Two more movies not screened for critics.

Shutter is a horror film released by Fox, and Meet the Browns is a Tyler Perry film released by Lionsgate. Is anyone surprised that neither film is being screened for critics? (To be fair, Meet the Browns was reportedly screened in Toronto, since the Canadian distributor for Perry’s films sometimes follows a different plan than the American distributor. But Meet the Browns is being released in only three cities on this side of the border, all of them back east — two in Ontario and one in Nova Scotia.)

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917 – 2008.

Joe Leydon says this is one of his favorite pictures of Arthur C. Clarke, who died today at the age of 90. I agree. Partly because I grew up with an Osborne 1 computer, and I saw several Kaypro machines at the F.O.G. meetings that I used to attend with my dad in the 1980s. And partly because it was during this period that I saw 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984; my comments) and, through it, discovered both the original novel by Clarke and the novel that preceded it. I didn’t get around to seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) itself until a few years later, when it happened to be showing at the UBC theatre, and I didn’t really “get” the film until I saw it again many years after that. But it’s a treasure, and thought-provoking. Sadly, I have only read a few of Clarke’s other books. I own an exhaustive anthology of his short stories but haven’t gotten very far into it. And Kevin Miller reminds me that I still haven’t read my copy (or is it my wife’s?) of The Lost Worlds of 2001, which chronicles the making of Stanley Kubrick’s film, as Clarke saw it. And then there are the books I have only dreamed of picking up, like From Narnia to a Space Odyssey, which collects the letters exchanged by Clarke and — believe it or not — C.S. Lewis. Too much reading to do. Too little time. Sigh.

From a young Chekov to a young Kyle Reese

Good grief, I’m still trying to find time to polish off some thoughts about the first season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and now, only a few days after I posted all those photos of all the actors who have played Kyle Reese to date, the Hollywood Reporter tells us this — oh, and trust me, you probably do not want to read the original story, which seems to give away a major spoiler.

Here is what I can pass on, though:

Anton Yelchin is in negotiations to star as post-apocalyptic warrior Kyle Reese in director McG’s “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.”

With production scheduled to start in early May, Paul Haggis also has been in talks about coming on board to work on the sequel’s script.

Yelchin will play a teen version of Reese, the man who fathered world savior John Connor in the original “Terminator” film. . . .

Yelchin, of course, is the actor who was recently hired to play the young Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie.

I knew it!

Denys Arcand is nothing if not obsessed with history. So when I heard that he conceived his newest film as part of a “trilogy” with The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and The Barbarian Invasions (2003), I just knew that the title of the new film — Days of Darkness — could not be correct. Surely, given that the original French title is L’Âge des ténèbres, a phrase like The Dark Ages would have been more accurate — and would better follow the historical trajectory suggested by the titles of its predecessors.

Sure enough, today’s Globe and Mail reports:

Ah, the graveyard. As personally upbeat as Arcand seems to be, he sees signs and portents of doom everywhere: global warming, epidemics, illiteracy and superstition.

“Personally, I think we are going towards another Dark Age. After the first Dark and Middle Ages and the fall of the Roman Empire, society crumbled for a period and there was a rise in faith and religious wars. I see this coming again in modern times.”

In fact, the movie was originally going to be called The Dark Ages but Arcand said that American distributors objected, perhaps because the title was either too literate or too negative. Logically, The Dark Ages would be the sensible follow-up to his last film, the Oscar-winning The Barbarian Invasions (2003). Along with the Oscar-nominated The Decline of the American Empire (1986), the three films form a loose trilogy.

If those previous films were dramas marked by mordant wit, Days of Darkness – which opens on Friday in Toronto and Vancouver – represents a shift to the broadly satiric. Arcand described it as “both funnier and more sombre. It’s a film of extremes.”

Oh well, titular issues aside, I can’t wait to see this film. Especially since I hear that, like The Barbarian Invasions before it, it also features a cameo by at least one of the characters from Arcand’s other Oscar-nominated film, Jesus of Montreal (1989).

