And now, back to the positive spin.

After a few weeks of bad rumours and noisy protests against The Golden Compass, today brought a couple of stories in which people associated with the movie gave it a more positive spin.

Well, okay, Roger Friedman of is not associated with the movie himself. But presumably the folks who showed him half-an-hour of footage from the film — footage that prompted Friedman to predict that it will be “the big holiday smash hit for which Hollywood is so desperate” — are associated with it.

Friedman tries to give the impression that all the rumours about the film are wrong, wrong, wrong, but he doesn’t give one the impression that he knows those rumours very well, e.g.:

Meantime, message boards on the Internet seem to be panicking that somehow “The Golden Compass” is being re-edited or changed in some way by the studio. But what I’ve seen indicates that director Chris Weitz — who still has two more episodes to go — is in charge, and that what’s coming is his vision. Nothing can change Ian McKellen as the voice of a wise (but dangerous) polar bear.

Um, but Roger, the casting of McKellen as the voice of the bear is one of the last-minute changes that have been made to this film — and what’s more, Weitz has openly said that he didn’t want to make that change, because he liked the original actor.

Incidentally, a parallel story on the controversy over the trilogy’s anti-religious elements also gives one the impression that the reporter, in this case Catherine Donaldson-Evans, doesn’t know the subject all that well. E.g., she writes:

The film itself is unlikely to offend — because New Line Cinema has tried to keep religion out of it, focusing on the story of a little girl named Lyra and her journey to a strange, parallel universe. . . .

Lyra travels to an alternative universe where everyone has a spiritual alter-ego, or demon, in animal form — and she goes there not knowing what she’ll find or what her role will be. In her quest for the truth, she seeks a magical golden compass that has the answers for those savvy enough to decipher it. . . .

Um, Lyra does not “travel” or “journey” to that parallel universe — she is born into it! And if memory serves, she doesn’t “seek” the golden compass — rather, it is given to her early on in the story. (I will let the misspelling of “daemon” pass, since it might have been an editor and not the reporter who made that mistake.)

Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun-Times got a few comments from the story’s original author, Philip Pullman, when he made a trip to Chicago for the Humanities Festival there. An excerpt:

Pullman, an unapologetic freethinker, remains serene. “I don’t think that these people who criticize me, who accuse me of being evil, have actually read the books,” he says. “An honest reading of the novels would have to accept that the values they celebrate are love, kindness, compassion, tolerance and open-mindedness; the values criticized are cruelty, coldheartedness, intolerance and so on. I think the morality of the books is absolutely secure.” . . .

And what of the movie, which went through several screenplays (one written by Tom Stoppard) and, early on, had a change of director before New Line settled on Chris Weitz?

“It looks fabulous,” Pullman says. “It was always going to be a very expensive and complicated movie to make because of all sorts of technical difficulties that had to be overcome. How do you make armored bears appear as if they’re real? But computer graphics have come a long way, and it looks absolutely wonderful; the sets, the designs, the costumes are beyond praise because of the richness of detail.”

The cast? “Just astounding. Nicole Kidman gives a magnificent performance, in that she’s able to embody the utter ruthlessness of the character as well as the slowly growing sense that actually she does love this child, something she never thought was possible.”

And as Lyra, there’s Dakota Blue Richards, who’d never acted before and was “plucked out of thousands” who auditioned for the role. “Lyra is at the very center of the story, so her performance was crucial. Fortunately, she’s wonderful.”

The best news for Pullman’s fans may be that he isn’t done with the His Dark Materials characters yet. Next spring, he says, he’ll publish Once Upon a Time in the North, a novella about the early adventures of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison. He’s also in the early stages of working on The Book of Dust, a new novel about Lyra, this time at the age of 16.

So, it looks like there will be lots more to talk about in the two or three years between The Golden Compass and its sequels.

Green Lantern — yet another superhero movie.

Greg Berlanti, who has produced and written a fair bit of TV but has directed only one feature film to date — i.e. The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000) — has signed on to direct a live-action version of Green Lantern, reports Variety:

Berlanti will write the script with Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green. Donald De Line will produce; Andrew Haas is exec producer. . . .

Guggenheim, who works with Berlanti as a writer-producer on “Brothers & Sisters,” wrote the Marvel comicbooks “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Wolverine” and “Blade.” Green, the “Heroes” co-exec producer who worked with Berlanti on “Everwood” and “Jack & Bobby,” wrote the Marvel Comics [sic] title “Superman/Batman” and was a writer-producer on “Smallville.”

Interestingly, there is no reference to the Justice League movie in this story — which would seem to square with what one alleged insider has claimed, to the effect that neither Hal Jordan nor the Green Lantern Corps feature anywhere in that movie. So it seems not all future DC Comics movies will be spin-offs of that film.

