stop. look at city. pronounce. caution. carry on.

Here’s one rather trivial detail I didn’t have time or space for in my review of The Golden Compass, which if I’m not mistaken was already pushing the word-count limit as it is.

There is a scene where Lord Asriel, played by Daniel Craig, stops on a ridge way up in the Arctic looking down at the city where the talking polar bears live, and he says to his daemon: “Svalbard. Kingdom of ice bears. We shall have to watch ourselves.”

This reminds me of the scene in Star Wars (1977) where Obi-Wan Kenobi stops on a cliff looking down at a city and says to Luke Skywalker: “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

Or, in an even wordier vein, it reminds me of the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) where Gandalf stops on a field somewhere in view of a city on a hill and says to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli: “Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld. There dwells Theoden, King of Rohan, whose mind is overthrown. Saruman’s hold over King Theoden is now very strong. . . . Be careful what you say. Do not look for welcome here.”

Are there any other examples of this pattern? (Approaching a city. Stopping when you’re still distant from it. Pronouncing to your travelling partners [1] the name of the city, as though it were a complete sentence unto itself, [2] who lives in that city, and [3] the need to be careful around that city. Carrying on.)

With any luck, there’ll be enough of these clips from enough films for someone to do a proper mash-up video one of these days.

The Golden Compass — the review’s up!

My review of The Golden Compass is now up at CT Movies.

Apatow, Cera, Black, etc. get biblical on us.

So says the Hollywood Reporter:

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, known as McLovin in the summer hit “Superbad,” will reunite with producer Judd Apatow for Columbia’s “Year One,” a comedy set in biblical times.

Oliver Platt, David Cross, Vinnie Jones and Juno Temple are also in final negotiations for the film.

The movie stars Jack Black and Michael Cera and is being directed by Harold Ramis. Filming is set to begin in January in Louisiana and New Mexico. . . .

Platt is in talks to play a platform-shoe-wearing high priest in the comedy, while Jones is on board to play a head palace guard named Sargon. Cross and Temple’s roles are not known. . . .

I suspect this will be less like Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) and more like Dudley Moore’s Wholly Moses! (1980) — which, I must admit, I still haven’t seen, but still, its reputation does precede it — but I guess we’ll see.

Juno — the review’s up!

My review of Juno is now up at CT Movies.

In related news, Reuters has a story on the film’s director:

Director Jason Reitman knew life changed when his first movie “Thank You for Smoking” was a hit. Not because of reviews or box office success but because his father, director Ivan Reitman, began asking for advice. . . .

This gets me thinking. Jason Reitman has directed two of my favorite films of the past few years, while his father, Ivan Reitman, hasn’t done anything I’ve remotely enjoyed since Junior (1994); coincidentally, that happens to be the one in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, rather than Ellen Page, gets pregnant.

The elder Reitman may have been big at the box office back in the day, especially around the time he made Ghost Busters (1984), but over the past decade, he’s turned out nothing but lame efforts: Fathers’ Day (1997), Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Evolution (2001; my review) and My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006).

Meanwhile, his son Jason is showing remarkable talent behind the camera and winning lots of good buzz.

I find myself thinking back to the 1980s, when Rob Reiner was widely praised for his work on This Is Spinal Tap (1984), The Sure Thing (1985), Stand by Me (1986), The Princess Bride (1987) and When Harry Met Sally… (1989), while his father Carl Reiner got scathing reviews for the irrelevant likes of Summer Rental (1985) and Summer School (1986).

Are there any other examples of sons outdoing their fathers behind the camera like this?

Review: Juno (dir. Jason Reitman, 2007)

junoWho could have foreseen that 2007 would be the year of the unplanned pregnancy at the multiplex? And who could have foreseen that, as the year progressed, the films dealing with this topic would be increasingly bold in expressing their implicitly pro-life — not “anti-choice,” but certainly pro-life — sensibilities?

First there was Waitress, which starred 30-ish Keri Russell as a married woman who learns that she is bearing the offspring of her neglectful, even abusive, husband; deeply ambivalent about the pregnancy itself, she simply states that she recognizes the child’s “right to thrive,” and that is that. Then there was Knocked Up, in which Katherine Heigl played a single up-and-coming journalist in her 20s who keeps her baby partly because she is repulsed by her mother’s suggestion that she “take care of” the pregnancy now and have a “real baby” at some point in the future.

And now, there is Juno, which is arguably the funniest and most meaningful of the lot. The film stars Ellen Page as the youngest mother of them all, a whip-smart high-school student named Juno MacGuff who discovers that she is in the family way after a single sexual experience with her best friend and bandmate, a semi-dorky track star named Paulie Bleeker (Superbad’s Michael Cera).

[Read more...]

More ado about Terminator 4

Now that it has been confirmed that Christian Bale will play John Connor in the next three Terminator films, producers Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek have decided to tease the fans with a few enigmatic quasi-revelations at Entertainment Weekly.

In contrast to producer James Middleton’s remark three months ago that there would be a new central character and John Connor would simply be the guy who “influences” him, much as Jesus influenced the lead character in the Ben-Hur movies, Anderson and Kubicek now say that John Connor is a “very central character throughout the next trilogy” who will “lead our franchise forward.”

And then things begin to get a little more mysterious:

So he’s the star?
ANDERSON: There’s gonna be another major costar with kind of equal presence in this installment.

And that costar would play the Terminator character?
Yes…. Well, it’s hard to say. It is a new character introduced in the mythology that’s not replacing Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. It’s not like he’s stepping into Arnold’s shoes. It’s a completely new character.

Okay, but is it a Terminator — a killing machine?
No, not really. That’s one of the big twists that if we told you —

You’d have to kill me?
[Laughs] Yes.
ANDERSON: It would ruin the story for you. But there’s an element of humanity to it. It’s a bit different.

Not to beat a dead horse, but is the new figure Connor’s enemy?
The other lead character is a new figure. [Anderson laughs] And it’s questionable if he’s an enemy or not. That’s not necessarily resolved.
ANDERSON: It’s a really interesting time in the franchise because it’s where all the fans have always wanted the franchise to go, and it hasn’t to date, which is the post-apocalyptic world. It’s after judgment day. So because we’re in a different time in the mythology, it introduces a whole new set of circumstances and characters.

And of course, none of this will have anything to do with the upcoming TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which takes place in a completely different timeline altogether, where the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) never took place and thus the trilogy which follows that film never took place either. (Though I suppose we can never rule out the possibility that the two timelines might be bridged somehow. This is science fiction, after all.) So, anyway, make of all that what you will.