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4 items from 2005


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

6 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens Friday

Arthur Dent fans need not panic.

After succeeding splendidly first as a BBC Radio series, then as a five-book "trilogy" and a subsequent TV series, Douglas Adams' beloved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has taken that tricky leap to the cinema with largely pleasing results.

While the long-awaited movie version has some trouble sustaining the blissfully ironic, witty irreverence that was the Adams sensibility, the fact that it hits the nail on the head to the extent it does should come as great relief to the legions of fans who had reason to be dubious following the author's death in 2001.

That Monty Python-esque target demographic, the one also responsible for making Spamalot a big, fat Broadway hit, should reward the Touchstone Pictures release with stellar though less than astronomical boxoffice, followed by some very smart DVD business.

Using Adams' own second draft as a blueprint, screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run) and innovative music video director Garth Jennings remain true to the highly distinct brand of sci-fi satire that would go on to influence the likes of Men in Black and Ghostbusters.

For those unfamiliar with the Babel Fish, Vogons and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters that occupy the Hitchhiker galaxy, the movie actually begins back on Earth, where everyman Arthur Dent (perfectly cast everyman Martin Freeman, late of The Office) is fighting a losing war with a bulldozer that's about to raze his home.

Coincidentally planet Earth also happens to be minutes away from total annihilation in order to make way for a hyperspace freeway, and Dent, still wearing his pajamas, is rescued in the nick of time by his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who's really an alien who has just been posing as an out-of-work actor.

The two briefly stow away on a spacecraft belonging to the highly bureaucratic, bad-poetry-reading Vogons, before ending up on the Heart of Gold spaceship, which was stolen by the energetic but rather dim President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell channeling George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and assorted rock stars).

Much to Dent's surprise, Beeblebrox is accompanied by comely astrophysicist Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who went by the name of Trish McMillan back when he met her at a costume party.

And that's just for starters.

Also along for the metaphysical mash-up is Marvin, a chronically depressed robot (ideally voiced by Alan Rickman), rather crazed intergalactic missionary Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) and Magrathean planetary construction engineer Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who has overseen the building of a back-up planet Earth.

Jennings, creatively blending bits of CGI with old school FX and Jim Henson's Creature Shop, gets the tone down cold, but like a number of other novice feature directors who cut their teeth on videos, the inspired sequences don't always effectively link together to form a cohesive, involving whole.

Still, there is much to appreciate here, from the terrific casting (heard but not seen are Helen Mirren as the voice of the Deep Thought computer and Stephen Fry providing the amiably glib narration) to production designer Joel Collins' fanciful sets and especially the rousing musical number, "So Long & Thanks For All the Fish," performed by some very wise dolphins who manage to get out while the going's good.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Buena Vista

Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Barber/Birnbaum prodn./A Hammer and Tongs prodn./An Everyman Pictures prodn.

Credits:

Director: Garth Jennings

Screenwriters: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the book by Douglas Adams

Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, Jonathan Glickman

Executive producers: Douglas Adams, Robbie Stamp, Derek Evans

Director of photography: Igor Jadue-Lillo

Production designer: Joel Collins

Editor: Niven Howie

Costume designer: Sammy Sheldon

Music: Joby Talbot

Cast:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Sam Rockwell

Ford Prefect: Mos Def

Trish McMillan/Trillian: Zooey Deschanel

Arthur Dent: Martin Freeman

Slartibartfast: Bill Nighy

Marvin: Warwick Davis

Questular: Anna Chancellor

Voice of Marvin: Alan Rickman

Voice of Deep Thought: Helen Mirren

Narrator: Stephen Fry

Humma Kavula: John Malkovich

MPAA Rating: PG

Running time: 108 minutes

»

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

23 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens Friday

Arthur Dent fans need not panic.

After succeeding splendidly first as a BBC Radio series, then as a five-book "trilogy" and a subsequent TV series, Douglas Adams' beloved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has taken that tricky leap to the cinema with largely pleasing results.

While the long-awaited movie version has some trouble sustaining the blissfully ironic, witty irreverence that was the Adams sensibility, the fact that it hits the nail on the head to the extent it does should come as great relief to the legions of fans who had reason to be dubious following the author's death in 2001.

That Monty Python-esque target demographic, the one also responsible for making Spamalot a big, fat Broadway hit, should reward the Touchstone Pictures release with stellar though less than astronomical boxoffice, followed by some very smart DVD business.

Using Adams' own second draft as a blueprint, screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run) and innovative music video director Garth Jennings remain true to the highly distinct brand of sci-fi satire that would go on to influence the likes of Men in Black and Ghostbusters.

For those unfamiliar with the Babel Fish, Vogons and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters that occupy the Hitchhiker galaxy, the movie actually begins back on Earth, where everyman Arthur Dent (perfectly cast everyman Martin Freeman, late of The Office) is fighting a losing war with a bulldozer that's about to raze his home.

Coincidentally planet Earth also happens to be minutes away from total annihilation in order to make way for a hyperspace freeway, and Dent, still wearing his pajamas, is rescued in the nick of time by his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who's really an alien who has just been posing as an out-of-work actor.

The two briefly stow away on a spacecraft belonging to the highly bureaucratic, bad-poetry-reading Vogons, before ending up on the Heart of Gold spaceship, which was stolen by the energetic but rather dim President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell channeling George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and assorted rock stars).

Much to Dent's surprise, Beeblebrox is accompanied by comely astrophysicist Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who went by the name of Trish McMillan back when he met her at a costume party.

And that's just for starters.

Also along for the metaphysical mash-up is Marvin, a chronically depressed robot (ideally voiced by Alan Rickman), rather crazed intergalactic missionary Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) and Magrathean planetary construction engineer Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who has overseen the building of a back-up planet Earth.

Jennings, creatively blending bits of CGI with old school FX and Jim Henson's Creature Shop, gets the tone down cold, but like a number of other novice feature directors who cut their teeth on videos, the inspired sequences don't always effectively link together to form a cohesive, involving whole.

Still, there is much to appreciate here, from the terrific casting (heard but not seen are Helen Mirren as the voice of the Deep Thought computer and Stephen Fry providing the amiably glib narration) to production designer Joel Collins' fanciful sets and especially the rousing musical number, "So Long & Thanks For All the Fish," performed by some very wise dolphins who manage to get out while the going's good.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Buena Vista

Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Barber/Birnbaum prodn./A Hammer and Tongs prodn./An Everyman Pictures prodn.

Credits:

Director: Garth Jennings

Screenwriters: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the book by Douglas Adams

Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, Jonathan Glickman

Executive producers: Douglas Adams, Robbie Stamp, Derek Evans

Director of photography: Igor Jadue-Lillo

Production designer: Joel Collins

Editor: Niven Howie

Costume designer: Sammy Sheldon

Music: Joby Talbot

Cast:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Sam Rockwell

Ford Prefect: Mos Def

Trish McMillan/Trillian: Zooey Deschanel

Arthur Dent: Martin Freeman

Slartibartfast: Bill Nighy

Marvin: Warwick Davis

Questular: Anna Chancellor

Voice of Marvin: Alan Rickman

Voice of Deep Thought: Helen Mirren

Narrator: Stephen Fry

Humma Kavula: John Malkovich

MPAA Rating: PG

Running time: 108 minutes

»

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Where the boys are this weekend

28 April 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

It's sure to be a foot race for a fan base this weekend at the movies. Both new wide releases -- Buena Vista Pictures' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Sony Pictures' XXX: State of the Union -- are looking to draw young males, and the winner will be decided by whichever group of fans shows up in greater numbers and how wide that core fan base expands. Suspense is sure to build because industry insiders are hoping these two broad-based pictures will provide the necessary shot in the arm that the recently beleaguered boxoffice needs. The Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Pictures might have the upper hand with the first film adaptation of Douglas Adams' uber-popular book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Originally done in 1978 as a BBC radio show about a group of interplanetary travelers and later turned into the widely successful novel and a TV series, the cult satire has a loyal and devoted following. Whether that fan base translates into moviegoers remains to be seen, but sources say tracking puts the film in the mid-$20 million range. The film version is based on a screenplay originally written by Adams. After the author died unexpectedly in 2001, the script was rewritten by Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run, James and the Giant Peach.) Directing the film is Garth Jennings, who along with Nick Goldsmith make up the British commercial and video production and directing team of Hammer & Tongs. Hitchhiker marks Jennings' feature film debut. Spyglass Entertainment is co-producing the PG-rated film. The sci-fi adventure stars Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, with Mos Def filling the role of Ford Prefect. Also featured are Bill Nighy, Zooey Deschanel, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell and John Malkovich. Hitchhiker is sure to play huge on college campuses, but its weekend gross is likely to be more dependent on positive reviews than the other wide opener in the market. The film bows in 3,133 theaters. Sony will open Revolution Studios' XXX: State of the Union on 3,480 screens. A continuation of 2002's high-octane spy actioner XXX, which earned $141 million after opening to $44.5 million, the sequel features neither the original film's star nor its original director. Vin Diesel declined to reprise his role as Xander Cage, an extreme sports athlete-turned-secret agent. And Rob Cohen, who bowed out of directing the sequel, took an executive producing role. Neal Moritz and his Original Film production company produced the movie for Revolution. »

