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1-20 of 32 items from 2004   « Prev | Next »


Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

23 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events demonstrates what happens when you take a clever idea and run it into the ground. One's delight with the first act gives way to seat shifting in the second and gazing at one's watch in the third. What should have been an utterly beguiling exploration of the dark side of fantasy and the universal appeal of gothic wickedness devolves into a repetitive comedy that squanders a hugely talented cast. Nevertheless, given the popularity of the book series by Lemony Snicket, the pen name of Daniel Handler, and the clowning of Jim Carrey as the story's flamboyant villain, the movie appears headed for the boxoffice stratosphere.

The droll idea behind the books is that all those "extremely unpleasant" events that occur in fairy tales are the very things that attract young readers in the first place. Kids -- and the kid in all of us -- love sinister villains and cruel fate. So in the stories and now in this movie, Snicket -- a gravely funny voice-over by Jude Law -- constantly warns against impending calamities about to befall his young heroes, even to the point of suggesting that the viewer flee to a next-door cinema where a much happier film is playing.

Those who stick it out encounter the unfortunate adventures of three plucky orphans (played by Emily Browning, Liam Aiken and the infant duo of Kara and Shelby Hoffman), who must cope with the tragic deaths of their parents and then a collection of eccentric relations who take stabs at being their guardians. The worst of the bunch is wily Count Olaf (Carrey), who plots to bilk the children out of their inheritance.

The film is jammed with amusing gags, one of the best has the youngest orphan, the toddler, speak in cackles, giggles and grunts that the other two understand perfectly well. The rest of us make do with subtitles.

Their unfortunate journey begins at the count's gloomy-looking mansion, continues to the greenhouse-like home of Uncle Monty (Billy Connolly), then to the cliffside home of Aunt Josephine (Meryl Streep) and culminates in a circus performance where the count and his troupe of ne'er-do-well thespians conspire to get the count married to the 14-year-old girl to steal the money.

Unfortunate, too, is the inability of director Brad Silberling and writer Robert Gordon to turn a literary conceit into a cinematic adventure. Events are merely strung together rather than allowed to build to a climax. And the events themselves possess a discouraging sameness: Count Olaf plots to eliminate the orphans. No adult heeds the orphans' pleas. The trio escape his clutches through their own devises.

A viewer never develops much confidence in the film's dark side. The villainy of Count Olaf and his crew is cartoon villainy, lacking real menace. This throws off the balance between comedy and tragedy and denies Lemony Snicket of the very thing it wishes to wallow in -- the horrors in kiddie literature.

Carrey is again the master at physical comedy, contorting his body at gravity-defying angles and slipping chameleon-like from disguise to disguise. Yet there is something a bit hammy to his approach, a kind of wink to the audience that the wickedness is all play-acting.

Streep is quite funny as the unstable aunt, irrationally afraid of everything including objects and furniture in her own home. Connolly steals all his scenes as a herpetologist who wears a python around his neck while other reptiles wander his house. This is such a larger-than-life character that one rues his demise.

Working with production and costume designers Rick Heinrichs and Colleen Atwood, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki gives Lemony Snicket a stylized look that bleeds all primary colors from the scenes in favor of blacks, grays and browns. The sets are most wonderful with all their Dickensian melancholy exaggerated to reflect a child's point of view. If only the movie had adopted that tone.

LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

Paramount Pictures

Paramount and DreamWorks Pictures present a Parkes/MacDonald-Nickelodeon Movies production

Credits:

Director: Brad Silberling

Screenwriter: Robert Gordon

Based on the books by: Daniel Handler

Producer: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes

Executive producers: Scott Rudin, Julia Pistor, Barry Sonnenfeld, Jim Van Wyck

Director of photography: Emmanuel Lubezki

Production designer: Rick Heinrichs

Music: Thomas Newman

Costume designers: Colleen Atwood, Donna O'Neal

Editor: Dylan Tichenor

Cast:

