Weekly Ketchup: Tarantino Tackling Slavery Next?

Plus, casting news for pals Affleck and Damon, Bradley Cooper, and an Erector Set film.

This Week's Ketchup includes stories about new projects for Sam Worthington (Avatar), Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live), as well as news of a possible American Pie 4 and movies based upon Missile Command and Erector Sets.


FRESH DEVELOPMENTS


#1 QUENTIN TARANTINO CONSIDERING MAKING A SOUTHERN

Quentin Tarantino has mentioned lots of potential films in the past, including a third Kill Bill and another Inglourious Basterds-style World War II movie. It's always difficult to tell if he's just spitballing ideas while talking to the press, especially given how long it takes him to write some of his scripts (Inglourious Basterds being the most obvious example). Tarantino's latest quote on the subject of his future adds another possible project to the mix, however. Here's what he had to say: "I'd like to do a Western. But rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. With that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with. Let's shine that light on ourselves. You could do a ponderous history lesson of slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. Or, you could make a movie that would be exciting. Do it as an adventure. A spaghetti Western that takes place during that time. And I would call it A Southern."


#2 JAKE SULLY AND THE COMEDIAN TEAMING UP IN THE FIELDS

Two of the stars of from some of 2009's big CGI movies are teaming up for an independent crime drama called The Fields (formerly known as The Texas Killing Fields). Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian in Watchmen) and Sam Worthington (Jake Sully in Avatar, and he was also in Terminator: Salvation) are both signed to star in the true crime story about the investigation of a Gulf Coast area where 70 bodies have been found over the course of two decades. Morgan will be playing a New York detective and Worthington will be playing a local cop who teams up with Morgan's character. Director Michael Mann is one of the producers of The Fields, but it is his daughter, Ami Canaan Mann, who will be directing, in her feature debut. The screenplay was written by former DEA agent Donald Ferrarone, who has also served as a technical advisor of other movies like Spy Game, Man on Fire and Enemy of the State. Filming of The Fields is scheduled to start on April 5, 2010 (three days after Worthington's Clash of the Titans is released, and a few weeks before Morgan's The Losers).


#3 BOSTON'S BEN AFFLECK AND MATT DAMON MIGHT BE TRADED OVER TO THE YANKEES

Ben Affleck has signed with Warner Bros to direct (and possibly star in) the studio's baseball drama The Trade. The 1970s period piece tells the true story of New York Yankees pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich who became the focus of a national controversy when they revealed that they swapped wives before the 1973 season. If Affleck also agrees to star, he would be playing Peterson, and it's possible that his long time friend Matt Damon would also costar as Kekich. Industry interest in the script by Dave Mandel (cowriter of EuroTrip and The Cat in the Hat) increased last year when The Trade made the annual Black List of top rated unproduced screenplays. If filming starts soon, The Trade will be Ben Affleck's third film as director following 2007's Gone Baby Gone and this September's The Town, starring Affleck, Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner.


#4 THE GREY TEAM LOVES IT WHEN A PACK COMES TOGETHER

Bradley Cooper, the new "Faceman Peck," will reunite with the director of this summer's The A-Team for a thriller called The Grey. The Grey is the story of the survivors of a plane crash who are hunted by a pack of wild wolves in the Alaskan wilderness. Besides this June's The A-Team, Joe Carnahan's directing credits include Smokin' Aces, Narc and Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. Joe Carnahan also cowrote the script along with Ian Jeffers (2007's Death Sentence), who also wrote the short story that The Grey is based upon. The independent production's producers include Carnahan, Tony and Ridley Scott's Scott Free and Inferno Entertainment, the company behind the English-language remake of Das Experiment and the upcoming Arabian Nights movie.


#5 FREAKS AND GEEKS AND WIIGS

Saturday Night Live and MacGruber star Kristen Wiig has signed with Universal Pictures to star in an untitled comedy that reunites the two men most responsible for the cult TV show Freaks and Geeks. The wedding-themed comedy will star Wiig as one of two women fighting with each other for the right to plan their friend's wedding party. In addition to starring, Wiig also cowrote the script with Annie Mumolo (who also wrote an episode of ABC's In the Motherhood). Judd Apatow, the executive producer of Freaks and Geeks (he also wrote and directed episodes) will produce the comedy, while Paul Feig, the creator of the show (he also wrote many episodes, and directed one), will direct. Feig previously directed the 2003 drama I Am David and the 2006 teen comedy Unaccompanied Minors. The directing job opened up for Feig when Flight of the Conchords cocreator James Bobin dropped out so that he could direct the upcoming The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made, which was written by Freaks and Geeks alumnus Jason Segel.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#5 MADONNA MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT AN AMERICAN WOMAN

Following the little seen Filth and Wisdom, Madonna is preparing to direct and cowrite her second movie, and this time, it's a British historical biopic. W.E. will tell the story of the relationship between King Edward VII (the current Queen's uncle) and Wallis Simpson, his American lover. Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) is in talks to play Simpson, who was also already twice-divorced and whose romance with the King caused a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom. Ultimately, Edward had to abdicate his throne, and went on to become the Duke of Windsor, with his younger brother George VI instead taking the crown. Madonna is cowriting W.E. with Alex Keshishian (Love and Other Disasters), who also codirected Madonna: Truth or Dare. This story is a "rotten idea," because although the subject is certainly cinematic, the director is, well, Madonna, and her filmography has a lot more Rotten Tomatoes than Fresh.


