Is there really a market for this?

Hat tip to Russell Lucas.

Another photo from the set of Agora.

Last month, the Times of Malta posted what was probably the first picture from the set of Agora, Alejandro Amenábar’s upcoming film about the 4th-century philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria. A few days ago they posted another. Looks impressive enough. I wonder when we’ll see the actors in costume.

Oh, wait, there appear to be some more photos over at Notas de Cine, which give us a better look at the costumes, etc. — though it is not clear whether the people wearing them here are actors or just extras.

There is also a gallery of small-ish pictures, including some interesting aerial shots of the set, at this fan site devoted to Rachel Weisz, who plays Hypatia in the film. And finally, the Spanish Turner Classic Movies site has this bit of promo art:

OCT 31 UPDATE: I just discovered this picture of Amenábar and Weisz that appeared in Variety magazine over a month ago:

Saved! — the Broadway musical redux

From yesterday’s Variety article on the musical adaptation of Saved! (2004; my article), the comedy about a Christian high school student who gets pregnant by her gay boyfriend:

Even as quirky musicals go, “Saved” is an odd bird.

The general trend for screen-to-stage adaptations is to make everything larger than life — broadening the comedy, heightening the romance and rendering the characters sufficiently loud and cartoonish to play to the back row. But the creative team behind the tuner adaptation of the 2004 indie pic, which satirizes life in an evangelical Christian high school, has gone the opposite route. “Saved” the musical has reined in the spoofing and is softening the edges of the characters, playing them more empathetically. It even excises the exclamation mark from the film’s title. . . .

Friedman says there have been obvious guideposts. “Every time we took an honest, sympathetic approach, the show seemed to work,” he explains. “Any time we went toward harsher satire or commentary, it stopped working.”

That’s why Hilary Faye, the righteous leader of a teen-pop gospel group played by Mandy Moore in the movie, gets a sympathetic number in act two. “She makes more sense as a real person, not as a caricature,” says Dempsey.

Creatives insist they’re interested in universal dramatic questions, not pronouncements about any particular religion. “There’s political thought involved, but I wouldn’t say there’s a political message,” says Groff. “What we’re really asking is, ‘How do you live with faith in contemporary society?’ “

That question could underwhelm auds expecting live versions of the film’s irreverent moments, such as Hilary Faye screaming, “I am filled with Christ’s love!” while hurling a Bible at her friend.

But Friedman feels those expectations have spurred better work.

“Our audience in New York is primed to go to the satire place, to find these things funny, because our audience isn’t necessarily from a world where people speak in tongues or practice that really charismatic Christianity,” he says. “It’s more complicated and more satisfying to take them to an emotional place, where those beliefs suddenly seem very approachable.” . . .

The Variety article says the musical “opens” at Playwright Horizons in New York on June 3, but the theatre’s website indicates it has been playing there for a couple weeks already.

Tim Roth like you’ve never seen him before.

I may never watch Reservoir Dogs (1992) the same way again, after seeing Tim Roth leap all over the place in this clip from The Incredible Hulk:

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

T4 — the studio leaks a few more details

This is too big to reduce to a mere newsbite. reports that Warner Brothers has released the following synopsis for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, which began shooting a couple weeks ago:

In the highly anticipated new installment of “The Terminator” film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

And so the plot thickens. But wait, wasn’t the future that John was raised to believe in already changed by the events of the second movie? Didn’t those events fundamentally alter the timeline in such a way that the events of the third movie caught John off-guard? And wouldn’t that mean that any further sequels would have to take place in a world that was very different from the world John was raised to believe in — even if it has some obvious similarities?

The press release also mentions that Charlotte Gainsbourg has taken over the part of John’s wife Kate, a pre-marital version of whom was played by Claire Danes in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003); that bit of casting may or may not have been mentioned elsewhere before now, but it’s news to me, at least.

I have to admit that I’ve never cared for this particular character, largely because the film that introduced her also introduced far, far too many coincidences around her. Kate’s dad develops Skynet, and Kate happens to be an old school chum of John’s who kissed him the day before the T-1000 came looking for him, and the veterinary hospital that John breaks into many years later just happens to be Kate’s, and he just happens to do this on the very same day that a T-X has come back in time to kill Kate, and so on, and so on. One of the things I love about the TV series is that it completely ignores the third movie … but the new movies have to accept the third movie as canon, so I hope they can do a better job with this character than the movie that invented her did.

And speaking of the TV series, reports that the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on August 19, not too long before the second season begins. I’d definitely like to take another look at those episodes, with the commentaries and everything.

MAY 23 UPDATE: As of today, the new film has a production blog, so I have replaced the photo at the top of this post with the concept art that was posted there today. (The photo that used to be at the top of this post has decorated a few of my previous Terminator entries, and I was getting tired of it.)

In his introductory blog post, director McG doesn’t say much about the film that we don’t already know, though he does reveal that principal photography began with “a sequence at Griffith Observatory” — which is where Arnold Schwarzenegger made his very first appearance as the evil Terminator in the original film way, way back in 1984. Could be a nice homage.

