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13 items from 2003


Runaway Jury

12 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens

October 17

Like a juicy steak served to a man suffering on a diet of micro-greens and tofu, Runaway Jury will be devoured by fans of movie melodramas. Once a staple of the studios, the melodrama has been largely abandoned in favor of action, special effects and sensationalism. But Runaway Jury, directed by Gary Fleder, might just revive the cinema where intense, strong personalities clash in mortal conflict, where much is at stake and wild plot twists and turns fuel the rising tension.

There are 75 speaking roles here, yet at the movie's core are stars John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and Bruce Davison -- all of whom clearly relish such red-blooded, morally ambivalent roles. This crowd-pleaser from Fox should not only become a runaway hit but might restore the melodrama as an American movie genre.

In past movies about the law -- including those based on legal thrillers by lawyer-author John Grisham, whose 1996 best seller is the basis for this movie -- stories have focused on courtroom theatrics or a murder mystery or the relationship between lawyers and clients or even, in the memorable Twelve Angry Men, on the jury itself. Runaway Jury manages all this and more. The screenplay is credited to four writers, normally a signal of a misshapen mess, but what emerges here is taut storytelling where character leads to action and action leads back to character.

In the legal profession there exist people called "jury consultants," who bone up on enough psychology to advise trial attorneys on jury selection. Grisham takes this several steps further to imagine a ruthless superdetective, an amoral rascal named Rankin Fitch (Hackman), who, backed by an army of high-tech personnel, burrows into the private lives of the jury pool not only to divine which potential jurors are most likely to vote in favor of a client, but to dig up enough dirt -- if push comes to shove -- to guarantee a verdict. As Fitch puts it in his signature line: "A trial is too important to be left up to juries."

Having established a lucrative business defending gun manufacturers in lawsuits brought by victims of gun violence around the country, Fitch runs into an unforeseen opponent in a New Orleans civil suit brought against a powerful gun consortium. One juror, Nick Easter (Cusack), contacts him through a mysterious woman who calls herself Marlee (Weisz) to declare that he controls the jury and it's for sale. Not only that, he contacts the plaintiff's attorney, chivalrous Southern attorney Wendall Rohr (Hoffman), with the same proposal. The price is $10 million.

Who can claim the moral high ground in the game of cat and mouse that ensues is not initially clear. Nor are the individual motives obvious. Fitch needs proof of Nick's ability to "control" the jury. And, boy, does he gets it. But Fitch plays hardball, demonstrating that he is not above blackmail and intimidation of Nick's fellow jurors. Meanwhile, Wendall struggles with his conscience. He believes sincerely in his case, and even a mistrial would not serve his purpose. So perhaps his ethics are flexible enough to pony up.

Thus, the movie runs off in several directions. Nick must carefully worm his way into his fellow jurors' confidence while eliminating or neutralizing those not on his side. A Fitch operative heads for Ohio to investigate the background of this mystifying juror. The no-nonsense Judge Harkin (Bruce McGill) tries to get to the bottom of this strange jury. Wendall and defense counsel Durwood Cable (Davison) do battle in emotional courtroom scenes, while Marlee and Fitch circle one another, each looking for ways to gain the advantage over the other. The climax, a strong piece of writing, editing and direction, brings all the plotlines to a head.

There is even time for a bathroom confrontation between screen legends Hackman and Hoffman -- their first onscreen pairing -- that ranks alongside Al Pacino and Robert De Niro's encounter in Heat.

Robert Elswit's nervous camera and realistic lighting of the French Quarter, Fitch's dark "war room" and the mahogany-trimmed courtroom contribute to the overheated atmosphere. Even Abigail Murray's costumes take on importance as everyone carefully selects just the right suit of armor to enter and play a role in the legal arena.

RUNAWAY JURY

20th Century Fox

Regency Enterprises presents a New Regency production

Credits: Director: Gary Fleder

Screenwriters: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland, Matthew Chapman

Based on the novel by: John Grisham

Producers: Arnon Milchan, Gary Fleder, Christopher Mankiewicz

Executive producer: Jeffrey Downer

Director of photography: Robert Elswit

Production designer: Nelson Coates

Music: Christopher Young

Costume designer: Abigail Murray

Editor: William Steinkamp

Cast:

Nick Easter: John Cusack

Rankin Fitch: Gene Hackman

Wendall Rohr: Dustin Hoffman

Marlee: Rachel Weisz

Cable: Bruce Davison

Judge Harkin: Bruce McGill

Lawrence Green: Jeremy Piven

Running time -- 127 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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Grant, Stringer, Lansbury, Weir rule Britannia awards

