Weekly Ketchup: The Epic Movie Guys to Spoof Avatar
Plus, more Batman casting, an Uglydoll movie, and a Yogi Bear sequel.
During the two calendar weeks leading up and including the Cannes Film Festival, Hollywood goes sort of crazy with movie announcements. The result the week after the festival each year is a general drying up of big movie news items, and 2011 was no exception. The stories that did come out include casting news for The Dark Knight Rises, the Total Recall remake and the Snow White movie starring Julia Roberts.
This Week's Top Story
THE BIGGEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME 3D GOT THE TOP SPOT WITH ITS TITLE ALONE
This was sort of a slow week, which is admittedly probably why the following news story got the headline. Icon Entertainment (which Mel Gibson no longer runs, by the way) has announced what the next genre spoof movie will be from writers/directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Vampires Suck). Friedberg and Seltzer generally seem to spoof whatever movies or genres are recently popular, and within that framework, they shove lots of "jokes" about other recent and usually quite random pop culture sensations. Their choice this time around is James Cameron's Avatar, and the title of their spoof will be The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D. Although the movie will most likely not be filmed using CGI characters, Friedberg and Seltzer do appear to be able to claim to have the first spoof movie ever released in 3D. Here's more of what Friedberg and Seltzer had to say about their "comedy" in the press release this week: "And what could possibly be riper for satire? You got half naked blue people plugging their hair into strange flying horses so they can read their thoughts! And nothing in this mega blockbuster is off limits, from its overly simplified message of 'big corporations = bad; tree hugging environmentalist = good,' to the broadly drawn characters like the buffed out Colonel who's in a perpetual 'roid rage to the very colorful, glowing and... come on, totally stony world of Pandora." There's no release date yet for The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D, but the one thing that is clear is that it won't be released in the year in which it would have been a lot more timely: 2009. Or 2010, even. To be clear, although this is the week's Top Story, its status as a Rotten Idea is not at all in question.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 THE SIZE OF THE CAST OF THE DARK KNIGHT RISES... RISES
Although there have been some casting announcements for The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie, such as Anne Hathaway (as Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman), Tom Hardy (Bane), Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this list never felt large enough, even when you include returning cast members like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Nestor Carbonell. With filming underway, it's not surprising that the other inevitable cast members have now been announced as well. The first three names to be added this week were Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket), veteran Scottish actor Tom Conti (Reuben, Reuben, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) and child actress Joey King. Modine's casting was quickly followed by an online scoop that his character is a politician and a villain character called Nixon (there's no corresponding comic character by that name). Joey King was also cast this week in Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful, as was Zach Braff, as Frank, Oz's assistant. Those three were then followed by two veteran "character actors" who both appeared in Apollo 13: Chris Ellis (who played one of the astronauts) and Brett Cullen (who is also recognizable by fans of LOST for playing Goodwin, one of the first Others ever featured on the show).
#2 UNCHARTED: DRAKE'S FORTUNE AND THE AKIRA REMAKE LOSE THEIR DIRECTORS
Two of the movie projects that have attracted the most ire from fans of their respective source material are Sony Pictures' adaptation of the PS3 hit video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Warner Bros' planned live action remake of the anime and manga classic Akira. This week, both projects saw their directors quit (on the same day, even), which counts as a "Fresh Development" for everyone either unhappy with the direction they were going (Uncharted fans, mostly) or are flat against it being made at all (Akira fans, mostly). Yesterday, director David O. Russell (Three Kings, The Fighter) left Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, although Sony Pictures is reportedly still very much interested in seeing the project move forward with another director. There's no word yet as to whether Mark Wahlberg will stay attached to Uncharted, or whether this change might force Sony to seek a new star, such as fan favorite Nathan Fillion. Also yesterday, director Albert Hughes, who with his brother/partner Allen Hughes has directed such movies as The Book of Eli, From Hell and Dead Presidents, left the Akira remake due to that old chestnut, "creative differences." It's a nice catch all phrase that can mean whatever you think it means, without getting into any specifics (though those often come out months or years after the fact). Warner Bros is likewise still interested in getting Akira made. Keanu Reeves, who the studio had been talking about playing Kaneda, one of the two teenage main characters, turned down the role recently. Now, Warner Bros is looking again at the many different actors that they had been considering before Reeves, but still, most of them would be difficult to imagine as being young enough to play teenagers.
#3 CAN PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY WIN THE CASE OF THE VIDEO GAME MOVIE CURSE?
