Weekly Ketchup: Adam Sandler joins The Zookeeper, David Fincher joins Facebook

Plus new projects for Daniel Craig and Kevin Spacey

Most of the entertainment media's attention is focused on the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, but there were still interesting film development news this week, including two new video game based projects, a surprising new movie for director David Fincher (Fight Club), an even more surprising remake of a Coen brothers classic, and new movies for Daniel Craig, Adam Sandler and Kevin Spacey. And oh yeah, the Academy is totally changing the way the Oscars works.


#1 THE ACADEMY AWARDS DOUBLES THE BEST PICTURE FIELD AND HALVES THEIR IMPORTANCE

In a surprising move, this week the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they are doubling the number of movies that will be nominated for Best Picture (from five to ten) reverting to the way the awards were nominated back in the 1930s and early 1940s, up until 1943. This is apparently a reaction to recent years in which popular movies didn't make the cut (such as The Dark Knight last year), and is seen as something that limits the potential viewing audience on ABC. The down side to this move, however, is that by doubling the field, the Academy is also in effect cutting in half the prestige that one can now associate with with a Best Picture nomination, and the door is potentially being opened to some embarrassing choices sliding into the category. For example, summer blockbusters often do quite well in technical categories, but might they sometimes now also slide into Best Picture? Could something like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen stumble into being nominated for Best Picture? Another change announced this week addresses the category of Best Song; nominees must now receive a minimum of an 8.25 score by the nominating committee, and the award won't be given out at all if no song meets that score. In spite of the expanded Best Picture field, Academy boss Sid Ganis promises that the ceremony will not be overly long this year. It should be interesting to see how exactly they pull that off.


#2 HITMAN 2: AGENT 47 TO TAKE ANOTHER ASSIGNMENT

Although 20th Century Fox's 2007 video game adaptation, Hitman was a critical flop (15% Tomatometer) and only earned $39 million in the USA, the film did considerably better overseas, with a worldwide total just shy of $100 million. So the studio has hired screenwriter Kyle Ward, who is also working on two other video game adaptations; Kane and Lynch for Lionsgate and this week's #5 story, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. There is no other news about Hitman 2, but it seems likely that Timothy Olyphant would probably return as the chrome dome assassin Agent 47. The fifth Hitman game is expected to be released in late 2010.




#3 ADAM SANDLER HEADLINES THE VOICE CAST OF THE ZOOKEEPER

The Kevin James-starring live action comedy The Zookeeper found a large cast of stars this week to voice the many animals he encounters, making it sound quite a bit like the two Dr. Dolittle movies. Adam Sandler (whose Happy Madison is also producing) The Zookeeper will voice a capuchin monkey, while Sylvester Stallone will voice a lion, Cher will voice a giraffe, Jon Favreau will voice a bear and comedy director Judd Apatow will voice an elephant. Jim Breuer, Faizon Love and Bas Rutten will have other animal voice roles, and Rosario Dawson will have a live action role (probably James' romantic interest, I'm guessing). In The Zookeeper, the inhabitants of (you guessed it) a zoo will help one of the humans working there learn the secrets of mating, so that he can win the heart of his dream girl. I think it's worth considering the irony here, in that zoo animals are sort of infamous for having problems mating in captivity. Frank Coraci (Click, The Wedding Singer) is directing The Zookeeper, with filming scheduled to start later this summer. MGM is aiming for an October 8, 2010 release date.


#4 DAVID FINCHER WANTS TO BE YOUR FACEBOOK FRIEND IN THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Columbia Pictures is in advanced talks with visionary director David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac) to direct The Social Network, a biopic of sorts about Harvard sophomore Mark Zuckerberg and the 2004 founding of a little website called Facebook. The Social Network comes from the pen of screenwriter and television creator Aaron Sorkin, whose TV credits include The West Wing, Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and whose film credits include A Few Good Men, The American President and Charlie Wilson's War. Sorkin's favorite subjects obviously center mostly on the worlds of politics and television, so it is interesting that he is now turning his eye towards the Internet. As for Fincher, he seems an unusual choice for a movie which one would have to imagine will be mostly about a bunch of college kids sitting around computers, or standing around talking about sitting around computers. What are we going to get, an amazing CGI-enhanced shot of the camera's eye zooming along an ethernet cable from a computer, through the wall, across the Harvard campus and then across the country to another computer on another campus? If Fincher signs on, production of The Social Network is expected to start later this year.


