Classic (and rare) David Lean films on the way.

It’s not up at their website yet, but recently I got a press release from the Pacific Cinematheque announcing that 10 of the 16 feature films directed by David Lean will be coming to that theatre next month — including three films that I have long wanted to see but, as near as I can tell, are unavailable on DVD.

Here’s the list, with the dates the films are screening and links to any earlier comments, however peripheral, that I may have written on the films I have already seen:

  1. In Which We Serve (1942) — Nov 20,24
  2. This Happy Breed (1944) — Nov 20,23
  3. Blithe Spirit (1945) — Nov 7,9
  4. Brief Encounter (1945) — Nov 7-8
  5. Great Expectations (1946) — Nov 14,16
  6. Oliver Twist (1948) — Nov 14-15
  7. The Passionate Friends (1949) — Nov 8-9
  8. Madeleine (1950) — Nov 15-16
  9. The Sound Barrier (1952) — Nov 24,26
  10. Hobson’s Choice (1954) — Nov 23,26

Just for completeness’ sake, here are the six films Lean directed that are not playing as part of this series:

  1. Summertime (1955)
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) — Nov 21
  3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) — Nov 22-23
  4. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  5. Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
  6. A Passage to India (1984) — Nov 27

The picture of Lean above, by the way, comes from this collection of publicity stills for The Sound Barrier, one of the three films I have not yet seen, at the British Film Institute.

NOV 9 UPDATE: The Cinematheque website now has a page for the series here. They are also showing three of Lean’s later epics as a “supersized sidebar” to the main series; I have added the dates for those films above, and you can check for showtimes here.

Newsbites: The history and religion edition!

Here are a few new items that came up today.

1. Plans are afoot for a movie about William the Conqueror, the Norman who invaded England and took the crown after winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It will be interesting to see whether the film casts its sympathies to one side of that conflict, or manages to sympathize on some level with Normans and Saxons alike. — Variety

2. Plans are afoot for a remake of The Message (1976), the late Moustapha Akkad’s reverent biopic of the Muslim prophet Mohammed:

“We have only the utmost respect for Akkad’s work but technology in cinema has advanced since the 1970s and this latest project will employ modern film techniques in its renewal of the first film’s core messages,” producer Oscar Zoghbi, who worked on the original, said in a statement. . . .

In the original “Message,” the Prophet and his companions were heard speaking off-camera but never directly shown, in accordance with Muslim conventions forbidding their visual depiction.

The new film will be called The Messenger of Peace. No word yet on how it will depict Mohammed’s military exploits. — Reuters, Variety

3. The producers of Angels & Demons, the sequel or prequel to The Da Vinci Code (2006), have released some new photos from that film. The new film revolves around the Vatican and Renaissance art, and the producers promise it will have more action than the earlier film did. — USA Today

4. M. Night Shyamalan has co-written a supernatural thriller called Devil, which will be directed and executive-produced by John and Andrew Dowdle. It will be the first film Shyamalan has written but not directed since Stuart Little (1999). — Hollywood Reporter

5. Alan Mehrez, a producer who has specialized in sequels to Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, now plans to shoot a live-action movie about Aladdin in Egypt, starting in March. The new film will “stay close to the story’s Middle Eastern roots, in which the 11-year-old title character takes on a well intentioned Sultan’s villainous son and saves his family with the help of his genie and its monkey sidekick, Bananas.” — Hollywood Reporter

6. Bill Maher waves aside some of the criticisms that have been made of his film Religulous, which recently crossed the $10 million line to become one of the top nine documentaries of all time. — Patrick Goldstein

Politics, religion, and The Blob.

Was the Steve McQueen horror movie The Blob (1958) produced by a fundamentalist Christian cabal to advance a right-wing agenda? Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, says yes. Rudy Nelson, who helped write the script for that film, says no, in one of the more fascinating and bizarre articles on politics, religion and pop culture that I have read in a while. Check it out.

OCT 31 UPDATE: I just discovered that one of The Blob‘s producers was Russell S. Doughten Jr., who went on to produce, write and act in the end-times series that began with A Thief in the Night (1972), among other films. Curiouser and curiouser.

Speaking of lousy framing on cartoon DVDs…

Honestly, does the framing on the shot below — taken from Hare Trigger (1945), the cartoon that introduced Yosemite Sam, as it is presented on the newly-released four-disc set Looney Tunes: Golden Collection Volume Six — seem right to anyone?

Here’s another egregious example:

Honestly, has it ever occurred to the people who master these discs that the animators who had absolute control over every element of the frame might have used every bit of space that they had at their disposal, including, say, the upper-right corner?

Oh, and it’s even worse if you watch these images on a typical old-fashioned TV, of course, thanks to the overscan.

Canadian box-office stats — October 26

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Passchendaele — CDN $1,950,000 — N.AM $1,950,000 — 100%
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist — CDN $3,800,000 — N.AM $29,522,000 — 12.9%
Body of Lies — CDN $3,680,000 — N.AM $30,890,000 — 11.9%

Eagle Eye — CDN $8,310,000 — N.AM $87,987,000 — 9.4%
Max Payne — CDN $2,790,000 — N.AM $29,664,000 — 9.4%
High School Musical 3: Senior Year — CDN $3,740,000 — N.AM $42,000,000 — 8.9%

Pride and Glory — CDN $488,370 — N.AM $6,325,000 — 7.7%
W. — CDN $1,220,000 — N.AM $18,749,000 — 6.5%
Saw V — CDN $1,800,000 — N.AM $30,500,000 — 5.9%
Beverly Hills Chihuahua — CDN $4,490,000 — N.AM $78,142,000 — 5.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Passchendaele and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist were #4 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (the former film wasn’t on the North American chart at all, though if it were, it would be #20, while the latter film was #12 on the North American chart), while The Secret Life of Bees and Quarantine were #6 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively (they were #12 and #13 in Canada).

Spartacus gets “reimagined” for TV.

The Hollywood Reporter says Sam Raimi and a few other people are developing a new TV series based on Spartacus, the slave who led an unsuccessful rebellion against the Romans less than a century before the birth of Christ:

Starz said the story will be “reimagined” it for what it calls a generation of TV viewers raised on graphic novels and cutting-edge production technology.

“This is not going to be at all like the 1960s Kirk Douglas film,” Shelanski said. “We didn’t want your typical sword-and-sandals. It’s going to be fun, fast-moving, full of action and interesting characters and have a little more depth to it than the 1960s film.”

Shelanski added that the show will be produced specifically for a premium cable audience, with “R-rated” action and storytelling. The goal is to accomplish the graphic-novel look and feel of such movies as “300” and “Sin City.” As with “300,” producers also will be looking to cast “Spartacus” with a group of fresh-faced, unknown actors.

Hamm added that “Spartacus” will be one of the first TV series to use an “almost 100% virtual environment,” using live-action actors against virtual sets in the style of “300” and “Sin City.”

The best-known version of this story is, of course, the 1960 film directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas, based on a novel by Howard Fast. That novel was also turned into a 2004 mini-series starring Goran Visnjic, which I have not yet seen, but this new series doesn’t seem to be based on it in any way.