Thoughts on my daughter’s second movie.

I have talked before about how my daughter goes right up to the TV screen when a DVD comes to an end. Here she is going right up to the movie screen as the credits roll at the end of Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, which I saw with her yesterday. It was Elizabeth’s second movie, following The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, and this time, she stayed awake for the whole thing. (Her brother hadn’t been feeling very well lately, so we left him at home; he was asleep as we were getting ready to go.)

For what it’s worth, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this film; I could have done without some of the pop-culture references, which felt like padding and a bit out-of-place, but the film was consistently funny and the animation did a much, much better job of expanding on Dr. Seuss’s visual imagination than those awfully chintzy latex costumes that Jim Carrey and Mike Myers had to wear in the live-action adaptations of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and The Cat in the Hat (2003).

I also found myself thinking that this film would make a fine addition to my family’s home-video library and might dovetail nicely with the moral and spiritual upbringing of our kids.

For one thing, I appreciate how the film encourages us to look both “up” and “down” — to humble ourselves and see ourselves as small, yet also to see the greatness that exists in others who we may find all too easy to dismiss. Appropriately, the former point is emphasized with a “God shot” that looks straight down on Horton himself from a heavenly height. And as to the latter point, pro-lifers may be fond of quoting the line “A person’s a person, no matter how small” as a sort of anti-abortion creed, but to me, within the context of this film at least, that theme resonated more closely with what Jesus had to say about “the least of these“. I really appreciated how the entire community of Whoville has to band together in the end, and how the presence or absence of even a single person can make a difference in that respect.

Then there is the scene where Horton says, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, and an elephant’s faithful 100 percent,” and his friend replies — I paraphrase — “Can’t you be just 99 percent faithful? I mean, I never make it to 99, and I think I’m pretty good.” Wow. Who can’t identify with that particular form of self-justification? How often have we consciously broken promises or turned our backs on people who needed us because, well, we believed that we are mostly good people, so a few bad deeds weren’t all that big a deal? Obviously, none of us is perfect. But the conscious complacency — the wilful settling for imperfection — is still a problem. And remember, in this case, the lives of an entire community of little people hang in the balance.

I am vaguely reminded of that scene in Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) where Captain Picard chews out an admiral who has tried to justify moving several hundred people to an entirely different planet, with long-term fatal consequences, because, well, they’re only several hundred people. To this, Picard replies, “How many people does it take before it becomes wrong? Hmm? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million? How many people does it take, Admiral?” Horton’s absolute commitment to his principles, and his refusal to haggle over numbers, reflect a similar nobility.

I am also vaguely reminded of a line that the priest or deacon sings a few times every Sunday morning (and on other occasions, too) during the liturgy in the Orthodox church: “That the whole day may be perfect, holy, peaceful, and sinless, let us ask of the Lord.” I don’t know that any of us actually expect the rest of our Sundays, etc., to be “perfect” and “sinless”. But it is still something to strive for, something to ask for, something to aim for. And I appreciate the way that Horton holds to this ideal, as well.

And then there is all that stuff about how things really can exist even if you cannot see, hear, or feel them. Gotta love it.

Oh, one last note: I got a chuckle out of the way Elizabeth curled up in her chair, away from the screen, when the dinosaur roared at the end of the trailer for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. I think this is the first time I have ever seen her scared or startled by anything onscreen like that — though she might have been reacting to the sound system as much as anything else. At any rate, I’ll have to file that one away for future reference.

Harry Houdini vs. a robot by any other name.

I have no idea if escape artist Harry Houdini really was the first movie star to do battle with a robot, but obviously someone had to be! The interesting thing is that the Houdini film in which this robot appeared, The Master Mystery (1920), came out a year or two before the premiere of R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), the Czech play that introduced the word “robot” in the first place. So in the film, this mechanical monstrosity with the electric fingers is known as “Q the Automaton”, instead.

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(Hat tip to Boing Boing, via SpoutBlog.)