Juggling to the Beatles — unbelievable!

Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with movies, but this is too awesome.

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Kidman: Golden Compass isn’t “anti-Catholic”

From Entertainment Weekly‘s fall movies preview and the blurb therein on The Golden Compass:

”It follows the novel as closely as it can,” promises Daniel Craig, who grew an un-Bondlike beard to play Lord Asriel, Lyra’s explorer uncle, ”but there’s still a lot missing. That’s always the case when you adapt a book into a movie. You have to focus more on the storytelling.” Conspicuously absent, for instance, is any reference to Catholicism; instead, the malevolent organization that snatches children to surgically remove their souls is referred to in the movie only as the Magisterium. ”It has been watered down a little,” admits Nicole Kidman, who stars as the icily evil Mrs. Coulter. Not that she’s complaining. Quite the contrary. ”I was raised Catholic,” she says. ”The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn’t be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.” She wouldn’t be able to do any possible sequels, either, but Kidman and Craig have both signed on for two.

Nothing particularly new here, though this is the first time I have come across Kidman referring to her own Catholicism; prior to this, I knew of Kidman’s Catholic roots mainly because the Aussie priest who officiated at her wedding to Keith Urban last year told reporters that Kidman had made a “spiritual homecoming”.

I wonder if Kidman read the original books before signing on to do the sequels, which, at least in novel form, make the anti-religious aspects more explicit. She couldn’t have read the screenplays for the sequels, since last I heard, they were still being written.

A Body Snatchers movie without pod people?

The New York Times had an item on the various versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers last week, before the newest one, The Invasion, had been screened for the press. Near the end of the article, Oliver Hirschbiegel, the original director of the newest film, “offered a few details” about the film. Among them:

There is also more exposition. And in a modification that for some will verge on sacrilege, there are no pods. “It would be too campy,” he said. “Audiences are too cynical.”

The plot is set in motion by a space shuttle crash. It releases microorganisms that, he said, “can remodel our genetic structure. So it has to do with these tiny spores. We did the research, and we know it’s possible.”

Pods would be “too campy”? Funny, the pods in the previous three films didn’t seem campy when I watched them earlier this week (though in the case of the original 1956 film, you do have to make a few allowances — not that many, but a few — for the special effects of that time; fortunately, the actors do sell those scenes).

One of the reasons the pods work so well in the earlier films is because they are so creepy and mysterious. We don’t know entirely how it is that they do what they do; all we see is the results. But the new film, with its “research” and “exposition”, tries to make everything explicable — and as a result, it devotes too much of its dialogue to pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.

In my own review, I called it “overly technical dialogue”, while other critics have called it “incomprehensible, 30-second bursts” of speech (Chris Knight) and “dialogue that can hardly be spoken” (Roger Ebert). Meanwhile, Rick Groen sympathizes with . . .

. . . poor Jeffrey Wright, whose sole function is to serve as Exposition Man, there to advance the lumbering plot by babbling scientific jargon at a breakneck pace. Be sure to catch him during the tacked-on and absurdly bright ending, when his words defy belief but his speedy delivery shatters the sound barrier. Jeffrey seems in an awful rush to get out of the picture, and who can blame him.

So would the pods really have been all that much worse? I mean, it sounds like moviegoers still found much to be “cynical” about.

And that’s before we get into the various ways that eliminating the pods from the story undermines the tension and suspense. For starters, it was very clear in the earlier films that there was simply No Going Back if a person fell to the pods: The original person died, and the pod took his or her place. But in the new film, people merely undergo a biochemical change, and once the film raises the possibility of a cure… Well, that changes things considerably.

The Last Invasion — the reviews are up!

My review of The Invasion is now up at CT Movies, as is my review of The Last Legion.

Several decades of female Hollywood stars.

Several sites have embedded or linked to this video already, but it’s so good that I might as well post it here too:

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Harrison Ford’s E.T. cameo — up at YouTube

I have long known that Harrison Ford had a cameo in a scene that was deleted from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982).

And I have long wondered how this cameo was shot, given that roughly the first two-thirds of Steven Spielberg’s film do not show the faces of any adult characters except for Elliott’s mother.

Well, thanks to YouTube, now I know.

Incidentally, Damian Arlyn at Windmills of My Mind has been blogging a different Spielberg film every day this month, as part of a series called “31 Days of Spielberg“. Check it out.