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9 items from 2003

Big Fish

12 December 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »


Wednesday, Dec. 10

"Big Fish" is a misfire. The film that wants to be lighter than air instead crashes to earth with the swiftness of a concrete parachute. Director Tim Burton, whose early career displayed a dazzling gift for the surreal, is in a slump. Yet whatever one thought of his two most recent pictures, "Planet of the Apes" or "Sleepy Hollow", nothing will prepare his admirers for this belabored oddity that is one long-winded tall tale illustrated with hammy, artificial sets and gee-whiz acting.

It's hard to think what audience "Big Fish" might attract once the opening weekend is over. The circus performers and fantasy elements may delight youngsters, but older moviegoers will be put off by the clumsiness in the film's style and tone.

The source material, Daniel Wallace's novel "Big Fish, A Story of Mythic Proportions," concerns a charismatic Southern gentleman who, in his stories of the past, has transformed his life into an almost Homeric odyssey through a fablelike world. While there is a kernel of truth in every tale, these adventure stories become the means by which this slippery and now aging man can hold intimacy at bay: All his life, Edward Bloom (played with fine bluster by Albert Finney) has used whimsy and jocular charm to keep people at a distance.

Burton and screenwriter John August try to visualize this literary conceit by intertwining Edward's tall tales about his adventures as a young man (played by Ewan McGregor) with the efforts of Bloom's journalist son Will (Billy Crudup) to establish the facts of his dad's life. Having wearied of the outlandish stories and tired of operating in the shadows of his gregarious father, Will has married a French woman (Marion Cotillard) and fled to Paris, where he works for the AP. Summoned home to reconcile with his now dying father by his loving and tolerant mother, Sandra (Jessica Lange), Will means to separate myth from reality once and for all.

For a while, the absurdist imagery in Edward's tales tickle the fancy: A storm maroons a car in a tree. A pale nude figure of a woman drifts in the moonlight above a river. A large fish swallows Edward's gold wedding band. Edward stumbles across an isolated town no one ever leaves.

The characters also intrigue initially: There is a giant named Karl (Matthew McGrory) who proves to be shy and gentle, a circus ringmaster (Danny DeVito) who turns into a werewolf, conjoined Korean lounge singers who join Edward in his travels and a witch Helena Bonham Carter) who has a glass eye that foretells how Edward will die.

But these stories never get beyond their surreal imagery. They stand in isolation from the storyteller and his family as denials of reality spurred by no particular condition or circumstances.

What is even more curious in the movie version, when Will does investigate these stories -- he merely narrates his dad's stories in the novel -- Burton and August seem reluctant to let go of these folk tales. The isolated town really does exist, only it has fallen on hard times. Many characters are real, only exaggerated.

By insisting on the literal reality of Edward's inventions -- as opposed to the gross exaggerations of an overactive imagination -- the movie undermines its own theme of a teller of tale tales who relates truth through fiction.

As the fatally ill storyteller, Finney gets to chew the scenery but pins down few character specifics. As warm and accepting wives, Lange and Cotillard smile prettily but do little else. Crudup is burdened with a cantankerous character forever fussing and fuming about his father's failures as a father. As the young man seen in mythic flashbacks, McGregor gets to stare in wide-eyed wonder at the fabulous adventures, but his is mostly a reactive role.

Production design and costumes lack the ingenuity of Burton's previous forays into colorful imaginary worlds. Sets in particular look a little too much like movie sets.


Columbia Pictures

A Jinks/Cohen Co./Zanuck Co. production


Director: Tim Burton

Screenwriter: John August

Based on a novel by: Daniel Wallace

Producers: Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, Richard D. Zanuck

Executive producer: Arne Schmidt

Director of photography: Philippe Rousselot

Production designer: Dennis Gassner

Music: Danny Elfman

Costume designer: Colleen Atwood

Editors: Chris Lebenzon


Young Edward Bloom: Ewan McGregor

Old Edward Bloom: Albert Finney

William Bloom: Billy Crudup

Sandy Bloom: Jessica Lange

Young Sandy: Alison Lohman

Jenny/Witch: Helena Bonham Carter

Norther Winslow: Steve Buscemi

Amos Calloway: Danny DeVito

Dr. Bennett: Robert Guillaume

Josephine: Marion Cotillard

Karl the Giant: Matthew McGrory

Running time -- 120 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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'Dirty' cleans up at Brit indie nods

5 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

LONDON -- Dirty Pretty Things, which centers on an illegal Nigerian immigrant working as a night porter in a London hotel, walked off with the lion's share of this year's British Independent Film Awards. Things, directed by Stephen Frears, scooped up four nods at Tuesday night at London's Hammersmith Palais. The film picked up gongs for best British film and best director, screenplay (Steve Knight) and actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Olivia Williams received the best actress award for her role in The Heart of Me, beating out competition from her co-star Helena Bonham Carter, Kate Ashfield (This Little Life), Samantha Morton (In America) and Tilda Swinton (Young Adam). In the supporting actor category, Susan Lynch scored an award for her role in Richard Jobson's directorial debut, 16 Years of Alcohol. »

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Helena and Ralph Join 'Wallace and Gromit' Team

27 October 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Oscar-nominated stars Helena Bonham-Carter and Ralph Fiennes will lend their voices to the first ever feature length Wallace And Gromit movie. The project, titled Curse Of The Wererabbit, will begin shooting in Bristol, England this week at Aardman Animations's studio. The movie sees the studio's popular characters Wallace and Gromit hunt down the mysterious beast which has been rampaging their village's prize marrows and potatoes just days before the giant vegetable growing contest. Helena will voice new character Lady Tottington, and Ralph will provide the sound for Lord Victor Quatermaine. Curse of the Wererabbit - with a budget in excess of $80 million - will take 18 months to make and is expected to be released in 2005. »

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Bonham Carter and Burton Celebrate Birth

7 October 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Movie couple Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton are celebrating the birth of their first child together. According to the actress' agent, the Fight Club star gave birth to a baby boy in a London hospital on Saturday. The pair, who met when Burton directed Bonham Carter in 2001's Planet Of The Apes, have not yet revealed the name of the baby. Burton's next film is the upcoming Big Fish, in which Bonham Carter will appear. »

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Bonham Carter, Williams, vie at U.K. indies

23 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

LONDON -- The Heart of Me co-stars Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams will compete against each other for the best actress nod at the sixth annual British Independent Film Awards. Also nominated in the category, according to organizers Tuesday, are Kate Ashfield for This Little Life, Samantha Morton for In America, and Tilda Swinton for Young Adam. The prize is one of 17 awards to be presented Nov. 4 in a ceremony at the Hammersmith Palais. Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things leads the charge with seven nominations while 16 Years of Alcohol, directed by first-timer Richard Jobson and Gregor Jordan's Buffalo Soldiers picked up five nominations each. Dirty Pretty Things and Buffalo Soldiers will compete with 28 Days Later, Magdalene Sisters and Young Adam for this year's best British independent film crown. »

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Emmys: Film stars well-repped on noms list<BR clear="none"/>

17 July 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Paul Newman and Peter O'Toole are associated more with the Oscars than with the Emmys, but both star names were right up there with a plethora of other big-screen acting monikers, including Anne Bancroft, Helen Mirren, James Woods and John Malkovich, on the Emmy nominations list. Industry executives and analysts say there's nothing new about motion picture talent hitting TV credit listings these days, but this year's roll call of international screen talent among the Emmy nominees appears to represent a high point in the history of longform TV production. HBO is clearly the pathfinder for big-screen names charting their way to the small screen. Chris Cooper and Maggie Smith are nominated for their roles in HBO's "My House in Umbria", and Helena Bonham Carter's name appears on the nominees list for HBO's "Live From Baghdad". Showtime is also a player in terms of luring high profile acting talent to television. Paul Newman appears on the nominees list for his role as Stage Manager in Showtime's presentation of Westport County Playhouse's "Our Town" with Exxon Mobil Masterpiece Theater. »

