Denzel and Travolta team up for Pelham remake

This one is for my friend Magnus, with whom I saw the original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) almost a month ago.

We already knew that a remake is currently in the works, and that Denzel Washington — teaming up with director Tony Scott for the fourth time, following Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004; my article) and Deja Vu (2006; my comments) — is slated to play the good guy who was originally played by Walter Matthau.

Now Variety tells us that John Travolta has signed on to play the bad guy who was played by Robert Shaw in the original film.

What say you to this news, Magnus?

By the way, on a semi-unrelated note, I just realized the other day that American Gangster — the upcoming crime flick directed by Tony’s brother Ridley Scott — marks the second time that Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe have worked together. In the new film, Denzel is a criminal and Crowe is a cop. But the roles were reversed years ago, when Crowe played the cybernetic villain in one of his first American films, the sci-fi flick Virtuosity (1995), while Denzel played the ex-cop who is sent out to get him. Wow, that takes me back (see page 4 of this PDF file for my review).

Yet another Noah’s Ark cartoon!?

Unbelievable. As if the market was not already glutted with Noah’s Ark cartoons, we now have Rock the Boat. Reports Variety:

Gaumont is getting into 3-D animation with the $35 million feature “Rock the Boat,” a two-minute clip of which will preem at next week’s American Film Market.

The Gallic major is bidding to secure a U.S. deal before casting English language thesps to voice the film early next year.

Tale, being pitched as “Some Like it Hot” set on Noah’s Ark, is about a cheetah and a porcupine forced to disguise themselves as other creatures to qualify for a place on the Ark.

Gaumont’s Franck Chorot is producing, with Fabien Suarez and Andre Bessy, first-time helmers, co-directing from an original script by Suarez.

The entirely French-made film has been in production for the past 10 months and is slated for delivery by September 2009, ahead of a Christmas release in France. The French f/x company MacGuff Ligne will handle physical production of the film. . . .

Here are the other recently-released or currently-in-development Noah’s Ark cartoons I have mentioned over the past month:

  1. El Arca, which came out in Argentina this past summer.

  2. Noah’s Ark: The New Beginning, which Promenade Pictures is already producing from a script by Ed Naha.
  3. Noah’s Ark, which Unified Pictures plans to produce from a script by Philip LaZebnik.

If you know of any others, by all means, let me know.

OCT 26 UPDATE: Matt Page at the Bible Films Blog has discovered a promo pic for this film at the Gaumont website. It depicts what seems to be an ape holding a pictorial checklist — a gimmick we saw several years ago in Walt Disney’s Fantasia 2000 (1999).

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post says Saw IV, which opens this weekend, “is not being screened in advance, natch”. No surprise there, since Saw III wasn’t screened for critics either. I can’t recall if Saw II was. I do know that the original Saw is the only film in this series that I have seen, and that is because there was a press screening for that one, way, way back in 2004.

Tom Hanks is back for Angels & Demons

Remember Angels & Demons, the sequel or prequel (depending on how the movie adapts the novel) to The Da Vinci Code? Variety reports that Ron Howard is rushing it into production:

As Hollywood scrambles to make deals before the Oct. 31 expiration of the WGA pact, one fast-tracked project has almost flown under the radar — though it could become one of the biggest films assembled during this frenzied period.

Columbia has formalized a February start in Europe for “Angels & Demons,” the Ron Howard-directed sequel to “The Da Vinci Code” that will be released in December 2008.

Producers Brian Grazer and John Calley, Col, Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman are seeking to finalize the shooting script before next week’s deadline. Meanwhile, the “Angels” team have begun casting around Tom Hanks, who will reprise his role as Robert Langdon. . . .

Hanks’ character, a Harvard-based expert on religious symbols, this time sleuths a mystery that involves a secret society and a conspiracy that leads to Vatican City and threatens the future of the Catholic Church. . . .

Unless I am mistaken, this will mark the first time Ron Howard has directed a sequel to one of his own films, as well as the first time Tom Hanks has played the same character twice — apart from the Toy Story movies, where he only provides his voice, of course.

Jeffrey Wells loves 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

When 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days — Cristian Mungiu’s masterful film about a woman and her friend trying to procure an illegal abortion in 1980s Romania — won the Palme D’Or at Cannes earlier this year, a number of people wrote as though the film took some sort of implicitly pro-choice stance (“if only abortion had been legal in Romania at that time, these women would not have had to go to such lengths, or allow themselves to be exploited so badly,” that sort of thing). Catholic blogger Victor Morton, who saw the film at the Toronto film festival, didn’t see it in quite that light, but his positive appraisal was still worded somewhat cautiously:

As for the portrayal of abortion. Yes, this movie is in a very broad sense *about* the quest for an illegal abortion. Abortion as either a moral matter or a political issue simply does not appear, on either side. The decision to abort was made before the movie begins, and the abortion and disposing of the dead baby are simply tasks in a laundry list and, unlike in VERA DRAKE, nobody says abortion is wrong. But there is a shot of the result of the abortion that doesn’t last long but is as in-you-face and bloody as any pro-life group poster (this being the 5th month, it’s an undeniably human form and it’s far more explicit than the original ALFIE. Squeamish: Consider this your warning.) On balance, I would put it this way: 4 MONTHS is a movie where nobody says word of pro-choice propaganda and which shows an aborted corpse dead on the floor. That’s a net plus.

But now comes Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere — not the most right-wing of bloggers — who calls the film an “absolute” “masterpiece” and “the most persuasive anti-abortion argument in any form I’ve ever heard, seen or read.” Wow! He then adds:

I did what I could to assist two former girlfriends in getting two abortions — one in the mid ’70s, the other ten years later — so I know a little bit about what it feels like peripherally (and a little bit psychologically), but I’ve never felt so immersed in the hard particulars of grappling with the reality of getting an abortion until catching this film last Friday night. I didn’t just feel moved and shaken — I felt changed after it was over.

I saw this film at the Vancouver film festival, and will be reviewing it soon — it doesn’t open in the States until January, but it opens in Canada November 2 — so I knew the film was good. But I hadn’t expected to see it get reactions like this! This makes me all the more eager to see the film again, to encourage other people to see it, and to see what sort of dialogue emerges around this film.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Wells has now posted a follow-up, asserting that most pro-lifers will “avoid this film in droves” because they don’t like subtitles and “are largely xenophobic when it comes to sampling foreign cultures and their films.” Let’s hope he’s wrong — and let’s hope that, if he is wrong, pro-lifers won’t try to turn the film into a propaganda tool, but will engage with it as art.

Randall Wallace to direct The Arcanum

The Hollywood Reporter says Randall Wallace — the screenwriter of Braveheart (1995; my comments), Pearl Harbor (2001; my review) and the upcoming Atlas Shrugged, and the director of The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and We Were Soldiers (2002; my article) — has been tapped to direct The Arcanum:

Adapted from Wheeler’s debut novel, the 1919-set story follows Arthur Conan Doyle as he leads a secret society known as the Arcanum — whose members include magician Harry Houdini, voodoo priestess Marie Laveau and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft — against a powerful supernatural force that threatens the world. Wheeler is doing a production polish before going out to cast.

Given that Wallace is a big fan of C.S. Lewis, I would think he might have been better suited to the similarly-premised Here There Be Dragons, which is also being turned into a movie. (Or, perhaps even better, a film version of Heaven’s War.) But anyhoo.

Incidentally, Wallace’s good friend Mel Gibson produced — and had a cameo in! — an earlier film that featured both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. It was called FairyTale: A True Story (1997; my review), and Doyle and Houdini were played by Peter O’Toole and Harvey Keitel — but in that film, Doyle was a believer in the supernatural while Houdini was a skeptic.