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10 items from 2007


17th Gotham Award winners: a 'Wild' night indeed

28 November 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- It was a night of multiple winners instead of winners with multiple wins at the 17th annual Gotham awards - where the Ifp recognize the best in independent filmmaking through 6 simple award categories. With only Todd Haynes' Dylan project as a possible threat, it was perhaps an easy win for Sean Penn's Into the Wild. And thought Craig Zobel got shut out in two categories, the director was rewarded with the Breakthrough director award. Michael Moore's popularity has not diminished as he picked up documentary film award of the year (evidently for Sicko) and Reitman's Juno continued its rise in popularity with Ellen Page picking up breakthrough actor award over Emile Hirsch's perf in Into the Wild. Voters were dead-locked in the ensemble category: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead was perhaps the favored of the category and people didn't forget Focus Features' summer »

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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

7 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." Toronto International Film Festival

NEW YORK -- After a long series of artistic missteps, Sidney Lumet, 83, makes a smashing return to form with this bleak crime thriller that shows off the veteran director's many strengths. Pungently atmospheric, brilliantly textured and featuring superb performances from every performer in parts big and small, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" might not quite rank with such classics as "Dog Day Afternoon" and countless other films by Lumet, but it does make thrillingly clear that he's still at the top of his game.

Kelly Masterson's expert screenplay relates a relatively simple story of a small-scale robbery gone horribly wrong in complex fashion. With its constant time shifts and depictions of the same events from varying perspectives, it recalls the director's own earlier caper flick "The Anderson Tapes", though this is a far more melodramatic and elemental tale.

A highly graphic but less than joyful sex scene at the beginning sets the harsh tone for the story, which involves the botched plan by siblings Andy Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) to rob their own parents' suburban jewelry store.

Both men are leading lives of not so quiet desperation, with each in serious financial straits. Andy has been systematically siphoning off money from the real estate company at which he works, while his divorced younger brother can't even make the child-support payments to his increasingly hostile ex-wife (Amy Ryan). Meanwhile, Hank has been having a longtime affair with his brother's beautiful wife (Marisa Tomei), even while Andy dreams of saving his passionless marriage by running off with her to Rio.

Andy's plan seems easy enough. Hank will rob the store on a quiet Saturday morning, when the only one there will be a single employee. But he makes the mistake of recruiting his petty criminal friend Bobby (Brian F. O'Byrne) to do the actual deed, and things go horribly awry, with Bobby and the brothers' Mother Rosemary Harris) winding up dead.

The men's frantic efforts to cover up their complicity in the crime, and those of their grieving father (Albert Finney) to find the rest of those involved, form the heart of the relentlessly downbeat tale, which only gets darker as it goes along.

As much character study as crime thriller, the film features indelible characterizations by the lead actors as the brothers whose flaws reach biblical proportions, with Hoffman's girth and Hawke's slightly dissipated handsomeness working perfectly for their roles. Finney is equally superb as their emotionally inaccessible father, especially in the haunting climactic scenes. But thanks to Lumet's expert handling of his actors, everyone shines, even in the smallest roles, with particularly memorable cameos by Michael Shannon as Bobby's vengeful brother-in-law and Leonard Cimino as a crooked diamond dealer.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD

ThinkFilm

Linsefilm, Michael Cerenzie Prods., Unity Prods.

