There has yet to be a Fresh-rated entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie franchise (whose latest installment, Out of the Shadows, is out Friday), not that it matters much considering how deep “Ninja Rap” runs in our nostalgia veins. The Turtles, in fact, are in fine company as comic adaptations have walked a long, ignominious road in Hollywood, inspiring this week’s gallery: the 24 worst-reviewed comic book movies by Tomatometer!
This week, Hollywood seemed to actually be listening to our usual complaints, as most of the new projects that were announced could be described as genuinely original concepts, except for a couple of sequels, both of which are for movies that aren’t even out yet, and one videogame adaptation that is based upon a game that is more of a critic’s favorite than just your typical dumbed down fan favorite.
Dragonball: Evolution first hits theaters today, and Warner Bros’ The Hangover won’t be in theaters until June 5, 2009, but that hasn’t stopped either movie from already having sequel scripts being worked on. Justin Chatwin, who stars as the spiky-haired Goku, revealed to MTV this week that the script for the second Dragonball has already been finished and that it “really goes to some different places that I’ve never seen in any comic book adaptation.” And then there’s The Hangover, the Todd Phillips (Old School) comedy about three drunken friends who lose the bachelor when they take him to Las Vegas for his bachelor party, and have to retrace their steps the next day to find him. Basically, it’s the same plot as Dude, Where’s My Car?, but except it’s the Dude that got lost. Warner Bros hired Todd Phillips and his writing partner Scot Armstrong (Road Trip, School for Scoundrels) to get started already on a sequel this week (in what is described as a “multi-million dollar commitment). This comes just a week after Paramount hired J.J. Abrams and Lost show co-runner Damon Lindelof to get started on a Star Trek sequel script as well. In all three cases, the producers are showing a great deal of confidence in their respective movies, but you can bet that if any of the three prove to be disappointments at the box office, this paragraph will probably be the last you ever head of any such sequels, unless it’s in a post-release article about the folly of prematurely spending a lot of money on sequels that people won’t want to see.
Although he had been rumored to be the front runner for the role of Freddy Krueger since February, it was this week that Jackie Earle Haley, AKA Rorschach in Watchmen, was officially announced by New Line Cinema as starring in the Platinum Dunes remake of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. Also joining the cast as the young male lead Quentin, who runs his school’s podcast radio station, is Kyle Gallner, who is currently starring in A Haunting in Connecticut as the kid who has obviously fake CGI stuff coming out of his mouth in the ads that won’t stop showing up on 80% of the sites that I visit (which is my entire knowledge of that movie). Prolific music video director Samuel Bayer (Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit) is making his feature film debut from a script by Wesley Strick (1991’s Cape Fear; cowriter of Doom), with filming scheduled to start in May, 2009 in Chicago for a release on April 16, 2010.
One of the ongoing debates in the video game community is whether games can be considered art, and two of the games that are often held up as examples are 2001’s Ico and the next game from the same studio, 2005’s Shadow of the Colossus for the PS2. With the possible exception of Silent Hill (which had plenty of critics as well), there really hasn’t yet been a truly effective game-based movie, but Sony has hired screenwriter Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and the upcoming 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo) to see if perhaps Shadow of the Colossus might just be the game that can make the transition successfully. Shadow of the Colossus is about an adventurer named Wander who travels across bleak landscapes on his horse, climbing onto massive Godzilla-sized monsters, looking for the weaknesses that will allow him to bring down the great monstrosities. Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are beautifully rendered games, even by today’s graphical standards, and so much of the visual groundwork, in cinematic terms, has already been established, so I can definitely see that Shadow of the Colossus could be an amazing movie if the same standards can be achieved. The important thing has got to be for the filmmakers not to “dumb down” the concept.