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

Let’s tackle this bunch in reverse-alphabetical order.

1. This may not technically be a remake, but it’s close enough for me: Variety reports that Mike McNulty, who produced the documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997), will co-produce a dramatic film about the clash between the feds and the Branch Davidians called, simply, Waco. The director attached to the film is Rupert Wainwright, who last tackled religious themes on the big screen in the ridiculously sensationalistic supernatural thriller Stigmata (1999) — so I’m not expecting greatness here by any stretch.

2. reports that Steven Spielberg had this to say about the Tintin trilogy that he and Peter Jackson are currently developing: “We are going to make three ‘Tintin’ movies back-to-back . . . I’ll direct the first one, Peter will direct the second one. We’ll probably co-direct the third one.” One cannot help but wonder how they will divvy up the directing chores, or whether it will be easy to tell their scenes apart.

3. The Hollywood Reporter says MGM has floated the possibility of doing a re-make of Robocop (1987; my comments), one of my favorite satirical action movies of all time. Why? What’s the point? Didn’t the sequels already prove that lightning doesn’t strike twice?

Oh, and they’re also thinking of re-making Red Dawn (1984), noteworthy for being the first film that was ever rated PG-13. Again, why? What’s the point? Will it be a period piece about the Cold War? Or will the colour “red” apply to someone other than Communists now? (Oh, wait, red is one of the colours in that terror-alert system now, isn’t it. Sigh.)

4. reports that Sylvester Stallone, while promoting the new Rambo DVDs and Blu-rays, “announced that he was working on an extended Director’s Cut of the fourth film in the series, which he plans to release under its originally conceived title of John Rambo.”

5. Variety says the makers of The Hobbit have already approached not only Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) about reprising their characters, but they have also approached Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), whose character as I recall does not appear anywhere in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book but might, I suppose, have some part to play in that second movie they’re talking about making.

But wait — there might be more than two movies! says MGM chairman Harry Sloan recently noted that the gap between the events of The Hobbit and the events of The Lord of the Rings could allow for lots of sequels, or prequels, or spin-offs, or whatever: “There’s 80 years between the end of ‘The Hobbit’ and the beginning of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ . . . Think of the franchise.”

Let me guess: They’re doing all this to explain why, in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, Frodo and Bilbo keep talking about the “adventures”, plural, that Bilbo has been on, as though he had been on a lot of them, right?

6. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Summit Entertainment is planning a re-make of Highlander (1986), with producer Peter Davis providing some continuity between the new film and the old film:

Davis said the new “Highlander” will not just be a remake but will incorporate more backstory elements and prequel aspects that will be fleshed out to expand the story line in a way that is inventive yet faithful to the original story.

He also said romance was key to the series’ popularity and would be a central theme in the new film.

“I would hate to think that people viewed ‘Highlander’ as a sword fighting movie because it’s much more than that,” he said. “The issues of an immortal falling in love with a woman and knowing she’s going to grow old and die in your arms, those are very romantic issues to deal with.”

Gosh, now I’ve got Queen’s ‘Who Wants to Live Forever‘ running through my mind. And speaking of fantasy films of the 1980s that became famous for their Brian May compositions …

7. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Sony Pictures has acquired the film rights to Flash Gordon, the newest version of which will be directed by Michael Eisner’s son Breck, who may be best-known for directing the action-comedy flop Sahara (2005). The most recent big-screen version of this story was released in 1980, and is probably best-known now for its soundtrack by Queen.

8. Michael Moore is making a sequel — though he now disputes the term — to Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), and Karina Longworth notes that news of this movie has been out there for over a year already — except, back then, it was being produced by the Weinstein company, whereas now, it will be distributed by Overture and Paramount Vantage. Moore says the new film will be so “toxic” he probably shouldn’t make it — but, well, that’s where the money is, isn’t it?

9. Amidst all these announcements of remakes and sequels, and with so many films bringing back action heroes from the 1980s these days, isn’t it refreshing to hear the Associated Press report that Clint Eastwood says he will not be bringing back Dirty Harry, the character he played in five films between 1971 and 1988?

10. After Iron Man turned out to be such a huge success, Marvel Studios announced they would not only produce a sequel, but they would also produce a movie about Thor in 2010 and a movie about Captain America in 2011, before uniting them all — with the Incredible Hulk, who has his own movie coming out next month — in The Avengers, also in 2011.

Since then, Marvel president Kevin Feige has told the Hollywood Reporter that Thor will be “a period fantasy in the vein of ‘The Lord of the Rings'”, and yesterday he told that The First Avenger: Captain America would be “a period piece” that takes place “during World War II, just like the comic book origin story.”

How, I wonder, will they connect the characters from these two “period” stories to the present-day characters that are currently being established in this summer’s movies? Will the period-piece films end by zapping the characters forward in time? Will The Avengers move back and forth in time? Or will the gap between the period-piece films and the present-day film be kept kind of vague, to allow for more period-piece films down the road?