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8 items from 2006


The Holiday

1 December 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

What have we here? A holiday movie that doesn't make everyone grumpy? A romantic comedy with real sense of how romance feels, both good and bad, when caught in its throes? Such stars as Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black, who are funny, sexy, unabashedly wear emotions in plain view and can winningly play those quirky-ridiculous neuroses that light up movie screens? Pass the eggnog.

The Holiday goes down so smoothly that chef Nancy Meyers, the film's writer, director and co-producer, spent eons in the kitchen making everything look easy. But as the comic said on his deathbed: Dying is easy; comedy -- especially romantic comedy -- is hard.

At 131 minutes, this comedy runs a tad long, but the reward is deeper characterizations than most comedies enjoy. It's formulaic but with a big heart, so Columbia and Universal (domestic and foreign distributors, respectively) should savor plenty of Christmas cheer with this sophisticated adult holiday offering.

The movie pivots around a home exchange. Imagine two very unhappy women, both go-getters in work but disasters in personal relationships, who impulsively swap domiciles for the holidays over the Internet.

Amanda (Diaz) owns a top advertising firm that produces movie trailers in Los Angeles but has so little time for her semi-live-in boyfriend (Edward Burns) that she catches him cheating on her. Iris (Winslet), a reporter for London's Daily Telegraph, long ago caught her ex-boyfriend (Rufus Sewell) cheating on her -- with that girl in circulation on the 19th floor (strange how the specificity of that location puts her in her place). But she still carries a torch for him. One more thing: Iris cries too much; Amanda can't cry at all.

Iris gets the better bargain propertywise as Amanda's gorgeous, sleekly modern mansion contains all the electronic gadgetry that makes life so wonderful. Amanda gets a cozy country cottage that comes with an accessory never mentioned on its Web site: Iris' brother Graham (Law) is known to crawl back from the local pub a bit drunk and crash on the couch. An instantaneous affair blazes between these two like a flame that finds dry kindling.

Meanwhile, Iris makes friends with a neighbor, aging Hollywood screenwriter Arthur (Eli Wallach), who helps her out of her shell of low self-esteem and depression. During her adventures in Hollywoodland, which include blasts of December Santa Ana winds and a cheerful Chanukah party with Arthur and his cronies (Bill Macy and Shelley Berman), she encounters Miles the composer (Black). He's a surprisingly cool guy who wants to share his enthusiasm for movies and music with his actress-girlfriend (Miffy Englefield), yet she continually two-times him. It sounds oh-so-familiar to Iris.

Things take their course, but those courses aren't always predictable. Happy endings are, perhaps, expected, but Meyers arrives at them by routes often circuitous and unforeseen. Each detour provides deeper understandings of who these people are and how their pasts and hopes for the future often thwart happiness in their present lives.

The peripheral characters, especially the cheating mates, get short shift. But the main characters are intricately detailed with quirks, attitudes and mischief not unlike all the old classic comedies -- often with strong female figures -- the characters frequently refer to in their dialogue. Consequently, Holiday is a new old movie, expanding on classics caught late at night on cable TV and re-imagined in contemporary terms.

The film also reaps the benefits of a classy production team of cinematographer Dean Cundey and designer Jon Hutman that captures the essence of both the U.K. and West L.A.

»

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Turner Wins London Stage Award

28 November 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood actress Kathleen Turner has been named Best Actress at this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards in London. The Jewel Of The Nile actress was honored for her role as Martha in a revival of Edward Albee's 1962 marital warfare drama Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Oscar-winning writer Sir Tom Stoppard scooped the Best Play honor for Rock 'N' Roll, with lead actor Rufus Sewell named Best Actor. The Special Editor's Award was given to Peter Morgan's Frost/Nixon for outstanding contribution to theatre. The winners of the 52nd Evening Standard Theatre Awards were honoured at a lunchtime awards ceremony yesterday at London's Savoy Hotel. »

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Amazing Grace

14 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- The dullness of virtue infuses director Michael Apted's "Amazing Grace", an 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

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 118 minutes »

