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1-20 of 23 items from 2007   « Prev | Next »


P.S. I Love You

21 December 2007 2:38 PM, PST | The Scorecard Review | See recent Scorecard Review news »

Plot: A young widow (Hilary Swank) loses that one in a million love, but her dead husband (Gerard Butler) has left numerous letters behind to help her get on with her life. Who’s it for: Women. But this treads some tricky ground. If you’ve recently lost someone, this film isn’t really about recovering, but more about not letting go. Expectations: Hilary Swank has proved herself as a powerful actress, but a romantic comedy … actually, I don’t know if this is just a drama or can be considered a comedy. Anyway, I had my worries. Scorecard Actors: Hilary Swank as Holly: Swank’s job isn’t so much as to pull on our heartstrings, but instead to slowly pluck them, never letting us forget she’s mourning. Holly doesn’t »

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Butler Injures Swank, Shuts Down Movie

17 December 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Scottish actor Gerard Butler's clumsiness brought filming on the set of new film P.S. I Love You to a halt after injuring co-star Hilary Swank. The 300 star was joking around with braces (suspenders) in one quirky love scene when he lost his grip and sent Swank to hospital. He says, "She had four stitches. It was maybe my worst day as an actor. I can laugh now because she laughs at it and quite enjoys telling people the story but, at the time, it was an accident. I'd been doing this scene for a day and a half, stripping and dancing and then pretending that the suspender hits me in the eye. It got stuck behind me and flew over my head and hit her in the head. Within five minutes she'd been taken to the hospital and the whole set goes, 'That's a wrap!' and I'm sitting on the bed on my own. I have to say I bust my balls in that scene making a fool of myself and dancing around a bunch of guys. At the end of that all the thanks I got was that I now scarred Hilary Swank and the production got shut down for five days." »

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P.S. I Love You

14 December 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

At the moment, movie tearjerkers about late spouses who haunt loved ones are all the rage.

In Grace Is Gone, a father and two daughters cope with the loss of Mom in Iraq. In Things We Lost in the Fire, a mother and two youngsters mourn the death of the husband and father. P.S. I Love You is the oddest of the bunch, though, because it feels like the late husband of Hilary Swank's Holly Kennedy, a happy-go-lucky Irishman played engagingly by Gerard Butler, refuses to go away no matter how dead he is. Odder still, when we do see the couple together -- in an opening scene and then in flashbacks -- there is always so much tension between the two.

This bittersweet story about a bereaved young widow struggling to move on might connect with female audiences. Yet its boxoffice should be modest despite the presence of two-time Oscar-winning Swank. The film, written (with Steven Rogers) and directed by Richard LaGravenese, is long and drags in places. But the chief problem is that P.S. feels like a gimmick.

The film starts awkwardly with a curious sequence in which Holly (Swank) and Gerry Butler) quarrel about a remark he made over dinner with Holly's highly judgmental mother (Kathy Bates). Then, with calculated abruptness, the movie plunks you down at Gerry's wake in a Manhattan restaurant run by Holly's mother.

Girlfriends Sharon (Gina Gershon) and Denise (Lisa Kudrow) comfort Holly while Sharon's husband John (James Marsters) gets the Irish toasts going. Denise is soon cruising the joint in a determined search for her own potential mate while the new bartender Daniel (Harry Connick Jr.) hits on Holly.

A few weeks later, it's her 30th birthday. A birthday cake and tape recording arrive -- from Gerry! Seems while Gerry lay dying of a brain tumor, he concocted a scheme to send letters to Holly for the year following his death. They come through the mail or are discovered in clothes. At one point, he buys her a trip with her girlfriends to his native Ireland. There she meets a new Irish playmate, William Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and visits Gerry's parents, who also hand her a letter.

Nothing here outside the realm of plausibility, but how exactly are these constant communications from the dead supposed to ease Holly's transition to her new life? They serve, for dramatic purposes, to remind her of their courtship and marriage. Just once you'd like to see her get annoyed at these messages from a dead spouse who won't go away. But then she has her disapproving Mom to do that.

It turns out Gerry's parents weren't too thrilled about the marriage, either. So why, you wonder, is an audience supposed to care about this couple?

There is nothing special about this romance. Holly does like to watch old Hollywood movies, which remind you of how these things were once done. Now it's all such a convoluted mess of letters from the dead and guys who can't measure up to a ghost.

