Weekly Ketchup: Ron Howard eyes Steven King's The Dark Tower
Plus, DreamWorks confirms a How to Train Your Dragon sequel
This week's Ketchup is particularly dominated by news of prequels (Alien) and sequels (Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon, The Ring), as well as the regrettably obligatory 1980s remake (Commando) and a movie based on an old toy (Magic 8 Ball?!). There's also news about movies based upon Stephen King's The Dark Tower, the historic feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys and news of a comedy sequel that fans might have actually enjoyed that won't be happening.
#1 RON HOWARD FINDS HIS OWN FANTASY TRILOGY IN THE DARK TOWER
The writing/producing team of J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse were long considering adapting Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of seven novels as their next big post-LOST project, but eventually gave up on the project. That move made way for Ron Howard, his Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer and Weed Road (Jonah Hex, The Losers), who are now in discussions with Universal Pictures to adapt King's fantasy magnum opus. The Dark Tower is being envisioned as both a film trilogy and then later , a television series. Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) will direct the three movies, and Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, Lost in Space) is attached to adapt the seven books into just three movies. The Dark Tower is sometimes compared to J.R.R. Tokien's Lord of the Rings, but the saga is better described as a sort of cowboy fantasy, following the adventures of the last remaining member of an order of gunslingers in an alternate reality that combines magic and elements of the Old West. Elements and characters of (and similarities to) The Dark Tower can also be found in many of Stephen King's other novels, including The Stand, Insomnia and The Eyes of the Dragon.
#2 HOW TO CONTINUE TRAINING YOUR DRAGON
This week, DreamWorks Animation SKG announced its first quarter profits that beat expectations based upon the success of How to Train Your Dragon. And as part of that announcement, DreamWorks also unveiled plans for a Dragon sequel which will be released in late 2013. How to Train Your Dragon was based upon a series of children's novels by Cressida Cowell which goes on to include titles like How to Be a Pirate (the 2nd book), How to Twist a Dragon's Tale and How to Break a Dragon's Heart. It is not yet known if DreamWorks' planned second film will adapt one (or more) of these books. In addition to the 2013 sequel, DreamWorks also has plans for an "online world," a TV series and a "live arena show" based on the lives of Vikings and dragons. How to Train Your Dragon was the second animated movie from the Lilo & Stitch directing team of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, but it is not yet known if DeBlois and Sanders will be returning to direct this planned sequel.
#3 RIDLEY SCOTT REVEALS NEW DETAILS ABOUT THE ALIEN PREQUEL(S)
This week, director Ridley Scott did the press rounds in advance of the May 12 release of Robin Hood. Some intrepid reporters took the opportunity to get us new information about Scott's prequel plans for Alien, the sci-fi horror movie that launched his career. First, Scott revealed that the plans are actually not for a single Alien prequel, but actually two prequels, which would make the original Alien the third movie in the series eventually. The first Alien prequel, which will "of course" be in 3D (Scott actually did answer that question with "of course"), is aiming for a release date in late 2011 or "the best date in 2012." As for the actual story, the first prequel will be set in the year 2085, which is 30 years before the events of Alien. The focus of the prequel may surprise fans, as "it's fundamentally about going out to find out 'who the hell was that space jockey?'" The "space jockey" that Scott is referring to is the gigantic alien astronaut whose skeleton is discovered in Alien. So, that could mean we're actually going to see that giant alien pilot before he got killed, and the aliens that we know, would look a lot smaller when attacking him? Scott is not expecting Sigourney Weaver to be involved, since the story is set before her character was even born. The lead character, however, will still be a female.
#4 J.J. ABRAMS COLLABORATING WITH STEVEN SPIELBERG ON A LOVING HOMAGE TO... STEVEN SPIELBERG
Paramount needs director J.J. Abrams needs to start filming their next Star Trek film by next summer in order to meet their planned June 29, 2012 release date. That does however leave Abrams with enough time to make another movie, and this week some details emerged about what Abrams plans to do with that free time. The exact details of the project aren't yet known, but what Abrams has planned is a script that he wrote which is described as an "homage" to Steven Spielberg's movies of the '70s and early '80s. As part of that concept, Steven Spielberg himself will be collaborating with Abrams to some extent (possibly executive producing or "at least as an adviser"). Like Spielberg movies of that era, the untitled project will "deal with everyday people whose personal relationships are tested when they are thrown up against extraordinarily fantastic - and possibly other-wordly - events." Steven Spielberg's movies as director during the period being referenced include Duel, The Sugarland Express, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, E.T. and the first two Indiana Jones movies. In addition to the Star Trek reboot, J.J. Abrams' credits as director include the pilot episodes of LOST and Mission: Impossible III (Abrams is just producing the upcoming Mission: Impossible IV).
