The Young Avraham — a midrashic tale

Movies about biblical characters have been based on the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha and even the Koran, but have any been based on the Midrash before? No doubt some biblical films have borrowed midrashic elements, but has an entire movie ever been based on this particular form of Jewish literature?

I can’t think of any previous examples at the moment, but today, I discovered that a Montreal-based animation outfit called Big Bang Digital Studios is working on a 45-minute CGI flick called The Young Avraham that is, indeed, based on midrashic literature:

The Young Avraham was born out of the desire of a number of Jewish businessmen to bring the story of Avraham to life in a quality animated 3D production. For their first production they chose to portray the childhood of Avraham based upon writings of Jewish antiquity and oral tradition, mostly found in the Midrash. The entire story covers many of the events of Avraham’s life from his birth up to where the Torah picks up his story (Genesis 11).

One page at the movie’s official website says it should be “available for purchase Winter 2007″, but they were still posting brand-new production stills as of last week, and I don’t see any information on where or how to buy a copy. At any rate, it might be worth keeping an eye on this one. In the meantime, here is one of the video clips that have been posted to the website:

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

The DVD is coming, but what about the sequels?

High-Def Digest reports that a two-disc “platinum” edition of The Golden Compass is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in April:

Shared across both versions will be an audio commentary with Weitz, eleven making-of featurettes, multiple still galleries, and the film’s original theatrical teaser and full trailers.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray will be a picture-in-picture “Enhanced Visual Commentary” featuring Weitz and other cast and crew. (There’s no confirmation yet from the studio as to whether the PIP track will be Profile 1.1-enabled, but we’ll keep you posted.)

No deleted scenes, then? Not even the original ending that was cut from the film at the last minute, supposedly to be tacked onto the beginning of the first sequel? Does this mean the studio still plans to go ahead with the sequels, then? Or are they saving that footage for an even more super-duper edition further down the road?

A few more movies not screened for critics.

Well, at least two, anyway. Sources tell me there will be no press screenings for The Eye — no surprise there, since it is yet another American remake of an Asian horror film and yet another Jessica Alba movie and yet another film distributed by Lionsgate — while Kyle Smith reports that there will also be no press screenings for Strange Wilderness, which again is no surprise because, like the similarly non-screened Grandma’s Boy (2006) and The Benchwarmers (2006), it is an Adam Sandler-produced film that does not star Adam Sandler. Both films open this Friday — as does Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, which is being distributed by Disney, at least in the United States, but for all I know might not have any press screenings either.

FEB 1 UPDATE: It looks like Hannah Montana was screened for at least a few people — the film opens later today (it is currently 2:45am), and there are eight reviews linked at Rotten Tomatoes already, whereas there are still no reviews linked there for The Eye or Strange Wilderness. However, Hannah Montana isn’t even opening in Vancouver, whereas the other two films are.

Canadian box-office stats — January 27

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.

Rambo — CDN $1,710,000 — N.AM $18,150,000 — 9.4%
Atonement — CDN $3,520,000 — N.AM $37,908,000 — 9.3%
27 Dresses — CDN $4,060,000 — N.AM $45,347,000 — 9.0%

Juno — CDN $8,460,000 — N.AM $100,152,000 — 8.4%
The Bucket List — CDN $4,720,000 — N.AM $57,684,000 — 8.2%
Untraceable — CDN $862,111 — N.AM $11,200,000 — 7.7%
Cloverfield — CDN $4,880,000 — N.AM $64,294,000 — 7.6%
National Treasure: Book of Secrets — CDN $13,840,000 — N.AM $205,421,000 — 6.7%
Meet the Spartans — CDN $1,240,000 — N.AM $18,725,000 — 6.6%
Alvin and the Chipmunks — CDN $11,340,000 — N.AM $204,159,000 — 5.6%

A couple of discrepancies: Atonement and Alvin and the Chipmunks were #9 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #13 and #11 in North America as a whole), while There Will Be Blood and Mad Money were #9 and #10 on the North American chart, respectively.

Guillermo Del Toro to direct The Hobbit

The Hollywood Reporter confirms what many fanboys have been guessing and hoping and hoping and guessing ever since Peter Jackson announced that he would be producing The Hobbit but not directing it:

Guillermo del Toro is in talks to direct back-to-back installments of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” which is being co-financed by New Line and MGM. . . .

Few filmmakers have the cachet that del Toro has, as well as a deep love for the source material, an assured grasp of fantasy filmmaking and an understanding and command of geek culture as well as its respect. Del Toro has built that goodwill through such films as the Oscar-nominated “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy,” “Blade 2″ (which was made by New Line) and “The Devil’s Backbone.” . . .

Because of the strike, no writer has been hired to adapt Tolkien’s children’s classic, though that process will be fast-tracked once it’s resolved. Del Toro and Jackson will oversee “Hobbit’s” writing.

Principal photography for the films, which will be shot simultaneously, is tentatively set for 2009. The production budget is estimated at $150 million per film. The release of the first film is slated for 2010 and the second in 2011. . . .

I have had mixed to negative feelings about the four Del Toro films that I’ve seen (basically the four films mentioned above, except replace The Devil’s Backbone with Mimic), so I’m not sure what to make of this news. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if Del Toro can rein in some of his darker impulses and stay true to the spirit of what is, essentially, a children’s story — and it will be interesting to see how the second film makes the segue from that children’s story to the larger, more grown-up story that Peter Jackson has already adapted (i.e. the Lord of the Rings trilogy).

John Cleese joins The Day the Earth Stood Still reports that Monty Python and Fawlty Towers alumnus John Cleese — who has lately taken bit parts and supporting roles in the James Bond, Harry Potter, Charlie’s Angels and Pink Panther movies, among others — has joined the cast of Scott Derrickson’s remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still:

Cleese will play physicist Dr. Barnhardt, a Nobel Prize laureate who plays a key part in figuring out the mission and meaning of the arrival of the alien Klaatu [played by Keanu Reeves].

The part of Prof. Jacob Barnhardt was played in the original film by Sam Jaffe, and his performance has often been interpreted as a riff of sorts on Albert Einstein, who was still alive at the time. Presumably Cleese’s take on the character will be a little… different.