The Irish scenery is quite lovely as caught by Terry Stacey's camera and designer Shepherd Frankel makes the Irish and American pubs, homes and apartments feel cozy and lived-in. But the movie itself feels oddly uninhabited.

P.S. I LOVE YOU

Warner Bros.

Alcon Entertainment presents a Wendy Finerman productionin association with Grosvenor Park Films

Credits:

Director: Richard LaGravenese

Screenwriters: Richard LaGravenese, Steven Rogers

Based on the novel by: Cecelia Ahern

Producers: Wendy Finerman, Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Molly Smith

Executive producers: John H. Starke, Lisa Zupan, James Hollond, Donald A. Starr, Daniel J.B. Taylor

Director of photography: Terry Stacey

Production designer: Shepherd Frankel

Music: John Powell

Co-producers: James Flynnn, Morgan O'Sullivan, Steven P. Wegner

Costume designer: Cindy Evans

Editor: David Moritz

Cast:

Holly: Hilary Swank

Gerry: Gerard Butler

Sharon: Gina Gershon

Denise: Lisa Kudrow

Elizabeth: Kathy Bates

Daniel: Harry Connick Jr.

William: Jeffrey Dean Morgan

John: James Marsters

Running time -- 124 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13

»

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Young Breslins take business to ICM

3 December 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Young sibling actors Abigail and Spencer Breslin have signed with ICM.

Abigail, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination this year for her portrayal of Olive in Little Miss Sunshine, next appears in the feature film Definitely, Maybe, which co-stars Rachel Weisz and Ryan Reynolds. Other upcoming credits for the 11-year-old include Nim's Island, with Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, in which she plays the title role opposite Stanley Tucci and Joan Cusack.

Her credits also include Signs and Raising Helen, which also featured Spencer.

His credits include the title role in Harold as well as The Shaggy Dog, The Cat in the Hat and the second and third installments in The Santa Clause trilogy. The 15-year-old next appears in M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, starring Mark Wahlberg, and is directing his first feature, a documentary detailing what he and his young peers experienced in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

The Breslins also are repped by Meredith Fine of Coast to Coast, manager Beth Cannon of Envision Entertainment and attorney Linda Lichter. »

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PMK/HBH boosts three vets

30 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Continuing its restructuring among the executive ranks, PMK/HBH Public Relations has promoted company veterans Catherine Olim, Allen Eichhorn and Andy Gelb to executive vps at the firm. Additionally, Melissa Kates, Joy Fehily and Jill Fritzo will assume senior vp titles.

Twenty-six-year company veteran Olim, Kates and Fritzo will oversee day-to-day management of the talent division. Olim will continue to oversee publicity for Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close, Ed Harris and Donald Sutherland, with Kates continuing to manage the business for Katherine Heigl, Shia LaBeouf, Brett Ratner and Calista Flockhart. Fritzo remains the point person for Tommy Lee Jones, Kristin Chenoweth and Vanessa Hudgens.

Eichhorn, who has been in the company's New York office for 26 years and represents such clients as Robert Redford and Kevin Bacon, will take on the mantel of managing the film department with Fehily. Overseeing the film department in Los Angeles, Fehily will continue to rep talent and creators including Gerard Butler, Aaron Sorkin and Joel Silver. »

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Butler Withdraws From 'Escape From New York' Remake

5 November 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Scottish actor Gerard Butler has pulled out of upcoming remake Escape From New York due to "creative differences." Butler's casting in the update caused controversy earlier this year when Kurt Russell, the star of director John Carpenter's original 1981 movie, demanded an American, not a Scot, take on the role of Snake Plissken. Speaking earlier this year, Russell said, "When I was told, my initial reaction was, 'Oh man.' I do think that character was quintessentially one thing - and that's American."

»

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Statham to 'Crank' out a sequel

30 October 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Jason Statham is set to reprise the role of Chev Chelios, in Crank 2: High Voltage, for Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment. Filmmaking team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, are returning to the director's chair for the sequel- which they will shoot back to back with another Lionsgate/ Lakeshore production, the futuristic thriller Game- starring Gerard Butler.In Crank 2: High Voltage, Chelios faces Chinese mobsters who steal his nearly indestructible heart and replace it with a battery powered ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep it going.Huh??? Didn't Statham's Chelios die in the original?From what Variety is reporting, part II doesn't sound like a prequel. In fact it sounds like the whole thing is getting a bit of a sci-fi spin.The original Crank was a great little adrenaline rush of a B movie. While not a huge success when it originally came out, »

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Duo 'Crank' it up -- again

30 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the team behind Crank, will do it again for Crank 2: High Voltage for Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment. Lionsgate and Lakeshore also are partnering to distribute Neveldine and Taylor's thriller Game.