OCT 30 UPDATE: MTV Movies Blog says one of the Green Lanterns will be in the Justice League movie — and that it will be John Stewart, rather than Hal Jordan. Would the Green Lantern movie be all about Stewart too, then? The Variety story implies that the film will be all about Jordan, but it also seems to get its Green Lanterns confused — implying as it does that the character of Hal Jordan, who made his debut in 1959, was created in 1940, which is when the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, made his debut.

Random observation of the day.

For the second week in a row, two of this week‘s top ten movies are not even playing in the Vancouver area. The films in question are Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and the 3-D version of The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). It’s not uncommon for my neck of the woods to miss out on a top ten movie every now and then, but I can’t recall the last time we missed out on two.

The Flash to follow Justice League of America

This one is for my friend Trent, who was a big fan of The Flash back in the day and, for all I know, might still be now.

MTV Movies Blog is reporting that David Dobkin — director of Clay Pigeons (1998), Shanghai Knights (2003), Wedding Crashers (2005) and the upcoming Fred Claus — is the latest director who has been hired to bring Wally West to the big screen:

Dobkin’s film won’t be the character’s first appearance in cinemas, of course, with the Flash a major part of the upcoming “Justice League of America” film. But while fans wait for “JLA” story and casting announcements with bated breath, Dobkin can’t help but hold his – confirming that his movie will exist in the same universe as the upcoming flick as a direct spin-off.

Which made his next comment all the more revelatory: Asked which version of the Flash would be the hero of his flick, Dobkin didn’t hesitate. “Wally West,” he said. This would seem to mesh perfectly with recent rumors that “JLA” opens with Barry Allen’s funeral.

From Levy to Dobkin, “The Flash” movie has certainly courted directors primarily known for their comedic work. But that doesn’t mean they’ll treat the character like a joke, Dobkin said. Asked about his vision for the Flash, Dobkin teased us with a somewhat melancholy tagline: “You can’t outrun yourself.”

What say you to this news, Trent?

I note, BTW, that all of Dobkin’s major directorial efforts to date have starred Vince Vaughn and/or Owen Wilson. Might there be a part for one or both of them in this franchise, too, I wonder?

Newsbites: Shatner! Dumbledore! Politics!

Just a few more quick news blurbs before bedtime.

1. The Associated Press reports that William Shatner is still upset that he won’t be in Star Trek XI, and he says his exclusion from the film is a bad “business decision.” So was allowing your character to be killed in Star Trek Generations (1994; my comments) without setting up an obvious mechanism for his resurrection, Bill.

2. There has been no shortage of items on the Dumbledore-is-gay brouhaha. Here are two bits that particularly caught my eye. First up, David Thewlis — who plays the werewolf Professor Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter movies — tells

O.K. but what about the revelation that Albus Dumbledore is gay? Thewlis concedes that threw him for a loop, but not for the reasons you might think. “The funny thing when Alfonso Cuaron directed “The Prisoner of Azkaban, the first film that I appear in, he had the idea that Lupin was gay and he described my character like a ‘gay junkie’ .And of course Lupin turns out not to be gay because he marries Tonks and has children.”

Meanwhile, Rex Murphy of the Globe and Mail comments:

Ms. Rowling is pioneering here, fleshing out her characters off-page and after their story has ended. Dumbledore is gay is real People magazine stuff, and now we can look forward to updates on Hermione’s party schedule. I think this is a really great thing. Limiting what we really know, or can reasonably speculate about, a fictional character to the words on the pages of the book that contains him, and the already told story of which he is a part, is so old-fashioned and bookish. . . .

I would far rather learn what Hamlet was “really” like from some chat-show author interview after the play was written (slept with Gertrude till he was 9, joined a pack of minstrels and wandered around Denmark during his early teens, fervently anti-globalist, despised Claudius even before the murder, for his exploitation of the serfs – that kind of stuff) if such a thing were possible with poor dead Shakespeare. The play itself, with all those words and speeches and images, is so … constricting. Who wants those golden soliloquies when we can have buzz or gossip?

Now, with living authors, this kind of thing is not only possible – as Ms. Rowling’s example demonstrates, with the great news of Dumbledore’s authorial “outing” – it presents unlimited opportunities to “fix” the weak characters, or connect to the trendy issues of the day without ever so much as having to (so to speak) put pen to paper or warm up the tired laptop. Isn’t Dumbledore more interesting, more mod, now that he’s been released from the casket of the author’s own prose? . . .

Literature is so much more elastic, so much more liberating, when it is unshackled from the actual business of writing. Prose is a prison. Interviews, post-publication, are the wave of the storytelling future.

3. Variety says “political films” are struggling to find an audience in Europe, just as they have been struggling in North America.

4. The New York Observer picks up the story concerning how George Hickenlooper, co-director of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), is upset about being shut out of the DVD release of that film. Hickenlooper backtracks a bit, though, at Hollywood Elsewhere, the blog run by Jeffrey Wells; he writes: “I’m making a mountain out of mole hill. It’s not that big a deal. I’m just hoping no editorial changes were made…”

Lars and the Real Girl — the review’s up!

My review of Lars and the Real Girl is now up at CT Movies.