Newsbites: Religulous! Lincoln! Treader!

No time to argue! You throw me the newsbites, I throw you the whip!

1. Variety reports that Religulous, Bill Maher and Larry Charles’s satirical documentary about religion, has been postponed from its early summer release date to October 3, which is more or less the same time of year that Charles’s last film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), opened. The new release date also happens to be smack dab in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days; this year, Rosh Hashanah takes place September 30 while Yom Kippur takes place October 9. It’s also a few days after the end of Ramadan, the month-long Muslim fast.

2. Variety reports that Steven Spielberg is finally going to get around to directing that Abraham Lincoln biopic that he and Liam Neeson have been talking about doing for a while now. He could start shooting it as soon as early next year — but first, he has to shoot the opening installment of the Tintin trilogy.

3. Variety reports that Walden Media is “partnering with HarperCollins Children’s Books to launch Walden Pond Press” — and along the way, it mentions that Steven Knight, the writer of Dirty Pretty Things (2002) and Eastern Promises (2007), is now working on the script for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Knight and Dawn Treader director Michael Apted previously collaborated on the William Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace (2006).

Is Marion Ravenwood losing her edge?

Jeffrey Overstreet says he is “getting unsettled by Karen Allen’s perpetual, ear-to-ear grin in the promotional shots for Indy 4 . . . I hope Marion Ravenwood’s return to the Indy world will remind us of the tough-talking, punch-throwing dream girl who won our hearts in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Marion gone soft and smiley? Say it isn’t so!”

Variety and the Associated Press do their best to assure him and all who share his fear that, if anything, Marion is even tougher this time out. As Karen Allen, the actress who plays Marion, tells Variety: “She’s now become somebody who takes charge of things and is not so easily thrown into a bed of snakes. She’s somebody who sees what needs to be done and can do it. And that’s lovely.”

Allen also tells the Associated Press: “As the film begins, they haven’t seen each other for a long time, and suddenly, they’re thrust back together . . . They kind of pick up from where they left off. A few bumpy roads have passed between them since then that they have to work out with each other.”

That’s an intriguing quote, partly because we don’t really know where Indy and Marion left off, exactly. They were together at the end of Raiders, in 1936, but they had obviously split up again by the time Indy fell for that Nazi double agent in Last Crusade, in 1938. So how, exactly, did they break up the second time? (The first time they broke up was in 1926, when Marion was a child, and she was in love, and it was wrong and Indy knew it.)

This is an issue the James Bond stories have never had to deal with, since Bond never dates the same girl twice — though at least some of the Bond novels have begun by explaining how things fell apart for Bond and the girl from the previous book. But as far as the Bond movies are concerned, if I’m not mistaken, the only time they have ever referred to his past lovers is when they died in the film that introduced them. Several films have referred to the death of Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), and it looks like the next Bond film, Quantum of Solace, will partly concern Bond’s quest for revenge following the death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale (2006). But if a Bond girl makes it to the end of a Bond movie alive, it’s usually a sure sign that she’ll be completely forgotten by the time the next movie comes along.

And if memory serves, it has only happened once so far that a Bond girl was introduced as a figure from Bond’s own past — and that was with the Teri Hatcher character in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), who died almost as soon as she was introduced, and was never mentioned again in any of the films that followed.

Indy 4 and Chariots of the Gods — a new clue?

The first trailer gave us “Roswell, New Mexico, 1947”. The second trailer gave us a glimpse of the crystal skull, which doesn’t exactly look all that humanoid. And now, the third trailer gives us this aerial shot, which seems to depict the Nazca Lines in Peru. These images are believed to have been created between 200 BC and AD 700, and are said to be visible only from the sky — which has led Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Däniken, among others, to speculate that these images may be evidence of early contact between humans and aliens. And sure enough, there have been rumours for quite some time now that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull may be taking its cues from Chariots of the Gods. Hmmm. We’ll see when the film comes out May 22.

Unsettled — the review’s up!

My review of Unsettled is now up at CT Movies.

