Classic special effects coming to Vancouver!

If you’re like me, and you like to catch classic films — especially classic sci-fi and fantasy films — on the big screen, then you might want to check out this series on innovative special-effects movies that is playing at the VanCity Theatre over the next few days:

  1. Thu Jan 31, 7:00pm — King Kong (1933)
  2. Thu Jan 31, 9:30pm — Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
  3. Fri Feb 1, 7:00pm — Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
  4. Fri Feb 1, 9:15pm — Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  5. Sat Feb 2, 7:00pm — Tron (1982)
  6. Sat Feb 2, 9:15pm — The Matrix (1999)
  7. Sun Feb 3, 7:00pm — Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  8. Sun Feb 3, 9:30pm — Jurassic Park (1993)
  9. Mon Feb 4, 7:00pm — 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Of these nine films, there are seven that I own on DVD or Blu-Ray, and I have already seen all seven of them on the big screen — though it depends on whether you count Blade Runner, the only version of which that I have seen in a theatre is the “director’s cut” that came out in 1992. At any rate, while I would love to see any of these films in a theatre again, I could survive if I missed them.

That just leaves Close Encounters, which I saw on TV a couple decades ago and really should see again some day, and Jason and the Argonauts, which I may or may not have seen on VHS some years ago; I honestly can’t remember. So I’ll try to catch that one tonight, at least, especially since it is being introduced by Ken Priebe, who literally wrote the book on The Art of Stop-Motion Animation and sometimes writes for

Beliefnet nominates 2007′s best “spiritual” films

Beliefnet has announced the nominees for its own annual movie awards, and this year, I’m one of the judges. There are three categories — Best Spiritual Film, Best Spiritual Performance and Best Spiritual Documentary — and there are five nominees in each category, and each of the nominees is accompanied by an argument “for” and “against” the film in question. It fell to me to write the argument “against” Sarah Polley’s Away from Her.

Son of Rambow — the trailer is now online

Behold the trailer for Son of Rambow, the long-delayed Sundance favorite about a Plymouth Brethren boy who discovers the Rambo movies on VHS and decides to make his own with a camcorder. The film opens in the U.K. in March, and in the U.S. in May.
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

BC Christian News — February 2008

The newest issue of BC Christian News is now online, and with it, my film column, which includes brief, brief notes on There Will Be Blood, The Bucket List, The Golden Compass, The Hobbit and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Russian movie spoofs Russian movies

Gadzooks. It seems the Russian film industry has its own equivalent of Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie. Variety reports:

MOSCOW — A Russian comedy that spoofs the country’s recent string of hit domestic movies broke all box office records to take $19.5 million in its first week on release, distrib Caroprokat said Wednesday.

Very Best Film” (Sammi Luchi Film), which was produced by entertainment TV channel TNT, was released across Russia and surrounding former Soviet territories Jan. 24 on 702 copies and took $16.5 million it is first weekend alone.

The record-breaking average of more than $23,000 a copy marks a new high-tide mark for box office takings in Russia. . . .

The spoof, which pokes fun at such local hits as fantasy thriller “Day Watch” and Afghan war drama “The 9th Company” and was produced in association with popular TNT show “Comedy Club,” has been seen by more than 3.5 million viewers so far.

The film was made on a budget of $5 million and promoted through a $5 million advertising campaign that has put posters on billboards, bus stops, metro stations throughout Russia, in addition to television plugs. . . .

I wonder if films like this get shown to critics over there.

Newsbites: Trek! Genies! Bush! CleanFlicks! U2!

Time to round up another batch of blurbs and things.

1. Well, now we know why the actor playing James T. Kirk’s father in Star Trek XI is only 24 years old. reports that Spencer Daniels, who is 15, and Jimmy Bennett, who turns 12 in less than two weeks, will be playing George Samuel Kirk Jr. and his brother James T. Kirk, respectively. Looks like someone other than Chris Pine can lay claim to playing “the young Kirk” now, eh?

