Weekly Ketchup: Harry Potter Director Signs On for Fantastic Beasts
Plus, an animated Noah's Ark, dueling Jungle Book news, and a November Man sequel.
As we continue through the dog days of summer on our way to Labor Day weekend and the start of the fall movie season, this Weekly Ketchup covers a particularly slow news cycle. Instead of superhero movies, we mostly got movies about animals (Noah's Ark, The Jungle Book: Origins) and other creatures (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and long-running novel series stars (The Destroyer, Mack Bolan, and The November Man 2).
This Week's Top Story
J.K. ROWLING'S WORLD CONTINUES WITH FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
We've known for a while about plans at Warner Bros to start a new film franchise adapting J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set in the same magical world as the author's Harry Potter series (but 70 years earlier, and in New York City. In what was admittedly a slow news week, the big news now is that for the first Fantastic Beasts film, Warner Bros has recruited director David Yates, who directed the four most recent Harry Potter movies. Yates is currently working for Warner Bros on their reboot of Tarzan (7/1/16) until November of 2014, and the first Fantastic Beasts movie is already scheduled for just four months later, on November 18, 2016. There is also speculation that the two "event movies" that Warner Bros has scheduled for November 16, 2018 and November 20, 2020 might be the second and third films in the Fantastic Beasts franchise, but that hasn't been confirmed yet. The next step for Warner Bros and David Yates will probably be to cast the lead character, Newt Scamander, from whose name and perspective J.K. Rowling uses as a pen-name for the book.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 CUMBERBATCH, BALE, AND BLANCHETT HEADLINE THE JUNGLE BOOK: ORIGINS
When Walt Disney Pictures was making the news every week with voice cast announcements for next year's live action reboot of The Jungle Book (10/9/15), it seemed likely that the other competing project at Warner Bros was pretty much shelved. This week, however, brought a deluge of voice casting announcements for The Jungle Book: Origins (10/21/16) suggest that Warner Bros was just getting all of their cast lined up for one big press release. Let's go through the cast by directly comparing the actor for each role (Warner Bros listed first, Disney listed second). First up, there's Baloo the Bear (Andy Serkis vs Bill Murray), Bagheera the Black Panther (Christian Bale vs Sir Ben Kingsley), Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch vs Idris Elba) and Kaa the Python (Cate Blanchett vs Scarlett Johansson), and Akela the Wolf Leader (Peter Mullan vs Giancarlo Esposito). That leaves us with characters that are only announced for one movie but not the other. In Disney's movie, Christopher Walken will voice King Louie of the apes (a character who doesn't appear in Rudyard Kipling's book). In Warner Bros' movie, there's Tabaqui the Jackal (Tom Hollander). Finally, there's casting which suggests the biggest difference between the two movies, as two different wolf chracters (Naomie Harris as Nisha and Eddie Marsan as Vihaan) will be Mowgli's parents, versus just one, a wolf named Raksha in the book and Disney's movie (voiced by Lupita Nyong'o). Comparing the voice casts directly, Disney's movie has three direct connections to Marvel Studios films, while Warner Bros' cast features, as you would expect, actors who have previously appeared in big budget WB/NLC productions (like The Dark Knight, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc). The human boy Mowgli will be played in Disney's movie by newcomer Neel Sethi, and in Warner Bros' movie by Rohan Chand (Bad Words). Walt Disney Pictures' The Jungle Book is being directed by Jon Favreau, and The Jungle Book: Origins is being directed by Andy Serkis, so there's a chance you can look forward to images of Christian Bale collaborating cheerfully with cinematographers while wearing motion capture gear. The Jungle Book: Origins was written by Callie Kloves, whose screenwriter father Steve Kloves (of the Harry Potter franchise) is producing the film.
#2 DARK LIVE ACTION NOAH TO BE FOLLOWED BY ANIMATED COMEDY NOAH'S ARK
Earlier this year, if any parents thought a live action Noah movie would be great for their young ones might have been surprised that it wasn't so much about cute animals, and more about genocide, infanticide, and implied incest. If that left people thinking, "hey, someone should make an animated movie about the animals," well, they weren't alone. Unified Pictures is a new animation production company headed by veterans with connections primarily to DreamWorks and Disney. Unified Pictures has indeed announced that their first project will be Noah's Ark, a CG animated comedy focusing on the animals, for release in 2016. This Noah's Ark comedy will be directed by John Stevenson (codirector of Kung Fu Panda) from a script by Philip LaZebnik (The Prince of Egypt; cowriter of Mulan, Pocahontas) and TV writer Glen Dolman. The story in this version will focus on "an outcast aardvark by the name of Gilbert, who becomes the reluctant leader of a ragtag group of misfit animals that need to be led to the mighty ark before the impending flood. Along their journey, they band together to conquer unforeseen obstacles, and ultimately, Gilbert discovers within himself the inner strength and ingenuity to prove that in a world of 'twos,' he was truly destined to be 'the one.'" No voice cast have been announced yet, and Unified Pictures does not currently have a distribution deal for Noah's Ark in 2016.
