Weekly Ketchup: Denzel Washington Will Be The Equalizer

Plus, George Clooney's new film, a chewbacca biopic (sort of), and Paradise Lost gets held up.

With Christmas less than 10 days away, Hollywood has already started to wind down, as the media in general turns away from reporting quite as many "new" stories, and starts work on their various "retrospective" projects. You can tell that just by the fact that Denzel Washington's possible involvement in a movie version of The Equalizer, which in another week, might have been in the middle of the Ketchup, is this week's Top Story. Among the other stories that did emerge this week are biopics based on the lives of Jackie Robinson, the Smothers Brothers, the West Memphis Three, and the guy who played Chewbacca (yes, really).


This Week's Top Story

GOT A PROBLEM? ODDS AGAINST YOU? CALL DENZEL WASHINGTON, THE EQUALIZER

The idea of a movie based upon the 1985 CBS television series The Equalizer first really grabbed movie fans' attention in 2010 when Russell Crowe was reported to be producing it. A year later, the idea of an Equalizer movie is still in development, but now it's being eyed as a starring vehicle for Denzel Washington. In CBS' The Equalizer, British character actor Edward Woodward (who also starred in the original version of The Wicker Man) played Robert McCall, a mysterious former secret agent who tries to make up for his past by helping people who respond to an ad he places in a New York City magazine. The Equalizer is part of a new deal between the Escape Artists production company and Sony Pictures which also includes the long-in-development new movie based on Mattel's Masters of the Universe and Sex Tape, which is expected to be the next collaboration between Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel (the two also wrote The Muppets together).

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 HARRISON FORD REPLACES ROBERT REDFORD IN THE JACKIE ROBINSON BIOPIC, 42

The last time the (then-untitled) planned Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey biopic made the news, Robert Redford was expected to star as the executive who signed Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey's decision in 1947 to sign minor leaguer Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and effectively changed sports forever. Now called 42, the movie is getting closer to actually being filmed with the news that it is actually Harrison Ford who will be playing Branch Rickey. Jackie Robinson himself will be portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, an actor mostly known for TV work on short-lived series like Lincoln Heights and Persons Unknown, but who also costarred in the 2008 football movie The Express. 42 is being produced by Legendary Pictures, the Warner Bros-based company that is mostly known for big budget action movies like Clash of the Titans, The Dark Knight and Watchmen. 42 will also be the fourth film directed by Brian Helgeland (Payback, A Knight's Tale, The Order), who also adapted the screenplay. Although Helgeland's films as director do not have the most impressive RT Tomatometer track record, his films as screenwriter include L.A. Confidential and Mystic River. As for Robert Redford, all that free time on his hands not starring in 42 may be used to star in the "man vs nature drama" All is Lost, which director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) is attached to direct. Not that many details have been revealed yet about All is Lost, except that it is known to be a "long man against the water" drama that is expected to start filming in May, 2012 at the Baja Film Studios water tanks where much of Titanic and Pearl Harbor were filmed.


#2 GEORGE CLOONEY SAYS GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK TO THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS

George Clooney has been talking quite a bit lately about ending his career as an action movie star (resulting from an injury filming Syriana) to focus on his directorial career. To date, George Clooney's films as director have been Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck, Leatherheads and this year's The Ides of March, which when taken as a whole show off an emphasis on biopics, period pieces and (to some degree, at least) politics. The latest addition to George Clooney's development slate as director fits all of those descriptions. George Clooney and producing partner Grant Heslov are now developing an adaptation of Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Airing for three seasons on CBS (1967 to 1969), their show helped the comedic and musical team of Tom and Dick Smothers transform from an apparently harmless act to being agents of social and political commentary about the late 1960s counter-culture, the anti-war movement, and the presidency of Richard Nixon. The show also helped launch the careers of Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, featured musical performances from The Who and The Beatles, and went on to inspire such shows as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Dangerously Funny will be adapted by the screenwriting team of Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman, who do not yet have a produced film to their credit. Hecker and Sherman have however worked on Atari, a biopic for Paramount and Leonard DiCaprio's Appian Way about Nolan Bushnell and the early days of the videogame industry.


