Tim Roth like you’ve never seen him before.

I may never watch Reservoir Dogs (1992) the same way again, after seeing Tim Roth leap all over the place in this clip from The Incredible Hulk:

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

T4 — the studio leaks a few more details

This is too big to reduce to a mere newsbite. ComingSoon.net reports that Warner Brothers has released the following synopsis for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins, which began shooting a couple weeks ago:

In the highly anticipated new installment of “The Terminator” film franchise, set in post-apocalyptic 2018, Christian Bale stars as John Connor, the man fated to lead the human resistance against Skynet and its army of Terminators. But the future Connor was raised to believe in is altered in part by the appearance of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a stranger whose last memory is of being on death row. Connor must decide whether Marcus has been sent from the future, or rescued from the past. As Skynet prepares its final onslaught, Connor and Marcus both embark on an odyssey that takes them into the heart of Skynet’s operations, where they uncover the terrible secret behind the possible annihilation of mankind.

And so the plot thickens. But wait, wasn’t the future that John was raised to believe in already changed by the events of the second movie? Didn’t those events fundamentally alter the timeline in such a way that the events of the third movie caught John off-guard? And wouldn’t that mean that any further sequels would have to take place in a world that was very different from the world John was raised to believe in — even if it has some obvious similarities?

The press release also mentions that Charlotte Gainsbourg has taken over the part of John’s wife Kate, a pre-marital version of whom was played by Claire Danes in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003); that bit of casting may or may not have been mentioned elsewhere before now, but it’s news to me, at least.

I have to admit that I’ve never cared for this particular character, largely because the film that introduced her also introduced far, far too many coincidences around her. Kate’s dad develops Skynet, and Kate happens to be an old school chum of John’s who kissed him the day before the T-1000 came looking for him, and the veterinary hospital that John breaks into many years later just happens to be Kate’s, and he just happens to do this on the very same day that a T-X has come back in time to kill Kate, and so on, and so on. One of the things I love about the TV series is that it completely ignores the third movie … but the new movies have to accept the third movie as canon, so I hope they can do a better job with this character than the movie that invented her did.

And speaking of the TV series, IGN.com reports that the first season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on August 19, not too long before the second season begins. I’d definitely like to take another look at those episodes, with the commentaries and everything.

MAY 23 UPDATE: As of today, the new film has a production blog, so I have replaced the photo at the top of this post with the concept art that was posted there today. (The photo that used to be at the top of this post has decorated a few of my previous Terminator entries, and I was getting tired of it.)

In his introductory blog post, director McG doesn’t say much about the film that we don’t already know, though he does reveal that principal photography began with “a sequence at Griffith Observatory” — which is where Arnold Schwarzenegger made his very first appearance as the evil Terminator in the original film way, way back in 1984. Could be a nice homage.

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

Let’s tackle this bunch in reverse-alphabetical order.

1. This may not technically be a remake, but it’s close enough for me: Variety reports that Mike McNulty, who produced the documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997), will co-produce a dramatic film about the clash between the feds and the Branch Davidians called, simply, Waco. The director attached to the film is Rupert Wainwright, who last tackled religious themes on the big screen in the ridiculously sensationalistic supernatural thriller Stigmata (1999) — so I’m not expecting greatness here by any stretch.

2. ComingSoon.net reports that Steven Spielberg had this to say about the Tintin trilogy that he and Peter Jackson are currently developing: “We are going to make three ‘Tintin’ movies back-to-back . . . I’ll direct the first one, Peter will direct the second one. We’ll probably co-direct the third one.” One cannot help but wonder how they will divvy up the directing chores, or whether it will be easy to tell their scenes apart.

3. The Hollywood Reporter says MGM has floated the possibility of doing a re-make of Robocop (1987; my comments), one of my favorite satirical action movies of all time. Why? What’s the point? Didn’t the sequels already prove that lightning doesn’t strike twice?

Oh, and they’re also thinking of re-making Red Dawn (1984), noteworthy for being the first film that was ever rated PG-13. Again, why? What’s the point? Will it be a period piece about the Cold War? Or will the colour “red” apply to someone other than Communists now? (Oh, wait, red is one of the colours in that terror-alert system now, isn’t it. Sigh.)

4. IGN.com reports that Sylvester Stallone, while promoting the new Rambo DVDs and Blu-rays, “announced that he was working on an extended Director’s Cut of the fourth film in the series, which he plans to release under its originally conceived title of John Rambo.”

5. Variety says the makers of The Hobbit have already approached not only Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) about reprising their characters, but they have also approached Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn), whose character as I recall does not appear anywhere in J.R.R. Tolkien’s book but might, I suppose, have some part to play in that second movie they’re talking about making.

But wait — there might be more than two movies! TheOneRing.net says MGM chairman Harry Sloan recently noted that the gap between the events of The Hobbit and the events of The Lord of the Rings could allow for lots of sequels, or prequels, or spin-offs, or whatever: “There’s 80 years between the end of ‘The Hobbit’ and the beginning of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ . . . Think of the franchise.”

Let me guess: They’re doing all this to explain why, in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, Frodo and Bilbo keep talking about the “adventures”, plural, that Bilbo has been on, as though he had been on a lot of them, right?

6. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Summit Entertainment is planning a re-make of Highlander (1986), with producer Peter Davis providing some continuity between the new film and the old film:

Davis said the new “Highlander” will not just be a remake but will incorporate more backstory elements and prequel aspects that will be fleshed out to expand the story line in a way that is inventive yet faithful to the original story.

He also said romance was key to the series’ popularity and would be a central theme in the new film.

“I would hate to think that people viewed ‘Highlander’ as a sword fighting movie because it’s much more than that,” he said. “The issues of an immortal falling in love with a woman and knowing she’s going to grow old and die in your arms, those are very romantic issues to deal with.”

Gosh, now I’ve got Queen’s ‘Who Wants to Live Forever‘ running through my mind. And speaking of fantasy films of the 1980s that became famous for their Brian May compositions …

7. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Sony Pictures has acquired the film rights to Flash Gordon, the newest version of which will be directed by Michael Eisner’s son Breck, who may be best-known for directing the action-comedy flop Sahara (2005). The most recent big-screen version of this story was released in 1980, and is probably best-known now for its soundtrack by Queen.

8. Michael Moore is making a sequel — though he now disputes the term — to Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), and Karina Longworth notes that news of this movie has been out there for over a year already — except, back then, it was being produced by the Weinstein company, whereas now, it will be distributed by Overture and Paramount Vantage. Moore says the new film will be so “toxic” he probably shouldn’t make it — but, well, that’s where the money is, isn’t it?

9. Amidst all these announcements of remakes and sequels, and with so many films bringing back action heroes from the 1980s these days, isn’t it refreshing to hear the Associated Press report that Clint Eastwood says he will not be bringing back Dirty Harry, the character he played in five films between 1971 and 1988?

10. After Iron Man turned out to be such a huge success, Marvel Studios announced they would not only produce a sequel, but they would also produce a movie about Thor in 2010 and a movie about Captain America in 2011, before uniting them all — with the Incredible Hulk, who has his own movie coming out next month — in The Avengers, also in 2011.

Since then, Marvel president Kevin Feige has told the Hollywood Reporter that Thor will be “a period fantasy in the vein of ‘The Lord of the Rings'”, and yesterday he told IESB.net that The First Avenger: Captain America would be “a period piece” that takes place “during World War II, just like the comic book origin story.”

How, I wonder, will they connect the characters from these two “period” stories to the present-day characters that are currently being established in this summer’s movies? Will the period-piece films end by zapping the characters forward in time? Will The Avengers move back and forth in time? Or will the gap between the period-piece films and the present-day film be kept kind of vague, to allow for more period-piece films down the road?

Hello, New Zealand radio listeners.

I don’t know if any clips are available online, but if any of my readers are in New Zealand, you might have heard me on Outrageous Life with Laurel McCulloch earlier today, talking about The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — which apparently hasn’t opened over there yet, despite the fact that director Andrew Adamson hails from there and the film was partly shot there.

It was a fun chat, though I wondered if I explained C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on paganism, Christianity and modernity well enough; there’s a lot there to pack into a few minutes of soundbite, and if you’re not careful you can weird some people out, and I didn’t have the luxury of revising and tweaking my thoughts for clarity etc., like I did when I wrote my review. Thankfully, Laurel did refer her audience to my actual review, so hopefully that will help.

What do smiles, or photos, really tell us?

We’ve all seen those films in which someone goes undercover and does what it takes to blend in with a group, and then they get caught or arrested and the very things they did to “blend in” become evidence that is used against them. Did something like that happen to at least one of the “bad apples” at Abu Ghraib? Errol Morris, director of the recent Abu Ghraib documentary Standard Operating Procedure (my review), seems to think so.

To wit, in his newest blog post, he asks what reaction people have had, and what reaction people should have had, to the photo below, which depicts Sabrina Harman giving the thumbs-up and smiling for the camera while standing over the body of a man, Manadel al-Jamadi, who died during an interrogation:

What do we really learn, just by looking at the photo? Anything? What about the other photos that were taken that night? What about the letters that Harman wrote home to her “wife” around that time, describing her relationship to the other soldiers? Does context matter here? And what do we do with the smile on Harman’s face? Morris gets into all sorts of interesting material here, even speaking to a psychologist who specializes on how to distinguish genuine smiles of enjoyment from polite, faked smiles:

PAUL EKMAN: Well, here’s what I think happens when the typical viewer looks at this picture. One, you’re horrified by the sight of this dead person. Most of us haven’t seen a dead person. Certainly not in that state. If you’ve seen a dead person, you’ve seen them in an open casket where they’re made to look like they’re alive. Do you know how “horror” is defined?


PAUL EKMAN: “Horror,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is the combination of disgust and terror. So I think “horror” is the right word. It’s a horrible sight, and it instills horror. And then you see, right next to that, someone having a good time. Most people will not realize that’s a “say cheese” smile. They’ll think, because of the broadness of the smile and the thumbs-up gesture, they’re having a good time. That’s what makes this a damning picture to the typical viewer.

I’ll add one more thing. When we see someone smile, it is almost irresistible that we smile back at them. Advertisers know that. That’s why they link products to smiling faces. And when we smile back, we begin to actually experience some enjoyment. So this photograph makes us complicit in enjoying the horrible. And that’s revolting to us.

So why it is such an upsetting photograph is not just because we see someone smiling in the context of the horrible, but that when we look at her, we begin to have to resist smiling ourselves. So it’s a terrible, terrible picture for that reason alone.

Morris sums up Ekman’s argument, and builds on it:

Here is Ekman’s mechanism: Harman is smiling. We see her smile and can’t help smiling ourselves. Smile and the whole world smiles with you. Smiling is contagious. But when we see the dead man, we recoil in horror. Our “almost irresistible” need to smile makes us feel complicit in the man’s death. We “transfer” those feelings to Harman. We think her smile makes her complicit. . . .

Ironically, when the army was looking for a scapegoat for its crimes, it was precisely this “false image” that they chose to exploit to their advantage. In a sense, Harman was deliberately falsifying the evidence of her own photographs to seem more at home than she was. Then the military turned her strategy on its head, saying that her “exceptional” depravity was deplorable, and something that they needed to weed out and punish. And thus Sabrina Harman’s photographs became part of the evidence used against her in military court.

The whole blog post is well worth reading, whatever you make of Morris’s film, or his argument that knee-jerk reactions to this photo “aided and abetted a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

Newsbites: The historical epics edition!

Let’s tackle these in historical-chronological order!

1. The Associated Press says some of the late Charlton Heston‘s movie memorabilia will be auctioned off this summer, including a titular set of “faux granite tablets” from The Ten Commandments (1956).

2. Variety reports that Danish director Asger Leth has signed on to direct Olympia, a love story “set against the backdrop of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece as war waged between Athens and Sparta.” The script has gone through drafts by Robert Rodat (1998’s Saving Private Ryan) and Gavin Hood (2005’s Tsotsi).

3. Variety reports that Kevin MacDonald, director of The Last King of Scotland (2006), is attached to direct The Eagle of the Ninth, an “epic Roman adventure” based on “Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novel about a young Roman centurion who travels to Blighty in 135 A.D. to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rome’s Ninth Legion in Scotland 15 years earlier.”

4. Variety reports that Focus Features has picked up international rights — which covers all territories except for North America and Spain — to Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora, which takes place in 4th-century Alexandria. The premise of the film is summed up here as: “Trapped in the Library of Alexandria as religious riots flare on the city’s streets, [the astrologer-philosopher] Hypatia battles to save the collected wisdom of the ancient world.”

5. Variety reports that Gale Ann Hurd will produce and Mikael Salomon will direct Mortal Armour: The Legend of Galahad, a “period romance” about “young Galahad’s quest for the Holy Grail.” Salomon is a Danish cinematographer who was Oscar-nominated for his work on The Abyss (1989) and Backdraft (1991) and then became a director, working mostly in TV; his only theatrical films to date are A Far Off Place (1993) and Hard Rain (1998).

6. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter report that Johanna Wokalek has replaced Franka Potente as the title character in Pope Joan, “which recounts the ninth-century legend of a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to educate herself and ultimately ascends the papal throne”.

7. Variety reports that Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and producer Bela Tarr are developing “a film about the 15th century sodomy trial of Italian genius Leonardo Da Vinci.” Naturally, we all wonder what sort of double-bill it will make with Wilde (1997).

8. Variety reports that Percy Adlon, the German director perhaps best known for Out of Rosenheim AKA Bagdad Cafe (1987), is developing Mahler auf der Couch, “a psychological drama about the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler’s life” that will deal with “the composer’s tumultuous marital life with Alma and his ambivalent relationship with Sigmund Freud.”

The Variety article mentions that this story has been told at least once before, in Ken Russell’s Mahler (1974) — where the composer was played by Robert Powell, three years before he starred in Jesus of Nazareth (1977), and Alma was played by Georgina Hale. It was also covered a few years ago in Bruce Beresford’s Bride of the Wind (2001), which was mainly about Alma and her lovers; Alma was played by Sarah Wynter, and Gustav, who dies fairly early in the film, was played by Jonathan Pryce.

My sister is a huge, huge fan of Gustav Mahler, so I have to keep tabs on this sort of thing.