#5 COLUMBIA PICTURES FINDS THE WAY TO UNCHARTED: DRAKE'S FORTUNE

Columbia Pictures has acquired the rights to the hit video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, one of the best-reviewed games on the PlayStation 3 platform. Often described as a male version of the Tomb Raider franchise, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune combines 3-D platform action and first-person shooting in an story about an adventurer named Nathan Drake as he follows a map left by his ancestor, the explorer Sir Francis Drake, which promises to show the way to the fabled South American lost city of El Dorado. With its ties to actual historical events and people Uncharted: Drake's Fortune has similar elements to the popular National Treasure franchise, and with more Uncharted games on the way, has the promise of establishing a new movie franchise. The screenwriter for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is Kyle Ward, who is establishing himself as a go-to guy for video game adaptations; he's also working for Lionsgate on Kane and Lynch, which will star Bruce Willis, and Hitman 2 (see story #2 up above).


#6 HERO DIRECTOR ZHANG YIMOU TAKES ON THE COEN BROS

The movie that launched the Coen Brothers' career, Blood Simple, is getting the remake treatment, according to the news that acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern) started filming his version of the story on June 9th. The project, which was formerly known as Amazing Tales: Three Guns is now titled The Stunning Case of the Three Gun Shots. Yimou's publicist declined to reveal the plot details of the "thriller comedy", but since it's a remake of a well known movie, we can guess what the general story will be. Blood Simple was the story of a Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover. It doesn't go well. Since Yimou's film is set in China, many details are likely to be changed, but it is still fascinating that he chose Blood Simple as the inspiration for his latest film.


#7 DANIEL CRAIG MOVES INTO HIS (HAUNTED) DREAM HOUSE

The 23rd James Bond movie is still in the script stage (but aiming for a 2011 release), so Daniel Craig has plenty of time for some other live action work, along with his appearance as Red Rackham in The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn. So, Craig is in early talks with Morgan Creek to star in Dream House, a psychological thriller about a family that moves to a nice small town, only to discover that their new house is inhabited by the ghosts of the previous inhabitants. Dream House may have the potential to be more than just another haunted house movie, however, it's set to be directed by Jim Sheridan, the award-winning director of My Left Foot, In America and In the Name of the Father (we'll just forget that he also directed the 50 Cent movie, Get Rich or Die Tryin'). A strange element to consider about Dream House is that the screenwriter is one David Loucka, whose resume mostly consists of cowriting the nearly forgotten comedies Eddie (starring Whoopie Goldberg) and The Dream Team (starring Michael Keaton and Christopher Lloyd).


#8 MICHAEL JACKSON'S SISTERS IN THE NEWS, TOO

Obviously, the biggest news to emerge from Los Angeles this week was the death of Michael Jackson. As the entertainment world feels the reverberations of that event, two of his sisters are connected to movie news. The first bit of news is that Janet Jackson, has signed on to reprise her role as a psychologist and author who prefers to analyze other people's problems rather deal with her own marital issues in the Tyler Perry sequel, Why Did I Get Married Too, which Lionsgate has already pegged as an April 2nd, 2010 release. The interesting coincidence there is that the news was actually announced just a few hours before Michael's death. More directly tied to Michael's death is the news about Bruno, which featured a scene in which Bruno asks Michael's sister LaToya for his phone number, leading to jokes about Michael that you can probably guess the nature of. Last night, as Bruno was being prepped to be screened, Universal asked the film's director, Larry Charles, to make a last minute edit to the movie, removing that scene. The studio is reportedly currently assessing whether to keep the LaToya scene in the movie, with just two weeks left before they must strike the final prints that will be sent out for the July 10th release date.


