Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

Just catching up on a handful of items, here — a few of which are, admittedly, a week or two old, by now. But hey.

1. Get ready to be Left Behind again! News Blaze reports that Tim LaHaye and Cloud Ten Pictures have resolved their legal differences, such that LaHaye has the right to remake the existing films if he wants to, but if he does not do so within a certain length of time, then Cloud Ten can go on making sequels to the existing films. Meanwhile, the world wonders what ever became of that Resurrection film that LaHaye was supposedly working on with Screen Gems.

2. Jim Hill explores how Pixar chief John Lasseter took Tr2n, the upcoming sequel to Tron (1982), out of the hands of Steve Lisberger, who created the original movie and had hoped to write the sequel himself.

3. MTV Movies Blog reveals that Star Wars: The Clone Wars will not begin with the famous “crawl” that kicked off all six of the live-action movies. Instead, it begins with a newsreel, a la Starship Troopers (1997).

4. Patrick Goldstein asks the top dog at Universal why Nottingham, Ridley Scott’s revisionist take on the Robin Hood legend starring Russell Crowe as the titular sheriff, has been indefinitely postponed. The answer: rewrites, basically.

5. Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and film director Guillermo del Toro talk to MTV’s Splash Page about their plans for the next Hellboy movie — and how that movie might interfere with Mignola’s plans for the comic book.

6. MTV Movie News reports that the new RoboCop movie will not be a sequel, and it will be rated R.

7. David Goyer tells the MTV Movies Blog that he’s working on an Invisible Man script in which the nephew of the Claude Rains character in the 1933 film is sent as a “secret agent” into “imperial Russia”. That sounds kind of like the plot of Invisible Agent (1942), except there it was Rains’s grandson and he was sent into Nazi Germany.

8. Variety reports that AMC is going to turn Francis Ford Coppola’s paranoid classic The Conversation (1974) into a TV series. That’s … interesting. The series will take place in the 1970s and will be co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, who won an Oscar for some little flick called The Usual Suspects (1995).

9. Jeffrey Wells says it looks like there has been a shift in emphasis for The Special Relationship, the follow-up to screenwriter Peter Morgan‘s previous films The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006):

What’s happened, in short, is that Morgan has gradually lost interest in the Bush-alliance downfall story and shifted focus to the lah-dee-dah Blair-Clinton relationship. It’s almost certain that whatever A Special Relationship turns out to be, Morgan will make it work and then some. He’s a very sharp writer. But I for one am disappointed. The Iraq War-downfall thing is about a smart guy going astray, drinking the Kool-Aid and screwing his career — clear and simple. What’s the [Blair]-Clinton story about? Two liberal-minded heads of state come to like each other during the ’90s and….what? I don’t see what it is.

10. Director Francis Lawrence tells that a prequel to I Am Legend (2007) is in the works, and yes, Will Smith may star in it. Presumably, since the prequel would have to end more or less where the original film began, they wouldn’t be able to make such drastic last-minute revisions to the ending of this film.

11. The Hollywood Reporter says writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless have been hired to come up with a script for Breck Eisner’s remake of Flash Gordon.

Things that make the completist in me happy.

First, in September, GITCorp is releasing Star Trek: The Complete Comic Book Collection, a DVD containing PDF files of every single comic book in the Star Trek franchise released by Gold Key, Marvel, DC, Malibu, Wildstorm and others between 1967 and 2002. I plan to hold on to a few of my Star Trek comics — such as the beautiful hardcover edition of Debt of Honor — for as long as I can, but the thought of replacing the rest of ’em with this space-saving DVD is certainly tempting. Hat tip to

Second, in October, Warner is releasing Looney Tunes: Golden Collection Volume Six — which, sadly, will be the last of the “Golden Collection” DVD sets, according to Jerry Beck, who has posted a complete list of the new set’s bonus materials at Cartoon Brew. However, he promises that Warner will continue to release new editions of restored Looney Tunes cartoons on an “annual basis”, though apparently under some other name.

Finally, in November, Disney is releasing The Chronological Donald Volume Four: 1951 – 1961, which will virtually complete my collection of the cartoons, both long and short, that were produced by the Walt Disney studio during Uncle Walt’s lifetime. This set is part of the ‘Walt Disney Treasures‘ collection, which has been coming out on a basically annual basis since 2001 — and contrary to earlier reports, it does not seem that this year’s series will include a set devoted to Salvador Dali’s Destino (2003). Oh well, maybe next year. Hat tip to

Rosenbaum on “director’s cuts”.

