Box-office update: Angelina Jolie, X-Men set new records, while God’s Not Dead passes Son of God in N America

The big news this week is that Maleficent, Disney’s revisionist take on the Sleeping Beauty story, ruled the North American box office with $69.4 million.

That’s smaller than the openings for other recent Disney live-action fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland ($116.1 million) and Oz the Great and Powerful ($79.1 million), but bigger than the opening for Snow White and the Huntsman ($56.2 million), which was produced by Universal.

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It’s all connected: Gertrude Bell, Harry Potter and more!

Deadline reports that James Franco is “circling” a role in Werner Herzog’s long-in-development Gertrude Bell biopic Queen of the Desert. The role — which was once going to be played by Jude Law — is that of Henry Cadogan, a British diplomat who met Bell when she visited Persia, or modern-day Iran, in the 1890s. Bell herself will be played by Naomi Watts.

This bit of news reminds me that I never got around to blogging the last bit of casting news around this film, when it was announced last summer that Twilight star Robert Pattinson is attached to play T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia”. I found that news kind of amusing because Pattinson has already co-starred with another actor who once played Lawrence.

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Cleopatra, Alexander, a space Odysseus and more!

The big news yesterday was that MGM is thinking of making yet another film version of Ben-Hur — and that was just one week after it was reported that Brad Pitt was thinking of starring in a movie called Pontius Pilate. But there have been a few other reports over the last few days about films in development with a Greco-Roman theme.

First, last Wednesday, the Hollywood Reporter said Ang Lee, the Oscar-winning director of Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi, was interested in directing the Cleopatra movie that Angelina Jolie has been attached to for the past couple years.

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Review: Mr. & Mrs. Smith (dir. Doug Liman, 2005)

First, for the handful of obsessive film buffs out there who never read the tabloids, Mr. & Mrs. Smith has nothing to do with the 1940s screwball comedy of that name directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Instead, it is a curious hybrid of action movie and domestic comedy that stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as professional assassins who are married but have kept their jobs secret from each other. Each spouse has all sorts of gadgets and weapons hidden around the house, and each assumes the other has a regular, boring job. And perhaps, in trying to live up to their suburban disguise, they have let things become too boring.

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Review: Alexander (dir. Oliver Stone, 2004)

Years ago, when I was a teenager obsessed with history, I began to wonder why Christ had come to Earth at the particular time that he did. Why not a century or two earlier or later? I eventually settled on the idea that he had come at the time that would have been most opportune for spreading the gospel — a time after the Greeks had unified many of the world’s cultures and bestowed on them a common language, and a time after the Romans had unified many of the world’s governments. It seemed unfair, then, that the Bible had almost nothing to say about the Greek empire; the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Roman empires all had major roles to play, but apart from an obscurely-written prophetic passage or two, the Greeks fell into that gap between the Testaments.

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Where sibs are a sin

For the haziest of reasons, there is a near taboo on the portrayal of adult brothers and sisters in film

In When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan famously argued over whether men and women could be friends without one of them wanting to have sex with the other. When I first saw the film 11 years ago, I found it funny, entertaining and a good conversation piece, but I couldn’t help thinking that Crystal and Ryan — neither of whom seemed to have any family beyond their fellow single New Yorkers — had overlooked something. I could certainly think of a few women in my own life for whom this was a non-issue, and one of them was sitting right next to me in the theatre. I refer, of course, to my sister.

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