Weekly Ketchup: Johnny Depp to play Tonto in The Lone Ranger

Plus a bevy of sequels from Disney.

The villain in this summer's The Incredible Hulk was the Abomination, and that sums up a lot of what is going on in this week's Ketchup. There's one great bit of casting news to start us off, but from there, and a couple of possibly interesting projects, but for the most part, get ready for lots of sequels and remakes.


#1 THE LONE RANGER: YOU WILL HEAR JOHNNY DEPP SAY "KEMOSABE"

Walt Disney Pictures had a big publicity blow out this week to celebrate their slate for the next few years (see #6 below for more on that), and the big news they broke at the event was the reveal that Johnny Depp has signed on to star as Tonto in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced relaunch of The Lone Ranger, the classic masked cowboy adventure franchise. Now, before you get too excited about political correctness, Depp is reported to have both Cherokee and Navajo ancestry, which I guess makes him the most successful Native American actor, sort of like how Keanu Reeves is the most successful Asian American actor. Soon after this news broke, AICN received a tip about who might be starring with Depp as the title character: George Clooney. If that's true, this movie just jumped up highly on my anticipation scale, because both Clooney and Depp are funny, charismatic screen presences, and the two of them as one of the most classic movie pairs ever, could actually be a really entertaining thing to watch. Disney also confirmed Depp's casting as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland movie, but we already knew about that a couple of months ago (unofficially).


#2 I AM LEGEND PREQUEL: I WILL BE LEGEND?

Warner Bros is moving forward with plans for a prequel to their very successful Will Smith vampire movie, I Am Legend, which will be a prequel showing what Smith's character, Robert Neville, was doing in New York City when the plague broke loose. Now, I enjoyed I Am Legend, but a prequel? That would sort of be like if Danny Boyle decided to make a movie called something like 28 Hours Later, showing what happened while Cillian Murphy was in the coma, yeah? In both movies, what makes it work is *not* knowing the exact details of how everything came to a crashing halt, but seeing the creepy aftermath. It's called nuance, and it worked. It's hard to see this apocallyptic prequel as being anything other than a cash in.


#3 MOBY DICK TO BE REMADE AS FLASHY ACTION MOVIE: CALL ME ISHTAR

You know why the annual April Fool's Day jokes movie writer guys like me are so easy to come up with? Because of real stories like this. Wanted director Timur Bekmanbetov has signed with Universal to make a new movie version of one of the greatest novels ever penned: Moby-Dick, or The Whale, by Herman Melville. At first glance, I was like, cool, Moby Dick! And then I read that article. First off, the writers are Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, whose only credits are the college comedy Accepted and the Olsen twins vehicle, New York Minute. Absorb that. Those guys are going to adapt Moby Dick? Saying their vision of the project is more "graphic novel", what they're really saying, in code, is that their movie will be like a comic book. Gone is Ishmael's narration, and instead, they will focus on action scenes involving the ships that encountered the great beast prior to Ahab and the Pequod entering the picture. And Ahab will be a "charismatic leader" rather than, you know, a raving lunatic. I don't have enough space in this column to address how wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong this whole concept is. My closing thought? "From hell's heart, I stab at thee, for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."


#4 MGM CONTINUES ITS 1980S REMAKE OBSESSION WITH DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

MGM this year is going "1980s remake" crazy with projects like Robocop, Red Dawn, Fame and Poltergeist, and this week, they added another beloved classic to the mix: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the clever 1988 con man comedy that originally starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine. That movie was itself a remake of the 1964 film, Bedtime Story, starring Marlon Brando and David Niven, but the difference, I think, is that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a movie that people still talk about (I actually didn't even know about the Brando movie until this week). Anyway, MGM has hired writer/director Steve Pink (cowriter of High Fidelity; director of Accepted) to work on this third version, wihch will again be about two con men in the South of France attempting to swindle a wealthy American woman. There aren't that many British comedians at the top of their game these days. I wonder if Simon Pegg will be cast?


#5 STEVEN SPIELBERG: RETURNING TO THE SCI-FI KIDS GENRE ?

