Weekly Ketchup: Safe House Gets A Sequel
Plus, new roles for Renee Zellweger, Michael Fassbender, Zac Efron, and Vin Diesel.
The week after Labor Day was pretty much as slow for movie development news as the the week before the holiday was, except at least that one had 5 business days. The articles for this week's Ketchup had to be picked from a very limited pool, and probably about half of them never would have made the cut in most other weeks. These ten stories include a sequel to a movie no one expected a sequel to, and new roles for Vin Diesel, Zac Efron, Chris Evans, Michael Fassbender, Bruce Willis, and Renee Zellweger.
This Week's Top Story
WATCH OUT: SAFE HOUSE SURPRISINGLY SECURES A SEQUEL
Safe House, released this past February by Universal Pictures, was something of a surprise solid hit, especially in the USA, where it earned $126 million of its $202.5 million worldwide gross. That $202.5 million is a very respectable number, considering the film didn't have many of the usual traits of a box office hit these days (super heroes, special effects, kid/teen friendly CGI, etc.). $202.5 million is solid business, even if it's not as big of a number as the worldwide box office results for say, Battleship, Wrath of the Titans, John Carter, Dark Shadows, or American Reunion (the movies currently at #16-#20 on the 2012 chart, above Safe House at #21). What Safe House did have going for it was something quite old fashioned called "star power" in the form of Denzel Washington and (to a lesser degree) Ryan Reynolds. The original Safe House was written by David Guggenheim while he was a staff writer at Us Weekly magazine, and now Guggenheim has been hired to write a sequel (that might actually be a prequel) as well. Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington starred in the original Safe House as a young CIA agent and the rogue agent he has to keep in a Safe House in South Africa, respectively. As of this week, there's not yet any sequel/prequel deals for Reynolds or Washington.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 ROGER EBERT'S LIFE ITSELF TO INSPIRE A DOCUMENTARY MOVIE, COMPLETING A THEMATIC CIRCLE
Although he was at one time considered just one half of a team with Chicago rival-turned-partner Gene Siskel, the last ten years has seen Roger Ebert really emerge as something of an elder spokesman within the film criticism community. Ebert's life also took an unexpectedly tragic yet inspiring turn when his battle with esophageal cancer led to the removal of much of his lower jaw. His autobiography, Life Itself, was published last year, which included many personal memories of his life and career, in addition to such bittersweet remembrances as a chapter about the menu at his favorite fast food franchise Steak 'n Shake. It was probably inevitable that Ebert's life become a movie, either sooner or later, and this week, we learned exactly how that will happen. Documentary filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie), assisted by producers Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian, has optioned the rights to Life Itself as the basis of a documentary about Roger Ebert's life. Ebert was contacted by the IndieWire site for comment about the project, and it sounds like he was surprised by the project, and doesn't know yet what the film will be like. Meanwhile, in other documentary news, the trailer was debuted this week for A Liar's Autobiography, an animated film from 17 different animation studios about the life of the late Monty Python member Graham Chapman. In addition to Chapman's own voice, the film also includes contributions from every other Python who isn't Eric Idle. Pythons who match that description include two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam), John Cleese and Michael Palin. If a documentary is ever made about Eric Idle's life, Graham Chapman is not expected to contribute.
#2 BRUCE WILLIS MAY MENTOR AN AMERICAN ASSASSIN
Bruce Willis is now in talks with CBS Films to costar in American Assassin, an adaptation of one of the novels in the "Mitch Rapp" series by author Vince Flynn. American Assassin is basically a prequel that explains how the fictional character of Mitch Rapp became one of the world's most legendary CIA agents, with Bruce Willis in talks to play Rapp's CIA agent mentor. Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Traitor) is attached to direct from a script adapted by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, who previously worked together on Love and Other Drugs and The Last Samurai. Once Bruce Willis is confirmed as the older CIA agent, CBS Films will get started on actually casting the lead actor who will potentially carry the role on through adaptations of other books in the series.
#3 SIMON PEGG GAINS COSTARS IN BOTH THE WORLD'S END AND HECTOR...
A few more actors joined two different movies starring Simon Pegg this week, and one of them will be in both films. First up chronologically (filming-wise) will be The World's End, which finishes up the "Three Flavors Cornetto" trilogy that began with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Paddy Considine (In America, The Bourne Ultimatum), who was also in Hot Fuzz, and Rosamund Pike (Wrath of the Titans, Die Another Day) will join Simon Pegg as 60% of the five friends reuniting for a pub crawl leading to the one called The World's End. After that film wraps up, Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike will both continue on to the independent dramedy Hector and the Search for Happiness. Simon Pegg will play an eccentric psychiatrist who sets out on a search to determine if happiness actually exists, with Rosamund Pike playing his girlfriend, and Christopher Plummer playing a "Happiness Studies" professor at UCLA. Hector and the Search for Happiness will be directed by Peter Chelsom, whose previous comedies include Serendipity, Hannah Montana: The Movie, and the English language remake of Shall We Dance? Normally, Chelsom's RT Tomatometer scores would have landed that film in the Rotten Ideas, but it was saved by being lumped in with Edgar Wright's The World's End.
