It finally happened.

I have now cashed an American cheque and received in Canadian currency less, rather than more, than the amount that was written on that cheque. The US$300 that I received today turned out to be worth CDN$285.03 — and it probably would have been worth even less if I had waited to cash it in another day or three. The American dollar has definitely fallen below parity, now.

On a semi-related tangent, I recently bought the two-disc edition of Disney’s The Jungle Book (1967; my comments) for CDN$19.99 plus taxes at Future Shop, but it occurs to me now that I could have ordered it for US$14.99 via Amazon.com — or slightly less than that, in Canadian currency. True, the shipping fees would have nudged it back over twenty bucks, and there is the possibility that it might have been intercepted by the good folks at Canada Customs; but if I were buying multiple items and not just the one movie, then it just might be cheaper to get my discs that way.

Certainly, when you add to the financial considerations the fact that far too many Canadian DVDs are afflicted with ugly bilingual packaging — a problem that fortunately does not affect Disney discs, yet, not really — then the prospect of importing one’s discs from the United States becomes more and more appealing.

Lars and the Real Girl — marketing to churches

The Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters, has caught on to the fact that Lars and the Real Girl — the movie starring Ryan Gosling and a blow-up doll — is being marketed to church groups:

How do you market a wholesome, old-fashioned film about a churchgoer who falls in love with his sex doll? Grass-roots screenings with religious groups, maybe?

That’s one of the novel approaches being taken with the marketing campaign for director Craig Gillespie’s unexpectedly poignant comedy “Lars and the Real Girl,” which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York.

“Half Nelson” Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a painfully shy loner who lives in the garage next to his brother and sister-in-law’s house. Crushed by the loss of his parents, he orders a lifelike doll named Bianca over the Web and convinces himself that she’s his girlfriend. The local doctor (Patricia Clarkson) persuades his family, his small town and even his church to help him by going along with the delusion and accept Bianca as a real person.

There’s nothing really prurient in the film, which earned a mild PG-13 rating for “some sex-related content.” Lars and Bianca sleep in separate houses. There’s a discreet scene in which Bianca’s potential in-laws bathe her, but while some silicone is exposed, her anatomical correctness is never shown.

The film’s producer, Sidney Kimmell Entertainment (SKE), plans more than 100 promo screenings by the time the film goes wide on October 26 including, yes, outreach to church leaders.

“We’ve found an enormous response from mainstream Christian groups,” says Bingham Ray, who heads up SKE’s distribution operations. “Some pastors may discuss the film as part of their sermons.”

The trailer doesn’t intentionally misrepresent the film’s tone, but it does feature Bianca in ridiculous situations (holding a baby, sitting in church), making it tough to convey the film’s themes of acceptance, tolerance and kindness. . . .

The Final Inquiry — release date update

CT Movies has a new article on the state of things at Fox Faith, and near the end, it mentions that The Final Inquiry — which was simply The Inquiry when it premiered at an Italian film festival in late 2006, and was slated for an April 2007 release in the United States at one point — will now come to theatres in January 2008 and then to video by the following Easter. FWIW, I also spoke to someone recently who told me that the film has been re-cut; I don’t know what sorts of edits were made, but my hunch is the Dolph Lundgren fight scenes may have been a little much for some people. (And to judge by the poster shown here, it seems the film has yet another title in Spain, which I believe translates as In Search of the Tomb of Christ — but I don’t believe the location of the tomb is ever in question in this film; it is the location of the body that puzzles the Roman investigator.)

The new Terminator trilogy is good to go.

And, in the tradition of “Judgment Day”, the next movie just might have the most religious-sounding title yet. Variety reports:

Warner Bros. has acquired North American distrib rights to “Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins,” triggering an early 2008 production start for a film that seeks to reinvent the cyborg saga with a storyline to be told over a three-pic span.

WB plans to distribute “Terminator Salvation” in summer 2009.

The Warner deal dashes MGM’s hopes of corralling distribution rights to the film. The Lion planned to pepper its slate with tentpoles such as “The Hobbit” and “Terminator,” but neither project has worked out for the distributor. . . .

The producers said that the new film will carry the size and scale of “Terminator 3,” and will have an event-sized budget. It will likely be less than the $200 million pricetag of “Terminator 3,” which was saddled with extravagant costs that included above the line payouts, rights payments and heavy fees incurred through a complex financial structure.

Warner Bros. is also producing a smallscreen “Terminator” adaptation, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” for Fox’s midseason sked. . . .

A screenplay has been completed by “Terminator 3″ scribes John Brancato and Michael Ferris, and the financiers and studio are close to locking a director. While industry buzz has “Charlie’s Angels” director McG as the odds-on favorite for the assignment, the producers said no final decision had yet been made.

