Wallace’s love life — third time’s the charm?

Every time the Wallace & Gromit films give Wallace, the human half of the claymation duo, a love interest of some sort, people tend to react as though there were something unusual about this, as though such a thing had never been done before. Case in point: in a recent post on the upcoming short film A Matter of Loaf and Death — which was called Trouble at Mill when it was first announced eight months ago — the sci-fi blog io9 actually emits a “gasp!” over the fact that Wallace seems to have a new girlfriend in the person of one Piella Bakewell. But what about Wendolene Ramsbottom in A Close Shave (1995) or Lady Campanula Tottington in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)? Hasn’t Wallace been friendly with the ladies before? I guess the difference this time is that Wallace may have finally gotten beyond the flirting stage. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how Gromit responds to there being someone else in Wallace’s life. As we saw when that penguin moved in, in The Wrong Trousers (1992), Wallace can be easily distracted, in ways that leave his pal in the doghouse — literally. And if the filmmakers ever really want to startle us, maybe they’ll give Gromit someone to pine for.

Polygamy movies — more than one, of course.

Movies often come in twos — two Truman Capote films, two meteor- or asteroid-based disaster movies, two computer-animated movies about ants, and so on — so it’s not too surprising that Variety brings news of two different films in the works based on the polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs, who was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 2006 and was convicted of being an accomplice to rape in 2007.

First, there was an announcement regarding Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, a memoir by Elissa Wall that has been picked up by Jeffrey Sharp and Christine Vachon, who previously collaborated on Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and A Home at the End of the World (2004).

Next, there was an announcement regarding Escape, the much more briefly titled memoir by Carolyn Jessop, which has been picked up by Katherine Heigl, star of Knocked Up (2007) and 27 Dresses.

Interestingly, the sect led by Jeffs belonged to a fundamentalist branch of the Mormon faith, whereas Heigl was raised in the mainline Mormon church, for lack of a better word, and she still speaks well of the church even though she doesn’t attend any more. So it is particularly interesting that she would be tackling a film on this subject.

Mormon polygamy is, of course, central to the TV series Big Love, which has been on the air since 2006 — and while I have never seen that show, I gather from Wikipedia that the characters on that show worry that people like Warren Jeffs have made their own branch of Mormonism look worse than it is.

Muslim polygamy is also becoming big news in North America, or at least in Canada. Are there any films or TV shows that cover the subject from that angle, I wonder?

Canadian box-office stats — June 15

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.

Sex and the City — CDN $12,330,000 — N.AM $119,522,016 — 10.3%
What Happens in Vegas — CDN $7,350,000 — N.AM $75,755,145 — 9.7%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — CDN $11,240,000 — N.AM $131,904,474 — 8.5%
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — CDN $5,740,000 — N.AM $68,760,685 — 8.3%
Iron Man — CDN $24,740,000 — N.AM $297,918,329 — 8.3%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $22,900,000 — N.AM $276,524,265 — 8.3%
Kung Fu Panda — CDN $7,640,000 — N.AM $117,289,932 — 6.5%
The Strangers — CDN $2,880,000 — N.AM $45,287,220 — 6.4%
The Happening — CDN $1,840,000 — N.AM $30,517,109 — 6.0%
The Incredible Hulk — CDN $3,070,000 — N.AM $55,414,050 — 5.5%

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

I’ve been sitting on some of these for a while — but no longer!

1. It looks like MGM is serious about remaking RoboCop (1987; my comments). The studio created a poster for the new film and put it on display at the Licensing International Expo in New York last week, and a studio rep reportedly re-assured a fan that the remake will be rated R, just like the first two RoboCop films — and unlike the PG-13 third film. The new film is apparently set for release in 2010, though no one is attached to direct it — yet.

2. Speaking of cyborg franchises that began in the 1980s, the MTV Movies Blog has a picture of the poster for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins that also appeared at the Licensing Expo — and they also report that the first trailer for that film might be attached to The Dark Knight, which comes out a month from now.

In related news, Terminator director McG posted an update to the movie’s official blog a couple weeks ago, in which he talked about the various Terminators that have been designed for the film — including the rubber-skinned T-600, which pre-dates the T-800 model that was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first three films.

Oh, and McG also floats the possibility that the new Terminator film might not be rated PG-13, as some have suggested.

3. And speaking of franchises that went from R to PG-13 and almost always suffered a drop in quality as a result, the MTV Movies Blog also reports that Brett Ratner is thinking of making Beverly Hills Cop 4 a PG-13 film, “to make it new for kids.” Or perhaps Ratner is really talking about making an R-rated movie for the kids? That would be kind of dodgy, even for him.

4. Jumper star Hayden Christensen has told the Toronto Sun that a sequel to his teleportation movie — indeed, a full-on trilogy — may be in the works. “But,” he adds, “I don’t think they’re rushing to get into production.” Thank heaven for small mercies.

5. Variety says John Moore is attached to direct a remake of Capricorn One (1978), the Peter Hyams conspiracy thriller about a faked mission to Mars. Moore’s last two films — Flight of the Phoenix (2004; my review) and The Omen (2006; my review) — were also remakes. Is it the director or the industry for which he works that is stuck in a rut here? Discuss.

6. Matt Page reports that the makers of Color of the Cross (2006), which posited that Jesus was a black man, have produced a sequel, Color of the Cross 2: Resurrection, that apparently came out on DVD about three months ago.

7. Remember how Disney announced two years ago that they were going to produce a bunch of Tinker Bell videos, in which the formerly mute fairy would now have a voice, courtesy of Brittany Murphy? It seems that Pixar dude John Lasseter, who has since taken over the Disney animation division, didn’t quite care for this development, so Brittany Murphy is out … and Mae Whitman is in. The first video comes out October 28. Hollywood Newsroom and the Hollywood Reporter have the details.

8. The Hollywood Reporter says Elizabeth Berkley, who may be best known for starring in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls (1995), is joining the sequel to Donnie Darko (2001) — and yes, there is a sequel in production — as “a speed freak-turned-Jesus freak whose sentiments about ridding the world of its exponential sin are rivaled only by her infatuation with her dreamy pastor.” I have to ask: What is it, exactly, that makes this sin so “exponential”?

9. Jeffrey Wells passes along this note from Werner Herzog:

As you probably know, I will begin principal photography of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in three weeks time, with only a very short period of pre-production. But I am doing fine, and this does not make me nervous. By the way: it is not a remake (as reported almost everywhere) — it is a completely different story in the same sense as the last James Bond is not a remake of the previous one.

“On another note: just before the hurricane I was scouting locations in Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Vietnam for The Piano Tuner, and as soon as I arrived in Bangkok I found myself arrested and handcuffed to a chair because of unpaid bills and taxes by the producers of Rescue Dawn. It required much explaining to explain that I was not the producer.

Just when you think this guy’s life couldn’t get any more interesting than it already is… Oh, and Variety says the Bad Lieutenant sequel, or whatever it is, may re-unite Ghost Rider (2007) co-stars Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes.

10. TrekMovie.com has the details for the newest Star Trek Fan Collective DVD set, which will focus on “alternate realities” — including six episodes set in the Mirror Universe, taken from three different series. The new set comes out September 16.

11. This isn’t a sequel or remake or anything quite like that, but I just have to note that a 20th-anniversary edition of Heathers (1989) is coming out on DVD next month — apparently one year early. Even so, has it really been 20 years already? That’s more than half my lifetime. Gadzooks, I feel old.

Seeing a movie again for the first time.

One more item for Father’s Day: National Post film critic Chris Knight had an article in yesterday’s paper on taking his three-year- old son to his first movie, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!:

When the film ended, we walked hand in hand to the lobby, where he tugged at my arm until he had me down at his level. He has his mother’s blue eyes and his father’s absurdly serious face. “Thank you for the movie, Daddy,” he said gravely and hugged me. You could not calculate a better way to bring tears to a father’s eyes.

In The Film Club, novelist David Gilmour’s wonderful memoir about watching movies with his teenaged son, he repeats this lesson, learned at university: “That the second time you see something is really the first time. You need to know how it ends before you can appreciate how beautifully it’s put together from the beginning.”

If we hold this to be true, it means the first time we really see a movie is often when we share it with someone else. Certainly we see it differently in the company of another. Films can impart knowledge, but they also invite thought, conversation, reflection and dissent.

Part of the joy of filmgoing is to recommend and be recommended good movies. And a joy for any parent is sharing with our children the things we enjoyed when we were young. It starts with fondly remembered books, reading the stories that were read to us; it moves on to movies, travel, philosophy, food and wine. Movies are a wondrous thing to share, for they are forever unchanging, waiting in canisters, video sleeves or discs for the next set of eyes to own them. Like islands, continents, worlds, they exist to be discovered, and there is no limit to the number of times this can happen.

I want my children to discover (as I rediscover) such family films as E. T., A Christmas Story and The Princess Bride; comedies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Duck Soup; adventurous tales like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings; thought-provokers like 12 Angry Men, Apocalypse Now and Bridge on the River Kwai. No doubt they will not share my love for all of these, and will make their own discoveries and share them with me. The wonder of watching our children grow apart from us includes the opportunity to grow together.

Hear, hear. Knight ends the article by saying that he is thinking of taking the wee tyke to see Kung Fu Panda: “I’ve only seen it once, on my own, which means I’ve never really seen it at all.”

Nemo, Godfather, Holland, Thomas, and me.

I’ve been thinking about doing a weekly series of favorite movie images, and for some time now I have wanted to start with the image above from Finding Nemo (2003) — and since today is Father’s Day, this seemed like as good a time as any.

I love the image above for a number of reasons. First, the luminous translucence of Pixar’s simulated underwater photography. Second, the obvious pro-life resonance. (I’m not saying that that’s how the filmmakers intended it, but it’s there just the same.) Third, the way this image ties into one of my favorite subjects, i.e. the nature and purpose of memory; to quote the relevant paragraph from that three-part lecture of mine on ‘Memory at the Movies’ that I sometimes talk about:

Of course, it isn’t too long after this that Marlin and Dori discover that Nemo is still alive after all, and there is an interesting scene where Nemo, who has just helped rescue a lot of fish, sinks to the ocean floor, exhausted, and Marlin scoops him up in his fin and says, “It’s okay, Daddy’s got you.” And as he says this, there is a brief flashback to the very beginning of the film, when Nemo was just an embryo and Marlin held him in his fin, shortly after the predator attack took away Nemo’s mother and all of Nemo’s brothers and sisters. The flashback is, of course, a memory. But it is not Nemo’s memory, it is Marlin’s. Does Nemo remember being an embryo? Does he remember the attack that scarred him for life? Of course not. But is the Nemo in that fish egg the same Nemo that we see throughout the rest of this film? Yes, of course. And it is through his father’s memory of him that the embryonic Nemo and the child Nemo have their unity. The story of Nemo is a much bigger story than Nemo himself can tell — it is a story that is built not just on Nemo’s memories, but the memories of others, too.

And finally, I like the image above because I am a father myself now, and scenes like this speak very powerfully to my protective instincts, and my sense of the frailty of life, especially in its early stages.

This is my third Father’s Day as a father, and while I love all three of my children and feel a special bond with each of them on various levels, I have a particular set of memories regarding the birth of Thomas.

I have often said that his birth, half an hour after his sister’s, was somewhat anti-climactic; the shock of Elizabeth’s first cries in the delivery room, and the sudden sense that my world really had changed irrevocably and I was nowhere near as prepared for the change as I thought I was, were so strong, that adding Thomas’s cries to the mix half an hour later didn’t really change much.

And yet. From that day to this, Thomas has always been much more easy to disturb, much more prone to crying. And he, like his sister, was born six or seven weeks premature, and spent the first month of his life in a special-care ward. And on the day that he was born, I spent several hours pumped on adrenaline and too distracted to even grab a bite to eat — so that by the end of the day, I was chemically unbalanced, and an emotional mess myself.

And I remember paying a visit to the special-care ward late in the day, and watching the nurses bathe Thomas, and watching Thomas cry and cry and cry — and it was almost too much for me to handle. I had spent months worrying that Thomas and Elizabeth might not make it out of the womb alive — my wife had been on strict bed rest from Halloween to Groundhog Day — but now, suddenly, I was hearing his cries with my own two ears, and I wanted to apologize for bringing him into this world of pain. Standing off to the side, while the nurses did their thing, I felt quite helpless.

So of course, I found myself thinking of a scene from another movie, namely The Godfather Part II (1974; my comments):

I have written here before about how having children of my own has made me more sensitive to the depiction of death and murder in film. To quote what I wrote two years ago:

Last night I finally got around to seeing The Departed . . . and I was struck by how some of the sudden deaths — especially when they happened in rapid succession — made me think about how these people had once been babies like my own, and how lots of love and care, or at least work, had gone into raising them and making them who they were. I was more acutely aware than usual of what a waste death is.

I have not seen The Godfather Part II in its entirety since my kids were born, but I imagine my sensitivity to such issues would be particularly high here, since this film, having shown us the infant Fredo and the clear love and concern that his father has for him, will go on to show the adult Fredo being killed many years later — by order of his brother. Really, just watching the scene from which these images were taken, just now, was involving on a level that I don’t think it ever has been before.

Anyway. When I did hold Thomas myself, I felt an urge to comfort him, to soothe him, and so I began to sing John Lennon’s ‘Beautiful Boy’ to him — and I was somewhat conscious of, and even a little embarrased by, the fact that I may have been inspired in this minor regard by Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995). I don’t own the film, and I have not seen it at all since its initial theatrical release, so I don’t have any images from that film here, but here is a picture of me holding Thomas when he was less than one day old:

Oh, wait, a copy of that scene from the film is up at YouTube; the ‘Beautiful Boy’ segment begins about two minutes in:

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

Anyway. I have no idea if Thomas would want me to sing him this song when he’s 15, or whatever age Cole is in the clip above. But I have a very, very strong suspicion that I will keep thinking the song, and wanting to sing it. And in my mind, I’ll be singing it underwater, in a sepia-toned tenement from the early 20th century.

Finally, to complement the picture of Thomas above, here is a much more recent picture of him, taken a few weeks ago during a father-son trip to the zoo: