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January 3, 2007 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | January 3, 2007 |

Item #1: The huge news over the holiday break was that the principals (Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford) finally agreed on a script for the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones franchise and — after years in development hell — they’re actually going to start filming this June, with an eye toward a May 2008 release. The film is going into production under the working title: Geriatric Jones and the Search for Depends (with the Occasional Nap). The good news is that the script was written by David Koepp, who has written more good films (Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Carlito’s Way) than bad (Secret Window, The Shadow, Zathura). The bad news, of course, is that Koepp is going to have to write in a walker for the title character, who is bound to break a hip sometime during filming. Rumors have it that Sean Connery will return as Indy’s Pa (never mind the fact that he looks 10 years younger than Harrison Ford now), that Natalie Portman may get a role (Indy’s daughter?), and Karen Allen may even return, which should be quite a boon to her almost nonexistent career. Honestly, I’m not that worried about Indy’s age (if Stallone can take a punch at 60, Ford can crack a whip at 64); I’m a lot more terrified that they’ll somehow ruin the positively magical associations I have with the franchise. You’d hate to see them do to Indy what they did to Star Wars; maybe it’s best to just leave well enough alone. — Dustin Rowles

Item #2: If I haven’t made it obvious in the past, I’m a huge fan of Nick Hornby, recognizing of course that the quality of his novels has diminished a bit since his best two efforts, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch (I’m actually half terrified that he’s heading into John Irving territory). Fortunately, his writing also lends itself incredibly well to film; High Fidelity and About a Boy were two of my favorite modern screen adaptations; the latter may have actually been slightly better than the book. With his latest, A Long Way Down, it almost felt like Hornby was writing it with an eye toward the film rights; I even pictured most of the characters as Hollywood actors (Hugh Grant as Martin; Julianne Moore as Maureen; Mark Ruffalo as JJ; Natalie Portman as Jess), which is not to say that A Long Way Down wasn’t an easy, pleasant way to waste several hours, though in his old age Hornby is starting to sound like an English version of Tom Perrotta. Anyway, A Long Way Down has, expectedly, been optioned; Warner Brothers did the bidding, and Johnny Depp, of all people, will produce (where’s Cusack?). They were also smart enough to hire D.V. DeVincentis ( Grosse Point Blank, as well as Fidelity) to adapt the story of four desperate people who meet on New Year’s Eve on top of a building famous for suicide jumpers and form a little surrogate family. As long as the director is competent and DeVincentis doesn’t try to get cute with the source material, there’s little doubt that the novel will make an excellent flick. — DR

Item #3: And speaking of Johnny Depp, there has been a lot of speculation, fueled by Queen’s Brian May, that Depp will play Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic. The film itself is being produced by Robert DeNiro’s production company, Tribeca. The casting isn’t yet official, and there are no details available, but — since Tim Curry is clearly too old now — you probably couldn’t find a better guy to play Mercury. And, seriously, who doesn’t want to see Depp strutting around Wembley belting out “Fat Bottomed Girls”? I don’t know who the hell they’ll get to play Brian May, though; I’m guessing the lead singer of Stryper is either unavailable or 101 years old, otherwise he’s a dead ringer (at least in the version of him I still have floating around in my mind). — DR

Item #4: Movie voiceover king Morgan Freeman must have been unavailable, as the producers of Stardust were forced to resort to Sir Ian McKellen to narrate their little fantasy flick. The movie, based on the short illustrated novel by Neil Gaiman, is an elegant fairy tale about a young man who enters the land of Faerie to retrieve a fallen star for his lady love. The flick’s being helmed by Matthew Vaughn, the producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch and the director/producer of Layer Cake, and has a healthy cast featuring Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sienna Miller (plus a bit spot by Ricky Gervais). I’m an almost unhealthy fan of Gaiman, and every sign is that this film is going to do his original work justice. The addition of McKellen as the narrator seems perfect to me, as I suspect his distinct cadence and delivery will blend perfectly with the flow and narrative of the movie. Seriously, I’m actually a little weak in the knees just thinking about this. — Seth Freilich

Item #5: Television pilot season is in full swing. Between now and May, those high-paid network executives will be scrambling to figure out which pieces of shit to put on their new fall schedules so that they can present these schedules during the big to-do upfronts, glossing over all of this year’s failures and trying to convince advertisers that next season is the one when they’re really going to put out nothing but hits. So for the next couple of months, we’ll be hearing tons of news about new pilots, and the greens are already being lit. Over at ABC, a pilot for “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” has finally gotten the go-ahead, after sitting on the backburner for about a year. The movie’s original writer (Simon Kinberg) and director (Doug Liman) will be performing the same roles for the pilot and will also be exec-producing the series. Pitt and Jolie will not be involved, however, allegedly because craft services could not provide enough un-adopted foreign babies. Kinberg describes the show as “‘Married … with Children’ with guns,” which isn’t exactly wetting my panties. Nor are NBC’s latest greenlit pilots. There’s “Chuck,” a dark-humored spy drama to be co-written by Josh Schwartz (of “The O.C.,” which officially bit the dust yesterday, with the announcement that the February 22 season finale is now a series finale), which is allegedly akin to Grosse Point Blank. And there’s also a remake of “The Bionic Woman,” being made, I guess, because NBC has the technology to rebuild her. … It’s going to be a long spring. — SF

Item #6: The long New Year’s weekend gave excuses to millions of moviegoers to get one last shitty movie in for 2006 before resolving never to watch a Ben Stiller movie again, as Night of the Museum somehow racked up $36 million to bring its 10-day total to $115 million. The Pursuit of Happyness continued to provoke tears amongst weak-willed men and grammarians frustrated with an inexcusable typo, grossing $19 million. Dreamgirls performed strongly in its first wave of release, clearing $14 million, though at least a few attendees were disappointed that Eddie Murphy never went into his “Hot in the Hot Tub” spiel. Finally, in at number five, The Good Shepherd accumulated another $11 million to bring its total to $35 million; DeNiro was nonplussed.

Most of the last two weeks’ other releases were very limited, many of which will be expanding in the coming weeks, including this weekend. Children of Men, for instance, goes wide, as does the already-reviewed The Painted Veil. Two other movies — Miss Potter and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer — will be getting a few more screens added, as well as the usual Pajiba treatment. Otherwise, it looks like we’re back to pre-holiday shit, as the first weekend in January prepares us for another year of godawful films. And what better way to get started than with Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu in Code Name: The Cleaner. Cedric plays a janitor with amnesia — I think that ought to be enough to steer you clear of it. Also in theaters, Hilary Swank stars in the 475th variation of Stand and Deliver, bringing us Freedom Writers. Of course, this one, too, is inspired by a true story — in fact, I’m beginning to think that they are all inspired by the same true story. Happily N’Ever After also goes wide, but we’re not touching it — we’ve got another long year of bad children’s films ahead of us, so we need to save our strength for those that don’t rely on the voice talents of Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Otherwise, because we haven’t mentioned it yet: Happy New Year from the Pajiba staff. I’d say something gratuitously effusive about your continued readership and the contributions many of you make to our comments section, but someone — no doubt — would mock my thoughtfulness, so I’ll just keep it at: Thanks. And if we haven’t offended you yet, please stick around for another year. We promise to do our best. — DR

Indiana Jones and the Holy Pajiba!

The Weekly Trade Round-Up / The Pajiba Staff

Industry | January 3, 2007 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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