#9 JOHN GRISHAM'S RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN CONTINUES WITH THE TESTAMENT

There was a time in the 1990s when movies based upon bestselling legal thriler novels by John Grisham were a regular feature: The Firm, The Client, The Chamber, The Pelican Brief, etc. However, Grisham's relationship with Hollywood turned chilly, mainly because the author had little to no input about how his novels were adapted. Grisham adapations became less frequent, but in recent years, the author has started to warm back up to the idea of seeing his novels on the big screen. His latest novel, The Associate is already in development, and there was news this week that 1999's The Testament, one of his best-received novels is now also in development. In the deal with Nashville-based 821 Entertainment (producers of the 2008 Billy Graham biopic Billy: The Early Years) Grisham will indeed have creative input, but no writer has yet been announced. The Testament is the story of a billionaire who commits suicide soon after leaving his fortune to an illegitmate daughter who works as a missionary in the wilds of Brazil, rather than his bickering six children from three marriages. This forces a lawyer to venture into the Amazon to find her, giving The Testament a grander scale than typically seen in Grisham's legal thrillers. Other Grisham works also in development are Playing for Pizza and the non-fiction An Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.


#10 KEVIN SPACEY TO BE THE FATHER OF INVENTION

Kevin Spacey is headlining an ensemble cast in an independent comedy called Father of Invention that also includes Heather Graham, Johnny Knoxville, Camilla Belle (10,000 B.C.) and Craig Robinson (Zack and Miri Make a Porno). Father of Invention is the story of a billionaire inventor who is sent to prison for eight years when one of his inventions goes horribly wrong, and is then forced upon his release to try to rebuild his reputation and his relationship with his family. Robinson will play the husband of Spacey's ex-wife who now lives in his house, and who helps him get back on his feet. Camilla Belle will play Spacey's daughter, Graham will play her lesbian lover, and Knoxville will play a store manager who gives the inventor his first post-prison job. Father of Invention is being directed by Trent Cooper, whose first movie was Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, which seems rather unlike the sort of movie that Father of Invention sounds like on paper. Filming of Father of Invention started this week in New Orleans.


ROTTEN IDEA OF THE WEEK: SONY PULLS THE PLUG ON STEVEN SODERBERGH'S AMBITIOUS MONEYBALL

In a surprising move, Columbia Pictures boss Amy Pascal pulled the plug last Friday on Steven Soderbergh's baseball drama Moneyball, three days before it was to start filming on Monday in Phoenix. Although Moneyball had a budget of $57 million, the movie also had an extremely bankable star in the form of Brad Pitt as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane. Apparently at issue are last minute changes that Soderbergh made to the script by Steven Zaillian (American Gangster, Schindler's List), which gave the movie a more "experimental" structure, and incorporated interview segments with real life baseball players (including Darryl Strawberry), some of which Soderbergh had already filmed. Soderbergh's track record is admittedly mixed, but I think it's worth remembering that the last time he played around with story structure on a fact-based drama, Soderbergh gave the world an excellent movie called Traffic. What Pascal did over the weekend to Moneyball is to put it into something called "limited turnaround", which allowed Soderbergh and the producers to shop the project around to other studios, with Warner Bros and Paramount expected to be the main targets. However, both studios passed. Now Soderbergh has to either work with the studio to make the changes they want, or he will either be replaced as director, or the project will be dead entirely. All of this ranks Moneyball as the Rotten Idea of the Week for me, because it feels like Pascal and Sony didn't have the confidence to stand behind the director that they hired to do the job. And that... is kind of rotten.


For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.

Comments

inactive user

Jared King

"Kane & Lynch: Dead Man" dosen't need a film. It might eff it all up. (Awesome game by the way.) "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune" is like a film, like "Dead Man", but maybe that makes the film adaptions all the more useless. Still, they'll prbably be better than most video game films. But what does that say? Nothing.

