Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Wall Street, Videodrome, Roger Rabbit -- The 80s Are Back!

Plus more from Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis.

by | May 1, 2009 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup features a slate full of 1980s nostalgia, including
sequels or remakes of movies like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Wall
, Videodrome and even Drop Dead Fred.


Earlier this year, Oliver Stone was quoted as saying that he had given up on
Money Never Sleeps, the sequel to Wall Street, but the

Los Angeles Times
now reports that 20th Century Fox has signed the director
back on to the project, which is now known as the more obviously sequel title,
Wall Street 2. Michael Douglas is on board to reprise his role as Gordon
Gekko. Shia LeBeouf is in talks to costar as a “young Wall Street trader under
Gekko’s spell,” which also describes Charlie Sheen’s character in the original
movie. The details of the plot aren’t known, except that it will focus again on
Gordon Gekko, “whose exploits will closely reflect much of the greed and
chicanery seen in the past year on Wall Street.” The original sequel script was
written by Stephen Schiff (The Deep End of the Ocean, 1997’s Lolita),
but a new rewrite is being done by Allan Loeb (Things We Lost in the Fire;
co-writer of 21). 20th Century Fox is hoping to get Wall Street 2 ready
for production as soon as this summer, 2009.


Director David Cronenberg may have gone mainstream with his last two movies (A
History of Violence
, Eastern Promises), but back in the 1980s, he was
known as the man behind Scanners, The Brood, and Videodrome,
which went into even crazier and more disturbing subject matter. James Woods
starred as the head of a sleazy cable channel always on the lookout for sexy and
violent material, whose interest in a satellite feed of torture called
leads him into an experience where reality and fantasy cross. If
you’ve ever seen images of James Woods holding a “flesh gun”, or with a huge
gaping hole in his abdomen, that was Videodrome. Now,
Universal wants
to take what was an essentially small story of a man going insane and “blow it
up into a large-scale sci-fi action thriller” and “infuse it with the
possibilities of nano-technology.” David Cronenberg isn’t involved in the
project (yet?), which is being written by Ehren Kruger, whose filmography
includes The Ring, The Ring Two, Scream 3 and Reindeer
, and an upcoming TNT mini-series adaptation of Stephen King and Peter
Straub’s The Talisman. If Cronenberg does indeed step in to direct this
new version of Videodrome, the project might have some hope, but as it
stands now, this remake sounds like it’s steering too far from the original’s
unique vision.


British comedian Russell Brand is an acquired taste, specializing in a
certain type of frenzied personality that easily can grate on the nerves (mine,
at least). A few months back, he was reported as being involved with a remake of
Arthur, but this week he may have found the one remake that he is absolutely
perfect for: 1991’s Drop Dead Fred. Universal Pictures is

developing a remake
, in which Brand will take over the role (originally
portrayed by fellow Brit Rik Mayall) of an imaginary childhood friend who
returns to a young woman’s life, wreaking havok in his attempts to help her.
Drafting the script is Dennis McNicholas, who co-wrote 2000’s The Ladies Man,
this summer’s Land of the Lost, and another upcoming movie version of
another old Sid and Marty Krofft TV series, H.R. Pufnstuf. McNicholas has
been tasked to reimagine Drop Dead Fred “in the tone of “Beetlejuice as
inspiration to imagine a new mythology based upon imaginary childhood friends.”
I often rail against remakes in this column because they’re usually of movies
that were fine the first time around, but Drop Dead Fred is a great
example of a movie that could use improvements.


It’s been over 20 years since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the remarkable
live-action/animation hybrid that featured cameos from many competing properties
(Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc). A prequel script called Roger Rabbit: The
Toon Platoon
, which featured Roger and lots of classic cartoon characters in
a 1941 World War II setting, was written not long after the movie’s initial
release and, during the ’90s, was rewritten to remove the war spoofing and
retitled Who Discovered Roger Rabbit? Tests were reportedly done
rendering the characters in CGI, but Disney cancelled the project after the
budget was projected to be well over $100 million, and the idea of a second
Roger Rabbit
became the sort of thing that gets covered in books like Chris
Gore’s The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made. Roger Rabbit‘s director,
Robert Zemeckis (Beowulf, Back to the Future), however, still has
hopes, as he

told MTV this week
that a second Roger Rabbit is “buzzing around in
my head.” It’ll be based upon a new idea and take advantage of continuing
improvements in digital tools and performance capture. In the meantime, we’ll
have to wait for Zemeckis and Jim Carrey to finish their motion capture version
of A Christmas Carol, due in November, to see what his latest work with
the technology looks like.


