Review: Religulous (dir. Larry Charles, 2008)

RELIGULOUS is a documentary in which stand-up comedian turned talk-show host Bill Maher tours the world, visiting Jews, Muslims and Christians of various stripes in a bid to prove that religious belief is foolish, childish and basically dangerous.

Maher’s basic thesis, as the movie’s title suggests, is that “religion” is “ridiculous”, and so, as a professional comedian, he does not merely approach religion as a thoughtful skeptic or agnostic who is not yet convinced of, say, the existence of God. Instead, he “ridicules” the beliefs of the people he meets, often to their faces.

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Newsbites: The myth, legend and history edition!

Stories so old, maybe they should be called oldsbites.

1. Paul Verhoeven‘s book about Jesus is a best-seller in his native Netherlands, and is already on its fourth edition despite being in print for only a few weeks. Could this mean the movie about Jesus that Verhoeven has wanted to make for so long is now closer to becoming a reality? Who knows. For now, Verhoeven’s working on other projects, including a Joan of Arc biopic, of all things. — Hollywood Reporter

2. Zack Snyder says Frank Miller is working on a sequel to 300 (2006); it will take place during the year between the Battle of Thermopylae, which is where the bulk of the original movie takes place, and the Battle of Plataea, which is where the epilogue to the original movie takes place. — IESB.net

3. Radical Comics publisher Barry Levine says Peter Berg’s adaptation of Hercules: The Thracian Wars will be stylistically similar to 300, but it will also downplay the monsters and stuff to focus more on the human battles that Hercules fights. — MTV Splash Page

4. Brett Ratner has confirmed that he is attached to direct a movie version of the video game God of War, which apparently revolves around the exact same Greek mythological characters that Peter Berg’s Hercules is going to avoid. — UGO.com, ComingSoon.net

5. It has been public knowledge for some time now that Russell Crowe is slated to play the titular Sheriff in Ridley Scott’s Nottingham, a revisionist take on the Robin Hood legends. But now Scott seems to have said that Crowe will be playing Robin Hood, as well. Observers are not sure what to make of this announcement. — MTV Movies Blog, ComingSoon.net

Newsbites: The war movie edition!

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to war we go.

1. Spike Lee’s World War II movie Miracle at St. Anna is both muddled and, at times, laughably bad, but that hasn’t stopped some people from taking it pretty seriously. The film, which takes place in Italy, has angered some groups for linking an Italian resistance fighter to a Nazi slaughter that took place in the titular village. Fears of “revisionism” abound, but Lee isn’t apologizing to anybody. — Variety

2. Speaking of movies that focus on the role of African-American military types during World War II, George Lucas has hired Anthony Hemingway to direct Red Tails, which concerns the fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Given how awful Lucas’s films have been lately, it will be interesting to see if his entry in this mini-genre turns out to be better or worse than Lee’s. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

3. Paul Gross will give Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan a sneak preview of his World War I epic Passchendaele on Friday. The film opens in theatres across Canada two weeks later. — Canadian Press

Newsbites: The comics and cartoons edition!

Lots of catching up to do here. Catching up, up and away.

1. Warner Brothers gave some reporters an advance look at about 26 minutes of footage from Watchmen, and the reporters liked what they saw. The film itself currently runs 163 minutes. — SpoutBlog, ComingSoon.net, IGN, New York Times

2. Philip Glass has been hired to compose an opera about Walt Disney for the New York City Opera. The musical “will be based on Peter Stephan Jungk’s German-language novel ‘The Perfect American'” and it “imagines the last months of Disney as seen through the eyes of a fictional Austrian cartoonist who worked for him.” — Variety

3. Steven Spielberg is thinking of casting comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in his motion-capture adaptation of the Tintin comics. So says Pegg, at any rate, though it’s not clear whether Spielberg was serious about this or just joking. — Sunday Times, Stuff.co.nz

