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10 items from 2005


Leachman tapped for PSFF award

29 December 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The 17th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, which runs Jan. 5-15, will close with U.S. premieres of Mrs. Harris and Wah-Wah. In addition, the festival will honor Cloris Leachman with the Chairman's Award for Career Achievement at the closing-weekend gala. Richard E. Grant's colonial coming-of-age story Wah-Wah will premiere on the closing night. The film, on which the longtime actor is making his directorial debut, is a semi-autobiographical dramedy of English colonial life in Swaziland and features Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson and Julie Walters. Harris, which will screen Jan. 14, tells the tragic true-life story of Jean Harris, the girls' school headmistress who murdered her lover, Scarsdale diet guru Dr. Herbert Tarnower, in the 1980s. The film stars Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley, Ellen Burstyn, Frances Fisher, Chloe Sevigny and Leachman. »

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Leachman tapped for PSFF award

28 December 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The 17th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, which runs Jan. 5-15, will close with U.S. premieres of Mrs. Harris and Wah-Wah. In addition, the festival will honor Cloris Leachman with the Chairman's Award for Career Achievement at the closing-weekend gala. Richard E. Grant's colonial coming-of-age story Wah-Wah will premiere on the closing night. The film, on which the longtime actor is making his directorial debut, is a semi-autobiographical dramedy of English colonial life in Swaziland and features Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson and Julie Walters. Harris, which will screen Jan. 14, tells the tragic true-life story of Jean Harris, the girls' school headmistress who murdered her lover, Scarsdale diet guru Dr. Herbert Tarnower, in the 1980s. The film stars Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley, Ellen Burstyn, Frances Fisher, Chloe Sevigny and Leachman. »

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Oliver Twist

18 November 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The biggest surprise in Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" is that there are no surprises. In retelling Charles Dickens' most beloved tale -- with the possible exception of "A Christmas Carol" -- the director relates the familiar story in an all-too-familiar way. Given Polanski's own harrowing childhood in the Polish countryside, surviving the Nazi occupation, one might have hoped that he would use young Oliver's adventures as a penniless orphan adrift in a corrupt and abusive 19th century England as a kind of spiritual autobiography of those years. But no, this latest film adaptation of "Oliver Twist" -- well over 20 film and TV versions going back to 1906 are listed on IMDb -- trudges down the same worn path.

Not that this isn't a respectable production with a fine ensemble cast headed by Ben Kingsley, who manages to make the villainous Fagin a sinister and tragic figure. But the spark that an original point of view might bring to the oft-told tale is missing.

For one of the few times in his career, Polanski has made a family film, and "Oliver Twist" should be promoted as such. Certainly the film will work best with young viewers unexposed to the story. With Polanski's name as a selling point, the film should produce decent boxoffice numbers around the world.

When Dickens penned "Oliver Twist", he was filled with moral outrage over the social oppression he saw everywhere. But we can no longer react to these revelations in the same manner as his early readers. Thus, the scenes with the awful Mr. Bumble (Jeremy Swift) in the workhouse, where Oliver comes at age 9, or the sham justice meted out by a foul-tempered judge now play as comedy. Indeed, Polanski encourages his actors to ham up these scenes. Simply put, these depicitons of social injustice have lost their bite.

Barney Clark does an admirable job of playing the naive though plucky youth, finding more adventures than he might wish in the mean streets of the city of London. The film's other child actor, Harry Eden, has boisterous fun with the Artful Dodger.

The story, of course, has two villains. Kingsley's Fagin is not the same man Ron Moody played in the Oscar-winning musical "Oliver!" Kingsley eschews the comedy (though not the wit) to let us see a sly man dedicated to crime and the exploitation of children and women. And Jamie Foreman's Bill Sykes is a man of violence with a filthy tempter and a good word for nobody. His is, alas, the most contemporary of the film's characters.

In truth, some of Dickens' melodrama is crude and unconvincing. Oliver's surprising upward mobility, owing to little more than the fact he is a cute kid, feels less likely than ever, a romantic vision imposed on the tale to obscure the darker realities of the age.

Allan Starski's sets, build in the Czech Republic's Barrandov Studios, are not terribly convincing, either. They have the look and feel of sets, sometimes with a painting of St. Paul's dome off in the distance. All other technical contributions are solid if unexciting.

