Weekly Ketchup: James Spader Is Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron

Plus, casting news for Matt Damon, Aaron Paul, Idris Elba, and a James Brown biopic.

This week's Ketchup includes movie development news about a musical biopic (James Brown and Get On Up), a robotic super villain (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), reboots of Dracula and Scooby-Doo, and a whole bunch of Matt Damon stories (and non-stories).


This Week's Top Story

JAMES SPADER CAST AS TITLE CHARACTER IN THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

We still don't know who will be playing Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy (though it could just be Damion Poitier and a whole bunch of CGI again). We do however now know who will be the title villain in the May 1, 2015 sequel The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And who would have guessed this, but the movie's going to be a (partial) Less Than Zero reunion, because James Spader has been cast as Ultron. These days, Spader mostly focuses on TV work, but in his 1980s-1990s film career included roles in Mannequin, Wall Street, Stargate, and sex, lies and videotape. Now that James Spader has been introduced, who exactly is this Ultron character? From what we've heard, even if one knows who/what Ultron is in the comic books (an evil metal robot with a fiery anthropomorphic grin), that might not necessarily be what he/it will be in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. We do, however, have a few hints: First off, there's the possibility that Ultron will be a disembodied voice, ala the Iron Man version of "Jarvis" (he's a portly British butler in the comics). There was also a reference to LMDs in The Avengers, so there's a chance that this evil robot version of Ultron will look like... James Spader. Those human-looking robots prefer being called "androids," but come on, everyone will still call them robots. It's sort of like the Trekkie/Trekker... thing. Voice in a can, flesh covered metal skeleton, or a full on metal robot just like the comics, we don't know, but whatever form he takes, he will be played by Steff from Pretty in Pink. That's really going to happen.

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 AFTER SUCCESSES OF 42 AND THE BUTLER, UNIVERSAL FAST TRACKS THE JAMES BROWN BIOPIC

There is talk in Hollywood of a "new Universal Pictures," one that's energized by the recent addition of Legendary Pictures (more about that later). That image was certainly supported this week by the speed with which Universal Pictures announced the long-planned James Brown biopic. It all started on Monday with the news that Chadwick Boseman will follow his depiction of Jackie Robinson in 42 with playing the Godfather of Soul. If the greenlighting of this biopic is (at least somewhat) a reaction to the recent successes of 42 and Lee Daniels' The Butler, the choice of director is also connected to a recent box office hit with a large African American cast. The James Brown biopic (which we just learned today will be called Get On Up) will be directed by Tate Taylor (The Help) from a script by Jez and John Henry Butterworth (brothers and cowriters of Fair Game). For two of the (currently unknown) supporting roles, Universal and/or Tate Taylor are reportedly talking to two actresses who costarred together in The Help: Viola Davis (Oscar nominated for her role) and Octavia Spencer (an Oscar winner for her role). If Octavia Spencer signs on to costar in Get On Up, it will be the... let's just call it the "umpteenth" time she's worked with Tate Taylor (check this list out at IMDb). Universal Pictures has scheduled Get On Up for next year's awards season on October 17, 2014.


#2 THIS WEEK IN WHO MATT DAMON WON'T BE: ROBIN OR JASON BOURNE (ANYTIME SOON)

First, there was Batfleck. Then, there were all the stories either about movies that Ben Affleck won't direct, or about how he will still direct one movie (Dennis Lehane's Live By Night) in between his (possibly many) upcoming Batman roles. Someone who sort of got caught up in all of this whirlwind of speculation is Ben Affleck's longtime movie buddy, Matt Damon. People seem to forget that Affleck and Damon aren't Abbott and Costello. Anyway, it's already gotten to the point where Matt Damon has to clarify that he won't be playing Robin. If one wants to really get into the speculation game, however, it is rather interesting how specific (and academic) Damon's debunking was. Damon was clearly never going to be cast as Bruce Wayne's young ward, but what about any one of several other supporting roles in Batman's life (Jim Gordon, Lucius Fox, Alfred, the Joker, the Riddler, etc). There's also speculation out there about a superhero role for Matt Damon in Warner Bros' 2017 project Justice League (like maybe Aquaman or Green Arrow?). Anyway, all of this talk about rumored projects for Damon leads us to the other news this week, which is that there were stories online that he and director Paul Greengrass might be reuniting soon for another Bourne movie. Well, Universal Pictures quickly debunked that story. The studio is continuing to develop the next Bourne movie for Jeremy Renner.