9 November 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Hugh Grant, Howard Stringer, Peter Weir and Angela Lansbury were the toast of the town Saturday night as the quartet was feted by BAFTA/LA at the organization's 12th annual Britannia Awards. The industry's top executives and a crowd of celebrities turned out for the event, which was held at the Century Plaza Hotel. Showing up to praise the Britannia honorees were Sony's Amy Pascal and Jeff Blake, Revolution Studios' Joe Roth, 20th Century Fox's Tom Rothman, MGM's Chris McGurk, producer Laura Ziskin, CAA's Richard Lovett and Beth Swofford along with Sandra Bullock, Russell Crowe, Robin Williams, Michael York, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Rachel Weisz, Robert Wagner and event host Alan Cumming. The first award of the evening -- the 1st John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Artistic Achievement -- was given to Weir. In accepting, Weir thanked the late Schlesinger, whom he credited with pushing along his dreams of being a filmmaker. He said he met the director only once, at a swimming pool in Los Angeles, but he was too shocked to introduce himself. "I wanted to say something and thank him for what he's given me over the years," Weir recalled, but instead, all he could muster up was, " 'Don't you find American swimming pools to be somewhat overheated.' Then we went our separate ways, but I followed his films and tonight I get a chance to thank you, John, for all the gifts you have given me over the years." »

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Boxoffice preview: Crowds hellbent for Leatherface

17 October 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The combined star power of John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz will face off against the appeal of the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface this weekend. But indicators suggest that the all-star cast of Runaway Jury will be no match for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which appears headed for a bloody boxoffice victory. Opening ultrawide in 3,016 theaters, New Line Cinema's R-rated remake has scored very well in its preview screenings and is attracting under-25 horror fans in droves. Based on the 1974 cult hit, the Marcus Nispel-directed redo stars Jessica Biel and Eric Balfour as two of five twentysomethings trying to escape the clutches of a monstrous clan of Texas cannibals. Targeting the coveted audience of young moviegoers always looking to try out the latest cinematic fare, the R-rated Chainsaw is certain to cross the $20 million mark and could gross upward of $25 million. Jury, a Regency Enterprises production released by 20th Century Fox, is attempting to resurrect the legal melodrama, but its drawing power may not prove as potent as it originally appeared. Armed with an A-list cast and based on John Grisham's best seller, the movie was originally tracking in the $17 million-$18 million range. But tracking for the PG-13 film directed by Gary Fleder has weakened in recent days. Now industry insiders are pegging the movie in the $12 million-$13 million range, putting it in a close race with other adult dramas for the No. 2 spot. »

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'Constantine' for Rossdale, Hounsou

8 September 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Gavin Rossdale and Djimon Hounsou are poised to join Warner Bros. Pictures' Constantine for helmer Francis Lawrence. Based on an adaptation of the DC-Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, the film is toplined by Keanu Reeves along with Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton. Set in the occult world, the film centers on John Constantine (Reeves), a man who dabbles in the occult and teams with a female police officer (Weisz) to fight evil forces. Rossdale will play Balthazar, a nemesis of Reeves' character, while Hounsou will star as Papa Midnite, the owner of an occult club who was once a demon fighter like Constantine but is now trying to get out of the business. »

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Swinton bedevils 'Constantine'

25 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Tilda Swinton is in negotiations to join the cast of Warner Bros. Pictures' Constantine, the studio has confirmed. The project, based on an adaptation of the DC-Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, will be directed by Francis Lawrence. Hellblazer is described as Dirty Harry set in the occult world. Reeves will star as John Constantine, a man who dabbles in the occult and teams with a female police officer to fight evil forces. Rachel Weisz will play Angela, the cop who becomes involved with Constantine when her twin sister dies in a mysterious suicide. Swinton would play Gabriel, a rogue angel battling Constantine. Kevin Brodbin (The Glimmer Man) wrote the original script, with a rewrite by Mark Bomback and Frank Cappello. »

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Weisz dabbles in occult for 'Constantine'

21 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Rachel Weisz is in negotiations to star opposite Keanu Reeves in Warner Bros. Pictures' Constantine, the studio has confirmed. The project, based on an adaptation of the DC-Vertigo comic book Hellblazer, will be directed by Francis Lawrence. Hellblazer is described as Dirty Harry set in the occult world. Reeves will star as John Constantine, a man who dabbles in the occult and teams with a female police officer to fight evil forces. Weisz would play Angela, an officer who becomes involved with Constantine when her twin sister dies in a mysterious suicide. Kevin Brodbin (The Glimmer Man) wrote the original script, with a rewrite by Mark Bomback and Frank Cappello. Lauren Shuler Donner is producing the project with former worldwide production president Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Akiva Goldsman. Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan and Dan Kolsrud will executive produce. Donners Co. executive Michael Aguilar also will receive producing credit. Warners senior vp production Bob Brassel is overseeing the project. Weisz, repped by CAA and the Firm, next stars in 20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises' Runaway Jury and DreamWorks' Envy. The actress, currently shooting the indie feature Daisy Winters, recently starred in Confidence, The Shape of Things and About a Boy. »

