Monday, July 14, 2008

'Bigger than Jesus? The Beatles were a Christian band'

By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent

John Lennon famously claimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, even predicting that Christianity would "vanish and shrink".

John Lennon claimed the Beatles were a Christian band

But 28 years after his death, in an interview being broadcast for the first time, he claims that on the contrary, he hoped to encourage people to focus on the Christian faith.

Despite his familiar image as a hippy icon who invited us to imagine a world without religion, Lennon says he was "one of Christ's biggest fans" and felt emotional in church.

In the interview, which was recorded in 1969 and is being aired on BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme, he talks about the Church of England, his vision of heaven, and expresses disappointment at not being allowed to marry his second wife, Yoko Ono, in church.

The interview was conducted by Ken Seymour of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when Lennon and Ono were at the Bed-In for Peace protest in Montreal. It was bought three years ago by National Museums Liverpool, which is playing an extract at a new exhibition at World Museum Liverpool.

Christians around the world had been dismayed by Lennon's boast in an article in London's Evening Standard about the popularity of the Beatles, but the singer says he was misunderstood.

"It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he says. "Now I wasn't saying that was a good idea, 'cos I'm one of Christ's biggest fans. And if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ's message, then that's what we're here to do."

He blames "the hypocrites" for being too "uptight" in reacting to his comments. "If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won't be full, but there'll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls. Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don't think it matters as long as they're aware of Him and His message."

He acknowledges a strong belief in the power of prayer but says he dislikes all the church trappings. "Community praying is probably very powerful… I'm just against the hypocrisy and the hat-wearing and the socialising and the tea parties."

His aversion to institutional religion was shaped when a "ludicrous" vicar banned him from a church when he was 14 because he and his friends were "having the giggles".

"I wasn't convinced of the vicar's sincerity anyway. But I knew it was the house of God. So I went along for that and the atmosphere always made me feel emotional and religious or whatever you call it.

"Being thrown out of church for laughing was the end of the Church for me."

He continues: "I would have liked to have been married in a church but they wouldn't marry divorcees… That's pure hypocrisy." The Church's position on the issue changed in 2002.

On heaven, he says: "I haven't got any sort of dream of a physical heaven where there's lots of chocolate and pretty women in nightgowns, playing harps. I believe you can make heaven within your own mind. The kingdom of heaven is within you, Christ said, and I believe that."

The author Paul Du Noyer, who has written extensively on the Beatles, said: "He was chastened by the reaction he got to his Jesus remarks and it probably made him think more carefully about religion.

"These comments would have been a great boost for churches if they had come out at the time."

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The Screening Room's Top 10 horrific movie moments

(CNN) -- Demons, ghouls and buckets of blood: For decades, filmmakers have delighted in terrorizing their audiences -- and we love them for it.

"Alien": You could say this dinner party was a resounding failure -- a parasitic alien bursts out of John Hurt's chest killing him.

"Alien": You could say this dinner party was a resounding failure -- a parasitic alien bursts out of John Hurt's chest killing him.

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This month, we've picked our top 10 most spine-tingling moments. From Hitchcock to Cronenberg, our choices have left us sleepless and shivering with fear.

Don't agree? Think we've missed one? Leave your comments and suggestions in the "Sound Off" box below.

But remember: In the movies, no one can hear you scream...

1. "Ring"
(Hideo Nakata, 1998)

In the hideous Sadako -- all ragged, black fingernails and terrible eyes behind curtain of hair -- Nakata has created a unique horror creature. One that is scarier once revealed than anything the tension can build up in your imagination. We couldn't possibly give away the film's climax but it must qualify as one of the most spine-chilling moments in screen history. You will never look at your TV the same way again.

2. "The Thing"
(John Carpenter, 1982)

Horror-maestro John Carpenter ramps up the paranoia in a remote polar research station. When the scientists take in a cute lost dog, how could they possibly know it is a shape-shifting alien? The alien metamorphosis is disturbing enough -- its head splits open like a terrible flower revealing a huge bug-like creature whose spiny legs hatch out of the dog's soft fur in the most visceral fashion. But the really scary thing for the scientists now is, who is real and who is an alien?

3. "The Orphanage"
(Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007)

Sickly little Simón has made a very unsuitable imaginary friend in this chilling ghost story. Tomas is a disfigured boy who hides the lumps and bumps of his face behind a grubby scarecrow mask. When Simón disappears, director Bayona cranks up the jitters for mother Laura, who is stalked down a deserted corridor by Tomas, growling like a dog. When he slams her hand in the door it's almost a relief that he hasn't done something worse. Headache-inducingly creepy.

4. "Misery"
(Rob Reiner,1990)

Famous novelist Paul Sheldon has made the ultimate mistake as far as nurse Annie Wilkes is concerned when he tries to make a run for it from the remote farmhouse where she has been nursing him after his car crash. But Wilkes, Sheldon's self-appointed "number one fan," is not about to let his pesky escape plans thwart her. The solution: "hobbling" -- the bone-crunching close-up when her sledgehammer connects is stomach-turning and will stay with you long after the rest of the film has receded in your memory.

5. "Alien"
(Ridley Scott, 1979)

The crew of commercial mining ship Nostromo are enjoying some dinnertime banter about their tasteless space food when Kane (John Hurt) suddenly starts gagging and choking. In the ensuing palava, his chest starts bulging and an alien parasite bursts out of his chest in a spray of blood. Iconic.

6. "The Birds"
(Alfred Hitchcock,1963)

Mischievous socialite Melanie Daniels pursues a potential boyfriend Mitch to the rural Northern California port of Bodega Bay, where birds have started attacking the residents. The true horror of the animals' capabilities becomes clear when Mitch's mother visits a friend and finds he has been pecked to death by a swarm of the homicidal birds. Hitchcock edits a filmic triple take -- each time Lydia looks back, the camera zooms in closer on the man's pecked out eyes.

7. "The Fly"
(David Cronenberg,1986)

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) begins a mysterious transformation after a fly infiltrates his experimental teleportation device and their DNA is merged. At first he is elated by his super strength and agility but things get sinister when his girlfriend comes to tell him that she's pregnant. Brundle has become more insect than human. He tells her to leave with chilling simplicity: "I'm saying that I'll hurt you if you stay." He may be losing his innate humanity but he is still human enough to realize it.

8. "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre"
(Tobe Hooper,1974)

This low budget shocker is the template for a million "college kids get into trouble in Hicksville" movies. This one features five hippie types who run into a family of sadistic Texan simpletons with a taste for human flesh. Oblivious to the gruesome deaths of their three friends, Sally and her disabled brother Franklin traipse through the undergrowth to their inevitable doom. it's tense but nothing prepares you for the chainsaw-wielding lunatic who jumps out of nowhere and chops Franklin into bite-sized chunks.

9. "Don't Look Now"
(Nicolas Roeg ,1973)

A young couple, Laura (Julie Christie) and John (Donald Sutherland) Baxter move to Venice after the drowning of their daughter. Things get supernatural when they meet a pair of sisters, one of whom is blind and psychic. John starts seeing a small figure in a bright red raincoat down the side streets of Venice -- the same raincoat his daughter was wearing when she died. He becomes obsessed and finally hunts down the figure who turns out to be a grotesque, murderous dwarf who stabs him to death with a huge knife. The film is quite poetic at times and -- like many great horror moments -- the ending is completely unexpected.

10. "Event Horizon"
(Paul W. S. Anderson, 1997)

In this high-concept sci-fi horror, the Event Horizon spaceship travels through a wormhole into another dimension -- hell -- and returns haunted. Dr Weir (Sam Neill), the ship's designer, who has been sent to find out what happened, is slowly driven mad. When the ship's engine core malfunctions, he climbs into electrical ducts to fix a short circuit. Then the ship really starts playing games. Weird optical effects and flashing lights dazzle the audience: then he comes face to face with his dead wife in a deliciously yelp-making close-up. She has no eyes. I defy you not to scream.

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The Batman Movie You Didn’t Know About

Every Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a movie that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents:

Batman (1943)

As a rule, my original concept for Old Ass Movies was to spotlight films that were made before 1960. It’s fairly arbitrary - like most things around here - but I wanted to stick to it. So, when we were gearing up for The Dark Knight, and often-dictator-like Editor Neil Miller wanted me to do this feature on the camp-tastic 1966 version of Batman starring Adam West that we all know and love, I didn’t want to.

Don’t get me wrong. I use shark-repellent on a daily basis, but Adam West’s Batman seemed too “new” to be an Old Ass Movie.

So instead, I decided to head all the way back to the beginning, to the very first time that the Dark Knight found himself shining gloriously on the silver screen.

If it was even possible to get campier, back when superheroes donned cartoonishly padded costumes and racial slurs were the norm, Batman found Bruce Wayne (Lewis Wilson) jauntily masquerading in the fight against evil doctors, low-budget zombies, and ridiculous plot-lines. The bulk of the plot involves Batman and Robin’s (Douglas Croft) fight against the diabolical Dr. Daka (J. Carrol Naish), a Japanese scientist and master of espionage. His master-plan involves setting up shop in Gotham City and turning the best scientific minds into brain-washed zombies that will help him secure the chemical components needed for an atomic super-weapon. World domination. The usual.

You should be warned that this movie (a serial to be more accurate - 15 episodes stringing together to create a story that’s over four hours long) isn’t something you’ll want to watch for its own merit. The sets are laughable, the writing is terrible, and each episode is essentially the same story told in a different location and with Bats fighting a different number of henchmen. It’s something to make you cringe at our cinematic history or to revel in our far we’ve come.

You should also be warned that it’s really racist. As in, really, really racist. Ethnic slurs about the Japanese are thrown around like Bat-a-rangs, and the standard message is that the government was correct in tossing every Japanese-American indiscriminately into internment camps. It can be a bit startling to hear that sort of thing used so naturally and casually,

But if you think it didn’t have an impact on the superhero genre or on the Batman story itself, you’re completely mistaken.

This is the first time we see the Batcave - a dark lair where Batman controls his crimefighting from a stylish, antique oak desk. Until this point, the Alfred of the comic was obese and drove Bruce and Dick around even when they were in costume as Batman and Robin. The comic actually adopted the look of actor William Austin who played Alfred in the movie - thin, witty and mustachioed.

So it does have some internally redeeming features. If nothing else, Batman 1943 is another evolutionary step in a long journey that has created one of the most humanly complex superheroes to date, and it can’t be overlooked simply because it was an early, awkward step.

It’s melodramatic, made on a dime, and despite what the narrator says about Batman’s “somber costume” striking “terror to the heart of many swaggering denizens of the Underworld,” it’s more likely that they would have been subdued by how laughable lycra stretched over pillows looks on a full-grown man.

Nevertheless, it’s worth the effort to check out, especially if you consider yourself a true Bat-fan.

Original here

The First Negative Review of The Dark Knight

Please Note: This is NOT a negative review of The Dark Knight. This is a rant about the negative review which was printed by New York Magazine.

The Dark Knight is currently getting 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Everyone I’ve talked to who has seen the film thinks its nothing short of brilliant. I’ve even called the film a masterpiece, my favorite film of the year thus far. But it was bound to happen eventually… the first negative review of The Dark Knight has hit the web.

New York Magazine’s David Edelstein calls The Dark Knight “a morbid affair”, claiming that “It could only be darker if Batman died. (He does die a little, on the inside.)” And he is right, The Dark Knight is not Adam West’s Batman, it’s not Tim Burton’s Batman, it’s not even Frank Miller’s Batman. Edelstein comments that when Burton’s Batman came out critics complained that the film was too violent for kids. “Wait’ll they get a load of this,” he says. And again, he’s right. This is the Empire Strikes Back of comic book movies. Harvey Dent will lose half his face, and it doesn’t look pretty.

The Dark Knight is the grittiest superhero film I’ve ever seen. It’s so wonderfully bleak that you will forget that you are even watching a comic book movie adaptation. And this might scare a few people off, but to me, it is what I’ve always hoped for. I was never one for the flashy comic book-like colors, and unrealistic super villains with ridiculous plots to take over the world. Heck, the world is a huge place. The Dark Knight centers on one madman’s plot to bring one city into chaos, and the vigilante who dresses up like a bat to try to stop him.

I walked out of my Los Angeles junket screening commenting to friends that this might be the first comic book screenplay to be worthy for award consideration, but Edelstein writes “On paper, the morality play is intriguing, but a lot of the dialogue should have stayed on paper”. At the core of the story is the tragic transformation of Harvey Dent, from Gotham hero to Two Face. Edelstein says that it plays “as if they’d been penned by Oxford philosophy majors trying to tone up a piece of American pop”. As if the illogical transformation of Tommy Lee Jones’s Two-Face in Schunacher’s Batman Forever might somehow be more entertaining?

David found Heath Ledger’s performance “painful to watch”, calling it “rave and rage and purge acting”.

“Scarier than what the Joker does to anyone onscreen is what Ledger must have been doing to himself”.

Oh C’mon… Yes, Heath Ledger’s death was tragic, but if you are thinking about his tragic personal life while watching this performance - Trust me, you aren’t watching the movie right.

Original here

'Wall-E' says 'Hello, Dolly'

Film's success spurs talk of Broadway revival


Jerry Herman is singing "Hello, Wall-E."

Two songs from the Rialto composer's "Hello, Dolly!" -- "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" and "It Only Takes a Moment" -- play major roles in the hit Pixar film's story about a little robot left on a devastated Earth 700 years in the future with only a pair of show tunes to keep him going.

The success of the film is also spurring talk of a major Broadway revival of the 1964 musical.

Herman says there's been interest in a new "Dolly!" for the past several years, with the Nederlander Org producing, but now the release of "Wall-E" has unexpectedly amplified the buzz. "The movie will only make it more vital, more of an event, and I think a lot of kids would come and see where those songs came from," says the composer.

Herman, 77, says he was unaware of the importance of the songs to the film until he saw "Wall-E" on opening weekend. But in the movie's first moments, when he heard Michael Crawford singing "Put on Your Sunday Clothes," he was stunned and moved.

In the film, the robot plays an old videocassette of "Hello, Dolly!" and is transfixed by that upbeat song, as well as the romantic ballad "It Only Takes a Moment," sung by Crawford and Marianne McAndrew.

Herman has been thinking of possible actresses to topline the revival for some time. While he concedes the role demands "a big star," he declines to name any frontrunner. He acknowledges eyeing Queen Latifah to play Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi, but says her busy film career would make that casting problematic -- at least so far.

Chat rooms and theater insiders have been volunteering casting ideas that range from the fantastic to the obvious: Oprah Winfrey ("An exciting idea, but I don't think she could devote a year to the production," says Herman); Meryl Streep ("She can do anything."); Barbra Streisand, star of the 1969 screen version ("She's the right age now, but she's never coming back to Broadway."); Patti LuPone ("Magnificent."); Reba McEntire ("I'm crazy for her, but I'm not sure about the accent."); Bernadette Peters ("We were close friends and I obviously love this lady, but I just don't know.").

"Hello, Dolly!" originally starred Carol Channing on Broadway, followed by a series of leading ladies from the screen and stage, including Ginger Rogers, Pearl Bailey, Betty Grable, Martha Raye, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman. The premiere production ran for 2,844 perfs. It was also revived on the Rialto with Bailey in 1975 and with Channing in 1978 and 1995.

Original here

How Will Smith Will Save Hollywood

With the continued, somewhat inexplicable, success of Hancock, it seems that the only constant in Hollywood math is "(Will Smith) + (4th of July Weekend) x (Genre Movie) = $$$." Bearing that in mind, we thought that it's be kind of us to demonstrate to some stalled SF movie projects just to how to use the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (and, let's face it, wherever else he wants to be the Prince of, these days) to get their movies up and running again.

Will Smith is...: The Mysterious Master Chief.
Why This Works: Sure, in the games (and the novels, and the comic books), you never see Master Chief's face, but just as that didn't work for the Judge Dredd movie, it's not going to work here, either. Pull up that visor and let's see the sensitive man underneath who knows that war is hell and space war even moreso. Smith got an Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness, so let's see him bring the pain here. Literally.

The Six Million Dollar Man
Will Smith is...: Well, Steve Austen, obviously.
Why This Works: Isn't it time to ruin another '70s TV show with the same kind of comedy treatment that worked so well for Starsky And Hutch? Put Smith in the familiar role and let him play it for laughs - Austen's cybernetic upgrade not only gives him more strength, super-powered eyesight and the ability to run surprisingly quickly, but also the power to loosen up his uptight white boss, played by Billy Bob Thornton, continuing his streak of slumming it in broad comedies. Throw in a Will Farrell cameo and it's box office gold, baby.

Ghostbusters 3
Will Smith is...: Nerdy accountant Louis Tully.
Why This Works: So Rick Moranis doesn't want to come back to the role that made him famous? That's no problem - Replace him with an even bigger star. Here's your explanation as to how it happened: Between movies, Tully had a terrible accident that forced him to have an incredible amount of reconstructive surgery. When he recovered from the surgery, he was a changed man: Tall, attractive, charismatic... and no longer afraid of no ghosts.

Green Lantern
Will Smith is...: Hal Jordan. Admit it; you thought I was going to say John Stewart, didn't you?
Why This Works: Smith takes on the role of ladykiller test pilot Jordan, the one man who can save the world through the power of his mind. It's the next step of Smith's Independence Day role, but with the added benefit of a lack of Jeff Goldblum's scientist hacker. Plus, who wouldn't want to see Smith in this role, besides the legion of fanboys who'd get upset that they didn't pick a white actor?

Wild Wild West 2
Will Smith is...: Captain James West.
Why This Works: ...Okay, maybe this is the exception that proves the rule. Never mind.

Original here


darkknight.jpg We were lucky enough to catch an early press screening of the highly anticipated new Batman film, "The Dark Knight." What follows is an exact transcript of the notes we took to write our review…

7:30pm – Movie is about to start. So pumped! I'm so lucky to be seeing this. Not only do I get to see Batman early, but they gave me free popcorn and soda. Bonus!

7:32 – Dude next to me looks like an a-hole…probably writes for Maxim.

7:33pm – Aw shit! Movie is starting. Lights went down. Woooo!

7:45pm – Off to an amazing start! Joker is SO bad-ass!

7:52pm – This movie is even darker than the first. Heath Ledger will definitely get an Oscar nod. Man, I finished that soda quick.

8:02pm – Have to piss…gonna try to hold it. Don't want to miss anything.

8:11pm – Man, I really have to piss now. Why did they give us a giant free soda!? Bad move Warner Bros. marketing!

8:17pm – I can't hold it any longer. Gotta run to the bathroom!

8:21pm – SHIT! I definitely missed something cool! SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!

8:27pm – I can't pay attention knowing I missed something before. I think I'm gonna ask the dude next to me.

8:29pm – The dude next to me told me to go fuck myself! Fucking dick! I'm gonna knock his drink into his lap.


10:22pm – Okay, I'm back home. I've calmed down a bit. I mean, big deal. The movie is out in a couple weeks anyway, right?


11:33pm – Put a rope around my neck. Pussed out at the last second. I'm worthless.

1:22am – I'ms o dronk riaght now. Fuckl it, I'm goanna emil this to mybosss. Farrtsssss.

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