16 items from 2000
A budding film maker who logged onto director Steven Spielberg's countingdown.com website, is to have his own film showcased on the site. Josh Meeter, who logged on to watch Spielberg's bagelcam - a camera he installed in a bagel in the canteen of his upcoming movie A.I. (2001), posted a message on the bulletin board asking Spielberg to check out a short film he made. Spielberg, who liked the film, titled Award Showdown, which features a claymation Spielberg fighting with a claymation George Lucas, is going to showcase it on the Internet site next month. But it'll have some competition - Spielberg and his site co- founder, Grinch director Ron Howard, are both making an animated short film, each starring a caricature of themselves, to be shown on the Internet. Howard and Spielberg will be posting the animated films in December and January. »
Movie star Samuel L. Jackson can't keep quiet about filming the latest Star Wars (1977) prequel - because he got to swing a light saber. The actor was disappointed not to have any fight scenes in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), but says the new sc-fi fight scene is one of his highlights as an actor. He says, "There's like nothing in this room but a blue screen and George Lucas says, 'OK, you're in a big battle now, ' and I'm like, 'How many people?' 'A lot - and there's a big thing coming at you, ' 'How big?' 'Pretty big.' "So there I am swinging this thing around until George says 'Cut, ' and I'm one of the best light saber swordsmen in the universe." »
Liam Neeson (photos) has collected a host of movie memorabilia to auction off for UNICEF - and it includes his light saber from Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999). Neeson is putting up his script from the movie, complete with "coffee stains and fag ash, " as he tries to raise over $5 million to buy drugs to prevent the HIV virus being passed on to unborn babies in Africa. Neeson says, "This is a cause which really touched me, as I have children of my own and am always worried about their well being. I'm chairing a project called Movie Action for Kids, which will include an auction of movie memorabilia which I have collected from actor friends and stars in the business. "George Lucas (photos)has donated a light saber from Star Wars which is rare as he does not usually sell items from the movie. Julia Roberts (photos) has given a wedding dress from Runaway Bride (1999), Denzel Washington (photos) is giving some boxing gloves from Hurricane, The (1999) (photos), one of Paul Newman's (photos) racing jackets and even a dress from Audrey Hepburn's estate. We are also expecting lots to come in from Michael Jackson (photos) and Elizabeth Taylor (photos) as well as a number of other stars who are still working out what to donate. I will be bidding for an Gary Cooper original contract from the 1940's, which I hope is for High Noon (1952)." »
R2D2 actor Kenny Baker will not get the chance to re-create his character in future Star Wars movies - because he's being replaced by a computer. Kenny has been told that the robot he played for four smash movies will be computer generated in Star Wars: Episode II (2002). He says, "Of course I am disappointed. I missed the chance to go to Australia with the cast. I'm not in the movie to the extent I was expecting and no one has really explained to me why... George Lucas always told me that R2D2 really came alive when I was inside him. If they don't use human beings these movies are in danger of looking like Disney cartoons... The progress in digital and computer technology has been frightening. It was light years on from when I was in the first Star Wars movie." »
Natalie Portman has reportedly fallen in love - with her Star Wars: Episode II (2002) co-star Hayden Christensen. Christensen won the coveted part of Anakin Skywalker in the second prequel after an initially unconvinced George Lucas - who thought he was too young for the part - was bowled over by his red- hot screen-test with Portman, who is returning to her role as Queen Amidala. Online sources report that the pair are crazy about each other and are getting in some useful practice for their on-screen love scenes. »
A would-be film editor has released a bootleg trailer for the next Star Wars film - and even George Lucas is impressed with the forgery. The young editor - who has remained anonymous - is trying to persuade the Star Wars producer to hire him for the next episode of the sci-fi film series. The trailer was made with clips edited together from DVDs and videos and the young hopeful digitally added the light sabres. The two-minute trailer, which can be found on theforce.net, reportedly looks like the real thing and, according to the Toronto Star, George Lucas and over 200, 000 people who have seen the ad since its internet launch are impressed as well. Lucas is taking the trailer as homage rather than theft. A LucasFilm spokesperson said, "We love our fans and the trailer is a nice expression of fan enthusiasm." But the director is still remaining nameless just in case Lucas's lawyers have other ideas. He told the Los Angeles Times that he was "just a fan" who hoped to one day work with the great man. »
Irish heart-throb Gabriel Byrne is next on the list of actors vying for a spot in the next Star Wars movie. The Usual Suspects, The (1995) star is in talks with director George Lucas to take a part in the follow-up to Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999). Byrne explains, "We're discussing it - I think they're still writing the script." Byrne made an impression on Lucas, starring in the Coen brothers' gangster classic Miller's Crossing (1990), but he won't reveal any information on whom he would play or any plot details of the film. If Byrne does sign on Lucasfilm's dotted line, he'll join a cast that already includes former NYPD Blue star Jimmy Smits and British horror legend Christopher Lee. »
"X-Men" contains a lively enough mix of athletic stunts,
otherworldly characters and heavy special effects to ensure keen youth interest in this film version of the wildly popular Marvel Comics title. But nonfans of the comic book may wonder what all of the fuss is about. While it's spirited entertainment, "X-Men" lacks the style and substance of such top-drawer science-fiction movies as "The Matrix" or "The Empire Strikes Back".
