This week’s Ketchup sees Hollywood being fairly busy, presumably because of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and the long La-La-Land-style breaks off work that come along with it. This Ketchup includes news of a third Doctor Who movie, sequels for Friday and The Hunger Games, and movies based upon The Grateful Dead, Michael Jackson, LEGO and Woody Woodpecker.
This Week’s Top Story
DOCTOR WHO AND THE ORDER OF THE TARDIS
One of the most sought after directors of 2011 is British director David Yates, who this year now has a lot more time on his hands, after directing the last four Harry Potter movies. Warner Bros, the studio behind Harry Potter, has in particular trying to woo Yates, with his name coming up for their adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand (Ben Affleck is now more likely) and an Al Capone gangster movie called Cicero. Yates, however, is also doing his own thing, and that includes talking to the BBC about bringing their long-running (off and on since 1963!) science fiction series Doctor Who back to the big screen. “Back to” is important to note in that sentence, because there have actually already been two theatrically released Doctor Who movies, both starring Peter Cushing, in 1965 and 1966. Like those films, David Yates’ planned Doctor Who adaptation would not be a direct extension of the TV series, but a fresh reboot using the same basic concept of a time travelling alien who brings along human companions on his journeys through time and space in the TARDIS, which looks smaller on the outside than it is in the inside. Since this will be a fresh reboot, that also means that the movie Doctor is likely to be played by a completely new actor, which opens the floodgates for fans to spend the next three years dream casting. David Yates is currently looking for a writer (or writers) to take on this new reboot of Doctor Who, with an eye towards retaining the series’ Britishness, although that does not necessarily preclude American writers from the job (Harry Potter writer Steve Kloves is American, for example). David Yates reasonably expects the Doctor Who project to take a few years to be realized, so it’s unlikely the TARDIS will appear in a theater near you until at least 2015.
Fresh Developments This Week
#1 HUNGER GAMES SEQUEL ATTRACTS OSCAR-WINNING SCREENWRITER
It’s perhaps too easy for cynics who are not fond of The Twilight Saga to assign some of their residual bile to The Hunger Games, another movie adaptation of a popular genre series of novels popular with young female readers. The unveiling of the full trailer this week, however, may have been the first step towards movie fans seeing that perhaps the two franchises are not as closely linked as some previously thought. To its advantage, The Hunger Games has an Oscar-nominated star (Jennifer Lawrence), an impressive supporting cast (including Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci) and Gary Ross, who previously directed Pleasantville and Seabiscuit (which both received fresh RT Tomatometer scores of 86% and 77%, respectively). Although the film is still four months from release on March 23, Lionsgate is already developing a movie version of Catching Fire, the second novel in the young adult trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Collins collaborated with Gary Ross on the first film, but post production scheduling for The Hunger Games is going to make it difficult for them to repeat that feat for the second film. So, Lionsgate is in negotiations with screenwriter Simon Beaufoy to adapt Catching Fire, which sees Jennifer Lawrence’s character of Katniss once again returning to the arena (probably a spoiler for the first film, but would anyone really think that the star of a trilogy dies in the first book?). Simon Beaufoy is best known for recently collaborating with director Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire (94% RT) and 127 Hours (93% RT), and for starting his career in 1997 with The Full Monty (95% RT). Beaufoy also adapted the Paul Torday novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, stars Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and is currently awaiting release. Although he’s not working on the sequel script, Gary Ross is however expected to return to direct Catching Fire as well.
#2 TIM BURTON TO RESIDE IN MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Just about every time a studio acquires a movie project that can be described as “spooky” or “weird,” one of the first names that comes up is Tim Burton, the prolific director of such films as Big Fish, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd and Beetlejuice. Well, earlier this year, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to the Ransom Riggs novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and so who do you think is now in talks to direct the adaptation just five months later? Although Tim Burton’s name is regularly attached as producer to many such projects, and he remains active in the stop motion animation field (Frankenweenie, which Burton directed, is scheduled for October 5, 2012), Burton has less commitments at this point to actual live action projects as director, following his adaptation of the TV show Dark Shadows (which comes out on May 11, 2012). However, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is unlikely to be one of Burton’s immediately forthcoming projects, as the adaptation still has to find a screenwriter, a process that Burton will be active in helping happen. The novel is about a 16 year old boy whose grandfather in Wales told him tales about an orphanage full of unusual children who display powers such as pyrokinesis, telepathy and levitation. Years later, the boy journeys to the site of the abandoned orphanage and discovers that some of the residents may still be there. Basically, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sounds a bit like a mysterious-and-spooky-and-altogether-ooky spin on Xavier’s School for Gifted Students (AKA X-Men).
