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Plugged In

‘Real Steel’ heads Hollywood gamble on board game movies

Plugged In

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Real Steel (Dreamworks)

Books have been made into movies. Video games have been made into movies. Even theme park rides have been made into movies -- with remarkable results.

So why not board games?

Why not, indeed. After all, pioneering 1985 adaptation Clue is firmly established as a cult classic -- and while this week's new robot-boxing release 'Real Steel' doesn't carry an official Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots license, it's widely held to be nigh-indistinguishable from the legendary board game/toy.

Bizarre though it might be, 'Real Steel' is proving to be a hit with critics , but this is just the start. Led by a high-stakes deal between board game maker Hasbro and Universal Pictures and boasting the involvement of big names like Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, and Liam Neeson, a slew of family classics are set to head from cardboard to celluloid over the next few years.

Battleship

Sailing into port in May of next year, this Universal project boasts Hancock director Peter Berg's hand on the tiller. Floppy-haired Canuck hunk Taylor Kitsch, recently seen as Gambit in the 2009 Wolverine movie, stars as hotshot naval officer Alex Hopper; curvy model Brooklyn Decker takes the role of Hopper's love interest. Liam Neeson also pops up, playing Hopper's commanding officer -- who, as luck would have it, also happens to be Decker's pa.

A recipe for an angsty military-family drama? That's certainly Battleship's initial heading, but expect a radical change of course when the U.S. fleet gets attacked by a very large, very expensive-looking alien ship. You can probably fill in the rest of the plot yourself.

If you're wondering what all that has to do with the board game, you're not the only one. But if that's what it takes to get a naval combat movie made in the 21st century, so be it. Just, please, give us at least one shot of Neeson, wracked with pain and suffering, saying "Damn you, you alien bastards...you sunk my battleship."

Monopoly

Hollywood's been angling to produce a Monopoly movie for years, but it wasn't until Ridley Scott signed the lease in 2007 that people began to take it seriously. Unfortunately, the rent on this particular property apparently proved too high for Universal Studios, which cut the project loose in an August round of bloodletting. Fellow board game names Ouija and a planned Clue remake were also casualties.

Undaunted, Scott and Hasbro are apparently pressing ahead with Monopoly without Universal, last month hiring the scriptwriting duo behind 'The People vs. Larry Flin' and 'Ed Wood' to pen the script. They'd certainly fit with the project's rumored quirky, black-comedy tones.

Candy Land

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Candy Land (Hasbro)

The saccharine-sweet landscape of simple 1940s creation Candy Land doesn't seem like it'd be rich with opportunities for dramatic intrigue, but, undaunted, Universal seems to be pressing ahead with its movie adaptation of the childrens' classic. Writer Jonathan Aibel ('Kung Fu Panda 2', 'King of the Hill)' told EW he envisions the movie as "Lord of The Rings, but set in a world of candy," which has to rank as one of the oddest ideas we've heard in quite some time.

Was Aibel yanking our chains? Quite possibly not, which means it could just be a matter of time before watching Mr. Gingerbread Man attempting to cast the One Life Saver into the fiery depths of Gum Drop Mountain...and if that thought isn't enough for you to give the project the benefit of the doubt, you're a real sourpuss.

Risk

Although Risk was actually created by a film-maker back in 1957, it took an entire half-century before anyone had the bright idea of turning it into a move. Originally floated by Sony Pictures in 2009, a June announcement put 'Underworld Awakening' and 'The Shield' writer John Hlavin in the frame for the screenplay. Hlavin's concept is described as a modern-day globe-trotting action thriller — and with any luck he's already thought to swap Risk's riveting dice-rolling combat for something a little more cinematic.

Stretch Armstrong

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Stretch Armstrong (Hasbro)

A board game? OK, so that's a bit of a, uh, stretch. But classic '70s toy Stretch Armstrong is also on his way to our movie screens -- or so we think.

Armstrong was another cog in the Universal/Hasbro deal, and though the two put ink to paper back in 2008, movement on the project has been sloooow. Still, it does have a few names attached, chief among them being 'Twilight' hearthrob Taylor Lautner. Rumors of its demise were floating around earlier this year, but according to statements made by Lautner last month, it's still alive. Will he still be as hunky when he has fifty-foot arms? Expect to find out in the next few years.

Monsterpocalypse

Compared to Monopoly and Battleship, this little-known 2008 board game is a mere slip of a thing -- but its theme, which sees players taking control of skyscraper-sized robots to do battle with equally giant city-smashing monsters, is ripe for a disaster-movie adaptation.

That fact hasn't been lost on Dreamworks, which has tapped director Tim Burton to lead an upcoming project based on the game. Frequent Burton collaborator John August is handling the screenplay (the pair last worked together on 'The Corpse Bride' and Burton's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'), while Oscar-winner Ken Ralston will oversee the all-important special effects, presumably with a monster-sized budget.

As Godzilla fans will tell you, it's hard to go too far wrong with a movie predicated on giant monsters smashing up cities. And it's hard not to be impressed with the film's lineup of talent, regardless of whether or not you've heard of the board game. Look for it no earlier than late 2012.

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