Weekly Ketchup: Is Scarlett Johansson Getting a Black Widow Movie?

Plus, Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt reunite, and Will Smith passes on Independence Day 2.

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This week's Ketchup features movie development news stories about new projects for director Ron Howard, and movie stars Jack Black, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, and Seth Rogen.


This Week's Top Story

MARVEL DEVELOPING BLACK WIDOW SOLO MOVIE FOR SCARLETT JOHANSSON

There is "comic book" popular, and there is "movie" popular. In the comics, the Russian super spy Black Widow is an important character (a member of a few super teams and a supporting character for Daredevil and Captain America) who's never really achieved her own fame as an A-lister. Although Black Widow does date back to the 1960s, her membership in the Avengers was not immediate, as she was the 15th member of the team (after characters like Wasp, Swordsman, Hercules, Black Panther, and Black Knight). Black Widow's also never really been able to stand on her own, with no solo comic book title lasting more than 8 issues. On the other hand, in the movies, Black Widow's been portrayed by Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and this April, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This week, we learned that Marvel Studios doesn't want to give up on the Black Widow business anytime soon, as the character will have a "very big" part in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel Studios production president Kevin Feige continued, "We learn more about her past and learn more about where she came from and how she became in that film. The notion of exploring that even further in her own film would be great, and we have some development work with that." Those three little words, "some development work," has pretty much inspired fans this week to decide that yes, we're getting a Black Widow movie someday. And maybe we will. It's also worth remembering that lots of other characters have also received "some development work," including (that we know of) Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Ms/Captain Marvel, Cloak & Dagger, The Inhumans, Iron Fist, Nick Fury, Power Pack, and The Runaways. This also isn't the first time that a Black Widow solo movie has been in development, as Lionsgate was developing one about ten years ago (the film rights reverted back to Marvel in 2004).

Fresh Developments This Week

#1 RON HOWARD TAKES ON DISNEY WITH HIS OWN LIVE ACTION VERSION OF THE JUNGLE BOOK

One of the themes in Hollywood that never seems to completely go away is the concept of "duelling movies", in which at least two different movies about the same subject are developed, produced, and released around the same time. Volcano vs Dante's Peak. Deep Impact vs Armageddon. Olympus Has Fallen vs White House Down. Heck, even Steve Prefontaine had two different biopics around the same time. One of the next subjects of duelling movies will be live action adaptations of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (joining the five other such movies that have already been made in the past). On one hand, there's Walt Disney Pictures, who has signed Jon Favreau to direct a movie that they have scheduled for release on October 9, 2015. On the other, there's Warner Bros, which has been looking for a replacement for director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams) after his departure earlier this year. Just today, we learned that Warner Bros may have found its new Jungle Book director in the form of one of Hollywood's biggest hitters: Ron Howard (Splash, Cocoon, Apollo 13, Rush). Coincidentally, Ron Howard, who is currently in post production on In the Heart of the Sea, and is also attached to direct Dan Brown's Inferno (with Tom Hanks), would have been in the Ketchup this week anyway: It was also this week that he signed with Universal Pictures to direct Mena, a true story spec script about a "portly pilot" who in the 1980s was a gun runner and a drug trafficker for both the CIA and the Medellin cartel.


#2 50/50 STARS SETH ROGEN AND JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT REUNITE FOR A CHRISTMAS COMEDY

Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who costarred together in the cancer drama 50/50, have signed to reteam together with the director of that movie, Jonathan Levine. The project doesn't have a title yet, but it will be a Christmas comedy about three friends with an annual tradition of reuniting every year in New York City. The third friend hasn't been cast yet. Sony Pictures won the rights to the project this week after "competitive" bids from other studios like Paramount and Universal.




#3 JAMES FRANCO TO DIRECT HIS OWN ED WOOD TYPE MOVIE ABOUT... THE ROOM

It's now been over 10 years since the 2003 release of the indie movie called The Room which was so flawed that it went on to become a "midnight movie" that audiences flock to, like a 21st century Rocky Horror Picture Show, to shout mockeries at. Or, perhaps, the filmmaker who is a closer comparison for The Room director/star Tommy Wiseau would be Ed Wood, the director immortalized in the Tim Burton of the same title. The true story of how The Room movie came to be was told in the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. This week, James Franco's production company Rabbit Bandini optioned the film rights to the book, with Franco attached to direct.


#4 DIRECTOR LASSE HALLSTROM TO REMEMBER THE TITAN

One of the rarest commodities in Hollywood is the great true story yet untold cinematically. Books often help point this out, and such was the case with Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow, which was optioned this week by Relativity Media. The son of a professional con man, Rockefeller was a rags-to-riches success story who, through the success of Standard Oil, became the world's first billionaire. Relativity has quickly built an impressive team for Titan, recruiting screenwriter Craig Borten (recently Oscar nominated for Dallas Buyers Club) and director Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?).


