Newsbites: Ben-Hur! Obama! Dollhouse! Graysons! Wanted! Santa!

Just some random bits and bites, this time.

1. Long before it became three precedent-setting movies — released in 1907, 1925 and 1959 — not to mention an upcoming three-hour mini-series, General Lew Wallace’s novel Ben-Hur was dramatized for the stage. It premiered on Broadway in 1899 — with live horses for the chariot race, among other spectacular sights — and it toured the world before closing in 1921. Now the story is being adapted for the stage again, in a production that will feature “a cast of more than 400 people and 100 animals” — as well as “considerable nudity” during an orgy sequence. The show will premiere at The O2, the venue formerly known as the Millennium Dome, in London next September. — London Times, BBC, WENN

2. President-elect Barack Obama may be a Trekkie. He is certainly the first president young enough to have grown up watching re-runs of the original series on TV. —

3. Fox, having left one Joss Whedon series to die on Friday nights, i.e. Firefly, is now poised to do the same to another Joss Whedon series, i.e. Dollhouse. Fox is also moving Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles — which features Firefly alumnus Summer Glau as a butt-kicking she-robot — to Friday nights as a lead-in to Dollhouse. — Hollywood Reporter

4. Remember The Graysons, that TV series about the young Dick Grayson and the life that he led before his parents were killed and he became Batman‘s sidekick as Robin the Boy Wonder? Ain’t gonna happen, now that Warner has pulled the plug. — Variety

5. Angelina Jolie has revealed that one of the more interesting plot twists in the film version of Wanted was her idea. — MTV Splash Page

6. One day after it was revealed that John Boorman would direct a computer-animated adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it was announced that a few other studios will produce a computer-animated adaptation of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, which was also written by Baum. The story “follows Santa’s formative years, including a battle against the heart of evil that establishes the Santa mythology.” — Variety

Newsbites: The myth and fantasy edition!

A fair bit of news today, on these fronts.

1. Clash of the Greek-mythology movies! Henry Cavill, who plays Charles Brandon on The Tudors, is in talks to play Theseus in War of the Gods, while Sam Worthington, who co-stars in Terminator Salvation, is in talks to play Perseus in the remake of Clash of the Titans. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

2. Jack Black will star in a “contemporary reimagining” of Gulliver’s Travels, in which the title character becomes a travel writer who is sent on assignment to the Bermuda Triangle. — Variety, Hollywood Reporter

3. Russell Brand — a British comedian who made a splash Stateside as a scene-stealing rock musician in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and who has since been plagued by a controversy or two — is reportedly in talks to play Johnny Depp’s brother in Pirates of the Caribbean 4. That’s inspired casting, if true. — Daily Mail

4. John Boorman will direct a computer-animated adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. — Variety

5. Producer Gale Ann Hurd comments on the rumour that her adaptation of Magdalena will water down the source material’s potentially offensive religious elements: “I don’t think you can separate ‘Magdalena’ completely from the legacy of her descent or the fear of destiny or many things that are connected with her as part of the comic book franchise. But at the same time, it’s not a religious movie in that respect.” She says the film will be like The Da Vinci Code (2006) and The Omen (1976-2006), where religion was mainly relegated to the background. (It was?) — MTV Splash Page

6. Screenwriter Chris Morgan says the sequel to Wanted will probably take the story in a “more global” direction. — MTV Splash Page

Single men, young kids, and ELO.

They say you need three examples of something to isolate a trend. And I believe I have spotted just such a trend, now.

The Game Plan (2007) is a family-friendly Disney movie about a single man who suddenly finds himself spending quality time with the daughter he never knew he had.

Martian Child (2007) is a mature, but still PG-rated, drama about a single man who adopts a troubled child and spends quality time with him.

And now, this week, comes Role Models, an R-rated comedy about two single men who are ordered by a judge to spend quality time with a couple of boys as part of their community service.

And what do all these films have in common, besides single men spending quality time with children of one sort or another?

They all feature a montage in which part of this quality time is set to the Electric Light Orchestra‘s ‘Mr. Blue Sky’.

I’m not entirely sure what this means. But it must mean something.

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

Newsbites: The history and religion edition!

Here are a few more items that came up in recent days.

1. Steven Soderbergh says Cleo, his recently-announced 3-D musical about the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra, will be inspired on some level by the classic film noir Gilda (1946). — Anne Thompson, Karina Longworth

2. Malek Akkad, whose father directed the Mohammed biopic The Message (1976), says the recently-announced Mohammed biopic The Messenger of Peace will not be a remake of his father’s film, despite earlier reports that suggested it would be a remake. — New York Times

3. Dante’s Inferno continues to attract filmmakers, and others. A 2007 film made with puppets came out on DVD a couple months ago, and Universal has just bought the rights to an upcoming Electronic Arts video game that will be based in some way on Dante’s “journey through the depths of hell.” — Soul Food Movies, Variety

4. Max Allan Collins has written and will direct two sequels to The Road to Perdition (2002; my review). Collins wrote the graphic novel on which the original film was based, and he also wrote the novelization of the film, which departed from his graphic novel in significant ways. It sounds like the sequels — called The Road to Purgatory and The Road to Paradise, and presumably based on the novels of those names — will imagine a different future for the Michael Sullivan Jr. character than the epilogue to the graphic novel did. — The Hollywood News, Variety

Newsbites: The sci-fi and adventure edition!

Just a few notes from the last couple days.

1. The newly-restored cut of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) came out on Blu-Ray this week, so what better time to start spreading rumours of a possible remake, reportedly called Genesis: Apes. — The Screengrab (x2),

2. The official website for Tres días, AKA Before the Fall, now has a trailer. The film looks sort of like a cross between Deep Impact and Last Night (my review), both of which came out in 1998 — has it been ten years already? — but its basic premise — an impending global catastrophe wrought by an incoming meteor — goes at least as far back as Abel Gance’s La fin du monde (1931). — Before the Fall

3. Comics writer Grant Morrison may be involved with the in-development big-screen version of The Flash, but he says he can’t talk about it. — MTV Splash Page

4. Jerry Bruckheimer met some online reporters on the set of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and talked about the current states of Pirates of the Caribbean 4, National Treasure 3, The Lone Ranger and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. — Cinematical,

How fortunes change.

In 1941, Orson Welles co-wrote, directed and starred in the all-time classic Citizen Kane. Robert Wise was his editor.

By 1979, Wise had become an Oscar-winning director, and he was overseeing what was, at that time, one of the most expensive movies ever made: Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Welles, meanwhile, hadn’t directed a Hollywood movie in decades, and was reduced to taking bit parts and voice-over roles to make ends meet. Among his jobs: narrating the teaser for Wise’s sci-fi blockbuster.

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