Quick updates on A.D. and The Dovekeepers

Son of God producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett gave lots of interviews in the days leading up to that film’s theatrical release, and in a few of those interviews, they dropped a few hints about their follow-up projects A.D. and The Dovekeepers, both of which will also take place in first-century Palestine. Here’s a quick summary of what they’ve said.

First, in chronological terms, A.D. will start at the crucifixion of Jesus and cover the next 40 years of Jewish and Christian history, until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, while The Dovekeepers will start with the destruction of the Temple and continue through to the Roman siege of Masada, which ended in AD 73. It’s not clear whether the two shows will air in chronological order — they’re being produced for different networks — but those are the historical periods they will cover.

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The Prince of Egypt came out fifteen years ago today.

It was fifteen years ago today that The Prince of Egypt opened in theatres across North America. To mark the occasion, here are twelve things you may or may not know about the movie. (I would have come up with fifteen things, but didn’t have quite enough time.)

1. It came very close to being the first DreamWorks cartoon. It may seem hard to believe now, given that the DreamWorks brand has become associated with adolescent wise-ass humour and lots of pop-culture references, but when Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney and co-founded the DreamWorks studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in 1994, he aspired to epic greatness. After Katzenberg pitched the idea that animated films could take place on a grand scale like Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Spielberg suggested that they make an animated version of The Ten Commandments (1956) — and the resulting film was supposed to help establish the DreamWorks brand. [Read more...]

The Bible / What works and what doesn’t in the ambitious mini-series

It’s common these days for each new episode of a TV series to begin with a montage that sums up all the relevant plot points from previous episodes. So it was only natural that, when the History Channel aired its five-part mini-series The Bible over the month of March, all but one of the episodes began with narrator Keith David intoning, in his deep baritone voice, “Previously, on The Bible…”

All of the show’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in that one phrase. Produced by Mark Burnett (a TV mogul best known for unscripted “reality” shows like Survivor and The Apprentice) and his wife Roma Downey (who once starred in Touched by an Angel), the mini-series rushes through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in ten hours — though it’s more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks — and it zips through the stories so quickly that you barely notice when they are compressed even further in those opening sequences. But the mini-series also makes a point of emphasizing the continuity between Bible stories in a way that is quite rare among Bible films, and in a way that sometimes allows individual stories to shed light profitably on others.

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Review: The Da Vinci Code (dir. Ron Howard, 2006)

The makers of The Da Vinci Code have been saying for some time now that their film is not supposed to be taken all that seriously. It’s not history, and it’s not theology, director Ron Howard has said; instead, it’s just a rollicking good bit of entertainment. And leading man Tom Hanks has said it’s loaded “with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense,” calling the story “a lot of fun.”

If only they had taken their own advice. Dan Brown’s novel may be the product of extremely sloppy historical study, but even many of the book’s critics have admitted that it is a “page-turner,” an exciting yarn that carries the reader off on a semi-clever, fast-paced ride. The film, on the other hand, is a dull and plodding bore, and it takes itself far, far too seriously.

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