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'Paris' Coming to America

13 September 2006 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Quick Links > Paris, je t'aime > First Look Pictures > Toronto film festival After years of production and anticipation, a seemingly revolving door of talent coming and going, and the addition then subtraction of the greatest living director Jean-Luc Godard (in my opinion anyway), the colossal Paris, je t'aime is finally branching the Atlantic. The project showcases twenty-two of the top directors in the world (I count the Coen brothers as one person) as they each direct a segment that doubles as both a brief romantic encounter and a romantic ode to the city of Paris. Each segment is broken up into arrondissements, which is French for 'counties' I think, where each filmmaker will showcase their particular story in a different part of Paris. First Look Pictures has thankfully picked up the North American rights, ensuring cinephiles here will finally get to see this film, which seemed to exist solely on »

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Tristan & Isolde

3 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

"Tristan & Isolde" suffers from a bad case of anemia. The ancient Celtic romance of forbidden love, later transformed by Anglo-Norman and German writers into the courtly literature of lies and delusions, has been reduced here to a sappy Dark Ages soap opera interrupted by brutal battles and dialogue of astonishing prosaic deadness. At its core is a pair of lovers no contemporary audience could possibly care for, and at the periphery are characters that threaten to become interesting but never quite do.

"O, what have I done?" wails one lover, and director Kevin Reynolds and writer Dean Georgaris ("The Manchurian Candidate") might be asking the same question. Reportedly, this was a "dream project" for exec producers Tony and Ridley Scott, who nevertheless handed it off to another filmmaker. Perhaps there's a lesson in this: Dream projects delivered to others cease to be dreams and become mere projects. Boxoffice outlook for Fox might bring new meaning to the term Dark Ages. International and home video business looks more promising.

Drifting far from its source material -- but then who other than a medievalist would care? -- "Tristan & Isolde" is a thoroughly contemporary "epic" about a guy with the hots for the wife of his mentor/savior/king/father figure. Think an early draft of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere.

After the fall of Rome, Irish warlords have divided and conquered the English tribes. Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) seeks to unite those tribes against the Irish with the help of his No. 1 warrior Tristan (James Franco in a performance that can only be called inert). A clever ambush results in a resounding victory for the English, but at the cost of the apparent death of Tristan.

His body is shoved into the Irish Sea on a burning funeral pyre, and that's that. But wait! He's alive and washes ashore in -- would you believe it? -- Ireland with a nasty gash on his tummy. His rescuer is none other than Isolde (Sophia Myles), the daughter of King Donnchadh (David Patrick O'Hara). The medieval world was indeed a small one.

Without revealing her identity, Isolde nurses him back to health, takes him to her bed, puts him in a sailboat and, voila, he's back home without anyone asking the most obvious question: Where have you been the past few months? So Tristan has no idea who his savior is, and Isolde has no idea that it was Tristan who conveniently slayed the brutal general to whom she had been so unwillingly betrothed.

Instead of reinvading England with a depleted army, the wily Irish king comes up with another divide-and-conquer trick: He promises his no-longer-engaged daughter in a tournament among the English tribes that looks like the medieval equivalent of a bum fight. Wouldn't you know it, the recovered Tristan wins the tournament, unwittingly securing his lover's hand in marriage for his king, Lord Marke. Talk about missing the mark!

The problem here is that no one, with the possible exception of cinematographer Arthur Reinhart, brings this world to life. The film is like a Monty Python movie with the jokes removed. Reynolds has Franco mope around like a boy who has lost his puppy. Myles fares better as she is beautiful and smart but has little to play against. Sewell, O'Hara and Mark Strong as a conniving tribal leader play characters vastly more interesting than the leads.

Then there is the dialogue. Isolde to Tristan on her wedding night: "I'll pretend it's you". Marke to Tristan in the glow of connubial bliss: "I didn't know how empty I was". Isolde to Tristan: "Why does loving you feel so wrong?"

Reinhart drains away any bright colors, any reds, greens or blues, in favor of earthen tones. This suits designer Mark Geraghty's glum fortresses and rude hovels. Anne Dudley's score is a tad mournful but, hey, this is Tristan and Isolde.

To paraphrase Isolde, why does everything in this film feel so wrong?