OLIVER TWIST

TriStar Pictures

Credits:

Director: Roman Polanski

Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood

Based on the novel by: Charles Dickens

Producers: Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde, Roman Polanski

Director of photography: Pawel Edelman

Production designer: Allan Starski

Music: Rachel Portman

Costumes: Anna B. Sheppard

Editor: Herve de Luze

Cast:

Fagin: Ben Kingsley

Oliver: Barney Clark

Bill Sykes: Jamie Foreman

Artful Dodger: Harry Eden

Nancy: Leanne Rowe, Charlie: Lewis Chase

Mr Brownlow: Edward Hardwicke

Mr. Bumble: Jeremy Swift

Toby: Mark Strong

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 132 minutes »

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Kingsley's Fagin Inspired by Old Photos

27 September 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Sir Ben Kingsley used a stash of photographs he picked up on the set of Schindler's List in Krakow, Poland, to inspire his makeover as Dickensian Jew Fagin in Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist. The Oscar winner is virtually unrecognizable as pickpocket Fagin in the new movie, and he credits old photographs of late 19th century Jews with his amazing transformation. He explains, "When I was filming Schindler's List I bought some sepia photographs in a store in the Jewish quarter of late 19th century Jews in Krakow. They had wonderful faces, extraordinary clothes... and I was very fond of them. They were part of the performance in Schindler's List. I loved them and I wanted them to be part of my Fagin too." As for Fagin's moth-eaten costume, Kingsley called on an old antiques dealer friend to give him the perfect look. He adds, "The costume came from a junk dealer I met as a child - he sold foreign coins, stamps, old musical instruments, clothing. I used to go and buy things from him I was fascinated by him. He wore three overcoats tied together with a piece of rope, just like I do as Fagin." »

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A Sound of Thunder

19 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The sci-fi B-movie returns with "A Sound of Thunder", a gloriously lead-footed excursion into time travel with all the accoutrements of 1950s science fiction: an absurd plot, cliched characters, corny effects and a race against time to save mankind. They don't make 'em like this anymore. There is a reason, of course. World-class filmmakers have long ago pushed the boundaries of story, theme and special effects in science fiction from the B to A level.

Unintended laughs and overheated melodrama transform "Thunder" into something approaching a comedy. Think "Back to the Future" meets "The Time Bandits" meets "Jurassic Park". The retro nature of this enterprise and Warner Bros. Pictures' apparent lack of enthusiasm in marketing the film portend a brief theatrical release. The film could develop a cult following in ancillary markets.

The screenplay, based on a 1952 Ray Bradbury short story and written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Gregory Poirier, plays with the common time-travel notion that even a tiny change in the historic past has grave consequences for the future, meaning today. All the elements for catastrophe are in place during opening scenes in 2055 Chicago.

A greedy industrialist, Charles Hatton (Ben Kingsley), has stolen an insufficiently tested time-travel technology from scientist Dr. Sonia Rand (Catherine McCormack). An otherwise honest scientist, Dr. Travis Ryer (Edward Burns), uses the technology for enough scientific research to justify his involvement in Hatton's get-filthy-rich-quick scheme.

Hatton runs Time Safari Inc., which offers wealthy men the opportunity to go Really Big Game hunting in the Cretaceous Era. Using a fixed timeline and a magical path into the distant past, city slickers can shoot a dinosaur and hot-foot it back to the present. Somehow Hatton's scientists have figured out that this prehistoric death cannot change evolution: The critter was about to die in a large tar pit, moments before an exploding volcano dumps Molten Lava over the area.

One day, as two hunters and their scientist minders step from the time machine, things feel wrong. Balmy weather invades Chicago in November. Fish beach themselves. Plant life bursts through walls. As Ryer discusses this with Rand, the first time wave hits Chicago, turning the city into a primordial jungle with a really bad bug problem.

Time waves hit every 24 hours with the evolutionary changes working their way up the food chain in each subsequent pass. Humans will be last. So in a race against time -- literally -- the scientists journey across this antediluvian landscape, battling ape-like lizards, winged creatures and sea dragons, to reach the two hunters to determine what they did that changed evolution. (Scientifically speaking, it's hard to attribute the survival of dinosaurs and demise of homo sapiens to the tiny event this turns out to be.)

As the aggressive music pounds away and the city grows more feral and darker -- what, the sun stops to evolve too? -- the movie grows increasingly corny. You've got to love lines like "This can't be good" when chaos reigns, or the fierce beasts hunting men lifted directly from "Jurassic Park".

Director/cinematographer Peter Hyams has done sci-fi before -- "Outland", "Capricorn One", "2010: The Year We Make Contact" and "Timecop". So why he feels like a stranger in a strange land is puzzling. Certainly, effects are not state of the art. At times, the print reviewed looked murky, as if it were second or even third generation. Creatures and sets are unusually fake. But his actors, to their credit, do not look embarrassed. A straight face always is a sign of genuine camp.

