From Mr. T To ‘Transformers,’ The ’80s Are Back And Gnarlier Than Ever

Flood of tubular flicks based on decade's hottest TV shows in various stages of development.

Whether you wore fishnet gloves, jean jackets and Zips sneakers with double mismatching socks — or just enjoy laughing at the fact that other people did — right now, no decade is hotter than the 1980s. So, when you have a moment in between watching Mr. T’s new reality show, listening to Rihanna sample “Tainted Love” or re-learning the dance steps to “Thriller,” you might be asking, Where are the movies? Well, go gag yourself with a spoon, because plenty of gnarly flicks are moonwalking their way through the production process, on their most excellent way to a tubular theater near you.

“Transformers”
Fans have been Optimus Primed for a big-screen version of the robots in disguise ever since the first trailer for next summer’s live-action flick hit the Web. “When they put the teaser trailer up, it was a huge, huge issue. There were, like, 6 million hits at the Paramount site, which they had never seen before. It was the most Internet traffic they’d ever gotten, and their site shut down — it was insane!” grinned Shia LaBeouf, who stars in the almost-finished Michael Bay flick alongside Josh Duhamel, Dane Cook and a dozen 20-something-foot tall transforming vehicles. Addressing the ’80s renaissance, he added, ” ‘Transformers’ is huge; it’s a classic. I know that my generation loves it, and I know the generation ahead of me loves it. People grew up with it, and people are still growing up with it.” With additional celebrity robot voices to be announced and a contest under way to put lines in the mouth of Autobot leader Optimus, it’s suddenly cool again to play with a 6-inch-high transforming truck.

“The A-Team”
Like a steel-reinforced van breaking through a warehouse door, “The A-Team” is getting ready to invade movie screens — and if you listen carefully, you might just hear the ghost of George Peppard whispering, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Agents at the Creative Artists Agency confirmed that original series creator Stephen J. Cannell is still attached and excited about bringing the story of four rogue Vietnam veterans to a theater near you, despite problems with a script that has sent the writers back to the drawing board numerous times. The long-running ’80s phenomenon followed Hannibal (Peppard), the Faceman (Dirk Benedict), “Howling Mad” Murdock (Dwight Shultz) and B.A. Baracus (Mr. T) as they took on secret assignments helping the less fortunate in need of some muscle. In a recent interview with movie Web site Empire Online, Cannell said he was interested in updating the characters for the new millennium. “I want to create it as taking place today. So the Gulf War could be a great angle,” he said. “In the original, the A-Team were on the run after robbing a bank under orders just as the war ended; in this, maybe the four would raid Saddam Hussein’s bank or whatever.” The project is in development with 20th Century Fox, and we can only assume that Ving Rhames has his barber practicing the Mohawk in anticipation of the B.A. role he seems born to play.

































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“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”
“By the power of Grayskull,” Hollywood is still promising that a live-action He-Man movie will one day hit theaters. But right now the long-rumored John Woo project has more in common with wimpy Prince Adam than it does with the titular Master of the Universe — both are going nowhere fast. According to a source at Woo’s production company, Lion Rock, “John is attached, but the project isn’t a priority or high on his radar. Essentially, [he] lost enthusiasm.” While the source confirmed that an early script written by “Detroit Rock City” director Adam Rifkin was submitted to Woo, it is unclear whether or not it would be optioned should the film ultimately get a green light — leaving open the possibility that another writer might eventually get to take a turn at the Shakespearean-like stories of Moss Man, Trap Jaw and Fisto. Since He-Man originally debuted as a line of action figures, the rights to the film belong to toy manufacturer Mattel, which is currently in “active” talks with Lion Rock, according to the source. Woo begins shooting his next film, a war flick entitled “The Battle of Red Cliff,” in early 2007 in his native China. Orko, meanwhile, was unavailable for comment.

“Smurfs”
You loved the cartoon as a kid, you can’t get the “la la” theme song out of your head, so maybe you’re wondering just what’s going on with this Smurfing movie? “There’s no director attached; it’s still in development,” said a rep for Herb Ratner, the first-time writer who has passed in his script for the flick, which intends to render the tiny blue characters in CGI. With “no talent attached” and a “still early on” status, even Jokey doesn’t seem likely to be smiling anytime soon.

“Knight Rider”
The coolest car in TV history is revving up its engine and racing to the big screen with the return of “Knight Rider,” the Weinstein Company recently announced. The movie will be scripted by original series creator Glen A. Larson, and will once again center on Michael Knight and his attempt to fight crime when he acquires a new face — and boss — after being left to die from gunshot wounds sustained during his old job as a policeman. “I am a huge fan of the original series and could not be happier that we’ve joined forces with Glen Larson to bring these iconic characters to the big screen,” Harvey Weinstein enthused. Michael’s journey will once again be aided by KITT, a nearly indestructible car armed with artificial intelligence, and fans assume that the auto will be as state-of-the-art now as the ’80s version was then. While publicists at the Weinstein Company confirm KITT will be revamped to more accurately reflect modern vehicles, they scoffed at recent online photos that claim to depict the new car as “completely bogus.” But more importantly, will Michael still wear a leather jacket while hanging out in the desert?