#3 MARK WAHLBERG JOINS THE CREW OF DEEPWATER HORIZON
Following the box office and critical success of last year's Captain Philips, there continues to be a strong interest in Hollywood to adapt other recent headlines as feature films. One of those is Deepwater Horizon from Lionsgate and director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost, A Most Violent Year). As the title suggests, the movie will be about the 2010 British Petroleum oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico on board the oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon. The project has been progressing fairly quickly through development, and this week the next step was reached, as Mark Wahlberg is now in talks for one of the lead roles. Mark Wahlberg will play "the No. 2 manager on the doomed oil rig in the story about what happened behind-the-scenes in the 48 hours leading up to and the day of the disaster." Although J.C. Chandor frequently writes the movies he directs, Deepwater Horizon comes from a script most recently drafted by Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom; cowriter of World War Z). Lionsgate expects to start filming in the late spring or early summer of 2015.
#4 IRON MAN 3 DIRECTOR SHANE BLACK JOINS THE DESTROYER
Although many relics of 1970s-1980s pop culture have already received their 21st century nostalgia revivals, something that has thus far sort of skirted outside the mainstream are the violent pulp novel franchises The Destroyer and The Executioner (more about that one down below). Of the two, The Destoyer came the closest because it was adapted as the 1985 movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, which is now remembered mostly for being a would-be franchise-starter with an unfortunate name (and for Joel Grey not being at all Asian). This week, Sony Pictures announced that their feature film reboot of The Destroyer will be directed by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Shane Black is well known for his love of pulp heroes, especially because of his campaign to someday direct a new Doc Savage film (he remains attached to that one, too). The Destroyer is the story of a cop who is framed, sentenced to death, and "executed" as part of a top secret plan to use him as a government agent, aided by a pop culture-obsessed Asian mentor called Chiun. It's not yet known which will come first: Doc Savage or The Destroyer.
Rotten Idea of the Week
#5 THIS WEEK IN SUPERHEROES: DWAYNE JOHNSON CONFIRMS HE WILL BE IN SHAZAM... BUT NOT MUCH ELSE
In most weeks, the Weekly Ketchup features at least one major superhero story, but as we near Labor Day and the end of the Hollywood movie season, there wasn't even much about superheroes. The one major story that broke this week is yet another story about Dwayne Johnson and the Shazam movie at WB/DC, which was "something," but... not much. Dwayne Johnson did confirm what we've already basically known, which is that he will be in a Shazam movie. However, about which role Dwayne Johnson will play, the wrestler-turned-actor said he "can't decided" if he will pay Shazam (AKA Captain Marvel) or his nemesis Black Adam. One has to wonder if the reason Dwayne Johnson is being so elusive about this question might not be because -- they're the same role? Since the Shazam story is about a little boy who transforms into a superhero, there might be a chance that both "Captain Marvel" and "Black Adam" look enough alike to be played by the same actor. Crazier things have happened. We're going to call this a borderline "Rotten Idea" just because it's getting frustrating that WB and DC won't just directly announce this news. Also in the news this week was our first glimpses of Henry Cavill on the set of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in his Superman suit. Marvel Studios also had a similiar reveal this week, as Evangeline Lilly showed off her new haircut, which definitely resembles the hairdo traditionally sported by Wasp. Marvel attracted some bad "buzz" online recently (frequently with the hashtag #janetvancrime) because of reports that Evangeline Lilly's character isn't named Janet Van Dyne (but instead is "Hope Van Dyne"). There was also an image this week of Paul Rudd standing next to the Golden Gate Bridge.
