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6 items from 2006


The Dead Girl

8 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "The Dead Girl".AFI Fest

By the movie's end, writer-director Karen Moncrieff's "The Dead Girl" delivers considerable emotional impact. But that doesn't mean you've enjoyed the journey. Moncrieff chooses to scrutinize highly unpleasant material but, fortunately, she never takes an exploitative or sensationalistic approach. The movie has its integrity. Her female characters are deeply troubled individuals, and there is little to comfort viewers that any of these lives might turn around or improve. Yet Moncrieff views these people, these victims, with compassionate understanding.

While Moncrieff spares you gruesome details, she demands that you look at what happens to people seemingly out of control of their lives and obsessions, who get caught up in fateful chain of events that can come to no good. The First Look release, which debuted at AFI Fest, opens Dec. 29 in Los Angeles and New York before a January national rollout. Despite an impressive cast, only adventurous adult viewers will head to art houses for "Dead Girl".

The movie unfolds in five vignettes about seemingly unrelated people. It soon is clear enough that these lives are connected to a dead girl discovered in a vacant field. You further suspect the murder to be the work of a serial killer.

Serial killers are an old staple in crime novels and movie thrillers, but such Hannibal Lecters are fictional monsters, good for quick chills and a laugh. Moncrieff will have none of this; she is after the horrifyingly mundane reality of victims, killers and those tragically connected to either or both.

Each vignette focuses on a central female character. Arden (Toni Collette) discovers the body, but her lonely life as a caretaker to her ill, abusive mother (Piper Laurie) is turned upside down by reporting her discovery to police. Her mother is furious, and she attracts unwanted attention from strangers, including a grocery store clerk (Giovanni Ribisi) who confuses his sexual desire with an obsession with serial killers. Arden is just lonely enough in life to give herself to this man.

Leah (Rose Byrne) is a forensics grad student who, when confronted with the mutilated body of the dead girl, thinks that perhaps she might be her young sister who went missing so many years before. Gruesome as it would be, this discovery would at least bring closure for her and her parents (Mary Steenburgen, Bruce Davison), who still wallow in denial.

An aging couple, Ruth Mary Beth Hurt) and her husband Carl (Nick Searcy), quarrel constantly over Carl's constant absences at night. Then she discovers one unit in the storage facility Carl runs contains ominous personal effects belonging to young women.

Melora Marcia Gay Harden) comes to Los Angeles searching for answers about the dead girl, who was her runaway daughter. She meets the daughter's roommate, Rosetta (Kerry Washington), a battered hooker, and learns a piece of news that changes her life. Finally, in a flashback, the movie shows the last day in the life of Krista (Brittany Murphy), a woman riven by violence, drug use and severe psychological issues yet desperate to reclaim her innocence.

The story is set in Los Angeles, but Moncrieff has selected the most desolate, almost barren urban landscape imaginable. Here people lead hopeless, angry lives, never certain what went wrong or, worse, how to repair them. There is a suggestion of hope in the mother-roommate vignette. In this sequence alone, people are lead to understand what happened and how they might salvage their lives.

Cinematographer Michael Grady and designer Kristan Andrews subtly depict this world of isolation with just the right tones, details and compositions that that link environment to character.

THE DEAD GIRL

First Look Pictures

Lakeshow Entertainment/Pitbull Pictures

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Karen Moncrieff

Producers: Richard Wright, Eric Karten, Kevin Turen, Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstern, Gary Lucchesi

Director of photography: Michael Grady

Production designer: Kristan Andrews

Music: Adam Gorgoni

Costume designer: Susie DeSanto

Editor: Toby Yates

Cast:

Krista: Brittany Murphy

Arden: Toni Collette

Rudy: Giovanni Ribisi

Mother: Piper Laurie

Leah: Rose Byrne

Beverly: Mary Steenburgen

Bill: Bruce Davison

Ruth: Mary Beth Hurt

Carl: Nick Searcy

Melora: Marcia Gay Harden

Rosetta: Kerry Washington

Tarlow: Josh Brolin

Running time -- 93 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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The Dead Girl

8 November 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

AFI Fest

By the movie's end, writer-director Karen Moncrieff's "The Dead Girl" delivers considerable emotional impact. But that doesn't mean you've enjoyed the journey. Moncrieff chooses to scrutinize highly unpleasant material but, fortunately, she never takes an exploitative or sensationalistic approach. The movie has its integrity. Her female characters are deeply troubled individuals, and there is little to comfort viewers that any of these lives might turn around or improve. Yet Moncrieff views these people, these victims, with compassionate understanding.

While Moncrieff spares you gruesome details, she demands that you look at what happens to people seemingly out of control of their lives and obsessions, who get caught up in fateful chain of events that can come to no good. The First Look release, which debuted at AFI Fest, opens Dec. 29 in Los Angeles and New York before a January national rollout. Despite an impressive cast, only adventurous adult viewers will head to art houses for "Dead Girl".

The movie unfolds in five vignettes about seemingly unrelated people. It soon is clear enough that these lives are connected to a dead girl discovered in a vacant field. You further suspect the murder to be the work of a serial killer.

Serial killers are an old staple in crime novels and movie thrillers, but such Hannibal Lecters are fictional monsters, good for quick chills and a laugh. Moncrieff will have none of this; she is after the horrifyingly mundane reality of victims, killers and those tragically connected to either or both.

Each vignette focuses on a central female character. Arden (Toni Collette) discovers the body, but her lonely life as a caretaker to her ill, abusive mother (Piper Laurie) is turned upside down by reporting her discovery to police. Her mother is furious, and she attracts unwanted attention from strangers, including a grocery store clerk (Giovanni Ribisi) who confuses his sexual desire with an obsession with serial killers. Arden is just lonely enough in life to give herself to this man.

Leah (Rose Byrne) is a forensics grad student who, when confronted with the mutilated body of the dead girl, thinks that perhaps she might be her young sister who went missing so many years before. Gruesome as it would be, this discovery would at least bring closure for her and her parents (Mary Steenburgen, Bruce Davison), who still wallow in denial.

An aging couple, Ruth Mary Beth Hurt) and her husband Carl (Nick Searcy), quarrel constantly over Carl's constant absences at night. Then she discovers one unit in the storage facility Carl runs contains ominous personal effects belonging to young women.

Melora Marcia Gay Harden) comes to Los Angeles searching for answers about the dead girl, who was her runaway daughter. She meets the daughter's roommate, Rosetta (Kerry Washington), a battered hooker, and learns a piece of news that changes her life. Finally, in a flashback, the movie shows the last day in the life of Krista (Brittany Murphy), a woman riven by violence, drug use and severe psychological issues yet desperate to reclaim her innocence.

The story is set in Los Angeles, but Moncrieff has selected the most desolate, almost barren urban landscape imaginable. Here people lead hopeless, angry lives, never certain what went wrong or, worse, how to repair them. There is a suggestion of hope in the mother-roommate vignette. In this sequence alone, people are lead to understand what happened and how they might salvage their lives.

Cinematographer Michael Grady and designer Kristan Andrews subtly depict this world of isolation with just the right tones, details and compositions that that link environment to character.

THE DEAD GIRL

First Look Pictures

Lakeshow Entertainment/Pitbull Pictures

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Karen Moncrieff

Producers: Richard Wright, Eric Karten, Kevin Turen, Tom Rosenberg, Henry Winterstern, Gary Lucchesi

Director of photography: Michael Grady

Production designer: Kristan Andrews

Music: Adam Gorgoni

Costume designer: Susie DeSanto

Editor: Toby Yates

Cast:

Krista: Brittany Murphy

Arden: Toni Collette

Rudy: Giovanni Ribisi

Mother: Piper Laurie

Leah: Rose Byrne

Beverly: Mary Steenburgen

Bill: Bruce Davison

Ruth: Mary Beth Hurt

Carl: Nick Searcy

Melora: Marcia Gay Harden

Rosetta: Kerry Washington

Tarlow: Josh Brolin

Running time -- 93 minutes

MPAA rating: R

»

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CW votes for Lurie's 'Capital'

13 October 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Rod Lurie's 2004 pilot Capital City is getting a second chance at the CW. The network has closed a deal with Touchstone TV to redevelop the project, which originally was developed for ABC. Lurie is writing and executive producing through his Touchstone TV-based Battle Plan Prods. He also is attached to direct if the project is picked up to pilot. DreamWorks TV, which co-produced the ABC pilot with Touchstone TV, is expected to come on board to co-produce the revamped project for the CW. Capital is an ensemble drama that follows a young woman's journey through the congressional landscape. Leslie Bibb starred in the original two-hour pilot, whose star-studded cast included Peter Fonda, David Paymer, Tom Berenger and Mary Steenburgen. »

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Steenburgen, Andrews in 'Brave' world

