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6 items from 2005


Equity putting cash into action

3 August 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

COLOGNE, Germany -- German media fund Equity Pictures is sinking its money into the action genre, investing $70 million in a new slate of productions that includes titles toplined by action veterans Keanu Reeves, Vin Diesel and Sylvester Stallone. Cash from Equity's new fund will help bankroll such upcoming features as the Reeves starrer The Night Watchman, based on the James Ellroy best-seller about a racist serial killer; The Retriever, which features Diesel as a one-man army fighting to save the world from nuclear apocalypse; and Rambo IV, in which Stallone returns to his most famous action role. Other titles on Equity's slate include Gavin O'Connor's drama Pride & Glory, starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, and the comedy thriller The Death and Life of Bobby Z, from director Renny Harlin. »

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Dominion: Exorcist

6 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

You could say the devil made them redo it.

It isn't often a movie is remade before the first one even hits theaters, but such is the curious case of the prequel to the granddaddy of all demonic possession pictures.

Unhappy with the original Paul Schrader take, Morgan Creek threw more money at Renny Harlin, who goosed the atmospherics but failed to generate the requisite chills with last year's Exorcist: The Beginning, which managed to scare up a tepid $42 million domestically.

Now moviegoers are getting a chance to judge Schrader's effort for themselves, and it's a safe bet that the majority will quickly understand why the suits had their fears about the awkwardly titled "Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist."

While the William Wisher and Caleb Carr story line and character motivations are easier to follow, the Schrader variation is awfully dull, with scant evidence of the sort of things that make horror movies attractive -- like mounting suspense and spine-tingling creepiness and, oh yeah, the element of horror.

Instead Schrader, who took on the production after original director John Frankenheimer fell ill, serves up a discourse on that ages-old battle between God and the devil over the human soul with all the sustained tension of a Discovery Channel program.

As in the Harlin film, Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard plays Father Lankester Merrin, a priest (played in his older years by Max von Sydow in the original Exorcist) who underwent a crisis of faith at the hands of the Nazis from which he never recovered.

Trading his collar for a sturdy pair of boots, Merrin has been working as an archaeologist in British East Africa, where he has unearthed an ancient Byzantine church that has been preserved in its entirety.

Working under the watchful eye of Father Francis (played here by Gabriel Mann), a young priest who has been dispatched to ensure that the contents of the pristine structure are accorded the proper religious respect, Merrin unwittingly unleashes a whole lot of hurt when it is discovered, too late, that beneath the church lies the still-potent remnants of an ancient crypt where satanic rituals had been routinely conducted.

Given that Warner Bros. Pictures is throwing Dominion up against another movie prequel going by the name of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," that church isn't the only thing to be buried.

An actor who conveys just the right amount of genuine decency and a world-weary remorse, Skarsgard is ideally cast as Merrin, but here, as with the Harlin version, he's again surrounded by several weak performances, not to mention some laughably inept CGI.

On paper, it might have been easy to see the attraction of a prequel that would expand on the 1973 film's reference to Merrin's having once performed an exorcism in Africa. But in the dominion of the horror film, an intriguing backstory won't suffice.

It might also have those moody Moroccan locations and acclaimed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro on the payroll, but this inert take on the classic William Peter Blatty material can't even exorcise the doldrums, let alone the demons.

Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist

Warner Bros. Pictures

Morgan Creek Prods.

Credits:

Director: Paul Schrader

Producer: James G. Robinson

Executive producers: Guy McElwaine, David Robinson

Screenwriters: William Wisher and Caleb Carr

Director of photography: Vittorio Storaro

Production designer: John Graysmark

Editor: Tim Silano

Costume designer: Luke Reichle

Music: Trevor Rabin, Angelo Badalamenti, Dog Fashion Disco.

Cast:

Father Merrin: Stellan Skarsgard

Father Francis: Gabriel Mann

Rachel Lenso: Clara Bellar

Cheche: Billy Crawford

Sergeant Major: Ralph Brown

Jomo: Israel Aduramo

MPAA Rating: R

Running time -- 116 minutes »

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Mindhunters

31 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Plucked from those famous Miramax/Dimension deep shelves at the eleventh hour, Mindhunters arrives in North American theaters a couple of years after its initial planned release date.

Having already played in a number of overseas territories, the British/Dutch/Finnish-American co-production can't help but carry a certain DVD-ready stigma, and that's probably where it will be doing its greatest business in this neck of the woods.

While the premise is intriguing -- a group of young FBI profilers is being systematically and gruesomely eliminated during what is supposed to be an elaborate training exercise -- director Renny Harlin's take on Agatha Christie's versatile Ten Little Indians is total B-movie swagger in all its unsubtle glory.