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Actor Branagh Weds for Second Time

28 May 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British screen star Kenneth Branagh has secretly wed girlfriend Lindsay Brunnock. The couple exchanged vows at a "small, private" ceremony at the weekend, according to the Much Ado About Nothing star's publicist. He and his new bride are now enjoying their honeymoon at an undisclosed location. Branagh started dating art director Brunnock two years ago on the set of the Shackleton - a drama for British TV network Channel 4. It is the second marriage for Branagh - his first, to actress Emma Thompson, ended in 1996. He then had a long romance with his Frankenstein co-star Helena Bonham Carter, but they split in 1999. »

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Helena Bonham Carter Announces Pregnancy

17 February 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Fight Club actress Helena Bonham Carter is pregnant with her first child by American film director Tim Burton. The pair met two years ago on the set of Planet of the Apes, and at the time Helena was accused of stealing the Sleepy Hollow director from his long-term love Lisa Marie. A friend says, "It came as something of a surprise but a very welcome one. Helena and Tim are both rather eccentric but they make a great couple and could not be happier about the pregnancy." In the past, Helena has said of Tim, "I found him instantly intriguing. We are a perfect match. Tim and I are very serious. I would not rule out the possibility of us getting married." »

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The Heart of Me

6 January 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Regus London Film Festival

LONDON -- "The Heart of Me" comes with splendid credentials and is put together with a great deal of skill. There are impressive performances by Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams and Paul Bettany; attractive direction by Thaddeus O'Sullivan; and fine work by the technical team. It pushes all of the right dramatic buttons but doesn't feel remarkable or special enough to break out from anything but a modest theatrical release. "Heart" was the closing-night film of the Regus London Film Festival.

The film opens in 1934 as two sisters, Dinah (Bonham Carter) and Madeleine (Williams), attend their father's funeral, along with Madeleine's husband, Rickie (Bettany), and their mother (played excellently by Eleanor Bron). Dinah comes to stay at Rickie and Madeleine's elegant London home. Soon she and Rickie launch a passionate affair. Their passion offers joy and ecstasy as well as despair and confusion. After Dinah loses their child during birth, things can never be the same, and Madeleine and her mother conspire to keep the lovers apart. Only after the war, with Rickie dead after an air raid, can the sisters start to reconcile and forgive each other.

Bettany's impressive performance blends weakness with a passion for love and life. He is an actor who continues to grow and impress. Williams is excellent as the cold, beautiful Madeleine, unable to break away from the rules of behavior she feels she has to stick to, while Carter is fine as the more flighty Dinah, though you can't quite see what makes her so attractive to Rickie.

Lucinda Coxon's script is based on the novel "The Echoing Grove", by Rosamond Lehman. While a nicely structured drama, it lacks real passion, and sympathy rests with the icy Madeleine rather than the passionate Dinah. O'Sullivan directs with a great deal of style and elicits fine performances from his cast.


BBC Films presents in association with Take 3, Isle of Man Film Commission and Pandora An MP production


Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan

Screenwriter: Lucinda Coxon

Based on the novel "The Echoing Grove" by: Rosamond Lehmann

Producer: Martin Pope

Executive producers: David M Thompson, Tracey Scoffield, Steve Christian, Keith Evans, Paul Federbush, Sebnem Askin

Director of photography: Gyula Pados

Production designer: Michael Carlin

Music: Nicholas Hooper

Costume designer: Sheena Napier

Editor: Alex Mackie


Dinah: Helena Bonham Carter

Madeleine: Olivia Williams

Rickie: Paul Bettany

Mrs Burkett: Eleanor Bron

Anthony: Luke Newberry

Jack: Tom Ward

Bridie: Alison Reid

Running time -- 96 minutes

No MPAA rating


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9 items from 2003

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