Few industries enjoy taking really, really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood. So when we get to this time of the year, there’s really not much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss, especially not in a weekly column which normally includes 10 different stories. So, last week, we instead reviewed 12 of the year’s top “Fresh Development” stories, and this week, we’re looking at 10 of the year’s most Rotten Ideas. For this batch, we’re not sticking with a strict one-per-month list, so as not to penalize movies for when their bad news broke. Our retrospective begins with one of the year’s biggest stories, which sort of epitomizes what makes a “Rotten Idea” story…
A popular approach to the idea of film remakes is that it’s an endeavor best undertaken for films that were flawed the first time around, which suggests that “perfect” films would never have a reason to get the remake treatment. So, when movie fans hear about a favorite film in development as a remake or a reboot (or a re-whatever), they are quickly and vocally unhappy. Such was the case in November with the announcement that a new production company called AMBI Pictures has acquired the rights to several independent films, including Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film, Memento, which they plan to remake. Guy Pearce starred in Memento as a man with only very limited memory of his past, so that he has tattooed himself with information and clues, as he drifts through an existence where he is extremely open to manipulation and deception by those around him. Here’s how AMBI’s Andrea Iervolino addressed their plans to remake Memento, “[which] has been consistently ranked as one of the best films of its decade. People who’ve seen Memento 10 times still feel they need to see it one more time. This is a quality we feel really supports and justifies a remake. The bar is set high thanks to the brilliance or [sic] Christopher Nolan, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.” So, the question gets asked once again: Is it worth trying to remake what so many consider a perfect film?
In the last ten or so years when Hollywood was particularly addicted to genre remakes, one of the projects that just wouldn’t go away was the Escape from New York remake. In January, there was a bidding war between various studios, and 20th Century Fox won the bid, with John Carpenter attached to executive produce. You can probably disregard most of what you’ve heard in the past, because a “start from scratch” approach is being touted. Having said that, some of the previous rumors or discussions might still happen (you never know). Recent rumored stars to be the new Snake Plissken have included Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) and Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor). The Escape from New York remake now needs to find a director, and they don’t even have the help of a beacon. We’re calling this one a “Rotten Idea” just because if there’s any John Carpenter film that still holds up without a remake, it’s The Thing ( and look at what happened there). If there’s a second one, it’s Escape from New York. Can anyone beat Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken? Or beat Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (though apparently Dwayne Johnson will try?
Rotten Tomatoes is a site dedicated to providing a gauge of critical reactions to various movies and TV shows (you know that, right?). Unfortunately, it is not critical opinion that is used to make decisions in Hollywood. So this story should not have come as any sort of surprise. Universal Pictures officially confirmed plans to adapt E.L. James’ sequel novels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed as feature films, presumably with the same stars, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. As of this writing, Fifty Shades of Grey has a Tomatometer score of 24 percent. Later in the spring, two more films with Rotten Tomatometer scores received sequels as well. First, there was Need for Speed (with a sequel reportedly mandated mostly because of the film’s success in China )., and then in May, we also heard about a sequel to Project X called Project XX, and there, the mandate was probably due to how cheaply 20-somethings can be filmed (acting) drunk.
Some movies take so long to get made that they can actually predate movies from the 1990s that are themselves in development to get remade again (specifically, we’re thinking of The Mummy). Another monster movie classic that has been in varying degrees of development is The Creature from the Black Lagoon. That remake actually dates all the way back to the early 1980s, when then-red-hot John Landis was hoping to produce a version directed by Jack Arnold, who directed the original 1954 movie. The Black Lagoon remake has taken various forms in the 30+ years since (really far more than we can detail here), but in April, the Black Lagoon remake “surfaced” again with a rumor that Scarlett Johansson had been offered the lead role (as a scientist, not the Creature, though that could be on this side of awesome). If this movie ever does finally happen, it will be part of Universal’s struggling (following the disappointing 23 percent Rotten bestowed upon Dracula Untold) plans for reboots of their “Classic Universal Monsters.” In similar territory that same week, we learned that Warner Bros is still pursuing plans for a Gremlins remake, and that remake specialist screenwriter Carl Ellsworth has been hired to work on precisely that. Ellsworth’s previous credits include Red Dawn and The Last House on the Left. There was also news in January about plans for another remake of The Blob, except as more of an “action movie.”
Throughout the weeks of casting news for the sequel to Independence Day in early 2015, one would have guessed that one of the easiest roles for 20th Century Fox to cast would be the President’s daughter, Patricia Whitmore. The reason for this is that the child actor, Mae Whitman, who played the character in the 1996 hit movie, has grown up to become the prolific, critically adored, and award-winning star of such movies as The DUFF, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Instead, in May, 20th Century Fox cast Maika Monroe, the star of the horror hit It Follows, to play President Bill Pullman’s daughter in the sequel. As E! Online pointed out, Whitman hadn’t even been on 20th Century Fox’s shortlist of actresses in the running for the role. The reactions online were quick and polarizing (not surprising since It Follows has been very popular), with the pro-Mae Whitman camp arguably led by Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick, who sent out a Tweet saying, “What the actual f***? @maebirdwing is talented as hell, and JUST proved she can carry a film. Smh.” Buzzfeed came out against the snubbing of Mae Whitman as well. 20th Century Fox has scheduled Independence Day: Resurgence for release on June 24, 2016.
