4 items from 2005
Hugely ambitious but often failing to live up to those ambitions, Terry Gilliam's long-awaited "The Brothers Grimm" emerges as a folkloric adventure that intermittently entertains. The central problem is that Gilliam never figures out what movie he wants to make. "Grimm" ranges from 18th century slapstick to pure fairy tale and from Monty Python absurdity to a semi-serious meditation on the collision between rationalist convictions and mystical beliefs.
Not helping matters at the boxoffice, the movie strands its two young stars, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, in quaint, off-putting period costumes and confusion about their roles. One minute they are cowardly buffoons and con artists and the next they're heroes bent on rescuing a damsel in distress -- despite the fact this damsel has more spunk than the two men combined.
Prospects for the Dimension/MGM co-production -- pegged at $75 million but with production delays that must have pushed that figure seriously north -- are iffy. Certainly, Gilliam puts on a splendid show, one filled with bizarre imagery and imaginative design that serve a Borges-tinged tale about collectors of folklore who find themselves living through one of their own fairy stories.
The movie gets off to a rocky start by thrusting a viewer into so much frantic action that one struggles to get one's bearings. Nor does the film pay much attention to the one thing vital to all storytelling -- creating empathy for its protagonists.
The screenplay by "The Ring"'s Ehren Kruger imagines that the legendary German brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm -- here called Will (Damon) and Jake (Ledger) -- are rogues who travel from village to village in "French-occupied Germany" in 1796. They pretend to protect townsfolk from witches and enchanted creatures by performing fake exorcisms. The French authorities, led by the autocratic snob, Gen. Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), get wise to their con and arrest the brothers.
The Grimms are threatened with gruesome torture and death, then presented with a deal they cannot refuse. Apparently, even greater con artists are terrorizing a small village, where young children are missing and villagers blame an enchanted forest. The Grimms can escape their grim fate by uncovering the miscreants behind the hocus pocus and delivering the children back to their parents. To make certain that the boys keep the bargain, the general saddles them with a sadistic Italian torturer named Cavaldi (Peter Stormare.)
Things in the village are as bad as advertised. What's worse, the Grimms cannot unmask the magician: The forest seems to be really haunted, and the village's curse proves all too real. Will refuses to believe folk tales are anything other than superstition and lies told by village elders. Yet brother Jake, even as a small boy, has believed in fairy tales. There is, in other words, a clash between the Napoleonic rationalists, personified by Delatombe and Will, and traditionalist inspired by folk tales, represented by Jake.
Further upsetting the delicate balance between the brothers is the beauteous Angelika (Lena Headey). She has lost two sisters to the curse, yet is reluctant to help the brothers other than guide them into the enchanted woods to demonstrate the impossibility of lifting the curse.
There is never a dull moment onscreen, but this perhaps is the movie's curse. Actors bustle here and there. Creatures, insects, toads and enchanted animals pop up everywhere. Trees move menacingly. A horse swallows a small girl. A wolflike beast turns into a man and back into a beast. Actors chew the scenery and, for once, the scenery chews back.
While the Brothers Grimm cannot fathom the magic that confronts them, the modern moviegoer has no such problem. The CGI and visual effects are all too transparent. Overall the production feels disjointed as the tone keeps shifting even as the fake scenery keeps shaking.
Damon and Ledger don't really locate their characters until about the midway point. By then, viewer allegiance has shifted to Headey, the most charismatic figure in the film. Stormare is so over the top that he is simply annoying. Pryce at least is consistent as the smug commander determined to root superstition out of the territory. Monica Bellucci lends an eerie eroticism as an ancient queenly corpse whose struggle for rebirth is the key to the village curse.
THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Dimension Films and MGM present
a Mosaic Media Group/Daniel Bobker production
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger
Producers: Charles Roven, Daniel Bobker
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Additional photography: Nicola Pecorini
Production designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas
Music: Dario Marianelli
Co-producer: Jake Myers, Michael Solinger
Visual effects supervisor: Kent Houston
Costumes: Gabriella Pescucci, Carlo Poggioli
Editor: Lesley Walker
Will Grimm: Matt Damon
Jake Grimm: Heath Ledger
Delatombe: Jonathan Pryce
Angelika: Lena Headey
Cavaldi: Peter Stormare
Mirror Queen: Monica Bellucci
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 119 minutes »
CANNES -- Alfred Molina is set to star in The Moon and the Stars for director John Irvin. The 10 million ($12.6 million) film, which is set to start shooting early next month in Hungary and Rome, is a co-production among Italy's Buskin Film, U.K.'s Box Film and Hungary's Focus Films. Announced in Cannes by Buskin Films' Antonio Guadalupi, Moon is set in 1939 on the eve of World War II in Italy. The story revolves around a German actress (Catherine McCormack) and an English actor (Jonathan Pryce) who descend on Rome to shoot a film, for which Molina's character serves as producer. As the fascist government tries to shut down production, a triangle of love and jealousy emerges as wartime nationalist tendencies bubble to the surface. Media Pictures is handling international sales for the film. Fabio Carpi is the screenwriter on the project. Molina, McCormack and Pryce are represented by Endeavor. Pryce and McCormack are represented internationally by Julian Belfrage & Associates and Peter Frazier & Dunlop. »
In the last major casting of the pilot season, Jonathan Pryce has been tapped to star in CBS' untitled Marsh McCall comedy pilot. Meanwhile, Mehcad Brooks is set to join the cast of ABC's hit dramedy Desperate Housewives as a potential regular, and Richard Ruccolo has come aboard UPN's comedy pilot Talk Show Diaries. The Marsh McCall project, from WBTV and Jerry Bruckheimer TV, revolves around three adult siblings (Jonathan Silverman, Reid Scott, Katherine Waterston) who rally to support their eccentric professor father (Pryce). »
Senior talent agent Adam Isaacs has left UTA to become a partner at Endeavor. Isaacs' move is a substantial boost to the Endeavor talent roster, with a long list of major players -- including Keira Knightley, Matt LeBlanc and Juliette Binoche -- following him to his new home. Other clients confirmed at press time to be making the move include Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lambert, Toni Collette, Matthew Goode, Pia Miranda, Lena Olin, Miranda Otto, Rosamund Pike, Jonathan Pryce, Dougray Scott and Tom Waits. »
4 items from 2005
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