Jun 26 - 03:34 PM

Christopher B.

Christopher Berg

I agree with ledawg - "Drake's" is a game that tries hard to emulate a summer blockbuster. So if you make a movie, based on a game, that seems more fit to be a movie, are you really doing anything?


Also, The Zookeeper sounds horrific.

Jun 26 - 05:01 PM

Christopher B.

Christopher Berg

I agree with ledawg - "Drake's" is a game that tries hard to emulate a summer blockbuster. So if you make a movie, based on a game, that seems more fit to be a movie, are you really doing anything?


Also, The Zookeeper sounds horrific.

Jun 26 - 05:01 PM

manwhatisthatthing

Hurjay Medilo

Just because the Academy is doubling the slots the doesn't mean it will expand their taste past art-house and drama. So... more sap to suck on.

Jun 26 - 05:02 PM

proletariat13

Salvador Lievanos

It frustrates me that the academy has "suddenly" decided to add more nominees to the best pic category after so many people across this country were calling for TDK to be nominated... Its bull**** I think that they wait a year until a truly exceptional year of films to expand the category. This last year in films was one that only comes along every once in a while.

I do not think that Hitman needs a sequel... the first one sucked and the sequel is going to suck even more. Why do video game movies suck so much? There is always enough action in them but directors and writers seem to forget that they need to put a story behind the action.

Jun 26 - 05:07 PM

fvzappa

Keith Adams

Oh wow, no news about ANY remakes? I mean, sure, there's a few sequels (that don't seem so great), but no remakes? Hooray!

Jun 26 - 05:15 PM

JettaJameson

James Lowell

When the hell are comedy categories going to be added to the Oscars? The Academy is so out of touch with.........everything.

Jun 26 - 05:19 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

yeah Drake's Fortune is almost like a movie itself. I don't think it will be as hard to adapt it to film. the first Hitman movie sucked anus and the second one probably will, too. I could care less about the Kane and Lynch movie because the game was really bad. I thought it would be good but I ended up taking it back up to Gamestop the very next day.

Jun 26 - 05:42 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Kane & Lynch? Really bad? WHAT?! Sure it's not perfect, but it's a hell of a good time, (for the sadistic part of you) with an engaging story and AWESOME voice acting! I give a solid 8/10. What is so bad about it?

Jun 26 - 09:35 PM

Paints Hz Shirt Red

krookedlegs Eagle Tail

another hitman?! cant they waste money on something else.

Jun 26 - 08:00 PM

vader_of_vjun

Timothy Maddocks

Why do people expect that having 5 more Best Picture nominees will drastically lengthen the ceremony? All it means is that whoever reads out the nominees has 5 more names to read out... and presumably, those little crappy things they do for each of the nominees...can't be more than 5 minutes worth extra.

Also, why are people going all silly about the 5 extra nominees? The Academy did just fine when they were doing it in the 30s and 40s (although...dumb choices for the winners were still picked. I'm looking at you, You Can't Take It With You. You're a fine film, but you're no The Adventures of Robin Hood.) There are actually at least 10 good films made a year that aren't blockbusters. Don't worry children, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen won't make a showing in the category. Neither will a good blockbuster, like Star Trek. People kinda forget that The Dark Knight's impact transcended standard blockbustery, hence the uproar. I think you'll find that there were far fewer people disappointed that Iron Man didn't get a showing last year.

Also, to continue mindlessly picking on that particular item, opens the door for embarassing choices? The Academy manages to get at least 1 unsuitable choice each year with 5 slots, thanks. Last time they had a perfect playing field was probably... 1982. And before that, 1974. Then 1972. Then 1964. And so on.

Jun 26 - 08:17 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Kane & Lynch? Really bad? WHAT?! Sure it's not perfect, but it's a hell of a good time, (for the sadistic part of you) with an engaging story and AWESOME voice acting! I give a solid 8/10. What is so bad about it?

