All posts from “August 2009”

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August 30, 2009

The Invention of ... "blasphemy"?

MTV Movies Blog reports that writer-directors Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson are "planning big controversies" with their upcoming film The Invention of Lying.

The film, which comes out October 2, takes place in a world where everyone believes everything that everyone says because no one has ever lied -- until, one day, the character played by Gervais figures out not only how to lie, but how to manipulate everyone else's gullibility for his own ends.

And what sort of "big controversies" do Gervais and Robinson have in mind?

Continue reading The Invention of ... "blasphemy"?...

August 28, 2009

Rob Zombie to remake Christian movie!!

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Well, not exactly. But Variety does report that the rock musician turned horror-movie director plans to direct a remake of The Blob. And CT sister publication Books & Culture did run an article last year exploring how the original 1958 version of that film was produced by a Christian film company determined to make a "wholesome horror film." (One of The Blob's producers, Russell S. Doughten Jr., went on to produce, write and act in a number of explicitly Christian films, including the end-times series that began with 1972's A Thief in the Night.)

And the Christian connections don't end there! The original movie spawned a sequel, 1972's Beware! The Blob, which featured Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill in bit parts. And the movie has been remade once before, by director Chuck Russell (The Mask, The Scorpion King), in 1988; and while I don't know anything about Russell's own religious persuasions, I do know that he was attached to direct the film version of Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness in the late 1990s, until 20th Century Fox pulled the plug on that project.

I certainly wouldn't expect Rob Zombie's version of The Blob, which will reportedly be R-rated, to follow in the "wholesome horror film" mode of the original movie. (The 1988 version was R-rated, too.) And I wouldn't necessarily expect Rob Zombie's film to feature Christian musicians in bit parts or whatever, either. But you never know.

August 24, 2009

A Few Films of Note

News on flicks that could be of interest to a Christian audience

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A few movies recently released to DVD that Christian audiences might want to check out:

> Journey Films (Bonhoeffer, The Power of Forgiveness) has released Albert Schweitzer: Called to Africa , which it is billing as "the compelling story of a theologian, musician and philosopher who abandoned a life of fame and comfort in Europe at the age of 30 to dedicate his life to the medical care of Africans." (See the trailer here.)

> Sherwood Baptist (Fireproof, Facing the Giants) isn't the only church in the movie-making business. Others are also making their own films, including Bethesda Baptist Church of Brownsburg, IN, which recently released The Board to DVD. A press release says the film "captures the elements of life transforming films such as Chariots of Fire and Fireproof, telling the poignant story of how God speaks to each person’s soul. The Board explores the personal conflicts within, as represented by a board of directors, Mind, Emotion, Will, Memory, Conscience and Heart as it introduces difficult questions that lead to eternal consequences, exposing the board’s hypocritical foundation." (See the trailer here.)

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> A "family version" of Henry Poole Is Here -- one of my favorite indie films from 2008 -- will be available Sept. from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The original PG version had some mild language, so there wasn't that much to edit in the first place, but if this means more people will see this gem, that's a good thing.

> The Biblical Dinner, self-described as "a Last Supper documentary," is now available on DVD.

> Christian music star Rebecca St. James has been doing a bit of acting lately. She plays the lead role in a pro-life film called Sarah's Choice, slated to release in November from PureFlix. She also recently wrapped filming in the comedy Rising Stars, a take-off on American Idol.

> The second in the Nomad Reality Films series, The Great Reverse, will be available Sept. 15 through INO Records/Provident-Integrity. The film follows nine young missionaries in their travels through west Africa. The first in the series was a documentary on Christian musician Sara Groves.

August 21, 2009

'Wickedly Entertaining'

A 'Basterds' screening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage prompts mostly positive reactions

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When Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino showed Inglorious Basterds--a fictional film about Jews enacting brutal revenge on the Nazis--to a group that included children of Holocaust survivors, the reaction was mostly positive.

The Wall Street Journal was there when Miramax chief Weinstein and director Tarantino screened the film at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Audience reactions included such sentiments as "wickedly entertaining" (from a rabbi!) and "I felt like Tarantino was a fellow Jew, just the way he made me feel so proud of the Basterds and the revenge against the Nazis."

The rabbi, Jonathan Blake of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y., likened the film's themes of blood-soaked vengeance to the Old Testament story of the Jews' long-running conflict with the Amalekites. According to the WSJ, "rabbinic tradition extends Amalek's descendants to some of the Jewish people's most-loathed oppressors, including the Roman emperors and Hitler."

Writer Jordana Horn noted that all of the audience members weren't so happy: "One young man noted that watching Nazis beg for their lives provided him with little satisfaction.

"The film does not pretend to be history and certainly does not make any attempt to be in sync with Jewish teachings. But it raises questions about the propriety of acts of retribution under Jewish law." It makes for a fascinating read.

August 20, 2009

Dungy Kicks off HS Football . . . in Theaters!

Former NFL coach presents a one-night special in theaters August 25

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I love high school football, even though I never played the game. (Well, one year in youth league.) I've probably been to 300 high school games in my life -- you just can't beat it on a fall Friday night.

Tony Dungy, the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Indianapolis Colts, loves high school football too, so he's helping America's 1.2 million players kick off the season with Tony Dungy's Red Zone '09, showing in theaters across the country for one night only -- Tuesday, August 25.

The live event, beamed via satellite into all those theaters, promises to "bring together some of the premier NFL players and coaches who will encourage high school players to step up their game. With highlights from NFL, college and high school games in HD on the 40 foot screen, this high impact setting puts everyone IN the game."

