Weekly Ketchup: X-Men Producer Talks X4, New Mutants
Plus a bevy of remakes and sequels in the works.
This Week's Ketchup had so many rotten ideas, that Greg couldn't settle on just one. So we're breaking this week's top ten stories into the "Fresh Developments" and their opposite number, the "Rotten Ideas of the Week". The Fresh Ideas include new projects for the directors of The Wrestler and Ice Age, as well as Marvel-ous news for Thor and X-Men. The Rotten Ideas include the usual remake and sequel stuff as well as a live action Barbie movie.
#1 X-MEN PRODUCER REVEALS WHAT MIGHT COME AFTER X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
While doing press for the X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-Ray, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who basically holds the keys of the X-Men franchise at Fox revealed what projects she hopes to take on after the upcoming X-Men: First Class. The concept of First Class is basically a prequel, focusing on the young mutants who make up Charles Xavier's first group of students. We got a glimpse at some of the characters that are strong candidates to be included in First Class in Wolverine. Don't expect the movie class to match the orginial comic class though, since the on-screen Angel and Iceman were shown as being significantly younger than their classmates Cyclops, Jean Grey and Beast. Anyway, on to what Donner revealed what might be her next big projects: X4 and New Mutants. X4 would be a sequel to X3, featuring the continuing adventures of the mutant team as adults, following the deaths of a few of their teammates in X3. New Mutants would be an adaptation of the 1980s spin-off series that focused on a new class of students, most of whom have not yet appeared in the X-Men movies, even as cameos. New Mutants especially appeals to me as the comic always seemed to have its own introspective attitude, separate from the bigger, splashier, "event" battles of the X-Men. It should also be interesting to see if one of New Mutants' most classic characters, the strange alien known as Warlock, could also be included. Of course, X-Men: First Class, X4 and New Mutants are also joined in Fox's massive Marvel slate by X-Men Origins: Magneto, the Deadpool movie and X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2. Even if Fox was to produce one Marvel movie a year, that puts the last of these six as coming out sometime in 2016.
#2 THOR CASTING NEWS: SIF AND A MYSTERIOUS VILLAIN?
Thor is Marvel Studios' next major project after Iron Man 2, and this week director Kenneth Branagh found two more cast members (already cast are Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster). First up is Jaimie Alexander, who is best known for costarring in the Kyle XY television series, as Sif, who in Norse mythology is Thor's wife, but in the Marvel comics is just one of his romantic interests and best known as a fierce warrior and "shield maiden." Also joining the Thor cast is Colm Feore, whose credits include Chicago, The Chronicles of Riddick and the 24 TV series. What's particularly intriguing about Feore's casting is that Marvel is keeping his role a secret, with only the revelation that he will be playing a villain. That raises the question of what other villain might be appearing in Thor besides his brother Loki, the god of mischief. Might Feore's character somehow tie into Marvel's upcoming plans for The Avengers?
#3 WARNER BROS ALREADY ON THE CASE OF THE SHERLOCK HOLMES SEQUEL
Although as of today, Sherlock Holmes is exactly three months away from its Christmas Day release, Warner Bros is already actively developing the film's sequel, hiring screenwriters Kieran and Michele Mulroney to work on the script. The Mulroneys recently made their feature film debut by directing and writing the indie comedy Paper Man (about a man with an imaginary superhero friend) and have also worked with WB in the past (on the studio's currently shelved Justice League: Mortal project). The hottest bit of news about the Sherlock Holmes sequel, which is expected to also star Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, is about the rumors that Brad Pitt will be costarring as Holmes' most famous villain, Moriarty. The Pitt rumor mill started recently amidst reports that Pitt had actually been in London to film some scenes for the first movie as Moriarty, in preparation for his full introduction in this sequel. Those rumors have of course not been confirmed by the studio. The other question mark is the involvement of director Guy Ritchie, but it appears likely that he will probably sign on for the sequel as well.