Credits:

Director: Sidney Lumet

Screenwriter: Kelly Masterson

Producers: Michael Cerenzie, Brian Linse, Paul Parmar, William S. Gilmore

Executive producers: Bella Avery, Jane Barclay, David Bergstein, Janette Jensen Hoffman, Eli Klein, Hannah Leader, Jeffry Melnick, Sam Zaharis

Director of photography: Ron Fortunato

Production designer: Christopher Nowak

Music: Carter Burwell

Co-producers: Austin Chick, Jeff G. Waxman

Costume designer: Tina Nigro

Editor: Tom Swartwout

Cast:

Andy: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Hank: Ethan Hawke

Charles: Albert Finney

Gina: Marisa Tomei

Nanette: Rosemary Harris

Chris: Aleksa Palladino

Dex: Michael Shannon

Martha: Amy Ryan

Bobby: Brian F. O'Byrne

Running time -- 123 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

7 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." Toronto International Film Festival

NEW YORK -- After a long series of artistic missteps, Sidney Lumet, 83, makes a smashing return to form with this bleak crime thriller that shows off the veteran director's many strengths. Pungently atmospheric, brilliantly textured and featuring superb performances from every performer in parts big and small, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" might not quite rank with such classics as "Dog Day Afternoon" and countless other films by Lumet, but it does make thrillingly clear that he's still at the top of his game.

Kelly Masterson's expert screenplay relates a relatively simple story of a small-scale robbery gone horribly wrong in complex fashion. With its constant time shifts and depictions of the same events from varying perspectives, it recalls the director's own earlier caper flick "The Anderson Tapes", though this is a far more melodramatic and elemental tale.

A highly graphic but less than joyful sex scene at the beginning sets the harsh tone for the story, which involves the botched plan by siblings Andy Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) to rob their own parents' suburban jewelry store.

Both men are leading lives of not so quiet desperation, with each in serious financial straits. Andy has been systematically siphoning off money from the real estate company at which he works, while his divorced younger brother can't even make the child-support payments to his increasingly hostile ex-wife (Amy Ryan). Meanwhile, Hank has been having a longtime affair with his brother's beautiful wife (Marisa Tomei), even while Andy dreams of saving his passionless marriage by running off with her to Rio.

Andy's plan seems easy enough. Hank will rob the store on a quiet Saturday morning, when the only one there will be a single employee. But he makes the mistake of recruiting his petty criminal friend Bobby (Brian F. O'Byrne) to do the actual deed, and things go horribly awry, with Bobby and the brothers' Mother Rosemary Harris) winding up dead.

The men's frantic efforts to cover up their complicity in the crime, and those of their grieving father (Albert Finney) to find the rest of those involved, form the heart of the relentlessly downbeat tale, which only gets darker as it goes along.

As much character study as crime thriller, the film features indelible characterizations by the lead actors as the brothers whose flaws reach biblical proportions, with Hoffman's girth and Hawke's slightly dissipated handsomeness working perfectly for their roles. Finney is equally superb as their emotionally inaccessible father, especially in the haunting climactic scenes. But thanks to Lumet's expert handling of his actors, everyone shines, even in the smallest roles, with particularly memorable cameos by Michael Shannon as Bobby's vengeful brother-in-law and Leonard Cimino as a crooked diamond dealer.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD

ThinkFilm

Linsefilm, Michael Cerenzie Prods., Unity Prods.

Credits:

Director: Sidney Lumet

Screenwriter: Kelly Masterson

Producers: Michael Cerenzie, Brian Linse, Paul Parmar, William S. Gilmore

Executive producers: Bella Avery, Jane Barclay, David Bergstein, Janette Jensen Hoffman, Eli Klein, Hannah Leader, Jeffry Melnick, Sam Zaharis

Director of photography: Ron Fortunato

Production designer: Christopher Nowak

Music: Carter Burwell

Co-producers: Austin Chick, Jeff G. Waxman

Costume designer: Tina Nigro

Editor: Tom Swartwout

Cast:

Andy: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Hank: Ethan Hawke

Charles: Albert Finney

Gina: Marisa Tomei

Nanette: Rosemary Harris

Chris: Aleksa Palladino

Dex: Michael Shannon

Martha: Amy Ryan

Bobby: Brian F. O'Byrne

Running time -- 123 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

7 September 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Toronto International Film Festival

NEW YORK -- After a long series of artistic missteps, Sidney Lumet, 83, makes a smashing return to form with this bleak crime thriller that shows off the veteran director's many strengths. Pungently atmospheric, brilliantly textured and featuring superb performances from every performer in parts big and small, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead might not quite rank with such classics as Dog Day Afternoon and countless other films by Lumet, but it does make thrillingly clear that he's still at the top of his game.

