By John Breneman
"To eat them on a train, or not to eat
them on a train: that is the question."
Kenneth Branagh's "Green Eggs and Hamlet," widely
hailed as a rhyme-drenched fusion of Shakespearean tragedy
and Seussian whimsy, is the most ambitious film to date in
the new cinematic genre inspired by the late Theodor Geisel.
by the murder of his father the king, the youthful Prince
Sam-I-Am (Branagh) seeks to exact his vengeance by tricking
the killer into eating a poison plate of breakfast. Confusion
and high intrigue ensue as his simplistic poetic badgering
is consistently rebuffed.
Now that the box-office bonanza unleashed by "The Cat
and the Hat" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
has trumpeted Dr. Seuss's posthumous emergence as a bankable
Hollywood powerhouse, industry insiders are buzzing about
a slew of new projects.
"It's like 'Citizen Kane' meets 'The 500 Hats of Bartholomew
Cubbins'," Leonardo DiCaprio confided to a blond companion
while nibbling pan-seared sneetch foie gras at Spago. A few
tables over, Danny Devito literally drooled into his wasabi
oobleck puree while discussing the merchandising potential
of "Yertle the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle."
Spike Jonze, director of "Being John Malkovich,"
is doing a dark comedy called "Billy Bob Thornton Hears
a Who." Jonathan Demme has signed Anthony Hopkins and
Jodie Foster to costar in "The Silence of the Brown Bar-ba-loots."
And Jack Nicholson is eager to play the feisty mental patient
Randall Patrick McBoing-Boing in Milos Forman's "One
Flew Over the Ruffle-Necked Sala-ma-goox's Nest."
Fright-meister Wes Craven is plotting an evil adaptation
of one of the good doctor's earliest works. In "Nightmare
on Mulberry Street," the murderous Freddy Krueger slays
his victims with a Luger then feeds the corpses to a cougar.
Even B-movie legend Roger Corman is getting into the act with
the campy "One Fish, Two Fish, Attack of the Giant Man-Eating
As with any Hollywood trend, the Seuss craze is generating
its share of controversy. Robin Williams is demanding $20
million to reprise his role as the brawny, spinach-munching
sailorman in "Hop on Popeye." And a source close
to Tom Cruise says the actor is furious at Warner Brothers
executives for refusing an eleventh-hour plea to change the
title of his new film to "The Last Samurai-I-Am."
Finally, movie-goers have not seen the last of the Grinch,
the green-hued protagonist who grossed $340 million worldwide
for Universal three years ago when Jim Carrey ignited the
Entertainment Tonight reports that Adam Sandler will play
a bumbling, yarmulke-wearing scrooge in "How the Grinch
Stole Chanukah." Sandler's unorthodox Grinch awakens
from an angry Manischewitz hangover in time to learn the true
spirit of the holiday from Little Cindy-Lou Jew.
(Note: The producers may seek an injunction to block a similar
December 2004 release, but friends say the Wayans brothers
are determined to move ahead with their blaxploitation holiday
spoof, "How the Grinch Stole Kwanzaa.")
Hollywood spins off Spider-man's
By John Breneman
Fueled by the phenomenal box-office success
of "Spider-Man," Hollywood is spinning out a slew
of big-budget films about superheroes who are part human,
Timed to coincide with the onset of mosquito
season are potential summer blockbusters like "Ladybug-Man,"
"Wonder Worm" and "Captain Earwig."
Executives at Mandible Entertainment are already
predicting Oscar nominations for the poignant story of Franz
Kaufman, a mild-mannered entomologist by day who scurries
behind his refrigerator at dusk and metamorphoses into ...
"Cockroach-Man," a crusty crime-fighter whose special
powers enable him to survive nuclear holocausts and repeated
"Praying Mantis-Woman" stars Angelina
Jolie as a lanky green supervixen who seduces adversaries
with her sensuous triangular head and bulbous bedroom eyes,
then mates with them and eats them alive.
Clooney and Michael Keaton are said to be vying for the title
role in "Gnatman," a dark thriller about a wealthy
Gotham City businessman who dons a tiny mask and cape to annoy
archvillains, making them so itchy they can't concentrate
on perpetrating evil.