“Fraggle Rock”
“We have a television show that we made in the ’80s called ‘Fraggle Rock,’ and if it were not for the way that we can now communicate with our fans, we wouldn’t know the intense interest that the fans have in ‘Fraggle Rock’ right now in 2006, many years after it aired,” said Lisa Henson, overseer of the company and characters lovingly crafted by her legendary father Jim. Currently engineering the relaunch of the “Dark Crystal” franchise with an upcoming movie, her Jim Henson Company will next begin work on a big-screen flick starring the underground-dwelling quasi-Muppets. Although the adventures of Gobo, Mokey, Wembley and the Doozers seem a bit obscure compared to some other ’80s icons, the Fraggles are immensely popular at pop-culture gatherings. It seemed only appropriate, then, that Henson recently discussed details of a “Fraggle” movie with a Comic-Con audience that roared its approval. ” ‘Fraggle Rock’ has remained a favorite project at our company,” Henson added. “We’re actively developing a ‘Fraggle Rock’ feature.” If Uncle Matt is out there in the real world, he might want to report that the “Fraggle” flick is full-steam ahead, with a major announcement expected in the weeks to come.

“CHiPs”
The film version of this late-’70s/early-’80s staple is moving along — albeit at a pace so slow it makes us want to freak out, hop behind the wheel of a car and zig-zag wildly on a California highway. According to his publicist, Wilmer Valderrama is indeed making plans to step into the skin-tight khaki uniform of Officer Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, a role originally made famous by Erik Estrada. With the artist formerly known as Fez confirmed as half of the eponymous California Highway Patrol team, recent Internet speculation has centered on who will play his blonde-haired partner, Jon Baker. Various Web sites have pegged “Fantastic Four” star Chris Evans as the studio’s choice, citing a supposed conversation in which Valderrama called Evans “Ponch’s new partner!” This comes as news to Evans’ agent, however, who denied Evans’ participation in the project by saying, “He is not attached.” Publicists at Warner Bros. were unable to comment on the current state of the movie, noting that it was in such early pre-production that no “news of the film has crossed [their] desks.” With the flick’s intention to adopt a “Starsky & Hutch”-like spoofing attitude, we can only hope that a roller disco is somehow involved in the plot — and that Jack Black is cast as shlubby Officer Grossman.

“G.I. Joe”
Before he was a cartoon star or action figure, G.I. Joe was a comic strip created on the orders of the United States military, which hoped to inspire soldiers during World War II. Oh boy, how the times have changed. Ever since the ’80s cartoon classic went off the air, fans have wondered when they’ll see Destro, Bazooka, and evil twins Tomax and Xamot on the big screen. Well, they’ll have to wait until U.S. entanglements change so substantially that both foreign and domestic audiences will want to look at the image of a heroic American soldier and scream, “Yo, Joe!” “I had been in conversations with Hasbro to do ‘G.I. Joe,’ and Sony was interested in doing it,” producer Don Murphy (“Natural Born Killers”) remembered of a less complex time just a few years ago. “Then we invaded Iraq, and it became kind of clear that doing a movie called ‘G.I. Joe’ was probably not the best idea at that point.” While it may be true that we’re closer than ever before to the reality of a group like Cobra — the international terrorist organization made up of shadowy figures who deal in random attacks — the over-the-top behavior of Cobra Commander is a long way from seeming appropriate post-9/11. For once, Hollywood seems to know when it’s time to show restraint — and knowing is half the battle.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
Like “Transformers,” the kung-fu fighting reptiles have been cranking out toys and cartoons that still win over young fans more than two decades after they were hatched in the ’80s. And that continuing popularity is paying off for them as well, with a big-screen flick hitting theaters in March — and even more after that. “We’ll be back in three years with a sequel,” predicted producer Thomas K. Gray, who is overseeing the darker, CGI-Turtle renaissance just as he did their early-’90s flicks. “People thought the Turtles were over, but they didn’t realize they’re very much alive if you come with a new medium. It’s like everything in this business: nobody knows anything. We showed them back in the ’90s, and we’re going to show them again. This is a property that’s going to live on for a long time, so that’ll be a really good satisfaction when we open.”

“Cabbage Patch Kids: The Beginning”
Just kidding, folks. But if “Transformers” and “Turtles” open big, can it be far behind?

Check out everything we’ve got on “Transformers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

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