#3 STEPHEN FREARS TO REMAKE ONE OF HIS MOVIES THAT MOST PEOPLE HAVEN'T SEEN: THE HIT

The topic of what movies should or shouldn't be remade is one of the most discussed among online movie fans today. A movie that just got released in U.S. theaters a year ago, for example, many people say doesn't really need to be remade. An obscure 1984 British crime drama called The Hit from a director that went on to make such movies as My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, High Fidelity and The Queen, arguably seems like a more appropriate source material. To sweeten the deal even more, it is Stephen Frears himself, along with the original film's screenwriter and producer, who will be remaking the 1984 film The Hit. John Hurt and Tim Roth costarred in The Hit as two incompetent hitmen assigned to execute a mob informant (played by Terence Stamp) in Spain. Producer Jeremy Thomas said this week that the idea behind the remake is to exchange the settings of England and Spain for the United States and Mexico, and make "an American movie about an American gangster, to tell the story against the backdrop of the land of cinema."


#4 REESE WITHERSPOON IS CAUGHT IN THE DEVIL'S KNOT

The West Memphis Three are three men who were arrested as teenagers in Arkansas in 1994 for the murders of three young boys. Their collective case became an international controversy that attracted the support of musicians, filmmakers and other celebrities (such as Metallica, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson). The ongoing plight of the West Memphis Three was also depicted in the three Paradise Lost documentary feature films. This August, the West Memphis Three were finally released from prison. Soon after, Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Ararat, Where the Truth Lies, The Sweet Hereafter) signed on to direct Devil's Knot, an independent drama about the West Memphis Three written by screenwriters Scott Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman, the screenwriting team behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Urban Legends: Final Cut. The West Memphis Three themselves, however, haven't been cast yet, possibly because, as prisoners, they could not sell their life rights until very recently. Instead, the first person to join the cast of Devil's Knot was Reese Witherspoon, who signed on this week to costar as Pam Hobbs, the mother of one of the young victims, who intially believes the West Memphis Three to be guilty until the evidence persuades her otherwise. Filming of Devil's Knot is scheduled to start in the summer of 2012.


#5 THE CHEWBACCA MOVIE (SORT OF) MAKES THE TOP FIVE UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAYS LIST

The "Black List" is an annual tradition (that really only started relatively recently) in which over 300 Hollywood film executives are asked to rate their favorite currently unproduced screenplays. The Black List for 2011 was published this week, and the list makes great reading for anyone with a curiosity for how movies get made, or what movies might be headed our way in the next couple of years. Of course, the Black List is not infallible, as Cop Out and The Sitter are both examples of scripts that did quite well on The Black List, only to become critical flops. This year's top vote getter was The Imitation Game, the biopic about British cryptographer Alan Turing, who cracked the German Enigma code. Of particular interest to many movie fans might be the #3 film on the list, which is called Chewie, because it casts a satirical eye on the making of the original Star Wars film from the perspective of Peter Mayhew, the man who played Chewbacca. One of the movies tied for the #12 spot on the list, He's **ckin' Perfect, also made the news this week as one of the directors of the videos posted on the Funny or Die website is now in talks to direct that comedy about a girl who uses the Internet to change herself into a guy's dream girl (based on what he posts on "social media" sites, AKA Facebook).

Rotten Ideas of the Week

#4 MCDREAMY GOES TO THE DOGS, STUDYING THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN

Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey has signed with Universal Pictures to star in the studio's adaptation of the Garth Stein novel The Art of Racing in the Rain. The book is told from the perspective of "a dog named Enzo, as he watches his beloved owner Denny Swift struggle through life. Swift is a professional race car driver, and Enzo spends his days envious of his owner and waiting until he can be reborn as a man." Patrick Dempsey will, of course, be starring as Denny Swift (it's mildly interesting that "Denny" was also the name of Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character on Grey's Anatomy), so this will be a movie where Patrick Dempsey is a professional racer who is constantly being upstaged by the film's true star, a (potentially talking) dog. The Art of Racing in the Rain will be adapted for Universal Pictures by screenwriter Mark Bomback (Unstoppable, cowriter of Live Free or Die Hard and Race to Witch Mountain). The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of the week's Rotten Ideas because Patrick Dempsey has starred in dozens of movies in the last 20 years, but only three of them (Outbreak, Freedom Writers and Enchanted) earned Fresh ratings on the RT Tomatometer.


#3 WATCHING NICK SWARDSON'S STOP MOTION ACTION MAY FEEL LIKE GOING TO HELL & BACK

Comedian-turned-actor (and frequent Adam Sandler costar) Nick Swardson and Cloverfield/How to Train Your Dragon costar T.J. Miller have signed a deal with ShadowMachine to provide the voices for an R-Rated stop motion animated movie called Hell & Back. Swardson and Miller will play two friends who have to travel to Hell to rescue a friend who was accidentally dragged there. ShadowMachine is the production company behind the Adult Swim shows Robot Chicken and Morel Orel. The two directors of Hell & Back have worked on TV shows such as Morel Orel (Ross Shuman) and Tenacious D (Tommy Gianas). Hell & Back is one of the week's Rotten Ideas because of Swardson's RT Tomatometer track record, which would be entirely Rotten if not for his appearances in Bolt and Blades of Glory.


