Short Cuts: Randal Kleiser Returns to the Movie Musical, and other news

Short Cuts will be a bi-weekly column helping you to catch up on the upcoming motion pictures that are flying under the radar. Today, you’ll learn about the writing and directing debut of a “Usual Suspects” producer, find out what “The Mask of Zorro” villian Matt Letscher does in his sleep, discover how “Grease” director Randal Kleiser plans on modernizing the Little Red Riding Hood tale in song, and wonder what makes serial killers so interesting to Matthew Bright. Just four of ten new projects that will begin production in the coming months.

Michael McDonnell, whose CV includes “The Usual Suspects” and the “Urban Legends” series will take his writing and directing debut on the upcoming feature “Crash and Burn. The story follows twin teenage children of a legendary daredevil who died in a stunt gone wrong. The boy, Wheeler, a motocross prodigy until his father’s death, gets back into the extreme sports game to save his sister Diana, known as Princess Die in the circuit. Currently without a studio distribution deal, “Crash and Burn” will begin shooting September 1.

Regent Entertainment is financing “The Darkness, the latest film from schlockmeister David DeCocteau. When Top Forty pop band Mystify holds auditions for a new front man, three finalists discover the sinister agenda behind the band, which has kept its evil secret for the past five decades thanks to the real band leader, the band’s manager and the three backup singers. Michael Gingold, managing editor of Fangoria Magazine for the past 13 years, wrote the screenplay. Production gears up in Los Angeles starting August 18.

Matt Letscher, best known for playing Captain Harrison Love in “The Mask of Zorro,” has just snagged the lead role in Allen Wolf’s second feature, “In My Sleep.” Letscher will play Marcus, a young masseur who suspect he may be responsible for a series of murders after he discovers he suffers from somnambulism. September 26 is the target date for the first day of principal photography in Los Angeles.

Randal Kleiser, whose made his feature directing debut on “Grease,” is jumping on the new movie musical bandwagon with a new, modern day interpretation of the Little “Red Riding Hood” story, which will feature continual television updates of the series of murders committed by The Wolf. Lainie Kazan of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has already been cast as Red’s grandma. Camera will roll in Los Angeles beginning July 21.

After shooting wraps on “Riding Hood,” Kleiser will take the red-eye to Hoboken, where he already has “Murder On The Hudson” set to commence production in late September. Scott Glenn and Charles Durning will topline the story of a female police officer who, annoyed at being passed over for promotion to detective, badgers one of her precient’s detectives to let her work with him on what she instinctively knows is a serial killer case, someone who preys on single, hard-partying mothers who neglect or abuse their kids.

Some of us have been waiting to see Richard Elfman become somewhat as well-known as his older brother Danny. Not only is Richard a talented percussionist who was a founding member of Oingo Boingo, he also directed one of the great independent films of the 1980s, “Forbidden Zone.” His follow-up films, “Shrunken Heads” and “Modern Vampires” showed a lot of talent but never got the chance to find its audience. Will “Trio” be the one that finally gets Elfman the notice he has so richly deservedr We’ll see. The story follows three old men, former carnies, who are hired by a university research team to test their psychic abilities. At first, the men don’t care too much about the project, until they discover working together gives them extraordinary abilities. The Elfmans are known to keep it in the family, and here Richard co-wrote the script with his mother Claire. Will son Bodhi make a second appearance in his father’s filmr Will Danny help out on the score again, like he has twice beforer Will daughter-in-law Jenna Elfman or soon-to-be sister-in-law Bridget Fonda take their first plunger Only time will tell. It’s all happening this October.

Steven Brill will begin production on “Without A Paddle, his follow-up to “Mr. Deeds,” in New Zealand at the end of September. The Paramount feature will follow three friends who, after the death of their buddy and group leader Billy, fulfill Billy’s dream of finding the long-lost fortune of robber D.B. Cooper.

What is it about Matthew Bright and serial killersr In the past twelve years, he has written and/or directed four films revolving around serial killers, the most recent being his film about the life of Ted Bundy. In two weeks, we can add “The Hillside Strangler” to the list. Chuck Parello, who made his writing and directing debut on 1998’s “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer 2” before making a film about Ed Gein in 2000, cowrote the script with Bright and Stephen Johnston (himself the author or co-author of four previous serial killer movies), and will direct the story of Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi’s vicious crime spree through Los Angeles a quarter century ago.

In Jonathan Segal’s feature debut “The Last Run, a man, recently dumped by his gorgeous model girlfriend, is advised by his best friend Jack Manning to dull the pain by going on a “run,” sleeping with as many girls as he can in a short period of time, sinking himself into the self-destructive routine of a sex addict when he finds himself unable to finish. Oh, he’s played by Fred Savage. Production begins in Los Angeles July 21.

Miguel Artera, known best for his directing work on “The Good Girl” and “Chuck and Buck,” steps into the producer role, to help writer/director Michael Kang get his feature “The Motel” into production this July. The screenplay, which was worshopped at Sundance last year, tells the story of a teenage Chinese-American boy, helping his single-parent mother raise his younger sister and operate an hourly-rate motel, who falls under the influence of a charismatic but self-destructive Korean gentleman who has checked in indefinitely. Those interested in trying out for this film should visit Michael Kang’s website for more details.