All posts from “June 2009”

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June 28, 2009

'Stoning' Actress Gets It Wrong

Aghdashloo makes false claims about stoning: 'nothing to do with Islam'

Robert Spencer of American Thinker calls out Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (pictured here) for statements she made when publicizing her new film, The Stoning of Soraya M.

Spencer cites of few of Aghdashloo's comments in an interview with the Staten Island Advance, in which she says that stoning "has been happening since the Stone Age, in Judaism, Christianity, Islam." Spencer replies, "In fact, no," and goes on to state his case, showing where Aghdashloo gets it wrong.

Continue reading 'Stoning' Actress Gets It Wrong...

June 24, 2009

Shia Seeking Something?

'Transformers' star clearly doing some soul-searching these days

Right now, Shia LaBeouf has an eye on the box office stats, where monster numbers are already piling up for the Transformers sequel, which opened everywhere at midnight last night and in which the young actor plays a starring role.

But LaBeouf might just have an eye on something else too--something a bit more ethereal, maybe even spiritual. Check out these quotes from a recent article and photo shoot in PARADE magazine:

Continue reading Shia Seeking Something?...

June 24, 2009

Stephen McEveety -- the "deleted quotes"

My interview with Steve McEveety and Jim Caviezel, the producer and co-star respectively of The Stoning of Soraya M., went up at CT Movies yesterday.

The article focuses pretty narrowly on that one film, but I also asked McEveety about a couple other films that his company, Mpower Pictures, is working on -- so here are a few "deleted quotes" from the interview.

First, I asked about Left to Tell, a movie currently in development about the Rwandan genocide that is based on a book by a woman who survived the genocide and attributes her survival to her Catholic faith. I asked if Mpower was especially interested in films with religious content, and McEveety replied:

Continue reading Stephen McEveety -- the "deleted quotes"...

June 24, 2009

Jesus, Spartacus, and Monty Python

Peter Bradshaw makes a very interesting point about Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), which recently returned to British movie screens for one day only:
The story of Spartacus reverses the Jesus myth: instead of getting sold out by his followers and dying a terrible death on the cross, Spartacus is protected by his troops, who are prepared to endure crucifixion rather than reveal the leader hidden in their ranks.
And then Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979) came along and put the two stories together. At the end of that film, Brian is crucified along with dozens of other Jews (and at least one Samaritan), but then a soldier comes along, asking who Brian is so that Brian can be taken down from the cross. And whereas the extras in one movie all yelled "I'm Spartacus!" as a sign of self-sacrificial solidarity with their leader, the extras in the other movie all yell "I'm Brian!" as a way of selfishly trying to save their own skins, at the expense of the genuine Brian's life.

Continue reading Jesus, Spartacus, and Monty Python...

June 22, 2009

Go Ask Alice

Burton's 'Wonderland' weird and wonderful; Depp is Mad!

USA Today gives readers a "first look" at some images from Tim Burton's upcoming Alice in Wonderland, including the image at right of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Could be Depp's most eccentric character since . . . well, he's been eccentric a lot. But certainly his most visually colorful since playing Willy Wonka in Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Check out more images from the film (due March 2010) here and here.

June 22, 2009

Fighting Robots Are Cool


While I wasn't a big fan of Michael Bay's Transformers, the 12-year-old robot geek inside me loved the bots he and his team created. I'm expecting the new movie to have the same frustrating mix of weak plot, frustrating side tangents, needless side plots and annoyingly lowest-common denominator "comic" relief. But I am also expecting bigger and better robot stuff. Here are some cool geeky facts about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:

* There were 14 robots last time. There are 46 robots this time.
* If you had all the gold ever mined in the history of man, you could build a little more than half of Devastator (seen here), a robot comprised of several smaller Decepticons. (Here's the old Devastator.)
* In one key sequence, Optimus Prime will be life size on IMAX screens.
* The first movie took 20 Terabytes of disk space. The sequel took 145 Terabytes. That's seven times bigger and would fill 35,000 DVDs. (That's gonna be awkward for NetFlix.)
* If you rendered the entire movie on a modern home PC, you would have had to start the renders 16,000 years ago to finish in time for the premiere.
* A single imax shot in the movie would have taken almost 3 years to render on a top of the line home PC running nonstop.

