Weekly Ketchup: SNL Alumnus to Write Looney Toons Reboot
Also, Damon and Affleck reteam, and Baywatch and Manimal make some noise.
This week's Ketchup is full of news stories concerning TV show adaptations like Looney Tunes (technically a TV show), Baywatch, and yes, Manimal. There's also a new movie for director Roman Polanski, new roles for Casey Affleck and Pierce Brosnan, and an unnecessary remake of The Flamingo Kid.
This Week's Top Story
THUFFERIN' ****OTASH: SNL CAST MEMBER TO WRITE THE LOONEY TUNES REBOOT
Comedienne Jenny Slate is probably best known as the new member of the 2009-2010 season of Saturday Night Live who dropped the F-bomb in her first appearance (and wasn't renewed for the 2010-2011 season). Regardless of (and hopefully not because of) her R-rated past, Slate has been handed the reins to one of the most venerable and cherished kid-friendly stables of characters that anyone in Hollywood owns. Warner Bros wants to reboot the Looney Tunes characters as a live action/CGI hybrid film, and Jenny Slate has been hired to adapt the script. Looney Tunes refers, of course, to the classic WB characters that include Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew, Porky Pig, Road Runner (and Wile E. Coyote), Speedy Gonzalez, Sylvester and Tweety, Tasmanian Devil, and Yosemite Sam. This new attempt at a Looney Tunes reboot comes after another attempt at a reboot in 2003 in the form of Looney Tunes: Back in Action, which followed the 1996 hit Space Jam. There's no details yet as to what Jenny Slate's take on Looney Tunes will actually be. The reboot's producers at Warner Bros include Seth Grahame-Smith, the writer of the recent Dark Shadows movie adaptation and author of mashup books like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 VENUS IN FUR: ROMAN, ROMAN (POLANSKI), AWAITS YOU THERE
The subject comes up (nearly) every year with each new film from acclaimed director Roman Polanski, but given the nature of his new film, it might be apropos this time around. In a nutshell, Roman Polanski was arrested in 1977 for charges involving a 13-year-old girl, but Polanski fled to France before he was sentenced, and has remained in Europe ever since. This has led to an ongoing polarization among moviegoers in the 35 years ever since. Polanski's career before 1977 included classics like Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, and in the years since, he's given the world such films as Death and the Maiden, The Pianist, The Ghost Writer, and most recently, Carnage. Although most of his films have continued to be made in English, for his next project, Roman Polanski will be working in French on an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway play Venus in Fur. The comedic play is based upon a 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch about an erotic game of cat-and-mouse between a young playwright and one of the actresses auditioning for a role. Filming will start this November in France, featuring Emannuelle Seigner (AKA Mrs. Roman Polanski since 1989, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Louis Garrel (The Dreamers). Polanski's next project after Venus in Fur is still expected to be D., the director's adaptation of The Dreyfus Affair.
#2 PIERCE BROSNAN LEADS THE SUICIDE-CENTRIC ENSEMBLE CAST OF A LONG WAY DOWN
Nick Hornby is a successful British author and writer whose books have been adapted as four movies: High Fidelity, About a Boy, and two different (British and American) versions of Fever Pitch. That's especially impressive when one considers that Hornby has only written six proper novels. Hornby is about to hit a 50% adaptation rate (Fever Pitch was non fiction) with a new film based on his novel A Long Way Down, about four strangers who meet on top of a London skyscraper as they're about to commit suicide, leading them to form a pact to stay alive until at least Valentine's Day. Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), and Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later) will respectively play a former TV celebrity, a single mother, a failed musician, and a teenager. Filming has already started in London under the direction of Pascal Chaumeil (2010's Heartbreaker), who was also Luc Besson's assistant director on such films as Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. The script was adapted by Jack Thorpe, a British TV writer whose credits include several episodes of Skins (UK) and This is England ('86 and '88).
#3 AFFLECK AND DAMON, BACK TOGETHER AGAIN, FOR THE RACE TO THE SOUTH POLE
Many movie fans probably still think of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as the best friend wunderkind duo that won their Oscars for Good Will Hunting. However, the reality is that Affleck and Damon haven't produced a movie together since Feast, the 2005 horror film that was the result of the last season of HBO's Project Greenlight. Their production company Pearl Street, however, has still been developing movies, such as a planned Whitey Bulger biopic that Affleck would direct and Damon would star in as Bulger. Another project got added this week to the list of potential Affleck/Damon reunions in the form of Race to the South Pole, about the true story of two early 1900s explorers who competed against each other to reach the world's last uncharted land territory. Ben's brother Casey Affleck is attached to costar as English explorer Robert Falcon Scott, and the other main character is Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Race to the South Pole was written by Peter Glanz, who made his writing/directing debut with the recent independent film The Longest Week, starring Olivia Wilde, Jason Bateman, Billy Crudup, and Jenny Slate (see above). There has been speculation that either Ben Affleck or Matt Damon might play Roald Amundsen, but neither possibility has been confirmed as of yet.
#4 SUPER DIRECTOR CONFIRMED FOR MARVEL'S GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Although it's been rumored and almost expected since August, but it was this week that director James Gunn (Super, Slither, The Specials) confirmed that he will indeed be directing Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. This film, based on the most recent version of the team (which has led to a lot of confusion from people who just use Wikipedia instead of actual comic book knowledge), is scheduled by Disney and Marvel for August 1, 2014, making it the fourth upcoming Marvel film after Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians of the Galaxy is also expected to be the film that really takes the Marvel Universe into space (not counting the Thor movies), and it will be the last bridge film leading into The Avengers 2. The Guardians of the Galaxy as they will appear in this film will be Drax the Destroyer (a deceased human turned into a huge green space warrior), Gamora (an alien former agent of the villain Thanos), StarLord (a human intergalactic cop not at all to be confused with Green Lantern), Groot (a tree who just says his own name), and Rocket Raccoon (who is pretty much exactly what his name sounds like). Although there are a few Rotten films on James Gunn's RT Tomatometer, the film that reportedly demonstrates what Marvel liked about Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy was the sci-fi comedy Slither, which earned an 85% Fresh rating.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#5 THE END OF AN ERA: TOM ROTHMAN RESIGNS FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX
Usually, this column addresses specific new movies that have been announced as being in development, mostly at major movie studios. Sometimes, a news story might include as many as a handful of movie properties. This story, however, doesn't do any of that, and yet, it addresses someone whose influence has directly impacted the movies that we all have enjoyed since before this writer got started back in 1997. Tom Rothman has announced his retirement as CEO and Co-Chairman of 20th Century Fox, effective on January 1, 2013. During Rothman's 18 years at Fox, he was responsible for greenlighting and shepherding some of the best popcorn-munching-inducing movies that we have had the pleasure of seeing (Titanic, for example). There was also a period when Rothman became something of an easy target for resentful fanboys, especially after the failures of such Marvel movie properties as Daredevil and Fantastic Four. Things had been starting to change for the better in recent years, it seemed, however. Avatar, X-Men: First Class, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were all 20th Century Fox films that Rothman surely had a hand in bringing to us. There will probably be much more written, maybe whole books, about Tom Rothman's years at 20th Century Fox. For now, let's just say that it seems like a "Rotten Idea" for Rothman to be stepping down (however that's happening, for whatever reason), just now that 20th Century Fox seems to be heading in the right direction.
#4 VANESSA HUDGENS AND ASHLEY TISDALE GET ANIMATED FOR THE GREAT MIGRATION
The Great Migration is the name of an upcoming animated musical that is being cast almost entirely with young stars with roots in kid-friendly cable networks and programs. Specifically, the cast will include Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale (both from Disney's High School Musical), Logan Henderson and Kendall Schmidt (both from Nickelodeon's Big Time Rush), and Ashley Benson (Pretty Little Liars). What is not so specific is what exactly The Great Migration is about (though one would have to first guess birds based on the title). The logline that is out there right now just says, that it's about "a group of characters that encounter a mutated predator threatening to destroy the balance of their environment." Of course, that can also describe the premise of LOST. The Great Migration was written by former child star Kevin G. Schmidt (Cheaper by the Dozen, The Butterfly Effect), but it's unclear based on the initial reports exactly who will be directing. Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, The Forbidden Kingdom) is one of the producers behind CMI Entertainment, the production company behind this independent animated production.
