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.

Oscar winners slipping at the box office re-redux

On Sunday, Juno became the first and probably only one of 2007′s Best Picture nominees to gross over $100 million — and that tells me I should probably follow up the posts I wrote in 2005 and 2006 on the relationship between the Oscars and the box office.

2005 marked the first time since 1996 that the Best Picture winner did not gross at least $100 million, the first time since 1985 that not one of the Best Picture nominees grossed at least $100 million, and the first time in living memory that the Best Picture winner was not one of the Top 25 grossing films of its year. (In fact, the winning film for that year, Paul Haggis’s Crash, ranked way, way down at #49.)

2006 brought a return to Hollywood form with the Best Picture victory of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, which grossed $132.4 million and ranked #15 for the year.

But now, once again, the nominees pretty much all come from the “independent” or “arthouse” segment of the industry — with the exception of Michael Clayton, which was produced on a low budget and failed to find a very big audience, so it might just as well be an “independent” or “arthouse” movie anyway. Here are the nominees’ current grosses and box-office rankings, as of yesterday:

  1. Juno — $100,742,315 — 27th
  2. No Country for Old Men — $51,956,842 — 48th
  3. Michael Clayton — $41,847,879 — 62nd
  4. Atonement — $38,158,571 — 70th
  5. There Will Be Blood — $15,167,802 — 123rd

Of course, these totals can and will change, and the rankings of the various films will no doubt slide up a bit. In fact, all five nominees were in this past weekend‘s Top 16, and only one of those films — Michael Clayton — was a re-issue; the rest have been playing more or less steadily, gradually building their respective audiences, since they were released one or two or three months ago.

Anything can happen between now and February 24, when the Academy Awards ceremony takes place, but right now it looks like No Country for Old Men will win the top prize — given that it won the DGA award and the SAG ensemble award last weekend — and if that turns out to be the case, then this could very well be the second time in my lifetime that the Oscar for Best Picture went to a film of unusually limited commercial appeal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course!

I’ll copy the list that I compiled two years ago below, and I’ll add this year’s winner after it is announced next month.

2007 — 40 — $64.6 million — No Country for Old Men
2006 — 15 — $132.4 million — The Departed
2005 — 49 — $53.4 million — Crash
2004 — 24 — $100.5 million — Million Dollar Baby
2003 — 1 — $377.0 million — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2002 — 10 — $170.7 million — Chicago
2001 — 11 — $170.7 million — A Beautiful Mind
2000 — 4 — $187.7 million — Gladiator
1999 — 13 — $130.1 million — American Beauty
1998 — 18 — $100.3 million — Shakespeare in Love
1997 — 1 — $600.8 million — Titanic
1996 — 19 — $78.7 million — The English Patient
1995 — 18 — $75.6 million — Braveheart
1994 — 1 — $329.7 million — Forrest Gump
1993 — 9 — $96.1 million — Schindler’s List
1992 — 11 — $101.2 million — Unforgiven
1991 — 4 — $130.7 million — Silence of the Lambs
1990 — 3 — $184.2 million — Dances with Wolves
1989 — 8 — $106.6 million — Driving Miss Daisy
1988 — 1 — $172.8 million — Rain Man
1987 — 25 — $44.0 million — The Last Emperor
1986 — 3 — $138.5 million — Platoon
1985 — 5 — $87.1 million — Out of Africa
1984 — 12 — $52.0 million — Amadeus
1983 — 2 — $108.4 million — Terms of Endearment
1982 — 12 — $52.8 million — Gandhi
1981 — 7 — $59.0 million — Chariots of Fire
1980 — 11 — $54.8 million — Ordinary People
1979 — xx — $106.3 million — Kramer Vs. Kramer
1978 — xx — $49.0 million — The Deer Hunter
1977 — xx — $38.3 million — Annie Hall
1976 — xx — $117.2 million — Rocky
1975 — xx — $109.0 million — One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
1974 — xx — $47.5 million — The Godfather Part II
1973 — xx — $156.0 million — The Sting
1972 — xx — $133.7 million — The Godfather
1971 — xx — $51.7 million — The French Connection
1970 — xx — $61.7 million — Patton

FEB 27 UPDATE: Updated to include the winner for 2007.

CT Movies picks 2007′s “most redeeming films”

CT Movies has posted its list of “The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2007.” As one of their critics, I took part in the voting and submitted a paragraph on one pick of mine that did not make the final list. (And for what it’s worth, there are two films on this list that I have not yet seen — one, because it hasn’t even come to Canada yet, and the other, because it is fairly new and, between living in Surrey and welcoming a new baby into my life, I haven’t had many opportunities to visit Vancouver arthouse theatres lately.) The “top ten” list proper will be posted next week.

The Young Avraham — a midrashic tale

Movies about biblical characters have been based on the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha and even the Koran, but have any been based on the Midrash before? No doubt some biblical films have borrowed midrashic elements, but has an entire movie ever been based on this particular form of Jewish literature?

I can’t think of any previous examples at the moment, but today, I discovered that a Montreal-based animation outfit called Big Bang Digital Studios is working on a 45-minute CGI flick called The Young Avraham that is, indeed, based on midrashic literature:

The Young Avraham was born out of the desire of a number of Jewish businessmen to bring the story of Avraham to life in a quality animated 3D production. For their first production they chose to portray the childhood of Avraham based upon writings of Jewish antiquity and oral tradition, mostly found in the Midrash. The entire story covers many of the events of Avraham’s life from his birth up to where the Torah picks up his story (Genesis 11).

One page at the movie’s official website says it should be “available for purchase Winter 2007″, but they were still posting brand-new production stills as of last week, and I don’t see any information on where or how to buy a copy. At any rate, it might be worth keeping an eye on this one. In the meantime, here is one of the video clips that have been posted to the website:

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Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

The DVD is coming, but what about the sequels?

High-Def Digest reports that a two-disc “platinum” edition of The Golden Compass is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in April:

Shared across both versions will be an audio commentary with Weitz, eleven making-of featurettes, multiple still galleries, and the film’s original theatrical teaser and full trailers.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray will be a picture-in-picture “Enhanced Visual Commentary” featuring Weitz and other cast and crew. (There’s no confirmation yet from the studio as to whether the PIP track will be Profile 1.1-enabled, but we’ll keep you posted.)

No deleted scenes, then? Not even the original ending that was cut from the film at the last minute, supposedly to be tacked onto the beginning of the first sequel? Does this mean the studio still plans to go ahead with the sequels, then? Or are they saving that footage for an even more super-duper edition further down the road?

A few more movies not screened for critics.

Well, at least two, anyway. Sources tell me there will be no press screenings for The Eye — no surprise there, since it is yet another American remake of an Asian horror film and yet another Jessica Alba movie and yet another film distributed by Lionsgate — while Kyle Smith reports that there will also be no press screenings for Strange Wilderness, which again is no surprise because, like the similarly non-screened Grandma’s Boy (2006) and The Benchwarmers (2006), it is an Adam Sandler-produced film that does not star Adam Sandler. Both films open this Friday — as does Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, which is being distributed by Disney, at least in the United States, but for all I know might not have any press screenings either.

FEB 1 UPDATE: It looks like Hannah Montana was screened for at least a few people — the film opens later today (it is currently 2:45am), and there are eight reviews linked at Rotten Tomatoes already, whereas there are still no reviews linked there for The Eye or Strange Wilderness. However, Hannah Montana isn’t even opening in Vancouver, whereas the other two films are.