#2 RACHEL MCADAMS AND NOOMI RAPACE HAVE PASSION

Passion is the English title of a remake that director Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito's Way) has chosen for his next film, based upon the very recent (September, 2011 in the USA) French drama Crime d'Amour (AKA Love Crime). Kristin Scott-Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier starred in the original film as, respectively, a business executive and a young assistant who become the center of a muderous plot due to jealousy and revenge. For De Palma's English language remake, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace (who also costar together in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) are in talks to play the two leads. What is slightly confusing, however, is that Noomi Rapace (age 31) and Rachel McAdams (age 33) are nearly the same age, which is quite different from the age differences in the original film (KST's 51 versus Sagnier's 32). It's also worth noting that Noomi Rapace is negotiating to star in a remake of a very recent thriller just before the release of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a remake of a very recent thriller in which she played the title character. This is one of the week's Rotten Ideas based mostly on the RT Tomatometer scores for the five films that Brian De Palma has directed since Mission: Impossible in 1996, which was effectively the end of De Palma's long run of critical successes. Filming of Passion is scheduled to begin in Berlin in March, 2012 on a budget of $20 million.


#1 ANGELS AREN'T THE ONLY THINGS FALLING IN THE STORY OF THE PARADISE LOST MOVIE

One of the recurring themes in the film industry in 2011 has been an emerging carefulness on the part of the major studios when it comes to big budget movies. Among the films that have either experienced major stumbling blocks this year or have been shelved entirely are adaptations of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, and The Lone Ranger (the last of which appears actually to be back on track to start filming soon). This week, two upcoming projects at Warner Bros experienced similar hesitancy from the studio's higher ups. First, there is Legendary Pictures' adaptation of the epic John Milton poem Paradise Lost, which has been postponed while the producers attempt to rework the budget. If Paradise Lost doesn't move forward, this will be yet another doomed project for director Alex Proyas, whose career has only produced five actual movies since his start in 1994 with The Crow. Warner Bros' Arthur & Lancelot is also potentially facing budget restraints, as the once $90 million project is now reportedly close to going past $130 million. The budget woes of Paradise Lost and Arthur & Lancelot share the status as the week's most Rotten Ideas mostly because the phenomenon of "runaway" budgets is something that hurts moviegoers regardless of whether or not they eventually see the movies (that do get made). If Hollywood had tighter control of budgeting to begin with, maybe moviegoers would get more movies each year, rather than just a handful of blockbusters from each studio?

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.

Comments

Frisby2007

Frisby 2007

Nothing interesting this week.

Dec 16 - 04:39 PM

Myron

Myron Kinsey

indeed

Dec 16 - 07:33 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Eh, not sure how to feel about the top story. Denzel is great, but it seems he has been doing nothing but hyper action films the last few years, and I am willing to bet Tony Scott already has his eyes on this adaptation of The Equalizer.

Ford is good at what he does, so I have faith that he will be able to play a stubborn old man with a heart of gold in 42. I'm more concerned about the guy playing Jackie Robinson; he is one of the greatest baseball players ever! Why not get Denzel on this!?

Clooney is a solid director. I would not call him a spectacular one, but if he shifts his focus primarily to that, then he could more than likely grow into one.

Man, Dempsey has a pretty shitty film record if his decades long career only has three fresh movies. You'd think he would have at least recived a minor role here and there in a great movie as long as he has been in the game.

Swardson is awful. I've heard people say his stand up is good, but I've never seen it, so I cannot weigh in on that. He seems like he will be another Rob Schneider; he'll get a few starring roles in low budget comedies because of his well connected friends, and then fade into obscurity.

Holy shit! McAdams is 33?? That's not old or anything, but I would have pegged her around 26. She's still a fox. I also would have though Rapace was closer to 40, but I have not seen that much of her.

While Hollywood getting stingy with the budget money is bad in some cases (At the Mountains of Madness, which not even James Cameron could get going), it seems to be having some benefits by weeding out crappy movies that the studios just want to make a slight profit on. I'm honestly hoping Paradise Lost gets the axe, because it does not sound anything like the poem, and quite honestly will probably be ridiculous. I want to see Proyas get back to the dark, moody stuff he did in the '90s.

