Newsbites: Legion! Hereafter! W! Lean! Trek! My Kid! Guru! Stop-Loss! Anakin!

Time for some more brief news and review bits, I think.

1. Legion, the supernatural thriller starring Paul Bettany as the archangel Michael, just got a little weirder. In the middle of a story on all the actors who have joined the cast, Variety gives a little more detail about the plot:

Scripted by Stewart and Peter Schink, the thriller casts Bettany as the archangel Michael, the only one standing between mankind and an apocalypse, after God loses faith in humanity. Man’s lone hope rests with a group of strangers who must deliver a baby they realize is Christ in his second coming.

Good grief. From Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981; my comments) to Bless the Child (2000; my review), many films have been based on the premise that the Second Coming will be just like the first coming, with Jesus being born as a baby and all that. But that is not what the Bible describes at all. It’s not going to be a mere reincarnation.

And hey, why is the God of this film losing faith in humanity so soon after sending his Son back into the womb of another human being? Or, hmmm, maybe the film is working from the premise that Jesus isn’t being “sent” at all, but is coming in spite of his Father’s loss of faith in humanity.

Whatever. The newly-announced actors who have joined this film include Dennis Quaid — who discussed his own Christian faith with me a couple years ago and has another Apocalypse-themed film, The Horsemen, in the works — as well as Tyrese Gibson, Jon Tenney, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh, Adrianne Palicki, Kevin Durand and Willa Holland.

2. One of the more spiritually interesting films I have seen in the last few months is Longford (2006), starring Samantha Morton as one of England’s more notorious criminals and Jim Broadbent as the Catholic member of the House of Lords who befriends her, perhaps more naively than he ought to have done. (See the brief review by my friend Steven D. Greydanus.) It was written by Peter Morgan, who won an Oscar for The Queen (2006) — so I am intrigued to hear, via Variety, that Morgan has just sold a script called Hereafter, which is described as being “in the vein of ‘The Sixth Sense.'” I would love to know more about this film, but alas, no more details have been made public … yet.

3. Variety says Oliver Stone has cast James Cromwell as former President George H.W. Bush, Ellen Burstyn as former First Lady Barbara Bush, and Elizabeth Banks as current First Lady Laura Bush in W, the biopic — formerly titled Bush — that stars Josh Brolin as current President George W. Bush. Banks, who has starred mostly in comedies so far, tells Entertainment Weekly she is a registered Democrat and is “still trying” to figure out how to play her character, though she also says, “I hope to do right by her. I have nothing but admiration and respect for the First Lady.”

4. The Screengrab notes that last Tuesday would have marked the 100th birthday of David Lean, if he had not died in 1991. Lean directed my favorite film of all time, Lawrence of Arabia (1962), as well as Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Summertime (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Ryan’s Daughter (1970) and a handful of other films, some of them classics, that I have never really written about, such as Brief Encounter (1945), Hobson’s Choice (1954), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and A Passage to India (1984). Prior to all that, he was also an editor on films like Pygmalion (1938) and 49th Parallel (1941).

5. reports that principal photography on Star Trek XI has wrapped … and now the filmmakers have over a year to do the post-production and to get the movie ready for its premiere in May 2009. The website also notes that this movie had the second-longest production schedule of any of the Star Trek films produced so far, lasting 20 weeks; only Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), at 24 weeks, was longer.

6. Personally, I loved the unresolved ambiguities in Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary My Kid Could Paint That, but I had to burst out laughing when I came across this paragraph in Jeffrey Wells’s review the other day:

And perhaps “maybe” is all one can say about this situation. Maybe a definitive bust or exoneration is out of the question. But I don’t want fucking maybes when I go to see a movie. The only way I’ll accept them is when the filmmaker somehow conveys what he/she really thinks, and persuades me to come to the same gut conclusions. If there’s no clarity or closure or at least some kind of ending that has a discernible undercurrent, then whadaya whadaya?

There, I just burst out laughing again while copying-and-pasting that paragraph. Ah, joy. God bless Jeffrey Wells. Really.

7. The Associated Press looks at whether the new Mike Myers comedy The Love Guru might be insensitive to Hinduism:

Still, weeks before the movie is even ready for screening, some in the Hindu community feel that “The Love Guru” has the potential to ridicule important elements of their religion.

Rajan Zed, a self-described Hindu leader from Nevada, demanded that Paramount Pictures screen the film for members of the Hindu community before it is released in June. Based on the movie’s trailer and MySpace page, Zed says “The Love Guru” “appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus” and uses sacred terms frivolously.

“People are not very well-versed in Hinduism, so this might be their only exposure,” he told The Associated Press. “They will have an image in their minds of stereotypes. They will think most of us are like that.”

Paramount, which has screened sensitive films for select audiences in the past, said early screenings would be held for the Hindu community.

“`Love Guru,’ which is not yet complete, is a satire created in the same spirit as Austin Powers,” Paramount said in a statement, noting that the film features spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra and Hindu actor Manu Narayan. “It is our full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders once it is ready.” . . .

But religious communities rarely take well to faith-themed comedies, said Diane Winston, a professor of media and religion at the University of Southern California.

“To be funny, you have to get in people’s faces and disturb their complacent perspectives,” she said. “Religious groups have tended to be very concerned about their portrayal in the media, especially the entertainment media. Often … in comedies, it’s a very broad representation which they perceive as offensive. It’s the nature of stereotype.”

Her take on “The Love Guru” trailer and Web site? Rather than a spoof of Eastern religion, it seems more of a satire of American culture’s tendency toward materialism, promiscuity and quick spiritual fixes told through a pseudo religious figure.

“The character didn’t have to be a guru. He could just as well have been a rabbi, minister, priest or imam,” she said. “These are problems within the culture at large.

“Hindus were a fresh target,” she continued. “Jews and Christians have been parodied before so perhaps Myers thought this was a different take on a familiar comedy routine.” . . .

8. Libertas says some people are planning to stage a protest outside a Los Angeles theatre showing the Iraq War drama Stop-Loss tomorrow night. Dudes, why give it that extra bit of publicity? If recent trends are anything to go by, the film will die a lonely death at the box office without all the attention.

9. In related news, Stop-Loss star Ryan Philippe tells MTV News he came very close to playing Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. Interesting. And given the direction George Lucas went in the end, I don’t have a hard time imagining that at all.

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  • Phillippe was phenomenal in Stop-Loss (as was the film as a whole, despite how difficult it was to take in at times).

    And the movie couldn’t be further from being “anti-troops”. Anyone who would get that idea from watching the film needs to get their head checked (and I realize the people planning protests are doing so having not even seen the film yet). I just don’t understand, however the message might be interpreted, why people can’t accept others having differing opinions from them, and expressing those opinions in art.

    I think (or at least hope) that it will do much better than other Iraq War-related films, as I believe people from all sides will get something meaningful from it.

  • The premise of The Love Guru seems pretty similar to that of the 2002 comedy The Guru (starring Jimi Mistry and Heather Graham).