Weekly Ketchup: John Carter Sequel Already in the Works

Plus, new roles for Will Ferrell and Jennifer Aniston, and a futuristic Zorro.

This week's Ketchup covers a seven day period that had plenty of newsworthy announcements, but what was really missing was much that this writer could call a Fresh Development (except maybe the headline and one other story, and even then... both are borderline). Also included in the mix are another Hitchcock remake, a prequel/sequel for I Am Legend, a Twisted Metal video game adaptation movie, a Zorro reboot, and new roles for Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell.


This Week's Top Story

JOHN CARTER SEQUEL ALREADY BEING WRITTEN

The 100 year wait for a movie based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter will finally end on March 9, 2012. Although there's no way of knowing yet whether John Carter will be successful enough to warrant another film, the film's director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) is already working with his cowriter Michael Chabon on adapting the second book The Gods of Mars in the series anyway. Michael Chabon is best known as the novelist responsible for Wonder Boys and the Pulitzer Prize winning superhero novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It's also very important to note that Walt Disney Pictures hasn't yet actually given John Carter: The Gods of Mars a greenlight yet (for obvious reasons). If they do, however, The Gods of Mars is the novel in which Burroughs really expanded the scope of John Carter's adventures, setting the stage for following novels (especially since The Gods of Mars ends on a cliffhanger). If John Carter is indeed a hit, and Disney moves ahead with plans for an ongoing series of adaptations, there are still seven more novels to adapt after The Gods of Mars.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 DISNEY TAKES THE SNOW WHITE OUT OF THE ORDER OF THE SEVEN

With two Snow White movies coming out in 2012 alone, that creates a bit of a conundrum for the other studios with Snow White projects in development, as they stand the chances of being the third and/or fourth Snow White movies in recent memory. Walt Disney Pictures in particular has to tread that subject carefully, since their ABC network already airs the Snow White TV series Once Upon a Time, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is after all the original "Disney" movie. And so, what Disney has done is take the "Snow White" out of the movie formerly known as Snow and the Seven, and retitled it as The Order of the Seven. We also now know that Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Lovely Bones, Atonement) will star in The Order of the Seven, as an Englishwoman in 19th century China who is protected by a band of seven martial arts enthusiasts. With these new changes, however, all of the little in joke things about the story being a reimagination of Snow White are now out the window, with the story still being basically the same. The Order of the Seven will also be the directorial debut of visual effects supervisor Michael Gracey, whose most famous movie to date was Ned Kelly, starring Heath Ledger as the infamous Australian outlaw. The question now is whether taking the Snow White out of this movie will end up being a good thing or not (or, should the movie just stay unmade, period?). Let's call this news a borderline "Fresh Development"... barely.

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#8 WILL FERRELL WILL BECOME THE FLAMINGO THIEF

Will Ferrell has signed with Ben Stiller's Red Hour production company to star in the crime drama Flamingo Thief, based upon the novel by Susan Trott. Flamingo Thief is about a multimillionaire whose son recently died and whose private life and business is starting to fall apart, and so he starts stealing flamingo ornaments from people's lawns. Flamingo Thief was adapted by screenwriter Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree, The Maiden Heist), who will also be making his directorial debut with this film. You, Me and Dupree was critically reviled (with just 21% on the RT Tomatometer), but besides that... this movie is also a dramedy about Will Ferrell stealing flamingo lawn ornaments.



#7 JENNIFER ANISTON JOINS MISS YOU ALREADY AND SWITCH

This week, Jennifer Aniston joined two new movies, one of which is a dramedy called Miss You Already about two female friends whose relationship falls apart when one becomes pregnant, and the other becomes ill. So far, everything about that movie seems pretty predictable, right? Here's the weird part: Miss You Already will be directed by Paul Andrew Williams, an English director whose most "popular" movies to date were the direct-to-video (in the USA) horror titles The Cottage and Cherry Tree Lane (check out the poster art here and here to get an idea of what sort of movies those were). It's not impossible for "genre" directors to make other types of movies... but it's still unexpected for a Jennifer Aniston movie. To be fair, that same director recently made Song for Marion, a cancer drama starring Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave. Jennifer Aniston's other new movie this week is the Elmore Leonard adaptation Switch, which will also costar Dennis Quaid, Ty Burrell (from TV's Modern Family), John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey. Hawkes and Bey are playing the younger versions of the Jackie Brown characters that were played in that movie by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson. Switch is a kidnapping crime story, and Jennifer Aniston will be playing the wife of a real estate developer (Quaid) whose relationship with her husband creates complications for the first time kidnappers. Both of these movies are Rotten Ideas this week based mostly on Jennifer Aniston's RT Tomatometer track record, which really merits attention. Of the dozens of movies Jennifer Aniston has now made, only six of her roles have "Fresh" scores on the Tomatometer, effectively giving Aniston herself a Rotten score of something like 25%. There's also the little, confusing fact that Jennifer Aniston already starred in a movie called The Switch.


#6 THE INEVITABLE FOUND FOOTAGE SPOOF WILL BE CALLED SMART ASS

You know a movie genre or trend has really become over saturated when it comes time for it to be spoofed. For the "found footage" movies like Paranormal Activity and The Devil Inside Me, that spoof will be called Smart Ass, though what exactly it will be about is not yet known. Marlon Wayans has some experience with spoof movies, having played Shorty in the first two Scary Movie... movies, and so he will be making his directorial debut with Smart Ass, as well as costarring. Marlon Wayans' first announced costar in Smart Ass is Essence Atkins, who also costars in the TBS comedy series Are We There Yet?, and who also costarred in the spoof movie Dance Flick, which was directed by Marlon's nephew Damien Dante Wayans. As much as this writer appreciates the sentiment behind spoofing found footage movies, spoofs themselves don't really have a great critical past themselves, and so that's why Smart Ass is one of the week's Rotten Ideas. And then there's Marlon Wayans himself, who only ever has gotten a Fresh rating himself because he was in Requiem for a Dream.


