Weekly Ketchup: Chronicle Director in Talks for Venom

Plus, new roles for Viola Davis, Tom Hardy, Kristen Bell, and a Project X sequel.

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This week's Ketchup sees Hollywood in the midst of a huge wave of sequels, with Chronicle, Gnomeo & Juliet, Journey 2: Mysterious Island and Project X all getting follow ups developed this week. The Sleeping Beauty reimagining, Maleficent, the Ouija movie, new movies for Viola Davis and Tom Hardy, and even a movie about (part of) the life of Nicolas Cage are all also covered in this week's entry.

This Week's Top Story


The super powered success of the "found footage" movie Chronicle continued to create reverberations this week, with the film landing its own sequel, and helping its director potentially secure a big movie as well. First, 20th Century Fox has hired screenwriter Max Landis, who made his feature debut with Chronicle to start working on a sequel. There's no word yet about what the sequel might be about, but the first film was about three high school friends who start displaying superhuman abilities, so... the sequel will probably either continue on from there, or maybe tell someone else's similar story. There's also no word yet as to whether director Josh Trank will work on the sequel, but he may be busy when Chronicle 2 starts filming. The reason is that Trank is now in negotiations with Sony Pictures to direct the planned Spider-Man spin off, Venom. Venom is of course the big black and gooey villain that was first introduced to moviegoers in Spider-Man 3. Venom is also one of Spider-Man's relatively newer villains, dating from the mid-1980s rather than the 1960s like most of the hero's other major villains. Part of the reason for Venom getting his own movie is due to his status as an "antihero" in the comics, as part of the "grim and gritty" wave in the 1980s and 1990s, allowing him to branch out into his own adventures completely separate from whatever Spider-Man was doing. That separation may be especially important for the movie now that Peter Parker is being rebooted in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Fresh Developments This Week


Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help) is teaming up as producer and star with director Paris Barclay (Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood) to adapt a biopic based on the life of Barbara Jordan (1936-1996), the first African American elected to the Texas Senate, and the first African American congresswoman. Specifically, the adaptation will be based upon the book Barbara Jordan: American Hero by Mary Beth Rogers. This new Barbara Jordan biopic is one of a few new projects celebrating the lives of African Americans within the political spectrum of the 20th Century that have emerged in the last twelve months. The other most prominent such project is The Butler, which Forest Whitaker is now in talks to star in, as a White House butler who served under eight different presidents, from Truman in 1952 to Reagan in 1986.


Walt Disney Pictures is now in talks with teen actress Elle Fanning (Super 8, Somewhere) to play the Princess Aurora (AKA Sleeping Beauty) in the revisionist fairy tale Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the infamous sorceress. Maleficent has long been one of the highest profile entries in Hollywood's current trend of "fairy tale movies," and filming will finally start on it in June in London. Maleficent will also mark the directorial debut of visual effects supervisor Robert Stromberg, whose dozens of credits include Pan's Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Cast Away, Shutter Island and There Will Be Blood. Many of these fairy tale movies owe their greenlights to the success of Disney's 2010 hit Alice in Wonderland, and for Maleficent, the studio is reuniting with that film's screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, who also wrote the Disney animated movie Beauty and the Beast and cowrote The Lion King.


After working with Warner Bros on Christopher Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight Rises (in which he plays Bane), British actor Tom Hardy has set up a new movie at the studio that he will both star in and produce. The new project (which doesn't yet have a title) will star Hardy as a Vietnam vet in the 1960s who joins a motorcycle gang in San Francisco, and was written by Mark L. Smith (The Hole, Vacancy, Vacancy 2: The First Cut). This movie just barely squeaks in as a fresh development, not so much because of Smith's credits, but because (until This Means War came out) Tom Hardy has recently been on a critical winning streak (Inception, Warrior, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).


Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) had a particularly busy week, as she signed on for three different movies. First up, Kristen Bell will be providing the speaking and singing voice of the lead character in Walt Disney Pictures' Frozen, the studio's long-in-development adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen (which is not the character that Bell will be playing). Frozen will be directed by Chris Buck, an animator who previously codirected Surf's Up and Disney's Tarzan. Kristen Bell will also be costarring in Some Girl(s), an adaptation of a 2010 off-broadway play written by Neil LaBute (The Shape of Things, In the Company of Men), to be directed by frequent Mad Men director Jennifer Getzinger. Some Girl(s) is about a man (Adam Brody) who attempts to reconcile with several of his ex-girlfriends (including Bell) on the eve of his wedding. The third new role for Kristen Bell this week will be in another independent film, Writers, in which Greg Kinnear plays a novelist obsessed with his ex-wife (Jennifer Connelly). Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) is also costarring as Kinnear's daughter, and Stephen King will also have a cameo role as himself. Consider these three stories borderline to fresh, buoyed mostly by the Tarzan credit.

