Paramount and MGM team up for the Ben-Hur remake

If there’s one studio that has consistently tried to revive the Bible epic since the genre died in the 1960s, it’s Paramount.

They were involved with Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in the early 1980s, until protesters prompted them to pull the plug mere days before the film was supposed to start shooting.

They were the ones who produced King David, starring Richard Gere, in 1985.

And they were the ones who gave the green light to Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which is now the second-highest-grossing Bible movie ever worldwide, behind Mel Gibson’s independently-produced The Passion of the Christ (2004).

So now, reports Variety, they are teaming up with MGM to co-produce the upcoming version of Ben-Hur, which will be directed by Timur Bekmambetov from a script by John Ridley, who recently won an Oscar for his work on 12 Years a Slave.

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Noah news round-up: a box-office milestone, distribution difficulties in the Philippines, and Rob Moore speaks

Paramount announced today that Darren Aronofsky’s Noah has grossed $300 million worldwide since it first opened in Mexico and South Korea on March 21.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that Noah is the fourth-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide so far, behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($586.7 million), The Lego Movie ($441.7 million) and 300: Rise of an Empire ($329.2 million).

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The Battle of the Bible Films — the article’s up!

My article on the Bible-movie revival is now up at the Christianity Today website; it will also be in the print edition of the magazine. The article looks at the fitful attempts made by the studios to cash in on the success of The Passion of the Christ since it came out a decade ago, it looks at the three Bible movies coming out this year — Son of God, Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings — and it looks at what might be next if Noah and Exodus are big-enough hits. It also includes soundbites from publicist Jonathan Bock, director Darren Aronofsky (Noah) and screenwriters Stuart Hazeldine (Paradise Lost, Gods and Kings) and Barbara Nicolosi (Mary).

Box-office update: Noah might get edged out of the top ten, Heaven Is for Real does better than expected, Son of God and God’s Not Dead begin to see some action overseas

Noah may or may not be in the top ten in this, its fourth week of release.

Deadline reports that Noah is virtually tied with God’s Not Dead and newcomer Disneynature’s Bears for the #9 spot, with a weekend haul of $4.8 million each. Box Office Mojo gives Noah the edge with an estimated $5 million, while Leonard Klady says God’s Not Dead is well behind the other two, with only $4.3 million.

In any case, one of those films will end up outside the top ten, in the #11 spot, when the final figures are released tomorrow. If Noah turns out to be that film, then it would have one more thing in common with Son of God, box-office-wise, as that film fell out of the North American top ten in its fourth week of release, too.

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Review: Transcendence (dir. Wally Pfister, 2014)

Transcendence is, in theory, the sort of film I ought to like. It’s a science fiction film with big ideas about the increasingly blurry line between humanity and technology, and it addresses the question of whether some creations can ever outgrow or improve upon their creators. The film also has some fantastic production design. It’s a treat to look at.

But in execution, the film — the first to be written by Jack Paglen and the first to be directed by Wally Pfister, a cinematographer who has shot all but one of Christopher Nolan’s films — leaves a lot to be desired, almost as though the ideas at play were simply too big for the filmmakers to really get a handle on.

Most significantly, the film sets up a conflict but can’t decide whose side it’s on — which makes for a curiously subversive bit of entertainment but also leaves the story feeling quite muddled, especially in its final moments.

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Noah news round-up: Oscar buzz & an environmental panel

It seems like the Oscars happened just last month. Oh, wait, that’s because they did happen just last month. So we have almost a year to go before the next batch of golden statues are handed out. Still, why wait to campaign for next year’s awards when you could start right now!

Two weeks ago, Pete Hammond wondered whether critically-acclaimed films like Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel might have a shot at the Oscars, despite the fact that they were released so early in the year. Now comes word, via Deadline and Variety, that Paramount has already started its campaign for Noah.

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