Newsbites: Wonder! Tomorrowland! Darwin! Cubers! Spider-Man! Fifty!

Time for a few more newsy quickies.

1. Yay, more adventurous archaeologists! Nicole Kidman is attached to The Eighth Wonder, an “action-adventure” that “centers on an archeological discovery that sets off a globe-spanning race.” Simon Kinberg, who came thisclose to working with Kidman on Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), will write the script. — Hollywood Reporter

2. I have never been to Disneyland, so I have no idea what goes on in the “Tomorrowland” section of that theme park, but I do get a kick out of the retro-futurism of the Tomorrowland DVD set that came out a few years ago — so I am intrigued by the news that Disney may be developing a movie based on that section of the theme park, similar to what they did with Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2007), and hopefully not so similar to what they did with The Haunted Mansion (2003) and The Country Bears (2002). Then again, Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000) was supposedly based on the Tomorrowland section of the park, and look how that turned out. Ah well. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is attached to star in the new film. — Variety

3. Two weeks ago, it was announced that real-life couple Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly would be playing Charles Darwin and his wife Emma in Jon Amiel’s Creation. Now comes word that Joseph Fiennes and Rosamund Pike are also playing the Darwins, in a film called Mrs. Darwin. Both films are set to come out in 2009, which will mark the 200th anniversary of Mr. Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. — WENN

4. The documentary Cubers, which concerns people who can solve the Rubik’s Cube in less than 30 seconds, premiered last Sunday at the Atlantic Film Festival. I’ve never been able to solve it that quickly, but I was the Rubik’s Cube champion at Vancouver Christian Elementary School in 1982, back when I was in grade six, so I’d certainly be interested in seeing this film. —

5. Tobey Maguire has reportedly signed a deal to shoot two more Spider-Man sequels back-to-back, but only on the condition that he be given “family time” with his two-year-old daughter during the six-month shoot. — London Times

6. The makers of Fifty Dead Men Walking continue to be criticized for being allegedly too cozy with the IRA. For some reason I find myself wondering how this situation compares to that of The Battle of Algiers (1966), which was also produced in connection with the terrorists whose actions were dramatized in the film. — Hollywood Reporter

7. Zachary Pincus-Roth looks at how the cell phone has affected the writing of movies and TV shows. Sometimes it provides a handy shortcut, but as often as not, writers have to come up with clever or contrived ways to prevent their characters from communicating with each other. — Los Angeles Times

A challenge to the Christian film critic.

Roger Ebert, in his latest blog post, on why he is one of the more generous major film critics out there:

I have quoted countless times a sentence by the critic Robert Warshow (1917-1955), who wrote: “A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit that he is that man.” If my admiration for a movie is inspired by populism, politics, personal experience, generic conventions or even lust, I must say so. I cannot walk out of a movie that engaged me and deny that it did. I must certainly never lower it from three to 2.5 so I can look better on the Metacritic scale.

No time for major commentary on this one right now, but suffice it to say that there are times when I am inclined to say: “The Christian must be honest enough to admit that he is that man.”

Art imitates life imitates art in politics.

Another quick note on the blurring of politics and pop culture, if I may — starting with the Saturday Night Live sketch below:

Back when Sarah Palin was first nominated for the vice-presidency, many people noted her uncanny resemblance to Tina Fey — so it was perhaps inevitable that Fey would return to her old SNL stomping grounds for a cameo as Palin. But no sooner had the skit been aired than Palin’s spokesperson Tracey Schmitt began telling reporters that Palin had once dressed as Fey, too, for Halloween. So the impersonation, as it were, has gone both ways.

Schmitt also said that Palin had had a good laugh at the skit, which was interesting, given that the skit basically paints Palin as a bimbo — a point that prompted John McCain spokeswoman Carly Fiorina to complain that the skit was “disrespectful” and “sexist”. But last night, Palin told Sean Hannity that she had watched the skit “with the volume all the way down”. She still said the skit was “hilarious” because the visuals were “spot on”, but it was unclear whether she had any idea yet as to what the characters had actually said, or as to how, exactly, she had been portrayed.

Now, says the Associated Press, the big question weighing on fans’ minds is whether Fey will continue to make guest appearances as Palin, or whether SNL will give the job to one of their regular cast members. Personally, I’d try to persuade Fey to come back as needed between now and the election, which takes place less than seven weeks away, on November 4. And after that? If McCain and Palin win, then I guess the folks at SNL should probably get someone else to play her. And if they lose, it’ll be a moot point.

Interestingly, one of the jokes in the skit is that Hillary Clinton thought she was going to be speaking by herself, and that she is surprised to be sharing the stage with Palin. That scenario came true just a few days later, when Clinton, who was going to take part in a protest against Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, cancelled her appearance upon learning that Palin had also been invited to the rally.

Finally, in the video below, Matt Damon makes a very funny point about Palin’s candidacy being like “a really bad Disney movie” — but he then goes on to undermine his credibility by spreading the notion that Palin believes dinosaurs existed 4,000 years ago. More on that after the video.

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

Unlike those bogus rumours about Palin’s children that were all the rage two weeks ago, the dinosaur rumour can’t even claim to be based on a sincerely held theory; instead, it comes from a parody of Palin created by a single blogger, which some anti-Palin types have bizarrely taken to be fact. Damon says he “needs to know” if this rumour is true, but dude, it took me all of five seconds to determine via Google that it isn’t.

So as far as I’m concerned, spreading this parody as if it were fact puts Damon and his ilk in the same category as those Christians who believed that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is a Satanist simply because The Onion said so, and because they wanted it to be so. Damon et al. can oppose Palin’s candidacy all they like, but they should really try not to confuse satire with reality.

Yet another movie not screened for critics?

No reviews yet at Rotten Tomatoes. No reviews yet at Metacritic. And the film opens in less than two days. Sounds like there have been no press screenings for My Best Friend’s Girl — which, given that it is a Lionsgate film and it stars Dane Cook, is not a surprise.

Canadian box-office stats — September 14

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 $4,430,000 — N.AM $33,193,000 — 13.3%
Mamma Mia! — CDN $17,950,000 — N.AM $139,318,000 — 12.9%
Bangkok Dangerous — CDN $1,490,000 — N.AM $12,531,000 — 11.9%

Tropic Thunder — CDN $10,940,000 — N.AM $102,971,000 — 10.6%
The House Bunny — CDN $4,370,000 — N.AM $42,154,000 — 10.4%
The Dark Knight — CDN $48,860,000 — N.AM $517,680,000 — 9.4%
Burn after Reading — CDN $1,750,000 — N.AM $19,404,000 — 9.0%

The Women — CDN $771,516 — N.AM $10,088,000 — 7.6%
Righteous Kill — CDN $1,230,000 — N.AM $16,500,000 — 7.5%
Fly Me to the Moon — CDN $563,916 — N.AM $9,854,000 — 5.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Mamma Mia! and Fly Me to the Moon were #7 and #10 on the Canadian chart, respectively (they were #12 and #14 in North America as a whole), while Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys and Traitor were #2 and #9 on the North American chart, respectively (they were #17 and #16 in Canada).

The day the sneak preview stood still.

I don’t expect this to stay online for very long, but click here to watch an extended sequence from the upcoming remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still that played on the Fox network tonight. Embedding has been disabled, otherwise I’d post it here myself.