Unhappy feet. Trudge of the penguins.

I’ve been meaning to link to this for a few days: Chris Knight at the National Post had a report from the Toronto film festival on Encounters at the End of the World, the new documentary from Werner Herzog, that had me laughing on the bus:

Encounters is essentially Herzog’s home movie of his trip to Antarctica last summer. Laced with dry Germanic humour, it follows the filmmaker as he ambles across the bottom of the world interviewing some of the thousand or so inhabitants of McMurdo Station, the U.S.-run hub of science and exploration activities on the continent. From the people he meets, it’s clear Antarctica holds more than its share of oddballs, misfits and misanthropes, as if you shook the world and all the eccentrics settled at the bottom like sediment. Herzog, who finds the presence of aerobics and yoga classes in McMurdo Station “an abomination” and who remarks that “human life is part of an endless chain of catastrophe,” fits right in.

Herzog was invited to visit Antarctica by the National Science Foundation, he says, “even though I made it clear I would not come back with another film about penguins.” But to ignore the tuxedo-clad fowl completely would be like coming to the festival and turning your back on George Clooney in an elevator. So he interviews penguin expert Dr. David Ainley, but in his inimitable Herzogian style asks: “Is there such a thing as insanity among penguins?” Ainley, taken aback, says the birds do sometimes get disoriented, and Herzog immediately cuts to a group of penguins huddled together in the snow. Half of them waddle off toward the sea to feed; half make for their nesting grounds; but one sad bird stands alone for a long moment before turning his back on the camera and trudging off toward a mountain range some 70 kilometres away. It’s a bitter bit of comedy; even in the penguin world, it seems, Herzog can find a link in the endless chain of catastrophe.

Given Herzog’s other films, I can just imagine this scene. Chuckle.

Tron sequel in the works … again?

Last week, it was announced that Steven Lisberger, the writer and director of Tron (1982; my review), was working on his first new movie in years. Then, today, it was announced that he would produce — though not direct — a sequel to Tron itself!

Quoth the Hollywood Reporter:

Commercial director Joseph Kosinski is in final negotiations to develop and direct “Tron,” described as “the next chapter” of Disney’s 1982 cult classic. Sean Bailey is producing via the Live Planet banner, as is Steven Lisberger, who co-wrote and directed the original film.

Kosinski, who last month signed on to helm the remake of “Logan’s Run” for Warner Bros. Pictures, will oversee the visual development of the project and have input on the script, which is being written by “Lost” scribes Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Story details are being kept secret. . . .

When making the original, in order to convince the studio to take a chance on a first-time director, Lisberger shot a test reel, financed by the studio, involving the deadly Frisbee battle. In a case of historical synchronicity, sources said one of the things Kosinski will be doing is working on a sequence involving the movie’s Light Cycles to work out his vision for the movie. Sources also said visual effects personnel, for many of whom “Tron” was an inspiration to enter the business, already are jockeying for pole position to work on the sequence. . . .

Incidentally, Variety noted last week that Lisberger “wrote a ‘Tron’ sequel several years ago but the movie stalled amid Mouse House regime changes.” Will this new film be based on that script? Or have advances in the technology rendered that screenplay out of date? Either way, I am curious to see how this turns out.

Rambo IV gets dumped on January

ComingSoon.net reports that John Rambo, also known as Rambo IV, will come to theatres on January 25. This does not bode well for the movie, since January is traditionally a dumping ground for films that studios don’t have much confidence in.

For comparison’s sake, Sylvester Stallone’s other recent franchise revival, Rocky Balboa, opened a few days before Christmas — a much more auspicious release date.

Incidentally, the film has a new, “restricted” trailer — and while it adds to the hyper-violent imagery of the earlier promo reel, it does not have any of the religious symbolism.

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Canadian box-office stats — September 9

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 $5,370,000 — N.AM $25,089,420 — 21.4%
Shoot ‘Em Up — CDN $717,820 — N.AM $5,716,554 — 12.6%
Superbad — CDN $11,570,000 — N.AM $103,219,381 — 11.2%
Stardust — CDN $3,770,000 — N.AM $34,594,712 — 10.9%

The Nanny Diaries — CDN $2,210,000 — N.AM $20,877,849 — 10.6%
The Bourne Ultimatum — CDN $20,990,000 — N.AM $210,294,605 — 10.0%

Rush Hour 3 — CDN $9,490,000 — N.AM $128,721,208 — 7.4%
Balls of Fury — CDN $1,660,000 — N.AM $24,241,209 — 6.8%
3:10 to Yuma — CDN $877,055 — N.AM $14,035,033 — 6.2%
Halloween — CDN $2,350,000 — N.AM $43,709,854 — 5.4%

The Simpsons — the Star Wars version

What do you get when you cross The Simpsons and Star Wars?

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Chariots of Fire sequel too “religious”?

The Guardian has picked up on the news that Rich Swingle is writing a sequel to Chariots of Fire (1981) — and the article claims that Swingle’s film will be called With Wings as Eagles, rather than Beyond the Chariots, which was the title of his one-man play.

This is interesting, because Ken Wales has talked about making his own sequel to Chariots called With Wings as Eagles. Wales is never mentioned in this article, so either Swingle has teamed up with Wales and the Guardian neglected to mention this, or there are two rival sequels in development using the same title.

The Guardian says Sue Pottle — the daughter of Harold Abrahams, the Jewish runner played by Ben Cross in the original film — is concerned the new film will overplay the religious angle. And this has Jeffrey Overstreet at the Looking Closer Journal concerned that the Guardian itself may be overplaying the religious angle in order to dismiss the movie before it has even been made.

I hate to quibble with Jeff’s post — especially since I agree that the secular media tends to get a bit paranoid whenever evangelical faith enters the picture — but a few points come to mind.

First, the title “Chariots of Fire” was probably derived not from the Bible, not directly, but from William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time‘, which formed the basis for ‘Jerusalem’, a hymn that is performed in the film and on the soundtrack album.

Second, it does not seem that the Guardian was “picking through the details of Rich Swingle’s life looking for something horribly suspicious.” Instead, the story states: “Swingle’s CV shows religion is a central theme in his work.” Looking to an artist’s past work for a sense of what his future work might be like seems fair, to me.

Third, Jeff claims that the original film “did not favor the Scottish Christian’s view over the English Jew’s view.” However, critics such as Margaret R. Miles have argued otherwise.

Finally, it does not seem so odd to me that the Guardian would describe Swingle as a “committed Christian”. The term is often used by self-professed “committed Christians” to distinguish themselves and others from “nominal Christians” and others who are not so, well, committed. If “we” can say it, why not the Guardian?

Besides, writers do sometimes critique the “committed” members of other faiths for making movies that reflect their beliefs.

Just look at the Amazon.com review of Red Corner (1997): “Using a faulty thriller for his soapbox as an outspoken critic of China, a devout follower of the Dalai Lama, and an influential supporter of Tibetan freedom, Richard Gere resorts to the equivalent of propagandistic drama to deliver a heavy-handed message. . . .”

And does not Dead Man Walking (1995) derive at least some of its power from the fact that we know Tim Robbins et al. are firm opponents of the death penalty, yet they made a movie that is more fair-minded than we might have had reason to expect?