Dec 16 - 05:07 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Oh, and the top story this week (eventhough it is not technically movie news) should have been about how Clint Eastwood has officially lost his shit. I love the guy, one of my all time favorites, but he has signed a deal with the E! channel (as bottom of the barrel as it gets) to have a Kardashian style reality show with his family. I'm not joking here, people. Everybody was thinking to give him the benefit of the doubt with that A Star is Born remake starring Beyonce, but I think this just proves Eastwood has flown off his rocker into the land of utter madness.

Dec 16 - 05:12 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

LOL Agreed!!!!!!

Dec 16 - 07:59 PM

Manuel G.

Manuel Granados

I had not heard that. Is it gonna be called "Keeping up with the Eastwoods" or something? Clint is now experiencing senile dementia it seems.

Dec 17 - 08:15 AM

dethburger

dethburger hates Flixster

Not to mention his last two films have been disappointing. Eastwood rarely disappoints so two in a row is unusual.

Dec 17 - 09:03 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Maybe he's just looking for a Huge pay check to fund a personal project. Actors and Directors do that all the time. Like Zack Snyder using his success to make Sucker Punch or Bill Condon succumbing to making TWO Twilight movies so he can do a personal project later. It's not uncommon for Greatness to dabble in crap for the pay check.

Dec 17 - 10:07 AM

Nat V.

Nat Ver

No way, I agree, he must be losing it. Or maybe his family pressured him, they to want to be famous for doing nothing. Since Gran Torino, he has not made anything note worthy.

Dec 17 - 11:08 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Probably the most interesting item is the West Memphis Three movie by Atom Egoyan, although the screenwriters don't have a great history. Stephen Frears' remake needs to understand that "The Hit" is remembered primarially for the outstanding acting, so the new casting is of the most importance. Speaking of which, I'd suggest Patrick Wilson for the role of Tom Smothers. Thinking about it, I can't quite think of the right Dick. Giovanni Ribisi? The Atari 'bio-pic' sounds better than any of the actual Atari game adaptations announced. "Chewie" could be great, if Lucas allows it. Meanwhile, you'd think Bucky Larson would be enough to effectively end the career of even a Sandler satellite, but it suits him - Adult Swim hasn't had a clever show since Metalocalypse, so they can both go to hell for all I care.

Dec 16 - 05:08 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Oh, and the top story this week (eventhough it is not technically movie news) should have been about how Clint Eastwood has officially lost his shit. I love the guy, one of my all time favorites, but he has signed a deal with the E! channel (as bottom of the barrel as it gets) to have a Kardashian style reality show with his family. I'm not joking here, people. Everybody was thinking to give him the benefit of the doubt with that A Star is Born remake starring Beyonce, but I think this just proves Eastwood has flown off his rocker into the land of utter madness.

Dec 16 - 05:12 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

LOL Agreed!!!!!!

Dec 16 - 07:59 PM

Manuel G.

Manuel Granados

I had not heard that. Is it gonna be called "Keeping up with the Eastwoods" or something? Clint is now experiencing senile dementia it seems.

Dec 17 - 08:15 AM

dethburger

dethburger hates Flixster

Not to mention his last two films have been disappointing. Eastwood rarely disappoints so two in a row is unusual.

Dec 17 - 09:03 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Maybe he's just looking for a Huge pay check to fund a personal project. Actors and Directors do that all the time. Like Zack Snyder using his success to make Sucker Punch or Bill Condon succumbing to making TWO Twilight movies so he can do a personal project later. It's not uncommon for Greatness to dabble in crap for the pay check.

Dec 17 - 10:07 AM

Nat V.

Nat Ver

No way, I agree, he must be losing it. Or maybe his family pressured him, they to want to be famous for doing nothing. Since Gran Torino, he has not made anything note worthy.

Dec 17 - 11:08 AM

Myron

Myron Kinsey

indeed

Dec 16 - 07:33 PM

Matanuki

Matanuki .

LOL Agreed!!!!!!

Dec 16 - 07:59 PM

Movie Monster

Bentley Lyles

The Rachel McAdams and Chewbacca news sparked interest me. I'm with King Crunk. Rachel is A FOX!!! I hope the Chewie movie is more than just groans and roars. We already had to put up with that in the Christmas special. Yes, guys. THERE IS A STAR WAS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL!!! I met Peter Mayhew at Comic-Con and he is one of the biggest jerks I've ever met. He chares $30 for a photo!

Dec 16 - 09:33 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

That's awesome. If I was Mayhew, I'd be milking the fanboys too.