Count Olaf: Jim Carrey

Aunt Josephine: Meryl Streep

Voice of Lemony Snicket: Jude Law

Violet Baudelaire: Emily Browning

Klaus Baudelaire: Liam Aiken

Sunny: Kara Hoffman, Shelby Hoffman

Mr. Poe: Timothy Spall

Uncle Monty: Billy Connolly

Detective: Cedric the Entertainer

Bald Man: Luis Guzman

White Faced Woman: Jennifer Coolidge

MPAA rating PG

Running time -- 107 minutes »

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Boxoffice preview: Families make 'Lemony' pledge

17 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures are betting that the star power of Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler is enough to lure people away from the shopping mall this weekend even though the Christmas rush is still on. With only a week left before the holiday, Paramount's Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events bows against Sony's romantic comedy-drama Spanglish today. And 20th Century Fox counters with its action-adventure remake Flight of the Phoenix. Set to open in 3,620 theaters, Lemony Snicket, a co-production with DreamWorks Pictures, reimagines the first three books of the wildly popular series by Daniel Handler. The dark, fantastical adventure showcases Carrey as the evil Count Olaf, who is charged with the care of three children after their parents die in a fire. The film from director Brad Silberling (Moonlight Mile, City of Angels) saw a slew of musical chairs before it was locked last year. Helmer Barry Sonnenfeld and producer Scott Rudin initially were on board but left because of budget cuts. DreamWorks then joined, bringing Silberling with it. Co-starring Meryl Streep and Jude Law, the PG-rated Lemony should do a wide range of business, bringing in young children and their families. Insiders place the film's opening at $30 million-plus. »

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Stone To Recreate Thatcher's Reign?

3 December 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Movie-maker Oliver Stone is lining up another historical figure for his next biopic - former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The director is refusing to let the critical mauling and disastrous box office performance of his latest film Alexander - based on Macedonian warrior Alexander The Great - and is pursuing his current dream of bringing the British leader's life to the big screen. And Stone is determined to land Meryl Streep for the lead role. He says, "Margaret Thatcher is an amazing woman and a good subject for a film. I'm thinking about Meryl Streep to play the Iron Lady." Pals claim Stone - who's documented the lives of shamed President Richard Nixon, assassinated leader John F. Kennedy and rock star Jim Morrison - is now keen to focus his films on some of his female idols. One friends says, "Oliver is one of Baroness Thatcher's greatest fans. Alexander was slammed by critics, so maybe he think it's time to concentrate on a great woman for a film. Thatcher was one of the most powerful political figures in the world and her life has been as colorful as any superstar." »

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Casady gets call to produce Writers nods

1 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The WGA West has selected Emmy-winning producer-writer Cort Casady as the new producer of its upcoming 57th annual Writers Guild Awards on Feb. 19. Casady has produced several awards show telecasts, including the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award tributes to Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, the 2003 Soap Opera Digest Awards and the TV Guide Awards. The WGAW still is seeking a broadcaster for the upcoming show. Last year's event aired as a one-hour presentation on the Starz Encore pay channel. Casady received an Emmy for outstanding entertainment programming for New York at Night, a daily, live variety-talk series he created. »

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De Niro and Hightower Renew Wedding Vows

23 November 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep and Ben Stiller were among the stars in attendance when Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower renewed their wedding vows. The couple renewed their vows on Saturday, at De Niro's Ulster County farm near New York's Catskill Mountains. The bride and bridegroom and their guests gathered around an indoor pool where two judges were on hand to officiate, "So they can make sure this one sticks," joked De Niro. De Niro and Hightower lit candles and exchanged wedding bands and then led the wedding party into a tent where they drank champagne and ate dishes from De Niro's Nobu restaurant. De Niro, 61, met Hightower, 51, in London in 1987, they married in 1997, but their marriage looked to be ending when De Niro filed for divorce two years later. Their fallout continued into 2001 as a potential custody battle over their son Elliott, now six, heated up. However, the divorce was never finalized and they managed to smooth over their troubles. »

