Newsbites: The vaguely religious edition!

Time to get a few backlogged items off my plate.

1. MTV Splash Page has deemed this “Magdalena Week”, in honour of the upcoming movie based on the comic book about a female superhero who is descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. In today’s introductory post, actress Jenna Dewan says the film will downplay the character’s Catholic background, making her more of a “spiritual” fighter than a “religious” fighter. — MTV Splash Page

2. Rex Mundi creator Arvid Nelson has posted some thoughts on what it’s like to work with Hollywood — and he wants us all to know that his comic book, which concerns the Holy Grail and a possible descendant of Jesus, was published three years before The Da Vinci Code. — MTV Splash Page

3. I know almost nothing about Dalton Trumbo’s novel Johnny Got His Gun beyond the fact that the 1971 film version, directed by Trumbo himself, featured Donald Sutherland as Jesus. (Sutherland was nominated for a Golden Turkey Award for his efforts.) The book was adapted into a play in 1982, and now Ben McKenzie is starring in a feature-film version of that play, which is set to debut later this month. I have no idea if Jesus will make an appearance in the new film, let alone who might play him. — Variety

4. There is a new book out on the brouhaha over The Last Temptation of Christ (1988); written by Thomas R. Lindlof, it is called Hollywood Under Siege: Martin Scorsese, the Religious Right, and the Culture Wars. I wonder how it will compare to Robin Riley’s Film, Faith, and Cultural Conflict: The Case of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. — Bible Films Blog

5. The last time I mentioned Steve Taylor‘s adaptation of Blue Like Jazz here, it was supposed to start shooting in May of this year. But now Taylor says the filming has been put on hold due to a lack of funding. — CT Movies

6. Tim Roth will play a “half owl, half angel” in an adaptation of the children’s book Skellig. — Hollywood Reporter


Hat tip to Simply Victoria.

Canadian box-office stats — August 31

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.

Death Race — CDN $3,160,000 — N.AM $23,142,000 — 13.7%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $16,430,000 — N.AM $131,450,000 — 12.5%
Tropic Thunder — CDN $9,020,000 — N.AM $83,839,000 — 10.8%

The House Bunny — CDN $2,940,000 — N.AM $27,851,000 — 10.6%
Pineapple Express — CDN $7,880,000 — N.AM $79,883,000 — 9.9%
Babylon A.D. — CDN $938,698 — N.AM $9,565,000 — 9.8%
The Dark Knight — CDN $47,140,000 — N.AM $502,286,000 — 9.4%

Star Wars: The Clone Wars — CDN $2,470,000 — N.AM $29,608,000 — 8.3%
Disaster Movie — CDN $387,590 — N.AM $5,760,000 — 6.7%
Traitor — CDN $485,494 — N.AM $9,301,000 — 5.2%

A couple of discrepancies: Star Wars: The Clone Wars was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #12 in North America as a whole), while Vicky Cristina Barcelona was #10 on the North American chart (it was #15 in Canada).

Juno and cities in Alaska.

Someone had to make this connection — and while I did think of it earlier today, RC at Strange Culture wrote it up first:

Mac MacGuff: And this, of course, is Juno.
Mark Loring: Like the city in Alaska.
Juno MacGuff: No.

What I want to know is why so many people seem to think that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin‘s family-values cred is compromised by her teenaged daughter’s pregnancy, given that so many pro-lifers were very eager to claim Juno — the movie that supposedly romanticized teen pregnancy — as one of their own only a few months ago. Haven’t pro-lifers proved that they can deal with, and even on some level embrace, this sort of thing?

As Rod Dreher puts it, “I can’t help thinking that in the matter of Bristol Palin and her unborn child, many on the left simply can’t stand it that conservatives are failing to live up to the malign stereotypes liberals have of them.”

SEP 3 UPDATE: Juno director Jason Reitman says a few brief things to Sharon Waxman about the Palins and his film.

Indiana Jones and the Deadly Blather / Notes on the devolution of a franchise.

“Didn’t any of you guys ever go to Sunday school?” So said Indiana Jones to a couple of bemused military intelligence agents in Raiders of the Lost Ark, easily the top-grossing film of 1981 and one of the greatest action movies ever made. And thus producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg seemed to make explicit what had only been implicit in the handful of films that they had made over the previous few years — films that had captured an entire generation’s spiritual imagination.

Lucas, of course, had helped to revive interest in the power of myth with his space-opera throwback, Star Wars (1977), and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980); the latter was particularly heavy on the spiritual development of its hero, Luke Skywalker. Some Christians, keen to capitalize on the franchise’s popularity, even went so far as to draw extensive analogies between the first movie and the biblical narrative; the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi was betrayed by his disciple, and died, and continued beyond death as a counsellor to Luke was, of course, key to their interpretations.1 Spielberg, for his part, had directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, re-edited and re-released in 1980), a film about aliens that spoke very strongly to the longing for enlightenment from above; in both images and dialogue, the film even made indirect references to the story of Moses and his encounter with God on Mount Sinai.2

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The Church Behind Fireproof / How a Baptist church in Georgia became a movie-making mecca

For several years the members of Sherwood Baptist Church have had a vision: “To touch the world from Albany, Georgia.”

And thanks to the power of mass media, this church of about 3,000 members — located in a city of only 80,000 or so — has been able to do just that.

Through its media ministry, the church has already produced two feature-length films with an all-volunteer cast and a mostly-volunteer crew. Given their incredibly low budgets, both films — especially Facing the Giants — have been enormously successful, in theaters and on DVD. Both films have also been distributed to over 50 countries around the world in a dozen subtitled languages.

Now the church is putting the finishing touches on its third film, Fireproof, which opens on September 26. This time the folks at Sherwood are working with a budget of $500,000 — still peanuts by Hollywood standards, but five times the budget of Giants — and they even have a professional Hollywood actor, Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains and Left Behind fame, in the lead role as a firefighter whose marriage is in trouble.

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