Whether the film will have enough boxoffice oomph to establish a franchise for Fox is an open question. Unlike film series based on comic books such as "Batman" or "Superman", "X-Men" features an army of heroes and villains, leaving the nonfan without a major character to identify with. Of course, the multiplicity of characters may be a positive attribute in a film series, bringing more depth and complexity to future installments.
For director Bryan Singer, though, whose career really took off with his stylish "The Usual Suspects", "X-Men" marks a backward step into impersonal, effects-driven filmmaking. This is a thoroughly competent though not terribly compelling work that demonstrates Singer's ability to handle the logistics of a big-budget production. But he loses his storytelling voice in the process.
In the not-too-distant future of Stan Lee's "X-Men" comic books, a sizable minority of humans have evolved into creatures with phenomenal mental or physical abilities. But the international community is divided about how to respond to these "mutants." Are they warrior-saviors or dangerous misfits who should be isolated from society?
The situation forces Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), himself a telepath, to gather together these misunderstood individuals into a "mutant high," where they learn how to harness their amazing powers.
Among the pupils are white-haired Storm (Halle Berry), who is able to control the weather, Cyclops (James Marsden), whose eyes emit energy rays, and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), who possesses telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Despite the gender mix, these are the X-Men.
Meanwhile, the professor's former friend and now archenemy, Magneto (Ian McKellen), prepares for the coming battle between men and mutants by recruiting an evil brotherhood to rule the world. Magneto's minions include the physically powerful Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), whose growl is definitely not worse than his bite, the leaping Toad (Ray Park), whose recoiling, yards-long tongue creates all sorts of mischief, and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos beneath layers of blue makeup and silicone prosthetics), who can morph into seemingly anybody.
Interestingly, two main protagonists among the X-Men hate their "gifts." The sullen, anti-social Logan, a k a Wolverine (Australian actor Hugh Jackman), possesses the ability to physically heal himself. Because of this, years before, he fell victim to a bizarre medical experiment that welded retractable metal claws to his skeleton, giving him an unwanted power that only brings him unhappiness.
His companion is Rogue (Anna Paquin), a young girl whose touch can destroy, rendering her incapable of intimacy with any boy. But since she can absorb the powers of other mutants, she becomes an object of desire in Magneto's plot to destroy humankind.
The high-tech battles -- the de rigueur melange of stunts, effects and explosions -- are executed well but fall curiously flat. Much more intriguing is Stan Lee's notion that these superheroes suffer from paranoia and angst. Their unwelcome powers are hurtful and troubling to them as human beings.
Indeed, this angle could have been fruitfully explored at greater length. But Singer and screenwriter David Hayter (working from Singer and Tom DeSanto's story) get easily distracted by both the need to introduce many of the potential franchise's characters and the desire to deliver the action goods.
As a consequence, the film suffers from incompleteness. Characters are poorly sketched, and story lines dangle. When George Lucas created his first "Star Wars" film, before anyone could tell that a series would follow, he made certain that his film stood on its own with completely realized characters and a story line that had closure.
In "X-Men", though, only fans of the comic book will understand many of the scenes and oblique references. Even the main protagonists get short shrift.
Visually, the Toronto-lensed production is impressive. In his third collaboration with Singer, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel goes for dark, subdued hues. The editing by Steven Rosenblum, Kevin Stitt and John Wright makes for a well-paced film. Only Michael Kamen's forgettable score misses the mark.