#3 THIS WEEK IN WHAT MATT DAMON WILL DO: INTERSTELLAR AND THE FOREIGNER

All of that preceding text was devoted to what Matt Damon won't be doing, but there was also a fair amount of news this week pointing the opposite direction. Matt Damon will be going to Iceland for two weeks to film a small role in Christopher Nolan's science fiction thriller Interstellar. And we also learned this week that the premise of Interstellar might revolve around (get ready for this one)... corn. Christopher Nolan is lucky he's a critical darling, because there's certain foods (ham and cheese are two others) that are just inherently bad mojo for movie types. Matt Damon has also apparently chosen his directorial debut (which was almost last year's Promised Land, FYI), which will be called The Foreigner (AKA A Murder Foretold). The Foreigner will be adapted by screenwriter Chris Terrio, who previously worked with Ben Affleck on (and won an Oscar for) last year's Argo. You can read the New Yorker story that inspired The Foreigner here, but for those who want a short cut: it's a tale of tropical assassination and conspiracy all set in and around the jungles of Guatemala. It's not yet known if Matt Damon will also star in The Foreigner.


#4 IDRIS ELBA TO STAR IN MOVIE PREQUEL TO THE HIT BBC SERIES LUTHER

First off, this columnist should acknowledge that talk of this movie has been online for quite some time. The reason it's finally getting covered by the Weekly Ketchup is that we now know for sure that this movie is a "movie movie" and not, say, a TV movie. Okay, here's the actual story: the hit BBC crime drama series Luther will follow up its third (and final) series (what we in the USA call a season) with a feature film that will serve as a prequel to the three series. And yes, Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Prometheus) will be starring in the movie like he does in the TV show.




#5 JESSE PINKMAN GETS BIBLICAL IN RIDLEY SCOTT'S EXODUS

We, the viewing public, are still waiting for the final episodes of Breaking Bad to air, but for the show's two stars, their careers are clearly moving onto their respective next phases. Bryan Cranston's got Godzilla in 2014, and rumors about playing Lex Luthor (did we mention that? Yeah, that was a thing this week too) in the Man of Steel sequel. Aaron Paul, AKA Jesse Pinkman, has the videogame adaptation Need for Speed coming out on March 14, 2014, and this week, the news broke that Aaron Paul is taking on a significant Biblical figure. Paul is in talks with 20th Century Fox and Scott Free Productions to costar in Ridley Scott's Exodus as Hebrew slave Joshua to Christian Bale's Moses. Sigourney Weaver and John Turturro have also signed to play the parents of Egyptian pharoah Ramses II, to be played by Joel Edgerton (that would make Turturro Ramses I). Filming of Exodus is starting soon in Spain and Morocco (subbing for turbulent Egypt), with 20th Century Fox already scheduling the movie for release on December 12, 2014, the same release date as Disney and Brad Bird's Tomorrowland.


#6 ONG-BAK STAR TONY JAA IS THE LATEST ADDITION TO THE EVER GROWING FAST & FURIOUS FRANCHISE

When entertainment/film writers try to figure out the secrets to the success of the Fast and Furious franchise, they invariably hit upon the multiculturalism of the cast of the six movies (and counting). That notion was supported this week by the announcement that Thai action star Tony Jaa, of the popular Ong Bak trilogy, will be making his Hollywood (and English language) debut as a costar in Fast & Furious 7. The movie is still being written, but Universal is apparently confident that the production can be shot and finished quickly, as the movie is already scheduled for release on July 11, 2014 (a date Fast & Furious 7 has to itself, in between Maleficent on 7/2/14 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on 7/18/14). Tony Jaa is not the only new addition for Fast & Furious 7, as Jason Statham is already confirmed as the film's main villain (after appearing in the end credits of Fast and Furious 6). (Last minute breaking news! Kurt Russell is also in talks for a role in Fast & Furious 7.)


