John Cho is Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek XI.

In a shocking departure from previous casting announcements, the makers of the next Star Trek movie have hired an actor who is older than the actor who created the character. John Cho, of American Pie (1999-2003) and Harold and Kumar (2004-2008) fame, has been hired to play helmsman Hikaru Sulu. Cho is 35, whereas George Takei was 29 when he created the role.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age — the review’s up!

My review of Elizabeth: The Golden Age is now up at CT Movies.

Rambo IV gets yet another new title reports that Rambo IV — which went by titles like Rambo IV: In the Serpent’s Eye and Rambo IV: Pearl of the Cobra before it was re-named John Rambo, following the success that Sylvester Stallone had had by calling the latest entry in his other major franchise Rocky Balboa instead of Rocky VI — has been re-named again. Its new title is Rambo to Hell and Back.

It has been common knowledge for a while now that Rambo comes out of retirement in this film to rescue some Christian missionaries in Burma. But the official plot synopsis adds a few new details:

Less than two weeks later, pastor Arthur Marsh (Ken Howard) finds Rambo and tells him the aid workers did not return and the embassies have not helped locate them. He tells Rambo he’s mortgaged his home and raised money from his congregation to hire mercenaries to get the missionaries, who are being held captive by the Burmese army. Although the United States military trained him to be a lethal super soldier in Vietnam, decades later Rambo’s reluctance for violence and conflict are palpable, his scars faded, yet visible. However, the lone warrior knows what he must do…

I hadn’t realized before that Rambo is actually paid to rescue the missionaries here. I am trying to imagine any of the churches I have attended raising money in order to hire armed mercenaries to retrieve our missionaries. Indeed, I am trying to imagine any of the pastors or priests I have known trying to persuade someone to take up arms again against his conscience. I don’t think I can.

OCT 12 UPDATE: Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool News says he has talked Stallone into going back to the title John Rambo.

OCT 23 UPDATE: And now, in the trailer, it’s just plain Rambo:

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Star Trek XI has a Scotty and (maybe) a Kirk!

Variety reports that Simon Pegg — the co-writer and co-star of the genre spoofs Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz — has been hired to play Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie.

Pegg has worked with Abrams before, on Mission: Impossible III (2006) — and that was rather amusing at the time, because several months before he took the role, a reporter asked Pegg if England had become too small for him, following the success of Shaun of the Dead, and Pegg replied, “It’s not like I’m going to be starring in Mission Impossible 3.” And, well, now look what he’s doing!

Anyway, Pegg will turn 38 while the film is in production, whereas James Doohan was 46 when he created the role back in 1966.

Meanwhile, the part of Kirk has been offered to Chris Pine, who is 27; William Shatner was 35 when he created the role.

OCT 15 UPDATE: Joe Carnahan, the writer-director of Narc (2002) and Smokin’ Aces (2006), writes at his blog that Pine will not be starring in his next film, White Jazz, because Pine has accepted the role of Kirk. There is no official announcement yet, though.

It finally happened.

I have now cashed an American cheque and received in Canadian currency less, rather than more, than the amount that was written on that cheque. The US$300 that I received today turned out to be worth CDN$285.03 — and it probably would have been worth even less if I had waited to cash it in another day or three. The American dollar has definitely fallen below parity, now.

On a semi-related tangent, I recently bought the two-disc edition of Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967; my comments) for CDN$19.99 plus taxes at Future Shop, but it occurs to me now that I could have ordered it for US$14.99 via — or slightly less than that, in Canadian currency. True, the shipping fees would have nudged it back over twenty bucks, and there is the possibility that it might have been intercepted by the good folks at Canada Customs; but if I were buying multiple items and not just the one movie, then it just might be cheaper to get my discs that way.

Certainly, when you add to the financial considerations the fact that far too many Canadian DVDs are afflicted with ugly bilingual packaging — a problem that fortunately does not affect Disney discs, yet, not really — then the prospect of importing one’s discs from the United States becomes more and more appealing.

Lars and the Real Girl — marketing to churches

The Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters, has caught on to the fact that Lars and the Real Girl — the movie starring Ryan Gosling and a blow-up doll — is being marketed to church groups:

How do you market a wholesome, old-fashioned film about a churchgoer who falls in love with his sex doll? Grass-roots screenings with religious groups, maybe?

That’s one of the novel approaches being taken with the marketing campaign for director Craig Gillespie’s unexpectedly poignant comedy “Lars and the Real Girl,” which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York.

“Half Nelson” Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a painfully shy loner who lives in the garage next to his brother and sister-in-law’s house. Crushed by the loss of his parents, he orders a lifelike doll named Bianca over the Web and convinces himself that she’s his girlfriend. The local doctor (Patricia Clarkson) persuades his family, his small town and even his church to help him by going along with the delusion and accept Bianca as a real person.

There’s nothing really prurient in the film, which earned a mild PG-13 rating for “some sex-related content.” Lars and Bianca sleep in separate houses. There’s a discreet scene in which Bianca’s potential in-laws bathe her, but while some silicone is exposed, her anatomical correctness is never shown.

The film’s producer, Sidney Kimmell Entertainment (SKE), plans more than 100 promo screenings by the time the film goes wide on October 26 including, yes, outreach to church leaders.

“We’ve found an enormous response from mainstream Christian groups,” says Bingham Ray, who heads up SKE’s distribution operations. “Some pastors may discuss the film as part of their sermons.”

The trailer doesn’t intentionally misrepresent the film’s tone, but it does feature Bianca in ridiculous situations (holding a baby, sitting in church), making it tough to convey the film’s themes of acceptance, tolerance and kindness. . . .