Yet another movie not screened for critics.


Prom Night is a horror movie. To be more precise, it is a horror movie remake. It is produced by Screen Gems. And, with only a few hours to go before the film’s release, there are still virtually no reviews listed at Rotten Tomatoes, and none whatsoever at Metacritic. That says it all, I think.

Did Charlton Heston inspire Indiana Jones!?


Was the late Charlton Heston one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones? Dave Kehr, via Cinematical, says yes, indeed, he was:

One of Heston’s most influential roles remains one of his least known: that of Harry Steele, a dashing though cynical adventurer, who wears a fedora and a leather jacket, as he searches for Incan treasure in a manner that distinctly suggets a certain later day hero created by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The film is Jerry Hopper’s 1954’s “Secret of the Incas,” and Paramount has been strangely reluctant to release it to television or DVD. Reportedly, Spielberg and Lucas screened it for members of the production team during the planning of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which is very easy to believe given the many narrative and visual parallels.

TheRaider.net also counts this film among Lucas and Spielberg’s influences, and it turns out a few clips are up at YouTube:

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Just for the record, Secret of the Incas came out at the exact mid-point between Heston’s two films for Cecil B. DeMille — two years after The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and two years before The Ten Commandments (1956). All of Heston’s other, more famous movies lay even further in the future.

Lucas and Spielberg were certainly inspired by some of Heston’s other films, too. Spielberg explicitly references The Ten Commandments in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and it was he who pitched The Prince of Egypt (1998) as an animated version of DeMille’s Moses movie. As for Lucas, the pod race in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999; my review) is straight out of Ben-Hur (1959). Are there any other examples?

Newsbites: Silent! Errol! Disney! W! Caspian! Satire!

The news, it keeps sprouting, like weeds.

1. Vancouverites, mark your calendars. Silent Light, the Carlos Reygadas film about a love triangle among Mexican Mennonites, is coming to the VanCity Theatre June 5-12.

2. Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris tells the Hollywood Reporter he wants to make a comedy next — a scripted comedy. Morris has been making documentaries for decades, ever since Gates of Heaven (1978), but this would be only his second dramatic film, following The Dark Wind (1991). Meanwhile, Paul Arthur and Kyle Smith have posted responses to Morris’s newest film, Standard Operating Procedure, that critique it from different angles.

3. Disney and Pixar have revealed their slate of animated films coming out between now and 2012. Among the bigger surprises: Pixar is making a sequel to Cars (2006), their lowest-grossing film since A Bug’s Life (1998) — does anybody really want this? — and Disney is adapting King of the Elves, a fairy tale written by Philip K. Dick, of all people. Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew comments on the slate as a whole:

It’s interesting to note that all of the Pixar films have one individual with top billing as director, while the Disney features are structured to have two directors per film. That certainly can’t be coincidence. As Disney regains its footing, hopefully they’ll discover individuals within the organization whose personal vision is strong enough to carry a film by itself.

4. Slate and the Hollywood Reporter have taken their own sneak peeks at the script for Oliver Stone’s W, with the latter inviting responses from four George W. Bush biographers.

5. CT Movies editor Mark Moring has interviewed Douglas Gresham in anticipation of next month’s release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and suffice it to say that Gresham does not do much to instill any sort of confidence in fans of the book. Meanwhile, Walden Media president Michael Flaherty talks to TheHighCalling.org about the Narnia movies — and also about the in-development film version of The Screwtape Letters.

6. Ron Reed passes on the news that Murray Stiller’s documentary Nailin’ it to the Church: Religious Satire and the Gospel According to the Wittenburg Door — presumably the same project that was once known as Jesus Makes Me Laugh — will be showing at the Regent College chapel in Vancouver April 21.

Ben-Hur to become a mini-series.


First, The Ten Commandments was a silent film produced in 1923. Then, it was a blockbuster starring Charlton Heston produced in 1956. And then, it became a TV mini-series produced in 2006.

Now Ben-Hur looks set to repeat the pattern. First, it was a silent film produced in 1925. Then, it was a blockbuster starring Charlton Heston in 1959. And now, according to Variety, it is about to become a TV mini-series — produced by David Wyler, whose father William was an assistant director on the 1925 film and won an Oscar for directing the 1959 film.

Here’s another trajectory the mini-series will follow: The 1925 film was pretty explicitly Christian, and the 1959 film toned down those elements in favour of a more generically pacifist, humanist message. Now, says Variety, the mini-series “will be based more specifically on the 1907 Lew Wallace source novel than either the 1959 version or earlier 1925 adaptation,” but it “will also likely downplay the religious aspects of the source material.”