Lucas wanted Indy 4 to be more “wacky”

Two years ago, before anyone had heard of crystal skulls, George Lucas hinted at the reluctance with which Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford had come to accept the concept behind what would turn out to be the newest Indiana Jones movie:

“I discovered a McGuffin,” continues Lucas, still reluctant to name said McGuffin. “I told the guys about it and they were a little dubious about it, but it’s the best one we’ve ever found… Unfortunately, it was a little too ‘connected’ for the others. They were afraid of what the critics would think. They said, “Can’t we do it with a different McGuffin? Can’t we do this?” and I said “No”. So we pottered around with that for a couple of years. And then Harrison really wanted to do it and Steve said, “Okay”. I said, “We’ll have to go back to that original MacGuffin and take out the offending parts of it and we’ll still use that area of the supernatural do deal with it”.

What, exactly, was so “connected” about this MacGuffin, and what, exactly, the “offending parts” of it were, we may never know. But Lucas recently made much the same point in an interview with the Associated Press:

“The MacGuffin of it slowed down a little bit from what my original enthusiastic version was. Again, that’s the way it works with Steven and Harrison and I,” Lucas said. “We’re not going to do anything anyone’s uncomfortable with. We want to do something everybody likes, we in the group, the three of us.

“They wanted to go off on some other tangent. I said, `I’m not going to do that. I’m going to stick with this no matter what, so we either do this or we don’t. That’s it.’ Finally, we got something that we could all compromise on and all be happy with. It wasn’t quite as wacky as I wanted it to be, but it still is subtle and nice and works really well and has the same idea behind it.”

To this, Harrison Ford adds:

Resurrecting Indy took more than a decade of debate, disagreement and compromise among the film’s three principals, Spielberg and Ford disliking a way-out-there initial idea Lucas had.

“It was the three of us, Steven, George and I, coming to agreement on the central notion of it all,” Ford said. “I think the original idea is still a large piece of it in the movie, but it’s been developed and worked on in ways that made it a lot more palatable to Steven and I.”

Arrrgh. Steven and me. Steven and me. Being a millionaire superstar does not excuse bad grammar. (And come to think of it, Lucas made a similar error above. They’re reinforcing each other’s bad habits.) But I digress.

What, in a nutshell, does all this compromising of Lucas’s original, enthusiastic, wacky idea mean? New York magazine’s ‘Vulture’ column sums it up in a headline: “Relax: The New Indiana Jones Movie Won’t Have That Many Aliens“.

In related news, the New York Times has an interview with Spielberg that includes this interesting quote on the movie’s style:

In fact, Mr. Spielberg said, he tries to cut as little as possible in these movies’ action sequences, because “every time the camera changes dynamic angles, you feel there’s something wrong, that there’s some cheating going on.” So his goal is “to do the shots the way Chaplin or Keaton would, everything happening before the eyes of the audience, without a cut.”

Warming to the subject, he went on: “The idea is, there’s no illusion; what you see is what you get. My movies have never been frenetically cut, the way a lot of action is done today. That’s not a put-down; some of that quick cutting, like in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,’ is fantastic, just takes my breath away. But to get the comedy I want in the Indy films, you have to be old-fashioned. I’ve studied a lot of the old movies that made me laugh, and you’ve got to stage things in full shots and let the audience be the editor. It’s like every shot is a circus act.”

The “comedy” of it. I like that, truly.

Finally, the movie’s official website has a bunch of brand-new TV spots, some of which have footage that has never been seen before, and given this franchise’s interest in religious matters, I cannot help but note the presence of a nun in one of the spots — even if it looks like she’s simply running an asylum or something. Here are screen captures taken from the relevant shots:

W due three weeks before election day.

A couple new items about Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush biopic W surfaced today. The main one, of course, is the Entertainment Weekly cover story, which notes that the film starts shooting next week, no one has been cast as Dick Cheney yet, and the script has been rewritten at least twice since an earlier version was leaked to the press around April Fool’s Day; for more on that, see the reactions to that version of the script that were posted last month by ABC News, Slate, the Hollywood Reporter and Jeffrey Wells. Meanwhile, Variety reports that Lionsgate has acquired distribution rights and plans to release the film October 17 — three weeks before election day. Anyone want to guess what effect this movie will have at the polls, if any?