Let sleeping Da Vinci Codes lie, people…

The Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters, reports that Italian state attorneys have launched a criminal investigation into The Da Vinci Code (2006), following a complaint filed earlier this year by Catholic clergy who allege that the film violates an Italian law forbidding “obscene” treatments of religion in film. Ten people, including director Ron Howard and author Dan Brown, are named in the complaint, and could in theory be fined or sent to jail.

The authorities say they have no idea why this complaint was filed now, over a year after the film’s release, but I have a theory:

Ron Howard is reportedly planning to shoot the sequel, Angels & Demons, in the near future, and it takes place almost entirely in Rome — and it targets the Catholic Church specifically. At the very least, this is a nuisance suit; but perhaps the complainants think they can stop the sequel from being made in Italy, which — given how important actual geography and famous landmarks are to these stories — might prevent it from being made at all.

WALL-E — what are robots “meant for”?

Last week, some e-pals and I were discussing ‘Religion for the Robots,’ a recent Sightings column by Robert M. Geraci. One of the topics that came up was whether robots would be directly responsible to God or, rather, to their human creators — or both.

Then, on Saturday night, I went and saw the sneak preview of the new Pixar film Ratatouille, and before it, there was a teaser for WALL-E, which comes out next year. I have embedded a YouTube copy of the teaser below; the tagline is: “After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he’ll discover what he was meant for.”

That’s a fascinating distinction. It is common in some circles to say that God is the Intelligent Designer of all life, and to say that God is the one who gives us purpose — but to suggest that WALL-E’s design and purpose are two different things, with presumably two different sources, could open up whole new areas of theology.

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

Canadian box-office stats — June 17

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.

Spider-Man 3 — CDN $30,570,000 — N.AM $330,016,000 — 9.2%
Shrek the Third — CDN $25,510,000 — N.AM $297,249,000 — 8.6%
Ocean’s Thirteen — CDN $5,990,000 — N.AM $69,810,000 — 8.6%
Knocked Up — CDN $7,710,000 — N.AM $90,482,000 — 8.5%
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — CDN $22,350,000 — N.AM $273,757,000 — 8.2%
Mr. Brooks — CDN $1,470,000 — N.AM $23,441,000 — 7.3%
Surf’s Up — CDN $1,960,000 — N.AM $34,671,000 — 5.7%
Hostel Part II — CDN $782,212 — N.AM $14,182,000 — 5.5%
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — CDN $3,100,000 — N.AM $57,400,000 — 5.4%
Nancy Drew — CDN $376,974 — N.AM $7,135,000 — 5.3%

A couple of discrepancies: Based on its first six weeks, the Canadian figure for Spider-Man 3 does not seem to include its IMAX screenings. The film had earned an additional $2,370,000 on IMAX screens as of June 10, which would give a combined figure of at least $32,940,000 for Canada, for at least 10.0% of the North American total — assuming that the American figure has already combined the regular and IMAX revenues.

more Val Lewton remakes on the way

Variety reports that at least three “horror” films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s might be remade in the near future:

Evolution Entertainment’s horror division Twisted Pictures has formed a joint venture with RKO Pictures and plans to remake four genre pics from the RKO library.

The companies will co-finance development and production of “The Body Snatcher,” a 1945 Robert Wise-directed thriller that starred Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff; the 1943 pic “I Walked With a Zombie”; and the 1946 Karloff starrer “Bedlam.” They’ve yet to select the fourth title from the RKO vault.

Interestingly, two of these titles have been remade before. The Body Snatcher is based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson which has been adapted several times since; and I Walked with a Zombie was apparently remade a few years ago by the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ gang as a movie called Ritual (2001).

Needless to say, I don’t hold out much hope that these new remakes will be any good. The only other Val Lewton film that has been remade, as far as I know, is Cat People (1942), and Paul Schrader’s 1982 version was quite inferior, as I recall. Plus, Variety mentions that the most recent remake of an RKO film was, of all things, Are We Done Yet? — in which Ice Cube took over the role created by Cary Grant in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). So, that isn’t exactly the best track record.

Evan Almighty and phone sex — oops!

Yikes. Universal Studios has gone out of its way to let people know that the PG-rated Evan Almighty is way, way more family-friendly than its PG-13 predecessor Bruce Almighty. So what happened when Entertainment Weekly‘s Carey Bell dialed the 1-800 number that God, played by Morgan Freeman, uses in the film…? Oops.

There is French, and then there is French …

Last year, I noted that French-language films made in Quebec are sometimes shown with subtitles even when they are shown in France — because the dialects in the two countries can be very different. Now comes this item via the National Post:

Like children all over North America, pint-size Quebecers have been flocking to theatres recently to see the animated film Shrek the Third, or Shrek le Troisieme as it is known here. The only problem is they are leaving confused about what exactly that donkey was saying.

“The donkey is the main character we don’t understand here in Quebec,” explained Tristan Harvey, a Montreal actor who makes his living dubbing movies into French. “When you go out with your child and watch the movie, the children and the adults will say, ‘I just don’t get it. He speaks another language.’ He’s using Parisian slang that we just don’t get.”

Because the French-language version of the movie now on Quebec screens was dubbed in France, Quebecers have trouble following the dialogue. It is one example among many that led politicians in Quebec City last week to call for a law obliging the major Hollywood studios to dub their movies in Quebec, using Quebec actors. In an interesting twist on Quebec’s age-old language debate, the fight is not against English but against the often incomprehensible dialect spoken in mother France.

The fight was taken up last week by Mario Dumont, whose Action democratique du Quebec leapt from nowhere to official opposition in the last election thanks in part to its message that the Quebec identity is under threat. During the election campaign, Mr. Dumont was preoccupied by perceived threats from religious groups seeking accommodation of their customs; now it is the Hollywood studios and the Parisian actors they hire to dub their films. His party tabled a bill last Wednesday that would force studios to have their films dubbed in Quebec before they can be released in the province. (Existing law requires that a French-language version be available but does not dictate where the dubbing is to be done.)

Mr. Dumont told reporters about taking his baffled children to see Shrek le Troisieme. “You have very Parisian expressions that are typical to Paris or France [and that] children of Quebec have never heard of, cannot understand. So this is the whole story of cultural diversity,” he said.

It is also a story of a lucrative industry that actors fear could be lost if the major Hollywood studios abandon their commitment to dubbing in Quebec.

Quebec’s Union des artistes, which represents film, stage and television actors, says the dubbing industry was worth $25-million last year, providing work for 800 people. Of that number, 200 are actors, most of whom work in relative anonymity, providing the French voices of Hollywood stars. . . .

The union annually rates the Hollywood studios on their performances in dubbing in Quebec, awarding prizes to the best and worst. The lemon prize for worst performance last year was shared by Fox and Paramount, which dubbed 52% and 42% of their films in Quebec, respectively. The top prize went to Warner, which dubbed all its films in Quebec. Overall, 73% of major releases were dubbed in Quebec, down from 78% the year before. . . .

Mr. Harvey, who provides the voice of the Seth Rogen character in the current comedy Knocked Up (Grossesse surprise), says the issue for Quebec audiences is not simply one of hearing a familiar accent. Quebec is much more in tune with mainstream American culture than France, so much gets lost in a translation done for European audiences. “They don’t understand as well the American reality, so they transpose it to the European reality,” he said. . . .

If you haven’t read it yet, do make a point of reading that Saturday Night article on the differences between Québécois French and European French versions of The Simpsons. It’s fascinating.