2 June 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Naveen Andrews and Mary Steenburgen are showing their pluck by taking on The Brave One. Neil Jordan is directing the Jodie Foster revenge thriller, which Joel Silver is producing for Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Prods. Foster is set as the title character, a woman who recovers from a brutal attack and sets out on a dark psychological and physical journey for revenge and justice. Andrews will play Foster's fiance, while Steenburgen is her boss at the newspaper for which she writes. »

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'Elvis' sighting for Goldcrest, Burnt Orange

11 April 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Goldcrest Films International and Burnt Orange Prods. are co-producing Elvis and Anabelle, Will Geiger's feature centering on the love affair between a beauty queen and a mortician's son. Max Minghella and Blake Lively will play the title roles in the dark romantic comedy, which co-stars Mary Steenburgen and Keith Carradine. The film, which began principal photography Monday in Austin, is produced by Burnt Orange's Carolyn Pfeiffer and Goldcrest's Nick and John Quested. Goldcrest is handling international sales. »

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Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School

20 January 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY -- "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" is a film for anyone who has ever longed to revisit a childhood sweetheart.

Although that's not exactly what happens, the film is an elegiac journey to a sweeter, more civilized place in the heart. Predictable and decidedly old-fashioned in its sensibility, the film is likely to win over audiences if not critics.

The story is a fairy tale of sorts, the kind that happens when you meet someone unexpectedly who changes your life. Frank Keane (Robert Carlyle), a baker, is a lost soul going through life on automatic pilot. He is consumed by his wife's unexplained suicide; his closet is still full of her clothes, and he greets her ashes every morning.

On a delivery run one day in his circa-1960s truck, he happens upon a car wreck. The man inside, Steve Mills (John Goodman), is crushed behind the wheel. To keep him alive, Frank gets him to talk about his life. Steve was on his way to a rendezvous with his childhood girlfriend, whom he hasn't seen in 40 years but has sworn to meet at the Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, the place they first met as kids, on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millennium.

As Steve relates his life story between gasps and Frank reveals some of his own experience, the wheel of fate turns. To be sure it's oiled by a heavy dose of syrup, but it is hard to resist a dying man's wish. Steve wants Frank to keep his appointment and go to the school to meet his girlfriend Lisa in his place. Unfortunately, she's a no-show. But Frank stays for class anyway and the magic of dance starts to take effect.

As dispensed by Marienne Hotchkiss (Mary Steenburgen), evoking the ghost of her dead mother, Marilyn, it's a spell she says can release the deepest hidden feelings and color your life magenta (yes, she says that) if you are prepared to accept the responsibilities. And, of course, there's a girl (Marisa Tomei) there to help the process along.

Naturally, there are some bumps on the road to love -- an irate step-brother (Donnie Wahlberg) who punches out Frank -- and a few hidden secrets, but nothing that would constitute a surprise. Director Randall Miller, who expanded the material from a short he made 15 years ago, tends to go for the easy surface feelings rather than tapping the deeper stuff. Carlyle is light on his feet and easy on the eyes, but Goodman is the closest thing to a big country ham onscreen this year.

The adventures of these people, including Frank's men's group, who eventually turn up at the dance class, could be the stuff of a TV sitcom. But holding disbelief in check and cynicism at bay, one can almost follow Marienne Hotchkiss in her stunning blue-sequined gown slit up one leg as she evokes the mood and manners of the '50s. Guiding her class through the lindy hop or the merengue, Steenburgen has a grace and lightness of touch the rest of the film could have benefited from.

MARILYN HOTCHKISS BALLROOM DANCING AND CHARM SCHOOL

Unclaimed Freight Prods., Charm School, Shoreline Entertainment

Credits:

Director-editor: Randall Miller

Screenwriters: Randall Miller, Jody Savin

Producers: Randall Miller, Jody Savin, Morris Ruskin, Eileen Craft

Executive producers: Art Klein, Ronald Savin, Eduardo Castro

Director of photography: Jonathan Sela

Production designer

Dawn Synder

Music: Mark Adler

Costume designer: Kathryn Morrison

Editor: Randall Miller

Cast:

Frank Keane: Robert Carlyle

Meredith Morrison: Marisa Tomei

Steve Mills: John Goodman

Marienne Hotchkiss: Mary Steenburgen

Randall Ipswich: Donnie Wahlberg

Blake Rische: Ernie Hudson

Rafael Horowitz: David Paymer

Lisa Gobar: Camryn Manheim

Gabe DiFranco: Adam Arkin

Tina: Sonya Braga

Samson: Elden Henson

Matthew Smith: Miguel Sandoval

Booth: Danny DeVito

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 103 minutes »

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6 items from 2006


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