Hollywood? No, SHER-wood!

How Sherwood Baptist Church became a hot spot for making Christian movies — including Facing the Giants and the upcoming Fireproof, starring Kirk Cameron.

The regular film world has the Coens, the Wachowskis, and the Farrellys — brothers who collaborate on producing and directing both blockbusters and arthouse flicks.

The Christian film world has the Kendricks — a couple of associate pastors in Albany, Georgia who made a couple of ultra-low-budget movies with a mostly volunteer cast and crew as part of their church’s outreach program, and then hit it big when the second film, Facing the Giants, grossed just over $10 million at the box office.

Now they’re putting the finishing touches on their third film, Fireproof, due for a theatrical release on September 26. The film concerns a firefighter whose marriage is on the rocks, and whose father challenges him to take “the Love Dare” — a series of recommended activities that might, just might, help patch things up.

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Expelled lawsuit — the article’s up!

My third Reel News column is now up at CT Movies, and it mainly concerns Yoko Ono’s copyright infringement lawsuit against Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — which, as of last week, she is losing — in addition to the usual news links. I also note that Expelled now has a Canadian release date of June 27.

Canadian box-office stats — June 8

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Sarkar Raj — CDN $65,970 — N.AM $65,970 — 100%
Sex and the City — CDN $9,740,000 — N.AM $99,269,000 — 9.8%
What Happens in Vegas — CDN $7,040,000 — N.AM $72,230,000 — 9.7%
Made of Honor — CDN $4,330,000 — N.AM $44,660,000 — 9.7%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — CDN $10,690,000 — N.AM $125,846,000 — 8.5%
Iron Man — CDN $24,050,000 — N.AM $288,893,000 — 8.3%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $20,430,000 — N.AM $253,026,000 — 8.1%
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — CDN $2,970,000 — N.AM $40,000,000 — 7.4%
The Strangers — CDN $2,300,000 — N.AM $37,646,000 — 6.1%
Kung Fu Panda — CDN $3,530,000 — N.AM $60,000,000 — 5.9%

A couple of discrepancies: Sarkar Raj was #9 on the Canadian chart (it does not appear on the North American chart at all), while Baby Mama was #9 on the North American chart (it was #16 in Canada).

Kung Fu Panda — the children! the violence!

I’ve been debating for some time now whether to take my 2-year-old son to see Kung Fu Panda. I took his twin sister to see Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! three months ago, and I have always felt that I owed it to him to take him to see a movie, too. But there aren’t all that many family films out there, and DreamWorks has a spotty track record, so I figured I would see Kung Fu Panda for myself first, and then decide whether to take him to it. And … well, I’m still undecided. I like the film quite a bit, and I like some of the “values” it teaches, etc., but … it is a martial-arts movie, and we’re trying to get my boy to stop slapping and shoving people as it is.

So I had to give a laugh of recognition when I came across this article by Associated Press reporter Josh L. Dickey:

There was a moment near the end of “Kung Fu Panda” so satisfying, so achingly adorable, that I wished I’d been secretly taping so as to immediately put it up on YouTube for the world to see.

Sorry, Jack Black — you were great and everything, but that final scene was cold stolen. The thief: my son, just a few weeks short of his third birthday.

As the credits rolled, he sprang from his seat, flashed into the aisle and began to whip himself into a jaw-dropping exhibition of kung fu fury.

Feet planted, his torso twisted and his tiny limbs whirled, locking arms and hands into holding positions that would arch the eyebrow of David Carradine himself.

Thrilling though it was, I had to wonder for a moment whether I’d made a terrible mistake.

Had I been too trusting? Are we blindly marching our kids into these animated movies with little regard for the subject matter or material? Was I too dense to consider whether “Kung Fu Panda” — a martial-arts film, by rights — was even meant for the little ones?

Yeah, exactly. And further down, he writes:

The other reason I’m not feeling bad today is that I know I’m not alone. That theater — and assuredly hundreds more like it — was packed with kids hovering below 3. One father, sitting a few rows up and trading actual karate-chops with his entire brood, made me feel especially self-righteous.

And no, my son wasn’t the only little one who was kung-fu fighting in the aisles when the lights went up. The truth is, they just about all were. Just so happens that when my guy got to whirling and chopping, all the kids who were nearby stopped, retreated and watched in awe.

Hu-ah! That’s my boy.

Incidentally, Dickey also talks about how he let his boy watch the original Star Wars (1977) a while back, which is something I definitely haven’t done yet. I was six or seven years old the first time I saw it myself — and on a big screen, where the pop-up Jawas and Tusken Raiders were especially startling — and my sister was only five, so I imagine I won’t hide it from my kids for all that much longer. But I think it can still wait, for now.

Oh, and speaking of Kung Fu Panda, they say the movie may have earned as much as $60 million this weekend — which is easily the best opening weekend for any animated film that was neither (1) a sequel or spin-off nor (2) produced by Pixar. Among non-Pixar films, it is beaten only by Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006, $68 million), The Simpsons Movie (2007, $74 million), and the two Shrek sequels (2004-2007, $108 million – $121.6 million).

Hulk — does the new TV spot have a spoiler?

There have been rumours of trouble behind the scenes on The Incredible Hulk, which opens this Friday, but Marvel Studios has had enormous success already this summer with Iron Man — which may turn out to be the only film this summer that grosses over $300 million. And Marvel has already announced its intention to bring all its heroes together in one big cross-over film called The Avengers, three years from now. So is it any wonder that, just to be safe, they would run a Hulk ad like the one here — even though it may or may not begin with a spoiler?

Bill Maher’s religiosatire — the marketing begins

The publicity campaign for Religulous, the religion-mocking documentary starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles, has ramped up a bit over the last few days. (Prior to this, there was little more than a couple of posters, a couple of photos, and a demo reel and panel discussion at the Toronto International Film Festival — and of course the film comes up whenever Maher does his usual interviews on Larry King and the like.) Click here for Disbeliefnet, a website that basically spoofs Beliefnet — note the similar font in the mastheads — and click here for the trailer, which seems kind of mild, to me. There is little here that you wouldn’t find in a film made by The Wittenburg Door — and a few of the humourous bits seem to rely on using two-second clips of people not saying anything, as if to imply that Maher has left them speechless. Then again, one of the clips shows Maher being left speechless by something someone says, so it’s all good, right?