SPARTANS, SICKOS IN '07

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 4, 2007 | Publication: Eye Weekly | Author: Jason Anderson
Publication/Article Link:http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_01.04.07/film/feature.php

SEQUELS, FOLLOW-UPS AND 300 OFFER A BRIGHT, WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE NEW FILM SEASON

If you've just spent the holidays getting punched out by Rocky Balboa, bummed out by Children of Men or glammed out by Dreamgirls, you may not feel ready for more movies. Yet 2007 compensates for the lack of an Olympics, a 29th of February and a US presidential election with many keenly anticipated releases. Here's the skinny on the year's most promising films, as well as festival faves soon to return for longer engagements.

HOT FUZZ: The team behind Shaun of the Dead returns with a comedy about a hyper-competent cop who is reassigned to a sleepy town - Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Steve Coogan co-star. What with Reno 911!: Miami out in February, law enforcement officials haven't been so foolhardy since the Keystone Kops were forced to take early retirement. (Out in March.)

300: Stunning sneak peeks of Zack Snyder's ultra-violent adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel have fuelled much geek chatter. Spartans in thongs and Persian warriors face off in a highly stylized rendering of the Battle of Thermopylae. (Out in March.)

SUNSHINE: Director Danny Boyle, writer Alex Garland and star Cillian Murphy follow up 28 Days Later with this science-fiction thriller about a mission to save the sun. (Out in March.) For those who prefer to stay on terra firma, 28 Weeks Later, a sequel to the trio's 2002 hit, arrives before summer.

SPIDER-MAN 3: In a fierce battle of sequels, Sam Raimi's third Spidey outing debuts in May, the same month as the third Pirates of the Caribbean entry. The summer also includes the fourth Die Hard (titled Live Free or Die Hard, a poor substitute for Live and Let Die Hard) and the fifth Harry Potter (The Order of the Phoenix). Hopes are highest for Evan Almighty, a sequel to Bruce Almighty rejigged for Steve Carell.

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS: For his first English-language feature, Wong Kar-wai made the typically perplexing move of casting a non-actor (Norah Jones) as the lead in his road-movie romance. (Out in June.)

SICKO: Michael Moore calls his next project “a comedy about 45 million people with no healthcare in the richest country on Earth.” Libel lawyers are standing at the ready. (Out in June.)

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE: Why now? Why not now? I can't answer either question but the trailers - which proudly declare that the film will be “in 2D!” - have a satisfactory level of mayhem and Moe. (Out in July.)

EASTERN PROMISES: Here's another combination we're happy to see again: David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen. Expect more violence from this tale of underworld intrigue co-starring Naomi Watts. (Out in September.)

I'M NOT THERE: In Todd Haynes' unorthodox biography of Bob Dylan, the singer is portrayed by Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger and others. Among those not playing Dylan are Verne Troyer, Ving Rhames and Donovan. (Due out this fall.)

While the quality of these titles cannot be guaranteed, many other upcoming films have already been justly celebrated. A surprise victor at the European Film Awards and well received at TIFF last September, German thriller The Lives of Others returns to Toronto in February. Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley is expected in March, along with returns to form for Werner Herzog (Rescue Dawn) and Paul Verhoeven (Black Book). Also that month, Korean monster movie The Host and CanCon zom-com Fido enter wider circulation. Sarah Polley's directorial feature debut Away From Her arrives in May, following its US premiere at Sundance later this month.
JESUS GOES TO CAMP

The year's first selection in Hot Docs' monthly Doc Soup series, co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's film Jesus Camp (***; Jan. 10, 6:30pm and 9:15pm at the Bloor Cinema) became notable for two reasons in recent months. One was its placement on the documentary feature shortlist for the Academy Awards. The other was the fact that one of its subjects - Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals - has since been defrocked for fessing up to his penchant for gay sex.

Jesus Camp captures Haggard joshing with the camera in a moment that now lives in infamy. “I think I know what you did last night,” he says. “If you send me $1,000, I won't tell your wife.” Situated among images of hysterical kids speaking in tongues, that's hardly the strangest moment here.

Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka) examine the Christian fundamentalist movement's new emphasis on training children to become obedient soldiers of God. Whether the efforts of people like Becky Fisher - organizer of an evangelical summer camp in North Dakota - constitute a sincere effort to put the tykes on the righteous path or turn them into bombers of abortion clinics is left for viewers to decide, though the film's alarmist tone and use of Air America host Mike Papantonio as the voice of reason reveal the directors' own leanings. The children themselves enjoy the attention. Says nine-year-old Rachael, “We're kind of being trained to be warriors, but in a funner way.”

In another choice exchange with Haggard, the pastor advises mullet-wearing boy preacher Levi to keep working the “cute-kid thing.” Ouch.