Weekly Ketchup: Dreamworks Animation Is Sequel Crazy

Plus, Benji and Frankenstein return to theaters.

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This was a slow week in movie news, as Hollywood collectively enjoyed a prolonged post-Thanksgiving holiday. There were still some big news items, however, including extended sequel news for the Pirates of the Caribbean, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon franchises.


THIS WEEK'S TOP STORY


DREAMWORKS ANIMATION GOING CRAZY WITH SEQUEL FEVER

One of the coolest things about new CGI animated movies is the opportunity to see new characters and environments that we've never seen before, such as WALL-E and Kung Fu Panda. However, many of these movies also become blockbuster hits, and Hollywood loves going back to the punch bowl with sequels to big hits. And DreamWorks Animation is really hitting the sequel punch hard. DreamWorks Animation executive Jeffrey Katzenberg talked this week about the sequels Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom of Doom (May 27, 2011), Madagascar 3 (Summer, 2012) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Summer, 2013), and revealed that their sequel plans aren't stopping any time soon. Specifically, Madagascar 3 leads to a fourth film, How to Train Your Dragon will be at least three movies (with there being eight books the movies are based on), and Kung Fu Panda ultimately being a franchise of SIX movies.




FRESH DEVELOPMENTS THIS WEEK


#1 THE MGM AFTERMATH: JAMES BOND, THE THREE STOOGES AND ROBOCOP

Although this was a relatively slow week following Thanksgiving (Hollywood types love taking long holiday vacations), a recurring theme among the stories that appear online is the aftermath of the financial problems of MGM. First up is the 23rd movie in the James Bond franchise. Last month, a financial report said that MGM was planning on releasing the film in November, 2012 as part of the studio's plans to recover from bankruptcy. This week, composer David Arnold confirmed that he will be working on the film. Kate Winslet, who is currently separated from her husband, director Sam Mendes, also was quoted this week about the filming of the 23rd James Bond film. Winslet plans on moving back to England with their children (from New York) while Mendes is working on the movie. Although MGM is holding onto 007, a number that the studio is giving up is 3, as in The Three Stooges, which is now in development at 20th Century Fox. Bobby and Peter Farrelly are still aboard to direct, but what is unclear is who will be starring as the Stooges, as both Jim Carrey (Curly) and Sean Penn (Larry) are out, and the status of Benicio Del Toro as Moe is also unknown. Regardless, 20th Century Fox plans on starting production in March, 2011, and the Farrelly Brothers will begin casting soon. The Three Stooges will be an anthology film of three shorts of 27 minutes each, which will also allow for the various signature theme songs that the original Three Stooges shorts used over the years. Finally, there is the Robocop remake, which Darren Aronofsky was once attached to direct, before moving on to Black Swan and next, The Wolverine. Asked about Robocop, Aronofsky said this week that he still wants to do it someday, if MGM can work out the details.


#2 PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON MOVES ON TO THOMAS PYNCHON AFTER THE MASTER

Movie fans were excited about The Master, the expected movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), that would have starred Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeremy Renner in a story loosely based upon the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. And then, in September, the movie was instead shelved, possibly permanently. Now, Anderson is reportedly working on adapting instead the latest novel by author Thomas Pynchon called Inherent Vice. Set in Los Angeles in 1969, Inherent Vice is the story of a "pothead private eye wandering through the Summer (and winter) of Love." Anderson has reportedly written a treatment for Inherent Vice and may have also already started on adapting the script. Anderson's agents are also hoping to attach Robert Downey Jr. to star as the detective Doc Sportello, but Downey has not signed on yet, and his schedule is busy until at least November, 2011 (though it's possible Inherent Vice wouldn't be ready to go until then anyway).



#3 WILL ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL HAVE ITS PUDDING?

Pink Floyd's 1979 concept album The Wall was adapted by director Alan Parker as the 1982 film Pink Floyd The Wall, arguably one of the greatest rock movies of all time, if not the greatest, period. The biggest hit song from the album was "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," which featured a chorus of British schoolchildren singing the chorus, "We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control." Now, British producer Andy Harries (The Queen, The Damned United) is developing Another Brick in the Wall, which will tell the true story of Alun Renshaw, the music teacher who worked with Pink Floyd to provide the band with that chorus of kids. Described as "Dead Poets Society meets School of Rock," the movie will focus on how Renshaw arrived at a working-class North London public school "determined to shake things up," and how his collaboration with Pink Floyd ultimately led to him losing his job over the now classic rock track. Another Brick in the Wall will be adapted by first time screenwriter Steve Thompson. The biggest obstacle for the project right now, however, is that Harries does not yet actually have the rights to the song (which one would expect would sort of be required for this movie to be made at all).


#4 IS LIAM NEESON AN ORDINARY MAN?

Since the March, 2009 death of his wife Natasha Richardson, Liam Neeson has been keeping himself very busy. His upcoming films include The Chroncles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Unknown, The Hangover Part II, The Grey, Battleship and the sequel to The Clash of the Titans. This week, Neeson added yet another movie to his schedule, as he is in talks for the lead role in An Ordinary Man, an independent drama from director Brad Silberling. Silberling is a director who both does special effects heavy family movies like Casper, Land of the Lost and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and emotional dramas like City of Angels and Moonlight Mile. An Ordinary Man is firmly in the latter category, telling the story of a fugitive war criminal (Neeson) "modelled on former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic who's being hidden by his supporters." Title wise, An Ordinary Man follows a recent trend of movie titles that include A Serious Man, A Single Man and Solitary Man.



