Weekly Ketchup: Justice League dead, Spielberg to adapt Ghost in the Shell,
Plus casting rumors and news on Austin Powers 4, Atlas Shrugged, and Amelia
Talking to producer Joel Silver at a Speed Racer junket, CHUD.com has broken the news that the Justice League movie has been "tabled." This doesn't necessarily mean that the project is forever cancelled, but it does mean that the movie in the form that we've known it as, with that cast and that director and script, is almost certainly not going to happen. Silver makes a point in that article of pointing out that it took Speed Racer 20 years to get made (at various points to star Johnny Depp, Vince Vaughn as Racer X, etc). The League's hurdles apparently won't impact Wonder Woman, which I'm suspecting may actually get a faster track now as a JLA substitute on Warner Bros' slate. Ultimately, I think this is good news, as this particular Justice League project always sounded like something of a "minor league" project, with unknowns or near unknowns in the cast, and not being based on one of the League's many classic stories. So far, I like Marvel's approach to their own super team, The Avengers, introducing each member in a movie, until there's enough heroes to join together in one big movie. DC could have done something like that if they had signed Christian Bale and Brandon Routh to reprise their roles, but that wasn't the route they took. Some day, after there are movies for The Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, I think Warner Bros would be in a much better position to make a Justice League movie. The time just doesn't seem right, and with all the budget and location problems they've had, it looks like they've realized that fact at last.
THIS WEEK IN LIVE-ACTION ANIME ADAPTATION NEWS
Hardcore anime fan (and occasional director/producer) Steven Spielberg announced this week plans to adapt the sci-fi anime classic, Ghost in the Shell, as a live-action movie... in 3-D, even, via DreamWorks and co-producer Avi Arad (formerly Marvel's big shot movie guy), whose first post-Marvel project was Bratz: The Movie. The cyberpunk thriller is often cited as an influence on things like The Matrix, so its time for actually getting an American adaptation is probably due, but one has to wonder if it won't be one of those situations (Watchmen, I'm looking at you) where the "originator" ends up being overshadowed by projects that it technically inspired, but was adapted to film/TV/etc after.
In other anime-ish news, M. Night Shyamalan announced officially this week his plans for The Last Airbender (which may have his name attached at the beginning), dropping the word "Avatar" (which the TV show has) to avoid confusion with James Cameron's Avatar. Shymalan is saying that The Last Airbender will be his (live action) homage to the works of animation master Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, The Princess Mononoke), who is sort of famous for not having twist endings, so that will be an obvious departure for Shyamalan right there. This fantasy saga, about four warring armies, each representing one of the elements is aiming to invade theaters on July 2nd, 2010 via Paramount/Nickelodeon, grabbing one of the summer's hottest tentpole release dates.
SEVEN SAMURAI GETTING REMADE, EXCEPT NOT AS SAMURAI, AND THERE MIGHT BE JUST SIX, AND...
The Weinstein Co. is expecting to start production this fall (with a director not yet hired/announced) on a remake of the frequently-remade Akira Kurosawa classic, Seven Samuari. With a cast made up of Asian, American and European stars, I've heard that this project (that's been in the works for a few years) is a modern retelling, which pretty much separates it from the original concept, or the samuari way, altogether, it sounds. But, it's getting made with money from a huge Asian fund, so I guess they have to call it a remake of something Asian.
AUSTIN POWERS RUMORS
This week, the Boston Globe ran a blurb about model Giselle Bundchen which set the Interweb's movie news nerds off, as they just matter-of-factly mentioned that she was being approached to be the new spy girl in Austin Powers 4. The reason that's news, of course, is that there's been no other indication that the long-planned 4th movie (which is rumored to focus on Dr. Evil and his friends, with Austin just being a supporting character) was actually anywhere near close to being filmed anytime soon. ComingSoon.net looked into this a little bit, talking to Mike Myers' screenwriting collaborator on the last two movies, and discovered... that he had no idea what the Boston Globe is talking about. It's possible that he might just not be involved this time around, but it's probably more likely that this is one of those cases where people were talking out of their... hats.
ATLAS SHRUGGING INTO THEATERS NEAR YOU
Director Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog, The Life Before Your Eyes) revealed to ComingSoon.net this week that Lions Gate has greenlit his adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged for production this fall, with Angelina Jolie expected to be cast (though I'm not sure as whom, as most of the central characters are male), as well as produce. Atlas Shrugged is controversial as it is thematically a treatise on Rand's philosophical theory of Objectivism, in addition to being a novel, and includes a speech that's over 50 pages long (which I guess given the 1,000 pages of the novel is just a teensy-tiny portion). A lot of fans online are comparing this project to Battlefield Earth, because it's seen as a case of an actor (Travolta then, Jolie now) getting a *huge* novel by a writer better known for religious/philosophical beliefs adapted into a movie. The thing that confuses me slightly is that given Jolie's philanthropy, she doesn't really seem like an "objectivist" (which is apparently about doing whatever makes you most happy), though philanthropy is certainly its own reward. Or maybe she just likes the book. Maybe she just likes the book.
AMELIA EARHART FINALLY FLIES AGAIN
Production starts later this month in Toronto, Nova Scotia and South Africa on Amelia, ending the decades-long drought in the (multiple) attempts to adapt the story of groundbreaking aviatrix Amelia Earhart to the big screen. Hilary Swank will star as Earhart, Richard Gere will costar as her financier/publicist husband, George P. Putnam, and Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) is directing from a script by Ron Bass (Stepmom, The Joy Luck Club). PBS just happened to re-run a documentary on Earhart last week, and so her story is fairly fresh on my mind, and I have to say that I was surprised that she doesn't quite come off as the hero I sort of thought she was, making a lot of bad judgement calls, apparently, leading up to the flight during which she disappeared. Given that controversy (which I didn't even know existed), it should be interesting to see how this movie tackles that final flight.
ESCAPING HERMIONE GRANGER
Emma Watson, no doubt eager to living a life where only 90% of the world associates her with playing Hermione Granger, has signed on to star in Napoleon and Betsy, as a young British woman who falls in love with the exiled (and much older) Napoleon Bonaparte, replacing Scarlett Johanssen. Al Pacino has been reported in the past to have signed on to play Napoleon, but this latest story about Emma Watson doesn't mention him. Benjamin Ross, who directed RKO 281, the cable movie about the filming of Citizen Kane, is the writer/director. My guess is that since American actress Johanssen is being replaced by a Brit, it's possible Napoleon may be recast as a Brit as well. A Frenchman would make even more sense; Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Flourette, The Closet), for example, seems to me like he'd be a perfect choice (and indeed, he has played Napoleon before).
POSSIBLY THE MOST RIDICULOUS MOVIE POSTER OF THE YEAR
Raja Gosnell, director of the Scooby-Doo movies and Home Alone 3, has teamed up with Disney and a bunch of stars (Salma Hayek, Piper Perabo, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Cheech Marin, etc) to bring us Beverly Hills Chihuahua this September, which is surprisingly not a chihuahua in Beverly Hills, but one *from* that L.A. suburb, who ends up in Mexico, and is befriended by local dogs, who then have adventures and such, all the while being voiced by celebrities. I don't think you can really appreciate the ridiculousness of this project, however, without seeing the poster, which debuted at ComingSoon.net this week. It's quite the sight to behold.
SHAKING THE REST OF THIS WEEK'S KETCHUP OUT OF THIS WEEK'S BOTTLE, PARTE UNE
- Acclaimed Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier (Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) is venturing into a new genre, as he starts filming this summer in Germany of an apocalyptic horror film, Antichrist, about a couple who take refuge in a cabin after the death of their child, reportedly set in a world where it is revealed that Earth was actually created by Satan, not God.
- Fox Animation has secured the rights to the 2006 children's novel, The Anubis Tapestry: Between Twilights, by Bruce Zick. Basically a "mummy" adventure story with an extended mythology and stable of monsters, The Anubis Tapestry is about a boy who must venture into the Egyptian underworld to rescue his father's soul from a curse.
- Moviehole.net, which appears to be the only source/site keeping the story of a Greatest American Hero movie alive, continues to get new information about the project, and this week, it's word that Owen Wilson won't be starring, and some insight into the way Ralph Hinkley's red superhero suit will function in this version.
- Zack Snyder (300, the Dawn of the Dead remake) is busy getting ready to blow our minds with Watchmen, but not so busy that he can't also be preparing an animated movie, adapting the Guardians of Ga'Hoole children's novels series, about the fantasy-based adventures of a group of barn owls in the Forest of Tyto. Consider the coincidence that one of the central characters in Watchmen is called Night Owl. The animation is being handled by the same company that did Happy Feet, and is being fast-tracked for a release in 2009 or 2010, via Warner Bros.
- Brett Ratner (Red Dragon, X-Men: The Last Stand), who is sort of (in)famous for signing on to direct projects that have had a lot of trouble getting started, is in talks with Universal to take on their comedic remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man, starring Eddie Murphy as a Las Vegas magician who becomes the target of a shrinking spell. No word yet on whether this movie will give Murphy an excuse to wear a fat suit.
- The Onion is reporting that Paramount has given the green light to a feature length adaptation of their popular Iron Man trailer, with the punk roomie from Back to School, that one girl from Sliding Doors, The Dude from The Big Lebowski and the pimp from Hustle & Flow all signed on to reprise their roles.
- Ashley Tisdale, who plays one of the young academics in Disney's series of High School Musical movies, is in talks with Tom Cruise's United Artists to star in a remake of 1989's Teen Witch (which is a separate concept from Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch).
- Ronald D. Moore, the TV producer/writer who brought back Battlestar Galactica as a significant sci-fi concern, has signed a huge deal with United Artists to write an original, large-scale science fiction trilogy of films.
There's actually a couple dozen more items of note that I'd like to let you all know about, but there wasn't room for them in the column proper. I'll be posting that big list in my very own Rotten Tomatoes Forums thread tonight, so check them out there. Also, if you want to contact me, you can message me through the RT Forums, or through my MySpace page.