Jun 26 - 09:35 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

blockbustery? is that even a word? but, yeah, I agree that reading five more movie names really isn't all that time-consuming. and I'm pretty sure that the right movies will get nominated.

Jun 26 - 09:37 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

to be honest with you, it's been a while since I had it but from what I can remember was that 1)the graphics sucked and were boring 2)the voices of Kane and Lynch themselves were annoying and 3)the controls felt slow and not comfortable. luckily for me though, I had bought Drake's Fortune and Ratchet and Clank at the same time so I, at least, had something fun to play. I'm seventeen years old and I sound like a little kid right now lol.

Jun 26 - 10:46 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, the graphics are lacking honestly. And the controls weren't perfect. But the voice acting was great! And it was a nice package overall. Yeah, "Uncharted" and "Ratchet & Clank" are far better, and you know what else is? METAL GEAR SOLID 4! Ha ha ha! Advertising rules!

Jun 27 - 12:00 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Well, the graphics are lacking honestly. And the controls weren't perfect. But the voice acting was great! And it was a nice package overall. Yeah, "Uncharted" and "Ratchet & Clank" are far better, and you know what else is? METAL GEAR SOLID 4! Ha ha ha! Advertising rules!

Jun 27 - 12:00 AM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

I never played the new Metal Gear but, obviously, I heard it was good. and, yeah, it's pretty obvious that you like Metal Gear lol.

Jun 27 - 12:35 AM

RexLaboro

george glass

They laughed in Uwe bowels face when he said he wanted to screw up Metal Gear.

Jun 27 - 02:32 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Yeah, he got owned! And it's about time. Kojima refuses to let his series get raped!

Jun 27 - 09:04 AM

inactive user

Jared King

Yeah, he got owned! And it's about time. Kojima refuses to let his series get raped!

Jun 27 - 09:04 AM

Nine Oh Two

Nine Oh Two .

If they do Uncharted justice than it will be better than the last indiana jones. I don't think they are going to do a literal translation of the first game, but I do think it will be somewhere along those lines.

Personally, I thought Kane and Lynch was one of the worst games I have ever played, and I can not believe that it is being adapted w/ Bruce Willis of all people!

The plot is just really dumb, its about a couple of hitmen trying to get even w/ their last employer or something, but there is nothing redeeming about these characters. They are vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, they are just disgusting people, but not in some kind of flawed anti-hero way.

I played through the game on co-op and I was so underwhelmed by it, I swore there had to be a twist ending or something, I thought they were going to come up w/ Kane and Lynch being the same person, but no, that is the way the game was supposed to be. I would give it a 3/10.

Jun 27 - 08:39 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I agree, that Kane & Lynch aren't remotely heroes. They're bad guys. One is bad, one is evil. But the plot is engaging! Decent game. Worth renting. 7/10 (I played it again recently). As far as crime games go, it's no "Grand Theft Auto", but it's still fun enough.

Jun 27 - 09:18 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I agree, that Kane & Lynch aren't remotely heroes. They're bad guys. One is bad, one is evil. But the plot is engaging! Decent game. Worth renting. 7/10 (I played it again recently). As far as crime games go, it's no "Grand Theft Auto", but it's still fun enough.

Jun 27 - 09:18 PM

Chris B.

Chris Bellew

now if they announce a Grand Theft Auto movie with someone like Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann(as long as he doesn't use the documentary-like camera work like he uses in Public Enemies) then I would be ecstatic.

Jun 27 - 09:50 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I think we would all want that. Base it off GTA 4, and I'm happy.

Jun 27 - 10:33 PM

inactive user

Jared King

I think we would all want that. Base it off GTA 4, and I'm happy.

Jun 27 - 10:33 PM

What's Hot On RT

Total Recall
Total Recall

Nine Movies That Bring the Funk

Weekly Binge
Weekly Binge

Watch Arrested Development

SpongeBob's Back!
SpongeBob's Back!

See trailer for his 3D adventure

24 Frames
24 Frames

Photo gallery of great movie spaceships

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile