Review: Shake Hands with the Devil (dir. Roger Spottiswoode, 2007)

AT LEAST one new movie about the Rwandan genocide has been produced each year for the past four years, ever since Terry George directed Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo to their richly deserved Oscar nominations for Hotel Rwanda — and to the casual viewer, it might seem like all these films are beginning to blur together.

All of these films — including Shooting Dogs (released in the United States as Beyond the Gates), A Sunday in Kigali and the newest film, Shake Hands with the Devil — have depicted the shock and horror felt by whites and blacks alike when Hutu extremists began killing Tutsis by the tens of thousands in April 1994.

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Movie to explore “missing years” of Jesus

We’ve had plenty of films about the adult life of Jesus when he was in his 30s, and a fair number about his infancy, and even a few that brought to life apocryphal legends about his childhood. But what about his adolescence and early adulthood? Variety reports:

Indie financers have signed director Drew Heriot to make his feature debut on “The Aquarian Gospel,” a story of Jesus Christ’s “missing years” from ages 13 to 30.

William Keenan (“Poor Things”) is producing with Thaddeus Carlson co-exec producing the $12 million-$15 million project with plans to use a high-definition format in the vein of “300″ with shooting on U.S. soundstages.

Heriot directed self-help documentary “The Secret,” which sold more than 2 million DVD copies. John F. Sullivan and Keenan wrote the script, inspired by two books — “The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ” (1908) by evangelical preacher Levi Dowling and “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ” (1898) by Russian anthropologist Nicholas Notovich.

Story chronicles Jesus’ journeys from Israel through India, Tibet, Persia, Greece and Egypt as he encounters people of all creeds, classes and faiths.

Producers plan on using actors from the Middle East, India, the Far East, Europe and America along with modern-day spiritual leaders in cameo roles, portraying prominent historical and religious figures that Jesus encountered.

But will it have a cyborg chariot race? recently spoke to James Middleton, executive producer of the Terminator spin-off series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, about his plans for the feature film Terminator 4:

It will follow the events of T3 and be post-apocalyptic. It’s not known whether Nick Stahl and Claire Danes will return, but John Connor and Kate are in the script. The movie will feature a new hero as the main character. Middleton likened the story to how “Ben-Hur was influenced by Jesus Christ, but it was his story. Much in that way, this character will be influenced by John Connor.”

So will we only see the back of John Connor’s head this time, then? The character did have a certain messianic mystique in the first film, precisely because we never saw him, but the sequels have made him all too familiar, even frail and vulnerable, now.

“Another year, another Rwanda movie.”

I actually considered beginning my own review of Shake Hands with the Devil that way, but I decided against it, out of a sense that it might seem too disrespectful to those who endured the awful real-life events depicted in this film. I see, however, that Scott Foundas begins his review for Variety that way. Ah well. The film opens this Friday, so my own review will be up in a few days.

Canadian box-office stats — September 23

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 $6,420,000 — N.AM $30,751,000 — 20.9%
Eastern Promises — CDN $901,888 — N.AM $6,549,000 — 13.8%
Sydney White — CDN $698,749 — N.AM $5,323,000 — 13.1%
Superbad — CDN $13,430,000 — N.AM $116,171,000 — 11.6%

Mr. Woodcock — CDN $1,660,000 — N.AM $15,700,000 — 10.6%
The Bourne Ultimatum — CDN $22,260,000 — N.AM $220,160,000 — 10.1%

Resident Evil: Extinction — CDN $1,860,000 — N.AM $24,000,000 — 7.8%
3:10 to Yuma — CDN $2,850,000 — N.AM $37,911,000 — 7.5%
Good Luck Chuck — CDN $1,040,000 — N.AM $14,000,000 — 7.4%
The Brave One — CDN $1,840,000 — N.AM $25,115,000 — 7.3%

A couple of discrepancies: Mr. Bean’s Holiday was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #15 in North America as a whole), while Dragon Wars was #10 on the North American chart.

Not just another low-budget Rapture flick…?

There are many — far, far too many — Christian films based on the 19th-century concept of the Rapture and the various social and political problems that follow it. But how many non-Christian films have explored this territory? There is Michael Tolkin’s scathing The Rapture (1991), of course. But beyond that, nothing comes to mind — except, perhaps, for a low-budget flick-in-the-making that got some attention the other day in the Charleston City Paper:

It’s Judgment Day. Mankind has been nearly wiped out. Ruthless creatures roam the land to prey on the survivors, their small numbers dwindling. All of God’s chosen people have been beamed up to heaven.

For four nonbelievers who’ve been left behind, the world they’ve awakened to isn’t much different than the one where the Good Book says they’ll ultimately end up, that is if they don’t change their heathen ways. And in the days after the Rapture, that’s hard to do. After all, the survivors are more likely to be forced to summon the head-cracking power of a Louisville Slugger than the power of the Lord.

This is the world of The Man Who Shot God, written and directed by Mt. Pleasant filmmaker John Barnhardt. With five short films under his belt, he’s spent 2007 shooting and editing his first full-length movie with a dedicated group of local actors and filmmakers. Many of the crew members are from Trident Technical College, where he teaches in the film department.

“I want this to be the El Mariachi of Charleston,” he says, referring to celebrated director Robert Rodriguez’s first indie hit, which was shot for less than $7,000. “We’re making the equivalent for half the money. I want to carve a path for independent film here and get people saying, ‘Hey! Look at these guys. Look at what they’re doing!’” . . .

Barnhardt has posted some clips at MySpace and YouTube.