Weekly Ketchup: George Lucas plans Star Wars in 3D

Plus, Rotten news about Spider-Man's budget cuts

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This week's Ketchup includes casting news for Conan the Barbarian and Green Lantern, new projects for directors Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton, and new roles for Sean Penn, Reese Witherspoon and Samuel L. Jackson.


FRESH DEVELOPMENTS


#1 READY TO SEE A GREAT (AND ANOTHER NOT SO GREAT) SCI-FI TRILOGY AGAIN... IN 3D?

As Avatar continues to reign over the box office, a common argument has been that James Cameron's movie changed the way that audiences experience movies in 3D. There has been a lot of speculation that we'll not only see more films made in 3D, but that possibly some older "eye candy" movies could get the treatment, too. Now, George Lucas has confirmed that for years he has been looking into bringing the two Star Wars trilogies back to theaters in 3D form, and that Avatar has shown him that the time may be right for him to begin the process. Lucas says "we've been looking for years and years of trying to take Star Wars and put it in 3D, but [the] technology hasn't been there. We've been struggling with it, but I think is the new impetus to make that happen." If Lucas goes through with plans to return all six Star Wars to theaters in the 3D format, it will be the second time that the original trilogy has been rereleased, following the controversial "Special Edition" versions from 1997, and the first for the prequel trilogy.


#2 MARTIN SCORSESE TO EXPAND HIS FILMOGRAPHY TO INCLUDE... A FAMILY MOVIE?

Martin Scorsese is in talks to make his next movie an adaptation of Brian Selznick children's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. This marks the first time the prolific director has worked in the realm of family-friendly movies, following a career most famous for gritty adult-themed movies like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. The Invention of Hugo Cabret is about an orphaned boy who secretly lives in the walls of a busy 19th century Paris train station where he looks after the clocks, and who gets involved in a mystery adventure when he attempts to repair a mechanical man. Scorsese is replacing Chris Wedge (Ice Age), who has moved on to an adaptation of The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. The Hugo Cabret script was adapted by screenwriter John Logan (cowriter of Gladiator, The Last Samurai), who previously worked with Scorsese on The Aviator. Filming is scheduled to start on June 1, 2010 in London.


#3 MARK STRONG: FROM SHERLOCK HOLMES TO SINESTRO

Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royle, Edge of Darkness) has shot down the rumors about Jackie Earle Haley being in the running to play the classic villian Sinestro in Green Lantern. Campbell announced that Mark Strong (who played the villain in Sherlock Holmes) is actually in talks for the role, while also pointing out that Strong even bears a resemblance to the way Sinestro has long been drawn in the comics (which this writer agrees that he does). Campbell also mentioned a few of the supporting characters that we can expect to see in the movie, which include Kilowog (a giant muscular alien) and Tomar-Re (the orange skinned alien with the big finned mohawk). Campbell also told CHUD that the version of Hal Jordan that Ryan Reynolds will be playing is based much more on the revisionist "hotshot military guy" as first seen in the Emerald Dawn mini-series. That's a depature from the more straight-laced and conservative intergalactic cop that many older fans remember from the 1960s, when Green Lantern was partnered with the more liberal Green Arrow.


#4 JESUS CHRIST TO RETURN (TO THEATERS) IN 2011

Samuel Goldwyn Films has announced plans to release a new New Testament adaptation called The Resurrection of the Christ (with no direct connection to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ) in theaters around Easter, 2011. No casting has been announced yet, but the movie is expected to be "as much about the key players as it is about Jesus" (which include Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, Caiaphas and Judas) and to "bring in the Gladiator dimension of the first century against the political milieu of the time." The Resurrection of the Christ will be directed by Jonas McCord, who made his debut in 2001 with the religious drama The Body (starring Antonio Banderas) and the script is by Dan Gordon (cowriter of Wyatt Earp, The Hurricane). Filming is expected to start sometime in 2010 at locations in Israel, Morocco and Europe, last ten weeks and is budgeted at around $20 million.


#5 SEAN PENN JOINS TEAM EDWARD IN WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

Sean Penn and Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) are in talks with Fox 2000 to join Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants. Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, The Bridges of Madison County) adapted the screenplay from the Depression-era historical novel of the same title by Sara Gruen. The novel is about a veterinary student (Pattinson) who leaves school following the death of his parents to work for a circus as their animal doctor. Witherspoon will play a beautiful horse-riding performer, and Penn (who is currently in Haiti on a humanitarian mission) would play her husband, a "charismatic but twisted" animal trainer. The project is likely to be the third movie for director Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend), ending a couple of years of speculation about what his next project would be. He's racked up a long list of projects in development that include an I Am Legend sequel, a martial arts take on Snow White called Snow and the Seven, a Biblical Samson action epic and a futuristic adaptation of World War II comics soldier Sgt. Rock. Fox is looking to start filming Water for Elephants in June, 2010.