#4 MICHAEL FASSBENDER AND BILL WEASLEY STAR IN THE PAPIER-MACHE-CENTRIC BIOPIC FRANK
For as many British musical acts dominated the U.S. charts as well in the 1980s, it might seem surprising to learn of the ones that were only famous in their homeland. One such (novelty) act was Frank Sidebottom, who was actually a musician and comedian named Chris Sievey under a large papier mache head that vaguely resembled Pee Wee Herman (who debuted a few years before). Frank Sidebottom went on to host his own TV show in the early 1990s, but eventually he faded from British pop culture significance. And then, in 2010, Chris Sievey died from cancer at the age of 54, and it was discovered that he was penniless, which led to a large fundraising effort to at least give Frank Sidebottom a funeral. It's a sad story, and that's probably why it's being turned into a musical comedy biopic called Frank. Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, who is most famous for playing Bill Weasley in the last two Harry Potter movies will play Chris Sievey himself, and Michael Fassbender will play the leader of the eccentric rock band Sievey belonged to before becoming Frank Sidebottom. Frank will be directed by Leonard Abrahamson of Ireland, whose first two films Adam & Paul and Garage didn't really make much of an impact in the USA.
#5 RENEE ZELLWEGER MAKING HER DIRECTORIAL DEBUT WITH 4 1/2 MINUTES
Actress Renee Zellweger is set to add another hyphenate to her credits with her directorial debut on the independent drama (about comedy) called 4 1/2 Minutes. Zellweger will also costar as the mother of a genius son for whom she hires a stand up comedian as sort of a male nanny, to be played by Johnny Knoxville. The script was written by Anthony Tambakis (cowriter of Warrior), and was based at least partly on the life of comedian Dov Davidoff. The movie will also be a look at the NYC stand up comedy community, and filming is scheduled to start there in February, 2013.
#6 IS CAPTAIN AMERICA IN AN "ANTI-ROMANTIC COMEDY" A MANY SPLINTERED THING?
Chris Evans (The Avengers) and Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Source Code) will star in an independent "anti-romantic comedy" called A Many Splintered Thing. Director Justin Reardon will make his feature film debut working from a "Black List" screenplay by the team of Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair. The comedy is described as being in the style of Amelie or (500) Days of Summer, which is fine if one ignores the fact that those films have almost nothing in common, except perhaps for traits that the two leading ladies in those films might share. Anyway, the story of A Many Splintered Thing involves a guy who starts a platonic relationship with an engaged woman that he met at a charity event while pretending to be a philanthropist. Consider this one a borderline "Fresh Development" aided mostly by the Black List distinction, and the fact that the director and writers don't have many other credits to help categorize this one.
#7 ZAC EFRON HAS AN INDIE ROMANTIC COMEDY AS WELL CALLED ARE WE OFFICIALLY DATING?
This must have just been a good week for young heart throb type actors to sign on for independent romantic comedies, "anti" or no. Zac Efron also signed on for one this past week called Are We Officially Dating? The story from debut director Tom Gormican follows three friends in Manhattan who make a pact to remain single just as they each start to fall in love.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#2 VIN DIESEL WILL BE THE LAST WITCH HUNTER
This week saw the release of the first trailers for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, which made it somewhat coincidental and/or timely that this news story also broke this week. Vin Diesel is in talks with Lionsgate-Summit to star in a supernatural action movie called The Last Witch Hunter. Breck Eisner (Sahara, The Crazies) is attached to direct The Last WItch Hunter from a script by Priest screenwriter Cory Goodman. And that last part right there is why this is one of the week's Rotten Ideas. Anyway, The Last Witch Hunter is about, well, exactly what it sounds like... and it's set in modern day New York City, which is the opposite of new and refreshing.
#1 DISNEY IS JUMPING ON THE DYSTOPIAN BANDWAGON WITH MATCHED
Everything old is new again thanks to the burgeoning YA novel market, and its target audience's unawareness that much of what they're reading has already been done before, and often, a lot better. But alas, The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga weren't box office bombs, and so here we are. Besides vampires and werewolves, these new books also often take place in dystopian futures and feature strong young female heroines. One such book was 2010's Matched by Ally Condie, which told the story of a girl in a dystopian future who rejects an arranged romance. Walt Disney Pictures has the rights to that book, and the trilogy that it will eventually become the first book of. This week, Disney chose director David Slade to direct Matched. Slade's previous two films were 30 Days of Night and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, both of which were rated "Rotten" on the RT Tomatometer, and so, here we are.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.