Kelly Masterson's expert screenplay relates a relatively simple story of a small-scale robbery gone horribly wrong in complex fashion. With its constant time shifts and depictions of the same events from varying perspectives, it recalls the director's own earlier caper flick The Anderson Tapes, though this is a far more melodramatic and elemental tale.

A highly graphic but less than joyful sex scene at the beginning sets the harsh tone for the story, which involves the botched plan by siblings Andy Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) to rob their own parents' suburban jewelry store.

Both men are leading lives of not so quiet desperation, with each in serious financial straits. Andy has been systematically siphoning off money from the real estate company at which he works, while his divorced younger brother can't even make the child-support payments to his increasingly hostile ex-wife (Amy Ryan). Meanwhile, Hank has been having a longtime affair with his brother's beautiful wife (Marisa Tomei), even while Andy dreams of saving his passionless marriage by running off with her to Rio.

Andy's plan seems easy enough. Hank will rob the store on a quiet Saturday morning, when the only one there will be a single employee. But he makes the mistake of recruiting his petty criminal friend Bobby (Brian F. O'Byrne) to do the actual deed, and things go horribly awry, with Bobby and the brothers' Mother Rosemary Harris) winding up dead.

The men's frantic efforts to cover up their complicity in the crime, and those of their grieving father (Albert Finney) to find the rest of those involved, form the heart of the relentlessly downbeat tale, which only gets darker as it goes along.

As much character study as crime thriller, the film features indelible characterizations by the lead actors as the brothers whose flaws reach biblical proportions, with Hoffman's girth and Hawke's slightly dissipated handsomeness working perfectly for their roles. Finney is equally superb as their emotionally inaccessible father, especially in the haunting climactic scenes. But thanks to Lumet's expert handling of his actors, everyone shines, even in the smallest roles, with particularly memorable cameos by Michael Shannon as Bobby's vengeful brother-in-law and Leonard Cimino as a crooked diamond dealer.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD

ThinkFilm

Linsefilm, Michael Cerenzie Prods., Unity Prods.

Credits:

Director: Sidney Lumet

Screenwriter: Kelly Masterson

Producers: Michael Cerenzie, Brian Linse, Paul Parmar, William S. Gilmore

Executive producers: Bella Avery, Jane Barclay, David Bergstein, Janette Jensen Hoffman, Eli Klein, Hannah Leader, Jeffry Melnick, Sam Zaharis

Director of photography: Ron Fortunato

Production designer: Christopher Nowak

Music: Carter Burwell

Co-producers: Austin Chick, Jeff G. Waxman

Costume designer: Tina Nigro

Editor: Tom Swartwout

Cast:

Andy: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Hank: Ethan Hawke

Charles: Albert Finney

Gina: Marisa Tomei

Nanette: Rosemary Harris

Chris: Aleksa Palladino

Dex: Michael Shannon

Martha: Amy Ryan

Bobby: Brian F. O'Byrne

Running time -- 123 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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The Bourne Ultimatum

3 August 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the theatrical release of "The Bourne Ultimatum"."The Bourne Ultimatum", the culminating film of the trilogy begun five years ago with "The Bourne Identity", gets under way with a burst of nervous energy and extreme urgency and never lets up. It's a 114-minute chase film, dashing through streets and rooftops of any number of international urban sprawls with Matt Damon's redoubtable Jason Bourne hot on the trail of -- himself. That might be the genius of the series: A James Bond-like character who can escape any pickle and thwart any villain, but all in a quest for his own identity. Jason is not out to save the world -- though he might do that -- he'd just like to know his real name.

Director Paul Greengrass, who only made the astonishing "United 93" in the interim, returns for his second "Bourne" film (after 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy") to bring the roller coaster ride to an end in a dead heat where all the plot points and (surviving) characters of the three films converge. Audiences will eat it up: This is a postmillennial spy-action movie pitched to a large international audience. You hardly need subtitles.

Article Templatehttp://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1119669402http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=769341148 var config = new Array();config["videoId"] = 1135484455;config["lineupId"] = null;config["videoRef"] = null;config["playerTag"] = null;config["autoStart"] = false;config["preloadBackColor"] = "#FFFFFF";config["width"] = 286; config["height"] = 277; config["playerId"] = 1119669402; createExperience(config, 8); The cool thing about this movie is that the real revenge is not against bad guys in the CIA, but against the high-tech world that maddens mere mortals. Your mobile phone drops calls? Your car needs towing after a parking-lot fender-bender? Well, Jason can switch phones and patch into the world from trains, subways, stairwells and undergrounds. Any car he steals leaps up sharp inclines, plunges off of roofs or smashes into other vehicles until reduced to smoldering metal yet can still outrace any car on the block.

And his body! Blow it up with a bomb, expose it to brutal hand-to-hand combat or throw it into the East River, and it gets up with a few manly scratches.Yes, there are a few plot holes. But few are likely to care. A smart cast of veteran actors gives the film just enough emotional heft to carry you through the silliness. Damon has definitely made Bourne his own. For all his physical dexterity and killing instincts, Damon brings a Hamlet-like quality to the CIA-trained assassin suffering from a five-year spell of amnesia who can never quite tell who his friends are, or rather, which of his enemies might be a true friend.

Joan Allen returns as the CIA investigator who has slowly come to see that Jason might be the real deal. And Julia Stiles as an in-over-her-head agent again shows up for no credible reason other than the producers want her back. (They're right.)

Newcomers include a flinty and increasingly antsy David Strathairn as a head of a black-ops program that has its real-life model in all the extralegal programs sponsored by the current administration. At one point, he declares "you can't make this stuff up," and you know the filmmakers are nodding toward today's Washington.

Scott Glenn appears as a law-ignoring CIA director, though he might remind you more of the current attorney general, and Albert Finney crops up toward at the end as a Dr. Mengele figure behind a behavior-mod program that created any number of Jason Bournes.

The movie swings through Moscow (filched from the previous film); Paris; Turin, Italy; London; Madrid; Tangiers, Morocco; and New York as Jason Hones in on who did this to him. (That's another thing -- he never has to endure airport security checks!)

A fatigue factor sets in somewhere; it might vary from person to person. Yet the sharp intelligence behind the screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (though other hands reportedly contributed) gives the plot, salvaged from the Robert Ludlum Cold War spy novel, a genuine buoyancy. The film is trying to get at something, no matter how crudely, about corruption within the American espionage system, with its secret reliance on renditions and torture in the name of freedom. This might not be the best way to illustrate the problem with credibility-stretchers at every turn. But then again, how many people look at documentaries?

Greengrass tops himself with each passing minute by staging terrific stunts and chases through crowded streets, buildings and rooftops. Cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Christopher Rouse gives the film its lightning speed and jagged edges with a close, hand-held camera and quick edits while John Powell's score pulsates pure adrenaline.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures in association with MP Beta Prods. presents a Kennedy/Marshall production in association with Ludlum Entertainment

Credits:

Director: Paul Greengrass

Screenwriters: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi

Screen story: Tony Gilroy

Based on the novel by: Robert Ludlum

Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul L. Sandberg

Executive producers: Jeffrey M. Weiner, Henry Morrison, Doug Liman

Director of photography: Oliver Wood

Production designer: Peter Wenham

Costume designer: Shay Cunliffe

Music: John Powell

Editor: Christopher Rouse

Cast:

Jason Bourne: Matt Damon

Nicky Parsons: Julia Stiles

Noah Vosen: David Strathairn

Ezra Kramer: Scott Glenn

Sam Ross: Paddy Considine

Paz: Edgar Romeriz

Pamela: Joan Allen

Dr. Hirsch: Albert Finney

Running time -- 114 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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The Bourne Ultimatum

25 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The Bourne Ultimatum, the culminating film of the trilogy begun five years ago with The Bourne Identity, gets under way with a burst of nervous energy and extreme urgency and never lets up. It's a 114-minute chase film, dashing through streets and rooftops of any number of international urban sprawls with Matt Damon's redoubtable Jason Bourne hot on the trail of -- himself. That might be the genius of the series: A James Bond-like character who can escape any pickle and thwart any villain, but all in a quest for his own identity. Jason is not out to save the world -- though he might do that -- he'd just like to know his real name.

Director Paul Greengrass, who only made the astonishing United 93 in the interim, returns for his second Bourne film (after 2004's The Bourne Supremacy) to bring the roller coaster ride to an end in a dead heat where all the plot points and (surviving) characters of the three films converge. Audiences will eat it up: This is a postmillennial spy-action movie pitched to a large international audience. You hardly need subtitles.

The cool thing about this movie is that the real revenge is not against bad guys in the CIA, but against the high-tech world that maddens mere mortals. Your mobile phone drops calls? Your car needs towing after a parking-lot fender-bender? Well, Jason can switch phones and patch into the world from trains, subways, stairwells and undergrounds. Any car he steals leaps up sharp inclines, plunges off of roofs or smashes into other vehicles until reduced to smoldering metal yet can still outrace any car on the block.

And his body! Blow it up with a bomb, expose it to brutal hand-to-hand combat or throw it into the East River, and it gets up with a few manly scratches.

Yes, there are a few plot holes. But few are likely to care. A smart cast of veteran actors gives the film just enough emotional heft to carry you through the silliness. Damon has definitely made Bourne his own. For all his physical dexterity and killing instincts, Damon brings a Hamlet-like quality to the CIA-trained assassin suffering from a five-year spell of amnesia who can never quite tell who his friends are, or rather, which of his enemies might be a true friend.

Joan Allen returns as the CIA investigator who has slowly come to see that Jason might be the real deal. And Julia Stiles as an in-over-her-head agent again shows up for no credible reason other than the producers want her back. (They're right.)

Newcomers include a flinty and increasingly antsy David Strathairn as a head of a black-ops program that has its real-life model in all the extralegal programs sponsored by the current administration. At one point, he declares "you can't make this stuff up," and you know the filmmakers are nodding toward today's Washington.

Scott Glenn appears as a law-ignoring CIA director, though he might remind you more of the current attorney general, and Albert Finney crops up toward at the end as a Dr. Mengele figure behind a behavior-mod program that created any number of Jason Bournes.

The movie swings through Moscow (filched from the previous film); Paris; Turin, Italy; London; Madrid; Tangiers, Morocco; and New York as Jason Hones in on who did this to him. (That's another thing -- he never has to endure airport security checks!)

A fatigue factor sets in somewhere; it might vary from person to person. Yet the sharp intelligence behind the screenplay by Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns and George Nolfi (though other hands reportedly contributed) gives the plot, salvaged from the Robert Ludlum Cold War spy novel, a genuine buoyancy. The film is trying to get at something, no matter how crudely, about corruption within the American espionage system, with its secret reliance on renditions and torture in the name of freedom. This might not be the best way to illustrate the problem with credibility-stretchers at every turn. But then again, how many people look at documentaries?

Greengrass tops himself with each passing minute by staging terrific stunts and chases through crowded streets, buildings and rooftops. Cinematographer Oliver Wood and editor Christopher Rouse gives the film its lightning speed and jagged edges with a close, hand-held camera and quick edits while John Powell's score pulsates pure adrenaline.

