Newsbites: The war movie edition!

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to war we go.

1. Spike Lee’s World War II movie Miracle at St. Anna is both muddled and, at times, laughably bad, but that hasn’t stopped some people from taking it pretty seriously. The film, which takes place in Italy, has angered some groups for linking an Italian resistance fighter to a Nazi slaughter that took place in the titular village. Fears of “revisionism” abound, but Lee isn’t apologizing to anybody. — Variety

2. Speaking of movies that focus on the role of African-American military types during World War II, George Lucas has hired Anthony Hemingway to direct Red Tails, which concerns the fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Given how awful Lucas’s films have been lately, it will be interesting to see if his entry in this mini-genre turns out to be better or worse than Lee’s. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

3. Paul Gross will give Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan a sneak preview of his World War I epic Passchendaele on Friday. The film opens in theatres across Canada two weeks later. — Canadian Press

Newsbites: The comics and cartoons edition!

Lots of catching up to do here. Catching up, up and away.

1. Warner Brothers gave some reporters an advance look at about 26 minutes of footage from Watchmen, and the reporters liked what they saw. The film itself currently runs 163 minutes. — SpoutBlog,, IGN, New York Times

2. Philip Glass has been hired to compose an opera about Walt Disney for the New York City Opera. The musical “will be based on Peter Stephan Jungk’s German-language novel ‘The Perfect American'” and it “imagines the last months of Disney as seen through the eyes of a fictional Austrian cartoonist who worked for him.” — Variety

3. Steven Spielberg is thinking of casting comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in his motion-capture adaptation of the Tintin comics. So says Pegg, at any rate, though it’s not clear whether Spielberg was serious about this or just joking. — Sunday Times,

4. Green Lantern might start shooting as early as next spring. —, MTV Splash Page

5. Kenneth Branagh is in talks to direct the movie version of Marvel Comics’ Thor, and current comics writer J. Michael Straczynski says Branagh would be “perfect” for the film, given the “classical bent” of the character. — Variety, MTV Splash Page

6. Paramount and Marvel Comics had so much fun with Iron Man, they have agreed to distribute five more films together: Thor, The First Avenger: Captain America, The Avengers and two Iron Man sequels. — Variety, Nikki Finke, MTV Splash Page

7. Will Iron Man’s daddy be part of the Captain America movie? Perhaps even the man who “created” Captain America? — MTV Splash Page

8. Kirsten Dunst says she may or may not be in the next Spider-Man movie. — MTV Splash Page

9. Rumours are afoot to the effect that the next Batman movie might start pre-production as early as February 2009, even though they don’t have a script or anything like that yet. — Batman on Film, MTV Splash Page

10. We’ve already got a TV show about the young Clark Kent, i.e. Superman, so why not a TV show about the young Dick Grayson, i.e. Robin? Well, um, for one thing, isn’t Robin supposed to be young in the first place, before his parents are killed and he is adopted by Bruce Wayne, i.e. Batman? How much back-story can there be, really? The new show, which is being developed by the CW, will be called The Graysons. — Variety, MTV Splash Page

11. Disney has announced that Cars 2 will now come out in 2011, one year earlier than originally planned. Alas, it will not co-star the original film’s Paul Newman, who passed away this week. Pixar is also producing a series of related short films called Cars Toons. — Hollywood Reporter, Associated Press

12. Warner Brothers is developing a feature-film version of Yogi Bear, in which Yogi Bear and Boo Boo will be CGI characters in a live-action world. — Hollywood Reporter

Star Trek continuity errors galore!

Life is full of continuity errors, so why should movies and TV shows be any different? Especially when we’re talking about Star Trek, a 42-year-old series that has produced roughly 700 episodes and 10 movies to date — not counting the new movie that will reportedly “reboot” the franchise and throw much, but not all, of existing continuity out the window. Thankfully, one brave soul has made a point of not only noting the many continuity errors, but documenting some of them via YouTube. Enjoy.

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Hat tip to

Good thing I didn’t name my daughter Fiona.

How many fictitious characters have there been with the name Chattaway? I can’t think of all that many, myself.

Three years ago, I noted that there was a drug smuggler named “Peter Chattaway” in an episode of the 1960s Australian TV show The Contrabandits. But beyond that…?

Today, I sort of discovered another, when my dad passed along this story from the Driffield Post in England:

SCHOOLGIRL actress Eleanor Tomlinson (16), from Beverley, is following her role in a recent blockbuster by starring in an another major film. . . .

Eleanor has been busy shooting her part in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland – which also stars heart-throb actor Johhny Depp.

Eleanor, who plays Fiona Chattaway in Burton’s version of the Lewis Carroll classic, is now going back to school after completing the new film role. . . .

