And now yet another Noah’s Ark cartoon!?

Well, not exactly. But still. Reports Variety:

Antonio Banderas’ Spain-based production shingle Green Moon Producciones has teamed with Spanish animation studio Kandor Graphics to create a toon production house.

The still-unnamed company aims to make five animated features over the next 10 years.

The 50-50 joint venture kicks off with a pic already in production, “The Missing Lynx,” which is directed by Kandor partners Manuel Sicilia and Raul Garcia, a former animator for Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks. . . .

Pic turns on a gaggle of animals escaping from a mad millionaire’s new Noah’s Ark. . . .

Sounds a bit like a cross between Evan Almighty and Madagascar — except for the bit about the millionaire and his madness.

Russell Crowe: Adventist theology student!

I acted in a church-based promotional video or two back in the day, myself, so I derive a certain comfort from the fact that Russell Crowe has at least one of these in his closet, too.

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Penn and Ledger in Malick’s Tree of Life?

Two years ago, Colin Farrell was rumoured to be in the running for the lead role in Terrence Malick‘s Tree of Life. One year ago, Mel Gibson was rumoured to be in the running. But now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Heath Ledger and Sean Penn are “in talks” for the film — which could start shooting as early as March. No story details have been made available yet — not officially — but the Reporter describes the film as a “complex drama”. Fans of the Edenic elements in The New World (2005) and Malick’s other films will no doubt go nuts wondering what this one’s all about.

Canadian box-office stats — October 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.

Across the Universe — CDN $2,820,000 — N.AM $19,296,796 — 14.6%
Rendition — CDN $1,140,000 — N.AM $7,821,105 — 14.6%
We Own the Night — CDN $2,980,000 — N.AM $25,065,018 — 11.9%

30 Days of Night — CDN $2,780,000 — N.AM $27,480,907 — 10.1%
Gone Baby Gone — CDN $965,553 — N.AM $11,226,975 — 8.6%
Michael Clayton — CDN $2,370,000 — N.AM $28,668,168 — 8.3%
The Comebacks — CDN $717,476 — N.AM $9,925,268 — 7.2%
The Game Plan — CDN $5,480,000 — N.AM $76,939,167 — 7.1%
Dan in Real Life — CDN $691,553 — N.AM $11,809,445 — 5.9%
Saw IV — CDN $1,810,000 — N.AM $31,756,764 — 5.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Rendition and Across the Universe were #7 and #9 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #11 and #14 in North America as a whole), while Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D were #5 and #8 on the North American chart, respectively.

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.