Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Narnia Trailer/Disney's new partnership

In case you missed it during Saturday night's airing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" on ABC, here is a link to the first trailer for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

It looks great!

I think Disney made a wise move to team up with Walden Media. Walden seems to be picking the right properties to turn into feature films. "Holes" was an excellent book-to-film translation, even if the movie didn't have the same feel as the Newbery Medal-winning book. (The book is a deceptively simple children's book, but in fact is a philosophical treatise on fate and self-determination. At least, that's how I saw it.) "Because of Winn Dixie," was a Newbery honor book, though reviews were mixed. (Haven't seen it yet, but Nehring didn't like it.) Walden is working on a live-action "Charlotte's Web," too. And along with "Narnia," Walden is planning another multi-book series: "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper, a five-book series, one of which was a Newbery Honor Book, and another which won the Newbery Medal.

Disney needs a new partnership since its partnership with Pixar is at an end, and everything Pixar has done has been a winner for Disney.

With properties like the above, the Disney name could start being synonymous with "family films" again.

By the way, I've always wondered why more filmmakers didn't turn to Newbery titles when looking for family-oriented films. I can think of a bunch that would make excellent movies. I'd love to see a film version of the strongly pro-life book "The Giver." (Not because it's pro-life, but because it addresses a number of serious ethical questions that resonate with modern society.) It would have to be black and white, too, so it could be all artsy and stuff. (In my spare time (asssuming I have some once the kids get older) I think I may have to start writing screenplays of some of the better Newbery books.)

A failure to communicate

A Darn Friend writes:

You may have heard the tragic news of the death of two eight year old girls in Zion, IL. Zion is the town in which I was raised.

While listening to Fox News (while waiting for an elevator at work) the female anchor was interviewing someone and asked a question like the following "since this town was founded as a religious community in the early 1900's has it been difficult to get information out of the town?"

I always found Zion's history interesting.

But, even as a child in the '70s I knew that Zion had been sociologically absorbed into the Chicago metropolitan area. I found the anchor's question amusing since the thought of 20,000 people living a life in no way isolated from the broader economy\transportation system\communication system\etc . . . and could in some way maintain a distinctive sense of community is pretty amazing . . . .

Not only amazing, but perhaps slightly offensive.

So here's the set-up. Scrap all the Red-State/Blue-State stuff. What lack of understanding is evident here? Is it that the coasts can never understand the heartland? Is it that the media elites -- whether conservative or liberal -- can't understand the common folk? Or is that the secularists -- whether conservative or liberal -- will never properly understand religious people?

Or is it something else?

Don't click here

Feel free to ignore Arianna Huffington's new blog, which isn't so much a blog as it is a 48-car celebrity freeway pile-up, with pearls of wisdom from such luminaries as Bill Maher, Larry Gelbart, Gary "Monkey Business" Hart, Rob "Meathead" Reiner, Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown," and Walter "I'm Still Alive" Cronkite.

Sense a theme?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The antichrist doesn't live here anymore

No wonder we haven't been able to discover the identity of the Beast. We've been dialing the wrong number!

A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, it's actually the far less ominous 616.

So I guess this means that the Beast isn't R-O-N-A-L-D W-I-L-S-O-N R-E-A-G-A-N or G-E-O-R-G-E W-A-L-K-E-R B-U-S-H-J-R .

Meanwhile, Satanists are taking it in stride:

. . . [S]atanists responded coolly to the new 'Revelation'. Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: 'By using 666 we're using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we'll start using that.'

Friday, May 06, 2005

Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't.

(Hat tip: Everything I Know is Wrong)

We'd long been told by our environmental betters that the planet is doomed because of global warming, so we'd best reduce our toxic emissions, including those caused by that 4-alarm chili. So here in the U.S. we've been doing a great job keeping the air clean and pure, imposing lots of environmental regulations on businesses, increasing standards for automobiles, etc.

So have we delayed doom?

No, say our environmental betters. In fact, we now have a new problem. Our air is too clean.

Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.

That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming. More sunlight will also have knock-on effects on cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict.

. . .

Researchers will now focus on working out the long-term effects of clearer air. One thing they do know is that black particulate matter in the air has been contributing a cooling effect to the ground. "It is clear that the greenhouse effect has been partly masked in the past by air pollution," says Andreas Macke, a meteorologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany.

In other words, "Oops, sorry folks. I guess air pollution actually reduced global warming!"

Sigh. Ever feel like you just can't win with these people?

Shrek: Blech

Last time I checked, the number one movie at the box office last year was "Shrek II." "The Passion of the Christ" came in third.

Third, of course, is amazingly good for a film that had so much stacked up against it: an R-rated Biblical film in a foreign language with tons of gory violence and a lot of bad press by people who pronounced it anti-Semitic.

In contrast, "Shrek II" had it easy. An animated sequel to an enormously popular film, aimed squarely at the family filmgoers.

I didn't see either film. I did see the original "Shrek," and with all the adulation heaped upon it I thought I might be the only one who hated it. All poop and fart jokes and double entendres. No thanks. It bugs me when Hollywood creates a movie designed to appeal to pre-teen kids, and then fills it with adolescent- to adult-level vulgarities. Mixed messages? You bet.

So I was pleased to see Nehring ripping Shrek II today. He also makes some great points about this and other "post-modern family films."

I really hated this piece of crap. I know this is a very successful film and people loved it. I am not one of those people. Honestly, I think films like this are quite damaging to our culture.

This film is another in the new string of post-modern family films. These films (Shrek, Robots, Shark Tale, Cat In The Hat) are thinly veiled attacks set up to usurp traditional morality. They push relativist morality, sneer at traditional life and disdain for all authority beyond one’s nature. These “kid films” also are littered with blunt sexual and drug references, and poop humor.

Shrek II is the king of these post-modern films. It pushes the notion that we should trust in our natures over our traditions. The characters find happiness in themselves over accepting the tenets of society. Can societies be wrong in their thinking? Yes, without question. But Shrek and the rest of these films push the blanket notion that traditional society is always wrong. The individual and his singular truth are always right. This is a deadly message to offer to children. (Emphasis mine)

He also adds this:

And to think, the director Andrew Adamson is helming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Yep. That worries me a bit, too. I left that out of my post on the pitfalls facing the new Narnia film, but it did occur to me as well.

Last year pundits couldn't resist setting up the false dichotomy of "Fahrenheit 9/11" vs. "The Passion of the Christ," but perhaps the great divide should have been betwen "The Passion" and "Shrek II."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I Want My M(onk)TV

(Hat tip: The Anchoress)

Though most reality tv participants get their fifteen minutes of fame and disappear back into obscurity, here's one reality tv show that gave its participants something eternal.

Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television - the monastery.

More Oh Brother! than Big Brother, the five underwent a spiritual makeover by spending 40 days and 40 nights living with Roman Catholic monks in Worth Abbey, West Sussex.

The experiment, which will be shown on BBC 2 this month, was designed to test whether the monastic tradition begun by St Benedict 1,500 years ago still has any relevance to the modern world.

Although participants were not required to vote each other out, they faced the challenge of living together in a community and following a disciplined regime of work and prayer. By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he described as a "religious experience".

Gary McCormick, 36, the former Ulster Defence Association member, who spent much of his early life in prison, began to overcome his inner demons.

Peter Gruffydd, a retired teacher, regained the faith he had rejected in his youth and Nick Buxton, 37, a Cambridge undergraduate, edged closer to becoming an Anglican priest.

The fifth "novice", 32-year-old Anthony Wright, who works for a London legal publishing company, started to come to terms with his childhood traumas.

Deleting an "Incredible" Scene

At Townhall.com, Paul D. Gallagher writes about a scene that was deleted from the theatrical release of The Incredibles, but shows up on the DVD. It would have been interesting to hear the reaction a theater audience might have had to this scene. I suspect certain members of the audience would have stood and applauded. But I'll let Gallagher tell about it:

The setting is a backyard barbeque in their neighborhood. Helen Parr is introduced to Beth, a commodities broker. Beth talks excitedly about her job, then asks what Helen does. “I’m a homemaker,” Helen replies. Blank stare from Beth, who cuts off Helen’s next sentence with a curt, “That’s nice.” Beth walks off, and Helen scowls.

A minute later, Helen overhears Beth talking to some other neighbors:

Beth: “Throw away my prime years trailing after a bunch of snotty kids? No, thank you! Hello, no thanks! Hello, I want to do something with my life!”

Helen: “Wait a minute! You consider raising a family … nothing?”

Beth: “Well, it’s fine if you’re not suited for more substantial things.”

Helen: “Do you have any idea how much suffering would fail to take root if more people were just good parents? What’s more important than that? What kind of job?”

Beth: “Uh … uh …”

Helen: “A job saving lives? Is that important? What about risking my life?”

Beth: “Well, I … uh …”

Helen: “What about confronting evil on a daily basis for years so that people like you can sleep in safety and security? Would you consider that kind of job ‘substantial’?”

Beth: “Yeah. I would. Yes.”

Helen: “Well, that’s the job I gave up for my new job -- raising a family. And nobody’s going to tell me it’s any less important.”

Wow. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. We have a hero in a major film defending the job of homemaker. Rewind it all you like. Then notice the sky’s not falling. And if you think I liked it, imagine how my wife, Cindy -- a homemaker and mother of six -- felt about it.

Like I said, imagine a theater full of stay-at-home moms who have taken the kids out to a Saturday matinee showing would have reacted. Loud applause? I think so.

Before you presume some Hollywood conspiracy to take out this powerful scene, read on:

Brad Bird said he included the scene because it reflected what his own wife encountered every time they went to a social function. People who found it easy to chat with others who worked outside the home felt awkward and didn’t know what to say when they met this strange creature who called herself … a homemaker.

. . . But Bird said he cut it reluctantly and only because he realized it would be better to begin with the heroes being heroes (and he was right). Besides, the finished film still strongly endorses the homemaker option (albeit implicitly), and the scene is available for all to see on DVD.

By the way, if you haven't seen Brad Bird's "The Iron Giant," go out and rent (or buy) that one. It's quite enjoyable.

Cool Pictures of Storm Clouds

Kent at Trolling in Shallow Water doesn't know where these pictures came from, but he's posting them anyway.

This is what storm chasers live for. Typically, I don't mind severe thunderstorms. In fact, I think they're pretty cool to watch through the big picture window in the living room. But when the wind picks up, I head for the basement. Tornados are one of my recurring nightmares. I've never seen one, but when I was a kid one touched down in our tiny town. If you'd traced the path of the damage, it appeared that it might have touched down a half a block to the SW of our house, and then again a half a block to the NE of our house, and then again about another block NNE, where it must have stayed down, doing lots of damage in a two-block area. One person was killed by downed power lines. I was a bit freaked out, to put it mildly.

I'd still like to see an actual tornado someday, out on the prairie where you can watch 'em from a distance.

Knowing that I'm a big baby about tornados, I don't know why I went to see Twister when it came out in the summer of '96. But I did. And it just so happened that a big windstorm hit Our Fair City later that evening. At the time I lived in a second-floor apartment, and I spent most of the night in the stairwell.

I should have known better.

Welcome to tornado season. I'll be in the basement until September.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It's May . . . not that anyone would notice.

One more thing before I buckle down and get to work.

I am sick and tired of the cold. We actually had snow this weekend. Almost blizzard-like conditions for a few minutes. And I need to scrape my car in the morning before work.

Look at the date. It's MAY!

Mid-April, when the temperatures were up in the 70s, my garden sprung to life. But now each morning I go outside and note how the cold has affected the plants. My bleeding hearts were coping well with the freezing temperatures at night, springing back during the day. But last night they'd had enough, and there was no resurrecting them this morning. They are all lying flat. And dead. And I am quite upset about it.

"Especially tiny tots and your pregnant women!"

I mentioned yesterday that I was disappointed with the new film version of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." But I failed to mention the very best thing about the film -- the thing which catapults it ahead of the book, the radio series, and the television series.

It's this song.

Serving God, one ink cartridge at a time

Some monks make wine, and some make delicious fruitcakes.

And then there are the Laser Monks, providing office supplies at huge savings.

I'm not making this up.

Narnia movie a minefield for Disney

The Life section in today's USA Today has this lengthy article (lengthy for USA Today anyway) on the new Narnia movie which Disney studios hopes will be the first of a seven-film franchise. The first trailer for the movie will air Saturday night during ABC's showing of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and a longer trailer will be attached to this summer's most highly-anticipated film: Revenge of the Sith. The film itself won't arrive in theaters until December.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film, but it will be interesting to see if Disney can avoid all the pitfalls that accompany bringing a book like this to the screen. Consider:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an enormously popular book: Until HarperCollins got the US Publication rights, LWW was considered the first book in the series (it was the first Narnia book that Lewis wrote, and really should be read first even though HarperCollins numbers it second), and as such, it's the book most people will have read if they read any of the series at all. Fans of the book will want to see a film version that's faithful to the story. Even minor detractions will cause an uproar from some quarters.

The story is a parallel of the death and resurrection of Christ: C.S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the last century. His books are read, reread, quoted, excerpted, and passed along almost like religious tracts by many Christians, and Christians -- who already have a love/hate relationship with Hollywood -- will want to make doubly sure that a film version of one of the best-loved novels in Christendom remains faithful to its message of sacrifice and redemption. If the film downplays or dilutes the Christian message in any way, count on an outcry.

Actually, count on an outcry anyway, because no matter how faithful the film version is, some people won't be happy unless there's an altar call at the end. And other people will reject it because a) it's a fantasy, b) it's got a witch in it, and c) the Christ figure isn't Jesus himself.

Disney has been repeatedly targeted by some Christian and pro-family organizations: In recent years, Disney's managed to alienate the very audience it seeks, so this is a big risk for Disney. If they don't do it right, they will only be confirming for some Christians how seemingly out of touch they are.

The first trailers will be telling. A positive reaction from Narnia fans will likely result in an overall positive feeling toward the filim as the release date approaches. Negative reaction will dog the film until December.

I'm hoping Disney manages to pull it off, if only because I want to see film versions of the later books in the series. But I'm already wondering how Disney will handle "The Last Battle," which is essentially the Narnian "Revelation" with all that end of the world heaven and hell stuff. If the Narnian worship of Aslan is Lewis's parallel to Christianity, what will Disney do with the Arab-like Calormenes who appear in later books, and whose religion is Lewis's parallel to Islam?

In spite of the changes to the source material, Tolkien fans were so pleased with the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that their initial outcry turned to fevered anticipation for the next two films. But because the Narnia series has such strong religious symbolism, Disney's going to be walking a minefield with each release.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of the Hitchhiker' Guide

Saw "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" movie this past weekend. If, like me, you've heard the original radio play, own the DVD of the BBC series, and have read all five books in the trilogy, know that the new feature film is just different enough from the other versions of the story.

But also know that it clips along at a frenetic pace, and the best gags from the radio/tv/book version are reduced practically to one-liners. So if you liked one or more of the other versions, you're going to be disappointed. And if you've never heard/watched/read one of the other versions, you're going to be confused.

There are a couple nifty cameos. Simon Jones plays the holographic image that greets the Heart of Gold upon its arrival at Magrathea. And the original Marvin from the tv series appears in one scene.

But honestly, the most important plot point of the whole thing -- the whole Meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything question -- is downplayed to tbe point of being unnecessary. Which suggests that the film itself was unnecessary, though the special effects are quite special. The Vogons in particular were very well done.

But I think I'll just pull out my DVD of the tv series, and watch it again. The tv version was a lot funnier.

Two Toddlers, Six Projects

It's two-toddler night here at Stately Darn Floor manor; meaning that once again we are watching my wife's sister's kid while she attends a night class. So it goes, Mon thru Wed, for the next three weeks. Lid and Em were born 6 days apart. I suppose this means they'll be best of friends some day. Right now they're rivals for my wife's attentions. And at the moment I can hear them both upstairs whining in unison about some toddler-level injustice.

And I'm feeling like a rat for being down in my "office" while chaos reigns upstairs.

But not only is it two-toddler night, it's six-project week, and that means that as soon as I punch out at my day job, I punch in at my night job.

(Yes, I'm taking a small break, but project #1 pays by the job, not the hour.)