Weekly Ketchup: Star Wars Episode VII Cast Announced

Plus, new films for Joaquin Phoenix, Will Ferrell, and Steven Spielberg, and tons of comic book movie news.

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This week's Ketchup comes to you on the release date of a big superhero movie, and with all of that buzz, we also had a week of big, Big, BIG movie development stories concerning Star Wars Episode VII, directors Steven Spielberg and Baz Luhrmann, and comic book properties Justice League, The Sinister Six, and The Fantastic Four.

This Week's Top Story


Although there have been many Star Wars Episode VII casting rumors in past months, few of them had any hard facts. Most were about returning cast members, with Adam Driver (of HBO's Girls), cast as one of the film's villains, the only new confirmed actor before this week. This week, we found out what Lucasfilms was waiting on was a script read at Pinewood Studios, which allowed for a photo of the cast. First off, there are the returning cast members: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Kenny Baker (R2-D2). They will be joined by the aforementioned Adam Driver, John Boyega (Attack the Block), Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley of Harry Potter fame), Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow (The Exorcist), and newcomer British actress Daisy Ridley. (Rotten Tomatoes has this handy gallery for you to put faces to the names). That list led some fans to complain that the new cast was a bit of a sausage fest, but that was also quickly followed by a calming word: there may be one more big announcement to come, and it's an actress. This Sunday is the next "Star Wars Day," and might be a good time for that second announcement. One name that had been rumored a while back was Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o, for example. The lingering question to the remaining announcement is... why wasn't that person (or persons) included with the rest? Walt Disney Pictures will release Star Wars Episode VII on December 18, 2015.

Fresh Developments This Week


The last year has been a rocky road for writer/director Woody Allen, with the high points being the accolades accorded to his 2013 film Blue Jasmine, and the low points being, well, you-know-what. This July sees the release of Woody Allen's 2014 film, the 1920s France-set comedy Magic in the Moonlight, featuring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden, Hamish Linklater, and Jacki Weaver. This week, we learned the first detail about what will become Woody Allen's 2015 release, which is that Joaquin Phoenix has signed on as the first cast member. As is usual with Woody Allen movies before they start filming, we know pretty much nothing else about the film, except that it starts filming in July somewhere in the United States.


The last few weeks have been sort of crazy with the "____ will be Steven Spielberg's next movie" stories, to such a degree that this week, people seemed to just sort of overlook (or ignore) this one. The director is in danger of becoming the 'berg who cried wolf, it seems, after recent announcements about both The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and a Cold War legal drama about the Gary Powers U2 spy plane incident. The third movie story brings with it a bit more of a solid commitment, but is planned for filming in early 2015, which allows room for a "smaller" film to squeeze in. That 2015 movie will be an adaptation of the 1982 children's book The BFG by Roald Dahl. The title refers to a "big friendly giant" but a funny thing happened in the 30 years since that book, which is that video gaming culture adopted "BFG" to mean something very different (Big F***ing Gun, namely). That confusion will be an obstacle (of sorts) to Spielberg's film, but this won't be the first time Spielberg's directed a kids movie with initials (E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, A.I. Artificial Intelligence). The Roald Dahl book about a giant who befriends a young orphaned girl was adapted by screenwriter Melissa Mathison, whose previous credits include The Black Stallion, Kundun, and Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.


The more we hear about Terminator: Genesis, the more it seems reasonable that previous reports were alternately describing it as a reboot, or prequel, or sequel, or remake, or... some combination of all four. Check out this piece for an example of what sort of Back to the Future-style time travel craziness this new film might be including. Perhaps it's quite thematically appropriate therefore, that the latest cast member to be announced is a recent graduate of Doctor Who, Doctor #11, Matt Smith. Unlike several of the previous announcements, Matt Smith will be playing a new character, although it's someone with a "strong connection" to future anti-machines freedom fighter John Connor (to be played by Jason Clarke). Paramount Pictures has scheduled Terminator: Genesis, directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), for July 1, 2015.


A lot of press has been devoted lately to Sony Pictures' pursuit of some new box office fuel, although in this week of the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, that hype train has slowed down a bit. The only new project of note was acquired by Sony subsidiary TriStar, in the form of a comedy pitch with Will Ferrell attached to star. If it actually gets produced, Ferrell will star in The Yank as "a mild mannered insurance courier who gets caught up in a conspiracy to steal the Crown Jewels in London." The Yank will be written by Steve Pink (High Fidelity, cowriter of Grosse Pointe Blank) and writing partner Jeff Morris. Steve Pink has also directed films like Hot Tub Time Machine and the 2014 remake of About Last Night.