Taken for what it is, along with the clunky dialogue, cardboard-cutout characterizations and eardrum-pounding orchestral blasts, the picture is not without its occasional cheap thrills, which should prove to be more cost-effective in the form of a video store rental.

After an audience-tease of a prologue, Mindhunters gets down to the business of plopping its group of FBI Investigative Support Unit would-be profilers in the middle of a remote island that looks like a Main Street USA studio backlot that has seriously gone to seed (it actually was filmed in the Netherlands).

It is there that leader Rafe Perry (Val Kilmer) has orchestrated a murder scene simulation of a final exam designed to weed out the weaker links, but it quickly becomes apparent that the theoretical serial killer they're attempting to profile is the real thing, and, with each subsequent murder, it's looking more and more like the perpetrator is among them.

Although the script, credited to Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin, works overtime attempting to evoke early John Carpenter, some of the nasty demises, no matter how illogical, have their seriously twisted allure, and while Harlin amps everything up to the extreme, the results are at least livelier than his version of Exorcist: The Beginning, which he took on after Mindhunters.

The cast -- also including Christian Slater (sharing the name J.D. with his Heathers character), LL Cool J, Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, Eion Bailey and Clifton Collins Jr. -- do what they can with the hokey dialogue until visual effects supervisor Brian M. Jennings gets around to creatively putting them out of their misery.

Mindhunters

Dimension Films

Dimension Films and Intermedia present an Outlaw production An Avenue Pictures production in association with Weed Road Pictures

Credits:

Director: Renny Harlin

Screenwriters: Wayne Kramer and Kevin Brodbin

Story by: Wayne Kramer

Producers: Jeffrey Silver, Bobby Newmyer, Cary Brokaw, Rebecca Spikings

Executive producers: Moritz Borman, Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, Renny Harlin

Director of photography: Robert Gantz

Production designer: Charles Wood

Editors: Paul Martin Smith, Neil Farrell

Costume designer: Louise Frogley

Music: Tuomas Kantelinen

Cast:

Gabe Jensen: James Todd Smith a k a LL Cool J

Lucas Harper: Jonny Lee Miller

Sara Moore: Kathryn Morris

Nicole Willis: Patricia Velasquez

Vince Sherman: Clifton Collins Jr

Bobby Whitman: Eion Bailey

Rafe Perry: Will Kemp

Jake Harris: Val Kilmer

J.D. Reston: Christian Slater

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 106 minutes »

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Harlin, Arclight 'Run' with thriller

14 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

CANNES -- Renny Harlin will direct the action thriller Run, set to begin shooting in Rome in October under the banner of L.A.-based Pierce/Williams Entertainment, the project's international distributor Arclight Films confirmed Saturday. Harlin's attachment to the film was announced by Arclight's managing director Gary Hamilton. "We're thrilled to have a director of Renny's caliber on board to direct the film," Hamilton said. " 'Run' will feature some of the most complex car-chase scenes to hit the cinema in years, and no one understands action better than Renny." The film tells the story of a rookie Interpol agent who pulls over an unsuspecting motorist for a traffic violation in Rome, triggering an unrelenting car chase that catapults the city into chaos. »

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Schrader puts 'Exorcist' tale in perspective

29 March 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

BRUSSELS -- Director Paul Schrader insists that, if nothing else, his Hollywood odyssey has been unique in film history. Speaking at the premiere of his ill-fated Exorcist prequel at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film, Schrader noted that "film schools will now have the easiest example of a compare-and-contrast question." Said Schrader: "In that sense, this is an asterisk in the history of cinema." Schrader had been brought in to shoot Exorcist: The Beginning after the original director, the late John Frankenheimer, fell ill. But producer Morgan Creek felt Schrader's version was too tame. They shelved it on delivery and hired Renny Harlin to reshoot the entire movie, which came out last year. After almost two years in Hollywood purgatory, Schrader allowed himself a moment of vindication at the Brussels Festival, which ended Saturday. »

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Schrader puts 'Exorcist' tale in perspective

29 March 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

BRUSSELS -- Director Paul Schrader insists that, if nothing else, his Hollywood odyssey has been unique in film history. Speaking at the premiere of his ill-fated Exorcist prequel at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film, Schrader noted that "film schools will now have the easiest example of a compare-and-contrast question." Said Schrader: "In that sense, this is an asterisk in the history of cinema." Schrader had been brought in to shoot Exorcist: The Beginning after the original director, the late John Frankenheimer, fell ill. But producer Morgan Creek felt Schrader's version was too tame. They shelved it on delivery and hired Renny Harlin to reshoot the entire movie, which came out last year. After almost two years in Hollywood purgatory, Schrader allowed himself a moment of vindication at the Brussels Festival, which ended Saturday. »

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6 items from 2005


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