A growing trend within Hollywood’s film development movers and shakers is the regurgitation and/or revisitation of Harrison Ford’s earlier film career. Ford himself has revisited his role for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and will do the same for Blade Runner 2 (presumably Deckard is who Ford’s playing, at least), and for a while, there were rumors about Chris Pratt taking over the Indiana Jones franchise. In May, we were able to add The Fugitive (which was itself an adaptation of a popular 1960s TV series) to the mix, as Warner Bros has put a new Fugitive movie into development. There’s still a lot that we don’t know, however, such as whether the new movie will be a remake or a sequel. Whatever it is, Warner Bros has hired not-yet-produced screenwriter Christina Hodson to work on the screenplay. Although the 1993 movie starring Harrison Ford is Certified Fresh at 93 percent, the 1997 attempt to spinoff the franchise focusing on Tommy Lee Jones’ character, U.S. Marshals, is decidedly not, with a Rotten score of just 27 percent. Another classic film that received news of remake development (in October) was the 1962 John Wayne/James Stewart western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
It has now been twelve years since the 2003 release of Bad Boys II (and 20 years and a few months since the first Bad Boys in May, 1995). For most of those twelve years, someone at Sony has been trying to get a third Bad Boys buddy cop sequel greenlit for production. In June, we learned that the possibility of seeing a third movie pairing Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is still viable, with the news that a new screenwriter is now in talks. The writer in question is writer-director Joe Carnahan, whose filmography includes 2010’s The A-Team, as well as The Grey, Narc, and Smokin’ Aces. Carnahan is also the writer-director who spent time a few years ago at 20th Century Fox working on a 1970s-set Daredevil movie before the rights eventually reverted back to Marvel, resulting in the recent Netflix series. Joe Carnahan’s Tomatometer has both Fresh and Rotten scores fairly evenly, but we’re calling this one a “Rotten Idea” for one reason: Neither of the first two Bad Boys movies earned a Tomatometer score higher than 43 percent. Then, in August, we learned that Sony is planning on not just Bad Boys 3 (2/17/17), but also a Bad Boys 4 (7/3/19). (Joe Carnahan’s involvement in either is not yet confirmed.)
The success last year of The LEGO Movie has inspired a few non-narrative movie projects to follow in its wake, including Play-Doh (announced in April), Hello Kitty (announced in July), various other LEGO sequels and spinoffs, and Minecraft. One of the most surprising projects (depending upon your cynicism) that can be compared to The LEGO Movie happened in July. After a high-pitched bidding war, Sony Pictures Animation won, in a deal worth nearly $10 million, the feature film rights to the Emoji. Formerly popularly called “Smileys,” Emoji are the increasingly varied faces, usually yellow, that one finds available on smart phones, message chat, and other electronic forms of communication. Somewhat bizarrely for a deal that ended up with such a large scale, Emoji does not itself directly involve any sorts of rights, but the money was spent regardless. Like The LEGO Movie, those little “Emoji” icons do not have any pre-existing narrative structure on which to base a movie, which could be seen as a weakness in structuring the story, but it’s also potentially the grounds for wide open creativity for the writers Sony Pictures Animation hires to adapt the film. And those writers will be Eric Siegel, one of the producers of Men at Work, and Anthony Leondis, who wrote and directed the 2008 animated film Igor, and cowrote and codirected the direct-to-video sequel Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. There was also news in August about a similar deal for the Pez candy dispenser franchise. Sony Pictures has not yet set a release date for their Emoji movie. :O 😉 🙂
When Warner Bros released Looney Tunes: Back in Action in late 2003, it was considered a box office bomb. That movie’s financial failure presumably led to the 12-year absence of any live action/animated Looney Tunes movies. What the box office numbers don’t tell you, however, is that critically, Looney Tunes: Back in Action (57 percent Tomatometer) was actually better received than Space Jam (36 percent Tomatometer), the 1996 Looney Tunes basketball comedy (though both scores are Rotten overall). Regardless, there have been rumors the last few years that Warner Bros is developing a sequel to Space Jam (presumably because it earned $230 million globally despite its critical reception). The focus of those rumors has been on Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James, but until August, there had been no confirmation (including even when his production company signed with WB last month). Avoiding the Hollywood trades and blogs that are usually the sources for such news, LeBron James instead went on NBC’s Today to say this about Space Jam 2: “We hope so. We’re definitely missing Bugs and Daffy and Tasmanian Devil and every last one of them, so hopefully we can do some great things.” LeBron James made his feature film acting debut in last month’s Trainwreck, appearing alongside Amy Schumer. There’s no word yet what other NBA stars might join James in Space Jam 2.
Here in the United States, the 2013 sequel A Good Day to Die Hard is commonly perceived as a box office bomb, with the five-film franchise’s lowest domestic box office ($67 million), and scathing reviews. However, a look at the worldwide box office total tells a different story, as it was the third Die Hard film in a row to earn over $300 million (and only $79 million behind the franchise’s top earning film, Live Free or Die Hard). So, there still appears to be a financial incentive for 20th Century Fox to keep making Die Hard movies. However, Bruce Willis also turned 60 this year, which means he can’t be starring as John McClane for much longer. An attempt was made with A Good Day to Die Hard to set up a franchise hand-off to McClane’s son, played by Jai Courtney. In October, we learned that 20th Century Fox is now developing a sixth film which will attempt another way of continuing the franchise without Willis filming the action. That approach will be a prequel currently called Die Hard: Year One, and will tell the story of young police officer John McClane on the “gritty” streets of 1979 New York City, where he learned how to be so “die hard.” Although the bulk of the story will be set in 1979, with John McClane played by a new actor, Bruce Willis is expected to also costar, providing “book end” scenes set in the modern day to lead into the flashbacks. 20th Century Fox is teaming with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Live Free or Die Hard director Len Wiseman, who also directed Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, and the 2012 remake of Total Recall. Although the fourth Die Hard was Certified Fresh, it was also the only film of the six on Len Wiseman’s Tomatometer not to receive a Rotten score.