Is that John Hurt in the Crystal Skull trailer?

Two months ago, John Hurt refused to divulge who he plays in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — many fans think he might be playing Abner Ravenwood, father of Indy’s erstwhile girlfriend Marion — but he did say this:

Well, I’m all in the second half. I’m one of what I called the Famous Five. . . . It was Karen [Allen], me, Harrison [Ford], Shia [LaBeouf], and Ray Winstone, who is one of the Famous Five but dodgy.

So, do we get any glimpses of this famous fivesome in the trailer that came out two days ago? Why yes, I believe we do — but the character who is almost certainly being played by John Hurt is always kept in the distance or at the very edge of the frame. And we never get anything resembling a good look at his face.

Still, all that said, I think it is safe to say that Hurt’s character has long-ish hair, is wearing a poncho, and needs to be helped by Indiana Jones as they all run down the steps outside the temple.

Click on the images below to see bigger versions of them:

APR 30 UPDATE: Bit of a delayed reaction here, but I finally got around to capturing the shot that someone mentioned in the comments; we get an even better look at Hurt in the new trailer:

MAY 1 UPDATE: Official Pix is now selling these two photos:

MAY 3 UPDATE: The new trailer is now up at the official website, in a high-def version that gives us this much better image:

MAY 13 UPDATE: John Hurt is interviewed in a bonus feature on the new “special edition” of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) — and the identity of his character is apparently revealed there.

Indy 4 trailer — note the Roswell reference!

The trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull went online today — and it looks like the rumours about this film mentioning not only aliens in general, but the Roswell UFO incident in particular, are absolutely true.
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Jumper — the review’s up!

My review of Jumper is now up at CT Movies.

Review: Jumper (dir. Doug Liman, 2008)

When you think about it, teleportation is a natural subject for the movies. You could even say that filmmakers do it all the time, already: in a typical film, when, say, a character walks out the door, it is often the case that the shot inside the house, of the person walking to his or her exit, was filmed on a soundstage, while the shot outside the house, of that same person stepping onto the sidewalk, might very well have been filmed in another city, or even another country. But these images are generally edited together so seamlessly that you don’t have time to notice.

[Read more...]

Yet another controversial church-history movie?

Looks like we will all be debating yet another aspect of church history in a year or two. The Hollywood Reporter says Alejandro Amenábar — the Spanish director of The Sea Inside (2004), The Others (2001) and Open Your Eyes (1997), the last of which was remade as Vanilla Sky (2001) — is about to direct a movie about a clash between atheism and fanaticism in the patristic age:

Rachel Weisz, Ashraf Barhom and Oscar Isaac will star in Alejandro Amenabar’s untitled English-language movie being prepped for a major shoot in Malta.

Much of the project, which Amenabar wrote and is directing, has been shrouded under a veil of secrecy. A historical drama set in early Egypt, it concerns a slave who turns to the rising tide of Christianity in the hopes of pursuing freedom while also falling in love with his master, a female philosophy professor and atheist.

Weisz will play Hypatia, the Alexandrian professor.

Barhom — one of the stars of the Oscar-nominated Palestinian film “Paradise Now” who also stole scenes from the American stars in Universal’s “The Kingdom” — is playing a zealous Christian monk named Ammonius. Isaac, who played Joseph in New Line’s “The Nativity Story” and appears in Steven Soderbergh’s “Guerilla,” is set as Orestes, who has an unrequited love for Hypatia.

Sunmin Park and Fernando Bovira are producing the film, which sometimes operates under the title “Mists of Time.” . . .

The mere fact that Oscar Isaac is involved in this film is reason enough to be curious about it, I think. He was easily the best thing about The Nativity Story (2006), and when I met him at the junket for that film, he seemed very thoughtful and articulate. I have been looking forward to the chance to see him in other movies, and I am glad the opportunity to do so is almost here.

But hoo boy, then there’s the subject matter. I knew nothing about this story before I heard about the film, so of course I turned to Wikipedia to see what I could learn about these characters. And, well, here is part of what Wikipedia has to say about Hypatia of Alexandria, the character Rachel Weisz will be playing:

Hypatia of Alexandria . . . was a Greek or Egyptian scholar, considered the first notable woman in mathematics, who also taught philosophy and astronomy. She lived in Roman Egypt, and was killed by a Coptic Christian mob who blamed her for religious turmoil. Hailed as a “valiant defender of science against religion”, some suggest that her murder marked the end of the Hellenistic Age. . . .

