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7 items from 2004


Eulogy

29 October 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Even when grief is overwhelming, funerals can be absurd gatherings full of awkward drama and unintentionally funny ritual by rote. In the case of Eulogy, writer-director Michael Clancy's feature debut, there's no troublesome sadness to get in the way of the quirk factor. Character eccentricities and off-kilter group dynamics play out with a comic vengeance.

Although this black comedy doesn't always achieve its intended laughs and sometimes pushes too hard for them, at its best it offers droll glimpses of the cosmic abyss that often serves as a family's connective tissue. The terrific ensemble cast finds the right deadpan tone to deliver the dysfunction. The presence of Debra Winger will up the draw for niche theatrical audiences, and Eulogy should enjoy a long afterlife on home video.

Unshowy tech contributions, led by DP Michael Chapman (Raging Bull) and editor Richard Halsey (Rocky), put the actors front and center in this concise comic portrait of a clan numbed by disappointment. Winger plays Alice, the oldest, loudest and angriest of the four Collins siblings, returning home to Rhode Island for the funeral of the father they barely knew (Rip Torn). His passing barely dents their self-centered orbits, and even his widow (Piper Laurie) responds with a vacant impassiveness, notwithstanding a couple of badly misfired suicide attempts.

The unlikely voice of sanity and compassion within the sorry lot is college student Kate (Zooey Deschanel, exuding practicality and emotional translucence). When she's not struggling to write the eulogy her clear-eyed grandmother requested, she's avoiding neighbor Ryan (Jesse Bradford), confused over the romantic turn their lifelong summer friendship has taken.

Kate's father, Dan (Hank Azaria), is an adult-film actor looking through a cannabis haze for his big break, having reached his show business zenith in a peanut butter commercial at age 8. Skip (Ray Romano) is a lawyer of sorts with a most unfortunate mustache, and adolescent twins (Curtis and Keith Garcia) who, when they're not being plain evil, toss around sex-talk swagger as though they've listened to Howard Stern one too many times.

The twins take a sudden interest in the gathering when their feisty aunt Lucy (Kelly Preston) shows up with her easygoing "life partner," Judy (Famke Janssen). This rather forced self-introduction is the first sign that Clancy is going to use the lesbian relationship a bit too insistently. While Alice's three children cower in silence and her husband (Mark Harelik) burbles incoherently, she all but puts Lucy and Judy on trial. By the time they announce their wedding plans, you can only wonder why the brides-to-be would want this variously mean-spirited and clueless bunch at the festivities.

But the utter irrationality of family is Clancy's point. It's no wonder Grandma sees no reason to explain her eagerness to check out. And while her suicide attempts aren't as, well, funny as they're meant to be, they do land her in the inexpert care of a dippy nurse (Glenne Headly, in sweet ditz mode) who turns out to be a crucial figure from Alice's past.

As good as it is to see Winger onscreen, her character is too strident a conception, the explanation for her malice a bit too easy. But to Clancy's credit he doesn't try to tie it all up with a feel-good ending. The dark undercurrents remain as the Collinses bid Dad farewell. The twins are still obnoxious. And Romano's Skip is still sporting that mustache.

EULOGY

Lions Gate Films

A Myriad Pictures presentation in association with Ovation Entertainment, Equity Pictures Medienfonds and S.R.O. Entertainment AF

Credits:

Director-writer: Michael Clancy

Producers: Steven Haft, Richard B. Lewis, Kirk D'Amico

Executive producers: Lucas Foster, Kendall Morgan, Bo Hyde, Rory Rosegarten, Jonas McCord, Shelly Glasser

Director of photography: Michael Chapman

Production designer: Dina Lipton

Music: George S. Clinton

Co-producers: Stefan Jonas, Jeanne Van Cott

Costume designer: Tracy Tynan

Editor: Richard Halsey

Cast:

Daniel Collins: Hank Azaria

Ryan Carmichael: Jesse Bradford

Kate Collins: Zooey Deschanel

Samantha: Glenne Headly

Judy Arnolds: Famke Janssen

Grandma Collins: Piper Laurie

Lucy Collins: Kelly Preston

Skip Collins: Ray Romano

Grandpa Collins: Rip Torn

Alice Collins: Debra Winger

Burt: Mark Harelik

Parson Banke: Rene Auberjonois

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 85 minutes »

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Elf

9 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens

Friday, Nov. 7

Having successfully demonstrated his big-screen comic chops with "Old School", Will Ferrell again proves there is indeed life after "SNL", playing an elf-reared naif who sets off from the North Pole for New York to seek out the biological dad he never met.

While the words "instant holiday classic" might be pushing it, "Elf" is at the very least a breezily entertaining, perfectly cast family treat. Actor-director Jon Favreau, working from a colorful script by David Berenbaum, has delivered just the right combination of naughty and nice, or, as the MPAA calls it, "mild rude humor and language."

That crowd-pleasing blend and Ferrell's irresistible performance will not only ensure that the halls of New Line will be decked out in plenty of green (as if the upcoming final "Lord of the Rings" installment hasn't already all but guaranteed that), but it's also likely to give a certain cat in a certain hat a run for his money this holiday season.

What it basically comes down to is this: How bad can a movie be that begins with a sullen-looking Bob Newhart clad in full elf regalia?

Newhart's Papa Elf provides the narration for this pleasantly fractured fairy tale about a little baby in an orphanage, who happened to find his way into Santa's sack of toys one Christmas Eve. The stowaway wasn't discovered until after the man in the red suit (played by gruff old Lou Grant himself, Ed Asner) returned to the North Pole and was subsequently raised by Papa Elf as his own son.

It soon became quite apparent that the child he named Buddy (Ferrell) was going to have trouble fitting in, given that he was growing at a rate that was roughly three times that of his workshop colleagues.

Ultimately Buddy is told the truth about his being an elf-made man and that his real biological father is alive and well and living in Manhattan.

A Scrooge-like workaholic children's book publisher, papa Walter Hobbs (James Caan) also happens to be a permanent fixture on Santa's naughty list. But that doesn't thwart Buddy, who travels to New York to introduce himself to Dad.

As babe-in-the-woods Buddy -- a vision in green, yellow tights and pointy shoes -- soon discovers, not only does Hobbs not exactly welcome his long-lost son with open arms, but Manhattan is in serious need of an injection of Christmas spirit.

It's jingling formula all the way, but Favreau (who makes good on "Made", his 2001 directorial debut) and screenwriter Berenbaum (who also penned the Walt Disney Co.'s upcoming "The Haunted Mansion"), lend the story plenty of comic smarts. There's sweetness, but it's seldom cloying.

There's also the terrific supporting cast, which includes Mary Steenburgen as Caan's resilient wife and Zooey Deschanel as the jaded Jovie, who works with Buddy at the thoughtfully resurrected Gimbel's department store

But there would be no "Elf" without Ferrell, and whether he's trying to hopscotch his way across Broadway or attempting to navigate his first escalator, he always manages to work a rousing subversive element into his character's core innocence.

Visually, the picture celebrates the best of the genre. The North Pole sequences incorporate animated elements that pay direct tribute to those vintage Rankin-Bass specials, while cinematographer Greg Gardiner and production designer Rusty Smith favor old-fashioned, forced perspective techniques over CGI to create those size disparities between Buddy and the elves.

Aurally, John Debney's appropriately festive score has been supplemented with a generous selection of swingin' Yuletide tunes by Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and Leon Redbone, while Deschanel, who joins Ferrell in an impromptu rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", reveals a singing voice that's a study in Keely Smith cool.

Elf

New Line Cinema

Guy Walks Into a Bar Prods.