Jason Statham will reprise his Crank role of hitman Chev Chelios in Crank 2. In this story, Chev faces a Chinese mobster who has stolen his nearly indestructible heart and replaced it with a battery-powered artificial ticker that requires regular jolts of electricity to keep working. A chase begins through Los Angeles.

Lakeshore's Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Skip Williamson and Richard Wright will produce.

Game, starring Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall in a thriller set in a dystopian future, begins principal photography Nov. 5 in Albuquerque.

The supporting cast includes Amber Valletta, Logan Lerman, Alison Lohman, John Leguizamo, Johnny Whitworth, Zoe Bell, Terry Crews and Kyra Sedgwick. Rosenberg, Lucchesi and Williamson will produce.

Lionsgate will handle North American distribution, while Lakeshore will handle the international distribution on each. »

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Wiseman Set To Direct 'Escape From New York' Remake

16 August 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Filmmaker Len Wiseman is in negotiations to direct the remake of cult classic Escape From New York. Actor Gerard Butler has already signed up to star in the update of director John Carpenter's futuristic action film as anti-hero Snake Plissken, a part made famous by Kurt Russell in the 1981 original and its 1996 sequel Escape From LA. Wiseman most recently directed this year's Live Free Or Die Hard. »

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Five plugged in for Ritchie's 'RocknRolla'

26 June 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba and Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges have been cast in RocknRolla, Guy Ritchie's return to the caper genre being produced by Joel Silver's Dark Castle Entertainment.

Butler stars as a One Two, a street-smart mobster who has learned to play both sides of the fence, and Wilkinson is playing the lethal head mobster, Lenny Cole, part of London's old mob regime, which is quickly losing ground to the wealthier foreign mob.

Newton acts as One Two's love interest, Stella, an accountant with ties to the underworld, and Elba acts as Mumbles, One Two's partner. Bridges is playing Roman, an American trying to break into the music scene in London.

Ritchie wrote the screenplay and is directing the movie, which is set in motion when a Russian mobster orchestrates a crooked land deal and millions of dollars are thrown up for grabs, with all of London's criminal underworld players wanting in on the action. »

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'Dead Man's Chest' Big Winner at MTV Movie Awards

4 June 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Summer blockbuster Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was the big winner at Sunday's MTV Movie Awards, taking home two awards for Best Movie and Best Performance for star Johnny Depp. Also winning big was Sacha Baron Cohen, who earned the Best Comedic Performance award for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and nabbed Best Kiss honors with Will Ferrell for Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby. Other winners at the awards, which were hosted by Sarah Silverman, included Jack Nicholson as Best Villain for The Departed, Gerard Butler of 300 for Best Fight (against the "Uber Immortal"), Jaden Smith for Breakthrough Performance for The Pursuit Of Happyness and Transformers for Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen. Shrek comedian Mike Myers was also honored with the MTV Generation Award. »

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UPI taking 'Island' around the world

19 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

CANNES -- Universal Pictures International, the new-look Universal overseas distribution powerhouse launched in January after the breakup of United International Pictures, has acquired U.K., Spanish, Australian/New Zealand and Latin American rights to the hot Cannes market title "Nim's Island".

It marks one of the first high-profile, multiterritory deals that UPI has struck since it set up its stalls around the world under the watchful eye of UPI president David Kosse after UIP partner Paramount also struck out on its own in selected territories.

"We think 'Nim's Island' is a great prospect, and it is part of our ongoing efforts (at UPI) to continue to acquire first-class properties that will play across international territories," Kosse said.

The movie -- which stars Jodie Foster, Abigail Breslin and Gerard Butler -- is one of the first productions from the new Fox Walden joint venture that will see 20th Century Fox roll out the title April 25.

Summit is handling international sales on the film. »

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Lakeshore controlling 'Game'

17 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

CANNES -- Lakeshore Entertainment is reuniting with Crank creators Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor for the Gerard Butler starrer Game.

The high-concept thriller takes place in the near future, when mind-control technology has taken society by storm. In this dystopian world, the ultimate online simulation environment is humans remote-controlling other humans in mass-scale, multiplayer online gaming.