#7 ZOINKS! SCOOBY-DOO TO GET REBOOTED AS AN ANIMATED MOVIE

This coming March will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of the 2004 sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, which was the sequel to the 2002 hit live action/CGI adaptation of the popular 1970s Saturday morning cartoon show(s). That upcoming landmark is illuminated because it just means that enough time has passed for Warner Bros to start thinking about what to do next with Scooby-Doo. And the answer is going to be a new animated Scooby-Doo movie. Certain questions aren't answered (like whether it will be traditionally animated), but that might just be because there's a presumption concerning certain types of "animated" projects these days that "duh, of course" it's going to be CGI. There really isn't much else known about this new Scooby-Doo movie yet, but let's address something that people will probably be quick to question in the comments: Why is the idea of a new animated Scooby-Doo listed under Fresh Developments (way at the bottom, it's worth pointing out)? There's a reason why Scooby-Doo is a cultural icon that is so ingrained in the minds of people of a certain age/generation that it's become a storytelling code. Sure, the animation wasn't great, but the various forms that Scooby-Doo took in the 1970s and 1980s (and a tiny sliver of the 1960s) had some sort of undeniable impact. This writer would love to think that maybe someday a new animated movie could recapture... whatever that was. Let's file this in the same "possibly misguided optimism" category as the November 6, 2015 CGI version of Peanuts.


#8 WHAT SWEET MUSIC THEY MAKE (?): THIS WEEK IN NEWS ABOUT THE DRACULA REBOOT

In addition to a series of stories about the James Brown biopic (see above), Universal Pictures also devoted much of their attention this week to the upcoming reboot of one of the most famous of their Universal Monsters: Dracula. First of all, in what might read as somewhat "inside baseball" studio talk, Legendary Entertainment (The Dark Knight, 300, The Hangover) has chosen Dracula as their first coproduction under their new deal with Universal Pictures. Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, Clash of the Titans) has been cast as the new Dracula, which is expected to be an origin story (rather than, say, a direct adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel). The new film will mark the directorial debut of Gary Shore (who directed a short film called The Draft in 2006). The second story for Dracula this week is that Universal Pictures has shifted the release date back a bit to October 3, 2014, to position Dracula as a more traditional "Halloween" monster/horror movie (versus the former "summer" release date of August 8, 2014). Legendary is also considering joining in on Jurassic Park IV, but there's no deal to announce just yet. (It's worth noting, just to avoid confusion, that Legendary still has three movies coming out through Warner Bros: 300: Rise of an Empire, the reboot of Godzilla, and Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak). We're calling this one a borderline Fresh Development to give the new director the benefit of the doubt. What do you think, commenters? Will the new Dracula suck?

Rotten Idea of the Week

#1 THE DIRECTOR OF NOW YOU SEE ME WILL RETURN FOR THE SEQUEL

Maybe this was a slow movie news week (it really was, being just before Labor Day), or the impending start of fall festival season is inspiring producers and studios to greenlight "good movies" (shock! gasp!). Whatever the reason, there really weren't that many stories this week that are obviously "rotten ideas." And so, we return to a movie that was a Rotten Idea a few weeks ago... by default. Anyway, what many writers will write about this one is an acknowledgement that Now You See Me (currently the #17 domestic box office movie of 2013) was a bigger hit than many people realize. Now You See Me has done better domestically than, say, Epic, Pacific Rim, White House Down (or Olympus Has Fallen) or The Hangover Part III. And so, Lionsgate is developing a sequel to the magician-heist movie. The news this week is that the director will once again be Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans and the first two Transporter movies). Leterrier's direction of Now You See Me earned the film an RT Rating of 49%. Will the possibly titled Now You Don't do any better?

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

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