June 19, 2009

Read. And. Weep.

Reason No. 673 why Pixar is the greatest studio on the planet.

Ten-year-old Colby Curtin was dying of a rare form of cancer, but she had one last wish before her death: To see the new Pixar/Disney movie Up.

But she was too ill for a trip to the theater, so when Pixar heard about it, they flew a rep to Colby's house in Huntington Beach, CA, for a private screening in her home. Colby died seven hours later.

"When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie," Colby's mother, Lisa Curtin, told the Orange County Register. "I just know that word ‘Up' and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven."

(Hat tip to Joel Storey.)

June 18, 2009

Miley to Play the Teen Rebel Role

Cyrus to star in adaptation of Sparks novel; possible faith elements

For the most part, Miley Cyrus -- aka "Hannah Montana" -- has been an upstanding and outstanding role model for young girls, with only hints of "scandal" here and there. Cyrus attributes her good behavior to her Christian faith, as she discussed in our recent interview.

Now Cyrus really gets to play the teen rebel role in her next film, The Last Song, a coming-of-age-drama based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe). The film, to be released in January 2010 by Touchstone Pictures (Disney's "grown-up" division), begins production this week in Savannah, Ga.

A recent press release from Touchstone describes the story as being "set in a small Southern beach town where an estranged father (Greg Kinnear) gets a chance to spend the summer with his reluctant teenaged daughter (Cyrus), who'd rather be home in New York. He tries to reconnect with her through the only thing they have in common - music - in a story of family, friendship, secrets and salvation, along with first loves and second chances."

Salvation? Hmm. We're intrigued. Another online description states that Cyrus's character remains angry about her parents' divorce three years after the fact, and is especially alienated from her father, "a former concert pianist and teacher [who] is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church."

A local church? Hmm, again. Sparks is a Christian, and so is Cyrus, so it'll be interesting to see what faith elements might be included here. Cyrus impressed critics with her acting chops in the recent Hannah Montana movie, but this will be her first chance to truly stretch herself into more dramatic range.

June 18, 2009

Fresh, Rotten, and Everything in Between

What's in a consensus of opinions, anyway? Depends on your source.

When Star Trek hit theaters last month, I wrote that the film was getting "pretty good, though not great" reviews across the board. One of our critics dashed off an e-mail asking, "Do you and I have a different definition of 90-plus percent at Rotten Tomatoes?!"

Well, yes we did. All Rotten Tomatoes tells us is that 90-plus percent of critics liked the movie, but didn't necessarily love it. Once some analysis was done on the actual ratings at RT, the consensus was much closer to 3-star reviews than 4 -- so yeah, pretty good though not great.

Statistics don't necessarily tell us everything, and the websites that are in the business of compiling a consensus of movie reviews -- like Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic, and the new Movie Review Intelligence -- all have different systems for determining what the numbers really mean.

A fascinating story that ran in The Chicago Tribune this week explores these "review aggregators" in depth, shedding more light on their methodology -- and why major studios covet a "fresh" rating from the consensus. (Studio execs have even called RT urging them to reconsider certain reviews to change them from "rotten" to "fresh.")

Here's the sentence that stood out most to me: "But as rivals Metacritic and Movie Review Intelligence point out, Rotten Tomatoes can give its coveted 'fresh' rating to films that any number (and hypothetically all) of its counted reviewers don't really love. And though all three sites present numerical averages in their ratings, the calculations involve subjective scoring by the aggregators themselves, not just the critics."

It's an interesting read. And while you're checking out Rotten Tomatoes, be sure to stop by the CT Movies area while you're there.

June 17, 2009

Genesis at the movies

Year One -- the "biblical comedy" in which a couple of prehistoric dudes stumble across several characters from the Book of Genesis -- opens this Friday, so now is as good a time as any to take a look at how other films have treated the first book of the Bible.