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Streep Quits 'King's Men'

17 November 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Veteran actress Meryl Streep has dramatically dropped out of the forthcoming All The King's Men remake. The screen star's sudden decision has left Steven Zaillian's film - a modern take on the 1949 Best Picture Oscar winner - in desperate need of a replacement. No reason has been given for Streep's departure, but some reports claim her hectic 2005 schedule forced her to quit the project, according to website EmpireOnline.co.uk. The original film followed the rise and fall of American politician Willie Starks from a rural country seat to the spotlight in Washington, DC. Sean Penn, Jude Law and Kate Winslet have all signed up to appear in the movie. »

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'King's Men' puts Streep in campaign

29 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Columbia Pictures' remake of the gritty social drama All the King's Men is turning into a glamorous, star-studded movie. Meryl Streep is in negotiations to join the cast, headed by Sean Penn and Jude Law, while Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo are in talks about the project. An offer has already gone out to Winslet, while one is pending in Ruffalo's case. Streep, who most recently played an ambitious senator in The Manchurian Candidate, would play Sadie, an aide to Southern politician Willie Stark (Penn). Law is set to appear as protagonist Jack Burden, a journalist who falls under Stark's spell. Steven Zaillian is set to direct from his own adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's novel, which is based on the life of late Louisiana Gov. Huey Long. Phoenix Pictures chairman Mike Medavoy and president Arnold Messer are producing with Zaillian. Former Columbia executive Ken Lemberger, political consultant James Carville and Todd Phillips are executive producing. Phoenix Pictures director of development David Thwaites is overseeing on behalf of the company, with Amy Baer overseeing on behalf of the studio. Streep is repped by CAA. Winslet and Ruffalo are repped by WMA. »

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'Angels in America' Sweeps Emmys

20 September 2004 | IMDb News

It was a farewell to old friends -- and hello to some new ones -- at this year's Emmys, which were dominated overall by miniseries Angels in America. The HBO mega-event swept every major category it was nominated for, including all acting honors (for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, and Mary-Louise Parker) as well as Best Miniseries, Directing, and Writing. In the Outstanding Comedy arena, two departing shows divvied up the Emmys in the acting categories, as Frasier won awards for Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde-Pierce, while Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon (both first-time winners) took home honors for Sex and the City. It was newbie Arrested Development, though, that walked away with the Best Comedy Series trophy, as well as Writing and Directing Emmys. Over on the dramatic side of things, The Sopranos finally took home its first Outstanding Dramatic Series award, as well as supporting nods for Michael Imperioli and Drea DeMatteo and Outstanding Writing, but perennial winners James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were upset by James Spader for his first season on The Practice and Emmy fave Allison Janney for The West Wing; new HBO series Deadwood grabbed Dramatic Directing honors. Other winners included The Amazing Race 4 for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, The Daily Show for Variety, Music, or Comedy Series, and Something the Lord Made for Made-For-TV Movie. --Prepared by IMDb staff

Get all the Emmy Award winners and see photos from the event »

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'Angels in America' Sweeps Emmys

19 September 2004 | IMDb News

It was a farewell to old friends -- and hello to some new ones -- at this year's Emmys, which were dominated overall by miniseries Angels in America. The HBO mega-event swept every major category it was nominated for, including all acting honors (for Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, and Mary-Louise Parker) as well as Best Miniseries, Directing, and Writing. In the Outstanding Comedy arena, two departing shows divvied up the Emmys in the acting categories, as Frasier won awards for Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde-Pierce, while Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon (both first-time winners) took home honors for Sex and the City. It was newbie Arrested Development, though, that walked away with the Best Comedy Series trophy, as well as Writing and Directing Emmys. Over on the dramatic side of things, The Sopranos finally took home its first Outstanding Dramatic Series award, as well as supporting nods for Michael Imperioli and Drea DeMatteo and Outstanding Writing, but perennial winners James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were upset by James Spader for his first season on The Practice and Emmy fave Allison Janney for The West Wing; new HBO series Deadwood grabbed Dramatic Directing honors. Other winners included The Amazing Race 4 for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, The Daily Show for Variety, Music, or Comedy Series, and Something the Lord Made for Made-For-TV Movie. --Prepared by IMDb staff

Get all the Emmy Award winners and see photos from the event »

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'Prime' time for Parisse on Thurman film

16 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Uma Thurman has a new best friend. As Prime started production Wednesday, Thurman has taken over the leading role following Sandra Bullock's departure from the project. And Annie Parisse has joined the cast to play Katherine, the best buddy of Thurman's character. Thurman entered the picture late last month after Bullock withdrew over issues regarding script approval. Thurman plays a woman who falls in love with the son (Bryan Greenberg) of her therapist (Meryl Streep). Ben Younger is directing from his own script. Jennifer and Suzanne Todd, Bob Yari and Mark Gordon are producing, with Universal Pictures distributing. "We are thrilled to have it all up and running," Suzanne Todd said. Parisse most recently shot Monster-in-Law for New Line Cinema and will be seen in the Walt Disney Co.'s National Treasure with Nicolas Cage. She also appeared in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson. She is repped by the Gersh Agency. »

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The Vine: Thurman latest 'Prime' suspect

27 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Now that Sandra Bullock has stepped away from writer-director Ben Younger's Prime, Uma Thurman has risen to the top of the list of possible replacements for the project, which is set to begin filming Sept. 7. Although no offer has been made yet, Thurman, who most recently starred in the Kill Bill movies, is likely to be paged to play a thirtysomething woman who falls for the son (Bryan Greenberg) of her therapist (Meryl Streep). Bullock has signaled that she will not do the film unless script issues are resolved to her approval (HR 8/26). The film is being produced by Team Todd and financed and executive produced by Stratus Films. Universal and Focus are distributing. »

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The Manchurian Candidate

25 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

In a year rife with remakes, the 2004 version of "The Manchurian Candidate" had particularly intimidating shoes to fill.

Not only does the 1962 John Frankenheimer original retain much of its unsettling power, but its place in Hollywood lore -- it's said to have been pulled from release by distributor United Artists in the wake of the Kennedy assassination -- makes for fairly daunting remake material.

As it turns out, director Jonathan Demme has risen to the challenge, delivering a "Candidate" that simultaneously brings the original Cold War scenario bracingly up to date with a story line that pulses with a topical resonance while paying respectful homage to the late Frankenheimer's artistic vision.

While a few too many bumps and lags prevent it from being mistaken for a masterwork, it's certainly a vast improvement over Demme's previous remake effort, which turned "Charade" into "The Truth About Charlie".

The Paramount release has much going in its favor, including a literate script and strong performance after strong performance by a cast of consummate pros, including Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight.

With Washington's presence usually assuring a built-in audience, the foundation should be laid for solid midlevel numbers, followed by an equally respectable voter turnout in the home video arena.

Washington, in the role originally played by Frank Sinatra, is Bennett Marco, a U.S. Army major who has been plagued by nightmares dating back to the time his Gulf War platoon was ambushed in the Kuwaiti desert.

Although Marco has since been giving motivational speeches detailing the heroics of Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Schreiber, in the Laurence Harvey role), who won the Medal of Honor for saving his men, those dark dreams swirling with images of torture and brainwashing would suggest the actual events may not have transpired as officially recorded.

When a troubled vet from his platoon (the always interesting Jeffrey Wright) corroborates Marco's nagging doubts, Marco's determined to talk to Shaw, but getting to him proves tricky. Thanks to the masterful manipulation of his smothering mother, Sen. Eleanor Prentiss Shaw (Streep in the Lansbury role), Raymond's Gulf War hero status has been parlayed into a vice presidential candidacy bid, and Streep's piranha in pearls isn't prepared to let anyone or anything block his path to the White House.