#3 THE BAYWATCH MOVIE GETS HELP FROM THE RENO 911 POLICE DEPARTMENT
Paramount Pictures is still planning on bringing back the red swimsuits of Baywatch through a new theatrical movie, which has been known for a while to be more intentionally comedic than the original 1989-1999 TV series. It's been known for a while that the screenwriter working on the Baywatch movie is Peter Tolan (cowriter of Analyze This, Just Like Heaven), with comparisons being made to Stripes. Baywatch doesn't seem to have much in common with Stripes, but Stripes is generally considered a great comedy, and savvy Hollywood types know that one of the secrets to success is comparing yourself to good movies. The comparison might also have come up because Ivan Reitman directed Stripes, and he's also one of the Baywatch movie's producers. Anyway, the news this week is that a) Paramount still wants to make a Baywatch movie, and b) the director that they've recruited is Robert Ben Garant, the former member of The State who cocreated Reno 911!, directed Reno 911: Miami, and has with Tom Lennon cowritten the Night at the Museum movies. What's "rotten" about this story isn't so much Mr. Garant's body of work itself, but just that first part: Paramount still wants to make a Baywatch movie.
#2 MANIMAL IS YET ANOTHER 1980S TV SHOW THAT MIGHT BECOME AN ACTUAL BIG SCREEN MOVIE
Nostalgia is a powerful, nigh-unquenchable force. There was a time when nostalgia for the 1960s was the big thing in Hollywood, but the 1970s got only a portion of that. When it came time for people to start reflecting all misty-eyed for the 1980s (which was really quite a while ago now), however, Hollywood types latched onto to the Reagan years, and they still haven't given up. Nostalgic movie projects can take a few different forms (remakes, reboots, cartoon adaptations, etc), so that means there's actually way more sources to adapt that there will ever (hopefully) actually be produced movies based on those properties. That, at least, is probably why it's taken this long for someone like Sony Pictures Animation to get around to announcing plans for a Manimal movie. Manimal was of course a short lived NBC detective show starring the late Simon MacCorkindale as a shapeshifter who uses his abilities to solve crimes. The show wasn't that great, but even so, it was still ahead of its time. If Manimal had been made twenty years later, even if it was just "meh," it probably could have gotten closer to 8 seasons instead of just 8 episodes. Anyway, the plan is for Sony Pictures Animation to produce Manimal as a live action/CGI combination, which probably just means that the CGI will be used for the various animals, which is probably a lot easier than working with real panthers and such. To close, this is where this article should point out that Sony Pictures Animation was the studio behind The Smurfs, and they're also developing a CGI/live action adaptation of another 1980s NBC TV show, ALF.
#1 THIS WEEK IN UNNECESSARY REMAKES: THE FLAMINGO KID
It's rather easy and fun to joke about Hollywood's attempts to remake or adapt corny properties like, say, Baywatch or Manimal. One of the core rules of remakes and adaptations, however, is that it's often easier to make a good film from "meh" material, because the standard starts out so low, you can only go up (maybe). The reason for that rule is that the opposite is usually also seen as true: trying to remake a film that was great the first time is usually a losing proposition. One movie that was quite good the first time was 1984's The Flamingo Kid, which starred Matt Dillon as a young guy working at a Long Island beach resort in the 1960s. The Flamingo Kid was directed by Garry Marshall back before he retreated into Julia Roberts romantic comedies. The movie works, which is probably why it has an 88% Fresh rating on the RT Tomatometer. Anyway, despite all of that, Walt Disney Pictures and producer Brett Ratner are teaming up on a remake of The Flamingo Kid. It will be adapted by Nzingha Stewart, who coproduced For Colored Girls with Tyler Perry, and has directed music videos for Jay Z and 50 Cent.
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook.