8 items from 2002
Destiny's Child starlet Beyonce Knowles is to team up with Malcolm X director Spike Lee in the newest advertising push from soft drinks giant Pepsi-Cola. With pop princess Britney Spears' contract ending at the end of the year, Pepsi have plumped for the controversial director and the "Bootylicious" singer to liven up their adverts. Lee's agency Spike DDB has been signed up for the promo clip with the possibility of radio, print and internet creative spots to come if the unusual collaboration proves a success. »
20 December 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
"25th Hour" is an unusually aimless movie from Spike Lee, a director associated with much punchier films that possess strong points of view. Here the story line is flaccid and episodic, the direction lacks vitality, and the observations are mundane. It's a tribute to Lee that he was able to assemble a top-notch cast eager to work with him, but the real work is by an audience that must labor through the misguided affair.
Edward Norton is once again brilliant in the central role; everything he does is hugely watchable. By contrast, a bunch of terrific actors -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin and Brian Cox -- struggle to make any sense of characters who drift through the protagonist's world without seeming to make much impact on him or us. The Touchstone film, released this week in Los Angeles and New York then expanding in January, is unlikely to equal, much less expand upon, Lee's usual demographics.
Probably the best thing about the film is the lensing by Rodrigo Prieto, who after "Amores Perros", "Frida" and "8 Mile" emerges clearly as a world-class cinematographer. His New York is a drab and somber city filled, though, with ex-quisite light and a sense of quiet vibrancy. The movie is palpably set in post-Sept. 11 New York. Along with overt shots of Ground Zero -- one character's apartment directly overlooks the site -- and the sign reading "You Can't Stop NYC", the film displays a dispirited yet vital city still searching for ways to cope with its wounds and grief.
None of this directly relates to the story at hand except to lend a melancholy air to what is already a downbeat tale. Norton plays Monty Brogan, a middle-class drug dealer with ties to the Russian mafia, experiencing his last 24 hours of freedom before turning himself in to serve a seven-year prison sentence. Why he still enjoys this freedom, when most if not all felons are jailed upon conviction, is never explained.
On this final day, he hooks up with people and places from his past: the high school where he played basketball; his best pals, Jacob (Hoffman), a guilt-ridden Jew who teaches English at the old school, and Slaughtery (Pepper), a hotshot bond trader full of himself; his dad (Cox), who runs a bar partially financed by his drug money; and Naturelle (Dawson), his live-in girlfriend who may or may not have turned him in to the narcs.
Monty spends most of the movie feeling sorry for himself, which is more than any audience member is likely to do. Meanwhile, Naturelle acts bewildered about what's going on in Monty's head, and his two buddies squabble constantly -- an argument that undoubtedly goes back to playground days. It is hard to discover in these fruitless encounters any reason for Monty, a smart and educated man, to have turned to drug dealing.
More dramatically cohesive at least is a subplot involving Jacob's infatuation with a 17-year-old tease (an impish Paquin) from one of his classes. Russian mob figures, especially one played by former pro footballer Tony Siragusa, are vivid caricatures but feel like they wandered in from a different movie.
The script is by David Benioff, adapted from his own novel. But the film lacks all the things critics lauded in his novel -- his tight, crisp way with dialogue, its dark humor and a portrayal of the corrupting influence of easy money.
Buena Vista Pictures
Touchstone Pictures presents a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks/Industry Entertainment/Gamut Films production
Credits: Director: Spike Lee; Screenwriter: David Benioff; Based on the novel by: David Benioff; Producers: Spike Lee, Jon Kilik, Tobey Maguire, Julie Chasman; Executive producer: Nick Wechsler; Director of photography: Rodrigo Prieto; Production designer: James Chinlund; Music: Terence Blanchard; Costume designer: Sandra Hernandez; Editor: Barry Alexander Brown. Cast: Monty Brogan: Edward Norton; Jacob Elinsky: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Francis Slaughtery: Barry Pepper; Naturelle Riviera: Rosario Dawson; Mary D'Annuzio: Anna Paquin; James Brogan: Brian Cox; Kostya Novotny: Tony Siragusa.
MPAA rating R, running time 135 minutes.
Denzel Washington is annoyed at his reputation as a reluctant lover of white leading ladies in his movies - because it's untrue. The movie star picked up the rap after a disagreement with movie maker Spike Lee on the set of Mo' Better Blues, but the Oscar winner insists it had nothing to do with his beliefs that cross-racial romances in the movies don't work He fumes, "We had a disagreement about one scene. That was it. Next, when I was working with Julia Roberts on The Pelican Brief, the tabloids reported that I refused to kiss her. I was never supposed to kiss her. It was never in the script. Look at He Got Game - me and Milla Jovovich. The bottom line is that I haven't been offered a lot of sex scenes." »
4 October 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
After going to the suburbs with his series The Hughleys, comedian D.L. Hughley is headed for California's wine country for his next series project. Hughley is in negotiations with NBC for a development deal to co-write, executive produce and star in Solvang, a comedy for NBC Studios described to be in the vein of Green Acres. The project centers on a black city guy who moves to a farm in the Central Coast town of Solvang with his family and his Latina caretaker and her family and opens a bed-and-breakfast. Hughley is writing the script with Donick Cary (Fox's The Simpsons), who will also executive produce with Hughley. Hughley's semiauthobiographical series The Hughleys bowed out in May after four seasons -- two on ABC and two on UPN. It also earned the comedian four Image Award nominations. On the big screen, he starred in The Brothers and Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy. Cary's credits include CBS' Late Show With David Letterman and NBC's Just Shoot Me. Hughley and Cary are repped by CAA. Hughley is additionally repped by 3 Arts Entertainment and attorney Jim Jackoway. »
The star of Spike Lee's new documentary had to miss the film's Los Angeles premiere - because he's in jail. Football player and actor Jim Brown, the subject of Lee's Jim Brown All American, began a 180-day sentence last month after his conviction on a charge of misdemeanor vandalism with domestic violence. It stemmed from his 1999 arrest after he smashed the windows of wife Monique's car. The judge had originally sentenced Brown to counselling and community service, but he refused the guidance and was locked up instead. Lee did not let Brown's absence go unlamented. He said, "I'm very sad he's not here tonight. But I'm happy they finally took him out of solitary confinement. He was isolated, which was crazy. He's called me three times from jail. He's in good spirits." »
Director Spike Lee is unconvinced Hollywood has changed its attitude to black people after Halle Berry and Denzel Washington's triumphs last month. Lee says he will not be completely satisfied tinseltown has changed its attitude to non-white citizens until more producers and studio executives are "of color." Spike discussed Halle and Denzel with students at The University of Toledo in Ohio on Wednesday night. Spike says, "Is this a signal that once and for all Hollywood is colorblind and we're all on the same playing field? I don't think so. We have to see what happens. Let's not get too hyped up. Let's not go crazy and think we've been delivered because of what happened. When Sidney (Poitier) won for Lilies Of The Field, people probably felt the same way and it was another 40 years until Denzel won." »
Director Spike Lee is bitter over the snub he received from Will Smith when hoping to direct Ali. Lee was approached by Oscar-nominee Will as a possible director for the blockbuster biopic on the life of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, before Michael Mann was signed. Spike moans, "I wanted to do it, but Will didn't want me to direct it. Columbia and Sony had a list and Will had a list. I met with Will and his manager. The first thing Will said was, 'So Spike, how can you expand your vision?' When he asked that I knew I was out." And disappointed Spike wasn't impressed with the finished film, criticising producers' choice of a white director. Spike adds, "Few white directors can get our stuff right Ali didn't get it. I'm tired of other people documenting our history." »
Spike Lee's new film chronicling the life and times of one of the most heralded and complicated sports figures of the century treats its subject with a reverence that surpasses even the director's portrait of Malcolm X. An exhaustive account of every facet of Jim Brown's sports and show business careers, not to mention his troubled personal history, this video documentary occasionally lapses into the realm of self-importance, but is nonetheless mostly gripping throughout its overlong running time. Made for HBO Sports and due for cable broadcast later this year, "Jim Brown: All American" is now receiving its theatrical premiere at New York's Film Forum.
The opening segments of the film are the least impressive, including an extraneous sequence in which we see Brown giving a pre-Super Bowl pep talk to the Baltimore Ravens, and a scene shot on St. Simons Island in Georgia, where Brown grew up, in which he discusses his segregated childhood while pointing to the graves of various deceased ancestors. The focus then shifts to his high school sports career in a fairly affluent section of Long Island, N.Y., with his exploits beamingly described by various teammates and his beloved old coach. Terence Blanchard's jazz score, similar to those in many previous films by the director, provides a suitably plaintive and emotive musical background.
The film naturally gathers steam when it reaches Brown's pro football career, when the descriptions of his exploits are well illustrated by archival footage documenting his extraordinary skills and iron-man stamina. The latter is demonstrated not only by the footage of his evading being tackled by scores of players, but also by the amazing statistic that during his nine-year career he missed only half a game.
His film career is discussed in rather grandiose terms, with the film's position being that Brown made revolutionary strides in redefining the image of the black male onscreen. While there is some truth to this -- his interracial sex scenes with Raquel Welch and Stella Stevens were highly unusual for the time -- such films as "100 Rifles" and "Slaughter", clips of which are shown, hardly make the case convincing. The thesis is made even less credible by the commentary of such figures as historian Donald Bogle, who, at least as edited here, seems to have a major preoccupation with black penises.
Also handled in extensive detail are Brown's aborted production company partnership with Richard Pryor, his leadership role in the black community and his efforts to stop gang violence in Los Angeles through the founding of the Amer-I-Can organization.
Contrasting with his humanitarian efforts is his checkered personal history, including numerous arrests for assault. Although not shying away from the controversies, the film is clearly on Brown's side, letting him extensively tell his side of the story and including numerous exonerating interviews with his supposed victims, including the woman whom he was accused of throwing off his balcony and the current wife whose car he vandalized. A lengthy interview with one of his sons, who has had extensive difficulties with drugs and alcohol, makes clear that his emotional reticence, so useful on the football field, was less helpful in terms of his relationships with his children.
Lee's clearly admiring approach, typified by a climax in which we get to witness graphic video footage of the birth of Brown's latest child, occasionally gives the film the air more of a promotional video than a no-holds-barred cinematic examination.
JIM BROWN: ALL AMERICAN
A 40 Acres and a Mule release
Director-producer: Spike Lee
Executive producers: Ross Greenberg, Rick Bernstein
Co-producers: Mike Ellis, Sam Pollard
Director of photography: Ellen Kuras
Editor: Sam Pollard
Music: Terence Blanchard
Running time -- 130 minutes
No MPAA rating
8 items from 2002
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