Let's clear the decks and unload a bunch of horror and science-fiction film news from the past month!
First up we have Hugh Jackman. Once the Sexiest Man Alive and a Stand-Out Oscar Host… now just a year (and Australia and Wolverine) later poor Hugh is reduced to this: playing a washed up fighter who becomes a robot-boxing promoter in Dream Works' new Real Steel. It's Wolverine Meets Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots Meets Rocky Meets Don King!
Oh, I kid about Jackman falling from grace–his career's doing just fine. And while the premise of Real Steel might sound a bit hokey (robots have replaced humans in the boxing game and Jackman's character and his young son find a broken-down robot boxer that turns out to be a winning 'bot brawler) it's actually from a story by Richard Matheson. (Hollywood seems to have rediscovered the veteran sci-fi writer after I Am Legend–a Matheson story was also the basis for The Box.) Real Steel is being co-produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum movies) and has a lower-than-usual budget for sci-fi flicks. And with Levy on board it sounds like it may go more for goofy heart-warming family fun than gritty dystopian mayhem.
Matt Damon co-stars this December in Clint Eastwood's Invictus, as the South African rugby player-coach Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) charges with winning the World Cup to unite the divided nation. It would appear the working relationship was a solid one, as Damon will be back next December in Eastwood's supernatural drama Hereafter. (Spielberg, who produced Eastwood's Flag of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, is also an executive producer on Hereafter, along with his old producing team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.) The new Eastwood project, written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon), is being described as a Sixth-Sense-like thriller centered around three people who've had near-death experiences. It's presumed Damon plays one of the three–Belgium actress Cecile de France will make her American-film debut as another.
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud
Also in that creepy life-after-death vein, it appears director David Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker–who last teamed up for Seven in 1995–are getting the freaky ol' gang back together for a revisting of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. Redblog readers of a certain age might recall the 1975 film adaptation of Max Ehrilch's novel. The film makers will contemporize the story, which follows a college professor as he explores the possibility that a past life and its violent end are seeping into his dreams. Since the original film, which co-starred Margot Kidder, was mostly dismissed as a cheesy flop, you can expect Fincher and Walker to characterize their new project as a new "adaptation" of Ehrilch's 1973 novel rather than a dreaded "remake."
Like many other science-fiction fans, I spent last summer singing the praises of Moon, a terrific little SF mind-twist starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones. While Moon didn't really break out as box-office sleeper (it'll be out on DVD in January, so you can see for yourself), it did bring a lot of heat to Jones' young film-making career. Future projects include a trapped-in-a-submarine thriller based on Alex Kershaw's non-fiction book Escape from the Deep: The Epic Story of a Legendary Submarine and Her Courageous Crew. Jones is also working on another original sci-fi screenplay entitled Mute, and while the Moon-Mute thing is almost too cute, Jones says the new Blade-Runner-esque project will take place in future Berlin (a city that's served as a fine creative muse to the Jones family–his dad, David Bowie, and Brian Eno created three fantastic albums there in the late '70s.)
But it appears Jones' next project might be Source Code, a sort of horrific twist on Groundhog Day in which a soldier wakes up in someone else's body on a train that mysteriously explodes. The soldier must repeat the deadly experience again and again until he solves the crime. Topher Grace had originally been set to play the soldier, with Shane Abbess directing. (Abbess's only other film is 2007's Gabriel, a Prophesy/Constantine/Legion-like thriller about warring angels on Earth.) Abbess and Grace are now out, Jones is in, and Jake Gyllenhaal is in negotiations to take over the role of the solider.
Over the jump, a supernatural ballet thriller from the director of The Wrestler, a Howling reboot, Nemo drydocked, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!
Another cerebral auteur I'm always excited to see more from is Wrestler helmer Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky is the director who also brought us Pi, the utterly harrowing Requiem for a Dream (which is on my short list for best of the decade, if only I could bring myself to watch it again), the head-and-time-tripping The Fountain (starring our ol' pal Hugh Jackman, and which, despite it's slo-moving wigginess, I ended up liking). Aronofsky's next project is Black Swan, a supernatural thriller set amid competition at the New York City Ballet. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis play rival dancers, while the rest of the cast includes Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey, and French actor Vincent Cassel (best known here as the mob son in Eastern Promises and "The Night Fox" in Oceans 12 and 13.)
The Howling: Reborn
And really, what genre movie-news round up would be complete without at least one seemingly ill-advised remake of an '80s horror film? This time it's The Howling, the 1981 werewolf thriller from writer John Sayles and director Joe Dante. Granted, The Howling, which starred Dee Wallace and featured lots of nutty werewolf whoopie-makin' and biting, isn't exactly a treasured classic a la An American Werewolf in London, and with the original film's weird Cat-People-like sexual-animals themes, it's easy to see why a studio would pounce on it in the current New-Moon-besotted climate. The reboot, titled The Howling: Reborn, will be written and directed by first-timer and former studio marketing guy Joe Nimziki. As Hollywood now has a very clear idea of what sells werewolf movies, don't expect many Howling characters–male, female, or lupine–to wear much in the way of clothing.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
And in news that you can take either way (depending on your attitude toward that shunner of Christan names, McG) the McMonikered Charlie's Angels and Terminator: Salvation director is now off Disney's live-action remake/prequel of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Production on the film–which was clearly intended to start a new Pirates-sized adventure franchise for the Mouse–was supposed to start this coming February, but was halted a few weeks ago. It's not entirely clear if McG left the project because production stalled, or production stalled because McG left the project. Casting had not been completed for the film, though McG had said he wanted Will Smith. But then, everyone wants Will Smith to star in their action series. As I mentioned almost a year ago when this project was announced, I don't mind McG–I think he has a great visual style and kinetic energy when it comes to bubble-gum action, though for me T4 ended up more flat than fun. But he also said he was intending to set the new franchise in the present, a move that breaks my Victorian-lit/steampunk-lovin' heart. It remains unclear if and when Disney will restart the Nemo project and whether any new creative teams will stick to the contemporary idea.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Finally, let's end on an up note: Tommy Wirkola, the Norwegian director of this year's Nazi-zombies gore-fest Dead Snow, is set to direct Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a horror flick that rejoins the titular siblings 15 years after their narrow escape from the Gingerbread House of Horrors. The film, which is being sold as a gory horror comedy a la Shaun of the Dead (and hopefully not so much The Brothers Grimm), is being produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay, creators of Anchorman, Talledega Nights, and most recently The Goods. I haven't seen Dead Snow yet, but I'm very excited to and it's at the very top of next week's year-end catch-up list.