Weekly Ketchup: Damon to Be Bourne Again, Statham to Make Another Trip as The Transporter

Plus news about more superheroes jumping to the big screen.

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THE THRILLING FOURTH ENTRY IN THE BOURNE TRILOGY

Way back in the 1990s when it was first announced that Robert Ludlum's Bourne trilogy was being licensed by Universal, it seemed to me like one of those situations where either a) they would never actually make The Bourne Identity or that even if they did, it probably wouldn't lead to Supremacy and Ultimatum. There are many, many cases of studios buying the rights to properties that could become a series of movies, but they don't actually happen (recent examples: Sahara, The Golden Compass, etc). However, with the movies proving to be huge hits, and their popularity only increasing with each new release, quite the opposite has happened, in relation to the original deal. See, Robert Ludlum only wrote three Bourne novels, but the economics of Hollywood suggest more of an interest in continuing to churn Bourne movies until people stop paying to see them. So, the news came out this week that Universal recently got Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to agree to return for a fourth Bourne movie.

Which brings me back to my set up: a fourth Bourne movie based on... what? It turns out that the Bourne series did indeed continue in novel form after Ludlum's trilogy (written by Eric van Lustbader, not Ludlum, who died in 2001), starting in 2004, which not-so-coincidentally was the year Supremacy was such a hit. So, I guess, they can base the 4th and 5th movies on van Lustbader's books. But, to me, it really does seem like the Bourne trilogy was a definite trilogy, and anything past what Ludlum actually wrote is just going too far. I would suggest instead that Universal find other Ludlum novels of a similar bent, and adapt those (with Matt Damon playing other Ludlum characters, if he's the secret ingredient), but that would require a level of risk easily avoided by riding the Bourne property into the ground until people start hating them, by movie #8 or so, I guess. The counter argument might be that the James Bond character has inspired 20+ movies, but there were also a lot more James Bond books actually written by Ian Fleming, with the majority of Bond movies actually being based on those novels. If Robert Ludlum had actually written a dozen Bourne books, this would be a moot point, but he didn't.


THE TRANSPORTER: SEXIER THAN FED EX, COOLER THAN "THE BROWN"

Speaking of action trilogies involving guys who kick people in the face a lot, Jason Statham will start filming soon on The Transporter 3, although this time with a new director, since Louis Leterrier has moved on to much, much bigger action heroes (The Incredible Hulk). Leterrier's replacement has such an extremely awesome name, Olivier Megaton, that it sort of doesn't matter that this is his first movie. It's a name that will seriously come back to haunt him in bad review puns if the movie sucks, though. Apparently, there is also a Crank 2 movie in the works too, which should surprise no one because like the Transporter series, Crank is a very easy concept to franchise, within a budgeting scale that is nicely relative to their box office and DVD potential. Plus, Jason Statham is just a cool guy to watch in action movies (that don't involve the words Dungeon Siege, at least). Transporter 3 will film in France and Russia, aiming for a 2009 release date.


FOX STEPS IN THE RING WITH THE WORLD RASSLIN'... WHATEVER THE "E" STANDS FOR

20th Century Fox announced this week a deal with WWE Films, which will produce at least one theatrical movie a year (and up to 4 direct-to-video titles) starring entertainers from the World Wrestling Entertainment lineup. The deal will start with an action movie called 12 Rounds, starring John Cena, and directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, and lately, several movies that were not as awesome). I'm not a professional wrestling fan, but as a comic book fan, I can "get" the appeal of the form. The thing that is interesting to me about this deal is how it continues the pattern by which the WWE has handled and/or represented its stars in their transition to feature films for the last 10 years or so, is how it focuses on the wrestler as a personality, but not as their actual character (for the most part). What I mean is that a guy like, say, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has starred now in many movies, but he never actually made a "The Rock" movie so we can, you know, smell what he's cooking. I don't know that avoiding making movies about "rasslers" as their characters is necessarily a bad idea, but it's just something I notice that they are visibly steering away from. The WWE (and the other wrestling groups) are regularly populated with fictional characters that are probably at least as viable creatively as a lot of comic books, video games, action figures and now, board games, plus they have actual people who already play these characters. Of course, now I have to take responsibility if they actually do make an Undertaker or Gran Luchadore movie, and they, well, suck. So, perhaps Fox does know what they're doing, heh.


VERILY, THOU DOTH ATTEST TO THE AWESOMENESS OF THOR?

