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6 items from 2004


'Hero' leads charge at weekend boxoffice

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

In a surprisingly strong late-summer showing, Miramax's Hero conquered audiences in North America and easily captured first place this weekend with $18 million at the boxoffice, according to Monday's final figures. The debut for the Jet Li starrer, from writer-director Zhang Yimou, was the second-biggest opening of all time for a foreign-language film after Newmarket's The Passion of the Christ. Slithering into the second spot was Screen Gems' Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. The relatively low-budget sequel from director Dwight Little wrapped up $12.8 million in its debut, in the area expected and slightly less than the $16.6 million of the original film. The frame's only other wide releases were Paramount's Suspect Zero and Sony's Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 from Triumph -- both films opened unspectacularly to less than $4 million each. Suspect, a crime thriller starring Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart and Carrie-Anne Moss and directed by E. Elias Merhige, which cost less than $10 million, was in the 10th spot with $3.4 million. While Superbabies, a family-aimed comedy helmed by Bob Clark, that also carried a low budget, placed 11th with $3.3 million. »

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'Hero' leads charge at weekend boxoffice

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

In a surprisingly strong late-summer showing, Miramax's Hero conquered audiences in North America and easily captured first place this weekend with $18 million at the boxoffice, according to Monday's final figures. The debut for the Jet Li starrer, from writer-director Zhang Yimou, was the second-biggest opening of all time for a foreign-language film after Newmarket's The Passion of the Christ. Slithering into the second spot was Screen Gems' Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. The relatively low-budget sequel from director Dwight Little wrapped up $12.8 million in its debut, in the area expected and slightly less than the $16.6 million of the original film. The frame's only other wide releases were Paramount's Suspect Zero and Sony's Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 from Triumph -- both films opened unspectacularly to less than $4 million each. Suspect, a crime thriller starring Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart and Carrie-Anne Moss and directed by E. Elias Merhige, which cost less than $10 million, was in the 10th spot with $3.4 million. While Superbabies, a family-aimed comedy helmed by Bob Clark, that also carried a low budget, placed 11th with $3.3 million. »

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McKellen, Eckhart will say 'Never'

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

Ian McKellen, Aaron Eckhart, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte and Alan Cumming are in negotiations for the indie drama Never Was. Marking the directorial debut of writer Joshua Michael Stern, the feature follows a Yale graduate (Eckhart) who gets a job at the mental institution where his novelist father (Nolte) spent the last years of his life. Once there, he meets a schizophrenic man (McKellen) who proves a mysterious link to his father's material. Murphy plays a reporter. Heading for a September shoot in Vancouver, the film is being financed by Senator International and produced by Greg Shapiro (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) of Kingsgate Films, which he runs with Nolte. Sean Hargreaves is in discussions to production design. Senator is handling worldwide rights and working with CAA to set up domestic distribution. Stern is repped by WMA. McKellen is repped by ICM. Eckhard, Nolte, Murphy and Cumming are repped by CAA. Hargreaves is repped by the Skouras Agency. »

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McKellen, Eckhart will say 'Never'

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

Ian McKellen, Aaron Eckhart, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte and Alan Cumming are in negotiations for the indie drama Never Was. Marking the directorial debut of writer Joshua Michael Stern, the feature follows a Yale graduate (Eckhart) who gets a job at the mental institution where his novelist father (Nolte) spent the last years of his life. Once there, he meets a schizophrenic man (McKellen) who proves a mysterious link to his father's material. Murphy plays a reporter. Heading for a September shoot in Vancouver, the film is being financed by Senator International and produced by Greg Shapiro (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) of Kingsgate Films, which he runs with Nolte. Sean Hargreaves is in discussions to production design. Senator is handling worldwide rights and working with CAA to set up domestic distribution. Stern is repped by WMA. McKellen is repped by ICM. Eckhard, Nolte, Murphy and Cumming are repped by CAA. Hargreaves is repped by the Skouras Agency. »

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Stiles To Appear on London Stage

30 March 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Mona Lisa Smile actress Julia Stiles will make her London, West End debut in a controversial sexual harassment play. The actress, 23, will co-star with another Hollywood star - Aaron Eckhart - in the London revival of David Mamet's male-female conflict play Oleanna. According to the Empireonline website, Stiles is already in rehearsals for the play - in which she plays a struggling student who accuses her unconventional university professor (Echkart) of sexual harassment. The play has already provoked strong reactions from audiences - especially when the professor uses strong language to describe his student. Stiles hopes the play will garner the same reaction from London audiences as those in her native America, she says, "Oh, I do hope so. I will have done my job." »

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Paycheck

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

Opens

Thursday, Dec. 25

"Paycheck" is a nifty science-fiction twist on the old amnesia plot where a guy spends most of a movie trying to remember what he did and why everyone is after him. Only in this case, the character played by Ben Affleck isn't trying to remember the past but the future.

