Weekly Ketchup: J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan to Finish Star Wars 7 Script

This week, the Ketchup brings you ten stories dominated by sequels (Star Wars Episode VII, Avatar 2, Beetlejuice 2, Independence Day 2), a remake (Hellraiser), and a trilogy of movies inspired by websites. There's also new roles for Tom Cruise and Will Smith.


This Week's Top Story

J.J. ABRAMS AND LAWRENCE KASDAN CONFIRMED TO BE WRITING STAR WARS: EPISODE VII

Normally, a screenwriter announcement would not be a week's top story. But normally, movie news stories aren't about Star Wars Episode VII. What we previously thought we knew about the Episode VII script was that it was being worked on by screenwriter Michael Arndt, whose filmography includes Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine. This week, Disney and Lucasfilm officially announced that director J.J. Abrams is also stepping in to work on the script with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, and cowrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Abrams has become a household name as director and producer of TV shows like LOST and Fringe, and movies like the two recent Star Trek films. However, Abrams's career as screenwriter (which is more immediately relevant to this story) is mostly comprised of older, more obscure movies like Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Joy Ride, and Gone Fishin'. So, if one truly wants to brush up on their Star Wars fan credentials, it looks like it's time revisit wacky Joe Pesci buddy fishermen comedies (all one of them). Have fun with that.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 DIRECTOR ROBERT ZEMECKIS TO ADAPT TOY SOLDIER DOCUMENTARY MARWENCOL

There are obviously bumpy spots in the filmography of Robert Zemeckis (they weren't all Back to the Future, let's just say), but to his credit, he's always remained unpredictable. And when those gambles pay off, we get movies like Contact, Cast Away and Beowulf. Robert Zemeckis and Universal Pictures are teaming up to start development of a live action adaptation of the award-winning 2010 documentary Marwencol. That film told the story of Mark Hogancamp, who, following a brutal beating in 2000, constructed in his back yard a 1/6-scale toy soldier version of a Belgian town during World War II, populated by dolls representing himself, his family and friends, and the five men who attacked him. Zemeckis came to Universal Pictures with a screenplay already adapted by Caroline Thompson, whose past films include Edward Scissorhands, The Secret Garden, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Since there's already a screenplay, there's speculation that Robert Zemeckis might actually be planning on making Marwencol his next film. Unlike many other directors of his class (who are attached to multiple films for years, many of which never get made), it's happened a few times in the past (like with Flight) that Zemeckis has begun filming movies people barely knew were even in development, only to find said movies in theaters just a year later. If Marwencol is indeed that close to happening, we should start hearing casting news in the next couple of months.


#2 THE AVATAR SEQUEL TRILOGY FINDS ITS "DARTH VADER" AND IT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU...

This story may be surprising for anyone who saw Avatar (and if you haven't yet, why are you reading this story? It's got spoilers!). Anyway, Avatar pretty much seemed to put the nails in the coffin, let's say, for Stephen Lang's antagonist character of Colonel Miles Quaritch, who was pierced repeatedly in the chest by the pointy ends of multiple N'avi arrows. Avatar is also, of course, a science fiction about people taking on alien forms using advanced technology, so maybe that leads us to the following news. Stephen Lang will be returning for the three Avatar sequels as what is being described as the "Darth Vader" of the franchise. James Cameron is deep in pre-production for the sequel trilogy, with filming not expected to start this time in October. 20th Century Fox is expected to release the first Avatar sequel sometime in December, 2016, with the third and fourth films following in the same month in 2017 ad 2018.


