5 items from 2005
Elisabeth Shue has been cast opposite Jim Carrey in The Number 23, a psychological thriller Joel Schumacher is directing for New Line Cinema. Contrafilm's Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson are producing. The film, written by Fernley Phillips, sees Carrey as a man who comes into contact with an obscure book titled The Number 23. As he reads it, he becomes increasingly convinced that the book is based on his own life. His obsession with the number 23 starts to consume him to the point that he soon realizes that the book forecasts far graver consequences for his life than he could ever have imagined. Shue plays Carrey's wife as well as a character in the book. »
SYDNEY -- The Australian Screen Directors' Assn. confirmed Thursday that Joel Schumacher will be the keynote speaker at the guild's annual conference, this year titled "Creating Freedom: Dreaming, Planning and Realizing the Low Budget Film." ASDA said Schumacher will talk about "his enduring passion for low budget filmmaking (and) the creative freedom that he finds in the form" as well as his "techniques for creating exciting, enduring films that rise above their budgets." »
Two-time Tony Award nominee Patrick Wilson is in talks to star in writer-director Todd Field's relationship drama Little Children opposite four-time Oscar nominee Kate Winslet and Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly for New Line Cinema. Field was fending off considerable interest for the role of a sexy young father who is a former college quarterback. After meeting with Wilson in New York, Field was so impressed with the theater and film actor that he instantly offered him the part. Wilson, who starred in Joel Schumacher's Phantom of the Opera last year, also was nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his role in Angels in America. »
Uma Thurman loves to watch her poorly received performances, because she can only improve herself as an actress by learning from her mistakes. Thurman remains upbeat about playing Poison Ivy in much-maligned 1997 movie Batman & Robin - even though her co-stars look back on it as a dark moment in their careers. She tells British magazine Hotdog, "I can't be responsible for the whole picture. Me and Poison Ivy, we had a good time. We got down, I liked my costume. And, though it didn't work for a lot of people, I loved the high camp that Joel Schumacher tried to blow the Batman franchise out on. It was really bold of him." Kill Bill beauty Thurman has no regrets about starring in films mauled by movie critics because when she chooses more successful roles it proves her sound judgment. She adds, "Whenever I look at the list of things I've made, I never really want to diss any of them. Are there mistakes? Are there things that were less than great experiences? Yes. But if you never make mistakes, you never get informed on your good judgment. I obviously, like anybody, learn more from my mistakes than from my luckier moments." »
The film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical theater powerhouse "The Phantom of the Opera" still contains its memorable lyrics and score, but this "Phantom" is a pale -- dare we say ghostly? -- copy of the original coup de theatre directed by Harold Prince. Part of the problem can be laid to miscasting and an overindulgence in set design. But the element of camp, which admittedly lurked in the wings of the stage musical, explodes into full view here before unforgiving cameras.
A Baz Luhrmann might have found a way to make the film version hip and relevant to younger audiences. But Webber clearly maintained a tight grip on his baby as producer and screenplay collaborator with director Joel Schumacher, so little rethinking of the stage show went into the filmization. Consequently, audiences for the musical skew older, with little to attract young males.
The story from Gaston Leroux's 1911 pulp horror novel tells of a disfigured musical genius who haunts the catacombs of a Paris opera house. He secretly mentors a young female singer, whom he adores, but a hideous face behind a half mask forces him to hide both himself and his love from the woman.
The film opens strongly with a black-and-white prologue in 1919, where the aging Vicompte Raoul de Chagny buys an old music box at auction in a decaying theater. As an organ strikes the Phantom's theme, the movie then flashes back in brilliant color to that theater in full swing in 1870 where singers, costumers, set builders and the ballet corps ready the next grand production.
The film gains further momentum when the brilliant and beautiful Emmy Rossum comes onscreen as the young chorus girl Christine Daae. A classically trained singer who made a dazzling debut in the underrated "Songcatcher" in 2000, Rossum has a crystal-pure voice that conveys the soft innocence of the Phantom's beloved. She also handles the mood shifts well, confused when caught in a romantic tug of war between the Phantom and her lover, Raoul, then later finding the backbone to stand up to her mentor.
Alas, the movie stumbles badly with the appearance of Scottish actor Gerard Butler as the Phantom. The role, so memorably created by Michael Crawford onstage, usually falls to an older actor since the Phantom has supposedly been Christine's "angel of music" since childhood. Yet Butler is nearly the same age as Patrick Wilson, who plays Christine's childhood friend Raoul. The change possibly reflects a misguided notion that a younger Phantom will attract a younger crowd, but it throws off the dynamics of the romantic triangle. Much more damaging is the fact Butler is not a trained singer. He manages to get by but lacks the vocal range and richness to do justice to some of the show's finest songs.
The role of Raoul is always problematic. Webber and Schumacher invent a ludicrous sword fight between Raoul and the Phantom in a graveyard so his character is a little less wimpy than onstage. Nevertheless, Wilson struggles, as do all Raouls, to give the character color or dimension.
Minnie Driver, as the opera's impossible diva, is terrific fun, hamming things up in a fake Italian accent and raging ego. Miranda Richardson is suitably grave and levelheaded as the ballet mistress who knows more than she pretends.
Simon Callow and Ciaran Hinds give comic zest to the theater's two new managers, but the roles have always been the show's weakest as they require vaudevillian turns at odds with the musical's often horrific tone.
What the film most damagingly lacks though is a sense of mystery and danger. When the Phantom magically transports Christine through the bowels of the opera to his lair, Schumacher has cinematographer John Mathieson light the passages so brightly -- the better to show off all those expensive sets, apparently -- it feels more like a fun frolic than a journey into the heart of darkness. There is even a horse standing by to help out. What on earth is a horse doing down there?
Similarly, in the scene where Christine visits her father's grave to sing "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," Schumacher has Rossum traipse miles through a grotesque set of towering, campy headstones and monuments before she finally arrives at a sarcophagus befitting an emperor. The only trouble is, her father was a poor violinist.
In the story's one major change, the famous scene in which the Phantom causes a chandelier to crash during a performance has been moved to the end to put more "wow" into the climax. Fine, only the audience now has no idea until the end how far this mad genius will go to claim his love from his rival. Except when Rossum is onscreen, this "Phantom" is but a hallow visual effects show.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Odyssey Entertainment A Really Useful Films/Scion Films production
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriters: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher
Based on the novel by: Gaston Leroux
Producer: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Director of photography: John Mathieson
Production designer: Anthony Pratt
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Charles Hart
Additional lyrics: Richard Stilgoe
Choreographer: Peter Darling
Costumes: Alexandra Byrne
Visual effects supervisor: Nathan McGuinness
Editor: Terry Rawlings
Phantom: Gerard Butler
Christine: Emmy Rossum
Raoul: Patrick Wilson
Mme. Giry: Miranda Richardson
Andrew: Simon Callow
Firmin: Ciaran Hinds
Carlotta: Minnie Driver
Buquet: Kevin R. McNally
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 140 minutes »
5 items from 2005
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