Hypatia travelled to both Athens and Italy to study, before becoming head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in approximately 400 AD, and would teach Plato and Aristotle to anybody willing to listen, including a number of Christians and foreigners who came to her classes.

Although Hypatia was herself a pagan, she was respected by a number of Christians, and later held up by Christian authors as a symbol of virtue. The Byzantine Suda controversially declared her “the wife of Isidore the Philosopher” but agreed she had remained a virgin.

Hypatia rebuffed a suitor by showing him her menstrual rags, claiming they demonstrated that there was “nothing beautiful” about carnal desires.

Hypatia maintained correspondence with her former pupil Bishop of Ptolomais Synesius of Cyrene. Together with the references by Damascius, these are the only writings with descriptions or information from her pupils that survive. . . .

Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Bishop Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled.

One day in March 415CE, during the season of Lent, her chariot was waylaid on her route home by a Christian mob, possibly Nitrian monks led by a man identified only as “Peter”.

She was stripped naked and dragged through the streets to the newly christianised Caesareum church and killed. Some reports suggest she was flayed with ostrakois (literally, “oyster shells”, though also used to refer to roof tiles or broken pottery) and set ablaze while still alive, though other accounts suggest those actions happened after her death. . . .

Meanwhile, Wikipedia’s entry on Orestes states:

Orestes was appointed Imperial Prefect of Alexandria shortly after a young Cyril succeeded to the Patriarchate of Alexandria after the death of Theophilus, Cyril’s own uncle. . . .

Orestes steadfastly resisted Cyril’s agenda of ecclesiastical encroachment onto secular prerogatives. Rebuffed by the Prefect, Patriarch Cyril felt threatened, and people from various groups connected with the Church decided to aid him.

In fact, at around 414 – 415 AD, monks assaulted and badly injured Orestes. The Prefect had the leader of this mob tortured to death. Cyril tried to make the executed man into a martyr, but local leaders and ultimately the Emperor did not condone the monks’ attack on the imperial representative, and Cyril had to back off.

Prefect Orestes enjoyed the political backing of Hypatia, a female philosopher who had considerable moral authority in the city of Alexandria, and who had extensive influence. Indeed many students from wealthy and influential families came to Alexandria purposefully to study privately with Hypatia, and many of these later attained high posts in government and the Church.

In 415 AD Churchmen leading a superstitious mob grabbed Hypatia out of her chariot and brutally murdered her, hacking her body apart and burning the pieces outside the city walls. This political assassination eliminated an important and powerful supporter of the Imperial Prefect, and led Orestes to give up his struggle against Patriarch Cyril and to leave Alexandria.

There is yet another version of what transpired between these people at Wikipedia’s entry for Cyril of Alexandria, which includes at least one detail that would seem to contradict some of the details quoted above. (Did Orestes give up and leave Alexandria, as stated above? Or was he killed while protecting Jewish synagogues from Christian mobs, as stated at the other page?)

Obviously, I will have to do more research in the next little while.

I can’t say I care to see the early church’s dirty laundry aired as I imagine it will be in this film, but it also does no good to pretend that the events described here didn’t actually happen. And it is too early to say just how this movie will approach the material.

It will be particularly interesting to see who gets cast as St. Cyril — it doesn’t seem like the filmmakers would be able to tell the story without him — and how involved he is made out to be with the “zealous Christian monk named Ammonius.” Stay tuned.

How time flies.

Five years ago today, a woman I had known for only a few weeks went with me to see a movie called Punch. It was our second date. And because it took place the day before Valentine’s Day, and because we were technically just friends and not officially “dating” yet, I gave her a home-made card with a picture of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, and wished her a happy “un-Valentine’s Day”.

Three years ago today, that woman married me.

Two years ago today, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary with friends, after visiting our nine-day-old twins in the hospital.

Today, we … stayed home with the kids, all three of them. (The third one will be one month old tomorrow, though it feels like his one-month birthday should be today, because he was born less than an hour after midnight.) And we hung out with our friend Magnus, who dropped by after work for a few hours.

Nothing spectacular. These days it’s a relief just to get a nap sometimes. But it’s cozy. Life is good.