Newsbites: Batman! Harry! Justice! Gangster!

Got a whole lot of catching up to do!

1. All the marketing for The Dark Knight has tended to emphasize the Joker, the Joker, the Joker. But a story in the Los Angeles Times suggests the film’s real focus may be elsewhere:

HEATH LEDGER and Aaron Eckhart, welcome to Hollywood’s elite and gaudy Arkham club.

In the highly anticipated new Batman film “The Dark Knight,” which opens July 18, Ledger is stepping into the purple suit of the Joker, while Eckhart will portray Gotham City Dist. Atty. Harvey Dent, who starts the movie as a handsome lawman but ends up as Two-Face, the villain driven insane by disfiguring wounds.

“Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film,” says Christopher Nolan, the director of the acclaimed franchise-rejuvenating 2005 film “Batman Begins,” who returns with Christian Bale again playing the caped crusader. “The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film — he’s got no story arc, he’s just a force of nature tearing through. Heath has given an amazing performance in the role, it’s really extraordinary.”

Chris at Movie Marketing Madness responds by wondering if the studio has set itself up for “potential reputation damage” by promising fans more of the Joker than they’re actually going to get.

2. The Mail on Sunday says the makers of the Harry Potter movies are thinking of splitting the seventh and final book into two movies. I’m not sure what to make of this. I have always said that each of the books should have been adapted as a TV mini-series, or as a complete season of a TV series, rather than a movie; but now that they have run with the one-movie-per-book format, a part of me figures they should stick with it. At any rate, if the rumour is true, I wonder what they will call the second movie; will it be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, or will they find some other object to put after the words “and the”?

3. Variety reported on Wednesday that Warner Brothers had put the Justice League movie on “indefinite hold” for two reasons: the writers’ strike, and the tax-break situation in Australia, where they were planning on shooting the film. But on Thursday, the Aussie government said the studio’s decision had nothing to do with the tax breaks and was “absolutely confined to creative issues”.

4. So many of the “historical” films made by Ridley Scott and Brian Grazer have been bogus to one degree or another, that it shouldn’t come as any surprise to read this Associated Press story about their first collaboration, American Gangster:

NEW YORK – In “American Gangster,” which is “based on a true story,” Denzel Washington — as the `70s drug lord Frank Lucas — confidently marches deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia as the Vietnam War rages in the background. He is looking for drugs.

Later, we see police break open the caskets of Vietnam casualties flown back to the States, searching for the heroin Lucas has audaciously hidden beneath the corpses. Then Lucas is shown as the dope dealer-turned-reformer as he exposes legions of corrupt police.

Except none of the above ever happened. . . .

5. Apparently Stephen Fry is writing the script for Dambusters, Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic World War II movie The Dam Busters (1955), and he spoke to the Manchester Evening News recently about some of the things that will distinguish their movie from the original film — such as their use of information that was still top-secret back when the original film was made. (Incidentally, as Fry notes, much of the Death Star battle in the original Star Wars was copied from the original Dam Busters.)

6. As bad as some of the Roger Moore James Bond films might be, I did enjoy listening to Moore’s audio commentaries on those films — so I am mildly intrigued to read in the Associated Press that Moore is now working on a memoir called My Word Is My Bond. Say what you will about his films or his take on Ian Fleming’s character, but Moore is a charming raconteur.

7. Governments are getting involved in filmmaking! Variety reports that the provincial government of Quebec has bought “51% of the voting shares and a 38.5% ownership stake in Alliance Films, Canada’s leading film distributor” — that’s the company that distributes all the Miramax and New Line Cinema films in Canada, among others. Meanwhile, the United Nations “is backing a $100 million film fund aimed at combating stereotypes in movies. . . . Participant Prods., Summit Entertainment, ICM and YouTube are all believed to have signed on as partners to the fund, which has already secured investment of $10 million.” But will anyone actually pay to watch the movies that are made by this fund?

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • P. Little

    I love Stephen Fry’s writing (and acting, for that matter) and would pretty much watch anything he’s involved in for the small or big screens. I still have to get through the novel of his that I bought before my trip to Europe last summer, though, as I didn’t actually get to it while out there.

    I suppose it’s possible Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts are both lying about everything for personal gain — they became friends, after all, and could’ve concocted a story that they both can confirm. But whenever lawsuits are involved, I am often skeptical. Often times it boils down to wanting to cash in on something. Besides, to be “based on true events”, a movie barely has to make mention of a real fact. It was still an enjoyable movie, whether true or fictional.