Weekly Ketchup: Christopher Nolan to Mentor Superman

Plus casting news for Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon

This week's Ketchup includes news for the new Batman, Superman, Captain America and Pirates of the Caribbean movies, new projects for directors Kevin Costner and Steven Soderbergh, news of a possible 24 movie and remake news for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.


FRESH DEVELOPMENTS


#1 HERE HE COMES TO SAVE THE DAY: CHRIS NOLAN TO SHEPHERD THE NEXT SUPERMAN MOVIE

Warner Bros has recruited director Christopher Nolan, who delivered those last two awesome Batman movies for the studio, to be a sort of "godfather" for their struggling Superman franchise. The studio is under a lot of pressure to do something with Superman on the movie front, as in 2013, the rights revert to the heirs of the character's cocreator Jerry Siegel. Whatever ends up being the next Superman movie, it's likely to be another reboot, and not a continuation of Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, which was itself basically a continuation of the first two movies directed by Richard Donner. It's very unlikely Christopher Nolan will direct the new Superman, but he will probably get something like a producer credit out of the deal, as he helps guide the studio in finding the right creative team for what by all rights should be a hugely popular movie, if executed well. Meanwhile, Nolan has come up with his idea for his third Batman movie, and the writing team behind The Dark Knight is now at work on the script. Nolan's brother Jonah also cowrote The Prestige and wrote the story that inspired Memento, and David Goyer wrote Blade, cowrote Dark City and recently left the ABC series Flashforward, which he created, so that he could focus on the third Batman.


#2 CAPTAIN AMERICA AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS (AND PREMISE)

Now that Thor is in production, the focus for Marvel Studios rightly moves on to The First Avenger: Captain America, and this week saw a flurry of news for the Star Spangled Avenger. First, director Joe Johnston revealed the premise of the movie, which I considered thumbnailing for you here, but since it includes what could be interpreted as spoilers, I'll just point you towards the linked article. Also included in that article is information about what the movie costume will look like, which the movie's premise smartly works into being both a representation of the classic costume and a version that is closer to the Ultimate version of Captain America. Something I can include which is not as much of a spoiler (since there's no way he won't be in the trailer) is that the movie's villain will indeed be the Red Skull (surprising, I would think, no one). Also to be included in the second half of the movie, and probably not a spoiler because they're likewise likely to be in the trailers, will be the World War II superhero team The Invaders. In the comics, the Invaders included members like the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner, but the movie rights to those characters are both at other studios. So, the movie version of the Invaders is more likely to include characters like Union Jack, Spitfire and the Blazing Skull (the team will have six members). Finally, Johnston has said that he is currently meeting with 5 or 6 actors for the role, which he hopes to cast before heading for preproduction in England on March 1st. And now, from IGN, we know who three of those actors are reported to be, and they're all from the world of television: Jensen Ackles (Supernatural), Chad Murray Hill (One Tree Hill) and Ryan McPartlin (Chuck).


#3 JACK SPARROW IS SAILING AWAY ON HIS NEXT PIRATES CRUZ

Penelope Cruz is in talks with Disney to be the first new cast member of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. This fourth movie in the franchise will be directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), whose latest film was the musical Nine, which also costarred Penelope Cruz. The premise of On Stranger Tides isn't known yet, except that it revolves around the Fountain of Youth. Likewise, Cruz's character has not been revealed, except that she is Jack Sparrow's "foil and equal in many ways" (such as equally drunk?). Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot, who also wrote the first three Pirates movies. On Stranger Tides is scheduled to start filming this summer in Hawaii, and Disney has scheduled the film for a release on May 20, 2011.


#4 WOULD A FEATURE LENGTH 24 MOVIE JUST BE CALLED 2?

Although their TV cousin hasn't officially picked up the show yet for a 9th season, 20th Century Fox is beginning to move forward with plans for a movie version of the terrorism-themed drama 24. The studio is in talks with screenwriter Billy Ray (Shattered Glass; cowriter of Flightplan) to adapt the long-running show, which of course stars Kiefer Sutherland as counter terrorism agent Jack Bauer. 24 is also well known for its unusual format of telling an hour of story in real time in each episode (not counting bathroom breaks, it has always seemed). A decision hasn't officially been made yet about whether to move forward with this hypothetical 24 movie. Entertainment Weekly reports that Fox is most likely waiting to see how the show does in the ratings in the next few weeks. 24 is currently Fox's third most popular show after American Idol and House. If there is indeed a 24 movie, the star would of course be Kiefer Sutherland, who has managed to continue a movie career during his years on 24 which has included Phone Booth, Taking Lives and The Sentinel.


#5 STEVEN SODERBERGH'S CONTAGION HAS INFECTED AN INTERNATIONAL CAST

Steven Soderbergh has lined up the cast of his next film, even as he is currently filming Knockout. Matt Damon and Jude Law are signed to star in Contagion, while Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard are in talks to costar. Contagion is described as a Traffic-style multiple storyline drama about the global threat of a deadly disease outbreak. Contagion was written by Scott Z Burns (The Informant; cowriter of The Bourne Ultimatum), whose two Hollywood credits both also starred Matt Damon. Soderbergh will move on to Contagion this fall after finishing up the currently filming Knockout, which stars Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and martial arts champion Gina Carano. Contagion, which will start filming this fall, 2010, has also bumped back Soderbergh's Liberace biopic, which will now film in early 2011 after Contagion has wrapped. Matt Damon will once again team up with Soderbergh on Liberace, playing the pianist's gay lover to Michael Douglas' Liberace.