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures in association with MP Beta Prods. presents a Kennedy/Marshall production in association with Ludlum Entertainment

Credits:

Director: Paul Greengrass

Screenwriters: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi

Screen story: Tony Gilroy

Based on the novel by: Robert Ludlum

Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Paul L. Sandberg

Executive producers: Jeffrey M. Weiner, Henry Morrison, Doug Liman

Director of photography: Oliver Wood

Production designer: Peter Wenham

Costume designer: Shay Cunliffe

Music: John Powell

Editor: Christopher Rouse

Cast:

Jason Bourne: Matt Damon

Nicky Parsons: Julia Stiles

Noah Vosen: David Strathairn

Ezra Kramer: Scott Glenn

Sam Ross: Paddy Considine

Paz: Edgar Romeriz

Pamela: Joan Allen

Dr. Hirsch: Albert Finney

Running time -- 114 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13

»

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'Devil' has day at ThinkFilm

13 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- In the first acquisition from its new sister company Capitol Films, ThinkFilm has picked up all North American rights to Sidney Lumet's crime thriller Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei.

Hoffman, an Oscar-winner for Capote, will play a drug addict who hatches a plan with his brother (Hawke) to rob a jewelry store owned by their parents (Finney, Rosemary Harris). As the web of betrayal extends to the wife of Hoffman's character (Tomei) and an accomplice, things begin to go terribly wrong.

The 83-year-old Lumet describes the film, which jumps back and forth in time, as a Rubik's Cube of unfolding plot twists and emotional relationships between the characters. Several indie distributors were circling the $10 million-plus feature, in part because of its Oscar winners (Lumet, Hoffman, Tomei) and nominees (Finney, Hawke, Harris), but the director said he felt most comfortable with ThinkFilm because of U.S. »

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Techine on Deauville jury duty

10 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARIS -- French director and screenwriter Andre Techine will lead the jury of the 33rd Deauville American Film Festival, due to roll in Normandy from Aug. 31-Sept. 9.

"I begin every film like one begins a voyage. I don't know what landscape I will discover. That's what's so exciting when one works and one discovers the work of others, as is the case for this trip to Deauville," Techine said in a statement.

The festival, Europe's only major event devoted entirely to U.S. movies, will include a tribute to Sidney Lumet, who will be in town with his latest film, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Albert Finney.

Gus Van Sant, fresh from taking the 60th Anniversary prize at the Festival de Cannes for his "Paranoid Park", also will be back in France for a complete retrospective of his works.

The prestigious Lucien Barriere Literary Prize will be awarded to U.S. author Jay McInerney for his novel "The Good Life", about a group of privileged New Yorkers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. »

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Curtis to be honored with BAFTA fellowship

19 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

LONDON -- The British Academy of Film and Television Arts will present writer Richard Curtis with the Academy Fellowship, its highest accolade, at its annual awards ceremony this Sunday.

The writer behind such hugely successful British films as "Four Weddings and a Funeral", "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually" will be presented the award by Stephen Fry in recognition for "an outstanding body of work," the Academy said.

Well known internationally for some of the most successful U.K. boxoffice hits, Curtis' television work includes the hugely successful BBC1 comedy "The Vicar of Dibley" as well as "Blackadder" and the triple Emmy award-winning drama "Girl in the Cafe".

Previous BAFTA fellows include Ken Loach, David Frost, Albert Finney, David Jason, John Thaw, Judi Dench, Peter Bazalgette and Steven Spielberg.

"Richard Curtis is a hero for many people in the U.K. television and film sectors," said Peter Salmon, BAFTA television committee chair and BBC creative head. "He combines humanity and hard work, humor and imagination to create some of the best loved brands and programs of modern times."