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Fleder in series deal at Sony TV

8 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Feature director Gary Fleder has signed a deal with Sony Pictures Television to develop series projects for the studio. Under the terms of the one-year pact, Fleder will serve as a producer and director on the shows that go forward. He has tapped former CBS Prods. executive Eric Timm to help him identify talent and shepherd projects. Fleder most recently directed the 20th Century Fox feature film adaptation of John Grisham's novel Runaway Jury. The film, starring John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz, is slated for an Oct. 17 release. »

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Ben Stiller Comedy Set for Theatrical Release

6 August 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Contrary to recent reports, the Ben Stiller comedy Envy, in which Stiller co-stars with Jack Black, is currently set for an April 2004 theatrical release and will not be going direct to video. The DreamWorks comedy, about two business partners who have a falling out over an invention that makes one of them filthy rich, also stars Rachel Weisz and Christopher Walken. »

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Ben Stiller's Film To Go Straight to Video?

4 August 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Movie insiders fear Ben Stiller's new flick Envy will bypass the cinema and go straight to video. The funnyman's new comedy, about two business partners who fall out over an invention that evaporates dog waste, has been rescheduled numerous times and now looks set to miss the big screen altogether. The feature was originally supposed to be released in May but has now been put back until next year. Envy's studio DreamWorks say the movie, which also stars Jack Black, Rachel Weisz and Christopher Walken, has been rescheduled due to last-minute adjustments. »

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Young Roberts rooted in 'Daisy'

1 August 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Emma Roberts, the 12-year-old niece of Julia Roberts, is set to star opposite Rachel Weisz in the indie drama Daisy Winters for director Beth LaMure and John Wells Prods. Shooting is scheduled to start Tuesday in Vancouver on the $5 million-budgeted film. John Wells is producing through his Warner Bros. Pictures-based production outfit along with helmer Peyton Reed. Penned by LaMure, Daisy stars Emma Roberts in the title role as an 11-year-old girl who lives with her photographer mother in a small Oregon town. After experiencing a life-changing loss, Daisy copes in an especially unique and remarkable way. Laura Holstein, executive vp features at John Wells Prods., will executive produce along with Huntley Ritter, Karin Levinson and David Goddard. »

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'The Mummy' Set for Return Without Fraser and Weisz

11 March 2003 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

The third installment of The Mummy franchise is set to hit movie screens - without its stars Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. The latest concept being developed for the latest flick would have ancient King Imhotep waking up "in contemporary times, with new stars" according to star Arnold Vosloo. Vosloo notes that Brendan and Rachel were last seen with a baby in The Mummy Returns and if they were to return, questions about aging their characters would have to be addressed. Vosloo says of the two previous films which were set in the 1920s, "In a weird way, we've kind of done that period. Taking the story to a different time would open up all new possibilities. It could even be set in the 1950s or '60s - whenever the Mummy wakes up." »

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The Shape of Things

22 January 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- The philistines take on the artistes in Neil LaBute's latest batch of vitriol.

Distilled from his own stage play and resembling a student film shot during spring break when everyone is away, "The Shape of Things" is one square talking-head piece after another. Intermittently brainy, it should find some minor interest among sophomoric undergrads and get a passing grade on the fest circuit, where ditties take on magnitude through the mere fact of the festival factor -- like at Sundance, where viewers swoon at tripe because they are swayed by the setting and circumstance.

Clunking from one talk scene to another, "Shape" most resembles a late-night college dorm treatise on art vs. morality. In this compact case, four collegians square off: There's Adam (Paul Rudd), an amorphic mope, and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), a strident graduate art student. Stop to think: Get it? Adam and Eve. Such is the sublime subtlety of LaBute's dramaturgy.

There's also Philip (Frederick Weller), er, the philistine, and, by jiminy, Jenny (Gretchen Mol). She's the cute seductress, and "Jeze-bel" might be a bit too arcane for today's collegiate moniker. Lo, following right along in your Gideon Bible or handy-dandy museum guide, whichever you favor, there's more: Adam listens to Eve, and verily, woe and pestilence do smite him in the end.

