Subgenre on the rise
By Michael Lynderey
March 29, 2010
After weeks of bringing news of sequels, reboots, remakes, and refurbishings, I have decided that today's special edition of What's Next will specifically not discuss any of those things.
That means that, as much as I want to, I won't talk about that planned Monster Squad remake (c'mon, leave the '80s alone!). I will not discuss Spy Kids 4 (well, actually, I wasn't going to talk about Spy Kids 4 anyway) or the recently sort-of-announced Final Destination 5, which could easily take on the tagline from Scary Movie 2 ("we said no more sequels. We lied"). I won't touch Transformers 3, which has now added John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, and Ken Jeong to its cast, apparently under the impression that it's going to be a Coen Brothers movie this time (I can't wait to see Frances McDormand running from explosions).
And I'm especially not going to mention Scream 4, which, in what is possibly the worst piece of movie news ever announced - ever! - now actually has a release date (April 15, 2011...) - and I say that as a major fan of the trilogy. Wasn't that a nice final shot in that last Scream - TEN YEARS AGO - the open door and the Neve Campbell character, finally at peace? Must we revisit these people again? Do movie serial killers really have so little else to occupy their time with - especially in today's world, with so, so many smart, entertaining, and brain-expanding reality shows on the air - that they have to target characters whose story arcs were so clearly and effectively wrapped up a whole decade ago? I'd bet that if you put screenwriter Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven in a room and task them with making a brand new movie, they could probably come up with one of the best horror films ever made (and one that could easily outgross any new Scream follow-up, by the way). So why limit that potential by chaining them to this franchise?
But no, really, seriously, no more reboot/sequel/fifthquel news this week. I promise. From this point on.
So, what does that leave us with?
Well, the studios do seem to be greenlighting an awful lot of film adaptations of old cartoons (and as far as lots go, this one's rather awful indeed). This phenomenon can be traced directly back to The Squeakquel's demolition of the box office this December. Any movie that takes in over $200 million sends a clear message, and that's especially true when that exact same movie does it twice, as Alvin and co. have accomplished. The cartoon-turned-films heading our way include:
Popeye - Popeye!?! I may have accidentally violated my "no remake" rule here, but c'mon. This'll be very animated, and - lucky for the spinach lovers in the crowd - in 3D.
The Smurfs - People really used to watch this cartoon? Gee, I guess so. I may have been one of them. Well, in the proud tradition of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, The Smurfs will be coming to an unwilling theater near you on August 3, 2011. On the live-action front, Neil Patrick Harris will have the Jason Lee/Dave Seville role, Jayma Mays will serve as the love interest, and Hank Azaria will growl as the ill-intentioned Gargamel. The CGI-created Smurfs will have their intellectually astute debates brought to life by the voices of Alan Cumming, Katy Perry (!), Jonathan Winters (long time no see), and George Lopez - certainly as random a batch as ever assembled. I don't know if the box office prospects are quite sufficiently Chipmunksesque here, though - after all, the Smurfs are blue and ugly and have no fur at all to speak of, pegging them a few notches below Alvin and the Rodents.
Speedy Gonzales - Yup, him too. In full-body CGI, presumably surrounded by the usual batch of clueless live-action humans. George Lopez, who sounds absolutely nothing like Speedy Gonzales, will voice Speedy Gonzales.
Yogi Bear - Release date's December 17, 2010. Tom Cavanagh is the dumbstruck live-action human, Dan Aykroyd the voice of Yogi himself, and Anna Faris and Justin Timberlake will support. I know I'm beginning to repeat myself here with the plot descriptions, but whose fault is that really? You can blame me, or you can blame the movies.
But big screen cartoons aren't all I got out of the latest batch of movie announcements. Some really good directors have been revving up their next films lately, including:
Alexander Payne - Payne hasn't helmed a full-length film since the undisputed brilliance of Sideways in 2004 (and who can blame him? It's not like he, or anyone else, could top that one - no sarcasm intended, for once). Anyway, Payne's next, The Descendants, will team him with that other master of winter Oscar-bait, George Clooney, and mix in an interesting supporting cast, to boot - Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Mary Birdsong. Not the usual batch of awards contenders, and that is intriguing. Despite the horror movie title, the plot is prototypical Payne territory all the way - Clooney's a father tasked with reconnecting with his teenage kids, all while jockeying for his long-deserved Best Actor Academy Award, and checking the December release schedule for new Jeff Bridges movies. So, it's kind of a thriller, too.
Martin Scorsese - Now basking in both box office and Academy Award success, Scorsese is branching out into previously unexplored territory with a project that, at least at first glance, looks to be a children's film. He's gearing up The Invention of Huge Cabret, about a boy's fantastical adventure in 1931 Paris, and it's got potential for some wild special effects. Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz will be the lead kids, and Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen will co-star as but two of the providers of quirky comic relief. Looks like no Leo this time around, though.
Tyler Perry - Perry may not be considered a great director, but he certainly is a greatly prolific one, and his next film - For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf - will headline his usual menagerie of actors, television stars, and musicians: Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Macy Gray, Kimberley Elise, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg and Phylicia Rashad. Whew! Not bad for a day's work. Release date's January 14, 2001, meaning that Perry's two-films-per-year streak will end in 2010. That's a great title, by the way, but I have to think it might have to undergo a bit of trimming. There's only so much you can fit on a marquee, especially if you plan to add "Tyler Perry's" right in front of it.