Comics2Film ran a script review of Thor, which may be the next of Marvel's Avengers after Iron Man to get his own big screen treatment, and I have to say that it really reads as a treat to someone who grew up reading Thor's adventures as a kid, both in Midgard (Modern Earth) and in Asgard (the mythical home to Norse gods, trolls, dwarves, elves, dragons, etc). Rather than going a "fish out of water" route, showing Thor in our modern world, this script focuses on Thor's life as a Norse god, fighting his half-brother Loki and other evils of Norse mythology, and it sounds huge and awesome. Filming is hoped to start in late 2008 in the United Kingdom, directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust), from a script by Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend), with casting for Thor, Loki, Odin, the Warriors Three and various other Asgardians not yet announced.


BILLY BATSON AND THE TITLE THAT DOESN'T AT ALL RIP OFF HARRY POTTER

Comedy director Peter Segal has been doing a lot of talking to the nerd press corps this week at Wonder Con and elsewhere about Get Smart, and they've been tripping over their Mary Marvel action figures to ask him about the Shazam! movie that he's been attached to for several years, and which appears to possibly be his next project. One might suspect the movie could be in trouble with New Line's recent closing and redefinition as a "genre" branch of Warner Bros, but Warner Bros and DC Comics are corporate kin, so I suspect that will solve that problem. Anyway, a lot of what Segal is saying is stuff that we've already heard (that he wants Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to play Captain Marvel's sort of evil mirror opposite, Black Adam, for example) and P.R. babble about how Captain Marvel is such an iconic character, blah blah blah. I should note that my cynicism stems not from a dislike of Captain Marvel and the Shazam legacy, but indeed, because I am a fan, and don't really look forward to seeing its movie version being a "kids comedy", even if the main character is indeed a pre-teen boy. Anyway, Segal revealed to IESB.net that the new title of the project previously just referred to as Shazam! is now Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam!, which to me just seems like a way of marketing the movie as "Harry Potter... but as a superhero", which I guess works in a cynical way, but since Billy Batson has never been the title character in 60+ years of publishing, it just seems weird. Ideally, I'd love the movie to just be called Captain Marvel, but they can't use that title because of decades long legal problems with Marvel Comics. Peter Segal also mentioned at the Wonder Con press conference that he thinks Steve Carell would make a great Captain Marvel, and I really, really hope he was kidding. Captain Marvel is a huge, buff guy (arguably bigger, physically, in the comics than Superman). Steve Carell... is not.


THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO... OF 1981

A few weeks ago, Moviehole.net ran a story that casting was underway for a Greatest American Hero movie, with filming to start in July in Arizona. Well, I've received a tip that Ian Ziering (from 90210 and Dancing with the Stars) has apparently let slip that he recently went to a casting call to star as Ralph Hinkley, the goofy blonde teacher who is the beneficiary of the red alien-designed suit with all the wacky powers. While I suppose it's possible Ian Ziering could make the transition from a career mostly spent on the small screen, I'm thinking instead that perhaps this Greatest American Hero movie is actually a TV movie, sort of in the spirit of the recent Knight Rider TV movie. Having said that, in the past (and the project has been bubbling around for many years), it always seemed like the goal was a big screen Greatest American Hero movie, but that's also what they used to say about Knight Rider.


THIS SUBTITLE WILL NOT MAKE ANY INSENSITIVE FAIRY JOKES

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is continuing to make kids movies instead of the awesome action movies one might imagine he would be perfect for, right now, before his weight shifts from his pecs to his six pack, his guns to his guts, oh, I could go all day with these puns. Anyway, Disney's Witch Mountain remake and the kid-friendly Shazam! movie mentioned above will be joined by The Tooth Fairy, a family comedy from the director of the last two Santa Clause movies, and it will attempt to give the Tooth Fairy concept a big Hollywood visual treatment, complete with a mythical land of tooth fairies, etc. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson will play the everyman hero of the movie, if "everyman" looked like he could rip the Los Angeles phone book his bizarrely bright teeth.


NO ONE WILL EVER MAKE AN I'M F***ING GREG DEAN SCHMITZ VIDEO

Following up on the hooplah of the Sarah Silverman/Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel/Ben Affleck videos which I'm sure most of our readers are well familiar with by now, Kevin Smith got into the game this week, with a song/spoof featuring Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks (looking a LOT like Parker Posey), the stars of his next movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Unlike the ABC-sponsored spoofs, Smith's song has no bleeps over the F***s, and honestly, isn't quite as funny (probably more of a symptom of the joke getting old by the third version), but... it does get you into the spirit of the movie, I think.


SHAKING OUT THE REST OF THE KETCHUP IN THIS WEEK'S BOTTLE

  • The next Step Up movie, will not just be Step Up 3, it will be Step Up: 3D, aiming for a 2009 release. I can't help but imagine a theater of creepy middle-aged guys wearing 3-D glasses ogling this movie's young stars. But hey, they paid for their tickets, right?