A SOUND OF THUNDER

Warner Bros. Pictures

Franchise Pictures presents an Apollomedia -- QI Quality International -- MFF (Sound of Thunder) Limited -- Film Group 111 -- Coco co-production in association with Crusader Entertainment, a Scenario Lane/Jericho Production

Credits: Director/director of photography: Peter Hyams

Screenplay: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Gregory Poirier

Screen story by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer

Based on a short story by: Ray Bradbury

Producers: Moshe Diamant, Howard Baldwin, Karne Baldwin

Executive producers: Elie Samaha

Romana Cisarova, John Hardy, Rick Nathanson, Jorg Westerkamp

William J. Immerman, Breck Eisner

Production designer: Richard Holland

Music: Nick Glennie-Smith

Costumes: Esther Walz

Editor: Sylvie Landra

Cast:

Travis Ryer: Edward Burns

Charles Hatton: Ben Kingsley

Sonia Rand: Catherine McCormack

Jenny Krase: Jemima Rooper

Dr. Lucas: Wilfried Hochholdinger

Clay: August Zirner

Christian: Corey Johnson

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 101 minutes »

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Mrs. Harris

17 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- Playwright Phyllis Nagy makes her motion picture writing and directing debut with “Mrs. Harris, â€. an investigation into the 1980s murder scandal that saw Jean Harris, headmistress of a posh girls school, shoot and kill her lover of 15 years, cardiologist Dr. Herman “Hy” Tarnower, the world-renowned creator of the “Scarsdale Diet.”

The film was “inspired” by Shana Alexander’s book, but the tone comes straight out of the tabloids. This tone lies somewhere south of smugness but north of pure derision.

The HBO movie premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, but it doesn’t feel entirely at home on the big screen. Its two stars, Annette Bening and Ben Kingsley, do wonderful jobs, but the repetitive and arch film feels small and condescending.

The movie begins with a credits sequence in which old movie clips show angry women gunning down two-timing lovers as a jocular rendition of “Put the Blame on Mame” plays on the soundtrack. The movie then continues this theme as it begins at the end when our Miss Jean guns down Dr. T.

Nagy stages scene according to Harris’ testimony -- that it was a failed suicide attempt in which the doctor’s intervention lead to his death. Much later, the scene is revisited and restaged as a cold-blooded murder, but Nagy’s heart clearly isn’t in the second scenario. For her entire movie portrays Jean Harris, a neurotic, depressed, pill-popping, tired woman of 56, exhausted by her lover’s frequent infidelities, as a woman who genuinely wanted to do herself in.

The movie heads into the murder trial with documentary-style interviews of witnesses and cross-examinations by lawyers even as it backtracks in flashbacks through the years of ill-fated romance between the society doctor and lively divorcee.

Very early on, Hy declares to Jean, “I’m your bastard.” That essentially sums up the movie and their relationship. Scenes of romance, betrayal and disillusionment spiral back to romance and then more unfaithfulness with tiresome regularity despite the superb efforts of the two stars.

Only actors with their skills can discover so many levels in characters that never change course. Hy will always be a bastard, though maybe not Jean’s bastard, and she will always be willing to tolerate -- or at least dismiss with a withering quip -- his fragrant philandering.

But the sheer banality of it all overwhelms the film. Perhaps aware of this, Nagy takes us off for side adventures such as a gym locker room where all the males secretly admire the size of Hy’s genitals.

Pop songs from the era, often about obsessive love, comment on the melodrama on screen. The film achieves a period look without calling attention to it. And one can only surmise that the re-creation of Hy’s bedroom is scrupulously accurate for what other reason can one give for such atrocious decor?

MRS. HARRIS

HBO Films

Killer Films/Number 9 Films/John Wells Prods.

Credits: Writer/director: Phyllis Nagy; Inspired by the book by: Shana Alexander; Producer: Chrisann Verges; Executive producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, John Wells; Director of photography: Steven B. Poster; Production designer: Alison Dominitz; Costumes: Julie Weiss; Music: John Frizzell; Editors: Curtiss Clayton, Lee Percy.

Cast: Jean Harris: Annette Bening; Dr. Herman Tarnower: Ben Kingsley; Marge: Frances Fisher; Arthur: Philip Hall Baker; Tarnower’s sister: Cloris Leachman; Lynne: Chloe Sevigny.

No MPAA rating, running time 94 minutes.

»

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Oliver Twist

9 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The biggest surprise in Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" is that there are no surprises. In retelling Charles Dickens' most beloved tale -- with the possible exception of "A Christmas Carol" -- the director relates the familiar story in an all-too-familiar way. Given Polanski's own harrowing childhood in the Polish countryside, surviving the Nazi occupation, one might have hoped that he would use young Oliver's adventures as a penniless orphan adrift in a corrupt and abusive 19th century England as a kind of spiritual autobiography of those years. But no, this latest film adaptation of "Oliver Twist" -- well over 20 film and TV versions going back to 1906 are listed on IMDb -- trudges down the same worn path.