4. Green Lantern might start shooting as early as next spring. — FirstShowing.net, MTV Splash Page

5. Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct the movie version of Marvel Comics’ Thor, and current comics writer J. Michael Straczynski says Branagh would be “perfect” for the film, given the “classical bent” of the character. — Variety, MTV Splash Page

6. Paramount and Marvel Comics had so much fun with Iron Man, they have agreed to distribute five more films together: Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, The Avengers and two Iron Man sequels. — Variety, Nikki Finke, MTV Splash Page

7. Will Iron Man’s daddy be part of the Captain America movie? Perhaps even the man who “created” Captain America? — MTV Splash Page

8. Kirsten Dunst says she may or may not be in the next Spider-Man movie. — MTV Splash Page

9. Rumours are afoot to the effect that the next Batman movie might start pre-production as early as February 2009, even though they don’t have a script or anything like that yet. — Batman on Film, MTV Splash Page

10. We’ve already got a TV show about the young Clark Kent, i.e. Superman, so why not a TV show about the young Dick Grayson, i.e. Robin? Well, um, for one thing, isn’t Robin supposed to be young in the first place, before his parents are killed and he is adopted by Bruce Wayne, i.e. Batman? How much back-story can there be, really? The new show, which is being developed by the CW, will be called The Graysons. — Variety, MTV Splash Page

11. Disney has announced that Cars 2 will now come out in 2011, one year earlier than originally planned. Alas, it will not co-star the original film’s Paul Newman, who passed away this week. Pixar is also producing a series of related short films called Cars Toons. — Hollywood Reporter, Associated Press

12. Warner Brothers is developing a feature-film version of Yogi Bear, in which Yogi Bear and Boo Boo will be CGI characters in a live-action world. — Hollywood Reporter

Star Trek continuity errors galore!

Life is full of continuity errors, so why should movies and TV shows be any different? Especially when we’re talking about Star Trek, a 42-year-old series that has produced roughly 700 episodes and 10 movies to date — not counting the new movie that will reportedly “reboot” the franchise and throw much, but not all, of existing continuity out the window. Thankfully, one brave soul has made a point of not only noting the many continuity errors, but documenting some of them via YouTube. Enjoy.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1chtJQFQNs]
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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55NwNrkzz4s]
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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Q-pFlzung]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy_-TklmyYE]
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Hat tip to TrekMovie.com.

Good thing I didn’t name my daughter Fiona.

How many fictitious characters have there been with the name Chattaway? I can’t think of all that many, myself.

Three years ago, I noted that there was a drug smuggler named “Peter Chattaway” in an episode of the 1960s Australian TV show The Contrabandits. But beyond that…?

Today, I sort of discovered another, when my dad passed along this story from the Driffield Post in England:

SCHOOLGIRL actress Eleanor Tomlinson (16), from Beverley, is following her role in a recent blockbuster by starring in an another major film. . . .

Eleanor has been busy shooting her part in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland – which also stars heart-throb actor Johhny Depp.

Eleanor, who plays Fiona Chattaway in Burton’s version of the Lewis Carroll classic, is now going back to school after completing the new film role. . . .

Eleanor said her role in the film is something of a departure from previous parts she has played.

“She’s quite a bitchy character, which is really different as I’ve never done anything like that before, so that’s good. . . . “

A bitchy girl named Chattaway? Oh, yeah, very good, sure. I’m sure that will never come back to haunt my daughter.

But then, after reading this story in the Hull Daily Mail, I discovered that the Driffield Post might have made an error:

She is playing Alice’s peer, the spiteful Fiona Chataway, who appears at the beginning of the film before Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

And it turns out that Lewis Carroll himself dedicated The Hunting of the Snark to “a dear Child” named Gertrude Chataway — so presumably there is some sort of connection between that real-life character and the movie character.

But see the difference? Those people spell their name with only one T. So they’re not really “Chattaways” at all.

Whew. That was a close one.