The first two “Terminator” films, directed by James Cameron, used contemporary settings to pit Sarah and John Connor against indestructible cyborgs. “T3″ was also set in the present day and ended just as the machines initiated a nuclear apocalypse. “Terminator Salvation” was deliberately not given a number after its title, because Halcyon is eager to make it clear that the fourth film heads into an entirely different setting.

“This is set in the future, in a full-scale war between Skynet and humankind,” Anderson told Daily Variety.

Borman said: “The third film was really the conclusion of what happened in the ‘now.’ You will find the most-loved characters, but the intention here is to present a fresh new world and have this be the first of a trilogy.” . . .

Eric Bana is the bad guy in Star Trek XI.

Two months ago, it was rumoured that Russell Crowe had been approached about playing the bad guy in the new Star Trek movie. Now comes word, via Variety magazine, that Eric Bana has signed for the part — a character named Nero. “Plot details and even character descriptions . . . are being kept under wraps,” reports the trade paper, but if there is one thing we can say about this villain, it is that he apparently needed to be an Aussie.

“I hope it’s a great film, and I hope it flops.”


That has been my attitude towards The Golden Compass for some time now; the book is a wonderfully imaginative and suspenseful story, and I would love to see it actualized on screen, but it is also the first part of a trilogy that turns increasingly anti-theistic, and preachily so, as the sequels progress, and so I would be quite happy if the rest of the trilogy were never filmed at all.

But I didn’t realize how much I really meant the first part of that quip until I began hearing the rumours that have been circulating lately, about the studio making last-minute changes to the movie — such as cutting the last three chapters of the book, parts of which have already been filmed and featured in the previews for months. (The photos embedded in this post are screen captures taken from an “extended preview” that went online in July.)

The ending is a vital part of the book; it brings things full circle by closing the arc that begins with Lyra eavesdropping on Lord Asriel’s announcement that he has discovered something way up north. And it ends the first part of the trilogy on a cliffhanger that is every bit as potent as the climax to both the book and film versions of The Fellowship of the Ring. So no matter what I may think of the rest of this trilogy, my belief in the integrity of good storytelling has me reacting badly to this news. I find myself really, really hoping the filmmakers don’t screw this up.

Writer-director Chris Weitz wrote a letter to the fans yesterday in which he addressed some of these rumours. An excerpt:

I have decided, along with Scholastic and New Line and, most importantly, Philip Pullman, to shift the concluding three chapters of Book I of His Dark Materials to the beginning of the second film of our trilogy, The Subtle Knife.

To me, this provides the most promising conclusion to the first film and the best possible beginning to the second.

It has always been my main concern to portray Lyra’s world and her adventures with integrity. Throughout this process I have been in close contact with Philip Pullman; and I would not be doing this without his approval. As Philip has said, His Dark Materials is not three stories but one story – the story of Lyra. And where we pause to take a breath in the telling of it is a matter of choice and taste. But I hope that when fans see the film they will find their fears put to rest and their hopes fulfilled. For the film to be judged on its own merits is all that I can ask for.

Elsewhere, however, Weitz has expressed his displeasure at some of the last-minute changes that have been imposed on his film — notably with regard to the fact that Ian McKellen was hired to replace Nonso Anozie as the voice of Iorek Byrnison, the exiled king of the armoured bears. Weitz told Empire Online:

“It was a studio decision…You can understand why you would cast Ian McKellen for anything,” Weitz told us. “But letting go of Nonso was one of the most painful experiences on this movie for me. I need to say about Nonso that he is one of the most promising and soulful young actors I have encountered in England and I’ve worked here for quite a bit now and he’s actually in the next Mike Leigh…But it was, uh, that was kind of a dark day for me. I kinda wanna go out of my way to point out how much I love Nonso’s work. And that’s that”.

As always, we will just have to wait until the film comes out — in eight and a half weeks, as it happens — to see how all this turns out. But I’m a little more nervous about it now than I was before.

The photos below are all from a scene that takes place at the end of the book, and which — based on the above — has been cut from this film and will not be seen until the second movie comes out in a few years. (Or, if the first movie is a flop and the sequels are never made, perhaps these deleted scenes will be included on the first movie’s DVD?) So if you have not read the book and don’t want the original ending spoiled at all, don’t look at these pictures.




UPDATE: Here are a few more images from that scene, courtesy of the exclusive new trailer that went up at Yahoo! Movies today:



OCT 10 UPDATE: Heh. My friend Magnus reminded me yesterday that it was only a few months ago that one of this film’s producers said The Golden Compass is “the first full-scale fantasy film that has stars in it”, and that The Lord of the Rings does not count because Ian McKellen “is not a big-budget star”. And now they have hired McKellen to replace another voice actor because they think The Golden Compass needs more star power! Ironic.

OCT 12 UPDATE: Philip Pullman has endorsed the revision to the film’s ending in a comment posted at BridgeToTheStars.net.


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