#4 FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER TO THROW A LITTLE GIRL INTO THE KATRINA FLOODWATERS?

Like Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is in the public domain, so anyone who wants to come up with their own Frankenstein story can do so, even if Universal Pictures still claims them both as "Universal Monsters." Hollywood knows this, as projects in development include I, Frankenstein (about Frankenstein's monster in modern times protecting humanity from monsters) and Rob Cohen's planned remake of Monster Squad. Now, producer Ralph Winter (the X-Men series and Star Trek III through VI) has entered the Frankenstein fray as well, announcing his plans to start a new franchise based upon Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series of novels. Set in modern day New Orleans, Koontz's take features a modern day Dr. Frankenstein and his creation, whom he calls Deucalion. Deucalion is not just a lumbering pile of bones, however, as his understanding of quantum mechanics leads him to devlop powers like the ability to teleport and make objects disappear and reappear at will. Yes, that's right, a Frankenstein's Monster who can "bamf" around like Nightcrawler. Or, when you add in the thing about making things disappear, maybe Deucalion is more like Dr. Manhattan. Specifically, the film's premise is described by Variety like this, "the story centers on a pair of street-smart detectives who encounter Deucalion while investigating a murder, leading them to a bizarre array of 'engineered' humans." This is a "rotten idea" mostly because of two words: Dean Koontz. Quick, name a really awesome movie based on a Dean Koontz story. There's been over a dozen Koontz adaptations, and they were all pretty much clunkers (even if Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo), so that doesn't bode particularly well for Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, either.


#3 DIRECT TO VIDEO AMERICAN PIE FRANCHISE TO TRY FOR AN ACTUAL THEATRICAL RELEASE

There have been so many direct-to-video American Pie movies at this point that it might be easy to forget that the title comes from a 1999 movie that actually got a theatrical release. Not only that, but American Pie was even quite successful, inspiring two sequels that also got shown in theaters. Someone at Universal apparently remembers those halcyon days, as the studio is considering returning American Pie to theaters in either remake or sequel form (that part of the story appears a bit confused). Universal is in talks with the screenwriting team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Scholossberg to start work on American Pie 4, based upon their success with the two Harold & Kumar movies. At least some of the original cast (presumably someone other than Eugene Levy) is reportedly interested in returning for a fourth movie, but currently no actor deals are in place. This story gets a "rotten idea" tag because it feels like a bad idea as either a reboot (a new cast of kids?) or a sequel (a bunch of 30 somethings in a teen sex comedy?).


#2 HOW CAN HOLLYWOOD CGI EVER LIVE UP TO THE CHALLENGE OF MISSILE COMMAND?

Missile Command is one of the great Atari video arcade (and 2600) classics, mostly because it was indeed visually simple. Missiles in the form of lines are headed down towards your cities, and you have a cursor to point at them to counteract them. However, there wasn't really much in the way of a story there, either, which was just fine for what Missile Command was. What that is not so fine for, however, is a major motion picture, but Atari apparently hasn't received that memo, as the game company is actively shopping Missile Command around Hollywood. No deal has been made yet, but 20th Century Fox is reportedly the most likely destination for the Missile Command movie property. This is a "rotten idea" for the reason mentioned before, and because the irony is that there are actually plenty of old school video games from that era that actually do have some semblance of a story. It's almost like Atari purposefully chose the one hit game from their early 1980s stable that was least narrative. Simply put, a city under attack from missiles could be a cool scene in a movie, but building an entire movie around that scene isn't quite as cool.


#1 ERECTOR SET MOVIE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Last summer, Warner Bros announced plans for a movie based upon LEGOs, which led many to joke/wonder if that meant that movies based on other similar toys like Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs would be next. This week brought the answer in the form of the announcement of a 3D (of course) feature film based upon... Erector Sets. First introduced in 1901 (and renamed in 1913), Erector Set kits are free form construction sets that allow kids to build things using metal strips, girds, plates, axels, wheels, gears, nuts and bolts. However, what Erector Sets have never been about is any sort of story, as basically it's just a box of mechanical parts (you know, for kids!). The deal has been made between the Meccano Toy Company and a relatively new production company called Helix Films, which is headed by producer Steven-Charles Jaffe (Strange Days, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). This story gets the "rotten idea" tag because it's another example of Hollywood developing a movie based upon a toy that has no narrative factor at all. If one is going to make a movie based on something like Erector Sets, they might as well save the licensing fees and just announce "Wrench: The Movie."


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.

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