Weekly Ketchup: Kung Fu Panda 2, Wheel of Time and more

Plus: Billy Bob may take on Freddy

#1 BOW BEFORE YOUR FURRY CGI OVERLORDS

DreamWorks has found success in the computer animated critter business, and they're going to stick with what works. That is the gist I get from the news that Kung Fu Panda 2 and Madagascar 3 are in development. Meanwhile, one of their former CGI animal projects, which they dumped circa 2005, Tusker, about elephants trekking across India, which would have originally been voiced by Morgan Freeman and Jodie Foster, is now being picked by Imago, the CGI company behind TMNT and the upcoming Astro Boy movie. I joke about furry critters, but apparently the real marker for DreamWorks is around the $500 million worldwide mark. The movies above that number are getting sequels, and those below, even if they were still quite successful (Bee Movie, Over the Hedge, etc), will apparently be stand-alone features.


#2 UNIVERSAL TO SOON RECEIVE 600 PAGE WHEEL OF TIME SCRIPT DRAFTS

Perhaps I'm too lazy, but I've never cracked open one of those massive Wheel of Time books by recently late author Robert Jordan. The twelve-book fantasy series, which by my math will account for somewhere over eight thousand pages of fantasy adventures when the last book comes out next year, definitely has its fan base. And if I had invested enough time in my life to read 7,500 pages of something, I'd probably have gotten to the point where I had to have been pretty darn passionate to get through it all. Anyway, Universal Pictures has bought the rights to the whole series, which they will adapt, starting with the first novel in the series, The Eye of the World. I'm not going to pretend to know a wit about The Wheel of Time, but you can read about it on Wikipedia as well as I can.


#3 THIS WEEK IN HORROR REMAKES: FREDDY KRUEGER, CANDYMAN, MOTHER'S DAY

Robert Englund was on the Loveline radio show this week, and revealed that the star that's being eyed to replace him as Freddy Krueger in the new Nightmare on Elm Street series relaunch is... Billy Bob "Sling Blade" Thornton, which, if true, is actually sort of brilliant. Which is not me condoning the idea of that series being rebooted, but if you're going to do it, Thornton is a top notch actor, and would probably bring something rather inspired to the role. So, this is sort of like that Robocop remake... an awful idea until we find out who's involved, and then I get strangely hopeful. But you know what they say about polishing a turd. Another boogeyman who is apparently being eyed at for remake treatment is Candyman, over at Sony, and Brett Ratner is reportedly planning on applying his golden touch (as a producer) to a remake of Mother's Day, yet another of those early 1980s horror movies that tried to copy the success of Halloween. I'm still waiting for Thanksgiving.


#4 THIS WEEK IN TOM CRUISE NEWS

I'm not expert on the religion, but I'm guessing your E-meter levels aren't too high in the week when your latest role is completely uncredited, and the movie you were considering doing next gets rewritten so much that they change the gender of your character. Considering Hairspray, I guess I could be talking about John Travolta, but nope, it's Tom Cruise. Since he's not the star he once was, for younger readers, he played the dad in War of the Worlds. Anyway, Angelina Jolie has replaced Cruise as the lead role in Edwin A. Salt, a spy thriller which will now be rewritten (and obviously, retitled) to match her. Meanwhile, Cruise is looking for other projects, including a comedy called Food Fight about a hoity-toity chef who has to work in a school cafeteria, and The Tourist, a remake of a French spy thriller. Here's hoping for Cruise that's he's not eventually replaced in those movies, by say, Reese Witherspoon and Charlize Theron. All is not totally down in Cruise's world, however, as Valkyrie, in which he plays an eye patch wearing Nazi, has had its release date moved (again), this time to December 26th, which makes it technically eligible for this year's awards season.


#5 INGLORIOUS (FAT) BASTARD?

Could this be a Weekly Ketchup during the summer of 2008 without at least one bit of Quentin Tarantino news? The casting onslaught let up a bit, but there was a bit of big news, in that Mike Myers has signed on for a small role as a brilliant British general. Comparing Myers' post-Love Guru career status to Tom Cruise's apparent problems in finding recent success, I can't help but notice the possible similarity between this small role to Cruise's in Tropic Thunder. Except one difference is that Cruise's role was done on the hush hush tip. In other Bastards casting news, Numb3rs star David Krumholtz (whose availability had been in question anyway) is definitely out, but Freaks and Geeks costar Samm Levine is in.


#6 J.J. ABRAMS CONTINUES HIS LOVE AFFAIR WITH DISASTERS

Producer J.J. Abrams' filmography includes the jet crash of Lost and the giant monster attack of Cloverfield, and he's now setting his sights on a big earthquake movie for Universal Pictures, the studio behind the 1970s movie, Earthquake, except that this will not be a remake of that movie. Hopefully, this will not be a shakey-cam movie like Cloverfield. No details have been revealed about the project yet, but given that it's coming just a few weeks after Los Angeles had some tremors, I have to wonder if that might not be the city to get Abrams' disaster treatment next.




#7 NO CLEVER HEADLINE FOR A MOVIE THAT ENDS WITH RFK GETTING SHOT

Director Chris Columbus is probably best known for extremely successful movies starring pre-teens (specifically, the first two Harry Potter and Home Alone movies), but lately, he's been focusing on "smaller" movies, with his latest project as a director being The Last Campaign, adapted from a book about the hope-filled 1968 presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. The campaign's last day was already adapted a few years back as Bobby, but the scope of this movie will be much broader than just covering the events of his demise.




#8 GEORGE CLOONEY TO PRODUCE A POLITICALLY CHARGED DRAMA? NO WAY!

George Clooney has bought the movie rights to The Challenge, a fact-based book about the long legal road faced by an attorney attempting to secure a fair trial for Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's personal driver and bodyguard (who recently received his sentence) at a trial at Guantanamo. In addition to producing, Clooney may also write, direct or star (as Navy lawyer Charles Swift), but those details aren't known yet. Variety describes The Challenge as a "thriller", but I'm thinking that the movie will mostly be 100+ minutes of guys in suits and uniforms arguing passionately about constitutional rights and such.


#9 TENNESSEE WILLIAMS' HORRIFIC CHILDHOOD GETTING A MOVIE. AGAIN, NO CLEVER HEADLINE.

Director Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman), AKA Mr. Helen Mirren (AKA Mr. Lucky), has signed on to direct Tenn, an independent production from one of the producers of Capote. Tenn is a drama examining the Mississippi-based youth of playwright Tennessee Williams, who had to deal with an abusive father and the events leading up to his sister's institutionalization and eventual lobotomy. The movie will draw parallels behind his youth and the themes of two of his most famous plays, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie. Williams is one of my favorite 20th century playwrights, so this is a project that sounds really cool and right down my alley. If it's not too, you know... schmaltzy.


#10 RUN, SECRETARIAT, RUN!

Director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers; he also wrote Braveheart) has signed on with Disney to direct Secretariat, a drama about the 1973 Triple Crown-winning horse, and the events leading up to, and following his amazing streak (it's been 30 years now since a horse took all three). Like Seabiscuit, Secretariat was just one of those horses who has been able to secure something of a legacy, helped in Secretariat's case by a long post-racing career as a stud that produced a few champions. Unlike Seabiscuit, this movie looks to be focusing less on the horse's impact on the country, and more on the personal drama of his owner's family. Disney hopes to get Secretariat started in front of cameras in early 2009.


You can contact Greg Dean Schmitz via a message at the RT Forums, the thread there devoted to him, or his MySpace page.

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