#3 ANGELINA JOLIE’S BIOPIC TO DO LIST INCLUDES GERTRUDE BELL AND CLEOPATRA
This week, Angelina Jolie attached herself as the star of Gertrude Bell, a biopic currently in development at Scott Free Productions, the company run by brothers Ridley and Tony Scott. Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was an English writer, archaeologist and diplomat who played a prominent role in establishing the modern nation of Iraq, including working alongside T.E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame. Ridley Scott is reportedly strongly considering Gertrude Bell as his next film as director following the science fiction epic Prometheus, along with either the fashion family biopic Gucci or a Stalinist Russian serial killer mystery called Child 44. The Gertrude Bell script is currently being adapted by screenwriter Jeffrey Caine, who received an Academy Award nomination for The Constant Gardener, and also cowrote the 1995 James Bond movie GoldenEye. In other Angelina Jolie biopic news, the Cleopatra project, in which she is also attached to star, moved on to the next step in the development process this week. Screenwriter Eric Roth, who won an Oscar for Forrest Gump, was Oscar-nominated for The Insider, Munich and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and wrote the upcoming film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, has also now signed on to start adapting a new draft based upon the Stacy Schiff book, Cleopatra: A Life, following previous script work by Brian Helgeland. Roth’s involvement also supports recent news that David Fincher (who worked with Roth on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) may be considering adding Cleopatra to his development slate. When Cleopatra was first announced by producer Scott Rudin, James Cameron had previously been mentioned as a possibility to direct, but Cameron is now more likely to be spending the next few years working on the two Avatar sequels.
#4 THE INTERLOCKING PIECES OF THE LEGO MOVIE COME TOGETHER FOR 2014
Just a year after first putting the project into development, Warner Bros has announced plans for the 2014 release of a movie based upon the popular LEGO line of building toys. About 80% of the live action/animation movie will be CGI animation provided by Animal Logic, the company behind Happy Feet and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. The LEGO movie will be directed by the team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who worked together on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, along with Chris McKay (Robot Chicken). Although no details have yet been revealed about what exactly the movie will be about (except that it’s “an action-adventure set in the Lego world”), Lord and Miller are also cowriting the movie together. The duo are currently working on their live action debut, 21 Jump Street, and they will then move on to focusing on this LEGO movie. Casting of the live action characters is expected to start in January, 2012. This story is a borderline Fresh Development, mostly based on the reviews for other LEGO-related products in the past (in particular, the various LEGO video game franchises).
#5 THIS WEEK IN BIOPICS: MICHAEL JACKSON AND THE GRATEFUL DEAD
The holders of the rights to two different musical legends made the news this week for their movie plans. First up is Michael Jackson, whose potential biopic appears to have been waiting for the results of the Dr. Conrad Murray case to proceed. Now that the verdict is out and it does not implicate Michael Jackson himself, Jackson’s estate executor has started negotiations with Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollock of the Montceito Picture Company (Up in the Air, Hotel for Dogs, Old School). No deal is in place yet, but if development does begin on this planned Michael Jackson movie, it will not be a full biopic, but will instead cover only certain portions of the pop star’s life (presumably, the less controversial aspects). Literary agent Bruce Kaufman of ICM, meanwhile, is shopping around the idea of a movie based upon the music of the Grateful Dead, with the rights to most of the band’s songs available to whichever producer wants to take on the project. Kaufman previously orchestrated Across the Universe, a similar film project which used 20 songs by the Beatles to construct a musical narrative. Since the Grateful Dead were the focus of one of the most devoted groups of fans ever (Deadheads literally lived their lives just to follow the band across the nation), they seem like a prime choice for a movie in the vein of Across the Universe, complete with all of the period costumes and storylines that come with such a story. Since no actual creative types are as yet connected to either the Michael Jackson or Grateful Dead movie projects, they should be considered borderline Fresh Developments for now.