Says Wyler: “We want to look at the spirituality within the piece rather than directly relating it to a specific religion. . . . It’s a very complex story. It’s been 50 years since my father’s version and we think we can bring something new and contemporary to it in the same way that ‘Gladiator’ did for that genre.”

So, what, Judah Ben-Hur will now be a generic pagan who dies dreaming of a vague afterlife with his leprous mother and sister?

Oh, and fact-check: Lew Wallace’s novel was published in 1880, not in 1907. However, the year 1907 is significant because that is when an even earlier version of Ben-Hur was produced — albeit a version that didn’t amount to much more than a glorified chariot race. That version is also historically significant because it prompted a precedent-setting copyright-infringement lawsuit.

UPDATE: It turns out someone has posted the surviving footage from the 1907 film on YouTube, in two parts. So here it is:

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Is Malick’s Tree of Life already shooting?

Seems so, according to MSNBC.com’s gossip column ‘The Scoop‘:

Sean Penn and the Jolie-Pitts all living under the same roof? For a brief time, such thing was a possibility.

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and kids set up camp in Texas for nearly a month as Pitt filmed “Tree of Life.” Penn, who also stars in the film, arrived on set last week, and if the cost of Pitt’s accommodations hadn’t been an issue, Pitt and Penn might have both ended up staying at the same place. . . .

Why would Pitt need to cut costs? It’s got nothing to do with his expanding brood, but rather the budget for “Tree of Life.” Despite the film’s big-name stars, “Tree” is more indie film than anything, and gained early notoriety when Pitt stepped in to fill the role that was supposed to have been played by Heath Ledger. In fact, most of the cast and crew are staying in rented homes in historic Smithville, Texas, according to the source. . . .

Feels weird to be reading about a Terrence Malick film in a gossip column, not least because he’s such a reclusive and secretive kind of guy. Then again, you will note that Malick’s name is never even mentioned in this column, so I guess it’s all good.

Newsbites: Sally! Cowboys! WALL-E! Valkyrie!

Here are a few quickies to get the week started.

1. Mandi Bierly at Entertainment Weekly recently watched When Harry Met Sally… (1989) and, as she puts it, “had the surreal experience of realizing that I am now the same age as Sally.” I had that exact same experience seven years ago.

2. STV.tv reports that Cowboys for Christ, the follow-up to the original Wicker Man (1973) that was going to start shooting this month, was cancelled at the last minute due to financing concerns.

3. Anthony Baratta at ComingSoon.net has seen the first 35 minutes of WALL-E and spoken to director Andrew Stanton, and while he notes some positive things about the film, he also echoes what others have said, wondering how the film will play to the masses:

First the potential flaws: The premise of the movie is that Earth was so overrun with rampant commercialism and therefore garbage from all those purchases, that the inhabitants had to flee Earth. The population left in Starship (The Axiom) to wait out the cleanup efforts by the robots left behind. Even the cleanup robots fall into disrepair and WALL•E is the last one left, doing what he his programmed to do.

I’m not sure how the moviegoing public will react to such in-your-face preaching about the dangers of Wal-Mart and Costco. Nor the hints at weather run amok, like the hyper-dust storms that whip up out of nowhere to savage the city where WALL•E lives.

Also, within the Axiom – the logical conclusion of life without the need for physical movement is life as a couch potato – “slugs” plugged into their own personal Xbox/PlayStation.

Sci-Fi movies have preached before — Planet of the Apes; Them, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Soylent Green — and still they entertain. So WALL•E is just following along in a rich tradition. The question is will the love story between WALL•E and EVE stand above the distractions or be dragged down with the weight of them?

It sounds to me like the “premise” of the film should be more than a mere “distraction” — it should be, for better or worse, something that the audience is called to engage with, on some level — but oh well, I guess we’ll find out how it plays soon enough.

4. The Hollywood Reporter says Valkyrie, the World War II thriller directed by Bryan Singer and starring Tom Cruise as a Nazi with an American accent, has had its release date put off again, to February 2009. It was originally going to come out this June, before it got bumped to October. Looks like the studio isn’t expecting the film to be a hit with audiences or with the Academy.

Valkyrie is the second film Cruise greenlit after he got the boot at Paramount and took the reins at United Artists; the first was Lions for Lambs, which flopped. If there is a third, no one seems to be talking about it.


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