Swing Vote — the review’s up!

My review of Swing Vote is now up at CT Movies.

Kings — a little bit biblical, a little bit sci-fi

A few days late, this post, but better late than never, as they say. One of the many shows that had a panel at last week’s Comic-Con was Kings, the NBC series that modernizes the biblical story of David and his complicated relationship with King Saul.

I had always thought that the series would be taking place in “our” world, to the extent that most works of fiction set in the present usually do — I had vaguely assumed that all the references to “soldiers” and “kingdoms” in the earlier reports were basically metaphorical — but it turns out the series is a little stranger than that. Liz Shannon Miller, writing at Anne Thompson’s blog, reports:

The pilot sets up an alternate universe where, after a devastating civil war, New York and the surrounding area has become a kingdom led by King Silas (Ian McShane). David (Chris Egan) takes on Goliath-brand tanks. . . .

Creator Michael Green (“Heroes”) spoke candidly about getting the opportunity to pitch a pilot to NBC: His response was to “give them the weirdest idea I had.”

Audience questioned both the religious and political overtones of the story. Green denied intending a Biblical context — “it’s just a hero’s story” — despite the pilot beginning with King Silas giving a speech full of references to God.

“Is the fact that it’s a monarchy meant to be omnious?” one audience member asked, admitting, “it made me feel a little uncomfortable.” But the panel refrained from drawing comparisons between the political structure of “Kings” and the current American government, preferring to point toward the parallel between the power held by corporate CEOs. . . .

Carmen Andres also links to this interview that series creator Michael Green did with SciFi.com:

But Green said the series is not literal in that he plays with the iconic story and that it veers into what he calls “soft sci-fi.” “I’m not afraid of sci-fi, and I love it,” he said. “We didn’t want to do this as a space opera. We wanted it to be a familiar world, but at the same time we are inventing a world. We had a lot of fun inventing what this world is going to look like. We are taking New York and impressing our own aesthetic and own iconography. We got to have a lot of fun with that. I remember talking to David Eick about this when he was doing Battlestar, and he said they were always asking themselves the question ‘What do doorknobs looks like?’ We decided that we wanted to have things look like they could fit in our worlds, but you’re not sure what city it is.”

Green said that part of the SF element has to do with the idea of “magic, faith, happenstance, luck, God.” “I look at it as the hand of faith guiding the heroes,” he said. “I’m curious to see how people perceive that. The ongoing discussions when people see it are ‘Is that magic? Did something just happen beyond physics? Is it something special or luck?’ I won’t answer that and will let people interpret that.”

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly‘s Vanessa Juarez passes on the news that pilot director Francis Lawrence and producer Erwin Stoff “had been working on a classic D+G film at Universal”. Is that “D+G” as in “David and Goliath”? Are they referring to the script that Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote about a year and a half ago? What’s the status on that project these days?

Finally, NBC has provided this video of the panel — and miracle of miracles, I can actually watch it here in Canada:

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

Newsbites: Xenophon! Nefertiti! Joan! Jesus!

What’s old is news — or newsbites — again.

1. Variety reports that Jimmy Miller, a producer best known for Will Ferrell comedies, is going to produce “several period dramas” with Robbie and Jonathan Stamp, who are described by the newspaper as “accomplished historians, authors and documentary filmmakers.” The latter Stamp even has experience as a producer on the HBO series Rome (2005-2007).

The first collaboration between Miller and the Stamps will be an adaptation of Anabasis, “a memoir written around 400 B.C. by Xenophon, a Greek soldier who was among 10,000 elite mercenaries who attacked the Persian Empire and who led them back through hostile terrain after their leader was betrayed and slain.” Naturally, the studio, Columbia Pictures, was interested in the project partly due to the success of 300 (2006), which was loosely inspired by a battle between Greeks and Persians that took place about 80 years earlier.

