Disney drops “Dawn Treader”

Disney studios has dropped its plans to co-produce the next Narnia movie, “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Walden Media plans to secure another partner, possibly Fox. This article on the subject includes some interesting criticism about how Disney handled the last Narnia movie, “Prince Caspian”:

Citing “budgetary considerations and other logistics,” Disney pulled out of its partnership with Walden Media, leaving the rights-holder of the Narnia books to scout for a new partner to produce “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” which they had planned to release in May 2010.

The latest move casts a cloud of doubt over the third Narnia film, which may cost around $200 million to produce. It has also drawn criticism from fans of the original book series, who blame Disney for the less-than-expected success of the second Narnia film, “Prince Caspian.”

“Disney flatly refused to have any pre-screenings of Prince Caspian and would not pursue any special marketing of the film to churches and other Christian markets,” observed the C.S. Lewis Society of California. “In direct contrast, for the first film an extensive and highly effective marketing campaign directed by Motive Entertainment (the marketing experts from Passion of the Christ fame) produced an enormous response from Christian movie goers.”

In 2005, the first Narnia film, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” raked in $745 million in ticket sales worldwide on a $180 million production budget. The second, however, pulled in only $419 million despite a larger $200 million budget.

“Unlike the first ‘Narnia,’ which had a holiday release, the sequel came out in the spring, and it was up against superhero summer fare like ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Indiana Jones,’” observed media analyst James Hirsen in a commentary for Newsmax.com. “Disney tried to market it as an action flick, with limited success.”

“Disney … presented Prince Caspian as a strictly secular and violent, fantasy/adventure/romance, and the result was all too predictable,” the C.S. Lewis Society added in its statement Monday.

The organization also blamed “Prince Caspian” director Andrew Adamson, who they say “refused to embrace the full story and theme of the book,” thus leading to a “weak and mangled script.”

A constitution for our celibritocracy

Yesterday’s post about celibritocracy, continuing current trends of letting ourselves be governed by celebrities, got me thinking. We will need a new constitution. How about this?:

The Executive Branch will be made up of Actors. After all, the Executive is the branch that, well, acts.

The Legislative Branch will be made up of writers, replacing the House of Representatives, and directors, replacing the Senate. Writers and Directors are the ones who tell actors what to do. And, as we can see from our movies, writers and directors are capable of resolving the most complex and convoluted of problems. Why shouldn’t they do just as well in real life?

Replacing the Judicial Branch will be panels of Critics. They will evaluate and judge the performance of the other branches. If a policy “bombs,” to use the new legal vocabulary, it will be subject to a “remake.”

The public will by no means be cut out of the process. The performance of everyone in all three branches will be subject to continuous monitoring through opinion polls and scientific sampling. Everyone in government must get “good ratings.” Otherwise, they lose their jobs.

Wouldn’t this work?

“The Tale of Despereaux”

We just got back from the movies, where I was privileged to be in attendance at our two-year-old grandson’s first full-length motion picture. He was completely absorbed for the whole 90 minutes, like everyone else reaching for popcorn and stuffing it in his mouth while his eyes were glued to the big screen.

We watched “The Tale of Despereaux,” and I recommend it. It’s a computer-animated literary fairy tale about a mouse who refuses to cower and a rat who developed a taste for fine food and so refuses to eat garbage. (Think of the symbolism!) It’s on the serious side, rather than comic, with a rather complicated plot. But it’s good, celebrating the chivalric virtues of “honor, courage, and justice.” And what it takes to be a “gentleman.” How sad it is that those very words seem anachronistic today. The movie also celebrates the Christian virtue of forgiveness. Sammy and I give it two thumbs up.

What movies should I rent?

My film class is over, and my Netflix account is my own. Christmas break looms. I’ve been somewhat out of touch with movie releases since I stepped away from reviewing movies for WORLD. The post below shows my frustration with bad, though heralded, movies. You all were helpful in giving me ideas for books I should read. So what movies should we rent?

HT: Jackie

Hating on the “Beowulf” movie

We finally watched the “Beowulf” movie. It was bad in so many ways, I hardly know where to begin. First, I do not like that technique of blending real actors with computer animation. It makes for interesting special effects, but, at this stage of technology, the faces have static expressions with dead eyes. Thus, the technology gets rid of actual acting! Worse, the “Beowulf” movie tried to dramatize a great work of literature without the filmmakers having any idea what it means. (All they would have had to do is read J. R. R. Tolkien’s brilliant critical essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.”) Even worse, the filmmakers thought they could tell a better story than the ancient bard, but all they did was fall into absurdity. (King Hrothgar is Grendel’s father? Beowulf and Grendel’s mother were the parents of the dragon? So the story is about heroes killing their children, without a trace of conflict or angst? It doesn’t make sense!) But worst of all, the filmmakers made a movie about an ancient time, making it void of its values, without any sense of honor, glory, magic, or mystery. Yes, it’s about barbarians, but we are far more barbarous than they were.

Another unlikely convert

We blogged earlier about Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas becoming a Christian. Now he tells his story in a book, which Anthony Sacramone reviews. From A Strange Review: ‘Crossbearer’ by Joe Eszterhas « Strange Herring

You know Joe Eszterhas. Well you know his films — or at the very least know of them: Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Showgirls.

Yeah, that guy. Well after years and years of abusing his body with booze and smokes, he was found to have throat cancer — then found himself on the jagged, ragged edge himself. Know what he did? He cried out to God.

And got saved. Yep. Saved. His word. And in Crossbearer (St. Martin’s Press), he offers his confession, of a life of sex, drugs, rock n roll, crime, booze, and enough nicotine to put a neat little hole in his windpipe.

He tells of the years he and his Catholic Hungarian family spent as refugees fleeing the Nazis, about growing up in Cleveland, about his work as a journalist and some of the psychological tricks he’d play on the families of crime victims to arrange just the right photo op. How he used to roll the drunken homeless. How he used women. How he bullied his way through Hollywood and managed $3 million pay days. How he was basically just the kind of self-absorbed fundament you would expect a screenwriter of sex-and-violence melodramas to be.

And then he got saved. On a curb, in tears. Fearing for his life. Fearing he couldn’t kick his smoking and drinking addictions. Fearing his throat cancer would keep him from raising his kids. growing old with his wife, Naomi.

And then … for the first time since I was a boy … I opened my heart to God on that curb … and instead of turning His back on me, instead of saying, “Come on! Give me a break! Not you!” God entered my heart. And God saved me—from darkness. From death itself. God saved me … from me.

And so he went back to the Catholic Church, the church of his youth. He became a cross bearer, the layperson who carries the large wooden cross in procession at the opening of the liturgy — Rolling Stones T-shirt and all. . . .

Along the way the writer delivers his views on priestly celibacy, gay marriage, and various and sundry other social and political issues that put him closer to Michael Moore than Mel Gibson (although he is decidedly anti-abortion, except in the case of rape). But as far as the person of Jesus goes, his theology is catechism-worthy. He loves Christ, wants to be Christ in the world, wants to raise his four sons in Christ. He prays earnestly and frequently and received concrete answers to prayers. And he wants a chance to shout to his friends, enemies, colleagues, that Christ saved him and that Hollywood needs some serious reform.