This week sees a surprising lack of the remakes we’ve gotten used to seeing in the Weekly Ketchup, with the shelving of one horror remake balancing out a movie that is only a remake in as much as it tackles a subject mostly only adapted in Japanese movies most of us haven’t seen. Sequels, however, are quite alive and kicking, as always.
Along with the news this week that he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in Tropic Thunder as sleazy movie mogul Les Grossman, Tom Cruise revealed to E! Online that he and Ben Stiller are talking about making additional short videos, and possibly a feature film, starring the repulsive, profanity-obsessed producer and sometime bootie dancer. The character, much like the male chauvanist motivational speaker that Tom Cruise played in Magnolia seems to me like someone who is funnier in small doses, but perhaps a fully comedic movie with him as the star is what his career needs right now. At least we’re likely to get some more funny fake trailers out of it.
Keanu Reeves will star in 47 Ronin for Universal Pictures, a historic Japanese epic about the Ako Vendetta, the true story of a band of samuari in 1702 whose daimyo was forced to commit seppuku suicide. After avenging their lord’s death, the 47 ronin were then obligated by the bushido code of honor to commit suppuku themselves. The tale of the 47 ronin is one of Japan’s most cherished (true) stories, and it has been adapted in various mediums many times, including movies. 47 Ronin is being written by Chris Morgan, who previously brought us his take on Japanese culture with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, with this movie’s battle scenes reportedly striving to have a feel similar to Gladiator and Lord of the Rings. The project was put together specifically for Keanu Reeves, who is Hawaiian/Chinese, which is as close as any A list Hollywood star gets to being Japanese, apparently. Hey, at least it’s not The Last Samuari Part 2.
The Harry Potter film franchise is set to end in 2011, but CinemaBlend is reporting a rumor that Warner Bros is considering adapting J.K. Rowling’s latest book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard as a follow up. In the final Harry Potter novel, The Tales of Beedle the Bard is an anthology of stories told to the children of wizards, and the real life book is also an anthology of five stories. I think it’s a testament to how out of fashion anthology movies are today that the writer of the CinemaBlend article spends most of the piece trying to think of ways Beedle the Bard could become a movie, and yet overlooks the possibility that five stories would probably fit quite into a single movie. Anyway, this is just a rumor for now, but I’m reporting it because it sounds quite likely.
First, there was news early in this week that Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke was being asked not to return for the sequel, New Moon, due to “scheduling” issues (more on that later). Then, the news came out that the choice for her replacement is Chris Weitz, who codirected American Pie with his brother, and went on to direct About a Boy and The Golden Compass by himself. Summit is hoping they can get Weitz to Vancouver by this Monday to start preproduction on 12 weeks of filming. Now, going back to scheduling, Summit is tentatively looking at a release date for New Moon of November 20, 2009. The rumors are that Hardwicke wanted more time, and that Weitz is perceived as someone who is good at getting movies done quickly. Now, what’s most interesting to me about that release date, besides the fact that Twlight opened one day later in 2008 to $69 million is that Universal this week announced that they were going to push The Wolfman back seven months from April to November 6, 2009. What that has to do with New Moon might be a spoiler to the book (although I highly doubt the trailers won’t “spoil’ this aspect of the movie), but let’s just say New Moon and The Wolfman are very similar movies. So, will they go nearly head to head, or will one of the companies flinch and move their date?
At a press junket for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button this week, producer Kathleen Kennedy revealed that following the death of author Michael Crichton, the long-developing plans for Jurassic Park IV have been shelved. Released in 1993, Jurassic Park was a massive hit, as audiences thrilled to Steven Spielberg’s use of this newfangled thing called “CGI.” Two sequels followed, and it’s now been seven years since Jurassic Park III, but movie websites have stayed busy in the years since, reporting every few months on the latest rumor. The interesting thing about this news is that often, the opposite is the case; movie development seems to speed up on long-lingering projects in the months and years after someone’s death. Also apparently not happening is the remake of Near Dark, reportedly because of the similarity of its plot to Twilight.