#5 THE ASSASSINATION OF A HATFIELD BY A COWARDLY MCCOY
Doing press for his new movie Get Low, Robert Duvall revealed this week who might be costarring with him in The Hatfields and the McCoys. The movie's director, Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) has reportedly met with Brad Pitt about starring in the movie, although it's unknown if he would be a Hatfield or a McCoy (likewise with Duvall). T-Bone Burnett, who was the composer of Crazy Heart, will also be composing the score for The Hatfields and the McCoys. As the title suggests, The Hatfields and the McCoys will tell the story of the 19th Century feud between the two famous families residing in the wilderness areas of Kentucky and West Virginia. Most of the Hatfields had fought for the Confederacy, and most of the McCoys had fought on the Union side, and this in part fueled the rivalry between the two families. If Brad Pitt does sign on to star in The Hatfields and the McCoys, this will be his second 19th Century historical drama in recent years, following 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Another movie that Robert Duvall also mentioned this week is Terry Gilliam's long-struggling The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which Duvall says he would still like to star in, if Gilliam can ever get the budget together (again). Gilliam's first attempt to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was documented in 2002's Lost in La Mancha.
ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK
#5 SAMARA WILL POP OUT OF THEATER SCREENS IN RING 3D
In the previous decade, Hollywood had a brief love affair with English language remakes of Asian horror movies, starting with the 2002 release of DreamWorks' The Ring, starring Naomi Watts. The Ring Two followed in 2005, and was a box office success, but it was not as well-received critically as the first film. The Ring and The Ring Two were about a spooky VHS tape featuring the ghost of a girl named Samara which led to people dying seven days after watching the tape. Paramount (which now has the rights to some of the old DreamWorks movies) has apparently noticed that DreamWorks hadn't yet made a third movie yet. And so, the horror franchise is perfectly available for a project to take advantage of another hot new trend: Ring 3D (dropping the The). Paramount has hired screenwriter David Loucka (cowriter of Eddie, The Dream Team), who also wrote their upcoming thriller Dream House. Perhaps coincidentally, that movie, which is likely for a 2011 release, costars Naomi Watts, the star of the first two The Ring movies. It sounds, however, like Naomi Watts may not be the central character of Ring 3D, as Paramount is fashioning the third movie to be more "teen-centric," with the premise possibly involving a group of teens who discover "a VHS player that still works." This is one of this week's Rotten Ideas just because it feels like the further milking of a horror franchise better left untouched, mostly for the purpose of fueling the 3D fad. There's also a bit of an irony that just a few years ago, 3D was considered as antiquated a medium as VHS tapes are today.
#4 CLASH OF THE TITANS 2: ELECTRIC BUBO-LOO
Thus far, the Clash of the Titans remake has grossed over $390 million worldwide for Warner Bros, so unsurprisingly, the studio is moving ahead with plans for a sequel. Greg Berlanti, one of the cowriters of the studio's Green Lantern, is working on a story to feature Perseus (Sam Worthington) and all of the other characters who survived the first film. Despite Berlanti's involvement, Warner Bros is also looking for a screenwriter, so Berlanti appears at this point to be just writing the story treatment, and not the actual full script. Another search the studio is engaging in is for a director, as Louis Leterrier will not be returning, although he will retain a producing credit on the sequel. Warner Bros is hoping to get the sequel written and produced quickly so that they can get Sam Worthington before he goes off to film Avatar 2. As part of the same story (even though it's not really that related to Clash of the Titans), New Line Cinema and Walden Media are also continuing development on a sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth. New Line is hoping to get the sequel ready in time for a late 2011 release date, but one of the question marks right now is whether Brendan Fraser will be returning. The first film's director, Eric Brevig, is currently busy getting Yogi Bear ready for its December 17, 2010 release. Fraser is "resisting" working with Brad Peyton (the upcoming Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), who the studio wants to replace Brevig. The alternative that New Line is considering is to shift focus from Brendan's character to the nephew character played by the much younger (and less expensive) Josh Hutcherson. The reason this is one of this week's Rotten Idea stories mostly has to do with the Clash of the Titans sequel, which sounds like a rushed money grab following the first movie which was itself critically panned. The idea of a similarly rushed Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel is just more Rotten news on top of Rotten news.
