National Treasure — the review’s up!

My review of National Treasure: Book of Secrets is now up at CT Movies.

It’s The China Syndrome meets Three Mile Island. It’s Wall Street meets the Crash of ’87.

“On film and in real life, two pregnant 16-year-olds spark moral debate.” So reads a headline on a recent story by the Associated Press — referring, of course, to the revelation two days ago that Britney Spears’s sister Jamie Lynn is pregnant, and also to the movie Juno, which goes into wide release on Christmas Day after an enormously successful three weeks in limited release. Both of them were beaten to the punch, though, by Keisha Castle-Hughes, who also became pregnant at the age of 16 last year shortly after finishing work on The Nativity Story — in which she played perhaps the most famous pregnant teenager of them all.

Indiana Jones, Abner Ravenwood, John Hurt.

A week or two ago, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull producer Frank Marshall gave a couple of interviews in which he confirmed the identities of certain new characters, but as I mentioned at the time, he neglected to say anything about the character played by John Hurt — an actor who knows a thing or two about sci-fi and fantasy films, having worked on the original Alien, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films, among others. (In that last case, I refer to the 1978 animated film, of course.)

It has long been speculated that Hurt is playing Abner Ravenwood, the father of Indy’s sometimes girlfriend Marion. Abner, an archaeologist who was obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant, was a friend of Indy’s until Indy had an affair with Marion, who was in her teens at the time. Ten years later, during the events of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indy came into contact with Marion again — and she told him Abner was dead.

But as they say, no character is really dead if you don’t see the body. And the interesting thing is, an early draft of the screenplay for Raiders apparently established that Abner’s body had not been found, not even by Marion:

She is almost on him when Indy looks up smiling. Marion stops, stares, shocked.
Hello, Marion.

She hits him with a solid right to the jaw, knocking him off the barstool on the floor. He rubs his jaw and smiles up at her.

Nice to see you, too.

Get up and get out.

(getting up)
Take it easy. I’m looking for your father.

Well you’re two years too late.

Indy’s attitude changes instantly. This is sad news. He is silent for a long time. Mahdlo comes in the front door and hurries forward when he sees Indy with Marion. He looks to her for guidance, but she stays him with a gesture.

Go home, Mahdlo. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Mahdlo is hesitant, but lays the axe handle on the bar and goes out. Indy has been barely aware of him. Now he settles again on the barstool. Marion has a vindictive look. She’ll let him stay, but she wants to inflict as much pain as possible.

What happened?

Avalanche. Up there. He was digging. What else? He spent his whole life digging. Dragging me all over this rotten earth. For what?

Do you find him?

Hell no. He’s buried where he was working. Probably preserved real good, too. In the snow.

So it is certainly within the realm of possibility that Abner could still be alive, in keeping with the spirit of the original film.

I bring that all up because Hurt just gave an interview to in which the possibility that he might be playing Abner Ravenwood came up, and … he didn’t confirm it, but didn’t deny it either. He did grin, though, apparently. And when they asked Hurt how much action his character sees in the new film, he replied, “Well, I’m all in the second half. I’m one of what I called the Famous Five. . . . It was Karen [Allen], me, Harrison [Ford], Shia [LaBeouf], and Ray Winstone, who is one of the Famous Five but dodgy.” So make of all that what you will.

Oh, and get this. While double-checking a couple of my references, I came across this site and others which allege that the character who gave Indy his first fedora hat — the mercenary who finds the Cross of Coronado and chases young Indy in the prologue to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) — was named Abner Ravenwood in early drafts of the script. Fascinating, if true.

More alleged details re: Terminator 4

Three months ago, producer James Middleton said the next Terminator movie would feature a new main character, and John Connor would be somewhere off to the side, “influencing” the new main character in much the same way that Jesus “influenced” the title character in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Then, two weeks ago, producers Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek seemed to scuttle that idea when they said that John Connor is a “very central character throughout the next trilogy” who will “lead our franchise forward.”

Today, however, Devin Faraci at says it looks like John Connor, despite being played by Christian Bale, really will be a minor character — at least in this particular film, which is titled Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.

Faraci says the main character in this next film will be a character named Marcus … and he passes on a lot of other details, too, so if you don’t want to know any potential spoilers, do not go to and do not read what Faraci has to say.

I will say, however, that the movie is reportedly set circa 2015 — which fits, since Bale is in his early 30s, and John Connor was born in 1985 — and since the movie deals with an earlier stage of the war against the machines, it looks like the humans might be fighting some of those earlier Terminator models that we heard about in the first film, i.e. the rubber-skinned ones.

Another movie based on real-life exorcisms.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us:

New Line Cinema has taken possession of “The Rite,” the true story of an American priest who studied at an exorcism school in Italy.

Contrafilm’s Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce a feature film based on the upcoming nonfiction book by Rome-based journalist Matt Baglio. Michael Petroni signed on to write the adapted screenplay before the writers strike. Fletcher & Parry Films will co-produce with Contrafilm.

Baglio was allowed to follow a young priest during months of training with a senior exorcist at a school affiliated with the Vatican. “Rite,” now subtitled “The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist,” is set for publication by Doubleday in early 2009.

Although the book is not finished and the screenplay won’t be completed until after the strike, the film is expected to include scenes of exorcisms based on the priest’s experiences.

Petroni is a natural fit for the material, having written screenplays involving the Catholic Church (“The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys”) and the supernatural (Yari Film Group’s upcoming “Possession”). . . .

I wonder how it will compare to films like The Exorcist (1973), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) or even Requiem (2006).

UPDATE: Carmen Andres at In the Open Space has rounded up some links on Baglio and on real-life exorcists in general.

Update on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life

Two months ago, there was talk that Sean Penn and Heath Ledger might star in Terrence Malick‘s long-in-development “complex drama” Tree of Life. Now, Variety says Sean Penn and Brad Pitt are in talks to do the film — which is interesting, since some descriptions of the film have made it sound a little like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), which Pitt was once supposed to star in, until he dropped out shortly before production.