Tuesday, July 03, 2007

NOT PLAYING: Any Screens

Movie projects in development, in production, in post-production or in limbo – even some that have gone into release but haven’t made it to my town just yet. Maybe someday we'll get to see them.

Slightly updated Aug 23 5 2007

I’m a fan of ELECTION and LITTLE CHILDREN, both based on novels by Tom Perrotta, whose next novel should be coming out sometime this fall. And The Little Miss Sunshine directing duo, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, seem to be taking up the task of directing the adaption of the novel, which Perrotta himself will work on. St Petersburg Times
Here's a synopsis of the movie from allmovie.com: “A divorced and free-spirited sex-ed teacher shoehorned into promoting abstinence by the local religious conservatives falls in love with a born-again soccer coach in a semi-satirical comedy drama produced by Warner Independent Pictures and based on the book by Tom Perrotta.”

"Markie Hancock's artful BORN AGAIN puts the gap between U.S. gays and fundamentalist Christians in first-person terms, as it charts her own gradual, painful drift away from a deeply religious family background. Though voiceover narration occasionally verges on victim whininess, Hancock vividly conveys the depth of her conflicted blood relationships, as well as an eventful life chronicled in homemovies, diary excerpts, interviews and more. ... The filmmaker and her two brothers were raised in a strict evangelical family that set them apart from most of their peers. Calling a desire for her parents' approval "the most primal urge," Markie was a perfect student, acolyte and proselytizer, going as her mother did to a Christian college where freshmen had to sign a pledge not to drink, smoke or dance -- with other vices presumably being too abhorrent even to mention. There Markie was tormented by unrequited love for her female best friend ... she dropped out of theological school and ran off to Europe...where she experienced her first lesbian relationship. ... "Will it always be a betrayal of God, or (my) mother, if I do what I want?" she frets. Finally she came out to her parents. But they and devout elder brother Nathan could only handle her admission by praying she could still change her ways and "return to Christ," so she could join them in heaven. ... But the family members are not depicted as mean-spirited people. The potency of "Born Again" comes from its ability to show how loving family members can nonetheless be insolubly divided by opposing beliefs. ... Helmer's own rhetoric can get a little strident, referring to religion in general as "indoctrination" and "a drug, an addiction" -- as if all practices of faith were cut from the same restrictive cloth as her parents' faith was." Dennis Harvey, Variety. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 23, 2007. (Thanks to PTC for the heads-up on this)

Anne Rice, the vampire lady? Sting's evocative "Moon Over Bourbon Street" was inspired by her "Interview With The Vampire", so I checked out the novel. The opening chapters struck me as fine literary writing, before the book devolved into something more generic and commercial. Word is she's become a Christian, and all of a sudden everybody seems to be reading her fictionalized recreation of Jesus' childhood years, and declaring it worthy.
Anyhow, there's a film deal now.
(More here)

Yet another Jesus movie - Mel, what hast thou wrought? Definitely the strangest of the new batch, from Lukas Moodysson. (More here) Updated Nov 21

PTC: “Just a quick note to say that The Inquiry, AKA The Final Inquiry -- i.e. the film about a Roman soldier who is sent by Tiberius to investigate rumours regarding the resurrection of Jesus -- will not be opening on April 6 2007, AKA Good Friday, after all. The Fox Faith Movies website now says the film is merely "coming soon".”

Variety: "THANK YOU FOR SMOKING exec producer Edward Pressman and associate producer Stephen Belafonte are teaming up for another Christopher Buckley adaptation, a satire titled "God Is My Broker," which is set on Wall Street and in a monastery. Insiders describe the project as a parody of the self-help movement, much the way "Smoking" was a satire of spin. Plot centers on a Wall Street stockbroker who flees to a monastery, only to find monks who are turning their monastery into a corporation.” (Mar 5 2007)
Hollywood Reporter: “Pressman’s 1998 book centers on an alcoholic stock broker who gives everything up and joins a monastery. But when the monks' vow of poverty begins to take a financial toll, the former broker uses his old skills to save them, turning his new home into a frightening parallel of the world he desperately tried to escape.”

Doug Cummings: “Starring the dependable Agnes Jaoui as the head of a true-to-life French orphanage during WWII that cared for French Jewish children; later it begins to house Eastern European Jews returning from recently liberated concentration camps, and as you might expect there is a lot of psychological scarring on their part, which creates a lot of interpersonal tensions in a time when cultural rebirth is crucial. It was a very personal project for the director (Richard Dembo), who died during post-production, and it's the kind of intelligent, emotionally honest, historically interesting film Miramax/Wienstein should be distributing but hasn't in a long time. Alas, no US distrib or DVD yet (and I don't think the French DVD has English subs).”


Bad boy Abel Ferrara's entry in the Jesus Movie Derby that Uncle Mel revved up. Seen on screens big and small in Europe, but nothing outside the festivals here in North America. Check out the whole saga here.

“Swept the Golden Eagle awards in its native Russia two months ago. Now, Variety reports that the film, about an Orthodox monastery, has won some Nika awards too. The pic, about a Russian Orthodox monastery, won prizes for film, director, actor (Petr Mamonov), supporting actor (Viktor Sukhorukov), cinematography (Andrei Zhigalov, posthumously) and sound editing. Industry vets gave warm praise to the Nikas, which was celebrating its 20th anni. Actor-director Andrei Smirnov, presenting Lungin with the director gong, remembered the Perestroika-born event as a "first sign of freedom in the country." (Thanks, Mr Film Chat...

Scott Derrickson is developing an adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost. PTC: "Joining the conceptual team is none other than artist Wayne Barlowe, whose book BARLOWE'S INFERNO has given readers a nightmarish and fascinating look at hell . . . . The painter/illustrator has also lent designs on a number of Hollywood projects, notably Guillermo del Toro's BLADE II and HELLBOY. "One of the first things I did was to go after Stuart and Wayne; I liked Stuart's writing skills and Wayne's visual skills," the director says. "INFERNO was the reason I was so passionate about trying to get Wayne involved, and I knew that if PARADISE LOST was going to work, it'd have to have that kind of visual imagination."

Film Comment, May-June 2006: "Donna Woolfolk Cross's historical novel, Pope Joan, has been translated into 23 languages and, in Germany, is number one on the long-term bestseller list. The book tells the tale of a ninth-century Englishwoman who posed as a man to become a monk, and the subsequent road she traveled that eventually led to her securing the title of His Holiness. (The truth of the story remains subject to controversy.) Some may recall the 1972 version of the story starring Liv Ullmann - and now Volker Schlondorff has a film adaptation in development." Years back I read a stage treatment of the story, briefly considered it for Pacific Theatre.
Schlondorff's THE NINTH DAY, about a WW2 priest pressured to stop opposing the Nazis, is now available on DVD.

I'm pretty qualmy about Tim LaHaye's books ("Left Behind," "Right Behind," etc), so my enthusiasm for Upcoming Jesus Movie Project #387 is a tad muted. But I figure you all deserve to be in the know...

In development by Hyde Park Entertainment, who developed Bringing Down the House, Raising Helen, and Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story. Film will focus on the Apostle Peter in retelling the story of what happened to the disciples between Christ's resurrection and the day of Pentecost. (Mar 12 2007)

"Scorsese is turning his sights to a story of missionaries in 17th century Japan. "Silence" is a long-cherished project that he hopes to shoot partially in Japan in summer 2008. Although it's a period piece, Scorsese thinks it has lessons for America today. "It raises a lot of questions about foreign cultures coming in and imposing their way of thinking on another culture they know nothing about," Scorsese told The Associated Press on Thursday -- raising his eyebrows just to make the point absolutely clear." Associated Press, May 24 2007

Jason Goode writes: " Ron, While you are building your book with reviews of soul food movies, I thought I'd recommend one that you probably haven't seen: SOLITUDE by Robin Schlaht (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0281206/). Robin is a
Regina based filmmaker who I got to know while living in Sask and we've been in touch ever since. Solitude is beautiful film about 3 lives that intersect at a Saskatchewan monastery. The film had a great festival life, but it was never released on DVD (perhaps in the future)."