Butler (300) plays Kable, the No. 1-ranked warrior in the highest-rated game, called "Slayers". With his every move tracked by millions, Kable's ultimate challenge is to regain his identity and bring down the system that has imprisoned him.

Game marks the third time Lakeshore has teamed with Neveldine and Taylor, who together wrote and directed Crank. The duo will write and helm Game, which will begin filming in January. Lakeshore's Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi are producing alongside Crank producer Skip Williamson.

"Mark and Brian's visionary story is a forewarning to us all," Rosenberg said. "The Internet has given us global interconnectivity, yet it has also has made us more isolated, voyeuristic and predatory." »

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'300' & 'Dead Man's Chest' Lead MTV Movie Award Nominations

1 May 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

War epic 300 and sequel Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest are leading the nominations for the 2007 MTV Movie Awards with five and four nods apiece. Both films have been nominated for the Best Movie award, alongside Blades Of Glory, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan and Little Miss Sunshine. 300 star Gerard Butler is up for Best Performance and Best Fight, while Lena Headey and Rodrigo Santoro have been nominated for Breakthrough Performance and Best Villain respectively. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest actors Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley have also both picked up nods for Best Performance, while Bill Nighy is up for Best Villain. The nominations are: Best Movie: 300, Blades of Glory, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, Little Miss Sunshine, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Best Performance: Gerard Butler - 300; Johnny Depp - Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Keira Knightley - Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls; Beyonce Knowles - Dreamgirls; Will Smith - The Pursuit Of Happyness Breakthrough Performance: Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada; Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine; Lena Headey - 300; Columbus Short - Stomp The Yard; Jaden Smith, The Pursuit Of Happyness; Justin Timberlake - Alpha Dog Best Comedic Performance: Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada; Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan; Will Ferrell - Blades Of Glory; Adam Sandler - Click; Ben Stiller - Night At The Museum Best Kiss: Cameron Diaz & Jude Law - The Holiday; Will Ferrell & Sacha Baron Cohen - Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby; Columbus Short & Meagan Good - Stomp The Yard; Mark Wahlberg & Elizabeth Banks - Invincible Marlon Wayans & Brittany Daniel - Little Man Best Villain: Tobin Bell - Saw III; Jack Nicholson - The Departed; Bill Nighy - Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Rodrigo Santoro - 300; Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada Best Fight: Jack Black & Hector Jimenez vs. Los Duendes (Wrestling Match) - Nacho Libre; Gerard Butler vs. 'The Uber Immortal' (The Spartan/Persian Battle) - 300; Sacha Baron Cohen vs. Ken Davitian (Naked Wrestle Fight) - Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan; Will Ferrell vs. Jon Heder (Ice Rink Fight) - Blades of Glory; Uma Thurman vs. Anna Faris (Super Girl Fight) - My Super Ex-Girlfriend Best Summer Movie You Haven't Seen Yet: Evan Almighty ; Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer ; Hairspray; Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix ; Rush Hour 3 ; Transformers »

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Butler To Collect Stunt Award

20 April 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Gerard Butler will receive the Action Movie Star Of The Year prize at next month's 2007 Taurus World Stunt Awards. The 300 star will be honored at the World Stunt Foundation's Hollywood ceremony, which is being hosted by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson on May 20. Butler says, "It is such a special honor to receive this award from the stunt community. In each action film I'm a part of, I am continually amazed by their remarkable talent. While I am proud to receive this accolade, I am keenly aware of who the real action heroes are." Stuntwoman Jeannie Epper is the first woman to be selected for the awards' Lifetime Achievement Award, while Burt Reynolds will also be honored. »

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New novel on NL's 'List' for Finerman

28 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

New Line Cinema has picked up the rights to Jill Smolinski's upcoming novel The Next Thing on My List for Wendy Finerman to produce.

The book, due in April from Shaye Areheart Books, tells of a woman's journey of self-discovery. After a freak car crash leaves her 24-year-old passenger dead, the narrator discovers that the woman had a list of things she wanted to do by age 25. The narrator then decides to do the items on the list to honor her friend. The book is Smolinksi's follow-up to her debut novel, Flip-Flopped.

Kathy Busby and Merideth Finn are overseeing for New Line.

No writers are on the project yet.

