Here’s the stories the industry is buzzing about this week and the ones they will be after reading this column.
Hits from the Bong? I Feel Robbed!
I can’t lie, my stomach sank a little this week when I read the generic premise of Bong Joon Ho‘s new movie Mickey7, which is taking shape at Warner Bros. with the studio’s new Batman star Robert Pattinson playing the title role(s).
Based on an upcoming novel by Edward Ashton, the film would star Pattinson as Mickey7, an Expendable, or rather, a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize an ice world. When there’s a mission that’s too dangerous for the crew, the humans turn to Mickey, whose body is regenerated each time an iteration dies, their memories remaining intact. After dying six times, Mickey7 finally begins to understand the nature of his job —and why it was available in the first place—when he goes missing and is presumed dead. By the time he returns to the colony base, a new clone, Mickey8, has already reported for Expendable duty. Mickey7 must keep his new double a secret or else they could both be recycled for parts, though the survival of two species— humans and the ice world’s native people—rest on their shoulders.
First of all, kudos to Warner Bros. for finding another big-budget vehicle for Pattinson, one that allows them to get two (heart-th)Robs for the price of one! Very impressive! Further kudos for securing Director Bong’s follow-up to Parasite, which won him four Oscars just two years ago. That’s even more impressive. And I’m sure Pattinson is thrilled to be working with Director Bong, too.
But that story? I mean, admittedly, I haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds pretty familiar, like any number of sci-fi projects that Warner Bros. has bought, developed and abandoned over the past decade. I know this one stands a better chance of actually getting made—I haven’t even mentioned that Brad Pitt is among the producers— but this can’t be what anyone wanted when Director Bong won all those Oscars. I’ve been watching his movies for nearly 20 years, so forgive me if I’m a little disappointed that those kinds of movies will fall by the wayside in favor of studio blockbusters led by A-listers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed Director Bong’s English-language movies like Snowpiercer and Okja, but they simply don’t measure up against Parasite, Memories of Murder or The Host.
Why does Hollywood insist on taking these singular artists, whether it’s Director Bong or Chloe Zhao, and finding them a spot on the blockbuster assembly line? I suppose, on one hand, I’m relieved that I’m not reading about Bong directing a Marvel movie, but to me, the only saving grace here is that Deadline notes that Bong could veer away from Ashton’s book and put his own stamp on Mickey7’s story. So maybe the book will simply be a jumping-off point, similar to how the French graphic novel Sandcastle inspired M. Night Shyamalan‘s Old, though the Unbreakable filmmaker clearly made it his own.
Pattinson and Pitt each have first-look deals at Warners, and Director Bong was already in business with WarnerMedia, as he’s developing a limited series based on Parasite with HBO and fellow executive producer Adam McKay… who has been a busy, busy boy himself.
Commercializing an Insurrection
McKay recently announced that he’ll produce a movie titled J6, which—you guessed it—examines the deadly events of January 6, 2021, when an insurrection unfolded at the U.S. Capitol. This is the same project that screenwriter Billy Ray (The Comey Rule) announced a few months back, only then, it was conceived as a five-episode Showtime series, whereas now, it’ll be a two-hour movie that stays in the trenches and offers a ground-level view of the day’s harrowing events. Ray will write the script as well as produce alongside McKay, and the project will soon be shopped to studios and streamers.
I can’t quite put my finger on what, but something about this project rubs me the wrong way. Perhaps it’s the idea that a bunch of already-rich white guys in Hollywood are about to get even more rich by exploiting this story for commercial gain. I mean, I know it’s a business, and movies and shows that dramatize recent historical events tend to do quite well, but there’s something that feels especially opportunistic about this one and leaves me a little queasy.
I know why we need stories like this one and United 93 and even Schindler’s List—to explain how these incidents happened so we can prevent them from happening again in the future. But it feels especially craven, coming just over one year after the anniversary of what many consider to be the worst domestic attack on democracy since the Civil War. I look forward to being beaten over the head by this movie, which seems to be McKay’s specialty these days. Subtlety is not his strength.
Prepare the Fake Snow Machines!
‘Tis the season… for Hollywood to start making its end-of-the-year Christmas plans. To that end, Tim Allen is coming back for a Santa Clause series on Disney+, while Peter Billingsley will reprise his beloved role as Ralphie in a sequel to A Christmas Story that will be developed for HBO Max. Listen closely and you might be able to hear me rolling my eyes.
I suppose Disney had to throw Allen a bone after greenlighting a Buzz Lightyear movie starring Chris Evans, and they even let him bring his Last Man Standing team along for the ride, but here’s hoping the streamer learned some valuable lessons from last year’s Home Alone revamp, which was downright embarrassing, even for Disney. At least this series will allow Allen the dignity of passing the torch and moving on with his career.
As for A Christmas Story Christmas (gag), Nick Schenck (Gran Torino, which certainly says “Merry Christmas” to me!) wrote the script, which will follow an adult Ralphie (Billingsley) in the 1970s as he tries to give his own kids a magical Christmas like the one he had growing up, and reconnects with old friends along the way.
