Weekly Ketchup

Weekly Ketchup: Bryan Singer takes on Battlestar Galactica

Plus WB announces a LEGO movie.

by | August 14, 2009 | Comments

This week’s Ketchup features the usual smorgasbord of movie concepts. An old TV show? Check! A video game? Check! A popular toy franchise? Check! A biopic about a dead musician? Check! David Mamet doing The Diary of Anne Frank and some Brits are making 3D musicals based on the works of William Shakespeare… Check?


Universal Pictures has signed Bryan Singer to produce and direct a feature version of the popular sci-fi TV franchise, Battlestar Galactica. Bryan Singer’s career got started with the award-winning The Usual Suspects, but most fans might best know him as the director of the first two X-Men movies and 2006’s Superman Returns. Years ago, Singer had been developing a new Battlestar Galactica TV series, but reportedly plans were scrapped after the events of September 11, 2001, when it was felt a TV show about a city being attacked and destroyed wouldn’t be well received. A few years later, Ronald Moore produced his own take on a Battlestar Galactica relaunch, and the show just went off the air after 73 episodes. It is unknown if Moore will be involved at all with this new Galactica movie, and it’s being produced by Glen Larson, creator of the orginal 1970s show. Since Singer’s approach is being called a “complete re-imagination,” it’s expected that there will be no direct ties between Moore’s recent series and this new movie, which will relaunch the concept for a second time. There’s no word yet as to who will be writing the script for this new Battlestar Galactica either. My hunch is that we can probably expect Singer’s Galactica to have a lighter tone than Ronald Moore’s rather dire and dark TV series. I’m basing this upon a suspicion that Singer’s inspiration will be the actual original 1970s series (as opposed to Moore’s version). That would gel with a lot of what we know about Singer’s tastes, as he’s long talked about developing a Logan’s Run remake, and his Superman Returns slavishly paid homage to 1978’s Superman. So, Bryan Singer definitely likes 1970s science fiction properties, which suggests he might like the original Battlestar Galactica more than the 2000s remake, right? Having said that, here’s hoping he doesn’t include the cute little kid and his robot dog.


With Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra both being big hits this summer, Hollywood’s newest fascination with toy-inspired movies continued this week with the news that Warner Bros is developing a movie based on the building bricks of LEGO. Screenwriting brothers Dan and Kevin Hageman (the upcoming CGI animated Hotel Transylvania) are said to be writing a family comedy that will be a mix of live action and CGI animation. The exact details of the plot are being kept secret, but it’s described as being an adventure in a world of LEGOs. The Danish toy company has worked with Hollywood before, on the Bionicle direct-to-DVD movies, but this project is much more ambitious. Although the news of this project seems inspired by the recent successes of toy-inspired movies, Warner Bros has actually been already been developing the LEGO movie for the past year. That makes sense, considering that Warner Bros has worked with LEGO in the past, allowing characters like Batman, Harry Potter and Speed Racer to be adapted as LEGO game sets, as well as collaberating on the LEGO Batman video game.


Adrian Askarieh, producer of the Hitman and Kane & Lynch projects at Lionsgate, has acquired the rights to another Eidos videogame property, the 2006 hit, Just Cause. In Just Cause, players take on the role of The Scorpion, a CIA black ops assassin who specializes in using base jumping and grappling hooks for high-altitude action adventures. The developers have described the character as “as a mix of Jason Bourne, James Bond, Wolverine, and Rambo, with a touch of Enrique Iglesias.” Eidos is currently preparing for the release of Just Cause 2 in 2010. Askarieh is looking to make Just Cause an independent production, and is rounding up a budget of $30 million, which seems a bit on the low side for an action thriller. While Just Cause is being developed, Askarieh also expects filming of Kane & Lynch, which will costar Bruce Willis, to start in 2010.


In order for Hollywood’s fascination with 3D to evolve into something other than a cheap trick, the technology will have to eventually be used for something a bit more upscale than say, Space Chimps 3D. A British producer may have figured exactly what that might be, with news of plans for a series of 3D movie musicals based upon the works of William Shakespeare. Based upon the musical adaptations produced by a company called Shakespeare 4 Kids, the first movie will be Hamlet, with the other titles in the series being Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. The movies will be produced at a fast pace, with the first three expected to be finished within a period of 18 months. Simultaneously, the producers will also launch Movie Quest: A Romeo 4 Juliet, a competitive reality show that will seek young British talent to star as the starcrossed lovers. As for Hamlet, here’s some examples of what the producers expect to wow people with in 3D, “a ghost that hovers in front of the audience’s eyes, cannon fire that flies into the auditorium and a sword fight that appears to happen all around viewers.” What, no floating skull in our laps during Hamlet’s “Alas, poor Yorick” monologue?


Screenwriter and playwright David Mamet, who is known for both his loose use of obscenities in movies like Glengarry Glen Ross and Homicide and for a style of dialogue that is heavy on pauses and short, often interrupted sentences, has found strange bedfellows for his latest project. Walt Disney Pictures has acquired the rights to David Mamet’s adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank, the frequently-adapted memoir left behind by a young Jewish girl who did not survive the Holocaust. Mamet’s script will reportedly be a hybrid of Frank’s diary, the stage adaptation and Mamet’s own take, which reframes the story as a young girl’s rite of passage (although that’s what I was taught it was in school some 25 years ago). It’s worth noting that David Mamet has indeed gone outside what might be considered his comfort zone in the past, most notably with his adaptation of The Winslow Boy a drama set in the early 20th Century. Anne Frank was, of course, a 15 year old girl who died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 after living with her family in hiding in Amsterdam, where she wrote her famous diary. A 1959 big screen adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank earned Shelley Winters an Oscar, and the memoir has since been adapted for television several times.


