8 items from 2006
Emmy award winner Eddie Izzard is no longer part of the hit TV drama 24 - after completing only one day of filming. The cross-dressing comedian quietly parted with the show and is currently working on his upcoming TV series The Riches with fellow Brit Minnie Driver, which was picked up by the FX network in September. Izzard has been replaced by British actor David Hunt, husband of former Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton. Hunt will take over the role and play a villainous accomplice on the show named McCarthy. »
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.
Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions
Bristol Bay Prods. presents a Sunflower production
Director: Michael Apted
Screenwriter: Steven Knight
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
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 »
Former talk show queen Rosie O'Donnell is to return to the small screen as the new co-host of magazine show The View, according to internet reports. The beloved comedienne, who quit her eponymous hit daytime show in 2002 to concentrate on raising her kids with partner Kelli, is set to be announced as the replacement for Meredith Vieira on the program. TV executives will announce the news of O'Donnell's new TV role later today, according to the reports. Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton and US newscaster Connie Chung were also reportedly up for the job to replace Vieira, who is leaving the show to co-anchor US breakfast news show Today. »
Jenny McCarthy has been tapped to co-star opposite Patricia Heaton in Heaton's untitled comedy pilot for ABC. Meanwhile, Richard Kind has joined CBS' comedy pilot The Angriest Man in Suburbia. The untitled Heaton project, from Touchstone TV, stars Heaton as a recent widow who finds friends and a path to a new life through joining the PTA. McCarthy, who recently wrapped ABC Family's holiday movie Mary Christmas, next appears in the summer feature John Tucker Must Die. »
Patricia Heaton could be the next actress to host a daytime talk show. Sources said the Emmy winner is in talks with Buena Vista Television for a talker that most likely would be eyed to launch in fall 2007. The project is described as being in the vein of ABC's daytime talker The View, where Heaton would serve as one of multiple hosts, according to sources. In addition, sources said Buena Vista Television also is in talks with Marianela, a VJ on music television network fuse, about doing a project. Marianela hosts the network's live weekday show Daily Download. »
For nine seasons, millions of viewers loved everybody on CBS' Everybody Loves Raymond. Now some of the key individuals behind that show are about to find out how they rate on their own. Patricia Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner for her work on Raymond, is starring in an untitled half-hour for ABC about a recently widowed woman who begins a new life after joining the PTA. Three-time Emmy victor Brad Garrett is toplining Fox's 'Til Death, an ensemble comedy featuring him as a long-married man who lives next door to newlyweds. Additionally, Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal and two of his top writers have joined forces on the CBS comedy pilot Play Nice. »
John Lithgow has been tapped to star in the NBC comedy pilot Twenty Good Years, while Barry Sonnenfeld is set to direct ABC's comedy pilot Notes From the Underbelly. Additionally, Jay Mohr is set to star in another NBC comedy pilot, Community Service, with Christopher Wiehl also cast; Alicia Witt will play the title role in Fox's comedy pilot More, Patience; Justine Bateman has joined ABC's untitled Patricia Heaton comedy pilot; Marisa Coughlan has landed one of the leads in ABC's untitled sisters comedy pilot, lifting the contingency on the project; and Johnny Lewis has nabbed the lead in another ABC comedy pilot, Southern Comfort. In other pilot-casting news, Eion Bailey has joined CBS' Orpheus, Tim Daly is set to co-star in CBS' untitled Steinbergs drama, Abraham Benrubi has joined ABC's one-hour Men in Trees, John Patrick Amedori has been added to Fox's drama Vanished, and Kevin Rahm has come aboard NBC's comedy Alpha Mom. »
Jesse Bradford is the answer to Twenty Questions as the actor has been tapped as the lead in the ABC drama pilot, while Eddie McClintock has gotten the second lead in NBC's untitled Chris Sheridan comedy, lifting the contingency on the pilot. Meanwhile, Colm Meaney and Sarah Jones have joined ABC's drama pilot Sixty Minute Man, Gerald McRaney has joined CBS' drama pilot Jericho, newcomer Kat Foster has landed one of the female leads in ABC's comedy pilot 'Til Death, Justina Machado and Scott Holroyd have come on board NBC's comedy pilot Alpha Mom, and Mo Collins has joined Patricia Heaton in her untitled comedy pilot at ABC. Additionally, Michael Cassidy and Amber Heard have been added to the CW's untitled Kevin Williamson drama pilot, while Nichole Hiltz has joined USA Network's pilot In Plain Sight. »
8 items from 2006
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