#5 FROM ZOMBIELAND TO THE GANGSTER SQUAD

Warner Bros is in talks with director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) to take on the 1940s crime drama Gangster Squad. The studio had previously been considering several other "hot" directors including Ben Affleck (The Town, Gone Baby Gone) and Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Wrestler). Gangster Squad was adapted by former South Central LAPD officer Will Beall from a series of articles about a squad of elite Los Angeles cops in the 1940s and 1950s who were tasked with taking down organized crime bosses like Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen. Ruben Fleischer also has a Zombieland sequel in development at Sony Pictures, and is currently filming a comedy called 30 Minutes or Less, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride.




ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#4 PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE FRANCHISE THAT WON'T DIE

Filming of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (the fourth movie in the franchise) wrapped recently. However, the studio is reportedly already telling cast and crew not to set aside a major amount of time in the near future so they can film not just Pirates of the Caribbean 5 but #6 as well, filming both sequels back-to-back (as was done with #2 and #3). The Pirates of the Caribbean movies have so far been very successful for the studio, so it is not surprising that they made a fourth film. However, the reason this story is one of this week's Rotten Ideas is that at some point, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise needs to be ended. The Tomatometer scores for the three movies support this, as they have progressively sank from the first movie's "Fresh" score (78% to 54% to 45%). Another question that has to be asked is how much longer will Johnny Depp be wanting to come back for these movies, and perhaps most importantly, how much longer will audiences keep showing up to see him play Captain Jack Sparrow?


#3 YET ANOTHER BENJI REBOOT

In the 1970s, a little mutt of a dog became a pop culture sensation because of the success of Benji and its 1977 sequel For the Love of Benji. Those movies were followed by Benji's Very Own Christmas Story, Oh! Heavenly Dog and in 1987, Benji the Hunted, which was the last movie for Benjean, the daughter of the original dog (who just starred in the original 1974 film). Benjis may die, but the franchise refused to, so in 2004, there was the reboot movie Benji: Off the Leash. And now, Brandon Camp, the son of the franchise's creator Joe Camp, is teaming up with Walden Media (Because of Winn-Dixie, the Narnia series) to reboot Benji another time, complete with a nationwide search for a new star dog. This latest attempt to revive Benji as a film franchise is one of this week's Rotten Ideas because sometimes, for dead pet franchises, just like in Pet Sematary, "dead is betta."


#2 THE SPIDER-MAN REBOOT WILL INTRODUCE US TO PETER'S PARENTS... AND EITHER A NEW OR OBSCURE VILLAIN

When people think of Peter Parker, the spectacular Spider-Man, the parental figures that come to mind are Aunt May and the late Uncle Ben. Peter's actual parents were hardly mentioned at all, but in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, they were given more of a role in the back story, with dad Richard Parker being part of the team behind what became the Ultimate version of Venom. Campbell Scott (Singles, The Spanish Prisoner) and Julianne Nicholson (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) have been cast in the reboot as Peter's parents. The Law & Order connection doesn't stop there, however, as Annie Parisse, who played A.D.A. Alexandra Borgia on Law & Order has also been cast as the wife of a villain called Van Atter, to be played by Irrfan Khan (one of the cops in Slumdog Millionaire). The revelation of "Van Atter" as one of the villains (in addition to the Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors) is a surprising one. There's no villain in the comics by that name, but it's possible that his name is derived from Nels Van Adder, who in more recent comics was a fairly obscure villain (and Osborn employee) called Proto-Goblin. Spider-Man has one of the best rogue's galleries in comics (arguably beat only by Batman's), so the inclusion of what is either a new villain, or at best, an obscure, sort of crappy one, is what makes this one of the week's Rotten Ideas.


#1 FROM PRADA TO NADA TO... FRANKENSTEIN?

One of the many projects that Guillermo del Toro has in development at Universal Pictures is a new version of Mary Shelley's gothic novel Frankenstein. However, with the director attached to so many projects, there's no way of knowing when del Toro's Frankenstein will ever get made (next up is the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation At the Mountains of Madness). There are also other movies in development based on Frankenstein, including Dean Koontz's Frankenstein (the monster as a genius with super powers), I, Frankenstein (the monster protecting humanity from other monsters), a planned remake of The Monster Squad (the monster and friends) and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein (about the scientist and Percy Blythe Shelley as buddies). And now, Sony Pictures is entering the fray as well, with a movie that would be a "contemporary version" of the classic monster story. Although Universal is the studio most associated with Frankenstein, Sony has actually done the monster before, with the 1994 Frankenstein that starred Robert De Niro and was directed by Kenneth Branagh. Sony's "contemporary" Frankenstein will be adapted by screenwriter Craig Fernandez, whose first produced movie will be the female comedy From Prada to Nada, and he's also adapting Terry Pratchett's The Bromeliad Trilogy as a DreamWorks animated comedy called Everything Must Go. Which brings us to why this Frankenstein is this week's Most Rotten Idea. Fernandez's resume seems to suggest he is mostly a comedy writer, which makes him an odd choice for a movie like Frankenstein. Besides that, the choice to change the setting of Shelley's novel also means that most of what was best about the novel would also have to be either ditched or changed dramatically.


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

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