Finerman is on a book binge of late. Last year, she produced The Devil Wears Prada, which was adapted from a tome by Lauren Weisberger, and she is on post on P.S. I Love You, starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler, based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern. »

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New Line cuffs 'Escape' redo

16 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

New Line Cinema has gotten the keys to the new Escape From New York.

The remake of the cult John Carpenter movie, being produced by Neal Moritz with Gerard Butler attached to star as Snake Plissken, hit the town this week and had several studios trying to capture it. Bidding was aggressive because Butler was coming off the whopping $70 million opening for 300.

New Line had been positioning itself for warden status when it first sniffed out that the package was in the works two weeks ago.

Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) will write the script, which will combine an origin story for Plissken merged with the story of the 1981 movie. The original film was set in a futuristic 1997, when Manhattan had been turned into a giant maximum-security prison. The U.S. president's plane crashed on the island, and Plissken, incarcerated for robbing a federal reserve bank, was coerced into a rescue mission.

The movie made a lasting impression on a generation of males and was followed by a sequel 16 years later, Escape From L.A., as well as a comic book miniseries in 2003. »

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'300' bow anything but spartan

9 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Warner Bros. Pictures' 300 bows today, and the fanboys can hardly contain themselves. The hyperstylized, ultraviolent film from director Zack Snyder has created so much advance buzz that all the other Hollywood studios have left it alone for the weekend, setting the stage for the film to dominate the boxoffice in a big way.

The question is how big is big for the movie, which is set in 480 B.C., when Sparta's King Leonidas led 300 of his warriors against the Persian army in the Battle of Thermopylae.

Industry prognosticators caution that the film's upside might be limited somewhat by its R rating. But the film, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel, already has received adoring praise on the Web, and Warners marketers have been exploiting online media to the fullest, launching an aggressive MySpace presence along with an official site chock full of video journals, a production blog and concept art.

Already lauded for its advances in special effects, 300, starring Gerard Butler, could challenge some records, at least for March openings; it's likely that the film will garner the title of second- or third-highest opening ever for the month. »

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Lionsgate nets U.S. rights to Icon's 'Butterfly'

16 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Icon Prods. has sold stateside distribution rights to the R-rated crime thriller Butterfly on a Wheel to Lionsgate Releasing.

Directed by Mike Barker (A Good Woman), Wheel stars Pierce Brosnan as a mysterious stranger who arrives in Chicago and terrorizes a happy-seeming married couple (Maria Bello, Gerard Butler) after kidnapping their daughter. Soon it becomes clear that his outrageous demands are not in pursuit of a Big Cash payment.

The film's title comes from Alexander Pope's An Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot: "Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?"

Written by William Morrissey, Wheel was filmed in Vancouver and Chicago. It was produced by Brosnan, Morrissey and William Vince. Executive producers are Icon's Bruce Davey, Marina Grasic, Beau St. Clair and Dave Valleau. It is an Infinity Features/Irish Dreamtime U.K./Canadian co-production.

Icon Entertainment International is handling worldwide sales; Japan and Italy are the only territories still available. »

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300

15 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

This review was written for the festival screening of "300".BERLIN -- The Frank Miller experience continues in "300". This is the second movie to transfer a muscular story and visuals from a Miller graphic novel to the screen. Instead of the neo-noir, pulp-fiction theater of cruelty in the Robert Rodriguez's 2005 film "Sin City", "300" dives into the mythology of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Here, according to the graphic novel by Miller and Lynn Varley, 300 Spartan warriors went up against the barbarous hordes of the Persian god-king Xerxes and died valiantly defending Greek notions of freedom and justice.

Those turned off by the sex-and-violence cartoonery of "Sin City" can embrace "300", which screened Out of Competition here. In epic battle scenes where he combines breathtaking and fluid choreography, gorgeous 3-D drawings and hundreds of visual effects, director Zack Snyder puts onscreen the seemingly impossible heroism and gore of which Homer sang in "The Iliad". A raging hero mowing down multitudes with sword, shield and spear suddenly seems plausible.

The designed look of this alternative world, the abstraction and beauty of its topography, colors and forms, open up the human action to larger-than-life deeds and grand gestures that in a more realistic context would be pure camp. The film, which opens domestically March 9, will attract a sizable worldwide audience, skewering heavily male, of course.

Greece in the 5th century B.C. is a land truly favored by the gods, bathed in rich, harmonious Dark Chocolate, beige and gray colors. A prologue swiftly establishes the austere warrior city-state of Sparta, whose men are trained from birth to fight, to never retreat and never surrender.

