Terry Mattingly on the next VeggieTales movie

I’ve been meaning to mention this ever since Chris at Movie Marketing Madness posted the trailers below back in July, but it kept slipping my mind. Anyway, following the mixed blessing that was Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie (2002; my review) — it bankrupted the producers, but it remains by far the top-grossing independent evangelical movie ever made — the owners of the VeggieTales franchise have decided to forge ahead with a follow-up called The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.

The film doesn’t come out until January, but Terry Mattingly has devoted his newest column to the movie and its makers:

This time around, the vegetables don’t quote scripture and their adventure doesn’t turn into a funny version of a Bible story. Still, the artist also known as Bob the Tomato stressed that Veggie fans don’t have to worry that these pirates have abandoned the faith.

“You can do a story like this one of two ways,” said Phil Vischer, who created Big Idea, Inc., and continues to work as a writer and performer for the company.

“You can say, ‘Let’s start with a Bible story and then we’ll figure out where our characters fit into it.’ When you do this, you know that you already have a story and some characters and there is a biblical message in there. The challenge is figuring out how to make it VeggieTales story. You have to find the humor.” . . .

If the first approach to telling stories starts with the Bible and then blends in humor, the second begins with a funny story and then tries to blend in some faith. That’s what happened in 2003 when Vischer had his rowboat vision and wrote the script for “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”

“You can do it either way. This time, we just started out with the slacker pirates and we went from there,” he said. “When you go this route, someone always has to ask, ‘So what’s the lesson here?’ I usually have to say, ‘I don’t know right now, but we’ll dig around until we find one.’ “

So the new movie’s message is biblical, even if it doesn’t openly quote the Bible. . . .

My kids will be one month shy of their second birthday when this film comes out. I wonder if they will be ready to see it by then?

The theatrical trailer:
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The teaser that appeared on some VeggieTales DVDs a while ago:
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And hey, did Vischer suggest in that last video that it was possible, or indeed desirable, to be both a pirate and a hero? (“…it’s a real adventure, where they’ll have to be real pirates and see if they can become real heroes…”) Some might find that a bit problematic.

From Superman Returns to I, Lucifer …

Variety reports:

Superman needs some ideas for what his next adventure might be.

Superman Returns” scribes Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris have opted not to come back and pen a sequel to the 2006 summer pic that would have reunited them with helmer Bryan Singer. The three also worked together on “X2: X-Men United.”

As a result, WB is now taking pitches for Supe’s next outing from other scribes — just as the studio is trying to figure out which actor will don the character’s tights in “Justice League.” . . .

Harris, who had previously helmed “Imaginary Heroes,” is writing and directing “I, Lucifer,” based on the book, with Daniel Craig attached to star.

Say what? Daniel Craig, who (if the films stay true to the books) will lead a rebellion against God in the His Dark Materials trilogy, is also going to play the original rebel against God? Seems so — though this news has apparently been kicking around for at least a year and a half, which leads me to wonder both why I have never mentioned it here before, and how close this project is to getting out of “development hell“. (Um, no pun intended. Honestly.)

Newsbites: Apocalypse! Majesté! Taxes! Truth!

Time for a few more quick updates.

1. Will Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), the documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now (1979) that was sorely missing from the recent so-called “complete dossier” edition of that film, finally come out on DVD next month? It seems that way, but co-director George Hickenlooper is annoyed that he was left out of the loop — and he fears that Francis Ford Coppola may have made changes to the film “so he would look better”.

2. Variety says Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “mythological comedy” Sa majesté Minor — translated His Majesty Minor in this story, but Her Majestic Minor when I first mentioned it here over a year ago — has turned out to be “a major box office flop in his native Gaul.” Annaud is reportedly blaming the critics “for the thorough pan they gave his first French language film in more than a decade.”

3. Reuters and the Globe and Mail report that British Columbia is extending the tax credit it offers to film producers from its current expiry date of 2008 to 2013. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mention such a boring bit of business here, but I was at a press conference in the late ’90s where then-premier Glen Clark announced either the credit itself or an earlier amendment to it, and these stories jogged that memory. (Also, the Reuters story claims that the American dollar is worth 97 cents Canadian right now, but on Friday I got only 94.75 cents for each American dollar that I cashed.)

4. What would be left of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006) if we removed the nine scientific errors that a British judge recently identified in that film? Not much, beyond “Gore personal drama and cinematic fluff”, asserts Steven Milloy at FoxNews.com.

5. The Globe and Mail profiles Ansel Yamamoto Mitic, a toddler whose abstract art is currently on display at the G+ Galleries in Toronto. I wonder how it compares to that of Marla Olmstead, the controversial pre-school subject of My Kid Could Paint That.

The Milky Way — nuances in translation

I saw Luis Buñuel’s The Milky Way (1969) for the first time ever last night, and I liked it a lot, though I will definitely have to see it again and do some reading — on both the film and the various theological debates that it refers to — before I can comment on it in any detail. In the meantime, I was amused to see that I remembered just enough of my high-school French to catch a play-on-words that is missed by the subtitles. Near the end of the film, the beggar-pilgrims Pierre and Jean — two modern blokes who have been traipsing through various periods in Catholic history on their way across Spain — meet a prostitute who asks them, “Got any money?” Jean tells her, “We even have gold.” The striking thing about this exchange is that the French word for money, as used by this prostitute, is argent, which literally means “silver”. So the dialogue refers, essentially, to “silver and gold”, a metallic duo that come up frequently in the Bible. I wouldn’t want to read too much into that reference, but it is kind of cute.

Did Persona inspire The Exorcist?

There are lots of great links at the Close-Up Blog-a-thon, hosted by the group blog The House Next Door. One that jumps out at me is this post by Tim Lucas at the Video WatchBlog, on a couple of shots in Ingmar Bergman‘s Persona (1966) that are eerily similar to a couple of shots in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973).

Both films feature subliminal glimpses of a demonic figure:

And both films feature close-ups of a face, half of which belongs to one character and half of which belongs to another character:

In the latter case, though, I think the image from The Exorcist may be unique to the digitally enhanced “writer’s cut” that came out in 2000; I haven’t checked my DVDs yet, but I don’t recall seeing that particular image in the original version of the film.

At any rate, after posting these images, Lucas writes:

To the best of my knowledge, this relationship between PERSONA and THE EXORCIST has not been previously explored or detected. It certainly isn’t noted by Bergman biographer Marc Gervais in his audio commentary for PERSONA. I would find it hard to accept that these shared images could have happened unconsciously on Friedkin’s part; they are too studied. To me, this discovery does nothing to detract from Friedkin’s brilliance as the mastermind behind the film of THE EXORCIST; any director could have taken William Peter Blatty’s script and made a more straightforward film of it, but Friedkin had the sensitivity and the panache to recognize that PERSONA, too, in its own way, was a story of demonic possession. I not only accuse him of using this imagery knowingly, I also congratulate him for intuiting that PERSONA’s extreme, nerve-flaying visual vocabulary was precisely what THE EXORCIST needed to rattle audiences — a primary and wondrous instance of the commercial American cinema being secretly pollenated by the international art cinema.

And of course, The Exorcist co-starred Max von Sydow, who often starred in Bergman films — though admittedly not in Persona.

The Seeker — the interview’s up!

My interview with David L. Cunningham, director of The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, is now up at BC Christian News. The article may seem a little past its sell-by date, since the movie opened two weeks ago, but the interview took place several days after the film came out — a fact that is reflected in the interview itself — and this was the soonest that the paper could post the article online.