Newsbites: Knights! Terminator! Caspian! Mission!

Just a few quick items this time.

1. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter say Universal has picked up a spec script for a horror film called The Knights Templar:

Plot puts a horror spin on the famed organization of fighters from the Middle Ages, with the Knights Templar, fresh from the Crusades, forced to fend off an invading vampire army set on destroying the Holy Grail.

One of the producers attached to the project is Timur Bekmambetov, who directed the Russian genre pics Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006), as well as the upcoming Wanted starring Angelina Jolie.

2. Variety reports that rapper Common, who was once slated to play the Green Lantern in the apparently defunct Justice League film, has signed on to play one of the freedom fighters, and a member of John Connor’s “inner circle”, in Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins.

3. CT Movies has a brand new interview with Andrew Adamson, the director of the first two Narnia films, which gets probably as much information about Adamson’s family and religious background as any interview with him is ever likely to get — but Adamson finds an interesting way to tie that subject to the themes of Prince Caspian, which comes out next week:

Before Lion/Witch, a USA Today story referred to you as the son of “associate missionaries” in Papua New Guinea. Can you tell me more about that?

It’s a difficult thing to get into. I’m sort of in the public eye, and I don’t think it’s fair to drag my family into it. So I don’t talk about it a lot. But yes, we did move to Papua New Guinea when I was 11. My father worked at the university there, and my parents were involved in the church there as well.

Living in Papua New Guinea is an important part of my story in another way. When I tried to understand the Narnia stories from a kid’s point of view, I realized that the Pevensie kids were going through something I’d gone through. I went to this country when I was 11, and Papua New Guinea has changed significantly since then. When I was there, I’d ride my cycle all around, a huge amount of freedom. Now there’s a lot of violence and corruption. Basically, the place that I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore, and for me, there’s a sense of loss. I realized that’s something the kids go through in returning to Narnia [in Prince Caspian]. They try to go back to a place they spent 15 years in, and now the place they knew is gone. And ultimately at the end of the story, for the older Pevensies, they have to let go.

It’s something we all go through in our passage from childhood to adulthood, when we realize we can’t go back to the innocence of our childhood. We can’t get back to the house being as big as we thought it was when we grew up. And at some point you have to say I accept that—and move on and become an adult. To me, that was the heart of this story from Peter and Susan’s point of view. And my own experience provided this sort of bittersweet, nostalgic framework for that.

4. Variety, Reuters and the Associated Press all report that Viacom chief Sumner Redstone has indicated that it would be okay with him if Tom Cruise came back to Paramount for another movie in the Mission: Impossible franchise (1996-2006), despite the fact that they parted on such bad terms just a couple years ago.

But wait a minute. Tom Cruise might indeed need a hit right now, but wasn’t his character on the verge of retiring and settling down with a brand-new wife in the last movie? Not that this franchise has ever cared much for things like continuity, but still, you can’t just dump story elements like that without a little more explanation than usual. Or, perhaps the fourth movie would tie into the third movie more than the first three movies ever tied into each other — but that, too, would be a little weird for this franchise.

Canadian box-office stats — May 4

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.

Dans une galaxie près de chez vous 2 — CDN $902,450 — N.AM $902,450 — 100%
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay — CDN $4,660,000 — N.AM $25,270,000 — 18.4%
21 — CDN $8,780,000 — N.AM $79,057,000 — 11.1%

88 Minutes — CDN $1,630,000 — N.AM $15,424,000 — 10.6%
The Forbidden Kingdom — CDN $4,560,000 — N.AM $45,124,000 — 10.1%
Forgetting Sarah Marshall — CDN $4,170,000 — N.AM $44,804,000 — 9.3%

Made of Honor — CDN $1,290,000 — N.AM $15,500,000 — 8.3%
Nim’s Island — CDN $3,160,000 — N.AM $42,544,000 — 7.4%
Iron Man — CDN $7,490,000 — N.AM $104,250,000 — 7.2%
Baby Mama — CDN $1,820,000 — N.AM $32,330,000 — 5.6%

A couple of discrepancies: Dans une galaxie près de chez vous 2 was #10 on the Canadian chart (it might not appear on the North American chart at all), while Prom Night was #8 on the North American chart (it was #13 in Canada).

Newsbites: Terminator! Bones! Dude! Ebert! Viral!

Here are a few new tidbits to start the week.

1. Variety reports that Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins — which starts shooting today — is going to be rated PG-13. The previous three films in the Terminator franchise were all rated R. One of the producers says the more family-friendly — and merchandising-friendly — rating won’t compromise the grittiness of the franchise because “the ratings have changed . . . The PG-13 has increased in intensity.” Well, maybe. But the track record of franchises that went from R to PG or PG-13 is not a very promising one.

2. Flicks.co.nz reports that production on Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones was shut down for a while because Jackson and his art director couldn’t agree on what Heaven — a key location in the film — should look like. Meanwhile, The Bad & Ugly claims that the film’s release date has been pushed from March 2009 to sometime in the Fall — which isn’t necessarily a sign of trouble with the production, since that’s when a lot of movies begin their Oscar campaigns.

3. Jeffrey Wells passes on the news that Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani is writing a book called The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, which will be published by Zondervan sometime next year. The Coen brothers, of course, recently won multiple Oscars for their adaptation of No Country for Old Men.

4. Roger Ebert has a fun post at his blog — yeah, he’s got one too — about the relationship between blogs and fanzines, and the possibility that he was an “eyewitness to one of the formative moments in the connection between computers and science fiction” nearly half a century ago, when he attended a lecture by Arthur C. Clarke at Urbana, i.e. the very place where HAL would claim to have been created in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

5. Andrew Wallenstein, a writer for the Hollywood Reporter, looks at the ad campaign for The Dark Knight and a few other films — but especially The Dark Knight — and concludes: “Viral marketing has gone positively bubonic. While this unconventional approach to building buzz online is nothing new, it has achieved full-blown plague status in the walk-up to the summer movie season.” Scott Van Doviak says Wallenstein is just being “cranky”, and he notes that elaborate viral campaigns have been around at least since before the release of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001); he also expresses skepticism that such campaigns “work”: “They seem to appeal only to the hardcore faithful who will be shelling out to see the product multiple times anyway.”

The Muslim movie about Jesus, yet again.

The Los Angeles Times had a brand-new item last week on Jesus, the Spirit of God, the Iranian film that depicts the life of Jesus from a Muslim point of view — including the belief that it was someone else, possibly Judas, who was crucified and not Jesus himself.

The Times story is accompanied by the video below:

http://video.latimes.com/global/video/flash/widgets/WNVideoCanvas.swf
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Some of the more interesting details to emerge in this story include:

There is another irony. The actor who plays Jesus, Ahmad Soleimani-Nia, once was a soldier in the Iranian army and later a welder for Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, which the Bush administration accuses of pursuing nuclear weapons. Such footnotes don’t seem odd when talking with Talebzadeh, who has kept Nia in Jesus character — flowing hair, beard, mystic pose — for seven years because he never knows when he might shoot new sequences for the film.

The actor has kept a pose for seven years!?

The rough, choppily edited $5-million film, condensed from a 1,000-minute-long series that will soon air on Iranian TV, reveres Jesus as a blessed prophet speaking parables and moving through soft light and angelic chants amid a ruckus of zealots and conspiring Pharisees.

A thousand minutes!! That’s, like, almost 17 hours. I guess that’s not too impossible, though, considering it’s about the length of 22 hour-long TV episodes without the commercials — in other words, the length of a typical North American TV season.

MAY 5 UPDATE: Matt Page notes that director Nader Talebzadeh “seems more evangelistic in this piece than previous articles have suggested.” He also notes that Times reporter Jeffrey Fleishman posted a brief item about the film at the newspaper’s blog.

Bill C-10 could, in theory, trigger an election.


The debate over Bill C-10, the proposed law that would permit the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films that are deemed to be offensive in some way, has now been kicked up to another level or two.

First, the Globe and Mail reports that the federal finance minister has said he considers this bill a matter of confidence, meaning the opposition parties could trigger an election if they vote the legislation down — and it looks like the opposition parties are still vowing to amend the bill against the finance minister’s wishes anyway. However, the opposition Liberals have frequently threatened to bring down the Tory government over the past several months and have consistently backed off from doing so in the end. What’s more, the proposal that has everyone so upset right now was originally drafted by the Liberals when they were in power — so it might be difficult for them to take all that hard a line against the proposed law, or to campaign on their opposition to it.

At any rate, the fact that the Tories have exploited a Liberal proposal to censure unacceptable works of art just demonstrates why such laws shouldn’t be created in the first place: You may think that the law you create will only be used to censure works of art that you find offensive, but once another political party comes to power, you can be sure that they will use the mechanisms you created to pursue agendas of their own — agendas that might conflict with yours.

Meanwhile, the debate has attracted attention south of the border; the New York Times ran a story on Bill C-10 yesterday — the source of the Sarah Polley photo above — that didn’t add anything new to the coverage except for the fact that the story has now been covered in The Paper Of Record.

And of course, people continue to speak out against the bill. John Moore of the National Post asks, among other things, why the government can’t spare money for the arts if it can afford to “pay pork farmers $50-million for their unprofitable pigs”, as it did a couple weeks ago. He adds: “The problem with Puritanical societies is they are renowned for their chastity and temperance, but never for their art or creative leisure.”

MAY 9 UPDATE: The Globe and Mail reports that some Liberal senators disagree with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s claim that Bill C-10 is a matter of confidence. Yoine Goldstein says Flaherty can make it one if he chooses to, but since the bill concerns mere details of tax law and is not a full-fledged budget, it is not automatically a matter of confidence, per se.

Susan and Caspian, sitting in a tree …

A friend of mine wrote to ask if I felt any “outrage” over the kiss that takes place in the newest TV spot for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. In a nutshell, no I don’t, at least not yet; I am willing to wait and see how it fits into the broader film, though I must say the kiss should be deeply awkward for Caspian, at least, since to him Susan is no ordinary girl but, rather, one of the legendary, even mythical, Kings and Queens of Narnia come to life. (Imagine if your favorite hero from centuries past were to suddenly pop into your life — and then kiss you on the lips.) If this film is giving me any seriously bad vibes right now, it is due to the film’s alleged treatment of Peter, rather than Susan, etc.

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

In other news, the Los Angeles Times explains why director Andrew Adamson came back to make a second Narnia film:

ADAMSON, WHO also directed the first two “Shrek” films, wasn’t sure he wanted to return to Narnia, even though the first film was acclaimed by critics, embraced by families and has grossed more than $748 million worldwide. But he looked into the eyes of the then-10-year-old Georgie Henley and changed his mind.

Henley plays Lucy, the youngest of the four Pevensie children who enter Narnia’s timeless world. When Adamson was directing Henley in the first film, she couldn’t cry when he needed her to, after the lion Aslan’s death. Henley had always wept watching “The Lion King,” so Adamson cued its DVD up, but that didn’t work, either. Running out of ideas, the director shared with Henley his doubt that he would direct the next film. The tears finally came.

Months later, with the first film completed, Henley sidled up to the New Zealand-born director. “When you said you weren’t going to do the sequel, were you saying that just to make me cry or because you really didn’t want to do the sequel?” she asked Adamson. “That made me want to do it,” the director says. “When you look into those eyes, you can’t say no.”

Well, I can certainly sympathize with that; Henley is indeed irresistibly endearing, and the franchise’s best asset. But alas, it looks like those of us who concluded that Adamson wasn’t right for this franchise must now hold Henley responsible for the fact that he came back and did not let a better director take the reins.

MAY 11 UPDATE: NarniaWeb reports that, according to Anna Popplewell, who plays Susan, the film was going to feature a fair bit of “flirting” between Susan and Caspian, but the “flirting” has since been “removed from the final cut of the film, so that the kiss was more of an impetuous thing rather than a running theme.”


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