Nashville-based 821 Entertainment Group and Strike Entertainment have teamed up to develop a biopic about the life of country music legend Hank Williams. Growing up poor in Alabama during the Great Depression, Hank Williams rocketed to country stardom in the 1940s, releasing 11 #1 hits, before his addiction to alcohol and morphine led to his death at just 29 on New Year’s Day, 1953. Williams’ hit songs included “Hey, Good Lookin'”, “Lovesick Blues,” “Moanin’ the Blues,” “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” “Your Cheating Heart,” “Cold Cold Heart,” “Take These Chains From My Heart,” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” Williams’ children and grandchildren have also followed him with careers in country music, with the most obvious one being Hank Williams, Jr., who many people know as the “Are You Ready for Some Football?” guy. Strike Entertainment partner Marc Abraham, who wrote some episodes of Moonlighting and 21 Jump Street, will adapt the Colin Escott book, Hank Williams: The Biography. 821 Entertainment has been on a bit of a run recently; they are also developing a trilogy of King of the Cowboys Roy Rogers movies and an adaptation the 1999 John Grisham novel The Testament.


Paul W.S. Anderson is producing a prequel to his 2008 remake of Death Race, which grossed $74 million in the U.S. Death Race was a futuristic action thriller about inmates who are forced to drive destructive vehicles against each other. The prequel, which is based upon an idea by Anderson and is being written by Tony Giglio (who may direct) will focus on the origin story for the racer who became known as Frankenstein. Frankenstein was the character played by the late David Carradine in the original 1975 film, and was also voiced by Carradine in the 2008 movie. Paul W.S. Anderson is currently busy on pre-production of Resident Evil: Afterlife, but after that film wraps, he will move on as producer to focus on development of this Death Race prequel.


Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to Criminal Macabre, a Dark Horse comic book mini-series by Steve Niles, whose 30 Days of Night was adapted as a horror movie in 2007. Criminal Macabre follows the daily adventures of a hard living private detective named Cal McDonald who uses a network of friendly ghouls on his own personal mission to take out the worst of the vampires, ghosts and other supernatural monsters that plague Los Angeles. Kyle Ward, who is also working on screenplays for Hitman 2 and the videogame adaptations Kane & Lynch and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, has been hired to adapt the script.


Director Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt) and Fox Searchlight are reteaming again on Payne’s next movie, The Descendants, his first as director since 2004’s Sideways. Payne expects to start filming The Descendants in Hawaii in late 2009 or early 2010. Payne is currently polishing the script by comedians/actors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, adapted from the novel of the same title by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The Descendants is about a trip from Oahu to Kauai that an affluent attorney (who’s related to Hawaiian royalty, hence the title) takes with his two daughters to meet their mother’s lover after she falls into a coma following a boating accident. Payne had been expected to direct a comedy called Downsizing, which Paul Giamatti, Reese Witherspoon and Sacha Baron Cohen are signed to star in, but Payne has decided to direct The Descendants first. That will allow for more prep time for Downsizing, as it is a more involved production (since it involves shrinking Paul Giamatti).


Universal Pictures has acquired a spec script called Central Intelligence as a starring vehicle for Ed Helms, star of NBC’s The Office and this summer’s The Hangover. Written by Ike Barinholtz (MadTV) and newcomer Dave Stassen, Central Intelligence is the story of an accountant who becomes involved in the world of international espionage and intrigue after reconnecting with an old friend via Facebook. Helms’ next movie will be Cedar Rapids, in which he plays an insurance agent trying to save his friends’ jobs, and in the fall of 2010, he will start filming The Hangover 2.


This week’s Rotten Idea is a doozie. First, the set up: Vanguard Films is the animation company responsible for Space Chimps, Valiant and Happily N’ever After. They’re currently preparing for the release of Space Chimps 3D, which will wisely go direct-to-dvd in the United States (but the rest of the world won’t be as lucky), and something called Alien Band: The Battle of the Bands Just Got Ugly. But wait, I haven’t even gotten to the Rotten Idea yet. Last month, Vanguard’s boss John H. Williams was at the San Diego Comic-Con, which is increasingly where Hollywood types with a lot of cash in their pockets go, looking for a cool new movie idea. At Comic-Con, Williams saw a gallery for an upcoming graphic novel called The Oz Wars, which was written by an “established screenwriter,” writing under the pseudonym of Dorothy Gale. The Oz Wars is the story of a war between the Witches and the resistance fighters led by Wizard of Oz. I suspect that really, the producer of Space Chimps was just excited that this would give him an excuse to use CGI flying monkeys (although the movie itself will apparently be one of Vanguard’s first live-action movies… it’ll still probably have CGI flying monkeys). Vanguard also picked up a graphic novel called Circus Galactus, which is unfortunately not about the great, purple Devour of Worlds attending and enjoying a three ring circus. That, I would produce myself. Going back to the concept of someone, anyone, making a new movie based upon L. Frank Baum’s Oz, I think that would be fine, perhaps, but if you’re going to do it, do it right. Actually adapt one of the many great books that Baum actually wrote, not some comic book you found at Comic Con. Hey, I love comic books, but like any medium, they’re not all Watchmen, Hellboy and Kingdom Come. In fact, plenty of comic books are pretty crappy. And the same is true of video games or toys or whatever Hollywood decides will be their next hot new thing. Keep that in mind, producers, the next time you feel the urge to throw money at an idea.

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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