Weekly Ketchup: The Crow and The Phantom get rebooted

Plus, Frank Miller to take on Buck Rogers

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As if we need further reminders of how the world's current situation resembles the Great Depression, this week, four of of the ten top headlines have their origins in the era between 1900 and World War II, and the remake trend moves forward a bit to now focus on two superhero-ish movies from the mid 1990s.


#1 LXG DIRECTOR TO BRING HIS UNIQUE TALENTS TO THE CROW

Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a brilliant, deconstructionist reinvention of some of literature's greatest characters, and so the idea of it becoming a movie was almost as exciting at one point as anticipation for say, Watchmen. And then fans started seeing posters calling it LXG, and from there, that movie was a downward-spiralling rolercoaster ride of disappointment and shattered dreams. So too, apparently for Sean Connery and the movie's director, Stephen Norrington (Blade), neither of whom have made a movie in the five years since. After a failed deal to direct the Clash of the Titans remake, Norrington hopes to return with a different remake, The Crow, which was based upon a goth-friendly comic series about a man who comes back from the dead to avenge the death of his girlfriend. The original 1994 version of The Crow, beautifully directed with gothic style by Alex Proyas (Dark City) inspired three sequels, the last two of which went direct-to-video. Norrington, who will write and direct, says his version will "realistic, hard-edged and mysterious, almost documentary-style."


#2 PURPLE IS THE NEXT... PURPLE: THE PHANTOM RETURNS

Although initially incorrectly implicated to be a sequel, The Phantom: Legacy was announced this week, as a $87 million project that will relaunch the classic newspaper comic strip character The Phantom on the big screen, separate from the 1996 movie starring Billy Zane. The Phantom is a globetrotting crime fighter who sports a purple outfit since 1936, with a possible claim to being the first superhero depicted wearing a body tight suit, ala Superman. Hearing that the movie was being described as a sequel, screenwriter Tim Boyle was quick this week to get online and clarify that The Phantom: Legacy is a serious reimagining of the character, ala Iron Man or The Dark Knight, and will focus on the father/son dynamic of a generational superhero legacy (which dates back to the 1500s). Production is expected to start sometime in Australia.


#3 FRANK MILLER TO GIVE BUCK ROGERS HIS UNIQUE LOOK

The advance reviews for The Spirit are far from glowing, but Frank Miller has secured what might be his next solo directing project, in the form of Buck Rogers. Buck Rogers is, of course, a futuristic adventurer from the 20th century who ends up in the 25th century, in stories dating back to the 1920s, and probably best remembered for the 1970s TV series starring Gil Gerard, an annoying robot named Twiki and Erin Gray in what was arguably one of the sexiest TV roles ever. Earlier this year, this new Buck Rogers project was first announced, and there were rumors that Frank Miller would be involved, but this new deal confirms that he will both write and direct, and that it will be a "priority project." There has been a lot of expectation that Miller's next movie would be Sin City 2 (teaming up again with Robert Rodriguez), so that raises the question of which movie will be Miller's next, although I would think that Sin City 2 is probably a lot farther along in development. Like his sci-fi serials-era rival Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers is usually associated with colorful, fantastic settings, but as one might expect from Frank Miller, he is going to give the movie a "darker take," which suggests a movie almost entirely black and white, with only brief flashes of color.


#4 THE VOYAGES OF SINBAD AS BEDTIME STORIES?

This Christmas sees the release of the kid-friendly, fantasy scene-thick Bedtime Stories, which sort of feels like this year's A Night at the Museum. That movie's director, Adam Shankman (Hairspray) has signed on for two movies this week, hot on the buzz of Bedtime Stories: Sony's long-in-development Sinbad project and a Disney musical called Bob: The Musical, about a man who starts hearing the songs of other people's hearts, which sounds a bit like a musical version of What Women Want (but covering both genders). Sinbad is the Arabian sailor who has been the star of several movies over the decades, often featuring encounters with fantastic monsters, evil sorcerers and beautiful women. This Sinbad tale will find the sailor and his crew marooned off the coast of China, as they seek to find Aladdin's magical lamp. With Disney betting a lot of money on 2010's Prince of Persia, Sony's Sinbad project no doubt can be seen as a possible competitor.