The award also recognizes Curtis' role in the "Comic Relief" and "Make Poverty History" campaigns, Salmon said. »

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Amazing Grace

23 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "Amazing Grace".TORONTO -- The dullness of virtue infuses this historical story of the British MP who spent his life fighting the appalling institution of slavery in the British Empire. This is about as safe a historical/political topic as a filmmaker can tackle, where right and wrong are as clear as day. The only cause for wonder for a modern-day viewer is the speciousness and cynicism of the arguments made in favor of the institution in those days.

One does enjoy watching British actors waltz gracefully through such period pieces. So many previous stage and screen roles have prepared them for such projects that wigs, costumes and attitudes fit like well-worn gloves. So such veterans as Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Ciaran Hinds can be wonderfully hammy yet still not overshadow young actors in the duller, more earnest roles, such as Welshman Ioan Gruffudd as the hero, William Wilberforce and Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt, the youngest British prime minister ever. Nevertheless, boxoffice appeal in North America is limited for such a museum-piece offering. This film will do better on cable and DVD.

Screenwriter Steven Knight chooses a strange attack on his subject. In 1797, William, bitter and quite ill, retreats to the country home of dear friends to recuperate his health after many failed abolitionist campaigns in Parliament. His hosts believe love will cure his illness, so they fix him up with a local, marriageable lass named Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai).

Although reluctant to woo, Barbara is such as an ardent follower of William, she begs him to recount every moment of his campaigns up to present day, even though she must know the stories as well as he does. So in flashback, the movie bears witness to his years of struggle to outlaw the slave trade, largely resisted because British colonial sugar cane interests were totally dependent on slave labor.

We meet the various characters in William's running battle: his youthful friend and now prime minister, William Pitt the Younger; the former slave-ship captain John Newton (Finney), so haunted by his "20,000 ghosts" to compose the song "Amazing Grace" and seek forgiveness in church service; revolutionary Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell), who must lay low when war with France makes his views seditious; crafty Lord Fox (Gambon), a relatively early convert among the MPs; and Olaudah Equiano (Youssou N'Dour), a former slave who devotes his life to writing against the virulent evil of slavery.

At the end of these tales of frustration, the love cure works. The couple swiftly marries then rushes to London, where the slave trade is largely undone through a clever parliamentary maneuver. It is officially banned for good several sessions later. And that, the movie concludes, ends slavery. Which is complete nonsense because it continues unabated in the New World until the Civil War ends it and, tragically, slavery still exists all over the world today.

The movie contains lengthy parliamentary debates over slavery, though you wonder to what purpose because that argument was settled long ago. The political maneuverings are of some historical interest, but modern relevancy is hard to find.

Gruffudd is vigorous and impassioned -- especially for a sick man -- but Wilberforce never comes to life. Why he made the abolitionist movement his life's calling is only vaguely hinted at given that these were "unsound" ideals for an MP in that era.

So, too, with Garai's infatuated Barbara: Her fate is so determined the moment she appears onscreen, that there is little life or mystery to her character. The good people in this movie are just too good, without flaws or misgivings.

Apted's crew does a decent job establishing period details, but this also never comes to life. These are sets and costumes to be struck at the end of the workday.

AMAZING GRACE

Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions

Bristol Bay Prods. presents a Sunflower production

Credits:

Director: Michael Apted

Screenwriter: Steven Knight

Producers: Edward Pressman, Terrence Malick, Patricia Heaton, David Hunt

Executive producers: Jeanney Kim, James Clayton, Duncan Reid

Director of photography: Remi Adefarasin

Production designer: Charles Wood

Costumes: Jenny Beavan

Music: David Arnold

Editor: Rick Shaine

Cast:

William Wilberforce: Ioan Gruffudd

Barbara Spooner: Romola Garai

William Pitt: Benedict Cumberbatch

John Newton: Albert Finney

Lord Fox: Michael Gambon

Thomas Clarkson: Rufus Sewell

Olaudah Equiano: Youssou N'Dour

Lord Tarleton: Ciaran Hinds

Duke of Clarence: Toby Jones

Running time -- 118 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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10 items from 2007


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