars for a movie that appears to be a return to the musical theatricality of Moulin Rouge. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman will star as Sally Bowles and the Master of Ceremonies, with Daniel Craig as Sally’s lover, Brian Roberts, in a 21st century remake of Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, which will keep the original play and movie’s pre-World War II Berlin setting and most of the same songs. Although the original 1972 Cabaret is remembered as one of the last great musicals before the genre nearly disappeared, hopes are high that Cabaret can join other titles like A Star is Born and Phantom of the Opera that can be revived with each new generation, with a different take on the concept. Cabaret won eight Oscars, including Director, Actress and Supporting Actor (that pesky Godfather won Best Picture that year), but perhaps… the remake can go for nine?
With David Fincher’s recent attempt to revive Heavy Metal being shelved, 20th Century Fox has stepped in, and plans to produce a movie that mixes live action and CGI animation. Fox has big plans to reinvent the rock-driven anthology concept, putting the call out to several writers to come up with PG-13-friendly science fiction and fantasy concepts. Simon Cowell has also signed on as an executive producer, and plans to stage a FOX TV show in the fall of 2009 called American Rocker, an Idol-style show aimed at finding head bangers who can sing covers of songs from the movie’s original soundtrack for the new Heavy Metal. Animation styles of all stripes are expected to participate in this new Heavy Metal, with negotiations and pitches in process with famous animators from all over the world, including Japanese anime, American CGI studios and even the jokers behind South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker (who recently devoted an episode in homage to the original Heavy Metal).
With the live action Jonny Quest movie apparently ramping up for production in 2009, World Leaders Entertainment, the production company behind the Adult Swim hit, The Venture Bros., is preparing for its first live-action production, the theatrical debut of The Venture Bros. Although the twisted and subversively hilarious adventures of The Venture Bros. are set all over the world, World Leaders are sticking to their indie roots by filming the movie almost entirely on locations in New York City or upper New York State, or on blue screen sets, with exotic locations or scientific devices to be filled in later. The cast will include both some of the original voice actors, like Patrick Warburton as Brock Samson and James Urbaniak as Dr. Venture and new actors for roles like Hank and Dean Venture (for whom an open casting call is now underway) and Parker Posey as Dr. Girlfriend. The story of the Venture Bros. movie is expected to include elements from several first season episodes, but the main focus will be a plan by Dr. Venture’s archnemeis, The Monarch, to lure him into a trap using the allure of the beautiful Dr. Girlfriend. Johann Poseur, one of Broadway’s best costume designers, is in talks to work on the Monarch’s extravagant butterfly costume, with the dozens of the Monarch’s henchmen expected to perform in a massive musical number midway in the film.
As the horror genre in the last ten years has become increasingly dominated by remakes of movies from previous generations, the available candidates for the next batch of remakes is starting to catch up with the present. A great example of this is the news that Rogue Pictures has announced plans to give a hip, 2010s relaunch to the “modern horror classic” The Strangers, which starred Liv Tyler as a woman who is terrorized by a group of stalkers in her remote house. To give the remake a younger edge, Kristen Stewart is being eyed for the lead role, although the screenwriters are expected to fill the remake with knowing references to the 2008 original for fans to pick up on.
The recent success of movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt, Hotel for Dogs and Marley & Me proves that moviegoers’ love affair with dog movies isn’t going anywhere, and so it’s no surprise that the latest movie to be greenlit to take advantage of America’s dog obsession is I Heart Shih Tzus. The movie (which will use the “heart” symbol in the title) is a romantic comedy starring Brendan Fraser as a frustrated Hollywood TV writer who is stuck with his ex-girlfriend’s shih tzu when she leaves him for a French financier in Paris. Forced to walk her dog every day, the writer meets a succession of women who adore his dog, and guys who chide him about owning such a fru fru doggie. If the movie is successful, the producers hope to be able to start a franchise, with an endless supply of possible dog breeds to “heart.” From little dogs to big, Rottweilers are expected to be high on the list for a possible sequel.
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 and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.
And happy April Fools Day!