Mark Ruffalo to direct faith-healing movie.

Variety reports:

Mark Ruffalo will make his feature directing debut on “Sympathy for Delicious.”

Ruffalo will star with James Franco and Chris Thornton. Production begins this fall in Los Angeles, and the pic is fully financed by new company Corner Store Entertainment.

Thornton, who wrote the script, plays “Delicious” Dean O’Dwyer, a paralyzed DJ struggling to survive in his wheelchair on the streets of L.A. He turns to faith-healing and mysteriously acquires the ability to cure the sick — although not himself. Ruffalo plays a Jesuit priest who tries to help him come to terms with the limits of his gift, and Franco a rock singer in a band that exploits the suddenly famous healer.

For some reason this is vaguely reminding me of Paul Schrader’s Touch (1997), based on the novel by Elmore Leonard. But I haven’t seen that film or read that book in over a decade, and of course I haven’t seen Ruffalo’s film because it hasn’t even been made yet, so who knows, it might turn out that the two stories don’t really have all that much in common.


I had never heard of this before. It seems a Christian musician by the name of Chris Rice wrote a song way back in 1989, mocking the tendency of some Christians to co-opt popular culture in the silliest of ways. The subject of his song: cartoon characters who find their own unique ways to say “hallelujah”.

Much to Rice’s surprise, the song became a hit, and some people took it very seriously, one way or the other, and after allowing himself to be coerced into recording and performing it for 15 years, he finally “retired” the song in 2004. Three years later, he posted a eulogy for the song on his website, and as bizarre as his experience was, I have to say his story rings all too true.

Here is an unauthorized video that someone made for his song:

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

Now, I can’t be too critical of this sort of thing, since I have fond memories of reading Al Hartley‘s Christian Archie comics when I was a kid — though I must say it was a bit weird when I started reading the mainstream Archie comics and I wondered why the characters weren’t talking about the Bible any more.

On the other hand, it’s not too hard to understand why people living in the evangelical ghetto missed the point of Rice’s satire, when you come across hideous examples of pop-culture co-opting such as this video, which an e-pal pointed out to some friends and me just last week. People really do do this sort of thing, apparently without irony, so it probably shouldn’t be too shocking when they miss the irony in other people’s satires of this sort of thing.

Hat tip to Jerry Beck for the Chris Rice info. Fascinating.

Billy Graham to appear in another movie?

The Billy Graham biopic Billy: The Early Years is currently scheduled to come out in October, and when I first mentioned it here back in March, I noted that the only other films to have featured actors playing Billy Graham seem to be parodies of the Nixon administration produced in the early 1970s.

But today, while reading this article on Oliver Stone’s George W. Bush biopic in the Sunday Times, it dawned on me that there might be another actor playing Billy on the big screen this year. In a review of an early draft of the script, the Times notes:

The relationship between father and son begins to shift when W gives up drinking after waking up with a huge hangover the day after his 40th birthday. He also has a religious conversion. On a walk with the Rev Billy Graham in 1985, he says, “There’s this darkness that follows me. People say I was born with a silver spoon, but they don’t know the burden that carries.”

This got me curious: Was the character of Billy Graham still in the script? And if so, who is playing him?

The IMDb entry on this film is no help. It doesn’t list the character at all, but it does list a character named “Evangelical 2”. So where is Evangelical 1? Obviously, there are gaps on that page.

However, a bit of Googling turned up this interview with Oliver Stone in Screen Daily, which touches on this topic:

Meanwhile Stacy Keach plays a composite of evangelical ministers, including Billy Graham and Jim Robison, who influenced Bush in his conversion to Christianity.

“Richard Nixon very much invoked the silent majority and the friendship of Billy Graham, but Mr Bush has taken (religion) further than ever (into government) and so we have to dramatise that,” says Stone. “We must on the surface take his conversion seriously. It is the centrepiece of his change. At the age of 40, he was a drinker and he changed quite radically over a period of four years, so something happened to him. Whether he became the same person on the other side of the coin is an interesting issue and I examine that too. Some of the characteristics, however, never disappeared such as the temperament, the anger and the impatience.”

A composite, eh? I guess they’ve tweaked that part of the script a bit. Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing another straightforward portrayal of Billy Graham this autumn. But it will be interesting to see how many of Billy’s characteristics come through in the character who does appear in the film.

The photo above, by the way, is of Stacy Keach, and is taken from the website for The Word of Promise, an audio Bible that he was involved with recently. Keach is also known to Bible-movie buffs for playing Barabbas in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977). He also played Martin Luther in the film adaptation of John Osborne’s Luther (1973; my review).

Canadian box-office stats — August 10

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.

Singh is Kinng — CDN $223,801 — N.AM $223,801 — 100%
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 — CDN $2,320,000 — N.AM $19,620,128 — 11.8%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $11,590,000 — N.AM $104,144,505 — 11.1%
Journey to the Center of the Earth — CDN $8,870,000 — N.AM $81,775,323 — 10.8%

Step Brothers — CDN $8,270,000 — N.AM $81,132,136 — 10.2%
The Dark Knight — CDN $39,490,000 — N.AM $441,628,497 — 8.9%

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor — CDN $6,020,000 — N.AM $71,048,920 — 8.5%
Hancock — CDN $18,000,000 — N.AM $221,726,791 — 8.1%
WALL·E — CDN $16,040,000 — N.AM $210,206,582 — 7.6%
Pineapple Express — CDN $3,050,000 — N.AM $41,318,736 — 7.4%

A couple of discrepancies: Singh Is Kinng was #10 on the Canadian chart (it does not appear on the North American chart at all), while Swing Vote was #10 on the North American chart (it was #11 in Canada).

PG ratings — this year’s batch, part one.

In 2006, and again in 2007, I kept track of all the G- and PG-rated films that cracked the weekly top ten lists, to see how many of them were aimed primarily at families or children, and how many of them were basically for grown-ups. Now, with the end of summer nearing, I figure it’s time to get started on this year’s list.

The G- and PG-rated films that have cracked the weekly top ten lists so far break down into the following categories (with the ones that were #1 at the box office for at least one week in bold):

Family films (for children, tweens, or religious audiences):
  1. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (G)
  2. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (G)
  3. The Spiderwick Chronicles
  4. College Road Trip (G)
  5. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (G)
  6. Nim’s Island
  7. Speed Racer
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  9. Kung Fu Panda
  10. WALL·E (G)
  11. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (G)
  12. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  13. Space Chimps (G)

Documentary with an educational angle:

  1. Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Films for grown-ups that just happened to be rated G or PG:

  1. Penelope
  2. Meet Dave

As you can see, the bulk of the new films that got the G or PG rating in the United States have been “family” movies, just like before.

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.