#3 TIM BURTON! TIM BURTON! TIM BURTON! TO FINALLY DIRECT THE LONG AWAITED BEETLEJUICE SEQUEL

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the 1988 supernatural comedy Beetlejuice, and it can feel to movie news writers like the last two decades have seen annual or bi-annual news stories about a Beetlejuice sequel happening... someday. Sometimes, for these sort of things to turn around, certain types of events need to happen. For a studio like Warner Bros, the recent departure of prolific movie generator Legendary Pictures (to Universal) certainly could be seen as an impetus for revisiting long-lingering projects like Beetlejuice 2. And so, we can finally report that director Tim Burton is officially in talks with Warner Bros and The Geffen Company to direct a sequel to Beetlejuice. Michael Keaton is also expected to reprise his performance as the title character. This development came after recent changes at 20th Century Fox concerning the adaptation of the book Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which had been expected to be Tim Burton's next film as director (after recently wrapping the biopic Big Eyes). There's also speculation that Warner Bros was able to get Tim Burton to rethink Beetlejuice 2 at least partly as payback to the studio for the financial hit they took when Burton's dream project Dark Shadows failed to do much for Warner Bros. There's no word yet as to whether any other Beetlejuice costars (like Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, or Winona Ryder) might also return.


#4 HELLRAISER TO BE RAISED FROM DEVELOPMENT HELL BY... NEARLY THE SAME PEOPLE?

It happens sometimes that a foreign film will be remade in English just a few years later by the film's original director. It's far less common for this to happen with films that are decades old, but British author-turned-director Clive Barker is not, in fact, a common filmmaker. And so, when Dimension Films starts filming of the long-in-development remake of the 1987 S&M-influenced supernatural horror film Hellraiser, the movie will be directed by Clive Barker. In addition to making his directorial debut with that film, Clive Barker also wrote the original novella The Hellbound Heart that the movie adapted. Clive Barker won't be alone in this revisit, however, as actor Doug Bradley will also be returning to Hellraiser in the remake, once again reprising his demonic character known as Pinhead. The world has changed a lot since 1987, and one would have to guess that the remake will reflect that. Back then, Hellraiser shocked audiences with its depictions of S&M sex scenes, while next year, the world's going to get a mom-friendly S&M movie in Fifty Shades of Grey. There's no production start date for the new Hellraiser yet. This one of the Fresh Developments because a) Clive Barker's filmography is quite "Fresh," and b) this is sort of an extreme example of how remakes of beloved genre classics should happen.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#5 ETHAN HAWKE RETEAMS WITH GATTACA DIRECTOR FOR A MOVIE ABOUT DRONES

Hollywood publicists are very much in the business of putting the best possible image on things (that is literally their job). And so, the headlines for stories in the Weekly Ketchup may sometimes seem to conflict with what we call "Rotten Ideas." Take, for example, the news that Ethan Hawke is reuniting with director Andrew Niccol, with whom he made the 1997 sci-fi movie Gattaca. That movie has a "Fresh" rating of 82% on the RT Tomatometer, so what's Rotten here? Well, it's more understandable when we factor in the other four movies that Andrew Niccol has directed, only one of which in the last 15 years has been "Fresh" (Lord of War), versus three "Rotten" movies (S1m0ne, In Time, and this year's The Host). Anyway, in the untitled thriller, Ethan Hawke will star as a fighter pilot who "becomes a Las Vegas-based drone pilot. He fights the Taliban by remote control for twelve hours a day, then goes home to the suburbs and feuds with his wife and kids for the other twelve. He starts to question his mission, and asking himself if he is creating more terrorists than he is killing in a war seemingly without end." There's a lot of meaty ripped-from-the-headlines material there, but mostly? They lost this writer at "Ethan Hawke will star as a fighter pilot."


#4 THIS WEEK IN WILL SMITH: SELLING TIME, AND THE TWO DIFFERENT INDEPENDENCE DAY SEQUEL SCRIPTS

People get dazzled by big box office numbers, but this column is concerned with very different numbers. Will Smith, for example, is one of the most successful movie stars of all time. His RT Tomatometer, however, tells a different story. Did you know, for example, that of all the movies Will Smith has been credited with appearing in since 2007's I Am Legend, only one (Men in Black III) is "Fresh" on the Tomatometer. Well, maybe things will turn around for Mr. Smith who is attached to star in the 20th Century Fox supernatural thriller called Selling Time. Smith will play "a man who is given a chance to relive the worst day of his life in exchange for seven years off his life expectancy." The script comes from newcomer Dan McDermott, who is a former DreamWorks Television president who one day apparently decided, "what I really want to do is write movies." That's the new movie project that got Will Smith into the news this week, but the story that most people heard about was the one about how Roland Emmerich is developing two different scripts for the Independence Day sequel, depending upon whether or not they can get Will Smith to sign on to star. That one is also from 20th Century Fox, and ID Forever Part I is currently scheduled for release on July 3, 2015, where it's expected to do crazy numbers because what else will moviegoers have going on by the middle of summer, 2015? Oh wait...


