Rambo IV gets dumped on January

ComingSoon.net reports that John Rambo, also known as Rambo IV, will come to theatres on January 25. This does not bode well for the movie, since January is traditionally a dumping ground for films that studios don’t have much confidence in.

For comparison’s sake, Sylvester Stallone’s other recent franchise revival, Rocky Balboa, opened a few days before Christmas — a much more auspicious release date.

Incidentally, the film has a new, “restricted” trailer — and while it adds to the hyper-violent imagery of the earlier promo reel, it does not have any of the religious symbolism.

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Canadian box-office stats — September 9

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.

Mr. Bean’s Holiday — CDN $5,370,000 — N.AM $25,089,420 — 21.4%
Shoot ‘Em Up — CDN $717,820 — N.AM $5,716,554 — 12.6%
Superbad — CDN $11,570,000 — N.AM $103,219,381 — 11.2%
Stardust — CDN $3,770,000 — N.AM $34,594,712 — 10.9%

The Nanny Diaries — CDN $2,210,000 — N.AM $20,877,849 — 10.6%
The Bourne Ultimatum — CDN $20,990,000 — N.AM $210,294,605 — 10.0%

Rush Hour 3 — CDN $9,490,000 — N.AM $128,721,208 — 7.4%
Balls of Fury — CDN $1,660,000 — N.AM $24,241,209 — 6.8%
3:10 to Yuma — CDN $877,055 — N.AM $14,035,033 — 6.2%
Halloween — CDN $2,350,000 — N.AM $43,709,854 — 5.4%

The Simpsons — the Star Wars version

What do you get when you cross The Simpsons and Star Wars?

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Chariots of Fire sequel too “religious”?

The Guardian has picked up on the news that Rich Swingle is writing a sequel to Chariots of Fire (1981) — and the article claims that Swingle’s film will be called With Wings as Eagles, rather than Beyond the Chariots, which was the title of his one-man play.

This is interesting, because Ken Wales has talked about making his own sequel to Chariots called With Wings as Eagles. Wales is never mentioned in this article, so either Swingle has teamed up with Wales and the Guardian neglected to mention this, or there are two rival sequels in development using the same title.

The Guardian says Sue Pottle — the daughter of Harold Abrahams, the Jewish runner played by Ben Cross in the original film — is concerned the new film will overplay the religious angle. And this has Jeffrey Overstreet at the Looking Closer Journal concerned that the Guardian itself may be overplaying the religious angle in order to dismiss the movie before it has even been made.

I hate to quibble with Jeff’s post — especially since I agree that the secular media tends to get a bit paranoid whenever evangelical faith enters the picture — but a few points come to mind.

First, the title “Chariots of Fire” was probably derived not from the Bible, not directly, but from William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time‘, which formed the basis for ‘Jerusalem’, a hymn that is performed in the film and on the soundtrack album.

Second, it does not seem that the Guardian was “picking through the details of Rich Swingle’s life looking for something horribly suspicious.” Instead, the story states: “Swingle’s CV shows religion is a central theme in his work.” Looking to an artist’s past work for a sense of what his future work might be like seems fair, to me.

Third, Jeff claims that the original film “did not favor the Scottish Christian’s view over the English Jew’s view.” However, critics such as Margaret R. Miles have argued otherwise.

Finally, it does not seem so odd to me that the Guardian would describe Swingle as a “committed Christian”. The term is often used by self-professed “committed Christians” to distinguish themselves and others from “nominal Christians” and others who are not so, well, committed. If “we” can say it, why not the Guardian?

Besides, writers do sometimes critique the “committed” members of other faiths for making movies that reflect their beliefs.

Just look at the Amazon.com review of Red Corner (1997): “Using a faulty thriller for his soapbox as an outspoken critic of China, a devout follower of the Dalai Lama, and an influential supporter of Tibetan freedom, Richard Gere resorts to the equivalent of propagandistic drama to deliver a heavy-handed message. . . .”

And does not Dead Man Walking (1995) derive at least some of its power from the fact that we know Tim Robbins et al. are firm opponents of the death penalty, yet they made a movie that is more fair-minded than we might have had reason to expect?

Charles and Maher talk Religulous in Toronto


Variety reports from the Toronto International Film Festival:

Footage of “Religulous,” which amounted to an extended trailer, saw Maher poking fun at Christians, Jews and Muslims with equal dexterity. “God made homosexuals; man made Bibles,” quips Maher in one vignette musing on the major religions’ occasionally backward attitude toward sexuality. Other clips find Maher visiting the Vatican, Jerusalem and even a London underground underpass in search of the truth. Mostly, all he seems to find are punchlines.

Pic is virtually guaranteed to generate wells of ink when it finally bows. It’s been snapped up in all hot-button zones, with Falcon handling Arab-language territories and Forum the Israeli release. Charles described it as “pan-offensive.”

“People who say they’re religious say they’re humble, but they’re arrogant, because they say they have all the answers,” said Maher at the generally appreciative press confab.

“This isn’t a Michael Moore-style polemic,” said IM Global topper Stuart Ford. “The subject matter is very much of the moment. All the major religions take themselves too seriously. We’re saying it’s OK to laugh at yourself. Don’t take this stuff too seriously because it’s destroying the planet.”

The Charles and Maher double act added some much-needed laughs to a fest sked that has at times carried the world on its shoulders. . . .

Hmmm. I call myself religious, but I don’t think I would ever say that I have all the answers. I wonder what Maher means.

Meanwhile, in other news, the new poster for the film is here.

SEP 11 UPDATE: The Chicago Reader‘s On Film blog adds:

. . . Maher was quick to distinguish the project from mainstream movies like Evan Almighty that lightly spoof the Bible while leaving its bedrock assumptions unchallenged. As Charles put it, “Most movies tend to poke gentle fun” at religion, whereas “we want to stab it to death.”

As far as I could tell from the clips, that mercilessness seems to be the project’s chief asset. Real comedy requires a point of view, and whereas most MSM debates about religious matters try to manufacture a facade of fairness by respecting irrationality, the funniest segments screened tended to be the most unfair. In one scene Maher is interviewing an imam about the concept of the fatwa when the imam interrupts the interview to answer his cell phone. As he’s reading a text message, Charles and Maher superimpose their version on-screen. “What r my orders?” asks the sender. The imam replies, “Death 2 Bill Maher. LOL. :).”

Most of the other clips featured similar gags, with the sort of quick cuts to stock footage that we’ve all seen in Michael Moore’s movies. (One particularly choice sequence tells the story of Adam and Eve through a cheaply animated kiddie flick; whenever God appears, he does so in the person of the title character from the camp horror flick Leprechaun.)

Later, when the moderator opened the program to questions from the audience, one participant called Maher and Charles on their tactics, saying that it was one thing to let the interviewees hang themselves with their own words but another thing to take “cheap shots.” The difference in their responses was illuminating: Charles hotly advised the audience member to “make your own movie,” but Maher pointed out that it was a work in progress and said that, in keeping with the spirit of openness, they would keep his criticism in mind. Maintaining a certain amount of respect for the other side has made Real Time the fairest debate show on TV, but Maher’s unwillingness to suffer fools gladly has made it one of the most productive as well. We’ll see whether his movie can walk the same fine line.

UPPERDATE: The Globe and Mail adds these bits:

The twinning of power and violence . . . also came up at the Ryerson Theatre on Sunday during the discussion between Bill Maher and Larry Charles (the bearded and be-hatted writer and/or director of Borat, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage). They came to town with clips of their documentary-in-progress Religulous, which details the absurdities they see in Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

“Americans are now one of the leading torturers in the world,” Maher said. “And the government is run almost exclusively by ‘people of faith.’ It’s amazing to me how many evangelical Christians are okay with torture, considering how their boy got tortured so bad. But their Christianity isn’t about morals or ethics, it’s about saving their ass. They pray to Christ so that they can do whatever they want in this world, and he’ll forgive and protect them in the next. That’s ass-backward.”

“All these religions believe in end times, so there’s no need to believe in peace or working things out,” Charles said.

“We don’t need a person of faith in the U.S. presidency; we need a person of doubt,” Maher said. “We need a person who says, ‘I don’t know what will happen if we invade Iraq, let’s think about that.’ We have a person of faith, and it’s a mess.”

UPPESTDATE: Incidentally, I have to ask: Why does this film seem to be going after the three major monotheistic religions only? What about Hinduism or Buddhism or paganism or…? Surely a “pan-offensive” movie could be a little more inclusive.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

That’s the title they picked. So said Shia LaBeouf at the MTV Video Music Awards today, and the official Indiana Jones website confirms the announcement. Looks like the rumours were right.


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