#4 DARREN ARONOFSKY ADDS BRITISH HEIST MOVIE TO HIS SLATE
Acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream) is planning yet another project. He's currently filming The Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman) and then is planning to move on to the Robocop remake and his long-in-development Noah's Ark religious epic. After those, Aronofsky will produce and direct an untitled indie heist thriller based upon the true story of the largest robbery in British history: the $85 million robbery of the Securitas Depot in Tonbridge, England in February, 2006. The currently untitled thriller is a coproduction between Aronofsky's Protozoa Pictures, Time Inc Studios and XYZ Films. Time Inc's involvement with the project stems from the rights to the movie being based upon a Sports Illustrated article entitled "Breaking the Bank" and the nonfiction book Heist: The Inside Story of the World's Biggest Robbery. The script is being adapted by Kerry Williamson, a relatively new screenwriter who is also working on a project called Fork in the Road for director Alexander Payne. MGM is hoping that their Robocop remake will be Aronofsky's next after The Black Swan, so this project is probably a few years away from happening yet.
#5 ICE AGE DIRECTOR TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF (MEN)
After a rights tug of war with Pixar and Disney, Fox Animation has given a greenlight to Leaf Men, the next animated project for director Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots), via Blue Sky Studios. Leaf Men is an adaptation of the illustrated children's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce. Joyce's work has previously been turned into Meet the Robinsons and the Rolie Polie Olie TV series, and he also worked with Wedge previously to come up with the idea for Robots. Leaf Men will tell the story of a group of heroic insects who call upon the mythical Leaf Men to combat the forces of an evil spider queen threatening the peace of their garden. It's not known where exactly in Blue Sky's production slate Leaf Men will fit, but their next movie, Rio, isn't scheduled for release until 2011.
ROTTEN IDEAS OF THE WEEK
#1 DIMENSION FILMS ANNOUNCES SPY KIDS 4 AND NEVE CAMPBELL'S RETURN IN SCREAM 4
Bob Weinstein, the head of Dimension Films, announced plans this week for the distributor to focus on genre franchise films and the 3D format. As part of that news, he announcedt that Neve Campbell will indeed be returning for Scream 4 (previous reports were that she would not be) and that Robert Rodriguez is currently writing and preparing to film Spy Kids 4. Courtney Cox and David Arquette will also be returning for Scream 4, and Wes Craven is in talks to direct. Spy Kids 4 will film in 3D and start filming in Austin in March and Scream 4 is expected to start filming in April or May, 2010. Other 3D projects for the studio are Halloween III and remakes of Hellraiser and Scanners. Other projects the studio expects to remake soon are Short Circuits and An American Werewolf in London (an especially rotten idea, but one already covered in this column a few weeks ago). Thankfully for Dimension Films' ambitious sequel and remake plans, there used to be people who actually came up with original ideas.
#2 DAVID CRONENBERG BUZZING AROUND REMAKING THE FLY A SECOND TIME
In this time of remake frenzy, it was probably inevitable that directors would start signing on to remake movies that they have already remade. Rather than make a sequel, which at least requires coming up with an idea that follows from the first movie, a "remake remake" allows a storyteller to just tell the same story over again, right? Hey, maybe we will even some day see directors remaking the same story three, four or even five times. The good news to this rotten idea story is that the director in question is David Cronenberg, who generally is known for turning out some pretty great movies. The bad news is that the only movie he has ever remade is 1986's The Fly (a remake of a 1958 horror film starring Vincent Price), and he did a pretty good job reimagining what was arguably sort of a silly idea the first time around (featuring an actor stumbling around with a massive fly head and arms). Cronenberg is in talks to produce the Fly "reboot" for 20th Century Fox, which is noted as an "about face" for the filmmaker, who had previously said he did not want to be involved with another Fly remake. Admittedly, although I have pegged this reboot as a "rotten idea," it's quite possible that Cronenberg could come up with something sort of cool with The Fly, given today's modern filmmaking techniques. On the other hand, the bar was set pretty high with his original, creepy vision, as we saw Jeff Goldblum devolve into a disturbing creature with insectoid features. Can CGI really improve that much on the scenes in which we saw Goldblum scratching on his back, revealing all that goo and stuff?
