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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Flashback: Jackman and Mangold before The Wolverine

Tonight marks the release of The Wolverine, the sixth installment in the X-Men franchise and the sixth film to feature Hugh Jackman as the self-healing Canadian mutant with the retractable adamantium claws.

The Wolverine is also the second film, following X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), to feature the title character as a stand-alone protagonist, and one fun bit of trivia is that both of the stand-alone movies have represented a reunion of sorts between Jackman and one of his key collaborators on the time-travelling romantic comedy Kate & Leopold (2001). The first film co-starred Liev Schreiber as Wolverine’s half-brother; he had previously played Jackman’s great-great-grandson in Kate & Leopold. And now, the second film is directed by James Mangold, who directed Kate & Leopold. (If there’s a third Wolverine film, perhaps it will co-star Meg Ryan?)

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Fantasies and fairy tales speak to our spiritual needs

MAGIC is everywhere you look these days. From bookstores to movie theatres, stories about wizards, witches and mythological beasts are all the rage; and for a person like me, who grew up with hobbits, aliens, flying horses and Jedi Knights, the current fantasy craze — and the various Christian responses to it — bring back a lot of memories.

How popular is fantasy right now? The most successful movie of the year (so far) is Shrek, a cheeky parody of the fairy tale genre that turns conventional wisdom about ogres, dragons and beautiful princesses on its head. That film’s box office performance could be surpassed in a few weeks by Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film based on J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally popular novels about a young orphan and his classmates at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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