Newsbites: Brokeback! Kingdom! Missionary!

My computer’s in for repairs, and the laptop I’m borrowing in its place is rather old and ridiculously slow, and it just froze up on me as I was putting the finishing touches on a post about the Brokeback Mountain controversy — a post that had already taken much, much longer to write than it normally would have. So, in its place, I now post these newsbite quickies:

1. The New York Times notes that conservative Christian film critics — or at least some, anyway — are becoming more “sophisticated” in their approach to movies like Brokeback Mountain and Vera Drake. Meanwhile, Terry Mattingly at the journalism blog predicts that Brokeback Mountain will be “one of the three or four hottest religion/cultural stories of the year in 2006.”

2. At the junket for Kingdom of Heaven, various people involved in the film said a longer “director’s cut” was in the works — and now, says the Hollywood Reporter, it looks like that longer cut has become a reality:

20th Century Fox will release theatrically a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Crusades epic “Kingdom of Heaven” on Friday, the studio said Thursday. The film, which centers on a young Frenchman (Orlando Bloom) who discovers his destiny as a knight amid the clash between Muslims and Christians over the Holy Land a millennium ago, will unspool exclusively at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre in Los Angeles. For the new cut, Scott added 45 minutes to the original release’s 145-minute running time. “With his new director’s cut, Ridley Scott has brought an exciting new dimension to ‘Kingdom of Heaven,’ ” Fox president of domestic distribution Bruce Snyder said. “We’re delighted to bring this new version of the film to the big screen, where it belongs.”

3. says John Landis is going to direct The Missionary Position:

Distribution and casting plans for the film weren’t made clear, but a vague outline of the story has been released: The comedy details a tough criminal who attempts to evade capture and recover his loot by posing as a missionary…only to find his new role might have been a worse choice than jail. Glen Brackenridge and Curtis Brien wrote the script.

Landis calls the screenplay both funny and extremely relevant. The filmmaker is expected to go to work on The Missionary Position this summer…after he finishes work on Bat Boy.

Sounds like a premise that has been used in everything from We’re No Angels (1989) to Charlie Chaplin‘s The Pilgrim (1923; my preview, my essay) — though usually to a more redemptive end. Oh, and while it’s possible Landis’s upcoming projects have nothing in common with each other, I note that Bat Boy is based on the play by Brian Flemming, who I interviewed several months ago when he released his atheist documentary The God Who Wasn’t There.

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