#3 RON BURGUNDY WILL NOT BE RIGHT BACK AFTER THESE MESSAGES
The 2004 comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was not based upon a Saturday Night Live character, a comic book or any other type of pre-existing intellectual property. Ron Burgundy was just a very well-conceived caricature of an arrogant 1970s TV anchorman, the sort of guy whose career was done in by the rise of political correctness and (more qualified and competent) female cohosts. In other words, Anchorman is exactly the sort of movie that would have much more trouble getting greenlit today. And financially, Anchorman benefitted from a cast (Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd) that is today undoubtedly more expensive than they were in 2004. Anchorman is one of the decade's best mainstream comedies, arguably, and there has been buzz of a potential sequel for several years now. Well, director Adam McKay "tweeted" this week that we can now just put all of our hopes for the triumphant return of Ron Burgundy to rest. Here's what McKay had to say, "So bummed. Paramount basically passed on Anchorman 2. Even after we cut our budget down. We tried," continuing later, "to all who asked: no we can't do Anchorman 2 at another studio. Paramount owns it." Apparently, the cast was willing to keep their paychecks down, but Paramount was still unwilling to greenlight a sequel to a comedy that many people today still cherish, and that's why this is one of this week's Rotten Ideas. Generally, this column is skeptical about sequels, but Anchorman 2, possibly taking Ron Burgundy into the 1980s, always seemed like a potentially great idea. After watching Anchorman, you want to know what became of Ron Burgundy. Now we'll never know. What this writer does know: I love lamp.
#2 JOHN MATRIX RELOADED: COMMANDO REMAKE
20th Century Fox is moving forward with plans to remake the 1985 action movie Commando. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Commando as retired soldier John Matrix, whose daughter is kidnapped to force Matrix to assassinate the president of a fictional Latin American nation. Commando is fondly remembered by action movie fans for its ridiculously high body count and Schwarzenegger's corny post mortem one liners. And now, Fox has hired David Ayer to write and direct their Commando remake. Ayer's two credits as director are Harsh Times and Street Kings, and his screenwriting credits include Training Day and cowriting S.W.A.T. and The Fast and the Furious. David Ayer is also himself a former Navy submarine sailor (which he used as inspiration in cowriting U-571). Ayer's version of John Matrix will be "less brawny, but more skilled in covert tactics and weaponry," apparently mimicing the approach of this summer's Predators, which replaces the original Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura characters with scrawny guys like Adrien Brody and Topher Grace. And that right there is why the Commando remake is one of this week's Rotten Ideas. If you make take away John Matrix's ridiculously buff muscalarity, it seems like it's not really Commando.
#1 MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS "I AM A ROTTEN IDEA FOR A MOVIE"
Hollywood's love affair with "toy movies" continues to run rampant this week with the news that Paramount and Mattel are teaming up for a Magic 8-Ball movie. Invented in 1946, the Magic 8-Ball is a toy painted like a large 8 pool ball filled with liquid in which a 20-sided die floats, with each side bearing a different answer like "ask again later," "outlook not so good" and "signs point to yes." The Magic 8-Ball continues the Paramount/Mattel relationship that began with the studio's plans for a Max Steel movie. Paramount has also had success with toy movies for Mattel's competitor Hasbro with Transformers and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Paramount has hired screenwriters John Mann (the short film Pissing Vocal Gold) and Jon Gunn who collaborated on 2000's Mercy Streets and also cowrote Alcatraz Vs. The Evil Librarians, an animation project in development at DreamWorks. Magic 8-Ball is this week's most Rotten Idea because it is yet another non-narrative toy that just does not seem like a good idea for a 90+ minute movie (other than as a way of selling more, you know, Magic 8-Balls). Movies based on Lucky Charms and The Michelin Man would make more sense. And no, Hollywood, that's not a request or a suggestion.