#5 FOUND FOOTAGE MOVIES ARE STILL BEING MADE, AND ONE OF THEM IS (MAYBE?) CALLED CHERNOBYL DIARIES

Normally, movies that get released by the big studios take some time to get made, and there are also "movie stars" that help draw attention to the projects. The "found footage" trend bypasses a lot of that, however: they're cheap and quick to make, and usually don't have any recognizable cast members. And so, they can slide under the radar of features like the Weekly Ketchup a lot of the time. This week, Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment announced that they had acquired the rights to a horror movie called Chernobyl Diaries, which will be released just in time for Memorial Day weekend this May. Very, very little is known about Chernobyl Diaries, except that it's about "a group of friends who, while vacationing in Europe, find themselves stranded in the abandoned city only to discover that they are not alone." In fact, we don't even know for sure that Chernobyl Diaries even is a "found footage" movie, except that it was produced by Oren Peli, the director of the first Paranormal Activity and producer of the sequels, as well as other found footage projects like the upcoming Area 51, The Bay, and Lords of Salem, and the ABC TV series The River. So, yeah, that gives us a little hint that it might be a found footage horror movie. Whatever else it is, Chernobyl Diaries appears to definitely be a cheaply made horror movie, and although there are some success stories, generally, they tend to be Rotten Ideas.


#4 ANOTHER TWIST IN THE LONG ROAD TO GREAT VIDEO GAME MOVIES: TWISTED METAL

This week, in the days leading up to the release of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, that movie's studio, Sony Pictures, made a deal with one of the film's codirectors to write and direct an adaptation of the video game series Twisted Metal. Brian Taylor normally works with Mark Neveldine, with whom he has directed the two Crank movies, and cowritten Jonah Hex. The Twisted Metal games are about violent demolition derby competitions that are basically like "Mortal Kombat with guns and cars," or even more specifically, like "Death Race but with clown masks." Stylistically, Brian Taylor seems like a good match for Twisted Metal, if it has to be a movie. Critically, however, Brian Taylor has traditionally not done well outside the two Crank movies.


#3 GAEL GARCIA BERNAL IS THE NEW ZORRO... OF THE FUTURE

Pulp writer Johnston McCulley created Zorro in 1919 as a swashbuckling protector of the people of colonial era 19th century California, and that is basically the way he's been portrayed in movies and TV series ever since. 20th Century Fox, however, has plans to revive the Zorro character in a completely different way: by moving him to the future. This week, that reboot project, now called Zorro Reborn, crossed an important milestone in the casting of Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Bad Education, The Motorcycle Diaries) as the title character. This new Zorro won't be set in Mexico or California at all, but will instead just be "a masked vigilante looking for revenge..." in the future. Fox hasn't yet found a director for Zorro Reborn, which was adapted by screenwriter Glenn Gers (cowriter of Mad Money, Fracture) and newcomers Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy. Although Gael Garcia Bernal is a talented actor whose films are generally well received critically, his joining this project still doesn't quite overcome the handicap of it being a Zorro story... in the future.


#2 ANOTHER ALFRED HITCHCOCK CLASSIC TO GET REMADE: SUSPICION

It was just last week that DreamWorks announced plans to remake Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca. And now, this week, Paramount followed suit with their own plans to remake Hitchcock's 1941 thriller Suspicion. Joan Fontaine won a Best Actress Oscar as a young bride who suspects that her new husband (Cary Grant) plans to kill her for her money. Rebecca and Suspicion do share some other things in common: they were released only a year apart, and both films are based upon novels from which they were not entirely adapted faithfully, especially in the third act. Paramount Pictures has hired TV producer/writer Veena Sud (AMC's The Killing) to adapt the original 1932 Frances Iles novel Before the Fact, upon which Suspicion was based. It's not yet known if the intent of this remake is to more faithfully adapt the original novel, or to directly remake the story as it was originally made. Regardless, Suspicion, like Rebecca or nearly any other Hitchcock film, doesn't really seem like it needs to be remade, and so, it's yet another Rotten Idea this week.


#1 WARNER BROS GOES BACK TO THE FUTURE WITH I AM LEGEND PREQUEL/SEQUEL... THING

The 2007 apocalyptic/undead thriller I Am Legend received a "Fresh" rating on the RT Tomatometer, so how exactly does one explain why this story is Rotten, without spoiling crucial details? Let's start with the headline: Warner Bros is moving forward with plans for a follow up to I Am Legend. "Follow up" is probably a safer way of putting it, because it's currently unclear what this movie will be: a prequel, a sequel, or something in between. Screenwriter Arash Amiel, who wrote the upcoming biopic Grace of Monaco has been hired to write it, so maybe the answer is that it's not yet known exactly what form this will take until Amiel is finished writing it. Will Smith had made comments about this concept a few years back, but it's also possible things have changed since then. Regardless, another way to look at this perhaps is that Richard Matheson never wrote any sort of prequel/sequel to I Am Legend, so maybe... that's the way the story should stay.

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.

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