Newsbites: Beowulf, Watership, Alpha, etc.

Time for another round-up. (Updated late Wednesday night.)

1. Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf & Grendel isn’t the only adaptation of that famous poem in the works. Variety reports that Columbia Pictures is talking to Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson and Robin Wright Penn about starring in a “performance capture film” directed by Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express) and written by Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) and Neil Gaiman.

2. Jeffrey Overstreet has posted some comments on the news that a new TV version of Watership Down may be in the works — to be directed by Vincenzo Natali! I have always been a big fan of the 1978 film version (my comments), which did cut out major portions of the novel, and it might be nice to see a fuller treatment of the story, but I’m not sure Natali’s the man for the job. I interviewed him at the local film festival several years ago when he came here with his first feature film, Cube (1997), and we had a good chat about Gnosticism and whatnot. I never saw his next film, Cypher (2002), but I did see his most recent one, Nothing (2003), and it felt like a clever short or student film that had been dragged out far too long to achieve feature length — which, come to think of it, would be a plausible criticism of Cube, too.

3. The Associated Press reviews My Summer of Love, about two girls who fall in love, one of whom has a born-again older brother, played by In America‘s Paddy Considine. The Guardian ran an interesting interview with Considine last year, in which he talked about researching the role by attending an Alpha Course.

4. Steven Spielberg tells the Associated Press that all the major dramatizations of H.G. Wells’s 1898 novel The War of the Worlds — Orson Welles’s 1938 radio version, George Pal’s 1953 movie version, and now Spielberg’s new version — have come out at times of “great unease in the world”. Meanwhile, he refuses to talk about the storyline for the new Indiana Jones film because if he does, George Lucas “might take over directing ‘Indy 4’ himself.” And while I’m sure he’s joking, that still sounds pretty scary.

5. Speaking of H.G. Wells, Michael Coren, a Canadian broadcaster and an evangelical convert to Catholicism, had an article in Monday’s National Post calling Wells “a cad and a hatemonger”.

6. Reuters reports on the emergence of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish filmmakers, whose output sounds rather similar to the evangelical pop culture with which I grew up, except for a few limitations that would have been unusually restrictive even for us (e.g., “Women are not allowed to be shown due to chastity laws”).

7. Jonathan Mostow, director of Breakdown (1997), U-571 (2000) and Terminator 3 (2003; my review), is going to direct a remake of Disney’s The Swiss Family Robinson (1960), says the Hollywood Reporter. I’ve never seen the original film myself, but now that I know John Mills was in it, I might have to.

8. Steve Sailer asks why leading ladies almost always have fairer skin than their leading men, and tries to come up with a “scientific” answer. Among the interesting arguments he makes:

You may have wondered, for example, why Nicole Kidman seems to have a film coming out every few months. She starred with Sean Penn in The Interpreter in April, will be in Bewitched with Will Ferrell on June 24th, and is slated to be in five more movies scheduled to come out over the next year and a half. Yet, the only film she was ever in that earned $100 million at the domestic box office was Batman Forever a decade ago.

Kidman is a perfectly adequate actress. But one reason she works so much is because of her extraordinarily light complexion. A producer can hire her knowing that no matter which actor he signs to play opposite her, she will be fairer than him.

From there, he goes on to talk about the work of anthropologist Peter Frost, author of Fair Women, Dark Men: The Forgotten Roots of Color Prejudice. Make of that what you will!

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  • “Kidman is a perfectly adequate actress. But one reason she works so much is because of her extraordinarily light complexion. A producer can hire her knowing that no matter which actor he signs to play opposite her, she will be fairer than him.”

    Here’s the exception that proves the rule: the wretched Whoopi Goldberg/Ted Danson vehicle Made in America.