TRISTAN & ISOLDE

20th Century Fox

An Apollopromedia-MFF (Tristan and Isolde) Limited Stillking-Qi Quality International-Co-Production of a Scott Free production

Credits:

Director: Kevin Reynolds

Screenwriter: Dean Georgaris

Producers: Moshe Diamant, Elie Samaha, Lisa Ellzey, Giannina Facio

Executive producers: Ridley Scott, Tony Scott

Director of photography: Arthur Reinhart

Production designer: Mark Geraghty

Music: Anne Dudley

Co-producers: Anna Lai, Jan Fantl, Morgan O'Sullivan, James Flynn

Costumes: Maurizio Millenotti

Editor: Peter Boyle

Cast:

Tristan: James Franco

Isolde: Sophia Myles

Marke: Rufus Sewell

Donnchadh: David Patrick O'Hara

Wictred: Mark Strong

Melot

Henry Cavill

Bragnae: Bronagh Gallagher

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 126 minutes »

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The Illusionist

31 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- An old fashioned entertainment set in 1900 Vienna, "The Illusionist" features a standout performance by Edward Norton as the magician Eisenheim, who may or may not have supernatural powers. Outstanding production values and mysterious subject matter give the film a surprisingly opulent feel for an independent Sundance entry, which could work to its advantage in some mainstream markets.

Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser and written and directed by Neil Burger ("Interview With the Assassin"), "The Illusionist" is like a dreamscape existing between sleep and consciousness, the old world and the new. It's no accident that the story, with an undercurrent of inexplicable psychic phenomenon, takes place in Freud's Vienna.

In a prologue, we see the young Eisenheim (Aaron Johnson), the son of a carpenter, having a chance encounter with a traveling magician and finding his calling. As a young and novice practitioner, he attracts the attention of the lovely Sophie, scion of an aristocratic family. Their bond is indeed one of those magical things that cannot be explained. Then, when her family forcefully separates them, Eisenheim travels the world learning his trade.

Years later, he is back in Vienna and the talk of the town. Sporting a distinguished goatee and displaying a great inner stillness, Eisenheim commands the grand stage. There has always been an undercurrent of mystery about Norton, so he was an excellent choice for the role, and after a relatively low profile for the past few years, he reminds you what a powerful performer he is.

One evening, a beautiful woman volunteers for a trick on stage and Eisenheim is stricken: it's Sophie (Jessica Biel) all grown up. Unfortunately, she is now the mistress of the power-hungry Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Consequently, Eisenheim falls on the wrong side of the law, enforced by Chief Inspector Uhl. As the inspector, Paul Giamatti is never really sinister but with an accent and hat he is able to convey a darker side to go with his innate likeability. As Eisenheim violates the laws of the land, and perhaps the laws of nature, the story is told through the inspector's sometimes incredulous and misleading eyes.

Sophie and Eisenheim consummate their relationship, and in a fit of jealous rage the Prince slays her -- or does he? This turns out to be the central mystery of the film, which tests whether Eisenheim is a mere illusionist or possessor of some secret power. Sharp audience members may figure out the answer long before the ending, which somewhat diminishes the fun of the film.

Still, with Ricky Jay as the magic advisor, the stunts themselves -- an orange tree that blossoms on stage, a sword that stands upright in the ground, spirits from the dead stalking the theater -- are performed authentically as they would have been done at the turn of the last century. Burger purposely used little CGI for the magic and tries to follow a trick from beginning to end without cutting away, so the illusions can be experienced as they would have been by the audience at that time.

Veteran cinematographer Dick Pope captures all the grace notes and dark corners of Prague sitting in for Vienna and Ondrej Nakvasil's production design, especially for the prince's palace and the theater where Eisenheim performs, has created a stage both real and fanciful where the human heart is the most mysterious thing.

THE ILLUSIONIST

A Bob Yari Prods., Bulls Eye Entertainment, Michael London/Koppelman Levien production in asssociation with Contagious Entertainment

Credits:

Director: Neil Burger

Writer: Burger, based on a story by Steven Millhauser

Producers: Michael London, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Bob Yari, Cathy Schulman

Executive producers: Ted Liebowitz, Joey Horvitz, Jane Garnett, Tom Nunan

Director of photography: Dick Pope

Production designer: Ondrej Nekvasil

Music: Philip Glass

Costume designer: Ngila Dickson

Editor: Naomi Geraghty

Cast:

Eisenheim: Edward Norton

Chief Inspector Uhl: Paul Giamatti

Sophie: Jessica Biel

Crown Prince Leopold: Rufus Sewell

Josef Fisher: Eddie Marsan

Jurka: Jake Wood

Wiligut: Tom Fisher

Doctor: Karl Johnson

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 110 minutes »

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The Illusionist

30 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- An old fashioned entertainment set in 1900 Vienna, "The Illusionist" features a standout performance by Edward Norton as the magician Eisenheim, who may or may not have supernatural powers. Outstanding production values and mysterious subject matter give the film a surprisingly opulent feel for an independent Sundance entry, which could work to its advantage in some mainstream markets.

Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser and written and directed by Neil Burger ("Interview With the Assassin"), "The Illusionist" is like a dreamscape existing between sleep and consciousness, the old world and the new. It's no accident that the story, with an undercurrent of inexplicable psychic phenomenon, takes place in Freud's Vienna.

In a prologue, we see the young Eisenheim (Aaron Johnson), the son of a carpenter, having a chance encounter with a traveling magician and finding his calling. As a young and novice practitioner, he attracts the attention of the lovely Sophie, scion of an aristocratic family. Their bond is indeed one of those magical things that cannot be explained. Then, when her family forcefully separates them, Eisenheim travels the world learning his trade.

Years later, he is back in Vienna and the talk of the town. Sporting a distinguished goatee and displaying a great inner stillness, Eisenheim commands the grand stage. There has always been an undercurrent of mystery about Norton, so he was an excellent choice for the role, and after a relatively low profile for the past few years, he reminds you what a powerful performer he is.

One evening, a beautiful woman volunteers for a trick on stage and Eisenheim is stricken: it's Sophie (Jessica Biel) all grown up. Unfortunately, she is now the mistress of the power-hungry Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Consequently, Eisenheim falls on the wrong side of the law, enforced by Chief Inspector Uhl. As the inspector, Paul Giamatti is never really sinister but with an accent and hat he is able to convey a darker side to go with his innate likeability. As Eisenheim violates the laws of the land, and perhaps the laws of nature, the story is told through the inspector's sometimes incredulous and misleading eyes.

Sophie and Eisenheim consummate their relationship, and in a fit of jealous rage the Prince slays her -- or does he? This turns out to be the central mystery of the film, which tests whether Eisenheim is a mere illusionist or possessor of some secret power. Sharp audience members may figure out the answer long before the ending, which somewhat diminishes the fun of the film.

Still, with Ricky Jay as the magic advisor, the stunts themselves -- an orange tree that blossoms on stage, a sword that stands upright in the ground, spirits from the dead stalking the theater -- are performed authentically as they would have been done at the turn of the last century. Burger purposely used little CGI for the magic and tries to follow a trick from beginning to end without cutting away, so the illusions can be experienced as they would have been by the audience at that time.

Veteran cinematographer Dick Pope captures all the grace notes and dark corners of Prague sitting in for Vienna and Ondrej Nakvasil's production design, especially for the prince's palace and the theater where Eisenheim performs, has created a stage both real and fanciful where the human heart is the most mysterious thing.

THE ILLUSIONIST

A Bob Yari Prods., Bulls Eye Entertainment, Michael London/Koppelman Levien production in asssociation with Contagious Pictures

Credits: Director: Neil Burger; Writer: Burger, based on a story by Steven Millhauser; Producers: Michael London, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Bob Yari, Cathy Schulman; Executive producers: Jane Garnett, Tom Nunan; Director of photography: Dick Pope; Production designer: Ondrej Nekvasil; Music: Philip Glass; Costume designer: Ngila Dickson: Editor: Naomi Geraghty.

Cast: Eisenheim: Edward Norton; Chief Inspector Uhl: Paul Giamatti; Sophie: Jessica Biel; Crown Prince Leopold: Rufus Sewell; Josef Fisher: Eddie Marsan; Jurka: Jake Wood; Wiligut: Tom Fisher; Doctor: Karl Johnson

No MPAA rating. Running time: 110 minutes.

»

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Sewell Dumped by Wife

3 January 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British actor Rufus Sewell has been ditched by his wife of under two years for a restaurant tycoon. Sewell, 38, and 27 year old Amy Gardner only married in 2004. Producer Gardner has reportedly fallen for Will Rickers and set up home with him in London's Holland Park - prompting The Legend Of Zorro star Sewell to begin divorce proceedings. Sewell's first marriage to Yasmin Abdallah ended in 2000 after just a year. »

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8 items from 2006


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