#6 KEVIN COSTNER DECLARES A LITTLE WAR OF OUR OWN

Kevin Costner has announced his fourth official project as director (and his first since 2003's Open Range), and like in the other movies, Costner will also be starring. The movie is called A Little War of Our Own, and it will star Kevin Costner as a sheriff during World War II who must stop his town from erupting into violence. The other lead role is the captain of a German U-Boat submarine, so that sort of gives you an idea of what the violence is about. The script was written by Dan Gordon (Murder in the First; cowriter of Passenger 57), who also wrote Wyatt Earp, in which Kevin Costner also starred. There's no word yet about when A Little War of Our Own will start filming, and the independent production does not currently have distribution in the USA.


ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK


#4 NEW YEAR'S EVE TO FOLLOW VALENTINE'S DAY IN THIS NEW FRANCHISE OF HOLIDAY-THEMED MOVIES

Although the movie wasn't released until today, earlier this week New Line Cinema moved forward with plans to a thematical sequel to Valentine's Day. Next up in the studio's apparent long-term plan to make ensemble cast comedies based on the holidays that many people don't get off work for is... New Year's Eve. New Line hired Valentine's Day screenwriter Katherine Fugate (who also cowrote The Prince & Me) to write New Year's Eve, and the studio bosses are currently reading the script. As you might guess, New Year's Eve will be an ensemble romantic comedy set on the night of December 31st, and the wee hours of the morning of January 1st. The idea for how to apply the ensemble cast concept to holiday-themed movies was reportedly hatched during production of Valentine's Day, with New Year's Eve chosen as the next logical step. A big part of the appeal to the new franchise's concept is that the studio gets a cast full of big stars for much less than they usually cost, allowing Valentine's Day to have a budget of less than $50 million. Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) will direct New Year's Eve as he did Valentine's Day, and some of the characters from that film are expected to return as well. New Year's Eve isn't a "Rotten Idea" because of the concept, but because Valentine's Day has a very Rotten Tomatometerc(14%), which suggests New Year's Eve will probably not be a critical winner either.


#3 (PROBABLY NOT) THE BEST LITTLE REMAKE IN TEXAS

Universal Pictures has signed screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith to start work on a remake of the 1982 Burt Reynolds/Dolly Parton musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Up for the job are the writing team of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, whose filmography together includes Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You. Before becoming a movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was a hit on Broadway in 1978 about a madam and a small town sheriff who team up to save their bordello from being closed by local politicians. The new version will still be a musical, but it's not yet known if any of the original songs (which include Parton's "I Will Always Love You") will be used. Although many of the best remakes are based upon movies that weren't perfect the first time around (the original is at 56% on the Tomatometer), this remake still gets the "Rotten Idea" tag. The reason is that it's quite likely that the very things that were actually good about the flawed original movie (the R-rated humor, for example) are exactly the sort of things that this new version will probably do away with.


#2 THE 2005 MOVIE THAT GOT BRADGELINA STARTED GETS A QUASI-REMAKE

Mr. and Mrs. Smith only opened in theaters five years ago, but Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are all old and stuff by Hollywood standards. Or maybe they're just expensive. So, instead of hiring Gramps and Granny back for a sequel, Fox and New Regency are developing a quasi remake/prequel called Mr. and Mrs. Jones that will tell basically the same story, except with assassins in their 20s falling in love this time instead. The two young killers will be set up to live together as a fake married couple shortly after graduating from their assassin school training. This story gets the "rotten idea" tag because the reason that Mr. and Mrs. Smith worked was the natural chemistry between Pitt and Jolie, and an attempt to replicate it with younger (and cheaper) stars just smacks of a doomed proposition.


#1 THIS WEEK IN SHARK BOY NEWS: HIS TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO 3D AS STRETCH ARMSTRONG

Taylor Lautner continues to rake in new projects due to his rabid online fanbase following his epic starring role in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, and this time, it's in another movie to be filmed in the 3D format that the movie has made so popular in Hollywood these days. Lautner has signed with Universal Pictures and Hasbro to bring to life the 1970s action figure toy Stretch Armstrong in the touching story of a guy whose legs and arms can get really long when pulled on by 8 year old boys. Stretch Armstrong was formerly expected to be a 2011 release, but it is being pushed back to 2012 to fit in with Lautner's busy schedule, which also includes Max Steel, another movie based on an action figure. Stretch Armstrong doesn't have a director yet, but it was written by Steve Oedekerk (Evan Almighty, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls). In other Universal/Hasbro news, the studio has also bumped back the Battleship movie so that the board game adaptation can have more time for the awesome special effects needed to replicate the excitement of kids putting white and red pegs in little grey boats. Battleship now has the very hot Memorial Day weekend release date of May 25, 2012. This move also makes room for DreamWorks' Cowboys vs. Aliens (which Universal is co-releasing) on the date vacated by Battleship, which is July 29, 2011. These stories are this week's most "rotten ideas," because they are movies based on Stretch Armstrong and Battleship. Do I need say any more?


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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