Midweek movie news

Big movies are in the news today.

* James Cameron apparently won’t be directing the latest iteration of legend of Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Instead, he’ll spend the next few years doing the inevitable: “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3.” Apparently, the commitment now is partially in return for Fox making a large donation to green causes Cameron supports.

* Christopher Nolan gave Geoff Boucher the title of the next Batman installment “The Dark Knight Rises” — not very inspiring. Having previously eliminated Mr. Freeze as the film’s big bad, he also eliminated the Riddler. That leaves Catwoman, the Penguin, and…Man-Bat?

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* New Zealand Prime Minister John Keys announced today that the “The Hobbit” will, in fact, be staying in New Zealand. Yup, the leader of an entire nation announced a movie deal today. And you thought the cinema was a frivolous pastime. As expected, there were some legislative changes and remember those tax rebates that NZ Finance Minister Gerry Brownlee assured a reporter were not being negotiated? Well, some tax rebates were thrown in to sweeten the pot for Warners as well as some legislative changes. (H/t AICN)

* Schindler-esque humanitarian hero Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed by Don Cheadle in 2004’s Oscar-nominated “Hotel Rwanda,” is under legal threat in Rwanda on charges of “funding terrorism.” The allegation is because of his connection to opposition figure Victoire Ingabire, who is being held on suspicion of setting up some kind of armed resistance to the Rwandan government. Considering the crappy human rights record of the current Rwandan regime, I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Rusesabagina is once again facing off against the bad guys. Best of luck to him. (H/t The Wrap.)

* Matt Damon is doing a bit of damage control today for earlier remarks which made it sound as if he was none too happy not to be kept in the loop about the Jason Bourne-less “The Bourne Legacy.” I have absolutely no doubt that we bloggers did exaggerate the whole thing, but I’ve never seen a celebrity “badgered” at a roundtable yet. I have seen inane questions and some autograph requests, however.

Anyhow, it appears that Damon is really quite happy about the whole thing, as it leaves the door open for another Bourne film reteaming him and director Paul Greengrass. Also making progress: the Liberace film costarring Michael Douglas as the famed pianistic showman and directed by Steven Soderbergh, with Damon as Liberace’s long time lover. (Despite being one of the most flamboyantly flamboyant figures in the history of popular culture, Liberace remained in a sequin-encrusted closet his entire life.)

Jacki Weaver in * More news from down-under. The critically acclaimed crime thriller “Animal Kingdom” has swept the nominations for the Australian equivalent of the Oscars. My colleague, Jason Zingale, found himself in the critical minority and wasn’t too pleased with the film. I personally thought that portions of it were overly somber, but on the whole I’m rooting for it anyway. Whatever it’s problems, it’s a very solid debut for writer-director David Michôd and I thought the last third was absolutely riveting. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing an actual Oscar-nomination for Jacki Weaver as well for her role as a crime family matriarch who’s maternal instincts take some fascinating turns.

* And, speaking of Australia, an Aussie site ran an apparently false now-deleted story relating to a gay sex plotline in the planned “Alien” prequel. Cinematical’s Eric D. Snider mines the subject for some rather amusing homosexual panic driven humor. Also at Cinematical, behold the Batman-Cat.

* “Hereafter” writer Peter Morgan — who also penned “The Queen,” the outstanding “The Damned United,” and “Frost/Nixon” — gave an unusually compelling and candid flip-cam interview to Anne Thompson. Blogging about the interview, Movieline’s S.T. Vansairdale alleges Morgan is “ready to throw director Clint Eastwood under the bus,” which might excite readers with nastier dispositions but is not at all the impression I got. That’ll show Morgan for being honest with the press.

* Are we really supposed to care who will make a movie based on the Ouija board? How about “Cutting Board: The Movie”?

* Darren Aronofsky’s movie of Max Barry’s “Machine Men” will be a cyborg tale and is drawn from a novel that’s currently only available on the interwebs on a page-per-day basis.

* I hated almost all hair bands at the time, so — much as I love a good musical — I’m not exactly chomping at the bit for the film version of “Rock of Ages.” Somehow, possibly adding Tom Cruise to the mix as a bartender does nothing for me. He may pour again, but will he ever really reign?

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