This story concerns a new trend in superhero movies, and we can probably credit/blame Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man for starting it. The trope basically involves a scientist supporting role which teases at a villain who might play a bigger role in an upcoming franchise entry. One example of this was Marvel's 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, which featured Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Samuel Sterns, who was teased at possibly returning as the Hulk's #1 classic nemesis, The Leader (basically a green guy with a reallly huge gamma-radiated forehead/brain). Alas, it's six years later, and we're not really hearing much about such a film, but that isn't stopping Tim Blake Nelson from playing scientist supporting roles in Marvel movies. The actor has basically finalized talks with 20th Century Fox to costar in their reboot of The Fantastic Four as scientist nerd Harvey Elder, who is best known as Mole Man, who has the distinction of being the Fantastic Four's first ever villain (way back in Fantastic Four #1). One little detail that appears to have gotten past most writers about this story is that the revelation of the character's name being Harvey Elder (instead of say, Arthur Molekevic) is that this is the first we've heard about this movie being closer to the Earth-616 version (where his name is Harvey Elder) than the Ultimate version (where his name is Arthur Molekevic). Of course, that might just be a coincidence; the role in question might only have 7 lines in Act 1 and be completely overlooked by most moviegoers, and this movie is still basically based upon Ultimate Fantastic Four (in which the four leads are much younger). Anyway, 20th Century Fox has scheduled The Fantastic Four, directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), for June 19, 2015. We're going to call this story a borderline "Fresh Development" because, hey, Tim Blake Nelson was awesome in O Brother Where Art Thou. At least this story means a great character actor gets another fat pay day.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


If one wants to sniff out the differences between how Marvel Studios steers their movies and how Warner Bros is handling the entire DC Comics cinematic universe, one element is the variety of directors. Or in the case of WB/DC, the lack thereof. The Marvel movies have thus far been directed by a wide assortment of talents, some of whom seemed like left field choices (Kenneth Branagh on Thor, the Community guys on Captain America: The Winter Soldier). The Batman/Superman movies, on the other hand, have all been directed since Batman Begins by just two directors: Christopher Nolan, and now, Zack Snyder. And this week, we learned that this narrowness will continue as Zack Snyder will also direct the Justice League movie that follows the Man of Steel sequel (5/6/16). This story was quickly followed by another that claimed the two movies will be filmed basically back-to-back, with Justice League to be released sometime in 2017. No official casting announcements have been made yet, but we can pretty much guess/presume that Justice League will include Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg (a New Teen Titan who in the recent "New 52" was retconned into being a founding JLA member). All of this comes from an article in the Wall Street Journal that also updates us on Warner Bros' other plans, which include nine DC Comics adaptations, most of which are unnamed, but the named titles include Sandman, Shazam (AKA DC's Captain Marvel), Metal Men, Fables, and 100 Bullets. Hopefully, somewhere in there, DC still has plans for a Wonder Woman movie before 2020?


For the record, this writer would like to note that you certainly have to give director Baz Luhrmann credit for his cinematic ambitions: with movies like The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet, Luhrmann really goes out -- way out -- to impress our visual cortices. The down side is that a) Baz Luhrmann ends up not directing that many movies, and b) if those movies are critical misfires, that creates a big gap between 2014 and say, the 2001 release of his last "fresh" film, Moulin Rouge! Anyway, Luhrmann was reported this week as being in talks with Warner Bros to direct an Elvis Presley biopic which is not based on any existing work (like say, a biography, as prevously reported film projects have usually been). Pretty much nothing else is known about the project, except that it's being written by screenwriter Kelly Marcel, whose filmography began recently with the also-a-true-story Saving Mr. Banks, and continues next year with the adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.


Writer/director Kevin Smith has done a fair amount of talking in recent months/years about his impending retirement from directing, which Smith has said will take effect after he wraps up filming of Clerks 3. Where that prediction gets "hinky" is that we don't know when Kevin Smith will actually make that third Clerks movie. The reason this discussion lands in the "Rotten Ideas" section is that Kevin Smith's output since 2008 has been a consistent morass of green splotches on the RT Tomatometer. Anyway, we learned this week that Kevin Smith is planning on using several of his Tusk cast members to film another horror movie back-to-back, based on the Krampus. The project will be a "Yuletide horror" film called Anti-Claus, about the German/Alpine folktale monster that basically addresses the "naughty" side of Santa's list, by eating bad little boys and girls. The actors that will be appearing in both the walrus-themed horror film Tusk and the Christmas horror film Anti-Claus include Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, and Michael Parks.


As is usual with the week of a big movie release like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, there was a fair amount of online press for that movie and, as things follow, the movies that Sony has planned after it. Most directly, there is the spinoff movie The Sinister Six, which was teased this week in a video that you can get through an app (see the link for instructions, basically). What that shows us are close ups of devices which seem to confirm which characters will make up the Sinister Six, and they are: Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, Rhino, and The Vulture. The Sinister Six will be directed by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield), which leans us towards "Fresh," but then we remember we're talking about a Spider-Man movie (even if he might not be in it) about not 3 villains (which has proven bad enough in the past and present), but six? The other sort-of-big news this week from the Spider-Man-verse came in the form of a terse "No" in reply to a particularly interesting question, namely whether or not we might ever see such other Spider-Men as Miles Morales (Ultimate Spider-Man), Ben Reilly (Peter Parker's clone), or Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099). Not only is that bad news for fans of those characters (who want to see them get their own movies), but also for people who were hoping to someday see something like this. Of course, the real reason all of this lands as the "Rotten Idea" of the week is that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been named... the worst reviewed Spider-Man movie ever.

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.