The film's hero, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), has lived his entire life to fight this battle against the Persians. Its sole survivor, Dilios (David Wenham), is the one who narrates the tale. Messengers from the Persian army arrive in Sparta, arrogantly offering either capitulation or annihilation. Leonidas kills the messengers.

But political opportunism rules the Spartan Council, which insists that Leonidas consult the Oracle. This consists of beautiful young and drugged women controlled by sickly, corrupt priests. The Oracle refuses to release the Spartan army to its ruler as no battle can occur during an upcoming religious celebration.

So Leonidas has little choice but to "take a stroll" to the north with 300 of his best warriors as "bodyguards." He chooses to engage the Persians in the Thermopylae pass, a narrow corridor between the steep cliffs of the Aegean Sea. Here the vast numbers of the enemy count for little since only a few can go up against Sparta's best at any one time.

The stage is thus set for a cinematic meal: A succession of charges by Persian forces -- slave warriors, physical oddities, African animals, magic wizards and an elite guard called the Immortals in black Darth Vader masks -- is slaughtered by the 300. Snyder instinctively knows when to shift to slow motion or quick stop-action to catch the brilliant athleticism of his fighting choreography. This is thrilling stuff.

Then comes Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) himself, a bejeweled, depraved giant carried on a high tower by his slaves. The god-king tries unsuccessfully to seduce Leonidas in a homoerotic passage as the ancient world stands still.

But it is a deformed and pathetic creature, Ephialtes (Andrew Tiernan), an outcast Spartan, who betrays the 300 by showing Xerxes a hidden path leading behind Spartan lines. The 300 are doomed yet die "beautiful deaths."

Adapting Miller's take on Spartan battle wear, Snyder and costume designer Michael Wilkinson strip the warriors down to essentials: a helmet, shield, red capes, loin cloths and scandals in warm colors. All the rest is manly flesh. The Persians, by contrast, are dressed in all sorts of jewels, peacock color, gold, purple, black -- a hooker's ball of exotic, foreign and decadent costumes.

Snyder and his writers Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon open up a second front of villainy back home as wily politician Theron (Dominic West) manipulates the council against sending reinforcements and crudely takes Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) sexually. This is weak and unconvincing, but it does get the writers around the historical fact that the expedition against the Persians, fully supported by the city-state, probably numbered around 7,000 rather than 300.

Butler is a paragon of manhood as the fine warrior-king, but in a Frank Miller world there is no time for introspection and doubt, making him a two-dimensional creature in this 3-D world.

Headey, looking alarmingly skinny, seems more like a fashion model than reigning queen. Vincent Regan as the Captain is a man with a ferocious appetite for killing. All other roles are somewhat perfunctory as Spartan ideals overrule much of an inner life.

Obviously, the true stars here are the armies of technicians, designers, fight choreographers and cinematographer Larry Fong, who collaborate on this stylized vision of the ancient world. Then add Tyler Bates' robust, haunting and soulful music.

What isn't clear after two Frank Miller graphic novel movies is where this technique is leading. So far it has served only exaggerated blood, guts and sex. "300" suggests that it might create worlds of myth and fantasy not necessarily ruled by mayhem. If not, though, it's going to get old, even ancient, very fast.

300

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures and Virtual Studios present

a Mark Canton/Gianni Nunnari production

Credits:

Director: Zack Snyder

Screenwriters: Kurt Johnstad, Michael B. Gordon

Based on the graphic novel by: Frank Miller, Lynn Varley

Producers: Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Bernie Goldmann, Jeffrey Silver

Executive producers: Frank Miller, Deborah Snyder, Craig J. Flores, Thomas Tull, William Fay, Scott Mednick, Ben Waisbren

Director of photography: Larry Fong

Production designer: James Bissell

Visual effects supervisor: Chris Watts

Music: Tyler Bates

Costume designer: Michael Wilkinson

Editor: William Hoy

Cast:

King Leonidas: Gerald Butler

Queen Gorgo: Lena Headey

Dilios: David Wenham

Theron: Dominic West

Captain: Vincent Regan

Stelios: Michael Fassbinder

Astinos: Tom Wisdom

Xerxes: Rodrigo Santoro

Ephialtes: Andrew Tiernan

Running time -- 117 minutes

MPAA rating: R »

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