When most people think of video game movies, they usually picture films with lots of shooting or fighting, because honestly, the larger number of very popular games involve shooting or fighting of some sort. Even the Mario franchise is basically about jumping and hitting things. That may be part of the obstacle for video game adaptations, in that it's difficult for movies to translate the action of games into a narrative, and the end products often seem more like cutscenes than visual representations of the actual gameplay. There are exceptions, obviously, and one such popular Nintendo DS franchise that doesn't involve fighting at all is Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. As the name suggests, the Capcom series puts the player in the role of a lawyer, in a style reminscent of manga/anime, with Phoenix Wright shouting things like "Objection!" dramatically. Now, word has come out that one of Japan's most famous directors appears to be working on a Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney movie. At Cannes, Takashi Miike said this about his next movie: "It is a very light comedy that I am filming now, a court drama, based on a video game, the Nintendo game DS." Takashi Miike may still not be a household name in the USA, but his filmography includes movies like Audition, Ichi the Killer and Sukiyaki Western Django which are quite popular among movie fans, especially those with a darker taste for blood, violence and the often downright strange nature of Miike's films. Miike is not a director, however, that allows himself to be pigeonholed into one category, so it is likely that Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney will be more of a family friendly film (he's made movies like that, too). Miike is currently filming in Japan.
#4 FRANKENSTEIN IS THE LATEST PUBLIC DOMAIN CHARACTER TO HAVE WAY TOO MANY MOVIE PROJECTS IN DEVELOPMENT
The various competing projects based on fairy tales, classic children's books, and variations on vampires and zombies (especially in the "mash up" style) are hard to ignore in each week's movie news cycle. However, there's another classic literary "monster" novel that is also the center of a race to get a new movie made: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Many of the projects have been in development for a while, but two in particular made the news this week. First, there is the adaptation of the Peter Ackroyd novel The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, which focuses on the (fictional) doctor's earlier experiments with corpses, and his friendship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose wife went on to write Frankenstein. Sam Raimi is one of the producers of that project, through his Ghost House Pictures. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Auburn (Proof, The Lake House) has been hired to adapt the novel. That project was then joined yesterday by another novel adaptation, this time of Kenneth Oppel's This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. As the title suggests, this is another prequel-of-sorts, but this time, the story revolves around Victor's ill twin brother Konrad, which drives Frankenstein to seek the alchemical recipe to the Elixir of Life. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) has been hired by Summit Entertainment to helm their adaptation of This Dark Endeavor, with Jacob Aaron Estes, the writer/director of Mean Creek, adapting the script. Matt Reeves also has the vampire novel adaptation The Passage for Fox 2000 and the science fiction adaptation 8 O'Clock in the Morning (which also inspired John Carpenter's They Live) in development at Universal Pictures. As for all those other potential Frankenstein projects, you can read more about them right here.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#6 THE SNOW WHITE MOVIE WITH JULIA ROBERTS GETS SEVEN ACTUAL DWARFS
The showdown between Relativity's untitled Snow White film and Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman continued this week, and neither side is looking like they're backing down. Last week, Universal moved Snow White and the Huntsman (starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron as Ravenna) up to a June 1, 2012 release date, ahead of Relativity's film, which had been scheduled for June 29th. This week, Relativity matched Universal's move with their own switch, to March 16th, two and a half months earlier. Relativity's movie will be directed by Tarsem Singh (The Fall, The Cell), and has Lily Collins (The Blind Side, Priest) as Snow White, Armie Hammer as the Prince, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen and Nathan Lane as her servant. This week, that cast list also got a lot longer. Mare Winningham (St. Elmo's Fire) and Michael Lerner (the Roger Ebert lookalike from Godzilla) have also joined the cast, along with seven little people actors as the Seven Dwarfs (regardless of how J.R.R. Tolkien pluralized them). They might be more recognizable by face than by name, but here's the list anyway: Ronald Lee Clark (Epic Movie), Joey Gnoffo (The Benchwarmers), Martin Klebba (the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies), Mark Povinelli (Epic Movie), Jordan Prentice (In Bruges), Sebastian Saraceno (Bedtime Stories) and Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld, Watchmen). Basically, if one was to come up with a list of little person actors still alive and actively working, but had to leave the six most famous (Peter Dinklage, Warwick Davis, Verne Troyer, Kenny Baker, Jason "Wee Man" Acuņa and Tony Cox from Bad Santa) off the list, that might be the list you'd come up with. And with that, this writer just realized there are a lot more little person actors (at least thirteen) out there than he had realized (any that I missed, fans?). Anyway, as for why this is one of the Week's Rotten Ideas: it's only borderline Rotten because of concerns that the race between Universal and Relativity might be forcing either side to rush on elements like, say, the script, which in this case was written by feature film newcomers Jason Keller and Melissa Wallack. On the other hand, Tarsem Singh is a very visual director, who is still on the hunt for a hit movie (next up is this fall's Immortals). That the very 300-ish trailer for Immortals is not particularly inspiring, however, is another reason this is in the Rotten Ideas category.