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Lackawanna Blues

27 January 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY -- "Lackawanna Blues" is a spirited, joyful celebration of an indomitable earth mother and the vibrant black community in which she thrives. The film also celebrates the auspicious entry of George C. Wolfe into filmmaking. One of the most critically acclaimed stage directors in New York (and sometimes Los Angeles), Wolfe came aboard to help shape this unusual HBO Films' adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's Obie-winning one-man play. Fortunately, he got seduced into making his feature directing debut.

Like many men of theater with an eye for cinematic detail -- a list that runs from Orson Welles to Sam Mendes -- Wolfe brings a hot theatricality to moviemaking and an instinct for blending dramatic intensity with telling imagery. "Lackawanna Blues" airs Feb. 12 on HBO, but its Sundance reception might lead to more theatrical exposure.

Santiago-Hudson's autobiographical one-man show, in which he changed characters in a heartbeat, explored his youth, growing up in the early 1960s at 32 Wasson Ave. in Lackawanna, N.Y., in the midst of a thriving black community in that Great Lakes city.

The future actor and writer is raised not by his Puerto Rican father, Ruben Sr. (Jimmy Smits), or his mother, Alean (Carmen Ejogo) -- who drift out of his life in losing battles with their own demons -- but by a large, maternal woman everyone calls Nanny (the amazing S. Epatha Merkerson). She runs a boarding house, though that term doesn't do justice to the establishment. The place is a combination diner and halfway house for drifters, grifters and people damaged by life -- by World War II, racism, alcohol and drugs -- where everyone comes to gamble, drink, dance to a jukebox and, by all means, crash Nanny's Friday night fish fry.

Quite a place for a young boy everyone calls Junior Marcus Carl Franklin) to grow up. Nanny protects and guides the boy as if he were her own. But then she is a natural-born fixer, a person predisposed to help people who lack a social safety net and to nurture broken souls. It's her gift, and it fills her life with joy.

Make no mistake: Nanny is tough. She must deal with a philandering husband, Bill (Terrence Howard), many years her junior; Lem (Louis Gossett Jr.), a one-legged refugee from a mental hospital; crazy Pauline (Macy Gray), forever stalking romantic rivals with a switchblade; Freddie (Santiago-Hudson), a war vet looking for respect; and tenant Small Paul Jeffrey Wright), rumored to have killed a man.

One thing nearly all have in common is a gift for gab. Everyone tells stories -- stories about a jealous homicide, drunken accidents, the loss of an arm or the Negro League Baseball. Santiago-Hudson weaves these stories through action that takes place in and around the boarding house and Maxie's night club. There's a whole culture of storytelling here, as if the past for these haunted souls is somehow more golden and vital than the harsh present.

Wolfe and Santiago-Hudson both have appreciation for telling details -- how clothes matter, especially when getting dressed up for a night at Maxie's, and how shoes matter even more. They show how people use words as weapons and means of seduction. Then, in the background, there is Otis McClanahan (Robert Bradley), a blind blues player whose songs echo the stories being told, and the jump-and-shout music by Maxie's bandleader (Mos Def), whose rhythms set everyone to dancing. And all the while, Ivan Strasburg's nimble camera glides through this energetic scene with silky grace.

LACKAWANNA BLUES

HBO Films

Credits:

Director: George C. Wolfe

Writer: Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Based on the play by: Ruben Santiago-Hudson

Producer: Nellie Nugiel

Executive producers: Halle Berry, Vincent Cirrincione, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Shelby Stone

Director of photography: Ivan Strasburg

Production designer: Richard Hoover

Music: Meshell Ndegeocello

Costumes: Hope Hanafin

Editor: Brian Kates

Cast:

Nanny: S. Epatha Merkerson

Jr.: Marcus Carl Franklin

Ruben Santiago Sr.: Jimmy Smits

Alean: Carmen Ejogo

Bill: Terrence Howard

Pauline: Marcy Gray

Lem Taylor: Louis Gossett Jr.

Bandleader: Mos Def

Dick Barrymore: Ernie Hudson

Small Paul: Jeffrey Wright

No MPAA rating

Running time -- 94 minutes »

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4 items from 2005


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