Alas, time does not permit any deep analysis here. But at the very least, we can say that Genesis-themed movies have been all over the map: the list includes edgy arthouse movies and bloated Hollywood epics, films that offer compelling insights into the characters and cultures that lie behind these stories and films that have sometimes been downright dopey.

Personally, I am drawn to the movies that go beyond the neat-and-tidy Sunday-school versions of these stories, and that sometimes means I am drawn to the movies that explore some of the darker and more neglected elements of the biblical narrative. But even here, it can be fascinating to see just how different the treatments are, at times. Just compare, for example, how Roger Young's Joseph (1995) and Cheick Oumar Sissoko's Genesis (1999) -- both of which are very good, in their own ways -- handle the rape of Jacob's daughter Dinah and the sacking of Shechem by her brothers (as described in Genesis 34).

Continue reading Genesis at the movies...

June 16, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Inevitable Sequel


It was inevitable. Despite massive fan disappointment with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Steven Spielberg has apparently "cracked" the plot for a fifth movie and is "gearing up" to make it a reality.

Continue reading Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Inevitable Sequel...

June 15, 2009

Newsbites: The fantasy edition!

1. Taylor Kitsch will play the title character in John Carter of Mars, and his X-Men Origins: Wolverine co-star Lynn Collins will play the Martian princess Dejah Thoris. Thomas Haden Church has also indicated that he, too, may have a part in the film, which will be the first live-action movie directed by Pixar stalwart Andrew Stanton. Two months ago, it was reported that Michael Chabon had been hired to rewrite the script, but there is no indication of that in this week's reports, which credit the script to Stanton and Mark Andrews. Filming may start as early as this November, in Utah. -- Variety, Hollywood Reporter,, The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay, Hitfix, Salt Lake Tribune

2. The Hobbit director Guillermo Del Toro has confirmed that Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis and Hugo Weaving will all be back as Gandalf, Gollum and Elrond, respectively. Del Toro also says he is "very close" to announcing who will play the young Bilbo Baggins; the older Bilbo was played in The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) by Ian Holm. And while The Hobbit is being split into two films, Del Toro says he will not direct any so-called "bridge" film, i.e. a film that would bridge the gap between the two Hobbit movies and the three Rings movies. -- BBC Radio, MTV Movies Blog (x2)

3. A lawsuit filed by J.R.R. Tolkien's heirs against the studio that made The Lord of the Rings will go to trial before a jury as planned in October, now that a state court judge has turned down the studio's request that she alone should consider the lawsuit's claims. -- Variety, WENN

Continue reading Newsbites: The fantasy edition!...

June 15, 2009

Newsbites: The medieval edition!

1. Rob Cohen, director of the original Fast and the Furious (2001) and the most recent Mummy (2008), has signed on to direct Medieval, an action film that Cohen describes as "The Magnificent Seven in the Middle Ages." When the studio bought the script three months ago, it was compared to The Dirty Dozen. This would not be Cohen's first trip to the Middle Ages, since he also happened to direct the fantasy pic Dragonheart (1996). -- Variety, Ain't It Cool News

2. Ridley and Tony Scott are co-producing an eight-hour German-Canadian TV mini-series based on Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth; it will concern "the building of a cathedral in 12th-century England" and involve "war, religious strife and power struggles as well as two interwoven love stories." Rufus Sewell, Ian McShane and Donald Sutherland are topping the cast. -- Variety, Hollywood Reporter

3. Natalie Portman will play a "warrior princess" in Your Highness, the medieval comedy starring Pineapple Express co-stars Danny McBride and James Franco. -- Variety

Continue reading Newsbites: The medieval edition!...

June 12, 2009

Peter Morgan to write Bond 23!


I just got a humdinger of an e-mail.

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the producers behind the popular James Bond series, this afternoon announced that Peter Morgan, the extraordinarily talented screenwriter of The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon and The Queen will join scribes Neal Purvis and Robert Wade in penning the 23rd James Bond adventure.

The full text follows:

Continue reading Peter Morgan to write Bond 23!...

June 8, 2009

Newsbites: The Pixar edition!

