Exodus: Gods and Kings: lots of new photos and new plot details as the studio previews up to 45 minutes of footage

exodus-oct17-8The publicity campaign for Exodus: Gods and Kings is stepping up, just a month and a half before the film opens overseas (click here for the release dates).

20th Century Fox, which already screened about half-an-hour of footage for the media two weeks ago, screened even more footage for reporters in New York and Los Angeles yesterday, and plans to do the same in Washington DC next week. The footage may have also screened in Toronto, to go by a report that appeared in the Toronto Sun on Wednesday.

Various details have leaked out from those screenings, and the studio has added to the new information by releasing some new pictures, including photos of actors we had not yet seen in any of the official press materials. Check ’em out below the jump.

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Ben-Hur has found its Esther and its Pontius Pilate

pascal-gadotTimur Bekmambetov’s upcoming remake of Ben-Hur may be different from the 1959 version in a number of ways, but in one way it will be remarkably similar: it will feature an Israeli beauty-contest winner as Esther, the Jewish slave girl that Judah Ben-Hur falls in love with.

In 1959, the part was played by Haya Harareet, who won one of the first beauty contests in Israel after that nation came into being in 1948; and now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the part will be played by former Miss Israel Gal Gadot.

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Noah interview round-up: Oscar buzz, lessons learned, musical links between Aronofsky’s films, and more

Special Screening of 'NOAH'As far as I can tell, there have been three times in the Academy’s history when it nominated two different Bible movies for Oscars in the same year: in 1951, when Quo Vadis and David and Bathsheba received over a dozen nominations combined (neither film won anything); in 1959, when Ben-Hur won a record-setting 11 awards and The Big Fisherman also scored a few nominations; and in 1966, when arthouse favorite The Gospel According to St. Matthew received three nominations while the big-budget film The Bible: In the Beginning… received just one.

Could it happen again this year? It’s a sign of how strong the Bible-movie revival is right now that Oscar buzz has followed both of the year’s major entries in that genre. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings comes out in December, right in the thick of awards season, and while it might not be a front-runner just yet, no one can forget how, the last time Scott made an ancient epic (i.e. Gladiator), it won Best Picture. And then there is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah.

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Will Clavius take place before or after the Resurrection?

clavius-10706941_381790278635237_2001742680_nTom Felton hasn’t posted any photos from the set of Clavius lately, but he did talk about the movie while attending the BFI London Film Festival last week.

Red Carpet News posted a video of their exchange with him, which you can watch after the jump. The gist of it, though, is that Felton confirms he is playing a Roman, and one who is apparently rather pampered, at that, and who finds himself adjusting to his current assignment in Judea with some difficulty.

However, Felton also says that the film is “a telling of the crucifixion”, and that his character is thrust “into the midst of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.”

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Sam Neill to play Josephus in The Dovekeepers

samneillVarious news sites are reporting today that Sam Neill has joined the cast of The Dovekeepers, the upcoming miniseries about four Jewish women who live in Masada during the Roman siege of that fortress in the first century AD.

Neill will play Josephus, the Jewish historian whose first-hand account of the Jewish-Roman War is our primary source for it. (Josephus did not fight at Masada himself, but he did lead Jewish armies against the Romans in Galilee until he surrendered and defected to the other side, serving the Romans as a translator when they destroyed Jerusalem.)

Josephus does not appear to be a character in Alice Hoffman’s original novel — his name doesn’t come up at all (except in a note on the author’s historical research) when I search inside the book at Amazon or Google Books — but apparently the miniseries will show him interviewing the few adults who survive the siege.

Many Bible films, from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Son of God, have padded out their stories with material from Josephus’s writings, but Josephus himself hasn’t been depicted all that often. So this would probably be the highest-profile dramatization of the character yet.

Neill has played his share of historical roles over the years, but to my knowledge, he has never appeared in anything quasi-biblical before. (The siege of Masada isn’t actually in the Bible, but it began in Judea only a decade or so after the events of the Book of Acts, so.) He did, however, play the Antichrist in The Final Conflict.

The Omega Code and the mainstreaming of Christian film

omegacodeThe always brilliant Darren Franich had a new article up at Entertainment Weekly over the weekend, in which he took a look at the movies of 1999 — once dubbed “the year that changed movies” by his bosses — and asked how well those films have stood the test of time.

That was the year when everyone thought The Matrix would take the place of Star Wars as a sci-fi myth for our times. That was the year when The Blair Witch Project invented the found-footage horror subgenre and proved the value of viral marketing campaigns. That was the year when young, hip directors like David Fincher, David O. Russell and Spike Jonze produced instant cult hits like Fight Club, Three Kings and Being John Malkovich, all of which came out in October of that year. And so on.

But there was another game-changer released in October 1999 that Franich doesn’t mention — a movie that may be pretty silly but still set a new precedent.

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