Yet another movie not screened for critics?

Little birdies are telling me that there will be no press screenings for the futuristic action movie Babylon A.D. before it opens in North America three days from now. However, the film, which is based on a French novel and was directed by a Frenchman, opened in France six days ago, so a few reviews have popped up already, in Variety and elsewhere. The critics who have seen the film say it’s a disappointment, and they aren’t the only ones. Director Mathieu Kassovitz told AMC yesterday that he, too, is “very unhappy with the film” because the studio, 20th Century Fox, interfered with it “from A to Z” and reduced it to “pure violence and stupidity”. Make of all that what you will.

Canadian box-office stats — August 24

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 — CDN $4,970,000 — N.AM $38,257,000 — 13.0%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $14,900,000 — N.AM $124,458,000 — 12.0%

Death Race — CDN $1,280,000 — N.AM $12,293,000 — 10.4%
Tropic Thunder — CDN $6,290,000 — N.AM $65,668,000 — 9.4%
Pineapple Express — CDN $6,820,000 — N.AM $73,928,000 — 9.2%
The Dark Knight — CDN $45,050,000 — N.AM $489,179,000 — 9.2%
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor — CDN $8,180,000 — N.AM $93,812,000 — 8.7%

Star Wars: The Clone Wars — CDN $1,790,000 — N.AM $24,998,000 — 7.2%
Mirrors — CDN $1,400,000 — N.AM $20,075,000 — 7.0%
The House Bunny — CDN $1,040,000 — N.AM $15,100,000 — 6.9%

A couple of discrepancies: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 was #8 on the Canadian chart (it was #13 in North America as a whole), while The Longshots was #8 on the North American chart (it was #16 in Canada).

Rock me, sexy Manitoban… or whatever…

The casual blasphemy was one thing, but this, via Lou Lumenick at the New York Post, is completely unacceptable:

It’s not unusual for a movie to be re-edited after its premiere at a film festival — “The Wackness” lost four minutes — but “Hamlet 2” may be the first movie where the main character’s nationality was altered. When it premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Steve Coogan’s character, a failed actor who teaches drama at a high school in Tucson, was identified as being “from a dairy farm in Manitoba.” I met Coogan at a party afterwards and he said the director had asked him to play the character as a Brit, but he thought being a Canadian was “funnier.” When the film opened Friday at 103 venues, the reference to Manitoba was gone and many reviews referred to the actor — seen in the video above performing “Rock Me Sexy Jesus” — as an “American.” In recent interviews, Coogan has changed his tune and repeatedly said he wanted to play the role as an American.

I know there are those who would say that we Canadians should count ourselves lucky that our national honour is no longer besmirched by this film (what makes us so “funnier”, anyway?), but to steal a line from Harvey Fierstein: “Visibility at any cost!”

Knowing just got a little more interesting.

I was already vaguely interested in Knowing, which is currently scheduled to hit theatres in March of next year, simply because of the premise and the fact that it is directed by Alex Proyas, whose Dark City was my favorite film of 1998. (Alas, I have not yet had a chance to check out the “director’s cut” that came out last month.) But today Carmen Andres alerted me to the fact that one of the writers on this film is Stuart Hazeldine, a Christian who has also worked on the script for Scott Derrickson’s in-development adaptation of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Now I’m even more intrigued. For what it’s worth, this is the film’s current trailer:

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

Terminator, salvation, apocalypse.

Two new items on Terminator Salvation, both courtesy of the MTV Movies Blog. First, director McG discusses the movie’s title:

Broadly, of course, the title makes sense the same way “Judgment Day” made sense for the second film: on a worldwide scale — Judgment Day being shorthand for the apocalypse, etc, etc. So after the Judgment comes the salvation, the redemption from the sins of our collective past. Man created the robots, the robots destroyed man, and now man needs to be saved from his own creations. Got it.

“Even though we may sin, ultimately we deserve a second chance,” McG echoed.

But just as “Judgment Day” also alluded to the choice a Terminator must ultimately make, “Salvation” similarly alludes to the actions of one specific character, McG said.

“Sometimes life is worth living when you make sacrifices so others may benefit,” he teased.

The question is, though: which one? Is it John Connor? A Terminator? Kyle Reese? Kate Connor? Marcus Wright?

Second, McG discusses the reading material that he gave to the cast, to get them in the right mood:

“I gave all the actors ‘The Road’ to read to get their heads right bout this sort of existential detachment that living in a post apocalyptic world would bring,” McG revealed. “We’re in a very large post apocalyptic environment. The bombs have gone off and there’s very little left. People are wandering through lonely landscapes. We want to capture that by way of David Lean photographic expanses, so you think you’re looking at ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ So far, so good.”

Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” follows a father and son journeying together through an ash covered landscape, some years after a worldwide disaster killed nearly every living thing on the planet. It’s bleak, haunting, and despite what may be construed as a somewhat happy ending, endlessly heartbreaking. It’s also, of course, some kind of brilliant, a treatise on fear, and despair, and death, and a future from which there is no escape.

McG thinks John Connor could sympathize. Actually, he’s insisting on it.

“I think the first two pictures took those ideas so seriously,” McG said of the themes of inescapable destiny and dread. “We wanted to make sure we did that [as well].”

The funny thing about this latter item is that the most recent movie to be based on a Cormac McCarthy novel was No Country for Old Men (2007), and a few critics, as I recall, said there was something “Terminator-esque” about Anton Chigurh, the relentless killer played by Javier Bardem in that film.

Franklin Graham on Billy: The Early Years.

Last Monday, I linked to a news story which indicated that Billy Graham’s son Franklin had not yet revealed what he thought of Billy: The Early Years, the upcoming movie about the beginnings of his father’s ministry. It turns out that Franklin actually posted a statement on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website sometime that day, distancing the organization from the film and complaining about unspecified inaccuracies within the film. CT Movies editor Mark Moring has written an excellent article on the subject, getting some extra detail from Franklin’s spokesman as well as some rebuttals from Franklin’s sister Gigi, who says Franklin is basically just nitpicking. Personally, as one who wrote a substantial article a few years ago on the many movies that were produced by the BGEA itself, I would like to know how Billy: The Early Years compares to similar “true story” movies like, say, Wiretapper (1955) or The Hiding Place (1975) or Joni (1979). Does it really take more liberties with the facts than those films do? Or are they all more or less in the same ballpark?