Betty Thomas (Doctor Dolittle, John Tucker Must Die) has signed with Fox 2000 to direct Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, which will introduce competition for the boys in the form of the Chipettes, an all female group of singing chipmunks. Justin Long is returning to voice Alvin, as well as the other two actors, and casting is currently underway for the Chipettes. It’s interesting to note that all this is being done, and yet deals for a writer are still in the works. Also as yet unsigned is Jason Lee, who played Dave in the 2007 original, which earned $360 million worldwide. In other CGI sequel news, ComingSoon.net recently spent time at DreamWorks Animation, where they learned about plans for Monsters & Aliens 2, Madagascar 3 and the continuing behemoth that is the Shrek franchise.
Oliver Stone revealed this week that for the last six months, he’s been down in Venezuela, filming a documentary about that nation’s president, Hugo Chavez, which follows 2003’s Comandate, about Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Stone was with Chavez in February as he helped negotiate for the release of prisoners held by FARC in Columbia, but this documentary will focus on how Chavez is seen by the rest of the world, and the trend of South American countries choosing left-leaning leaders. Stone’s last two dramatic movies, World Trade Center and W., both tackled subjects that were initially expected to rile right-leaning people, but as finished projects were interpreted as being relatively moderate. A documentary about Hugo Chavez, however, might be received differently, I’m guessing.
The thousands of aspiring screenwriters out there who have spent years or decades honing their craft, hoping to someday make their first deal with a major Hollywood studio, surely slammed their heads into their keyboards this week in spontaneous unity. In a low-to-mid SIX FIGURE deal, 20th Century Fox has acquired the rights to How to Talk to Girls, a 46-page self-help book by 9-year-old Alex Greven of Castle Rock, Colorado. How to Talk to Girls started as a $3 pamphlet for Greven’s school book fair, and then HarperCollins picked it up, and published it last month to surprising success. Reminder to myself: get started on a 46-page book entitled How to Get a Six Figure Deal in Hollywood. No writer is yet attached to the project. Wonder if Alex has time to expand his book to 100 or so pages?
This week the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the nominees for the 2008 Golden Globes, as voted on by their members, who number less than 100. The three movies with the most nominations were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon and Doubt, except that curiously, Doubt was not nominated for Best Drama. With four nominations each were The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Movies that fared worse than might have been expected include The Dark Knight, Milk and The Wrestler. A fairly surprising movie to make the list is Tropic Thunder, with two nominations for Tom Cruise and Robert Downey, Jr. in Best Supporting Actor, with some people theorizing online that the category was given weak competition to ensure a win for Heath Ledger.
For the last few years, Universal executive Franklin Leonard has been compiling, with the help of dozens of other studio suits, what he calls the Black List , a chart of top-ranked scripts that have not yet been released. I don’t really know why he chose that particular color, since most people associate “Hollywood”, “Black List” and “Scripts” with the Blacklisting of the 1950s that led to the demise of many brilliant careers, but it’s still an interesting project. Topping the list is The Beaver, the Steve Carell project about a man who talks to a puppet on his hand, ala Mr. Garrison from South Park. The other nine scripts in the top 10 are mostly projects that have had very little to zero buzz or coverage, but at #11 is Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Also receiving more than 5 votes are Galahad, the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, Phantom Limb (which I can only hope has something to do with The Venture Bros), Jonny Quest and Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story. The list is filled with movies with interesting titles like Grand Theft Auto (which is a remake of a 1977 movie, not the videogame franchise), The F-Word , the sure-to-be-retitled F—buddies and Sequels, Remakes & Adaptations, which I can only hope is someone adapting my life to film, as I’m weekly having to write about exactly those three issues, often with great annoyance. Also, here’s last year’s Black List 2007, which includes some movies that have since been released, like Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler and at #1, HBO’s Recount. What do you think, do you agree with their predictions?
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.