Dec 18 - 05:41 AM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

00 - Denzel is generally a great actor so any project he is in intrigues me to say the least. I'm not sure about this one, though. Sounds kinda hokey...
01 - Lost all interest as soon as I figured out they were talking about baseball.
02 - I really like the movies with Clooney, I think he's one of the best actors alive...that said, this script idea interests me not at all.
03 - I haven't seen the original so I can't judge on whether this is a good idea or not, but if that's what the director wants to do, then all the more power to him.
04 - OK, you lost me at "Reese Witherspoon..."
05 - For one thing, Star Wars is dead to me after the insults that were the prequels, and that social networking movie thing sounds fucking terribad.
06 - Don't care about racing and never watched a second of Grey's Anatomy, so whatever.
07 - I honestly have no comment about this. It isn't awful so much as... meh.
08 - Brian DePalma should stop making movies, like now. Dude hasn't made anything decent 93's Carlito's Way.
09 - Both of those movies sound spectacularly bad. I actually kinda wanna see Paradise Lost, simply to watch the train-wreck.

Dec 16 - 10:44 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

I wish I had read something interesting on here. Oh well.

Dec 17 - 01:47 AM

Wil H.

Wil Huff

As awful as Black Dahlia was the only thing that Femme Fatale's tomatometer proves is how completely oblivious to form and quality direction most critics are. Complaining that it's overcooked is also completely missing the point. My point is that while he's done some stinkers recently people tend to greatly exaggerate de Palma's fall. I'd wager that a lot of them haven't even seen things like Femme Fatale or Mission to Mars and are falling behind the "BUT THE TOMATOMETER SAYS THEY'RE BAD" excuse when they trash them.

Dec 17 - 03:57 AM

Jef C.

Jef Costello

The Hit is really such an incredible film. The description is a bit misleading though, as the hitmen aren't "incompetent," just emotionally conflicted. Agree with the earlier post intimating that the acting is the primary draw. Excited for a remake, especially considering the original writer and director are returning. Weird new, but great news.

Nothing else here is of particular interested to me.

Dec 17 - 07:28 AM

Manuel G.

Manuel Granados

I had not heard that. Is it gonna be called "Keeping up with the Eastwoods" or something? Clint is now experiencing senile dementia it seems.

Dec 17 - 08:15 AM

Justin D.

Justin D.

Blah.

Dec 17 - 08:55 AM

dethburger

dethburger hates Flixster

Not to mention his last two films have been disappointing. Eastwood rarely disappoints so two in a row is unusual.

Dec 17 - 09:03 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Maybe he's just looking for a Huge pay check to fund a personal project. Actors and Directors do that all the time. Like Zack Snyder using his success to make Sucker Punch or Bill Condon succumbing to making TWO Twilight movies so he can do a personal project later. It's not uncommon for Greatness to dabble in crap for the pay check.

Dec 17 - 10:07 AM

Nat V.

Nat Ver

No way, I agree, he must be losing it. Or maybe his family pressured him, they to want to be famous for doing nothing. Since Gran Torino, he has not made anything note worthy.

Dec 17 - 11:08 AM

justjoustin

Joshua G

I didn't realise Clooney directed Leatherheads. Is that film any good? It looks awful..

Dec 17 - 03:41 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Not awful, just there. It doesn't show a lot of comedic skill for Clooney, the way his Coen Bros comedies show. I would blame the script, which could have used a couple dozen more laughs, and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" had a few hilarious scenes, but ultimately it felt like Cloon's "Ishtar".

Dec 18 - 05:39 AM

justjoustin

Joshua G

Ahh, see Confessions was enjoyable and visually quite nice, just. Leatherheads just looked odd. I will give it a go. Is there ANY film you haven't seen Janson?

Dec 20 - 12:12 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Quite a few. The "Twilight"s for example.

Dec 20 - 08:00 AM

justjoustin

Joshua G

Ha! Good answer.

Well, nobody could blame you. I've only seen the first and I was high. The sepia-toned nature of it spaced me out.

I would not encourage it upon sober viewing.

Dec 21 - 11:56 PM

Unbreakable Samurai

Unbreakable Samurai

I'm actually a big fan of Confessions, good movie.

Feb 3 - 07:54 PM

Odd E.

Odd Even

WOAAH!!! Okay I am a huge fan of The Equalizer, but I... I just don't know!!!!!!!!!!

I mean this could work, but I just don't know!!!

It's nice to see that they brought back something that I actually would go to the big screen, but I just don't know!!!!!!


This could be really good or it could be really bad.

I JUST DON'T KNOW!!!!!

Dec 17 - 05:00 PM

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