2. The Hollywood Reporter says producer Lucas Foster has optioned Robert Zacco’s novel The Arms of the Sun:

The novel is part of a trilogy about the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and focuses on Nefertiti, the consort of Akhenaton, the first royal to espouse belief in a single god.

Many scholars have speculated that there may have been some sort of connection between Akhenaten’s monotheism and that practised by the ancient Hebrews, who were either slaves in Egypt under Akhenaten’s reign or had been liberated just a generation or two earlier, depending on whose chronology you follow. I know nothing about Zacco’s novel, but it would be interesting to see if he gets into that at all.

And say, this reminds me, what ever became of John Heyman’s Nefertiti, which was going to be based on a book which espoused the theory that Akhenaten and the biblical prophet Moses were one and the same person?

3. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter both say John Goodman is back on board as Pope Sergius in Pope Joan, which is based on a novel about a woman who allegedly led the Catholic church while posing as a man during the 9th century. David Wenham will play Gerold, “the lover of the titular female pontiff.”

4. Mark Goodacre reports that the British mini-series The Passion — not to be confused with Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), which covers the same basic topic — will be coming to DVD in the UK in October. The mini-series was broadcast on the BBC last Easter, and is due to play on HBO in the United States probably sometime next year. I have no idea when or where it might be playing in Canada.

Rosenbaum on DeMille’s Commandments

Jonathan Rosenbaum has just posted a review of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) that he wrote for the Chicago Reader when the film was re-issued way back in 1990. Very interesting stuff. I would quibble with a few of his statements of fact and at least one of his more minor interpretations — I do think, in fact, that the film inclines us to believe that Joshua and Lilia get together in the end — but the broader contours of his argument seem sound to me. I especially like his points about the changing nature of special effects over the past half-century, and how parts of the film are even, in some ways, anti-spectacle.

Is Jason Bourne bigger than Matt Damon?

iF Magazine reported last week that Doug Liman, director of The Bourne Identity (2002) and producer of its two sequels, has confirmed that a fourth movie is in development — and he says it may be made with or without Matt Damon:

However, could Liman see the series going on without Damon, a la the Bond franchise?

“Yeah,” he says. “Jason Bourne is a movie star. I think Matt Damon is not as big a movie star as Jason Bourne is. Daniel Craig is a movie star, but James Bond is more of a movie star.”

Two possible problems with Liman’s somewhat glib assessment:

One, Damon made Bourne a star in the first place, so it is by no means clear that Bourne could carry on without him. Remember how Sean Connery left the Bond franchise after five movies, only to be replaced by George Lazenby, after which the producers begged Connery to come back, before ultimately moving on to Roger Moore? It took the Bond franchise a while to find its footing, after Connery’s initial departure, and it could easily take the Bourne franchise a while to do so, too — especially since it is not at all clear where the franchise could go from here, given that the third film essentially undid the whole premise of the series.

Two, the Bond films — especially the early ones — were based fairly closely on a very popular, and rather long, series of novels and short stories, whereas the Bourne films, as I understand it, have basically ignored the books from the get-go and have used little of them beyond the titles and a few basic ideas. So Bond has always had a separate fanbase, quite apart from the movies, and whenever the movie franchise has tried to regenerate itself, it has done so by reaching out to that fanbase and stressing its renewed faithfulness to Ian Fleming’s original stories. The Bourne franchise wouldn’t have those options: there are only three books, the fanbase is not as big, and the movies have strayed so far from their source material that there is probably no way they could make a point of being faithful to the books now even if they wanted to.

Quantum of Solace — the theme song’s a duet!

Nikki Finke is reporting that Jack White and Alicia Keys have recorded a duet as the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film Quantum of Solace — the first duet in the franchise’s history, at least where the opening credits are concerned. The song is called ‘Another Way to Die’, so a question that has preoccupied the minds of soundtrack buffs everywhere remains unanswered: Have the composers figured out a way to work the movie’s rather unusual title into the lyrics of its theme song? (It’s not impossible: Just look at how Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ found a way to use the words “the spy who loved me” back in 1977.)