20th Century Fox
in association with Marvel Entertainment Group
the Donners' Co./Bad Hat Harry
Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriter: David Hayter
Story by: Tom DeSanto, Bryan Singer
Executive producers: Avi Arad, Stan Lee,
Richard Donner, Tom DeSanto
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designer: John Myhre
Music: Michael Kamen
Co-producers: Joel Simon, William S. Todman Jr.
Costume designer: Louise Mingenbach
Xavier: Patrick Stewart
Magneto: Ian McKellen
Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Jean Grey: Famke Janssen
Storm: Halle Berry
Rogue: Anna Paquin
Sabretooth: Tyler Mane
Toad: Ray Park
Running time -- 104 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
Actor Samuel L. Jackson is delighted with his role in the next STAR WARS movie - because George Lucas is taking him out of the Jedi council rooms and into the thick of the action. Jackson, who played Mace Windu, head of the Jedi council, in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), was disappointed not to be able to pick up a light saber and "get into the action" in the blockbusting flick. But Lucas has now decided to let Jackson in on the fighting scenes. Lucas says, "Samuel has got a great fight in the next one. I won't tell you who with, but someone good. His part is better in that he has sword fights and things and he gets more action... In the last one he just had to sit in a room but now he gets to fight - but he is still the head of the Jedi council." Jackson adds, "At last I get to have a fight. It's going to be good, I get to pick up a light saber." »
Star Wars: Episode II (2002) director George Lucas chose Hayden Christensen for the part of ANAKIN SKYWALKER over Tom Hanks' son Colin Hanks because the unknown actor had more sexual chemistry. Lucas stunned the world when he cast Christensen in the coveted part last month. And the move left Hanks' son disappointed as he failed to snap up the space adventure part. Lucas insists he chose the young actor because he had more raw talent and more sexual chemistry with actress Natalie Portman than Colin did. Lucas says, "It took over a year for us to find Hayden. We did a lot of testing and then I picked him and interviewed him and he did some readings and then finally we tested him with Natalie Portman When he tested with Natalie we wanted to see what the chemistry was like and it worked. I needed to find solid acting talent and someone who embodied the character and Hayden was it." »
Ray Park has finally gotten over George Lucas' decision not to cast him in the next installment of the STAR WARS films - thanks to stunning star Halle Berry. Park, who played the Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), has been desperately hoping he would be cast in the follow up to the movie. He says, "I had stayed optimistic and would have liked to have done it, because to thousands of fans I am Darth Maul." But with shooting of the latest adventure set to begin this week in Australia, Park has finally accepted his Star Wars days are over - and it's all thanks to Halle Berry. He explains, "I got killed off so I think George Lucas has made his decision now. I don't think he will be bringing me back... I just have to think that was a good experience and a good time in my life. I had fun when I did it and I just have to remember that it was good... It has helped making X-Men (2000) with Halle Berry. She is amazing and I had some scenes with her which were fantastic." »
Although Universal Pictures' "Screwed" aspires to slapstick situation comedy in the Marx Brothers tradition, the film, like its lead characters, comes unglued almost from the start and never has a chance to live up to the heights of its comedic predecessors.
The directorial debut of screenwriting duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski ("The People vs. Larry Flynt", "Man on the Moon"), "Screwed" is tripped up not so much by a moronic plot as by an overall shrillness that not even headliners Norm Macdonald and Dave Chappelle, comedic wizards they might be, can pull off.
Macdonald and Chappelle play bumbling, idiot extortionists who yell 90% of their dialogue. For sure, the 1930s and '40s flicks that inspired the filmmakers often featured shouting matches between characters, but the gimmick falls flat here. Movies of the past decade such as "The Impostors" and "Radioland Murders" are proof enough that even savvy filmmakers like Stanley Tucci and George Lucas have similarly hit a brick wall trying to re-create that zany energy and snappy dialogue -- in full-blown period productions, no less.
"Screwed" opens with the introduction of Willard (Macdonald), chauffeur and all-purpose servant to wealthy matron Miss Crock (Elaine Stritch), owner and operator of a pastry company in Pittsburgh. The monstrous Crock and her dog Muffin make life miserable for Willard, whose father also worked for the nasty woman. Needless to say, her hateful, vindictive nature is something no sane person would choose to be around for 15 minutes -- let alone a lifetime.