2. The nominees for the Genie Awards have been announced, and, as Variety reporter Brendan Kelly puts it:

For the first time in years, it looks like English-Canadian pics rather than French-Canadian ones will dominate the Genies, the Canuck film awards.

The leading contenders are David Cronenberg’s London-set mob thriller “Eastern Promises” and Roger Spottiswoode’s Rwandan-set drama “Shake Hands With the Devil” with 12 nominations each for the March 3 awards.

The other top nominees, announced on Monday, are Sarah Polley’s Alzheimer’s drama “Away From Her” with seven noms; Bruce McDonald’s troubled-teen drama “The Tracey Fragments” with six noms; and, with five nods apiece, Stephane Lafleur’s black comedy “Continental, a Film Without Guns” and Francois Girard’s romantic epic “Silk.”

The leading French-language nominee is “Continental.”

The contenders for best picture are Denys Arcand’s “Days of Darkness,” “Away From Her,” “Continental,” “Eastern Promises” and “Shake Hands With the Devil.” . . .

Incidentally, that ‘Canada’s Top Ten of 2007‘ list that I mentioned here last month is coming to Vancouver; seven of the ten films will be at the Pacific Cinematheque between February 13 and 22.

3. Variety says Oliver Stone has lined up financing for Bush, his just-announced biopic on George W. Bush, and this means the film “could be in theaters by November’s presidential elections, and certainly before Bush leaves the White House in January.”

4. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Daniel Thompson, co-owner of the CleanFlicks service which edits all the naughty bits out of mainstream movies so that families can watch them guilt-free, was arrested “on suspicion of having sex with two 14-year-old girls”:

The booking documents state Thompson told the 14-year-olds that his film sanitizing business was a cover for a pornography studio. He asked the girls if they would participate in making a porn movie, but they refused, the documents state.

Police found a “large quantity” of pornographic movies inside the business, along with a keg of beer, painkillers and two cameras hooked up to a television. Thompson told police he didn’t know the teenagers were under 18 or that they were paid for sex. He said pornography found at the business was for “personal use,” according to the documents.

The Tribune also says CleanFlicks was “closed in December after threats of legal action from Hollywood studios”, but the company’s website still seems to be working. Maybe Thompson closed only one or more of the “four CleanFlicks shops” that he owned two years ago.

5. Entertainment Weekly has an interview with Mark Pellington, one of the directors of the new IMAX concert movie U2 3D:

Were you at the U2 premiere screening? People dancing in the aisles?
It was great. Look. If you’re a fan of U2, you’ll love it. If you’ve ever seen them live, their lighting, their set, their show is amazing. So to capture that and the energy of 80,000 people, that’s a pretty religious experience. That’s why we specifically chose Latin America. The band hadn’t been there in eight years, and [the fans are] nuts. I mean, think about it. It’s like a totally different, religious, spiritual fervor that goes on. It’s in the blood. It’s in the DNA of the culture, differently than it would be in Eastern Europe or Australia. It’s inherent in the generational history of the culture, and its relationship to music.

I find it hard to believe that there is an entire continent of people who are even more fanatical in their religious devotion to U2 than some of the people I have met, but, well, anything’s possible!

6. The New York Times has a fun little article on Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind and the nostalgia it evokes for the bygone days of VHS. Among reporter Dennis Lim’s interesting observations:

Since they function as elegies for a departed medium, “Be Kind Rewind” and “Son of Rambow” differ substantially in tone from most other movies that have prominently featured videotapes and video technology. During its lifetime VHS often symbolized alienation and malevolence, perhaps because video quickly became the medium of choice for pornography and surveillance.

7. Variety says Dennis Quaid will star as General Hawk in Stephen Sommers’ upcoming G.I. Joe. Quaid, eh? That kind of makes me interested in this film. Then again… Sommers, eh? This better not be as much of a chore to sit through as Van Helsing (2004) was.

8. Dave Gordon, writing in the National Post, doesn’t like the fact that Mathieu Amalric, who is playing the bad guy in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, says he is basing his performance on such “invisible villains” as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and current French President Nicolas Sarkozy.