Will the new Ben-Hur flesh out the back-story of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus?

moisesariasMost of the casting announcements for the upcoming remake of Ben-Hur have dealt so far with some fairly familiar characters: Judah Ben-Hur, his sister, his mother, his nemesis Messala and a few others like Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Nothing so far has indicated how this new film might be different from previous adaptations. Nothing, that is, until now.

Deadline reports that the filmmakers have cast 20-year-old Kings of Summer co-star Moisés Arias as Gestas, “a teenage Jewish zealot” who is “desperate to fight for his people’s freedom” because his family “has been murdered by the Romans”.

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Sundance Film Festival panels to discuss the sound design of a Jesus movie, and faith-based films in general

last_days_in_the_desertThe “year of the Bible movie” may have come to an end, but the genre — and the issues it raised — aren’t going away any time soon. For evidence of that, look no further than two panels coming up at the Sundance Film Festival, which starts later this week.

Exhibit A: The Dolby Institute is hosting ‘Last Days in the Desert: The Art of Sound Design and Music’, a panel that will look at Rodrigo Garcia’s film starring Ewan McGregor as Jesus and Satan, on January 27.

Dolby has awarded the film its Dolby Family Sound Fellowship, which “provides a range of postproduction resources to allow the fellowship recipient to fulfill the creative potential of the film’s sound design.” A Dolby press release states that the filmmakers “did a great job capturing the on-site soundscape of the desert,” and that the film was chosen partly for its “complex canvas and nuanced characters.”

The panel will be moderated by Glenn Kiser, director of the Dolby Institute, and it will feature Garcia as well as the film’s composers and two of its sound mixers.

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Watch: Trailers for the Oscar-nominated short films, which will be coming to theatres January 30

OSCAR_SHORTS_2015_Poster_1500px_highSay what you will about the Oscars — the politics, the obsession with celebrity, and so on — but one of the things I like about them is how they can shed a light on films that normally wouldn’t get a lot of attention.

Case in point: the short-film categories. Five animated films, five documentaries and five dramatic films are nominated in those categories every year, and over the past decade, thanks to ShortsHD, these films have been made available to the public via streaming online and screenings at theatres around the continent.

This year’s nominees will start making the rounds on January 30, three weeks before the winners are announced February 22 — and you can watch trailers for all of ’em below the jump.

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A.D. gets a new title and trailer, producers meet the press

ad-peter-johnFirst it was A.D.: Beyond the Bible, then it was just plain A.D. Now the NBC series — produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey as a follow-up to their History Channel miniseries The Bible — has a subtitle again. As of yesterday, it is now called A.D.: The Bible Continues.

Or does the name go back earlier than that? I see now that the first trailer, posted back in November, has the full title, but I don’t recall seeing it in any articles about the series until yesterday, and it could have been added to the trailer later. I also note that part of the URL for the series’ main website has changed from “ad” — which is what it was when I linked to it four weeks ago — to “ad-the-bible-continues”.

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Release date changes for two upcoming “faith-based” films

christthelordoutofegyptTwo films with a “faith-based” hook have seen their release dates change in the past couple of days.

First, Variety reports that Warner Brothers is no longer going to distribute the Christian music documentary Hillsong: Let Hope Rise as originally planned.

The film was going to be distributed by Warner Brothers and Alcon Entertainment on the Wednesday before Easter, two and a half months from now, but an Alcon rep told Variety today that their company was ultimately “unable to close the rights deal for the movie.”

There is no word yet as to who might distribute the film in Warner’s place.

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Oscar winners slipping at the box office — 2014

americansniperI devoted posts to this subject in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013 — so here’s the post for 2014.

2005 marked the first time since 1996 that the Best Picture winner did not gross at least $100 million, the first time since 1985 that not one of the Best Picture nominees grossed at least $100 million, and the first time in living memory that the Oscar did not go to one of the Top 25 films in North America. In fact, the winner that year — Crash — grossed a mere $54.6 million and ranked way, way down at #49.

Ever since then, the Oscar for Best Picture has alternated between relatively big hits and somewhat smaller box-office performers. But that trend could end this year, as the Academy now seems poised to reward two small films in a row.

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