But Willard is a congenital coward and self-defeating sneak who glumly accepts his lot -- until he learns he's about to be canned. He then hatches a plan to kidnap Muffin and ransom the mutt for $1 million. He talks restaurant-owning Rusty (Chappelle) into becoming his accomplice, and, after a few botched attempts, the pair appears to succeed.
Of course, the would-be thugs lose track of Muffin instantly, all the while yelling about how they're going to spend the money. Willard and Rusty don't even realize the dog is gone until they hear breaking news reports of the chauffeur's kidnapping. Changing plans in a hurry, they decide to demand $5 million from Crock for Willard, then go the whole nine yards by faking Willard's death with help from undertaker Grover Cleaver (Danny DeVito).
Other unfortunates caught up in the increasingly unfunny farce are a detective (Daniel Benzali) so unamused he seems more like the studio accountant, Crock's scheming business and personal partner (Sherman Hemsley) and Willard's poorly drawn love interest (Sarah Silverman).
DeVito gets some of the biggest laughs, and Stritch supplies one overbearing note through this concerto of misery that at least has the sense to call it quits at 82 minutes.
"Screwed" -- released wide Friday without advance screenings for critics and, not surprisingly, performing dismally -- is not even the first film to use the title; Alexander Crawford's 1996 documentary "Screwed", about multimedia pornographer Al Goldstein, had a limited release. Nor can the failed comedy be called the season's most legendary disaster -- that title already belongs to Warners' "Battlefield Earth", also released Friday.
A Robert Simonds/Brad Grey production
Screenwriter-directors: Scott Alexander,
Producer: Robert Simonds
Executive producers: Brad Grey, Ray Reo
Director of photography: Robert Brinkmann
Production designer: Mark Freeborn
Editor: Michael Jablow
Costume designer: Maya Mani
Music: Michael Colombier
Willard Fillmore: Norm Macdonald
Rusty P. Hayes: Dave Chappelle
Miss Crock: Elaine Stritch
Grover Cleaver: Danny DeVito
Detective Tom Dewey: Daniel Benzali
Chip Oswald: Sherman Hemsley
Hillary: Sarah Silverman
Running time -- 82 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
An unknown actor looks set for his big career break after landing a dream role in the new STAR WARS movie. Director George Lucas has reportedly lined up Hayden Christensen to play ANAKIN SKYWALKER in Star Wars: Episode II (2002), according to VARIETY. Christensen, 19, has appeared in only a handful of obscure TV movies. The teenager is expected to join cast members from Episode I, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ahmed Best and SAMUEL L. JACKSON, when production begins in a few months in Sydney, Australia. »
George Lucas is in the final stages of choosing the actor to play ANAKIN SKYWALKER in Star Wars: Episode II (2002). Over the past weekend the legendary director invited a handful of candidates to SKYWALKER RANCH to do a digital screen test opposite Natalie Portman who plays QUEEN AMIDALA. And producer RICK MCCALLUM says the world should know who has won the high profile role in the next few weeks. He adds, "The casting of Anakin is always a very emotional thing. It could be several weeks before we know anything." Hollywood gossips still claim TOM HANK'S son COLIN is the frontrunner. »
STAR WARS actor Ewan McGregor insists he got paid very little for the movie - he did it for the love of the film. McGregor is currently working in Australia and will fly to America this summer to film the next movie instalment of the sci-fi epic. He says, "I took Star Wars in order to work with George Lucas. I got paid very little for it, nothing near the figure published ($4 million). Star Wars is strange, they expect you to do it for the love of Star Wars." »
George Lucas is keeping the identity of Natalie Portman's love interest in the next STAR WARS movie secret - because he doesn't trust her. The talented actress will reprise the role of QUEEN AMIDALA in the follow-up to Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) and knows she'll be playing opposite a new ANAKIN SKYWALKER. But director Lucas is so worried she'll let the identity of her leading man slip, he's refusing to tell her who he is. She says, "I'm reading with potential Anakins at the end of the month. I asked George Lucas who some of the guys are but he refused to tell me... All I know is that Ewan McGregor, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, JAR JAR BINKS and YODA are all returning for the next episode." Shooting begins in Australia in June. »
16 items from 2000
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