Not that this isn't a respectable production with a fine ensemble cast headed by Ben Kingsley, who manages to make the villainous Fagin a sinister and tragic figure. But the spark that an original point of view might bring to the oft-told tale is missing.

For one of the few times in his career, Polanski has made a family film, and "Oliver Twist" should be promoted as such. Certainly the film will work best with young viewers unexposed to the story. With Polanski's name as a selling point, the film should produce decent boxoffice numbers around the world.

When Dickens penned "Oliver Twist", he was filled with moral outrage over the social oppression he saw everywhere. But we can no longer react to these revelations in the same manner as his early readers. Thus, the scenes with the awful Mr. Bumble (Jeremy Swift) in the workhouse, where Oliver comes at age 9, or the sham justice meted out by a foul-tempered judge now play as comedy. Indeed, Polanski encourages his actors to ham up these scenes. Simply put, these depicitons of social injustice have lost their bite.

Barney Clark does an admirable job of playing the naive though plucky youth, finding more adventures than he might wish in the mean streets of the city of London. The film's other child actor, Harry Eden, has boisterous fun with the Artful Dodger.

The story, of course, has two villains. Kingsley's Fagin is not the same man Ron Moody played in the Oscar-winning musical "Oliver!" Kingsley eschews the comedy (though not the wit) to let us see a sly man dedicated to crime and the exploitation of children and women. And Jamie Foreman's Bill Sykes is a man of violence with a filthy tempter and a good word for nobody. His is, alas, the most contemporary of the film's characters.

In truth, some of Dickens' melodrama is crude and unconvincing. Oliver's surprising upward mobility, owing to little more than the fact he is a cute kid, feels less likely than ever, a romantic vision imposed on the tale to obscure the darker realities of the age.

Allan Starski's sets, build in the Czech Republic's Barrandov Studios, are not terribly convincing, either. They have the look and feel of sets, sometimes with a painting of St. Paul's dome off in the distance. All other technical contributions are solid if unexciting.

OLIVER TWIST

TriStar Pictures

Credits:

Director: Roman Polanski

Screenwriter: Ronald Harwood

Based on the novel by: Charles Dickens

Producers: Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde, Roman Polanski

Director of photography: Pawel Edelman

Production designer: Allan Starski

Music: Rachel Portman

Costumes: Anna B. Sheppard

Editor: Herve de Luze

Cast:

Fagin: Ben Kingsley

Oliver: Barney Clark

Bill Sykes: Jamie Foreman

Artful Dodger: Harry Eden

Nancy: Leanne Rowe, Charlie: Lewis Chase

Mr Brownlow: Edward Hardwicke

Mr. Bumble: Jeremy Swift

Toby: Mark Strong

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 132 minutes »

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Weinsteins lucky with 'Slevin'

10 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The Weinstein Co. has acquired multiple distribution rights, including domestic rights, to the gangster thriller Lucky Number Slevin. The film stars Bruce Willis, Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley and was directed by Paul McGuigan. Written by Jason Smilovic, Slevin is set in the world of New York gangsters and follows a case of mistaken identity, which lands Hartnett's character (Slevin) in the middle of a murder being plotted by one of the city's most notorious crime bosses. »

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Heartbroken Kingsley Files for Divorce

7 February 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British actor Ben Kingsley has filed for divorce from his third wife Alexandra after seeing photos of the German beauty with her new boyfriend. Last month German tabloid BZ published images of Alexandra, 30, kissing estate agent Sammy Brauner, 41, the son of German movie producer Atze Brauner, in Berlin nightclub First. Kingsley, 61, says, "It came at a very, very vulnerable time for me and I was deeply, deeply shocked because until then I had no idea. It's very difficult for a man to learn on the internet that his wife has a new boyfriend. Tragically I had to file for divorce. I love her and I don't know what the future holds. What can I say? I'm very hurt. I'm feeling terrible disappointment and grief." Kingsley met his third wife in 2002 when she was an advertising saleswoman and he was attending the Berlin film festival. They wed in September 2003. »

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Kingsley Splits from Wife After Kissing Picture Published

20 January 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley has split up with his wife of 15 months after a German newspaper published a picture of her kissing another man. On Monday, the BZ tabloid printed a picture of Alexandra Christmann passionately locking lips with estate agent Sammy Brauner, the son of well-known German movie producer Atze Brauner. That night, a photographer for the publication spotted Christmann holding hands with Brauner at a party, where she told the snapper: "I've split from Ben. Sammy is my new boyfriend now. We are a couple and we are really happy." Gandhi actor Kingsley married Christmann in October 2003. »

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10 items from 2005


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