Rotten Ideas of the Week
#4 VIDEO GAME ADAPTATION RAMPAGE JOINS THE GROWING TREND OF GIANT MONSTER MOVIES
Warner Bros’ 2009 acquisition of Midway Games is the apparent starting point for this final story, as Warner Bros is also the corporate cousin of New Line Cinema. New Line has started development of a feature film adaptation of the classic 1986 arcade video game Rampage. The premise of Rampage involved three humans who were subjected to experiments that resulted them being turned into giant monsters in the shape of (respectively) a lizard, a gorilla and a werewolf. The giant lizard and gorilla were obvious homages to Godzilla and King Kong, but the idea of a giant werewolf remains a uniquely Rampage-specific concept. The actual gameplay of Rampage involved simply attacking buildings and unleashing mass destruction until military attacks and other assorted phenomena (such as sticking your gigantic paw into an electrical outlet) killed your monster. There are not yet any screenwriters or other creative types connected to this adaptation. Rampage joins a growing mini-trend of big budget movies about giant monster attacks that also includes Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, the Warner Bros reboot of Godzilla, and Tim Burton’s adaptation of the board game Monsterpocalypse. Rampage should be considered a borderline Rotten Idea this week, which is only mildly rotten because the premise of the game seems like the thinnest basis for a movie besides setting up the title, the three basic monsters, and the excuse for filling a 90+ minute feature film with scenes of, well, rampage.
#3 AT LEAST HE’S GOT A GOOD THEME SONG: WOODY WOODPECKER: THE MOVIE
Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures have begun development of a feature film based upon the classic animated character Woody Woodpecker (which Universal acquired the rights to back in 1985). Woody Woodpecker was first introduced in 1940 in theatrical animated shorts, resulting in 195 cartoons from 1940 to 1972, and then became even more popular with the move to television starting in 1957. The Woody Woodpecker feature film script will be adapted by screenwriters John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who cowrote Blades of Glory, as well as episodes of King of the Hill and The Goode Family, and the long-in-development movie version of The Jetsons. Although no details have been revealed yet (including whether the film will be entirely CGI or partly live action), Illumination is reportedly looking for a script that “modernizes” Woody Woodpecker for the 21st century. Woody Woodpecker joins a development slate at Illumination Entertainment that also includes The Addams Family, Curious George, Emily the Strange, Flanimals, and Uglydolls. Woody Woodpecker is a borderline Rotten Idea because so many of the factors balance each other; the one thing we do know, however, is that there doesn’t currently seem to be any large scale demand for a movie about Woody Woodpecker.
#2 WHAT DO YOU CALL THE FOURTH FRIDAY MOVIE…?
New Line Cinema has begun negotiations with Ice Cube to write, produce and star in the fourth installment of the Friday series of comedies, following the sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next. Although there are no details as yet about what the fourth Friday might be about, there are also reports that Chris Tucker is in negotiations to return to the series for the first time since the first movie in 1995. The Friday series revolves around a group of friends living in South Central Los Angeles, and the stories also often involve marijuana use. Although the first Friday was well reviewed (77% RT), the two sequels were not so much (20% RT for Next Friday, 25% RT for Friday After Next), and that’s why Friday 4 (or whatever they end up calling it) is one of the week’s Rotten Ideas.
#1 HUGO STAR TO PLAY ENDER’S GAME
Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel Ender’s Game has been bubbling around in movie development since the 1990s, but the long awaited project seems finally to be happening. The definitive game-changing moment happened this week with word that the title role has been offered to 14 year old Asa Butterfield, the star of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. There have been other signs that Ender’s Game was actually going to happen, such as director Gavin Hood (Rendition, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) signing on, and Summit Entertainment announcing a release date of March 15, 2013. Asa Butterfield will be playing Ender, a young human boy who is chosen to train at the Battle School as part of humanity’s ongoing war with an alien race called the Formics. With eleven novels in the Ender’s Game series, Summit Entertainment is surely seeing this as a potential new genre franchise that can follow The Twilight Saga when that film series ends in 2012. Regardless of what one thinks of Asa Butterfield in the role, Ender’s Game is however still one of the week’s Rotten Ideas because of director Gavin Hood’s recent track record of Rotten RT Tomatometer scores (46% for Rendition and 37% for X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
For more Weekly Ketchup columns by Greg Dean Schmitz, check out the WK archive, and you can contact GDS via Facebook or a RT forum message.