Weekly Ketchup: Empire Strikes Back Writer Returns to Franchise
Plus, Studio Ghibli's next films, an MLK drama, and Liam Neeson busts heads again.
This week's Ketchup is coming to you on a Wednesday morning instead of Friday evening because of Thanksgiving Thursday giving pretty much everyone in Hollywood a much, much shorter work week. So, half a week means only half the usual number of stories (five this week, from the standard ten).
This Week's Top Story
ONE OF THE WRITERS OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK WILL STRIKE BACK
We've known for a few weeks that Star Wars Episode VII will be written by Michael Arndt, whose filmography includes work on Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3. This week, the big news was that two more screenwriters have signed on for Disney's next Star Wars trilogy, and one of them has a very special place in the hearts of Star Wars fans. Lawrence Kasdan (who also has a career as a director) was one of two credited screenwriters on The Empire Strikes Back (AKA Episode V, etc.), which is generally considered to be the best of the six Star Wars films. Simon Kinberg worked as a screenwriter on Sherlock Holmes, X-Men: The Last Stand, and the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, and he was also one of the producers of X-Men: First Class. Kasdan and Kinberg have both closed deals to produce and write screenplays for Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX, but what is currently unknown is which film either will write. There's also some confusion as to whether they will each write a script separately, or whether they will be working together as cowriters on the same script. For obvious reasons, the preferred scenario for many fans would be to see Lawrence Kasdan writing Star Wars Episode VIII, since with The Empire Strikes Back, Kasdan cowrote what is arguably the finest "bridge story" ever committed to film.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 STUDIO GHIBLI ANNOUNCES NEXT FILMS FROM TWO MASTERS OF ANIME
In an abbreviated week during which most American filmmakers are on holiday leave, it sort of makes sense that some of the biggest news might come from elsewhere. Even so, the news out of Studio Ghibli the anime studio behind movies like Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies) this week is actually just an update on two movies that had already been reported within the anime fan community. However, it's still news to the rest of us, so here we go. The next two movies from Studio Ghibli will be directed by two masters of the form: Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away) and Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), and both are expected to be released in Japan in the summer of 2013. Hayao Miyazaki's Kaze Tachinu (AKA The Wind Rises) will be his first film since 2008's Ponyo, and is based upon his manga comic about the life of Mitsubishi engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Zero fighters used by Japan during World War II. Harking back to one of Miyazaki's earliest films, Porco Rosso, the characters in The Wind Rises are depicted as anthropomorphic pigs. There were reports a few years back of Hayao Miyazaki considering a Porco Rosso sequel set during the Spanish Civil War, so one has to wonder if The Wind Rises might not be what he decided to work on instead (since both feature porcine pilots). Isao Takahata's next film is now titled Princess Kaguya Story, and it's based upon the Japanese folk story Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (its former working title). This will be Takahata's first film as the director of a Studio Ghibli film since 1999's My Neighbors the Yamadas. The return of these two masters follows two Studio Ghibli movies from younger directors: The Secret World of Arrietty and From Up on Poppy Hill (which will be released in the USA in the spring of 2013).
#2 THE MLK DRAMA ABOUT HIS FINAL DAYS IN MEMPHIS IS BACK
When Universal Pictures dropped out of producing the movie project called Memphis, about the final days of Martin Luther King Jr, it seemed like another delay in the long road towards Hollywood producing a drama about the civil rights leader. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, he was in that city supporting the strike by the city's African American public works sanitation workers. Memphis is one of the dream projects of director Paul Greengrass (United 93, and the last two Matt Damon Bourne movies), who also famously spent time trying to get Watchmen made before Zack Snyder ended up directing that film. The good news for Memphis this week is that Greengrass and producer Scott Rudin are now in talks with the French company Wild Bunch, which has similarly backed such films as The Artist, The King's Speech, and Pan's Labyrinth in the past. This news comes as Greengrass is preparing for the 2013 release of Captain Phillips, based on the true story of the Somali pirate heist of the Maersk Alabama in 2009, featuring Catherine Keener and Tom Hanks as the title character.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 THE LIAM NEESON ACTION MOVIE EXPRESS PULLS AN ALL NIGHTER
The surprise box office success of Taken in 2008 has led now to years of steady appearances by Liam Neeson in action movies (although that was hardly something he didn't do before either; see also: Batman Begins). The latest movie to add to that list is The All Nighter (formerly Run All Night), and it tells the story of an "aging hitman who, in order to protect his wife and son, must take on his former boss in a single night." There's no director currently attached to The All Nighter. The reason this story is a "Rotten Idea" this week is that when one does look at Liam Neeson's Tomatometer scores for his last 11 movies, only two of them are "Fresh" (and one of those is The Dark Knight Rises, which Neeson was only "sort of" in; the other one is The Grey). Neeson's upcoming films include Non-Stop, The Third Person, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and a voice role in LEGO: The Piece of Resistance. One would imagine there will probably be a Taken 3 at some point as well.
#1 INDEPENDENCE DAY 3D PULLED FROM THE FOURTH OF JULY, 2013
This story is arguably only a "Rotten Idea" based on how one feels about the current 3D trends, and in particular, the various efforts to return older movies to theaters as 3D rereleases. Indeed, this one might be "the best news of the week" for some readers; it's all a matter of perspective when there's only 5 stories in a week anyway. The news here is that 20th Century Fox has decided not to rerelease Independence Day next summer as Independence Day 3D after all. This move leaves just Universal's Despicable Me 2 and Disney's The Lone Ranger on the schedule for July 3, 2013. No reason was given for the change, but the most obvious one might be that the film didn't really benefit from 3D that much. Or maybe the execs at Fox just figured they wouldn't make much of their money back. It's unknown if Independence Day 3D might still be available on Blu-ray 3D someday.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.