Dungy's RedZoneLive website adds that the event will "provide inspiration" and teach athletes to "play with passion and personal character development." What's just beneath the surface of those words is the fact that Dungy, one of the classiest coaches in NFL history, is a devout Christian who is serious about mentoring young men in character development, and always looking for opportunities to share his faith.

Watch the trailer:

August 17, 2009

Group Wants to End MPAA Ratings

Conservative 'Movieguide' launches petition to drop system and adopt another -- but what?

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Movieguide, a very conservative Christian organization, has launched a petition to urge the MPAA to drop what it calls a "failed" ratings system and "return to a 'standards-based' Code of Decency," according to an article on its own site.

"The MPAA's ratings system never worked really well, but it has gotten much worse since it added the ambiguous PG-13 rating," said Movieguide founder Ted Baehr said. "Parents, especially mothers, can no longer trust the ratings for movies, especially in light of the PG-13 ratings for movies like THE LOVE GURU and LAND OF THE LOST, and the R ratings for pornographic movies like BRÜNO." (Just an aside here: Especially mothers. Huh? That's an insult to dads like me who care very much about teaching our children how to be discerning. Just the realm of "especially mothers"? Come on.)

Baehr claims that the MPAA ratings system is not "based on standards." Well, that's not exactly true . . .

Continue reading Group Wants to End MPAA Ratings...

August 16, 2009

Committed actor wrecks pastor's antique cabinet

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Pastors beware! If you're a clergyman and you're thinking of letting a film crew into your home or office, be prepared for the odd bit of property damage -- at least if the film stars Hugh Dancy, the star of this summer's acclaimed romantic drama Adam.

In the film, Dancy plays a man with a form of autism called Asperger's syndrome, and in one scene he throws a fit that causes him to get a bit violent with the furniture -- and apparently Dancy got so carried away that he accidentally kicked his foot through an antique cabinet.

Writer-director Max Mayer tells WENN: "It was actually the pastor's apartment in the church on the Upper West Side (in Manhattan). That was awful because from my standpoint with our limited budget we were using somebody's house and I had pointed out to Hugh things that he could destroy and the things he couldn't, which included this antique cabinet, and he put his foot through it on the first take. I'm thinking, 'How much is that gonna cost? Can I cut a scene out tomorrow to make up for it?'"

Continue reading Committed actor wrecks pastor's antique cabinet...

August 9, 2009

Newsbites: The religious women edition!

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1. Mary Mother of Christ has a new director, and a couple new cast members as well. The last time we heard about the film, which will feature Al Pacino as Herod the Great and is based on a script by Benedict Fitzgerald and Barbara Nicolosi, it was going to be directed by Alejandro Agresti; now, however, the director is James Foley, who previously directed Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and Two Bits (1995). In other news, Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado (pictured here) has been cast as Joseph, and Julia Ormond has also joined the cast in an as-yet-undisclosed role. Principal photography, once set to begin a few months ago, is now slated for October. -- Hollywood Reporter

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

August 5, 2009

Cliff Clavin, Hercules in Christian flick

John Ratzenberger, Kevin Sorbo in film made by Dallas and Jerry Jenkins

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Jenkins Entertainment recently finished shooting for its next film What If..., starring Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) and John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin on Cheers).

According to a press release, the movie, the sixth film from the father/son duo of Jerry and Dallas Jenkins, "tells the story of Ben Walker (Sorbo) who 15 years ago left the love of his life . . . and ignored his ministry calling in order to pursue a business opportunity. Now, as a high-powered investment banker with a trophy fiancée, he has little or no interest in faith or building a family.

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"But . . . Ben is visited by a mysterious (divine, perhaps?) tow truck driver (Ratzenberger) who knocks Ben into an alternative reality -- the life he should have had. Ben awakens on a Sunday with his wife Wendy and two daughters getting ready for church, where Ben is scheduled to give his first sermon as the new pastor. If Ben wants to escape this What If... scenario, he must first learn the value of faith and family."

What If ... is the first in a two-picture partnership between Jenkins Entertainment and Pure Flix Entertainment. Jenkins Entertainment is owned by New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins and operated by his son Dallas Jenkins.

August 5, 2009

Dem Bones

Trailer for Peter Jackson's 'The Lovely Bones' is a stunner

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The new trailer for The Lovely Bones is now up at Apple. It's pretty awesome.

The film looks ripe for great discussion, based on the official synopsis: "The Lovely Bones centers on a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal."

Between that and a sensational cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, and the immensely talented Saoirse Ronan, who made such an auspicious debut in Atonement that she was nominated for an Academy Award.

August 3, 2009

And the biggest cartoon of all time overseas is ...

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For proof, if you needed it, that the animation business is no longer owned by Disney or any of its subsidiaries, look no further than Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the third film in this prehistoric series has now passed Finding Nemo to become the top-grossing cartoon of all time overseas. Variety even notes that IA:DotD is poised to become only the ninth film ever -- live-action or otherwise -- to gross over $600 million in the "foreign" market.*

It's a much different story in North America, where IA:DotD currently ranks 21st among animated films and 117th among movies in general. And when you combine the "domestic" and "foreign" grosses, IA:DotD currently ranks 5th among animated films worldwide, behind Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, Shrek the Third and The Lion King.

Still, however you look at it, the success of this film is a striking example of how computerized animation has taken over the business and, in some sense, levelled out the playing field. As I noted in my review of the original Ice Age seven years ago, successful animated films at that time had largely consisted of movies that were produced in partnership with Disney (e.g. the Pixar films) or in explicit rivalry with Disney (e.g. the DreamWorks films) -- but Ice Age and its sequels, which are produced by 20th Century Fox, don't appear to have given Disney a moment's thought. They're just there -- and audiences have been turning out for them in droves.

Continue reading And the biggest cartoon of all time overseas is ......

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