Santa Claus is the frequent subject of movies, but can you name one about the Easter Bunny that actually made it to theaters (1971’s Here Comes Peter Cottontail was a TV movie). Well, all of a sudden, this lack of Easter-related rabbit representation could go from zero to two, as Hollywood enters into yet another of those cases of dueling movies that the industry is so fond of, and to make it even more semi-ridiculous, the titles are the easily confused I Hop and Hip Hop. Now someone just has to figure out how to adapt Dr. Seuss’ Hop on Pop into having something to do with Easter. Universal’s I Hop is about a “slacker” who runs over the Easter Bunny and so he has to train up to take the Bunny’s place the next year, doing whatever it is that the Easter Bunny does (hiding eggs, I guess?). I Hop was written by the writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (Horton Hears a Who, Bubble Boy), who were also among the extensive writing staff of The Santa Clause 2. Universal is looking for two comedy stars (one as the “slacker” and one as the voice of the Easter Bunny), and hopes to have it fast tracked in time for a pre-Easter, 2010 release date. And then there’s Sony’s Hip Hop, which is described as being in the vein of Alvin and the Chipmunks, as it will be a CGI/live-action combo comedy about the Easter Bunny going into retirement and becoming a family’s pet, where he causes all sorts of mischief and ensuing highjinks. Hip Hop was written by first timer Greg Ostrin and Michael Weiss (Octopus 2: River of Fear; cowriter of Journey to the Center of the Earth).
Christian Bale is in talks to join Mark Wahlberg in a thriller called Prisoners, which Bryan Singer (X-Men, The Usual Suspects) is considering directing. Prisoners is about a small town “Bible reading, deer hunting survivalist” carpenter (Wahlberg) who comes into conflict with a big city detective (Bale) when his 6-year-old daughter and her friend are abducted, with the carpenter eventually taking the law into his own hands, kidnapping and torturing the man that he feels is responsible for the crime. Given the surprising success of Taken, it’s not surprising that a story like this is being considered suitable material for two A List stars and one of the most successful directors working today.
Mandalay Pictures has acquired the theatrical rights to produce a live action adaptation of the Japanese manga Full Metal Panic!, which has also been adapted as three anime television series. Full Metal Panic! is described as blending comedy, high school romance and action (specifically the sci-fi armored mech variety common in manga & anime). Reportedly in talks to possibly star as the young anti-terrorist member of Mithril who is assigned to protect a teenage girl is none other than current teen heartthrob Zac Efron (High School Musical) who is also expected to star in Warner Bros’ upcoming Jonny Quest movie.
Red Tails, George Lucas’ long-in-development movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, the successful group of African American World War II pilots, is finally getting close to production, including much of the cast being filled out. The Tuskegee Airmen took on the dangerous task of escorting broad daylight bombing missions in 1944 when the RAF refused to do so. Terrence Howard leads the cast as the group’s leader, Colonel A.J. Ballard, joined by Cuba Gooding, Jr., Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Nate Parker (The Secret Life of Bees), Method Man and many others (follow the link for the full list). An interesting footnote to Cuba Gooding, Jr’s casting is that he also costarred in the 1995 HBO movie, The Tuskegee Airmen. At one time, Lucas had talked about directing Red Tails, but he is instead just executive producing, with the helming job instead marking the feature film debut of Anthony Hemingway, who has directed episodes of several TV shows, including The Wire, Heroes and Battlestar Galactica. Red Tails was written by John Ridley (cowriter of Undercover Brother), based upon George Lucas’ story idea. Filming is expected to start later this month in Europe, which means it’s filming at exactly the same time as Iron Man II, that movie in which Terrence Howard was infamously replaced by Don Cheadle.
Although he hasn’t yet had a true box office or critical hit yet, director Jake Kasdan is building up a nice little filmography of overlooked gems that people will no doubt go back and discover when he eventually does have that one movie that pushes him over the edge. His four films thus far are Zero Effect, Orange County, The TV Set and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, all of which I thought were quite nicely done comedies, in the aforementioned understated way. Perhaps that hit will be Burt Dickenson: The Most Powerful Magician on Earth, which is about a rivalry between two magicians, in a Zoolander sort of way, between an older magician (think Penn Jillette or David Copperfield), who has recently accidentally killed his longtime partner, and a hot young gun (think Criss Angel) named Xander Storm.
This week is just full of little movies with awesome concepts like Butter, which was #3 on the 2008 “Black List” of hot unproduced scripts. Jennifer Garner will be starring in Butter, a “political satire” set in the world of competitive butter sculpting. When I mentioned this project to RT Editor in Chief Matt Atchity, he confessed that he didn’t know such a thing even existed, so I guess there is a whole wide world out there for whom Butter will be a revelation about the undoubtedly exciting sport. Butter is about a young orphan who discovers she has a knack for sculpting butter, and in competing, she goes up against the wife (Garner) of the retiring reigning champion. The directors that are being considered for Butter include Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) and Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, Mr. Woodcock).
One of my biggest grammatical gripes is the way people talk about “monkey movies,” but what they actually mean are titles like King Kong, Space Chimps and Any Which Way But Loose. You see, monkeys have tails. Gorillas, chimps and orangutans are apes; completely different types of animals, and calling apes monkeys makes a person seem about as bright as, well, a monkey. So, it is with some joy that I see that the new project called War Monkeys is indeed about rhesus monkeys, complete with tails and everything, who have special military training. War Monkeys is about two janitors who find themselves locked in over the holidays in an underground research facility full of the violent monkeys. War Monkeys was actually announced a few months ago, with Sammo Hung expected to star. Hung isn’t mentioned in the latest news (which says casting starts next week), which is that the new director for the horror comedy project is Kyle Newman (Fanboys). Anyway, War Monkeys sounds like an awesome concept, and one I’m very much anticipating, so I wanted to make sure it got in the Weekly Ketchup at least once.
Born to Be a Star is a movie that Adam Sandler cowrote and is producing, but not through his Happy Madison, in what is being called a “negative pickup” for Sony. Born to Be a Star is a story about a young man (Nick Swardson from Benchwarmers; he also plays an extremely gay man on Reno 911) who discovers that his parents were porn stars back in the 1970s, and so he leaves Iowa for Hollywood to pursue the career as well. Christina Ricci has also been cast as his “innocent” girlfriend. I think Christina Ricci honestly has more potential than than what this movie sounds like. I’ll also give CHUD props for noticing that Sandler could have accomplished a bit of stunt casting by going with Thora Birch, whose parents really were former porn stars in the 1970s, having both appeared in Deep Throat. Born to Be a Star is being directed by the Tom Brady who isn’t the Patriots QB; this Tom Brady’s two produced movies thus far are The Hot Chick and The Comebacks, and that, more than anything is what makes Born to Be a Star as the Rotten Idea of the Week.
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.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a pop songbird (Hannah Montana: The Movie, starring Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus), a mall cop (Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogen and Anna Farris), and plenty of dragon balls (Dragonball: Evolution, starring Justin Chatwin and Chow Yun-Fat). What do the critics have to say?
Ok, let’s get this out of the way upfront: if you fall within the target demographic of tween girls, you’re unlikely to be swayed by what the critics have to say about Hannah Montana: The Movie. Still, the pundits say the film is unlikely to draw many converts — or parents — into Hannah Montanah’s orbit. Miley Cyrus stars as the titular hero, who alternates between a life of pop-star celebrity and a down-to-earth existence in a small town. But will success spoil her? Will she forget her Tennessee roots? The pundits say the movie is inoffensive and good-natured, but painfully thin in the plotting department and fails to capitalize on its star’s natural charisma and charm. It’s also several notches below Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, which notched an impressive 70 percent on the Tomatometer. (Check out our interview with Miley’s dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, in which he tells us about his five favorite movies.)
What is it about mall cops that screenwriters find so hilarious? Observe and Report follows on the heels of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but happily, critics say this time out the fledgling formula is more successful. Seth Rogen stars as Ronnie, a rent-a-cop who takes mall security very seriously. However, when a flasher starts trouble, Ronnie is on the case, hoping it will be a springboard to the police academy — and a relationship with a make-up saleswoman (Anna Farris). The pundits say Observe and Report is one of the weirdest — and creepiest — mainstream comedies in quite a while, an odd mix of sadness and hilarity that provides ample teeth-gritting chuckles. But some also note it’s very dark and occasionally cruel.(Have a look at this week’s Total Recall, in which we list Seth Rogen’s Best Movies.)
For non-initiates, the Dragonball universe (detailed in graphic novels, video games, and a TV seires) can seem all but impenetrable. But critics say that’s the least of its big-screen incarnation’s problems; of greater concern is that Dragonball Evolution is simply dull and generic. Justin Chatwin stars as Goku, a young martial artist who seeks training from Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) after the evil Piccolo has slain his grandfather; Goku and Piccolo end up in a race to acquire the Dragon Balls, magical spheroids that grant wishes to their possessors. The pundits say Dragonball Evolution is a dull slog, with so-so special effects and little of the complex mythology that spawned such cult devotion to the books and the TV show.
Also opening this week in limited release:
James Marsters is perhaps best known to audiences as the blonde-haired Sid Vicious-alike Spike on the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The vampire who earned his nickname by impaling his victims on railway spikes, he went from Big Bad to Buffy’s boyfriend when a shadowy government cell called The Initiative fitted a chip in his brain that prevented him from doing harm.
He stars this week in Dragonball: Evolution, based on the Japanese Manga comic, as Lord Piccolo, the megalomaniacal villain out to destroy the world by uniting the seven Dragonballs.
Continue on as he shares his five favourite films with RT.
“I felt that it was a very clear message about why America lost the war. It was a scene that really got me when, right at the very end, the villagers were killing the cow. Because when we want some cow, we have someone else kill the cow and wrap it up in plastic and eat it.
But they anointed the cow with oils and paint, and the whole village got around and prayed and chanted to the cow and slaughtered the cow in a bloody brutalist way and nobody flinched. Like, they wanted beef, looked it in the eye, and knew what it takes to eat beef, and that’s why we lost the war, they were just tougher.
For me the film was exploring the soft underbelly of our culture and of our weaknesses, and the film’s ending dealt with this; how did we become so weak?”
“I thought this was a really interesting mix of horror and sex. There are so many sexual references, from the robot attacking Sigourney Weaver, and he rolls up a magazine and stuffs it down her throat, I mean, wow! Or the fact that Ash’s blood looks like semen, it’s just a lot of that kind of stuff. Deep, deep psychological sexual stuff; like calling the computer ‘Mother’.
It’s really fascinating, and I think that’s why it’s so successful in scaring you. It places imagery that’s deep and sexual in a horror show. It’s designed to scare people, all this stuff that is repressed, and gets inside their psyche and is truly uncomfortable, and I think it’s right in (Alien artist and production designer) HR Giger‘s designs, I think sex is what we’re all afraid of.”
“Of course taken from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, a short story, and like a lot of his books, it paints a world where technology has vastly outstripped our morality. We can create artificial beings that are every bit as human as we are, to any measurement, and yet we still treat them like a machine.
What does that say about how human we are? I think in the age of cloning and bio-medicine that is exploding right now, with every month, it seems there is some new problem that is jeopardising our morality as human beings. It just seems like we should be very careful in the next hundred years. Philip’s very clever in saying this is what is going to happen, if we’re not careful.
I also think it’s the best noir that doesn’t have to have gumshoes ever. He’s successfully made a noir in a new setting. One of my favourite things is the flying blimp with the picture of the Asian lady taking the pill in close-up. How perfect is that? We’re seeing those commercials now, where they say the side-effects maybe your hair falling out and so on. How they talked to Coca-Cola about the product placing on that building, I’ll never know. ”
“This was Robert Redford‘s follow up to Ordinary People. It’s just about a small South-Western town that is being taken over by moneyed interests. There’s this beautiful scene in the beginning where this obnoxious pig comes and wakes everybody up in the village out of bed, and everybody is like “Ergh, get away from me you pig.” But actually the pig is a force of great good; he’s just rousing everybody for the morning. There’s a certain poetry and stillness to the picture, and a magic that seems to emanate from the land and it casts a delicate spell.”
“I think that film, for me, showed me what cooking is really about, in a way that line animation was never able to. It made we want to cook, it made me want to go out to a new restaurant, it made we want to appreciate life, to taste everything, not just food but the air, everything. Frankly, to be able to put that kind of magic back into a film that is targeted for kids is just amazing. That’s all it’s trying to do, is say to kids, “Hey look at the world, it’s an amazing world, did you see that?” ”
Dragonball: Evolution is out on 8th May in the UK, 9th May in Australia and 10th May in the US.