#3 JENNIFER'S BODY SCREENWRITER ATTENDING SWEET VALLEY HIGH
Screenwriter Diablo Cody became a critcial darling with Juno but she sort of crashed and burned with last week's flop, Jennifer's Body. Now, Cody has signed on with Universal Pictures to produce and adapt the young adults book series Sweet Valley High. Universal won the rights to the Random House series created by Francine Pascal after a bidding war against 20th Century Fox. The Sweet Valley High series focuses on the lives of identical twin sisters with two very different personalities: Elizabeth is "sensitive and practical" while Jessica is "flighty and boy crazy." Over the course of 150+ books and a 1994-1997 TV series with 88 episodes, the twins have had enough stories to fill the lives of a whole high school full of students, or, if compacted into just two students, enough for them to have attended high school for about 20 years (which is about right, considering that the series was published between 1983 and 2003). Although I've never actually read a Sweet Valley High book, I did work in a book store in the 1990s that shelved dozens of the books, and so I'm familiar enough with the series to say that they seemed to be very fluffy and the literary equivalent of chewing sugar-free bubble gum. It's possible that Diablo Cody might be able to breathe new life into Sweet Valley High, but if she does, she'll probably be bringing in a depth that you'd be challenged to find in the original books.
#4 BARBIE TO COME ALIVE FOR UNIVERSAL PICTURES
After months of negotations with Mattel, Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to develop a live-action version of Barbie, as the extensive doll franchise celebrates her 50th anniversary. Laurence Mark, whose credits include I, Robot, Bicentennial Man and Jerry Maguire, is producing for the studio. Although Universal has adapted Barbie as direct-to-DVD animated movie, this will be the first time the doll character has ever been adapted as live-action. Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts, and although she is often portrayed as a high school student, her prolific career also includes stints as a teacher, military officer, pilot and astronaut. Barbie is also famous for driving pink cars of various models and for dating a man named Ken who is as ridicilously good looking and blonde as Barbie is. The Barbie franchise is also famous (or infamous) for arguably setting a standard of physical attributes that few real girls or women can ever actually achieve. How exactly Barbie can be brought to a live-action movie should be interesting to watch, at least. One idea that I might suggest for Barbie would be to give her the Brady Bunch treatment, with her living in her own world oblivious to the realities of the world around her. That approach would at least address the inherent silliness to the Barbie doll concept, but it's probably a bit more clever (if I can say so myself) than what we will end up with.
#5 FAST AND FURIOUS HIGHLANDER REMAKE TO PROVE THERE CAN'T BE ONLY ONE
Summit Entertainment has hired director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Toyky Drift) and producer Neal H. Moritz (also of the Fast and the Furious franchise) to work on their reboot of Highlander, the long-running film and television franchise about a race of eternal beings locked in a struggle set against human history. Summit acquired the rights to the franchise last year, and hired screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (cowriters of Iron Man and Punisher: War Zone) to work on the reboot. The project is said to "expand" on the concept while still focusing on the central character of Scottish swordsman Connor MacLeod, who must "confront a murderous barbarian who lusts for a fabled prize." The original 1986 Highlander starred Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Clancy Brown, and is considered by many fans to be one of the greatest sword and sorcery fantasy films ever produced, even if subsequent films never quite lived up to its legacy. The Highlander: The Series television show, starring Adrian Paul as Duncan, a clansman of Connor, was also often quite good. The Highlander franchise is an important project for Summit, which is looking for another fantasy franchise to supplement a roster currently highlighted by the Twilight Saga. The idea of rebooting Highlander with the help of the Fast and the Furious guys is this week's most rotten idea, however, because Highlander just seems like one of those perfect movies that can't possibly be replicated. Who are you going to find that is more awesomely Scottish, for example, than Sean Connery at his prime? Rather than trying to reboot Highlander (or really, any already great concept), why not find any of the hundreds of already existing sword and sorcery fantasy novels that are just sitting out there, waiting to be adapted for the first time? Once again, Hollywood finds it much easier to just remake an existing concept rather than coming up with something original.