Eleanor said her role in the film is something of a departure from previous parts she has played.

“She’s quite a bitchy character, which is really different as I’ve never done anything like that before, so that’s good. . . . “

A bitchy girl named Chattaway? Oh, yeah, very good, sure. I’m sure that will never come back to haunt my daughter.

But then, after reading this story in the Hull Daily Mail, I discovered that the Driffield Post might have made an error:

She is playing Alice’s peer, the spiteful Fiona Chataway, who appears at the beginning of the film before Alice falls down the rabbit hole.

And it turns out that Lewis Carroll himself dedicated The Hunting of the Snark to “a dear Child” named Gertrude Chataway — so presumably there is some sort of connection between that real-life character and the movie character.

But see the difference? Those people spell their name with only one T. So they’re not really “Chattaways” at all.

Whew. That was a close one.

Indiana Jones — the article’s up!

My article on the Indiana Jones series is now up at Books & Culture.

The first draft was a bit longer than it needed to be, so, among other things, I squished the section on the films’ treatment of family and sexuality down to a single paragraph. Here’s the longer version:

Take sexuality and its relationship to the family. Indy was originally conceived as a Bond-like character, so each of the first three films presented him with a different leading lady — but each film also introduced other characters, seen or unseen, who either complicated these relationships or, at the very least, made Indy less of a loner than Bond. In Temple of Doom, Indy is at his most Bond-like, boldly promiscuous and telling Willie that he has done “years of fieldwork” in “primitive sexual practices” — but the greatest bond in that film is either fraternal or filial, not erotic, as Short Round declares “Indy, I love you!” before causing him the necessary pain that will free him from the spell that Mola Ram has cast on him. The film ends with man, woman and child happily united in a sort of makeshift family.

In Raiders, Indy is a little more intimidated by the women he encounters. He pauses, awkwardly, when a female student makes eyes at him in class, and he is apologetic when he reunites with Marion, an ex-girlfriend several years his junior who was still in her teens during their previous affair. To make matters even more complicated, Marion’s father Abner — now dead — was something of a mentor to Indy, but the two men had a falling out around the time of Indy’s earlier affair with Marion. Whether Indy split with Abner because of Marion or with Marion because of Abner is never clarified, but this background, and the possibility it raises that old wounds can still be healed, gives Indy’s relationship with Marion a deeper resonance than usual.

In Last Crusade, Indy is back to his promiscuous ways, flirting and sleeping with an Austrian archaeologist named Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). But this relationship gets the shortest shrift of all, as Elsa is soon revealed to be a Nazi double agent, and the primary relationship of the movie is revealed to be the budding reconciliation between Indy and his father. Once again, family trumps mere romance.

So it comes as little surprise that, by the time Crystal Skull comes along, Indy is finally ready to settle down. Near the beginning of the film, there is a funny fish-out-of-water sequence in which Indy, sweaty and clad in his usual adventurer’s garb, roams around a replica of the perfect 1950s suburban neighbourhood. (The replica has been built to test the effects of an atomic bomb on the typical American home; talk about a “nuclear” family!) But as incongruous as this image may seem, domesticity of a sort proves to be Indy’s ultimate destiny: the film reunites him with Marion, who has also been captured by the Russians, and she reveals that Mutt is the son that Indy never knew he had. And so Indy finishes his fourth and presumably final adventure by getting married; the ersatz family of Temple of Doom has given way to the genuine article.

Make of all that what you will!

Canadian box-office stats — September 28

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.

My Best Friend’s Girl — CDN $1,580,000 — N.AM $14,529,000 — 10.9%
Burn after Reading — CDN $4,940,000 — N.AM $45,540,000 — 10.8%

Ghost Town — CDN $980,717 — N.AM $9,239,000 — 10.6%
The Dark Knight — CDN $49,770,000 — N.AM $524,465,000 — 9.5%
The Women — CDN $2,220,000 — N.AM $24,079,000 — 9.2%
Righteous Kill — CDN $3,140,000 — N.AM $34,805,000 — 9.0%

Igor — CDN $1,110,000 — N.AM $14,339,000 — 7.7%
Eagle Eye — CDN $2,200,000 — N.AM $29,200,000 — 7.5%
Lakeview Terrace — CDN $1,840,000 — N.AM $25,700,000 — 7.2%
Nights in Rodanthe — CDN $891,979 — N.AM $13,570,000 — 6.6%

A couple of discrepancies: Ghost Town, The Women and The Dark Knight were #8, #9 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #11, #12 and #13 in North America as a whole), while Fireproof, Miracle at St. Anna and Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys were #4, #9 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively (the middle film was #11 in Canada, and the other two films were nowhere in the Canadian Top 20).