Working from a story by Philip K. Dick -- aren't the best science-fiction movies usually based on stories by Dick? -- writer Dean Georgaris and director John Woo propel a viewer through shoot-outs, chases and suspense sequences that break enough new ground to feel fresh. There are moments when you know you're watching a John Woo film but many more where he seems to want to flex new muscles without drifting too far from the action genre. The moral issues that are central to Dick's science fiction are touched upon only briefly, yet they do reverberate through the film. While opening against stiff competition at Christmas, Paramount and DreamWorks nevertheless should find yuletide cheer in this "Paycheck".

Affleck plays scientific genius Michael Jennings, a "reverse engineer" who can take a piece of high-tech equipment, disassemble it so he sees how it ticks, then improve and reassemble the device into a more advanced piece of equipment in a few weeks. He is also a scientific whore, agreeing to perform his reverse engineering for a conglomerate run by his old buddy, billionaire entrepreneur Jimmy Rethrick (Aaron Eckhart), in exchange for a whopping paycheck and -- this is the kicker -- his willingness to allow his quirky pal Shorty (Paul Giamatti) to erase his memory of those work weeks so he cannot disclose company secrets to anyone else.

Jimmy's latest project for Michael breaks the pattern. Not only does the job require three years -- a lot of one's life to give up -- but when he finishes and all memory is erased, Michael is mystified to discover that he agreed to forfeit his $90 million paycheck in exchange for an envelope filled with random objects. What's more, both the FBI and Jimmy's thugs are hunting for him.

When two of these seemingly innocent objects allow Michael to miraculously escape FBI custody, he quickly realizes that each of the objects not only provides a clue to his erased past but is vital to his survival -- worth more, in other words, than $90 million. The movie gradually lets the viewer in on Jimmy's dirty little secret: In the past three years, Michael perfected a lens powerful enough to see past the curvature of time into the future. So everything that happens to Michael he has already foreseen using his own super lens and has taken the precaution to supply himself with everyday objects that will allow him to change that future.

Now for readers who hate Logic Nazis, who delight in pointing out fatal plot holes in movies, this is fair warning: One enormous plot hole is about to be revealed, so you might want to skip to the next paragraph. Once Michael changes his fate and escapes the FBI and his foretold destiny, he is in a new future where he cannot possibly have foreseen anything that happens to him. The rest of the movie cannot be the future he saw with his super lens but a new series of events that directly result from his altering the future.

Fortunately, while caught up in the gripping tension of Michael's race against time to destroy his own machine and to recall his life with Rachel (Uma Thurman), the woman he has loved for the past three years but cannot remember, you don't think about plot holes. The payoffs from each of these everyday objects -- a matchbook, a coin, a crossword puzzle -- are fun. And when both Jimmy and the FBI realize what's going on and scheme how best to thwart a man who has seen the future but cannot remember, these strategies keep the movie intriguing down to the last moment.

Affleck gives his scientific genius enough of a blue-collar attitude to make the character believable. Although underutilized until the picture is almost half-over, Thurman gives Rachel a determined strength of character. But after the gymnastics of "Kill Bill", her fans can only see this outing as a comedown.

Woo and his crew make good use of Vancouver, where they stage a chase through heavy traffic with Affleck and Thurman on a motorcycle and another down in a subway tunnel with a train is about to wipe out the hero. Jeffrey L. Kimball's cool, crisp photography seamlessly integrates the visual effects and stunts into a very real-looking environment. Similarly, William Sandell's futuristic sets don't unduly call attention to themselves as is often the case with science-fiction movies.

PAYCHECK

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures

Credits:

Director: John Woo

Screenwriter: Dean Georgaris

Based on a story by: Philip K. Dick

Producers: John Davis, Michael Hackett, John Woo, Terence Chang

Executive producers: Stratton Leopold, David Solomon

Director of photography: Jeffrey L. Kimball

Production designer: William Sandell

Music: John Powell

Co-producers: Caroline Macaulay, Arthur Anderson

Costume designer: Erica Edell Phillips

Editors: Kevin Stitt, Christopher Rouse

Cast:

Jennings: Ben Affleck

Rethrick: Aaron Eckhart

Rachel: Uma Thurman

Shorty: Paul Giamatti

Wolf: Colm Feore

Agent Dodge: Joe Morton

Agent Klein Michael C. Hall

Running time -- 119 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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6 items from 2004


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