"Dung Beetle-Man" is the story of
Steve Scarab, a tormented waste treatment plant worker who
falls into a vat of radioactive effluent and emerges with
a rancid but impenetrable exoskeleton and the ability to smother
foes in his highly toxic feces.
"Sergeant Tapeworm" features a parasitic
crime-buster who infests the bad guys' digestive tract and
gnaws like mad until they no longer have the stomach to commit
And movie fans are expected to flock like locusts to see cotton-pickin'
criminals laid low by "Boll Weevil: Enemy of Evil."
The emerging insect-action genre relies on a
familiar formula: Colorful champions distinguished by their
rippling thorax muscles team up with trusty sidekicks like
Aphid, Flea and Chigger to battle repellent archvillains like
Lord Maggot, Venus Fly Trap and the nefarious Woodpecker.
The genre also features unique musical styles.
"Grasshopper-Man," for example, hums with a lazy,
haunting soundtrack provided by the tympanal organs of the
Hollywood is also buzzing about a string of
campy Bee-Movies. "The WASP" chronicles the comic
misadventures of Whitey Saxon, an uptight Protestant mud dauber
living in a colony of angry black militant hornets. And "Queen
Bee-Man" features rock star Sting as a transvestite hive
boss struggling to keep his true gender a secret from his
faithful but suspicious sidekick, Drone.
Even the adult-film industry is getting into
the act with the steamy multiple-organism romance, "Katydid
Dallas and Johnny Inch-Worm."
Meanwhile, don't adjust your antennae. Bug fare
is also creeping onto the small screen with the major networks
set to debut "The Pest Wing" and "Who Wants
to Be a Millipede?"
Terror grips Tinsel Town
By John Breneman
Eager to cash in on America's fascination with terrorism,
Hollywood is releasing a barrage of summer blockbusters like
"Sleeping With the Yemeni" and "Al Qaeda on
the Western Front."
Though critics have assailed trendy terror-themed films like
"The Anthrax Chainsaw Massacre," studio executives
are defending their right to turn the public's plutonium nightmares
into silver-screen gold.
"If we allow them to scare us into not making tasteless
movies jammed with explosions and gratuitous killing, then
the terrorists truly will have won," said producer Adam
Baum, plugging his controversial new release "Last Tango
Some critics are dismissing the new genre as formulaic and
derivative, noting that most of the films are nothing more
than old favorites crudely refitted with flimsy storylines,
their titles riddled with racial stereotypes and horrifying
puns like "Man in the Iron Mosque" and "Allah
Doesn't Live Here Anymore."
Undaunted by charges of celluloid fear-mongering, studio
executives say this new wave of Tinsel Town terror provides
a form of in-your-face escapism that American movie-goers
Not even the classics are safe. Swept up by a violent tornado,
Dorothy and little Toto encounter the Cowardly Suicide Bomber
and the Wicked Witch of the West Bank in "The Wizard
Mystery enthusiasts are flocking to stylish whodunits like
"Martyr on the Orient Express" and the Hitchcock-inspired
"Dial J for Jihad." Fans of courtroom drama are
finding guilty pleasure in "12 Angry Mullahs." And
audiences are raving about the classic western remake "Stungun
Fight at the O.K. Corral."
Among the terror-comedies set for summer release, Bob Hope
mugs his way through a knee-slapping nuclear standoff in "Road
to Kashmir" and Mel Gibson plays a psychotic U.N. inspector
in "Lethal Weapons of Mass Destruction."
A certain obnoxious Iraqi dictator is the target of well-aimed
jokes in Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Baghdad" and
the heavily armored Mel Brooks vehicle, "Blazing Saddam."
With "Take the Stock Options and Run," Allen is
also one of several filmmakers capitalizing on the corporate
scandals that are all the rage this summer. Other high-finance
horror stories include "Nightmare on Wall Street"
and "The Devil and Miss Dow Jones."
All this, coming soon to an overpriced, steel-reinforced
multiplex near you.