#6 JACKSON AND DUHAMEL HAVE SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Duhamel (Transformers) have reportedly signed to star in an "outrageous, violent and subversive" supernatural thriller called Sympathy for the Devil. The film is set to be directed by Boaz Yakin (Uptown Girls, Remember the Titans). Duhamel and Jackson will play Louisiana cops in the middle of a "cosmic confrontation between Heaven and Hell, where angels are warriors as dangerous as demons" after Duhamel's character intervenes on an attempt to assassinate a charismatic preacher. Sympathy for the Devil is an independent production that is currently seeking distribution partners before heading into production.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#4 CONAN THE HAWAIIAN

Lionsgate and the other production companies of the Conan the Barbarian reboot have settled on the actor that will take over the role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The new Conan will be played by Hawaiian TV star Jason Momoa (Baywatch, Stargate: Atlantis). Director Marcus Nispel (Pathfinder, Friday the 13th) reportedly convinced the producers to go with his choice of Momoa after being shown test footage of Momoa waving around a sword and behaving "very Schwarzenegger-like." Latino Review is also reporting that an offer has been made to Mickey Rourke to play Conan's father, Corin. Now that the long casting process is over, the new Conan production can move ahead; filming is set to start on March 15, 2010 in Bulgaria. This story gets the Rotten Idea tag because the way Momoa won the role seems to conflict with the years of claims that this reboot would be a departure from the Schwarzenegger movies. The films were popular, but weren't seen by fans as being particularly faithful to Robert E. Howard's source material.


#3 THOMAS LENNON WINKINGLY ADMITS THAT HE IS WRITING NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3

Talking to Access Hollywood, comedian and screenwriter Thomas Lennon (The State, Reno: 911) was asked about the possibility of a third movie in the very successful Night at the Museum franchise, and Lennon basically did one of those winking sort of confirmation statements while technically not confirming his involvement. Lennon gave no firm details on the hypothetical third movie, eventually going on to joke that it would be set at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. Lennon cowrote the first two Night at the Museum movies for 20th Century Fox with fellow State cast member Robert Ben Garant. The reason this story gets tagged as being a "Rotten Idea" is that both movies received Rotten ratings from critics, and eerily, they currently stand at the exact same rating of 44%. So, with all else being the same for the third movie, the likelihood of Night at the Museum 3 getting anything higher than 50% on the Tomatometer seems to be slim.


#2 TIM BURTON MAY RETEAM WITH DISNEY ON ANOTHER CLASSIC REBOOT

Even as director Tim Burton continues to work on the live-action Alice in Wonderland, Harry Knowles of AICN is reporting that Burton and Disney are considering following this remake of Disney's animated movie from 1951 with a remake of the one from 1959 (and the last produced by Walt Disney himself): Sleeping Beauty. In a twist that seems quite like what the Broadway musical (and upcoming movie adaptation) Wicked did with The Wizard of Oz, Burton's plan is to call the movie Maleficent and focus the narrative on the Dark Fairy, rather than on Briar Rose and the Three Good Fairies. If Burton does proceed with another live-action remake for Disney, the next question would be who would play Maleficent, and the obvious answer seems to be that Burton would be likely to push for Helena Bonham Carter, his wife and frequent costar of his movies. The other obvious question, along that line of thinking, is where would Burton's other extremely prolific actor, Johnny Depp, might fit into such a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with the romantic interest of Prince Phillip seeming unlikely, given Depp's age. The reason Maleficent is being tagged as a Rotten Idea is that the notion of reimagining the Dark Fairy as the center of her own movie does seem to this writer as a bit of a reaction to Universal's plans for the Wicked movie, which is currently stuck in development hell.


#1 THE SPIDER-MAN REBOOT SAGA CONTINUES, ULTIMATELY

This week, Sony confirmed that director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) would replace Sam Raimi as the director of the Spider-Man franchise, starting with a reboot movie to be released in the summer of 2012. That bit of news, however, is not what lands this story as a "Rotten Idea" this week, as Webb's first movie appeared to be well-made, and so his involvement does not besmirch Spider-Man at all. Nope, the next part is what's the real meat of the story this week. Sony is trimming back the budget considerably to just $80 million (the budgets for the first three were $139 million, $200 million and $258 million, respectively). Some of that cost-cutting comes from the cast, which will this time be a "cast of relative unknowns." The other revelation is that the inspiration for the script that James Vanderbilt (Zodiac; cowriter of The Rundown) has written is not the original Marvel Comics series that started in the 1960s, but is rather Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man that ran from 2000 to 2009. That apparently means the emphasis will be the way the Ultimate stories focused less on fighting villains and more on "high school angst," as the new Peter Parker will be "a high school kid who is dealing with the knowledge that his uncle died even though the teen had the power to stop it." That particular detail suggests something else, which is that in the fourth Spider-Man movie, we will once again be getting Peter's origin story. CHUD.com is also reporting that Peter will be joined by not just Mary Jane Watson, but also Gwen Stacy and Flash Thompson, in what will basically be a romantic triangle. Although on one hand, it's great that Webb's movie will apparently focus on character development, it's not exactly like Raimi's movies didn't also do that, but what will undoubtedly have to be trimmed as the budget goes from $258 million all the way down to $80 million is the amount of money Sony is willing to throw at the action and FX sequences. Even without a name cast, $80 million is a teensy tiny amount for a superhero movie, and especially for one on the scale of Spider-Man. And really, if we wanted to see a cheaply made Spider-Man story, couldn't Sony really save their money and just make it the CW weekly TV series that it's apparently getting closer and closer to becoming on the big screen?

For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS through his MySpace page or via a RT forum message.

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