This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Insidious 5, Matchbox, and Mortal Kombat 2.
(Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Over the last two months, Lionsgate has been filling up the large ensemble cast for the prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (11/17/2023) mostly with young, up-and-coming actors, given the youthful nature of Tributes and, to a lesser degree, Mentors. So far, the most famous stars announced have been Rachel Zegler (as the female lead, Lucy Gray Baird, the girl Tribute from District 12), Tom Blyth as the young Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland in the original films), and Jason Schwarzman as Lucretius “Lucky” Flickerman, the predecessor of Stanley Tucci’s character later on. After announcing the fourth round of casting two weeks ago, Lionsgate added another fan favorite actor to the cast with Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, who will co-star as Cesca Highbottom, the Dean of the Academy. Director Francis Lawrence (who also directed all of the previous Hunger Games movies except the first) said of Dinklage’s character, “Dean Highbottom is one of the most powerful people in Snow’s life. As the austere and vindictive face of the games, he sets the rules that will determine every aspect of Coriolanus’s fate.”
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For his Disney+ documentary mini-series The Beatles: Get Back (Fresh at 93%), director Peter Jackson reportedly went through 130 hours of audio and 57 hours of video to cull it down to “just” seven and a half hours. This week, Jackson revealed that all of that extra material may not go totally unused after all, as he is now in discussions with the remaining Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr about another unspecified Beatles project. Jackson remains coy about the nature of the idea, only specifying that, “it’s not really a documentary.” It’s also worth noting that Peter Jackson is only specifically having these discussions with the remaining Beatles, and not the families of the two deceased Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison. In the same interview, Jackson also mentioned that he is developing “a big narrative film” (unrelated to the Beatles) that is live action but “needs technology that doesn’t quite exist at the moment, so we’re in the middle of developing the technology to allow it to happen… They’re not fantasy epics, but they’re pretty interesting.” There is currently no release date for any of the mystery projects that Peter Jackson is developing, including the Beatles project.
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Back in October, Bill Murray revealed to the world that the next film from his frequent collaborator, director Wes Anderson, would be titled Asteroid City, which didn’t really offer any hints as to what the movie is actually about. This week, Focus Features acquired the worldwide rights to Asteroid City, reuniting the Universal subsidiary with Wes Anderson for the first time since his 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom (Certified Fresh at 93%), and along with that story, Focus also revealed a loose summary of the film. While Asteroid City was filming, it was known that the locations were areas of Spain that could double for deserts, which now makes total sense, as the film is described as being about “a fictional American desert town in and around 1955 and its its Junior Stargazer convention, which brings together students and parents from across the country for scholarly competition, rest and recreation, comedy, drama, romance and more.” Like many (most) of Anderson’s recent films, Asteroid City will feature a star-studded ensemble cast, which some sources describe as being led by Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson. The rest of the cast, in alphabetical order, includes Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, Hong Chau, Bryan Cranston, Willem Dafoe, Hope Davis, Matt Dillon, Grace Edwards, Rupert Friend, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hanks, Maya Hawke, Ethan Lee, Sophia Lillis, Aristou Meehan, Ed Norton, Stephen Park, Tony Revolori, Margot Robbie, Jake Ryan, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Rita Wilson, and Jeffrey Wright. Observant readers may have noticed that Bill Murray’s name was missing from that list, and that’s because he eventually had to be replaced after catching COVID-19. Focus Features has not yet announced a release date for Asteroid City, but it’s expected to be sometime in late 2022 for this year’s awards consideration.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
It might be difficult for modern zombie movie fans to imagine, but there was a time, decades after “zombies” first appeared in scary movies like White Zombie (Fresh at 86%) and I Walked with a Zombie (Fresh at 86%), when they didn’t look or act like we’ve come to know them. Instead, most modern zombie conventions were invented “as he went along” in the late 1960s by director George A. Romero while making Night of the Living Dead (Certified Fresh at 96%). Now, a director most famous for his work on 31 episodes of The Walking Dead (Fresh at 80%), Greg Nicotero, is developing a film all about the original production of Night of the Living Dead. Nicotero plans on his movie being a combination of black and white (for the scenes from the original film) and color (so that audiences can see, for example, how melted chocolate was used for “blood”). As for the tone, Nicotero says, “What I want to do is an Ed Wood-style movie that shows the heart and character of this guy, with the backdrop this Magnificent Seven version of a bunch who had no [f***ing] idea of what they were doing, getting together to make Night of the Living Dead.” In addition to his work as director, Greg Nicotero is also well known for his work in makeup special effects, which started with Romero’s Day of the Dead (Certified Fresh at 83%) in 1985.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)
Ever since Walt Disney’s first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Certified Fresh at 98%) in 1937, the company has adapted dozens of classic fairy tales as feature films, but there are plenty that never made the leap from page to Disney Vault. Some examples of beloved classic fairy tales that Walt Disney Pictures hasn’t (yet) adapted include Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rumpelstiltskin, and Tom Thumb. Another such example is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, about a young lady sleeping on a bed made up of 20 different mattresses. Walt Disney Pictures is now developing a live-action comedy called Penelope that will indeed be (loosely) based on that story. The Penelope screenplay is currently being adapted by screenwriter Robert Sudduth (TV’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), with music to be written by singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson and Broadway composter Larry O’Keefe (Bat Boy: The Musical).
(Photo by Mattel)
In addition to the many movie projects based on their various toy brands, Mattel has been trying to get a live action Hot Wheels movie going since 2003, which, at the time, was just a few years after the release of the original The Fast and the Furious (Rotten at 54%) revived the “racing movie” genre. Almost 20 years later, we still haven’t gotten that first Hot Wheels movie, but Mattel now appears to be doubling down on getting a movie produced based on one of their toy car brands. Mattel and Skydance Media have now begun active development of a live-action feature film based on their long-running Matchbox toy brand. Previously competitors (until Mattel bought the company that originated Matchbox), both Hot Wheels and Matchbox are similar toy cars, except perhaps that Hot Wheels leans more towards “funny car” and “hot rod” designs, whereas Matchbox has more practical designs (that include vehicles like farm tractors and delivery trucks). There is no current indication about what the Matchbox movie might be about, who might be writing or directing it, or who might star. The other toy-based projects Mattel is currently developing include American Girl, Barney, Magic 8 Ball, Major Matt Mason, Masters of the Universe, Polly Pocket, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Thomas & Friends, UNO, View-Master, and Wishbone, as well as the aforementioned Hot Wheels and next year’s Barbie (7/21/2023).
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Saturday Night Live has long had three different tiers of cast members: the main reportory (the first names in the credits), the featured players (the second group in the credits), and the writers who will sometimes be seen in sketches (Conan O’Brien was one famous example of that, before he got his own late-night talk show). In the 2021-2022 season, SNL started featuring prerecorded sketches featuring three writers, Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, and Ben Marshall, known collectively as Please Don’t Destroy. Universal Pictures and producer Judd Apatow has picked up an untitled buddy comedy from Please Don’t Destroy in which they will also star. Herlihy, Higgins, and Marshall will star as “three childhood friends who live and work together, don’t like where their lives are headed, and set off to find gold treasure rumored to be buried on a nearby mountain.” Whatever the comedy ends up being titled, filming has already begun on location in North Carolina. Universal Pictures has scheduled the comedy for August 18, 2023, which puts it up against the DC Comics superhero movie Blue Beetle, scheduled by Warner Bros. for the same date.
(Photo by ©FilmDistrict courtesy Everett Collection)
The 2013 horror film The Conjuring (Certified Fresh at 86%) was such a hit with fans that it inspired an entire Conjuring cinematic universe of films, but there was actually another Patrick Wilson horror film three years prior that also spawned several sequels. That 2010 film was called Insidious (Fresh at 66%), and to date, there have been three sequels, although Wilson wasn’t in Insidious: Chapter 3 (Rotten at 57%), and he only had a cameo in Insidious: The Last Key (Rotten at 33%). Five years after that fourth film came out in 2018, Universal Pictures has scheduled Insidious 5 for release on July 7, 2023, after first being announced in October, 2020. Patrick Wilson will return to star in Insidious 5, which will also be his feature film directorial debut. Ty Simpkins, who plays Wilson’s son (and who was a key character in the first Insidious) will also return, with his character now being college-aged. It’s not yet known if Rose Byrne will also reprise her character from the first two movies.
(Photo by Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection)
What we now know as “yacht rock” wasn’t actually called that when it was popular, back in the 1970s and 1980s; it was popularized in 2005, over 20 years later, and it has stuck around, as evidenced by countless playlists on Spotify and YouTube. Soon, many of the biggest yacht rock hits will be featured in a jukebox musical called Sailing now being developed by Rock of Ages creator Chris D’Arienzo. For the uninitiated, a “jukebox musical” would be one made up of pre-existing musical hits, whether they be by one specific act (Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys), or many different musicians (Moulin Rouge, or the aforementioned Rock of Ages). The yacht rock jukebox musical Sailing will feature an ensemble cast, but the first actor in negotiations for one of the roles is Woody Harrelson, whose most recent films include Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Rotten at 58%) and the direct-to-Netflix crime comedy The Man from Toronto (Rotten at 22%).
(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)
There is a solid argument to be made that many films released in 2021, but especially the entire slate of Warner Bros. that year, should come with an asterisk next to their box office figures, because they were released day-and-date on streaming services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Warner Bros. has either greenlit or is developing sequels to a few of that year’s films (like Dune, Godzilla vs Kong, and Wonder Woman 1984) despite the difficulty of using traditional box office standards. Another 2021 release that Warner Bros. subsidiary New Line Cinema has now greenlit a sequel for is the video game adaptation (and reboot) Mortal Kombat (Rotten at 54%), the third in the franchise after 1995’s Mortal Kombat (Rotten at 45%) and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Rotten at 4%). Neither the premise nor the returning cast of the sequel has been revealed yet, but it will again be directed by Simon McQuoid, who directed the 2021 reboot. The 2021 Mortal Kombat opened to $23 million domestically before eventually earning $84 million worldwide, but those numbers, as mentioned, may have been impacted by the decision to release the film day-and-date with its premiere on HBO Max.