In this nonmoving movie, LaBute has cobbled together a slew of similar setups in which opposing viewpoints duel it out. In general, it's pretty uninteresting, so let's cut to the most cutthroat: Philistine Philip vs. Poseur Eve. Philip is LaBute's prototypical angry, macho man. He detests Evelyn, who is an in-your-face artsy-fartsy type. Evelyn is deep in creativity with her project "thingy." They duel it out: What is art? What is pretentious b.s.? It gets nasty, which is the operative word for LaBute's aesthetic. Discussion turns to anger, and people huff off after nearly every scene in a major snit. Then comes the wound licking as our four representative characters interact and take sides. Unfortunately, it's all pretty arithmetical and obvious, even with the sexual equation factored in.

LaBute packs an intriguingly twisted wallop at the end, but it's merely made of the stuff that would be a subplot in a more mature movie. Credit to the cast members, though, for generally hitting on the head their particular parts. Unfortunately, LaBute hammers this "Shape" to smithereens with argument after argument. Characters don't so much interact but rather act out, and ultimately, the anger that fuels each scene doesn't add up to what one might call drama.

The best thing about "Shape" is the music: Elvis Costello belts out a slew of songs that give this sophomoric "thingy" its most compelling form.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS

Focus Features

Working Title and Pretty Pictures

Credits:

Producers: Neil LaBute, Gail Mutrux, Philip Steuer, Rachel Weisz

Screenwriter-director: Neil LaBute

Based on the stage play by: Neil LaBute

Executive producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Director of photography: James L Carter

Art director/costume designer: Lynette Meyer

Editor: Joel Plotch

Songs: Elvis Costello

Production mixers: Felipe Borrero, Ed Novick

Cast:

Jenny: Gretchen Mol

Adam: Paul Rudd

Evelyn: Rachel Weisz

Philip: Frederick Weller

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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The Shape of Things

22 January 2003 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- The philistines take on the artistes in Neil LaBute's latest batch of vitriol.

Distilled from his own stage play and resembling a student film shot during spring break when everyone is away, "The Shape of Things" is one square talking-head piece after another. Intermittently brainy, it should find some minor interest among sophomoric undergrads and get a passing grade on the fest circuit, where ditties take on magnitude through the mere fact of the festival factor -- like at Sundance, where viewers swoon at tripe because they are swayed by the setting and circumstance.

Clunking from one talk scene to another, "Shape" most resembles a late-night college dorm treatise on art vs. morality. In this compact case, four collegians square off: There's Adam (Paul Rudd), an amorphic mope, and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), a strident graduate art student. Stop to think: Get it? Adam and Eve. Such is the sublime subtlety of LaBute's dramaturgy.

There's also Philip (Frederick Weller), er, the philistine, and, by jiminy, Jenny (Gretchen Mol). She's the cute seductress, and "Jeze-bel" might be a bit too arcane for today's collegiate moniker. Lo, following right along in your Gideon Bible or handy-dandy museum guide, whichever you favor, there's more: Adam listens to Eve, and verily, woe and pestilence do smite him in the end.

In this nonmoving movie, LaBute has cobbled together a slew of similar setups in which opposing viewpoints duel it out. In general, it's pretty uninteresting, so let's cut to the most cutthroat: Philistine Philip vs. Poseur Eve. Philip is LaBute's prototypical angry, macho man. He detests Evelyn, who is an in-your-face artsy-fartsy type. Evelyn is deep in creativity with her project "thingy." They duel it out: What is art? What is pretentious b.s.? It gets nasty, which is the operative word for LaBute's aesthetic. Discussion turns to anger, and people huff off after nearly every scene in a major snit. Then comes the wound licking as our four representative characters interact and take sides. Unfortunately, it's all pretty arithmetical and obvious, even with the sexual equation factored in.

LaBute packs an intriguingly twisted wallop at the end, but it's merely made of the stuff that would be a subplot in a more mature movie. Credit to the cast members, though, for generally hitting on the head their particular parts. Unfortunately, LaBute hammers this "Shape" to smithereens with argument after argument. Characters don't so much interact but rather act out, and ultimately, the anger that fuels each scene doesn't add up to what one might call drama.

The best thing about "Shape" is the music: Elvis Costello belts out a slew of songs that give this sophomoric "thingy" its most compelling form.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS

Focus Features

Working Title and Pretty Pictures

Credits:

Producers: Neil LaBute, Gail Mutrux, Philip Steuer, Rachel Weisz

Screenwriter-director: Neil LaBute

Based on the stage play by: Neil LaBute

Executive producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Director of photography: James L Carter

Art director/costume designer: Lynette Meyer

Editor: Joel Plotch

Songs: Elvis Costello

Production mixers: Felipe Borrero, Ed Novick

Cast:

Jenny: Gretchen Mol

Adam: Paul Rudd

Evelyn: Rachel Weisz

Philip: Frederick Weller

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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13 items from 2003


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