#5 THE MONSTERS OF UGLYDOLL TO GET THEIR OWN CGI ANIMATED ADVENTURE
Some of the stuffed monster toys of the Uglydoll brand variously resemble characters movie fans might recognize from My Neighbor Totoro, Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. or, more recently, Despicable Me. There doesn't appear to be much of a story to the 10-year-old brand other than this line on their website, stating that they are characters from "Uglyverse, a universe where UGLY meant unique and special." Illumination Entertainment, the Universal-based animation studio behind Despicable Me and Hop, apparently sees more to Uglydoll, or maybe they just see the dollar signs that the plush dolls generate in sales. Illumination Entertainment has acquired the film rights to Uglydoll and has added it to a development slate that also includes Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Ricky Gervais' Flanimals and a Tim Burton-produced adaptation of Charles Addams' original Addams Family comic strips. Illumination has hired Little Fockers cowriter Larry Stuckey to start work on a screenplay based upon the Uglydoll mythology ideas of the brand's husband-and-wife creators, David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim. Uglydoll is a borderline Rotten Idea that is nudged to the Rotten side by the involvement of one of the writers of Little Fockers.
#4 FROM THE "HE'S STILL MAKING MOVIES?" FILE: ROB REINER AND SUMMER AT DOG DAVE'S
There was a time when Rob Reiner was legitimately considered one of the top directors in Hollywood. Reiner's hit list includes This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally..., Misery and A Few Good Men. That is truly an impressive list of films that almost any director would be proud to claim. The thing, however, is that Rob Reiner kept making movies after 1995, the year that his last "Certified Fresh" movie, The American President came out. And that's why the following news item is one of the week's Rotten Ideas. Rob Reiner's next movie will be Summer at Dog Dave's, and will reunite him with Morgan Freeman, one of his stars from The Bucket List, who will play a famous wheelchair-bound author of Westerns whose alcoholism is causing a writer's block. Kenan Thompson (Fat Albert, Saturday Night Live) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways) are in talks to play, respectively, the author's nephew and his new neighbor who helps him get sober. Rob Reiner cowrote Summer at Dog Dave's with newcomer Guy Thomas and Andrew Scheinman (cowriter of Reiner's North and Flipped).
#3 YOGI BEAR AND BOO BOO STILL HAVE MORE PICK-A-NICK BASKETS TO STEAL
Warner Bros is very much in the business of developing CGI animation/live action hybrid movies based on classic cartoons from way, way before today's kids were even born (actually, before most of their parents, too). The latest example was last December's Yogi Bear, featuring the voices of Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake, Tom Cavanagh as Ranger Smith and Anna Faris as... oh, who I am kidding, this writer didn't see Yogi Bear. The film opened to just $16.7 million in its first domestic weekend, but it made over $200 million worldwide, so that was apparently enough for Warner Bros to hire screenwriters to work on a sequel. Those writers are Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, who also cowrote the first movie, as well as worked on the much bigger 20th Century Fox hit Rio, and they are also working on the Peabody and Sherman movie for DreamWorks Animation. Yogi Bear 2 is one of the week's Rotten Ideas based on the first movie's really low RT Tomatometer score (13%). This is also one of those trends that just won't die as long as they continue to scrape just barely enough out of the box office to justify the cost of production.
#2 WE WISH WE COULD FORGET THAT THEY'RE REMAKING TOTAL RECALL FOR YOU WHOLESALE
Sometimes when a remake of a movie beloved by fans is announced, it's nearly the last time we ever hear about it again, as the idea eventually gets shelved like we would hope all Rotten Ideas would be. Columbia Pictures proved this week through two casting announcements, however, that their remake of Total Recall is indeed actually happening, with filming scheduled to start on Memorial Day in Toronto. Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) have already been cast for a while as, respectively, Douglas Quaid (the factor worker who starts to believe that he's a spy) and the evil villain behind it all. The big difference with this remake is that it won't involve Mars at all, but will instead involve a cold war between the future nations of Euromerica and New Shanghai. Bill Nighy (Love Actually) has been cast as Quatto, the leader of the resistance, which is a nod to the little symbiotic character of Kuato in the first movie. Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel have also joined the cast as Quaid's wife and his revolutionary girlfriend, who were played by Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin in the original 1990 movie. Beckinsale's casting is particularly unsurprising as the Total Recall remake is being directed by Len Wiseman, the director of the first two Underworld movies, and he's also known as Mr. Kate Beckinsale. Finally, John Cho, the man best known for either playing Harold Lee in the Harold & Kumar movies or for being the new Sulu (depending upon your tastes, I guess), has been cast as the salesman who talks Quaid into getting memory implants in the first place. Ethan Hawke will also have a small role. In addition to being a remake, this Total Recall project is also based on the original short story by Philip K. Dick that the movie was based on, called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." The writers that adapted that short story (and the elements from the 1990 movie) were Mark Bomback (Unstoppable and Live Free or Die Hard, which was also directed by Len Wiseman), James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Losers) and Kurt Wimmer (Salt, Equilibrium). This is one of the week's Rotten Ideas for reminding us that Hollywood has no plans on stopping their current wave of remake fever anytime soon.
#1 FOR THE WEEK'S MOST ROTTEN IDEA, SCROLL BACK TO THE TOP
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.