Mining a competent script by Daniel Pyne ("The Sum of All Fears") and Dean Georgaris ("Paycheck") that retains the claustrophobic feeling of paranoia key to the original Richard Condon novel and George Axelrod screenplay, Demme compensates for a less than dynamic opening by expertly building the suspense, piling on a series of clinical, bizarre, squirm-inducing incisions and extractions.

And while a conscious attempt has been made not to align Raymond with any particular political party, a number of the film's plot points, including the concept of a manufactured presidential candidate and a compliant media in an era of heightened terrorist activity, will likely bring a smirk to Michael Moore's face.

Ironically, things begin to sag when the remake comes closest to emulating the original's political convention climax, leading to an epilogue that also comes up short of satisfying.

But the performances are flawless.

Streep is clearly enjoying every screen second of one of her meatiest roles in years, while Washington and Schreiber turn in quietly powerful performances. The scenes in which they have the camera to themselves are particularly electrifying.

Also doing fine work is Kimberly Elise (taking up where Janet Leigh left off 40 years ago) as a sympathetic supermarket checkout girl who meets Washington on a train, and Voight as a competing vice presidential candidate and Streep's longtime nemesis.

Giving it all the desired top-drawer look is Demme's longtime cinematographer Tak Fujimoto and production designer Kristi Zea, while Rachel Portman and Wyclef Jean collaborate on a symphonic low rumble of a score that sets the uneasy tone.

The Manchurian Candidate

Paramount

Paramount Pictures presents a Scott Rudin/Tina Sinatra production in association with Clinica EsteticoA Jonathan Demme Picture

Credits:

Director: Jonathan Demme

Screenwrites: Daniel Pyne, Dean Georgaris

Producers: Tina Sinatra, Scott Rudin, Jonathan Demme, Ilona Herzberg

Executive producer: Scott Aversano

Director of photography: Tak Fujimoto

Production designer: Kristi Zea

Editors: Carol Littleton, Craig McKay

Costume designer: Albert Wolsky

Music: Rachel Portman, Wyclef Jean. Cast: Army Maj. Ben Marco: Denzel Washington

Eleanor Prentiss Shaw: Meryl Streep

Raymond Shaw: Liev Schreiber

Thomas Jordan: Jon Voight

Rosie: Kimberly Elise

Al Melvin: Jeffrey Wright

Col. Howard: Ted Levine

Richard Delp: Bruno Ganz

Dr. Atticus Noyle: Simon McBurney

Jocelyn Jordan: Vera Farmiga

Laurent Tokar: Robyn Hitchcock

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 130 minutes »

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Streep Defends Heinz Kerry

6 August 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Actress Meryl Streep has hit out at criticism of wannabe first lady Teresa Heinz Kerry, accusing the media of double standards. Critics rounded on the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry after she told reporters to "shove it" at last month's Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. But Streep - currently promoting her role in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate - insists no-one would have blinked if current Republican Vice President Dick Cheney had uttered the phrase. Referring to Cheney's use of the word f**k on the senate floor, Streep tells website The Scoop, "If she had said what Cheney had said, imagine the reverberations. And she's not even running for anything." »

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'Angels,' 'Arrested' earn top prizes at TCA Awards

18 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Angels in America and Arrested Development were the critical darlings Saturday at the 20th annual Television Critics Assn. Awards, hosted by Bill Maher. The 200-plus members of the TV scribes organization named Angels, HBO's epic miniseries about the AIDS crisis, program of the year as well as best movie or miniseries Saturday at the ceremony held in conjunction with the summer press tour that has unfolded in the past two weeks at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City. Angels director Mike Nichols gave credit to the mini's A-list cast, which included Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson, for bringing Angels to life on the small screen. "They dug deep. They flew high," Nichols said of the actors' performances. Fox's dysfunctional-family comedy Arrested was voted best new program and best comedy, two days after the freshman series scored a berth in the Emmy race for best comedy. »

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'Angels' showered with Emmy noms

16 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Embracing everything from the supernatural fantasies of Angels in America and Joan of Arcadia to the down-and-dirty politics of The Reagans and The Apprentice, voters at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences delivered an eclectic batch of nominees for the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The nominees parade was notable for the many fresh faces and programs that broke through in a big way this year as well as for those that didn't make the cut despite strong buzz going into Thursday's predawn nominations announcement at ATAS' headquarters in North Hollywood. HBO's adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America led the pack with 21, including bids for director Mike Nichols and stars Al Pacino (in his first Emmy nom), Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright. HBO's drama series The Sopranos was a close second with 20 noms, including reigning drama actor champs James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and first-time recognition in the supporting drama actress category for Drea de Matteo. »

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Fresh faces added to Emmy mix as HBO, 'Angels' rule

15 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Embracing everything from the supernatural fantasies of Angels in America and Joan of Arcadia to the down-and-dirty politics of The Reagans and The Apprentice, voters at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences delivered an eclectic batch of nominees for the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The nominees parade was notable for the many fresh faces and programs that broke through in a big way this year as well as for those that didn't make the cut despite strong buzz going into Thursday's predawn nominations announcement at ATAS' headquarters in North Hollywood. HBO's adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America led the pack with 21, including bids for director Mike Nichols and stars Al Pacino (in his first Emmy nom), Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright. HBO's drama series The Sopranos was a close second with 20 noms, including reigning drama actor champs James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and first-time recognition in the supporting drama actress category for Drea de Matteo. »

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HBO, 'Angels' take flight in Emmy Noms

15 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Embracing everything from the supernatural fantasies of Angels in America and Joan of Arcadia to the down-and-dirty politics of The Reagans and The Apprentice, voters at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences delivered an eclectic batch of nominees for the 56th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The nominees parade was notable for the many fresh faces and programs that broke through in a big way this year as well as for those that didn't make the cut despite strong buzz going into Thursday's predawn nominations announcement at ATAS' headquarters in North Hollywood. HBO's adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America led the pack with 21, including bids for director Mike Nichols and stars Al Pacino (in his first Emmy nom), Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, Justin Kirk, Ben Shenkman, Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Wright. HBO's drama series The Sopranos was a close second with 20 noms, including reigning drama actor champs James Gandolfini and Edie Falco and first-time recognition in the supporting drama actress category for Drea de Matteo. »

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Home on the Range

9 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens

Friday, April 2

NEW YORK -- This amiable, Western-themed animated effort from the Walt Disney Co. is a clear attempt to return to the more lighthearted cartoon style that was so prevalent before its onslaught of stately musical epics. The tale of a group of animals determined to save their owner's dairy farm from the clutches of an evil outlaw, "Home on the Range" also boasts the return of composer Alan Menken ("Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin") to the creative team.

While not destined to assume a place in the Disney animation pantheon, the film should reasonably entertain the Small Fry during the current holiday season, though it is not likely to attract the adult crossover audience that can make for a breakout animated hit. It may also suffer from the competition, judging by the plaintive cry "When is it going to be Scooby-Doo?" heard from one tyke during the screening.

Featuring the sort of disparate voice-over cast emblematic of Disney cartoons, the film stars, among others, Roseanne Barr and Judi Dench, representing the most unusual screen pairing since, well, Barr and Meryl Streep in "She Devil". They voice the characters of cows Maggie and Mrs. Caloway, who, along with fellow cow Grace (Jennifer Tilly), fight to rescue their kindly owner Pearl (Carole Cook) from having her farm taken over by the dastardly Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid). Joining forces with a variety of other animals from the farm -- including horse Buck (Cuba Gooding Jr.), ace can-kicking goat Jeb (Joe Flaherty) and a variety of pigs, chickens, etc. -- they set out to capture Slim in the hope of garnering the reward for his head. Besides the expected dangers, they also must contend with competition from bounty hunter Rico (Charles Dennis, doing a Clint Eastwood homage).

The screenplay by co-directors Will Finn and John Sanford is a genial, jokey affair, filled with the requisite juvenile humor (belching pigs, etc.) and sprinkled with enough adult-oriented asides, like bulls leering after dairy cows ("Let me guess, you're a Taurus", one of the former comments), to qualify the film for a PG rating. While there are indeed some funny moments -- "We don't eat meat

it's like a professional courtesy," Barr's cow explains -- the humor generally lacks the manic hilarity of the Pixar efforts. And some of the gags, like Rico quoting a line from "Little Caesar" or a brief switch to widescreen that may be an in-joke reference to the company's own "Horse Whisperer", are likely to go over the heads of even the adult audience members.

The film's conventional, old-fashioned animation style generally gets the job done, with the anthropomorphic animal qualities rendered with the proper cute appeal. The voice talents do well by their characters. Barr scores consistent laughs as the sassy Maggie. Dench uses her elegant tones to good effect as the refined Mrs. Caloway. Gooding, as the vain horse, and Tilly, as plucky cow Grace, also are very enjoyable, no doubt because they seem so much like cartoon characters even in real life. Also very funny is Steve Buscemi, whose sleazy human character amusingly bears more than a slight resemblance to him.

Menken, besides his score, also has contributed several pleasant new songs (lyrics by Glenn Slater), none destined to be standards. They're sung by such stars as k.d. lang, Bonnie Raitt and Tim McGraw.

Home on the Range

Buena Vista Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures

Credits:

Directors-screenwriters: Will Finn, John Sanford

Producer: Alice Dewey Goldstone

Original score: Alan Menken

Original songs: Alan Menken, Glenn Slater

Story: Will Finn, John Sanford, Michael LaBash, Sam Levine, Mark Kennedy, Robert Lence

Associate producer: David J. Steinberg

Editor: H. Lee Peterson

Art director: David Cutler

Voices:

Maggie: Roseanne Barr

Mrs. Caloway: Judi Dench

Grace: Jennifer Tilly

Buck: Cuba Gooding Jr.

Slim: Randy Quaid

Pearl: Carole Cook

Sheriff Brown: Richard Riehle

Rico: Charles Dennis

Rusty: G.W. Baily

Lucky Jack: Charles Haid

Audrey: Estelle Harris

Jeb: Joe Flaherty

Ollie: Charlie Dell

Wesley: Steve Buscemi

Patrick: Patrick Warburton

Annie: Ann Richards

Phil, Bill & Gil Willie: Sam Levine

Running time 74 minutes

MPAA rating: PG »

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AFI hails Streep career

14 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

By selecting Meryl Streep to receive its 32nd annual Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Film Institute turned its annual fund-raising dinner into a master class in film acting. While there were fulsome tributes paid to Streep's virtues as a wife, mother and citizen, the evening, punctuated with film clips illustrating the diverse characters she has played, underscored the range of the actress. She has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won two. In welcoming those in attendance, Howard Stringer, chair of the AFI board of trustees, testified, "She's had a greater variety of roles than Katharine Hepburn, she's used more voices than Peter Sellers or Laurence Olivier, and in Angels in America she crossed the gender divide by playing an 80-year-old rabbi." »

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AFI hails Streep career

13 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

By selecting Meryl Streep to receive its 32nd annual Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Film Institute turned its annual fund-raising dinner into a master class in film acting. While there were fulsome tributes paid to Streep's virtues as a wife, mother and citizen, the evening, punctuated with film clips illustrating the diverse characters she has played, underscored the range of the actress. She has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won two. In welcoming those in attendance, Howard Stringer, chair of the AFI board of trustees, testified, "She's had a greater variety of roles than Katharine Hepburn, she's used more voices than Peter Sellers or Laurence Olivier, and in 'Angels in America' she crossed the gender divide by playing an 80-year-old rabbi." »

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