Rotten Ideas of the Week

#5 WILL SMITH NOT RETURNING FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY 2

The last thing we heard about the plans for the 20th Century Fox sequel to Independence Day was that two different scripts were being developed, one with Will Smith's "Stephen Hiller" character, and one without. Well, this week, we learned which script Fox is going to have to use, because Will Smith has finally given Fox the answer that he won't be signing on to appear in the sequel. Regardless, 20th Century Fox still has the sequel scheduled for July 1, 2016, which is also the release date of two other movies: Angry Birds and Tarzan 3D.




#4 JACK BLACK AND JAMES MARSDEN BOARD INDIE COMEDY THE D-TRAIN

Jack Black has obviously had his share of critical misfires, but some of his biggest successes critically have been with "indie" productions. This week, Jack Black and James Marsden signed on to star in the indie comedy The D-Train, which will be produced by Mike White, who also wrote the Jack Black movies School of Rock (92%) and Nacho Libre (40%). Mike White will also costar, along with Nat Faxon. The D-Train will mark the directorial debuts of screenwriters Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel, whose 2008 movie with Jim Carrey called Yes Man has a "Rotten" RT Tomatometer score of 45%. "D-Train centers on a Middle America high school reunion committee chairman (Black), still searching for high school acceptance, who has to do whatever it takes, including flying to Los Angeles to penetrate the world of celebrities, to get the most popular guy from high school -- now a failed actor working in commercials (Marsden) -- to show up to their 20-year reunion."


#3 ANNE HATHAWAY BECOMES THIRD ACTRESS ATTACHED TO STAR IN THE INTERN

Director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, It's Complicated) is having a tough time getting actresses to sign on to star in her comedy The Intern. The first actress to be announced to star was Reese Witherspoon, and then when she left, it was Tina Fey. Now, it's Anne Hathaway who's in talks to star as the "owner of an Internet company who gets assigned an intern who's a retiree." Through it all, Robert De Niro has remained attached to play the retired intern. Of course, all of this comes after quite recently after a very similar movie, The Internship, featuring two different grown men working at an Internet company, only did "so so" business for a summer comedy. As for Reese Witherspoon, she also made the news this week for the comedy Don't Mess with Texas, which she will costar in with Sofia Vergara as a cop (Witherspoon) and a prisoner (Vergara) who are forced to go on the run together. Don't Mess with Texas will be directed by Anne Fletcher (The Proposal, The Guilt Trip, 27 Dresses).


#2 THE AFTERMATH OF THE SUCCCESS OF THE LEGO MOVIE PART 1: RABBIDS, RATCHET & CLANK, SLY COOPER...

The $69 million opening weekend for Warner Bros' The LEGO Movie may not have been completely surprising, but for those companies that already had similar projects in the works, it certainly didn't hurt their (financial) aspirations. The question really is this: if live action videogame adaptations still are seen as challenges, does the answer perhaps lie in CGI animated feature films? Sony Entertainment (both the film and video game divisions) seems to be betting on the latter. Let's start with Sony Pictures proper. Ubisoft and Sony Pictures Entertainment announced this week plans for a feature film based upon Rabbids, the "irreverent, wacky characters from the popular TV series and video games." Meanwhile, this week, Rainmaker Entertainment also released some videos for a few of their projects which are based upon Sony video games, and two of which were confirmed this week to be theater-bound. In 2015, the Ratchet & Clank movie will hit theaters, and in 2016, there will be a Sly Cooper movie in theaters. Rainmaker is also producing a Heavenly Sword film, but that one appears to be sticking with a direct-to-video path. Ratchet & Clank will be Rainmaker's second theatrically released film after last year's Escape from Planet Earth.


#1 ...AND PART 2: JOHN TRAVOLTA TO STAR IN... THE GUMMY BEAR MOVIE (BUT IT'S NOT *THAT* GUMMY BEAR)

This story really needs an explanation of the back story, or you might have a completely different idea of what this is. There are "gummy bears" (the candy), there are "Gummi Bears" (the Disney animated series), and then there is Gummy Bear, the Internet sensation also known as Gummibar. Or, if this is the first you're hearing about it, maybe not. The sensation in question is the song "I'm a Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)." Well, anyway... There's going to be a CGI animated feature film about *that* Gummy Bear, and John Travolta is going to do the lead voice work. The Gummy Bear movie is being written by George Gallo (Bad Boys), and concerns, "Gummy and his friends--a vegetarian vampire bat, a cat and a chameleon--fighting to save an alien planet from destruction." John Travolta will also be starring in the recently announced memoir adaptation A Three Dog Life, with Salma Hayek, who also made the news this week for the Iranian true story drama The Septembers of Shiraz, with Shohreh Aghdashloo.

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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