Credits:

Director: Jon Favreau

Screenwriter: David Berenbaum

Producers: Jon Berg

Todd Komarnicki, Shauna Robertson

Executive producers: Jimmy Miller

Julie Wixson Darmody

Toby Emmerich

Kent Alterman

Cale Boyter

Director of photography: Greg Gardiner

Production designer: Rusty Smith

Editor: Dan Lebental

Costume designer: Laura Jean Shannon

Music: John Debney

Visual effects supervisor: Joe Bauer

Casting: Susie Farris

Cast:

Buddy: Will Ferrell

Walter: James Caan

Jovie: Zooey Deschanel

Emily: Mary Steenburgen

Santa Claus: Edward Asner

Papa Elf: Bob Newhart

Michael: Daniel Tay

Manager: Faizon Love

Running time -- 90 minutes

MPAA rating: PG »

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'Galaxy' rider: Disney stops for Malkovich

16 April 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

John Malkovich is thumbing a ride on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the adaptation of the Douglas Adams classic, for Spyglass Entertainment/Walt Disney Pictures. Malkovich will play a religious cult leader called Humma Kavula, created by Adams especially for the film. Galaxy begins shooting this month in London, with Garth Jennings at the helm. Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell and Martin Freeman also star. »

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Cruise shows Spirit as awards chair

12 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Tom Cruise has agreed to be honorary chair of the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards, scheduled for Feb. 28 in Santa Monica. He will be joined at the event by such celebrity presenters as Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Bacon, Erika Christensen, Hayden Christensen, Toni Collette, Rosario Dawson, Zooey Deschanel, Andy Garcia, Jeff Goldblum, Jake Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Dennis Hopper, Djimon Hounsou, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, Lucy Liu, Derek Luke, Dylan McDermott, Ian McKellen, Emily Mortimer, Samantha Morton, Parminder Nagra, Mekhi Phifer, Kelly Preston, Mark Ruffalo, Blair Underwood, Mike White and Elijah Wood. John Waters will return as the master of ceremonies. »

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Rockwell hitches 'Galaxy' ride

5 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Sam Rockwell should have a lot of face time in Spyglass Entertainment/Walt Disney Co.'s The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- a big-screen adaptation of the cult hit novel by Douglas Adams -- because he'll be playing Zaphod, the two-headed president of the galaxy. Galaxy begins shooting in April in London with Garth Jennings at the helm. Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and Martin Freeman also star. Mos Def plays Ford Prefect, an alien disguising himself as an out-of-work actor who sets out on an intergalactic journey with his best friend, mild-mannered earthling Arthur Dent (Freeman). The duo hitch a ride through space with Rockwell's Zaphod, the beautiful and brilliant scientist Trillion (Deschanel) and a depressed robot while on a quest to discover the meaning of life. »

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Trio cross 'Galaxy' for Disney film

29 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Hip-hop artist/actor Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel and The Office star Martin Freeman have hopped aboard the Spyglass Entertainment/Walt Disney Co. project The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a big-screen adaptation of the cult hit novel by Douglas Adams. Mos Def will play Ford Prefect, an alien disguising himself as an out-of-work actor who sets out on an intergalactic journey with his best friend, mild-mannered earthling Arthur Dent (Freeman). The duo hitch a ride through space with the two-headed president of the galaxy, the beautiful and brilliant scientist Trillion (Deschanel) and a depressed robot while on a quest to discover the meaning of life. »

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Preston fights for legal rights in 'Return' pic

16 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Kelly Preston, who starred as the mother in the big-screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat for Universal/DreamWorks/Imagine Entertainment, is set for the indie drama Return to Sender for helmer Bille August, sources confirmed. Penned by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, the project will see Preston star as a lawyer fighting to exonerate a woman on death row. As the case unfolds, she begins to question the motives of a man who has befriended her client. Stephen Woolley and Michael Lunderskov are producing the project, which is lensing in Denmark before moving on to Oklahoma. Other casting is expected to be announced shortly. Preston is repped by ICM and Joel Stevens at Joel Stevens Entertainment. She can be seen in Eulogy, which premieres this month at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The black comedy also stars Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Famke Janssen, Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger and Jesse Bradford. »

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7 items from 2004


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