#5 KEANU REEVES WANTS TO COWBOY BEBOP

Talking to MTV this week, Keanu Reeves revealed that he is developing, with 20th Century Fox and producer Erwin Stoff (The Matrix, I Am Legend), a live action movie version of the 26 episode anime TV series, Cowboy Bebop, which culminated with Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in 2002. Set in the 2070s, Cowboy Bebop imagines a future set fifty years after the Moon has been exploded, devastating the Earth, resulting in a society that combines futuristic high-tech with elements of the American Wild West. Keanu Reeves hopes to star as Spike Spiegel, a former member of a crime syndicate who is haunted by his past. Reeves says that the movie would focus on the Bebop drug that is developed by the military, and then take the story from there, focusing on the "Red Eye" storyline. Since I've never seen Cowboy Bebop, I can only presume all that makes sense, and I didn't make any huge errors trying to recap a show I've no personal knowledge of.


#6 MOULIN ROUGE DIRECTOR GETTING JAZZY WITH THE GREAT GATSBY

Although his highly hyped World War II epic Australia has proven to be a box office bomb, director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) is persevering, setting his sights on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the classic novel of love during the Jazz Age of the 1920s. Given today's economic situation, The Great Gatsby can be definitely be seen as very timely, as the wild parties and decadence of the 1920s are an obvious ironic precursor to the coming Great Depression of the 1930s, which is exactly what Luhrmann says as well, and is why he's chosen it as his next project. I'd expect that Luhrmann's take on The Great Gatsby will probably feel and look a lot more like his Moulin Rouge, another period piece about decadence, but probably without as many musical dance numbers.


#7 LIONSGATE IS LOVING FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT

Lionsgate has acquired the rights to Loving Frank, a historical romance novel based upon the true story of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a Chicago woman who left her family for Wright. John Burnham Schwartz, who wrote the novel and cowrote the screenplay for the upcoming Reservation Road, will adapt the novel by first time novelist Nancy Horan. Set between 1909 and 1914, the New York Times compares the novel favorably to E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. Being from Wright's home state of Wisconsin, I'm quite familiar with the story of Frank and Mamah and contest that it has the makings of a fantastic love story, ala The Notebook or Somewhere in Time, although I probably shouldn't divulge what exactly makes it so great (though one can't really call historical facts spoilers, can you?).


#8 VALKYRIE WRITER WORKING ON THREE MORE PROJECTS FOR TOM CRUISE

Another week, another Tom Cruise story! With Valkyrie garnering positive advance reviews, that movie's cowriter, Christopher McQuarrie is at work on three different scripts which are all expected to be starring projects for Tom Cruise. First, there is The Champions, which Guillermo del Toro is also cowriting and producing, which is an adaptation of a 1960s British TV serires about a trio of secret agents who crash in the Himalayas and receive amazing abilities like telepathy and clairvoyance. So, with Cruise aboard, The Champions can be seen as Mission: Impossible... with super powers! McQuarrie is also working on the long-in-development Flying Tigers, the true story of American volunteer pilots who helped China fight the Japanese before the U.S. had entered World War II. Finally, there is The Tourist, an espionage drama (and a remake of a 2005 French film) that already has Charlize Theron attached, with Cruise to play an American overseas enlisted by an Interpol agent (Theron) to help catch a bad guy who also happens to be her former lover.


#9 GORE VERBINSKI TO GET A SECOND LIFE

Universal Pictures and director Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Carribean) have teamed up to acquire the rights to a 2007 Wall Street Journal article about Ric Hoogestraat, a heavy-set 53-year-old man in Phoenix who lived a Second Life as a musclebound businessman in the virtual reality world "game" of the same title. The relationship that Hoogestraat formed with a woman within the game, and the amount of time he spent playing, threatened his real life marriage. Verbinski will direct the apparently untitled drama, which will be written by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things). What's curious about the Variety article is that it doesn't specifically name Second Life as the game, so it looks like they might fictionalize the online game in question.


#10 BILL CLINTON AND TONY BLAIR: THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

British screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) is developing The Special Relationship, which will be the third in a trilogy of movies he's written about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, played each time by Michael Sheen, following the 2003 TV movie The Deal and The Queen. The Special Relationship will focus on the years 1997 to 2000, and the friendship formed between Tony Blair and U.S. President Bill Clinton. Morgan had originally considered extending the story to include George W. Bush, but is now focusing on Bill Clinton. The casting of Clinton should be interesting, and one can only imagine how awesome it would be if Morgan enlisted SNL's Darrell Hammond, who is so great as Clinton, but it's probably more likely that he will cast a more serious actor for the role.


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 and Greg also blogs about the TV show Lost, at TwoLosties.Blogspot.com.

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