Rotten Ideas of the Week


One of the big ongoing stories of 2011 concerned how studios regularly pulled the plug on movie projects because of budget concerns. Although its $100 million price tag was not as high as The Dark Tower or The Lone Ranger, one of those movies was Universal Pictures' adaptation with Hasbro of the perennial Ouija toy board. Now, the studio has put Ouija back on its schedule (for 2013), and the way that's being achieved is by cutting the budget all the way down from $100 million to just $5 million. That amount also just so happened to be the penalty that Universal would have owed Hasbro if the studio didn't meet pre-specified deadlines, and now that is the cost of the entire budget of the movie. The explanation for how Universal is likely to be making a Ouija movie on just $5 million can probably be attributed to the addition of Blumhouse Productions, AKA Jason Blum, one of the producers of the Paranormal Activity franchise. The connection between the Ouija movie and its new producer is actually predicted within Paranormal Activity itself, as the characters prominently used a Ouija board during their investigations of all the strange goings on (instead of, you know... just leaving the house five minutes into the movie). It's not yet known if Ouija will indeed be a "found footage" horror movie, or if it will just be cheaply made (probably with unknown actors).


Journey 2: The Mysterious Island has already earned over $270 million in worldwide box office in just 4 weeks, so New Line Cinema has unsurprisingly started development on a third Journey movie. The series gets its title from the first movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D, which was also inspired by a science fiction novel by Jules Verne. New Line Cinema is not yet revealing which Jules Verne book will be adapted next, but director Brad Peyton may have given a hint when he said this week, "We're going to go to a completely different world." There appear to be just two Jules Verne books that could be described as actually being set in a different world: From the Earth to the Moon and Off on a Comet. Of course, the problem with both of those is that 130 years later, modern science has a much better idea of exactly how unhospitable both the Moon and a comet would be to wacky explorers who end up on them. Anyway, New Line Cinema appears to be looking to replicate the team behind Journey 2: Mysterious Island as much as possible. Deals are already in place for director Brad Peyton (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), screenwriters Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn (cowriters of Bring It On Again), and negotiations are also underway for Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson to return as well. All of this comes in the middle of a busy streak for Dwayne Johnson, who also recently signed to star in Brett Ratner's Hercules. This week, Dwayne Johnson also signed on to star in Ciudad, an adaptation of an unpublished "graphic novel" about a mercenary hired by a drug lord to rescue his kidnapped daughter. Ciudad was cowritten and will be directed by Joe and Anthony Russo (Welcome to Collinwood, You, Me and Dupree).


Elton John's Rocket Pictures is moving forward with plans for a sequel to their 2011 CGI animated comedy Gnomeo & Juliet called Gnomeo & Juliet: Sherlock Gnomes. As the title suggests, the story this time around will involve "the world's greatest ornamental detective," who is enlisted to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances of talking lawn gnomes in England's suburban garden communities. As with the first movie, Elton John will be writing new songs for the sequel. Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley, who were two of the nine screenwriters credited for Gnomeo & Juliet (not counting William Shakespeare), are currently writing the sequel. The sequel doesn't yet have a director, as the first movie's Kelly Asbury will just be acting as a "creative consultant." The goal is for animation production to start on Sherlock Gnomes to start sometime in the fall of 2012.


It's not a secret that Nicolas Cage is a Superman fan. Not only was Cage attached at one time to star in Tim Burton's failed attempt at a Superman movie, but Cage also named his son Kal-El. Cage's love of Superman included being one of the few owners of an actual copy of Action Comics #1, the comic book in which Superman debuted back in 1938, and that comic also made the news when it was stolen in 2000. Now, Lionsgate has picked up the rights to a script called Action No. 1 from screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, the writing team responsible for Vin Diesel's The Pacifier, both Night at the Museum movies, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. The script tells the true story of how a "group of nerds" attempted to steal Nicolas Cage's cherished comic book, which was eventually recovered last year when it was found in an abandoned storage locker. Garant and Lennon wrote the role of Nicolas Cage thinking that Cage would actually play himself, but now that the movie has actually been picked up, it looks like the role will have to go to another actor entirely. Although the premise sounds potentially like fun, Action No. 1 is one of the week's Rotten Ideas based mostly on the RT Tomatometer scores for Lennon and Garant's previous films as screenwriters.


Following the $21 million opening for the relatively inexpensive ($12 million) found footage teen comedy Project X, Warner Bros has already hired one of the film's screenwriters to start working on a sequel. In addition to Project X, Michael Bacall also wrote the upcoming 21 Jump Street comedic adaptation and cowrote Scott Pilgrim Vs the World. Although the news broke this week, Bacall actually started working on the treatment for the sequel several weeks before the first movie even opened. That move is not new to producer Todd Phillips, who with Warner Bros also moved forward on a sequel to The Hangover before that movie actually opened. No other story details are really known yet about what the Project X sequel might be about, including whether all three of the film's young leads will return (though they probably will). As for why the Project X sequel is this week's Most Rotten Idea, all you have to do is look at the first movie's RT Tomatometer score.

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.