This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as Frosty the Snowman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The “studio system” of the Golden Age of Hollywood has obviously been dead and gone for decades, but that doesn’t mean certain actors don’t establish relationships with specific studios. One of the studios best known for that is Warner Bros., which is frequently the home for movies starring Ben Affleck, Bradley Cooper, Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Michael B. Jordan, and of course, the various stars of their DC Comics superhero movies. That last group is important this week, because the star who gave Warner Bros. a massive box office success with Aquaman (Fresh at 65%) was Jason Momoa, who also co-starred in WB-sister-company HBO’s Game of Thrones. Momoa kept his relationship with Warner Bros. very, very cool this week by signing on to voice the classic Christmas character Frosty the Snowman in a new live-action/CGI hybrid movie (Frosty himself will be CGI with Momoa’s voice, of course). Momoa will also produce Frosty the Snowman along with DC Comics’ Geoff Johns. He’ll next be seen in the reboot of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which, likewise, will also be distributed by Warner Bros.
The Academy Awards are still recovering from the stigma reflected in the various #OscarsSoWhite hashtags of recent years, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is likewise continuing to implement changes designed to encourage diversity in the prestige films nominated and awarded each year. There were two different changes this week that both related to who precisely gets to vote each year on the nominees and winners. On Monday, the Board of Governors announced that they had reclassified the membership status of Artist’s Representatives (A.K.A. talent agents) from associates to members-at-large, which means that for the first time ever, 111 current agents will now have voting rights for the Oscars. The Academy has over 7,000 voting members, so those 111 votes are still a tiny minority, but the change is still significant and opens the door to other future changes, such as for critics or journalists. Then, on Tuesday, the Academy announced the names of the 819 artists who have been invited to join the Academy with full voting privileges. The list is made up of 45% women, 36% from minority backgrounds, and 49% are international artists from outside the United States. The newest Academy voters will include five of the stars of Parasite, Cynthia Erivo, Zazi Beetz, Constance Wu, Awkwafina, Florence Pugh, and Lakeith Stanfield, among many others.
Some directors are able to find a successful balance between big budget studio projects for “them” and then their own personal films for “me.” One such filmmaker is Taika Waititi, who directed Thor: Ragnarok (Certified Fresh at 93%) for Marvel Studios before moving on to his own pet project, Jojo Rabbit ( Certified Fresh at 80%). Waititi has lots of his own projects lined up (including the soccer movie Next Goal Wins, Thor: Love and Thunder, and a Star Wars movie), but this week, he also took on the role of producer in support of New Zealand. Waititi is producing three different projects from New Zealand writers of Maori heritage, with all three films looking at the effects of European colonization on the indigenous people of the country. The three projects will be The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke (about a Maori teenager who travels to 1840s London as part of a Maori museum exhibit), Down the Rabbit Hole (about a Maori woman who ends up in a British prison), and Better than Blood (about “an obsessive Maori detective as she hunts down an indigenous serial killer revenging the wrongs of New Zealand’s colonizers”).
Although South Korea’s Parasite eventually won the Academy Award over it this year, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory (Certified Fresh at 96%) was still one of 2019’s most lauded films. For Pain and Glory, Almodóvar reunited with two of his most frequent (and most famous) co-stars: Antonio Banderas for the eighth time, and Penelope Cruz for the sixth time. We also now know that Almodóvar has once again cast Penelope Cruz for his next film, to be titled Madres Paralela (Parallel Mothers), which will reportedly tell the stories of two mothers (one of them being Cruz, who’s now 46) in Madrid who give birth to their babies on the same day, over the first two years of their new children’s lives. It’s not yet known if there is also a role in Madres Paralela for Anontio Banderas, or who might play the other mother. Madres Paralelas will start filming in Madrid in February, 2021, and it’s expected to be released in Spain by the end of that year (which suggests a release in the United States sometime in 2022).
The animation style used for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%) was so innovative that the film was able to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature that year against two Disney films (Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet). As amazing as it was, producer Chris Miller this week took to Twitter to tease that “The development of new groundbreaking art techniques being done for the next Spider-Verse movie are already blowing me away. It’s going to make the first movie look quaint.” Of course, that statement doesn’t go on to explain in what ways the sequel will be innovative (they certainly don’t want to tip off their competition). The sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (which hasn’t officially been titled yet) is currently scheduled for release over two years from now on October 7, 2022 (but that date could certainly be shifted as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push release dates back).
Back in 2015, Steven Spielberg made the news for developing a project called It’s What I Do, which would have starred Jennifer Lawrence as war photographer Lynsey Addario (that project appears to have stalled in the years since). This week, another biopic about a female war photographer is getting going, except that the setting for this one will be World War II. Kate Winslet is now attached to star in Lee, a biopic about Vogue model-turned-war-correspondent Lee Miller, who was on the scene for events like the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris from the Nazis, and the discoveries of the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. Lee will be the feature film directorial debut of cinematographer Ellen Kuras, whose work includes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (starring Winslet) and episodes of shows like Catch-22, Ozark, and The Umbrella Academy.
Last year, Netflix ended up spending something north of $150 million on Martin Scorsese’s mob biopic The Irishman (Certified Fresh at 96%), and this week brought news of another expensive project being picked up by one of Netflix’s streaming competitors. The movie in question is the recently announced slavery-era epic Emancipation, in which Will Smith will star as the runaway slave “Peter” whose scarred back was photographed in 1863 to inspire the Northern public during the Civil War. Emancipation went up for sale at the Virtual Cannes market last week, leading to a sale to Apple for $120 million, which set an all-time record for the largest festival acquisition deal ever. Emancipation will be directed by Antoine Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) and produced by Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios production company. Apple is expected to premiere Emancipation in theaters before it debuts on Apple TV+.
One of the last movies to actually be released in theaters before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down for months (and delayed pretty much everything) was the faith-based romantic drama I Still Believe (Rotten at 51%), starring KJ Apa and Britt Robertson. This week, two different movies with direct connections to I Still Believe made the news. That film was directed by the sibling team of Andrew and Jon Erwin, and their next movie is going to be a football biopic called American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. The Erwin brothers were able to cast the star of one of 2019’s biggest superhero movies, as the title role of Kurt Warner will be played by Zachary Levi, who played the superhero alter ego in Shazam! (Certified Fresh at 90%). Levi will star as NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who “went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming a Super Bowl MVP.” Also making the news this week is a project called Jesus Revolution, which is also based on a true story, this time about a group of California teenage hippies in the early 1970s who form their own religious movement called the Harvest Christian Fellowship. Jesus Revolution is being produced by the same people behind I Still Believe, and the cast will include Jim Gaffigan and Joel Courtney.
It’s clear that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remains a popular franchise for many fans, whether their love of the characters started with the 1980s-1990s animated TV show, the 1990s live-action movies, or the gritty 1980s black-and-white comics that started it all. After those original three live live-action films in the 1990s, the first attempt at rebooting the franchise came in 2007 with the computer animated TMNT, which was then followed in 2014 by a live-action reboot that received a sequel in 2016 called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Rotten at 37%). Now we can confirm that another attempt at reviving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, specifically as a CGI-animated feature film, is in development, with Seth Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures teaming up with Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures on the project. This seventh Ninja Turtles movie will be directed by Jeff Rowe (a writer on Disney’s Gravity Falls who is making his directorial debut with Connected) working from a screenplay by Brendan O’Brien (co-writer of Neighbors, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising). It’s not yet known if Rogen himself plans on taking a role in the movie (Casey Jones, perhaps?).
If movie theaters do indeed open back up across the country by August, one of the first movies scheduled to be one of the first in wide release is Greenland, a Deep Impact-style disaster movie starring Gerard Butler. Although Greenland is an original story, Butler confirmed this week that that two of his upcoming projects will be sequels. One of them will be Den of Thieves 2: Pantera, a sequel to the 2018 heist action thriller Den of Thieves (Rotten at 42%) that earned $80 million worldwide. Butler describes the Den of Thieves sequel (about his character chasing O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s character around the world) as a “fun ride, spreading across North America into Europe and the diamond district of Marseilles.” Butler also promised that a fourth movie in the franchise that started in 2013 with Olympus Has Fallen (Rotten at 49%) is also in the works, although he didn’t mention a title or a location that will presumably have “fallen.” The second movie in 2016 was London Has Fallen (Rotten at 27%) and the third last year was Angel Has Fallen (Rotten at 39% ).