Variety: “Tells the story of the Galilean fisherman who founded the Christian church in Rome. The film explores the early days of Christianity under the reign of Emperor Nero and the burning of Rome in 64 A.D. Billed as GLADIATOR meets THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, pic is produced by de Boer and Fotopoulus' Toronto-based FOS with de Boer set to direct from his own script.” Canadian funding, English language film will shoot in Italy and Israel.” Feb 11 2007

Opened in March 2007, stateside. Small indie film about the effects on a small New Mexico town that’s turned on its head when the face of Christ appears on a tortilla. (A Tex-Mex HALO?) I’m interested. Review at CT Movies.

untitled Dardenne Jesus film
Doug Cummings: "in his newly published diary, Luc Dardenne mentions a couple of times that he and Jean-Pierre are thinking about making a Jesus film. I don't have it with me at the moment, but he writes something like, 'this would not be the story of his life, but a snapshot of his reality; the faces, places, bodies, and interactions of his world' or somethign like that. He insisted they'd shoot it in Israel."

untitled Hildegaard von Bingen project
Variety and the Hollywood Reporter report that German director Margarethe von Trotta is preparing a film about the 12th century abbess who became world renowned for her medical, botanical and geological writings as well as for the music she composed, which many consider a precursor to opera. Bingen also was a controversial figure, the first woman to write on the subject of female sexuality and, for many, the world's first feminist. (Thanks, Mr Chattaway)

untitled INHERIT THE WIND project
Film Comment, May-June 2006: "The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which substitute science teacher John T. Scopes was basically charged with heresy for teaching evolution to Tennessee high-school students, has been resurrected. Paramount has hired the prolific scribe Ronald Harwood (who won an Oscar not too long ago for his screenplay for THE PIANIST) to create a contemporary Scopes script based on the proceedings of the 2004 Dover Area School District case in Pennsylvania. Siding with blue-state ethos, the presiding U.S. district court judge barred the teaching of 'intelligent design' in the classroom, and accused the thinly veiled creationists of 'breath-taking inanity.'"

untitled USHPIZPIN project
A fan blog for Adi Ran, whose music is featured in USHPIZIN, reports a possible follow-up to that film: “Well, maybe not exactly Ushpizin Part II. But it seems like Shuli and Michal Rand are planning a new film. In a recent interview in Jewish Action, they say: 
"At this stage we can only say that it will futher expound upon Breslov themes and that it will deal with the relationship between Israel and American Jewry. A name? It is too early for that." (Oct 2006)

untitled Von Trier Dreyer project
Film Comment, May-June 2006: "Lars von Trier is making a documentary about one of his favorite films (no, not THE SOUND OF MUSIC): Danish master Carl Th. Dreyer's 1964 swan song, GERTRUD."

CTM Reel News, April 2007: “With the hyper-violent graphic novel adaptation 300 proving to be one of the biggest and most surprising blockbusters in recent memory, one can't blame Hollywood executives for leaping at the opportunity to repeat the film's success. One such post-300 adaptation comes with an added twist—provocative religious connotations and biblical language. War in Heaven—a graphic novel about Lucifer's rebellion against God—is being rushed into development to quickly capitalize on 300's success. Reports indicate that the "Braveheart-like" storyline follows Lucifer's rebellion against and ultimate rejection from Heaven. Epic battle sequences—pitting Lucifer's minions against God's angels—will include Gabriel, Michael, and others.” One can’t blame studio execs? I sure as heck can. “Rushing to production” are never words to inspire confidence.

CTMovies: “Reuters reports that the movie—which follows Christian performance artist Rev. Billy and his 35-member choir around the country—is running into trouble because of Billy's forceful anti-consumerism message. He and his choir march into shopping malls and Starbucks, protest in Wal-Marts and Victoria's Secret outlets, and even get arrested in Disneyland. Though the film has the clout of executive producer Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) behind it, it's still proving difficult to market. Says director Rob VanAlkemade, "Major distributors have backed away because Wal-Mart pushes half of their DVDs." Meanwhile, Starbucks has pulled out from sponsoring the Silverdocs festival, which has supported the film.”

Peter Chattaway: "Paramount Pictures is headed to Sunday school with the purchase of the A.J. Jacobs novel The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Obey the Bible as Literally as Possible. The studio has taken the book to Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment, which will serve as the producer of the adaptation. Living Biblically will be published by Simon & Schuster in fall 2006. In the book, Jacobs, an editor-at-large at Esquire magazine, spent a year of his life trying to live, literally, by the rules set forth in both the Old and New Testaments."

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