  • Casting is underway for De2cent (does an "S" really look like a "2"? really?), which will apparently feature one of the girls from the first movie returning to the cave, looking for survivors, which of course, is a plan that always works out just great in horror movies featuring man eating beasties.

  • Likewise, Jeepers Creepers 3: The Creeper Walks Among Us is casting up for a summer, 2008 start, with the frequently awesome Ray Wise (AKA Laura Palmer's dad, the devil from Reaper) reprising his role from the second movie the first to be announced. Director Victor Salva is apparently making his case with MGM that the first two movies were cheap to produce, and did well theatrically in their Labor Day slots, so hey, why not go for a three-peat instead of direct-to-video like so many horror sequels do these days (*cough*LakePlacid2*cough*).

  • The remake of The Stepfather is also casting up, with Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck taking on the challenge of being as creepy and terrifying as Terry O'Quinn (John Locke from Lost) was in the original version.

  • Casting is underway for a Julianne Moore-starring thriller called Shelter, and the specificity for people with "unique" looks is upsetting people in West Virginia, who are (rightly) tired of once again being stereotypically associated with "inbreeding" and "freaks."

  • The voice cast for Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs Evil, the sequel to the relatively-low-budget CGI Shrek-ish 2005 comedy has been announced, and it is headed by Hayden Panettiere (replacing Anne Hathaway), and also includes Glenn Close, Martin Short, Andy Dick, Patrick Warburton, Joan Cusack, Brad Garrett, Wayne Newton, David Alan Grier, Bill Hader and Amy Poehler.

  • Lindsay Lohan and Jack Black will be costarring in Ye Olde Times, a romantic comedy about two couples competing against each other somehow in the hound-eateth-hound world of renaissance faires. Expect lots of jousting-leading-to-groin-injuries and girls with comedically plunging necklines, I would guess.

  • The all-CGI version of Astro Boy (from the same company that made the recent TMNT movie) landed its star this week, in the form of British child star Freddie Highmore (The Spiderwick Chronicles).

  • Justice League of America appears to still be in the works, aiming for a 2009 release instead of 2010, with AICN reporting this week that George Miller may be casting one of his Mad Max actors, Hugh Keays-Byrne as the Martian Manhunter. And there are reports that filming may shift to Canada and Australia, and that additional work is being done on the script that may insert Batman and/or Superman back into the cast after all.

  • Script work is also underway for a Green Lantern movie, but it sounds (thankfully) like the focus will be on Hal Jordan, the "Silver Age" version which I think remains the most iconic, creating a situation where Common plays one version in the JLA movies, and another actor will play a different one in the GL movies. I professed my love for Hal Jordan in a recent column, so obviously, I'm perfectly FINE with this news in a week that has sort of battered me with downers.

  • Gerard Butler (300) confirmed this week that he is indeed working on Watchmen, in the form of providing lead voice work for the Tales of the Black Freighter animated short that will be produced as a side project. In the world of Watchmen, superhero comic books never became popular because who needs them, when they exist in real life? Instead, pirates are extremely popular comic book characters, with the Black Freighter story parallelling elements of the Watchmen narrative. Expect the short on the DVD for sure, and hopefully online or something as well, timed with the release, I would hope.

  • A movie tip from the New York Post's Page Six should always be taken with a grain of salt, but they are reporting that Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg may be costarring together a third time (after The Basketball Diaries and The Departed) in a dramatic version of Cocaine Cowboys, a documentary about the drug/crime scene in early 1980s Miami, which arguably is what inspired Michael Mann to create a TV show called Miami Vice. I think they're both great actors, and will probably be perfect for this movie, if it's a real project, but Leo and Marky Mark should probably avoid the temptation to don pastel suits and five day stubble.

  • On the set of another movie, CHUD.com got the scoop this week of how casting is going on Cadillac Records, which is actually a multi-biopic about the founding of seminal blues record label Chess Records, with Adrien Brody playing Leonard Chess himself, and his musician friends including Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), harmonica legend Little Walter (Columbus Short), Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer), Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles) and the as-yet-uncast Chuck Berry (who you would think would be a pretty major character).


And that was the week that was. I felt like it was sort of one of those clunkers where I felt cynicism ruling over my reactions to the news a lot more than I would like. Really, only Thor and Cadillac Records strike me as movies I'm legitimately count-the-days looking forward to, and most of the other stuff ranges from optimistic ambivlence to... less than that. I remain basically a half-full kind of movie fan though, and hope that early March movie news will be, if just a little bit, less... whatever this week was.

Write me via my MySpace page with any hot news or whatever you want to share: http://www.myspace.com/gregdean88.

Greg Dean Schmitz

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