DreamWorks has acquired the rights to Chocky, a 1968 sci-fi novel by John Wyndham (The Day of the Triffids), with an eye towards it possibly being a directorial project for Steven Spielberg. Adapted in the 1980s as a British TV series (which apparently is remembered by Brits as being quite creepy), Chocky is about a pre-teen boy with an imaginary friend, who is soon discovered to be an alien being living inside the boy's consciousness. Mysterious government forces get involved, no doubt wielding walkie talkies instead of guns. Spielberg is sort of notorious for always having a large slate of movies, but the recent fall out between DreamWorks and Paramount has led to many of them (Lincoln, The 39 Clues, etc) potentially tied up at Paramount until deals can be made to free them, so that may explain why the famed director may be looking for new projects to work on until he can get back the rights to those projects (if that is indeed the case). Also in the mix are is the recent news that the Tintin trilogy Spielberg is working on with Peter Jackson recently hit a financing snag, with Universal dropping out of financing the $130 million project. And so, enter: Chocky.


#6 DISNEY BETS THE MOUSE ON MORE SEQUELS

At the same event where Walt Disney Pictures revealed the Johnny Depp/Lone Ranger news, they also talked up all their upcoming movies, which include the news that they are "actively developing" National Treasure 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and Wild Hogs 2: Bachelor Ride. I don't know what to say, except that all three projects just smack of commercial convenience, rather than taking all that money and making new original concept movies. That's partly because I am not a fan of any of those three movies/franchises, I guess. National Treasure was just a boatload of convoluted dumb, I thought. The first PotC movie was surprisingly funny, but the two sequels lacked its charm. And I didn't bother to see Wild Hogs. Did you?


#7 FATHOM NETS ITS FOX

IESB.net is reporting that the long-in-development movie version of the Top Cow comic, Fathom, is finally moving ahead again, despite the recent death of its creator, Michael Turner. The big news, however, is that the project, which is now at Fox Atomic (instead of 20th Century Fox proper), is set to star Transformers star Megan Fox, with the project out to writers to customize the role for her. Fathom is sort of an odd fish of a comic. Basically a female version of Aquaman and/or Sub-Mariner, Fathom has the explotional feel on first look of a "Bad Girl" comic, but unlike most of the titles in that genre... it's actually a pretty good read. The character of Aspen that Fox will be playing is this young amnesiac woman who is found at sea as a young girl, and as she grows up, she discovers she's a really good swimmer. The comic grounds Aspen in the real world so it doesn't come across as kitschy as it could. What the movie will be like, however... who knows.


#8 NICOLAS CAGE: WITCH RIDER

Nicolas Cage is reteaming with his Gone in 60 Seconds director, Dominic Sena (Kalifornia, Swordfish), on a 14th century thriller called Season of the Witch, from a script by Bragi Schut (creator of the Threshold TV show). Cage will play a knight who is tasked with escorting a girl suspected of being the witch responsible for the Black Plague. Tag this one under bizarre casting. Does anyone think Nicolas Cage looks or talks like a 14th century knight? I'm sure he'll have a bizarre wig in this one too. That's sort of his thing.





#9 KEIRA KNIGHTLEY TO BE BEAUTIFUL FOR F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Keira Knightley, this decade's queen of period flick chicks, has signed on for another one this week, in the form of The Beautiful and the Damned, which is about the 1920s Jazz Era romance between authors F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre (later, Fitzgerald, not to spoil the movie or anything). Her drunk romantic interest hasn't been cast yet. My only reservation about this movie is that Zelda was distinctly American (Alabama!), so Keira's going to have to rein in her accent a bit, and possibly play Southern, to boot. Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) is directing, with filming expected to start in April, 2009.





#10 THE SIMS: INFINITY PACK

Speaking to Collider.com, producer John Davis revealed the premise for the movie version of The Sims video game that he is currently developing. It's about a teenager who gets his hands on a special expansion for the game called The Sims: Infinity Pack, which he discovers allows the game to control and create things in the real world. The interview compares it to Weird Science, but I'd say there's a touch of The Matrix in there too (in reverse).


You can contact Greg Dean Schmitz via a message at the RT Forums, the thread there devoted to him, or his MySpace page.

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