#3 TOM CRUISE MIGHT GO LIKE HELL IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE AUTOMOBILE BUSINESS

We sort of went to town on Will Smith's filmography in that last story, so we're going to let Tom Cruise sit this one out while discussing why it's a "Rotten Idea." First, the story itself: Tom Cruise is attached to produce, and possibly costar in the 20th Century Fox drama Go Like Hell, a movie which will examine the true stories surrounding the automobile industry in the early 1960s. The movie will be based on the book by A.J. Baime called Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans. Early reports mistakenly said Tom Cruise might play Henry Ford II, but the role he's instead interested in is car engineer Carroll Shelby, who most people know as the guy behind the famous Shelby Mustang muscle cars. Nicolas Cage drove a Shelby Mustang in Gone in 60 Seconds, to pull out a hip, with-it reference from the early Oughts. So far, so good, right? Well, the reason this is one of the week's Rotten Ideas is that the director Tom Cruise is looking to reteam with is one Joseph Kosinski, whose first two movies were TRON: Legacy and this year's Oblivion, both of which earned "Rotten" scores in the low 50% range. Of course, maybe science fiction just isn't his thing, and Go Like Hell will be the movie to turn things around for Kosinski.


#2 20TH CENTURY FOX TO DEVELOP TRILOGY OF MOVIES INSPIRED BY WEBSITES -- CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE

The Weekly Ketchup has seen some pretty "out there" ideas and trends come and go. Often, the problem with the movies are that the things they are attempting to "adapt" are inherently non-narrative. File this story in that category: there is a movie studio that wants to develop an entire trilogy of movies based upon... websites. No, not the content on the websites, but just their names and the very loose premises. 20th Century Fox has acquired the film rights to the websites The Knot, The Bump, and The Nest, for a trilogy of comedies that follow an ensemble cast through three stages of life (marriage, pregancy, and parenthood). So, yes, we're talking about three more movies that fall into that same "loosely thematic ensemble comedy" mix like Valentine's Day and What to Expect When You're Expecting. Of course, there may be a bright side to this story, if The Knot, and its two sequels are huge blockbuster successes (they probably won't be, but roll with us here). I'm imagining a real four-quadrant CGI comedy hit here. It'll be about a bunch of vegetables attending a movie marathon, who are challenged to finish all the movies before they're too ripe to be harvested. We'll call it (wait for it)... Rotten Tomatoes! Or maybe if studios are in the mood for something more dramatic, there's always the harrowing true story of the creator of Upcomingmovies.com, one of the world's first "movie websites." Say, whatever happened to that guy...


#1 JAMIE DORNAN LANDS ROLE OF CHRISTIAN GREY IN FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

Last week's big news was that Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim) had dropped out of playing Christian Grey in next summer's adaptation of the E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Filming was scheduled to start on November 1, so it seemed likely that Hunnam's replacement would be cast quickly, and sure enough, Universal Pictures and Focus Features have found their man. Again. This time around, it's Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan, who is known more for his TV work (as the Huntsman in ABC's Once Upon a Time) than his movie work (his highest profile film was 2006's Marie Antoinette, in which he had a small role). Dakota Johnson is still attached to star as Anastasia Steele, and the movie will be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy). The other interesting news that came out this week (but was overlooked by most) is that Universal and Focus approached Juno Temple (The Dark Knight Rises) and Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) to play, respectively, Steele's best friend and Grey's bodyguard. "Both actors passed on the roles, according to sources."

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.

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