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May 12, 2006 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | May 12, 2006 |

In another effort by Pajiba to aid in our faithful readers’ workweek inefficiency, we’re inaugurating a new weekly column, wherein I will wax emetically about the life de-affirming experiences we can all expect to share in the months and years that lie ahead at our local multiplexes. Yes: I’m going to toss another tired round-up of so-called important Hollywood industry news into the blogosphere, where it will no doubt be ignored by the majority of filmgoers who don’t really give a shit about what’s playing in theaters in 2007, so long as they can get their street-grade Martin-Lawrence-in-a-fat-suit fix as soon as they are humanly capable — this weekend, if at all possible, unless of course OLN is running a repeat marathon of “Dancing with the Stars,” in which case the majority of the American populace will collectively set out to prove that back-skin can indeed adhere to a velour couch with the passage of enough time and a sufficient number of Little Debbie snacks.

And, sure: There are any number of places you can find this information elsewhere (Defamer, for instance, offers a trade round-up on a near-daily basis and those guys are brilliant), but I doubt there is anywhere else you can find this sort of exacting information accompanied by superfluous polysyllabic prose, gratuitous use of profanity, and more coreferring expressions than even the New York Times. Plus, I’m going to pilfer all of my industry news from Variety without offering proper citation, because that’s what a $250-a-year subscription should afford me.

So, without further ado, let’s get our Prufrock on:

Item #1: For the fantasy geeks and Neil Gaiman freaks amongst y’all, I’m sure you’ll have mixed feelings to learn that Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sienna Miller, and Charlie Cox have signed on for Stardust, a Matthew Vaughn-penned adaptation of Gaiman’s fantasy novel of the same name. In the film, De Niro plays Captain Shakespeare, Claire Danes portrays a falling star, and Sienna Miller blandly starfucks half of Hollywood’s leading men before returning to her mildly abusive relationship with a man who can’t keep his penis out of the help .

I’m not a big Gaiman fan myself (though, The TV Whore has had lunch with him), but I’m skeptical of any project featuring Vaughn as screenwriter, knowing he was responsible for producing all of Guy Ritchie’s movies, which were actually simple variations of the same movie featuring different actors playing the same characters (like Neil Simon farces, only with ammo). Fortunately, I don’t see how Vaughn can mold anyone from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels into a falling star, unless the falling star has bad teeth, a cockney accent, and expects to have a bullet whiz by its head in slow motion.

In other Gaiman news, he and Roger Avary (a.k.a. the guy whose career Quentin Tarantino ruined) will be adapting Black Hole to the screen for MTV Productions. Black Hole is Charles Burns’ graphic novel about high-school students who come in contact with a sexually transmitted disease called “teen plague” and “the bug,” or, as it was best known at my high school in Arkansas: rickets.

Item #2: 20th Century Fox has bought Mark Burton’s spec script for They Came From Upstairs, an adventure tale described as a cross between Home Alone and Gremlins. Burton, whose writing credits include Madagascar and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit sold the spec, which originally went out as a pitch, for around $2 million.

Here’s the Pajiba dramatization of that pitch:

Burton: Here’s what I’m thinking, OK. How does this sound: A post-modern examination of superficiality and mass consumerism among the 0-2 year-old Gymboree© demographic? Think Look Who’s Talking meets Fight Club, featuring precocious infants who shop at Pottery Barn, speak in perfect Travoltian English, and beat the bloody shit out of one another for sport. We’ll get Morgan Freeman to narrate.

Studio Exec: Interesting. But, it’s a bit too edgy for us. You got anything else?

Burton: Hmmm. How about an obnoxious eight-year-old brat who is abandoned by his parents and forced to fend off tiny, mean-spirited monsters with marbles and hot plates; think Home Alone meets The Gremlins.

Studio Exec: Holy shit! Now we’re talking. That’s gold. Who do you think we could get to direct?!

Burton: Brett Ratner, of course.

Studio Exec: Of course! Someone get on the phone and find out how old that Lipnicki kid is now! We got a hot one tonight!

Item #3: In a surprise to absolutely no one, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures are moving ahead with another sequel to the Saw franchise; Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed the second film, is returning again to helm Saw III, and Leigh Whannel will write the script. According to execs at Twisted Pictures, the third feature will hew closely to its serial-killer roots while introducing “fresh, terrifying, and unimaginable twists.” Personally, after the first two installments — which pushed the line between brutal cinematic nihilism and genuine snuff — I can’t imagine there’s anywhere left to go. I suppose if Whannel really wants to introduce unimaginable twists, he’ll have to re-imagine the Saw franchise as a Meryl-Streepish weeper about a serial killer who discovers his inner humanity after finding his long-lost love and before ultimately succumbing to terminal cancer. Renee Zellweger will play the lost love, and every time she weeps, her red, squinty kewpie-face will scare the living shit out of everyone watching.

Item #4: Zach Braff is following up his Harold and Maude-inspired Garden State by adapting, directing, producing, and starring in Open Hearts, a remake of a 2002 Danish film. The story revolves around two couples whose lives become intertwined after a devastating car crash. In the original film, one of the major characters is paralyzed from the waist down and his fiancee has an affair with his doctor, who is married to the woman who caused the accident.

I’m a huge fan of Braff for both “Scrubs” and Garden State, and I imagine he’ll make good with this follow-up, but I’m not particularly comfortable seeing him play either the philandering doctor or the diplegic. He’s J.D., for God’s sake: J.D. is either quirky or lightly melancholic. It’s way too early in his career to go Oscar-grubbing with a serious Born of the 4th of July paralysis turn, and — unless it involves an absurd fantasy with Vespas and the janitorial staff singing an a cappella version of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” — I don’t see him as an adulterer either. Fortunately, Braff’s got impeccable musical taste, and almost anything goes down smoothly with The Shins playing in the background.

Item #5: In TV news, Andy Richter returns to the small screen after the dismal failures of the amusing “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” and the dreadful, “Quintuplets.” Richter will play the lead in “Andy Barker P.I.,” a detective comedy pilot co-written by Conan O’Brien that will likely join the list of ratings-challenged but brilliant single-camera comedies (“Sports Night,” “Arrested Development”) that are prematurely cancelled because the American public can’t seem to digest anything that doesn’t give us quick cut-away shots and a laugh track. Expect it to languish ignored on the NBC schedule this fall.

Items #6: Finally, in box-office news, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion hung on to the top slot for the second week in a row last weekend, bringing its box-office total near the $50 million mark and proving once again that the public’s thirst for black men in drag will never be quenched. The Bruce Willis thriller 16 Blocks, which a few of you have suggested was a simple remake of Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet, arrived in second place with a mediocre $12 million, while Paul Walker’s attempts at gaining Nairy-chested B-level world domination continue, as Eight Below pulls in at #3, bringing its gross total to nearly $60 million.

This weekend, Shaggy Dog opens on 3,000 screens, and I anticipate around a $30 million haul, ensuring that Tim Allen will continue to assault us with treacly, ham-fisted family comedies for years to come. Expect a remake of The Hills Have Eyes to bring in around $18 million and Failure to Launch to do exactly that, rounding out the top three with an abysmal $12 million opening weekend, proving that — unless she’s shopping for strappy sandals — no one really gives a rat’s ass about Sarah Jessica Parker.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

The Weekly Trade Round-Up / Dustin Rowles

Industry | May 12, 2006 |

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

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