Listen, I know I’m Jewish, but I like Christmas movies as much as the next guy, and A Christmas Story never did much for me. This sounds like a decent-enough project for HBO Max, and who knows, maybe it’ll become a holiday staple for families in the future, but personally, I’d rather lick a metal pole than be subjected to this saccharine sequel, which feels about 10-15 years too late.
Sex and Violence, Coming Soon to Prestige TV!
In high-profile TV casting news, Joshua Jackson has been cast opposite Lizzy Caplan in the upcoming Paramount+ limited series Fatal Attraction, based on the classic ’80s thriller starring Richard Gere and Glenn Close. That means Jackson, who starred in The Affair on Showtime, will be having an affair of his own this time around. Frankly, I like this news from all angles. Jackson’s casting is something of a coup, as he’s coming off a well-received turn in Dr. Death, which was my second-favorite show of last year. I also think this show will be good for his career, as he’s always been something of a low-key sex symbol dating all the way back to his Dawson’s Creek days. After playing a fat, creepy doctor on Peacock, I like the idea of him heading to Paramount+ to be sexy again.
Meanwhile, Domhnall Gleeson of Star Wars fame will join Steve Carell in FX’s series The Patient. He’ll play a serial killer who abducts a shrink (Carell) and begs him for counseling in an effort to stop his wicked ways. I love the juicy cat-and-mouse premise for this 10-episode series, which brings writers Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields back to FX following The Americans, and Gleeson can do creep in his sleep. I’m just curious what kind of trauma Carell’s character has repressed in his own past.
In other TV news, Season 2 of The White Lotus will take place in Italy, as reports have HBO taking over the Four Seasons Hotel San Domenico Palace resort in Taormina, Sicily until April. Michael Imperioli was joined by F. Murray Abraham, Adam DiMarco, Haley Lu Richardson, and Succession‘s own Tom Hollander this week, and yes, Jennifer Coolidge will be back as fan-favorite Tanya McQuoid from Season 1. Congrats to all of them on securing a fabulous Italian vacation! The new cast is awfully white, but perhaps that’s the point. I’m just saying, there are wealthy people of color who go on fancy vacations, too!
What’s That You Say, Guvnor?
The first trailer for Marvel’s Moon Knight was released this week, and numerous fans had questions about Oscar Isaac‘s peculiar British accent. The character does have multiple personality disorder/dissociative identity disorder, so that may explain it, but then again, sometimes an actor makes a choice and it just doesn’t connect, for whatever reason. Before people old enough to remember the original Mary Poppins start invoking the name of Dick Van Dyke, let’s all calm down. After all, Isaac has earned the benefit of the doubt, so let’s just wait for the show before we judge.
Speaking of Moon Knight, Ethan Hawke plays the villain, and he’s said to have based his character on creepy cult leader David Koresh. Hawke’s wig may be terrible, but I’m looking forward to his performance. The actor also found himself in the news this week, as he was cast as Julia Roberts‘ husband in Netflix’s adaptation of Leave the World Behind, based on the bestselling book by Rumaan Alam. It’s about two families who are forced together on a long weekend when they book the same vacation home, where tensions quickly rise. Mahershala Ali also stars in this one, which could be really, really good.
YouTube Focuses On Its Strengths
The well-liked Susanne Daniels stepped down from her post at YouTube, and just days later, the tech giant announced it would be phasing out original content and doubling down on user-created videos. YouTube greenlit Cobra Kai, but people just weren’t used to watching TV shows on that platform, and now it’s one of Netflix’s biggest hits. At the end of the day, I think YouTube’s decision to retreat makes sense. The market for scripted content is saturated and YouTube knows its core business, its bread-and-butter, if you will, is us. It doesn’t need to deal with the headache of celebrities and their agents. It has us right where it wants us, and that’s all YouTube really needs.
Heat 2: Val Kilmer Lives
A few congratulatory notes, as it was announced that author Meg Gardiner would be co-writing Heat 2, the upcoming novel from writer-director Michael Mann. The truth is that this would be my most anticipated book of the year even if J.K. Rowling co-wrote the thing, but fortunately, Gardiner doesn’t spew anti-trans views and I’m a big fan of her UNSUB trilogy, which is already in the works at Amazon. I just can’t wait to find out what happened to Val Kilmer’s character following the events of the original movie, which is a classic cops-and-robbers tale.
Further congrats to Kevin Walsh, who signed a first-look producing deal with Apple after spending the last five years running Ridley Scott‘s company Scott Free. Before leaving the company in the trusted hands of co-president Michael Pruss, who has since been upped to President, Walsh announced that the title of Scott’s Napoleon Bonaparte movie starring Joaquin Phoenix has been changed from Kitbag to simply, Napoleon. It’s a smart move if you ask me.
And finally, the Quote of the Week: “Odessa is my favorite actor and I am so happy she’s playing Sal.” – Producer Riley Keough on being replaced by Odessa Young as the female lead of Manodrome due to a scheduling conflict.
P.S. Some knew him as Marvin Lee Aday. Others knew him as Robert Paulson. Most knew him as Meat Loaf. But whatever you called him, R.I.P. to a man who truly was one-of-a-kind.
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