A few months back, Warner Bros announced plans for Paradise, a big
budget adaptation of John Milton’s epic 17th century poem, “Paradise
,” about Adam and Eve’s fall from grace and exile from the Garden of
Eden. Now, an independent production of Paradise Lost, which has
reportedly been in development by producer Martin Poll (The Lion in Winter,
Nighthawks) since the late 1960s, is

getting steam again
as competition to WB’s version. (It also has the
advantage of having the actual title.) Back in the day, Poll hired screenwriter
John Collier (he wrote a lot of Alfred Hitchcock Presents scripts) to
write the Paradise Lost script, which was eventually published as a book
in 1973. Martin Poll long tried to get Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde,
Little Big Man
) to direct, but Penn ultimately declined, so the project is
currently out to directors. What the project does currently have is half of its
projected $30-35 million budget and two unknown actors for Adam and Eve, with
the role of Satan expected to be played by a recognizable movie star. The two
Paradise Lost
projects appear far enough from each other, one being a
big-budget modern Hollywood version, and the other being full of connections to
the old-school Hollywood.


The Hollywood Reporter

did an update
on Bruce Willis’ upcoming slate of movies, which is pretty
much dominated by action movies. In addition to The Surrogates, which
comes out this September, the Die Hard franchise star also has the
previously announced A Couple of Dicks (from Kevin Smith, which has
reverted back to its racier title from A Couple of Cops) and the
videogame adaptation Kane & Lynch. New to the mix are Inventory,
in which Willis would play a detective on the trail of a murderer and Red,
which is an adaptation of a Wildstorm comic book about a retired black ops agent
who has to return to action when a high-tech assassin threatens him and his
girlfriend. Yet another possibility is the previously announced Scarpa,
which is a biopic about an FBI informant working in New York’s Columbo crime
family, although THR suggests that project might not end up being a Bruce Willis
project. Although both A Couple of Dicks and Kane & Lynch sound
promising, these new projects, Inventory and Red seem to have
rather tired premises. Then, so did Taken, and look at the box office
business it did.


British director Mike Newell used to be best known for romantic comedies like
Four Weddings and a Funeral and Pushing Tin, but his latest
projects are all setting him up for a reputation as a go-to helmer for big
budget action movies. First there was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,
and he recently wrapped principal production of Disney’s Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time
. Now, Disney is
reportedly in talks
with Newell to direct their highly-anticipated revival of The Lone Ranger,
starring Johnny Depp as Tonto. The role of the Texas Ranger who seeks revenge
for the murder of his fellow Rangers is still uncast, but there have been rumors
that George Clooney may be the studio’s top choice. The Lone Ranger is
being written by the team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who wrote the three
Pirates of the Carribean movies, and have also co-written animated movies
like Shrek, Aladdin and this summer’s G-Force. There’s no
production start date yet for The Lone Ranger, but it is expected to
likely be one of Disney’s big tentpole movies for the summer of 2011.


Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, who costarred together in The Score,
will reteam
for independent drama Stone, in which De Niro plays a security guard who
befriends a teaching assistant (Norton). Stone was written by Angus MacLachlan (Junebug)
and will be directed by John Curran (We Don’t Live Here Anymore), who
previously worked with Edward Norton in 2006’s The Painted Veil. Filming
is expected to start later this month. Another project on Curran’s development
slate is The Beautiful and the Damned, a biopic about the romance between
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, to be played by Keira Knightley.



Denzel Washington is
in talks to star
as a locomotive engineer in Unstoppable, 20th Century Fox’s action
thriller about a runaway train carrying a load of toxic chemicals straight at a
major American city. Unstoppable was written by Mark Bomback (Live Free or
Die Hard
; cowriter of Race to Witch Mountain), reportedly loosely
based upon a true story, and will be directed by Tony Scott. Unstoppable
would mark this the fifth time Scott has worked with Denzel, following
Crimson Tide
, Man on Fire, Deja Vu and this summer’s remake of
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Production is expected to start on
sometime this fall.



Universal-based Illumination Entertainment will
produce a 3D CGI
animated movie based upon Flanimals,
a series of four books by
British comedian Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras), with Gervais
also providing the voice of the main character, a “pudgy, perspiring purple
creature, [who] goes on a mission to change the world.” Flanimals is set in a
world inhabited by 50 different types of creatures that are “so ugly and
misshapen they become cute and endearing.” Illumination Entertainment is a
relatively new company at Universal, and is currently working on their first
animated movie, Despicable Me, starring the voice of Steve Carrell as a
super villain planning on stealing the moon.


It’s nearly 12 years now since Todd McFarlane’s Spawn was released as
a live-action movie starring Michael Jai White as a demonic superhero on a path
of vengeance, and for most of those years, McFarlane has been trying to get
another Spawn movie made. This week, McFarlane

told IESB.net
  that he is talking to five different companies, with
offers that range from big budget special effects to smaller, independent
productions that would allow him to write and direct the new Spawn movie
himself. The problem is that Spawn was very much a product of the 1990s and,
though Spawn continues in comics form, readers by and large
have moved on. And as
for the Spawn movie, there is not much of a clamoring fan base for it
either; it’s remembered as being slightly better (maybe) than other superhero
movie attempts of the time like Steel, Judge Dredd and Tank

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. Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.

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