Jonathan Rosenbaum has some fascinating thoughts on the nature of “director’s cuts”. Here is a sample paragraph:

An important point arising from this example is that any director’s cut has to be pinpointed in time for this label to have any meaning. To postulate that only one director’s cut can exist for a given film implies the privileging of a particular point of closure in the filmmaker’s creative decisions—-a privileging that becomes quite arbitrary in some cases. Since there are many different subtitled versions of some of the later Straub-Huillet films employing different takes and therefore different editing, choosing one version over all the others may be capricious, and arguably the same thing might be true for the separate 1952 and 1953 versions of Othello edited by Orson Welles, as recently described by François Thomas in Cinéma 012, in an ongoing series of articles significantly titled, “Un film d’Orson Welles en cache un autre”. In this case, do we privilege the first thoughts or the second thoughts, and how do we defend our selection?

Most of the examples he cites are of this academically respectable sort, but if we wanted to dumb this issue down for the average popcorn-muncher, we could always pose the question like so: Do we privilege Han Solo shooting first or Greedo shooting first, and how do we defend our selection?

For that matter, I have always appreciated the way that Peter Jackson refused to use the term “director’s cut” when he released the “extended editions” of The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003). They are both his cuts, one’s just a little longer than the other (and sometimes uses different footage).

For what it’s worth, the first time I can remember hearing the phrase “director’s cut” was in 1989, when David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) was restored and re-released to great fanfare. The film had been chopped up quite a bit since its original release, so the restoration people went to great lengths to put the movie back together again — but then Lean stepped in and suggested trimming a few minutes back out of the movie, claiming, if I recall correctly, that he had had to edit the film in a bit of a rush the first time ’round. So the version released in 1989 had a lot more footage than any version that anyone had seen in years, but it was still slightly shorter than the version which premiered in 1962; it was, indeed, a brand-new cut.

There may have been earlier examples of films being released as “director’s cuts”, but I couldn’t say for sure. The Wikipedia entry on this term is vague on the exact timing, and it doesn’t even mention Lawrence of Arabia. It cites Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) as “two of the first films to be re-released as a director’s cut”, but gives no date for the “director’s cut” of the former film, whereas the “director’s cut” of the latter film was released in 1992, three years after the “director’s cut” of Lawrence of Arabia — and of course, as we now know thanks to the “final cut” of Blade Runner that came out late last year, the “director’s cut” was not exactly the last word where that film was concerned, so the term was arguably already becoming devalued even back then.

Religulous — an interview and a clip.

Patrick Goldstein has posted a 53-second clip from Religulous at his blog, along with a brief interview with the film’s star, Bill Maher.

In the clip, Maher needles an actor dressed like Jesus on the question of why the Bible would describe God as someone who feels a “petty emotion” like “jealousy”. It’s an interesting question, and no doubt there are all sorts of amusing, perplexing, enlightening and confounding answers that one could give. But I wonder if an actor — especially one who works in a theme park — is really the best place to go for an answer to this question. Did Maher bother to approach any serious thinkers on these issues? Or did he just go looking for some easy targets?

Goldstein, who has apparently seen the completed film, also gets Maher to talk about how he got all these people to talk to him:

On how he got people to talk to him: “It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.’ It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salk Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.”

On the element of surprise: “Larry Charles’ theory is–just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on ‘Borat.’ The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they’d be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they’d have to talk to me. It was like–‘And now here’s … Bill!’ You could usually see the troubled looks on their faces. At the Holy Land theme park, the PR woman freaked out and finally told us to leave. She was definitely not a happy camper.”

Karina Longworth, on reading this portion of the interview, finds herself thinking not only of Borat and Religulous but also of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, and expresses concern over “this growing trend of deception in ostensible non-fiction.”

The presidential contenders get superheroic.

Over at Entertainment Weekly, Barack Obama says Batman is one of his favorite superheroes — along with Spider-Man, who apparently tops the list — because he has “inner turmoil” and has “earned” his “status”, while John McCain says Batman is his favorite superhero because he “does justice sometimes against insurmountable odds” and keeps his good works relatively secret. Read into those emphases whatever you will.

Pineapple Express — the review’s up!

My review of Pineapple Express is now up at CT Movies.