1. Rumours of a sequel to Monsters Inc. (2001) have been circulating for months now, ever since a Pixar staffer clicked on a blog devoted to Pixar while Googling the terms "monsters 2013 pixar" back in January. (Actually, the rumours arguably go back even further, to an interview that Monsters Inc. director Pete Docter gave last summer in which he said he could "neither confirm nor deny" that a sequel was in the works.) Now comes word that Disney officially revealed the existence of this film-in-the-making to potential buyers at last week's Licensing Expo -- and while the buyers were sworn to secrecy, some of them apparently couldn't help themselves. Docter, who also directed this year's Up, is reportedly going to direct the new Monsters Inc. as well. -- Jim Hill

Continue reading Newsbites: The Pixar edition!...

June 7, 2009

Newsbites: The religious history edition!

This is a few weeks overdue, but better late than never, right?

1. Benedict Fitzgerald's lawsuit against Mel Gibson and several film companies has come to an end, now that the two sides have reached a settlement, the details of which have not been disclosed. Fitzgerald had sued Gibson for allegedly underpaying him for his work on the screenplay for The Passion of the Christ (2004). -- Associated Press

2. Josh Brolin is thinking of producing a movie about John Brown, an abolitionist who killed several Southern slave-owners and tried to start a slave rebellion in the years leading up to the American Civil War; he was regarded by Abraham Lincoln and others as a "misguided fanatic" and he remains a controversial figure to this day. --

3. Alejandro Amenábar's Agora premiered at Cannes a few weeks ago, and various critics, rounded up by The Daily's David Hudson, have discussed how the film casts certain fourth-century Christians, including St. Cyril of Alexandria, in a very negative light. The filmmakers themselves have talked about how their film portrays the philosopher Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz, pictured above) as a martyr for science, but at least one observer has said that this is a distortion of the historical record. -- The Daily, Associated Press, Tim O'Neill

Continue reading Newsbites: The religious history edition!...

June 7, 2009

Halle Berry looking at a potential Surrogate

The Surrogate is turning into something of a reunion party for producer Ralph Winter.

Last week, I mentioned that the pregnancy thriller -- currently being developed by director Paul Verhoeven, and not to be confused with the upcoming Bruce Willis sci-fi flick Surrogates -- is based on a book by Kathryn Mackel, a Christian novelist and screenwriter who worked with Winter on the film versions of Left Behind (2000) and Hangman's Curse (2003).

This week, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Halle Berry, who co-starred in the X-Men trilogy (2000-2006) produced by Winter, is "in talks" to play the wife who is so desperate for a child that she turns to a surrogate mother, only to discover afterwards that the woman carrying her baby is insane.

Continue reading Halle Berry looking at a potential Surrogate...

June 5, 2009

Avid for Avatar


After years shrouded in mystery, details about James Cameron’s Avatar (the director’s first film since the colossal Titanic) are finally leaking out.

Continue reading Avid for Avatar...

June 2, 2009

Newsbites: The prequels edition!

1. A bunch of Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) fans got together and made a 38-minute short film called The Hunt for Gollum, the events of which coincide with the early scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring. It's actually pretty good for a low-budget, volunteer-based production; you can watch the trailer for it here, to the right. -- Entertainment Weekly, BBC News

2. Sir Ridley Scott and his brother Tony are producing a "prequel" to the Alien series (1979-1997); the original film was, of course, directed by Sir Ridley himself three whole decades ago. There is no word yet on whether the prequel will take place before or after the Alien Vs. Predator movies (2004-2007), which are set in the present day, but those films are arguably non-canonical and thus don't matter anyway. The new film will be directed by someone called Carl Rinsch. -- Bloody-Disgusting (x2), Collider

3. Boom Studios will publish Die Hard: Year One, a comic-book prequel to the original Die Hard (1988) in which John McClane will be a rookie cop who "deals with a catastrophe during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration." Die Hard itself was based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever, which in turn was written as a sequel to the Frank Sinatra movie The Detective (1968) -- but presumably this comic will have nothing to do with that earlier story. -- MTV Splash Page

Continue reading Newsbites: The prequels edition!...