Newsbites: Burial! Hermione! 300! Escape!

Newsbites: Burial! Hermione! 300! Escape! March 19, 2007

Time for another batch — some new, some catching up.

1. Variety reports that Screen Gems is talking to Stephen Frears, of The Queen fame, about directing The Burial:

Story concerns Willie Gary, who was one of 11 children in a family of migrant workers. He became a multimillionaire attorney, fighting for the working man against huge corporations. Pic will focus on a $500 million settlement he won for the owner of a small chain of funeral homes in Mississippi who sued a Canada-based conglom that dominates the industry.

Sounds like it’s about the case that drove Vancouver’s Ray Loewen and/or his Loewen Group into bankruptcy. Perhaps it’s just my geographic bias showing, but as I understand it, this case is widely seen as a travesty, as a triumph of American xenophobia over the protections that were supposed to have been built into the NAFTA agreement. Somehow I don’t expect this film to take that angle.

Interestingly, both Gary and Loewen have made a point of noting their own Christian beliefs, in interviews and on websites. It will be interesting to see if the film deals with any of that material.

2. The New York Post reprinted a British tabloid item to the effect that Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies, is still thinking of not being in the last two films. But now BBC News reports that the studio is “extremely confident” that Watson will stick around to see Hermione through to the end.

3. Variety and the Associated Press report that some Iranians are not all that happy to see their Persian ancestors depicted as decadent, depraved, imperialist bullies in Zack Snyder’s 300.

Meanwhile, Brian D. Johnson of Maclean’s, as re-posted by Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, writes that the film’s depiction of the Spartan warriors’ heroic “mass suicide” prompted him to think of “fascists, suicide bombers and fundamentalists who promote the righteous beauty of marching off to a perfect death.”

Elsewhere, John Mark Reynolds at The Scriptorium writes:

It is no surprise that the number one film in America is “The 300.” The story is classic, the marketing campaign is brilliant (if annoying), the comic on which it is based is first-rate (bringing built in fan-boys), and a nation at war finally hears a full throated defense of fighting.

Hollywood has refused to make pro-war films and there was a pent up market for a film with less angst and more courage.

Regretfully, the story is useless as a defense of our present War (if anyone should try to use it as such) and paints a dangerous image of combat.

The picture of warfare is pagan and not Christian. However wonderfully told, the message is seductive in its simplistic glorification of violence and not appropriate to our time. . . .

Me, I still want to know if the conservatives who champion this movie’s depiction of the Spartans also affirm the film’s emphasis on the role that infanticide played in making the Spartans such a tough lot in the first place — weeding out the weak, and all that.

Finally, Kyle Smith at the New York Post compares and contrasts 300 with the movie that inspired Frank Miller’s graphic novel in the first place: Rudolph Maté’s The 300 Spartans (1962).

4. Speaking of 300, it looks like that remake of Escape from New York (1981) starring Gerard Butler is really going to happen — Variety reports that New Line has snapped it up. The script will be written by Ken Nolan, who also wrote Black Hawk Down (2001; my review). One of the companies producing this remake, by the way, is called Original Films, which is a wee bit ironic.

5. Happy Feet director George Miller tells the Herald Sun that he still wants to make Mad Max 4, but if he does so, it will be without Mel Gibson, who is now “too old and focused on his own films . . . Instead, Miller hopes to secure a rising young star for the role.”

6. The sequel to Superman Returns is on hold while Bryan Singer develops a World War II thriller for United Artists. Now says Warner Brothers is thinking of subsuming the Superman franchise into that Justice League movie that is currently in development. Does this mean Singer’s film — and the Richard Donner and Richard Lester films that were incorporated into it — will be part of the Justice League movie’s back-story? Like, e.g., will Superman still have a son by Lois Lane?

UPDATE: Variety disputes the rumour, but completely ignores the Justice League part of the story, and thus misses the point. “One thing is for sure, though: Superman isn’t flying off the Warners lot,” writes Pamela McClintock. Well, sure, but will he return as a solo superhero, or as part of a larger team? That’s the question.

7. Jim Hill reports from Disney’s annual shareholders’ meeting:

The only other news that might interest all you hardcore Disneyana fans out there is that the company is now revisiting its decision not to release “Song of the South” on DVD. When quizzed by Carol Koster about the current status of this 1946 Walt Disney Productions release, Iger first expressed his concerns about the film. Wondering aloud if it would actually be possible for today’s audiences to put this picture in the proper context.

But Bob (while making no promises about what might happen next with this historic motion picture) then went on to say that ” … we will look at (“Song of the South”) again. And Dick Cook (I.E. The Chairman of Walt Disney Studios) would be in charge of that effort.”

FWIW, I’ve got a bootleg copy of Song of the South (1946; my comments), and I can’t imagine for the life of me why it has never been released on video on this continent. Get it out, already!

8. The Globe and Mail takes a look at the development of Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy), the upcoming oratorio based on Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979; my comments), looking especially at composer Eric Idle and his younger cousin, Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Peter Oundjian.

9. Dave Kehr of the New York Times reviews Kino’s new DVD boxed set Animated Soviet Propaganda. I dunno about you, but I know I’ve put this one high up on my queue.

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