Newsbites: Departed! Babel! Burning! Casino!

I’ve been stockpiling some of these items while working on other stuff, and it’s time to set them free!

1. As of Tuesday, The Departed has passed The Aviator (2004) to become the top-grossing film of Martin Scorsese‘s entire career, with $103.3 million to date — and it’s still in the weekly top five!

The Departed currently ranks third in Leonardo DiCaprio‘s filmography, behind Catch Me If You Can (2002; $164.6 million) and Titanic (1997; $600.8 million); and it will soon rank third on Mark Wahlberg‘s filmography, behind Planet of the Apes (2001; $180 million) and The Perfect Storm (2000; $182.6 million).

Matt Damon currently has six films on his list that have had higher grosses — though he was just one among many co-stars in Saving Private Ryan (1998; $216.5 million) and the first two Ocean’s movies (2001-2004; $183.4-$125.5 million). Also ahead of The Departed are Good Will Hunting (1997; $138.4 million) and the first two Bourne movies (2002-2004; $121.7-$176.2 million).

It looks like the only Alec Baldwin films that will stay ahead of this one are Pearl Harbor (1998; $198.5 million) and perhaps The Hunt for Red October (1990; $122 million).

And as for Jack Nicholson … heck, the guy’s been around for ages, and if One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Terms of Endearment (1983) both made just over $108 million in their day — thus, I assume, putting each film easily among the top two or three earners of their respective years (the only 1983 film that did better than Terms of Endearment was Return of the Jedi) — does it really compare to a film making $100 million in this day and age? His personal best remains Batman (1989; $251.2 million).

2. My friend and colleague Jeffrey Overstreet interviews Babel director Alejandro González Iñárritu at CT Movies:

The title of the film is a reference to a story in the Book of Genesis, when God punished human pride by confusing our languages. Did you mean for the film to suggest anything about our relationship with God?

Iñárritu: For me, Babel is about human beings left alone with each other. There’s an absence of God. In a way, we have been dealing with the consequences of our own greed, our own selfishness. We punish ourselves with the way we act [toward each other.]

That’s interesting, but is that really the implicit message of the story of the Tower of Babel itself — that we did this to ourselves? Consider this bit from Katherine Monk’s review:

Inarritu gets marks for making a film laced with a sense of urgency, and pointing out our cultural communication gaps, but the biggest point of all is ignored altogether, and that’s God’s will.

Genesis tells us God scattered his children, and broke our speech, so that we could not achieve great things together. Inarritu owed it to his film to implicate God somewhere in the mix, but he steers clear completely, making for an interesting intellectual exercise, but one that feels too shallow and manipulated to make a deep impact.

3. and Cinematical report that Ashley Judd has bought the rights to — and plans to write the screenplay adaptation of — The Burning Time, a Robin Morgan novel about a 14th-century Irish priestess named Alyce Kyteler, who was one of the first people to be accused of witchcraft by the Inquisition.

4. Hollywood North Report says real dead bodies — in the form of one of the Body Worlds exhibits curated by Gunther von Hagens — will form part of the backdrop to Casino Royale:

BODY WORLDS is the setting for an archetypal battle of good and evil, between Agent 007 and one of the villains of the film. For Dr. von Hagens, who was imprisoned in 1969 for two years after a failed attempt to escape, James Bond films are more than innocuous spy thrillers. . . .

5. Variety looks back at the decent box-office returns for this year’s cartoons and asks why everyone was so worried about the glut. Cars director John Lasseter — and hey, why, for the first time in Pixar’s history, does the new DVD for that film have virtually no bonus features, let alone a bonus disc? — tells the paper: “Look, there’s 52 weekends a year, and 14 to 16 animated films came out this year, so there’s still plenty of room. I’d much rather be part of a healthy industry than be the only player in a dead industry.”

6. In related news, Variety explores how Aardman preserved its claymation style while making the CGI Flushed Away.

7. Rod Dreher passes on the news that Sacha Baron Cohen — now on screens as the title character in Borat — is going to star in a remake of Le dîner de cons (1998), AKA The Dinner Game. I don’t remember the details of the original film very well, but I remember liking it quite a bit. Here is the capsule review that I wrote for ChristianWeek in the summer of 1999:

The Dinner Game, starring Jacques Villeret, Thierry Lhermitte and Francis Huster, is directed by Francis Veber. Rated PG-13 for language.

Every now and then, several well-to-do men play a mean-spirited game: each one invites an “idiot” to a dinner party and, at the end of the evening, the dumbest guest wins a prize. But one man gets his comeuppance when a back pain strands him at home with his unwitting guest, an honest-to-a-fault bloke with an uncanny knack for unintentionally bringing to light the skeletons in his host’s closet. One of the funnier riffs on the tangled web of deception.

8. Production Weekly spills a few more plot points about War Games 2 – The Dead Code:

Matt Lanter . . . plays computer hacker Will Farmer begins to play an online terrorist-attack simulation game against government super-computer Ripley, he’s in way over his head – because Ripley is actually a complex piece of spyware, designed to ferret out potential terrorists and scoop them up. Only Ripley is a paranoid nutjob who’s hell-bent on placing pretty much everyone on Earth in a 3×3 cell, lest they turn unpredictably hostile. Production starts November 20 in Montreal.

9. Hollywood North Report says the next Babylon 5 movie will be shot here in Vancouver sometime this month.

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  • Trent

    Oh, to be in Vancouver, sometime this month, so I could interview Joe.

    I know. Lot of assumptions in that statement. But still….

  • RC

    to be honest, i’ve been really surprised at the success of the departed.

    i have yet to see it, but wow.

    –RC of

  • I’m very excited that Joe is revisiting the Babylon 5 universe again. I’ve been keeping track of all of his correspondence and information here: Babylon 5: The Lost Tales Apparently the DVD is due out this summer.