#4 A BAD WEEK FOR FEMALE-LED ACTION MOVIES: LUCY 2, RESIDENT EVIL 6, THE EXPENDABELLES
For all of the talk about new movies that focus on female characters, especially in action movies, this week saw three different stories emerge that were bad news for, well, exactly those sorts of movies. We're calling this a "Rotten Idea" in general, but of course, if you think any (or all) of these movies are themselves "Rotten Ideas," then you may think these particular stories are "Fresh Developments." First up, there's good news for Milla Jovovich, but bad news for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the sixth and last movie in the franchise for Jovovich and her director husband Paul W.S. Anderson. That good news/bad news comes in the form of Milla Jovovich's second pregnancy, prompting the action movie star to take a break from fighting movie zombies and the Umbrella Corporation. Another actress who is also (very) pregnant (but starred in Avengers: Age of Ultron anyway) is Scarlett Johansson. Johansson recently had a hit action movie with Lucy, but this week, director Luc Besson revealed that it's "unlikely" that there will ever be a Lucy sequel. Finally, there's The ExpendaBelles, the all-female action movie that has long been planned as a spinoff of The Expendables, which got two bits of bad news this week. First, there was the disappointing box office news for The Expendables 3 itself, followed by word that Sigourney Weaver has passed on starring in The ExpendaBelles. Weaver had been seen as one of the older action stars needed to get the movie going (though actresses like Pam Greer and Linda Hamilton might still be strong alternative options for the project). Weaver also joined the cast of A Monster Calls this week, along with Toby Kebbell (Doctor Doom in next year's The Fantastic Four).
#3 BRADLEY COOPER REUNITES WITH THE DIRECTOR OF THE HANGOVER FOR... MACK BOLAN
Up above, we started talking about the violent pulp novels of the 1970s and 1980s in the story about The Destroyer, but the series that arguably had the bigger cultural impact (even without its own movie) was Mack Bolan: The Executioner, created by Don Pendleton. Soon after the series started, Marvel Comics introduced a very similar guns-and-vengeance character called The Punisher, who obviously today is even more famous than the character that first inspired his creation. (That correlation between the two characters was even heralded by Marvel on the cover of one of their 1970s comics). This week, Warner Bros acquired the film rights to the character and the books, under the title of Mack Bolan, which isn't incorrect, but it's also sort of like announcing your big new superhero movie is called Peter Parker. Anyway, no deals are signed yet, but it's reportedly hoped that Bradley Cooper will star as Mack Bolan, and that the film will be directed by Todd Phillips, who directed The Hangover, and its sequels. And right there, is where this story gets very weird. Bradley Cooper certainly surprised a lot of people with his performance as Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy, but there are limits. There's pretty much nothing in common between Bradley Cooper and The Executioner. For a direct comparison, imagine that we're reporting Bradley Cooper has been cast as The Punisher, in a really violent version of that character. As odd as that match would be, Todd Phillips is an even stranger choice. Add in that his Tomatometer has lots of green splotches, and this is solidly a "Rotten Idea," or at best, a really, really "weird idea."
#2 JOHNNY DEPP AND KEVIN SMITH TEAM UP FOR YOGA HOSERS
It wasn't that long ago that the Weekly Ketchup was reporting about Kevin Smith's promises to retire from directing. Now, we're reporting that Smith is 1/3 a new "True North" trilogy of movies set in Canada. That, however, is not the weird and/or Rotten part. Nope, that would be the news that Johnny Depp has joined the cast of a new Kevin Smith movie called Yoga Hosers. Okay, let that title seep in a little while we also tell you that the movie is full on in "nepotism" mode as the two teen stars of the movie will be Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp, AKA the daughters of Kevin Smith and Johnny Depp. The two celebrity daughters will play "yoga nuts" who "have an after-school job at a Manitoba convenience store called Eh-2-Zed. When an ancient evil rises from beneath Canada's crust and threatens their big invitation to a Grade 12 party, the Colleens join forces with a legendary man-hunter from Montreal named Guy Lapointe (Depp) to fight for their lives with." In addition to Smith's daughter and the Depp duo, the entire cast of Smith's upcoming horror film Tusk will also be in the movie, which includes: Ralph Garman, Justin Long, Harley Morenstein, Haley Joel Osment, Michael Parks, and Genesis Rodriguez. New cast members will include: Adam Brody, Austin Butler, Tony Hale, Natasha Lyonne, Jason Mewes, and Tyler Posey. Here's a link to Kevin Smith's green-splotch-riddled RT Tomatometer.
#1 PIERCE BROSNAN'S 0% FRESH THE NOVEMBER MAN ALREADY GETTING SEQUEL
As of this writing (3:00 PM PST, 8/22/14), next week's The November Man, starring Pierce Brosnan has a 0% RT Tomatometer score. Now, obviously, a lot more reviews will be coming in next week, and so we might be proven wrong here, but right now... it doesn't look good. Anyway, take that prognostication with a grain of salt (although it's not particularly common that GREAT reviews are saved for the day of release). Regardless of what critics are saying, Relativity Studios has announced that they are already developing a sequel to The November Man. The movie is based on a character from a long-running series of novels by the late author Bill Granger, so there are lots of stories for Relativity to adapt in continuing movies about the ex-CIA agent played by Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan, who is already signed to star in The November Man 2, is also currently suffering through a streak of Rotten scores on his Tomatometer.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.