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5 items from 2006


Catch a Fire

11 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

TORONTO -- Continuing to tell stories of conflict between indigenous people and white intruders, Phillip Noyce goes to 1980s South Africa for a feature that is less ruminative than "The Quiet American" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence" and more likely to connect, if on a modest scale, with American audiences.

The story is initially one of how an apolitical man can be transformed into a militant insurrectionist by witnessing the misuse of power. Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) is as straight an arrow as they come when we meet him: Foreman at a petroleum plant, he wants no part of the covert rebellion happening around him. When stopped at a police roadblock, he'll obediently end every sentence with "boss."

But when he's arbitrarily arrested after an explosion at the plant -- and sees what inhumane treatment can be visited not only on innocent suspects but on their relatives -- Chamusso is convinced to enlist with the African National Congress.

His interrogator, Nic Vos, will be described later as a monster. But as played by Tim Robbins, the anti-terrorism officer has a tragic element as well. We see the decisive point at which Vos violates his principles in an honest attempt to prevent violence -- and while he bizarrely asserts at one point that white South Africans are the ones being oppressed, every now and then Vos' eyes betray some doubt in his cause.

Comparisons to "Hotel Rwanda" make sense up to a point -- both feature heroes who have the scales removed from their eyes -- but "Fire" is no tearjerker, and here the story of Chamusso's conversion serves mainly as prologue to the main plot, a history-tinted cat-and-mouse policier in which he will attempt to finish the job he was wrongly accused of starting.

It's only at this point that "Fire" engages fully, drawing strength from music as "Rabbit-Proof Fence" made a character of Australia's vast terrain. South Africa's "freedom songs," which cloaked revolutionary messages in what sounded to outsiders' ears like happy folk music, are brought to life here, fueling ANC military drills and bolstering the spirits of prisoners. As the title suggests, this story also reclaims Bob Marley's music, reasserting its revolutionary anger after decades of appropriation by American kids more interested in pot than politics.

A family drama runs through "Fire", but its role here is less sentimental than dramatic. Screenwriter Shawn Slovo, daughter of ANC figure Joe Slovo, is especially sensitive to the effects of revolutionary movements on families and vice versa. (Chamusso has issues with fidelity that complicate things further.) This thread plays out surprisingly, and keeps anyone involved from looking impossibly noble. Noyce and Slovo may never overtly question whether blowing up an oil plant was an absolutely essential step in the march to end Apartheid, but they're not about to make saints out of anyone either, no matter how repugnant the other side was.

CATCH A FIRE

Focus Features

Working Title Films

Credits:

Director: Phillip Noyce

Screenwriter: Shawn Slovo

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anthony Minghella, Robyn Slovo

Executive producers: Sydney Pollack, Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin

Directors of photography: Ron Fortunato, Garry Phillips

Production designer: Johnny Breedt

Costume designer: Reza Levy

Music: Philip Miller

Editor: Jill Bilcock. Cast: Nic Vos: Tim Robbins

Patrick Chamusso: Derek Luke

Precious: Bonnie Henna

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 101 minutes »

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United 93

20 April 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Press notes for motion pictures are usually filled with dispensable, self-congratulatory puffery, but the one for the soul-searing film "United 93" contains this trenchant comment from its English writer-director, Paul Greengrass: Speaking of the 40 individuals aboard United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane on that day of infamy, Sept. 11, 2001, he notes that these were the only passengers and crew members on any of those ill-fated flights who knew about the other planes having been used as weapons and realized what was happening to them. "They were the first people to inhabit the post-9/11 world," Greengrass says. These were the first to react to the worldwide conflict we find ourselves in today. Within the microcosm of that reaction, Greengrass has made an emphatic political document, a movie about defiance against tyranny and terrorism.

How many moviegoers will be willing to endure "United 93"? I suspect many will, but what that adds up to in terms of boxoffice is anybody's guess. Understandably, controversy engulfs this film. Is now the right time for such a film? Why make the film at all? These are legitimate questions. No one possesses a "right" answer. But Greengrass has made not only a thoroughly fact-checked film but a film that incontrovertibly comes from the heart.

Greengrass wants the 91 minutes United 93 was in the air to speak to our tenuous situation in a scary, riven world. A previous film by him anticipates this work. The invaluable "Bloody Sunday" (2002), shot as if it were made by a camera crew at the time, dramatized a 1972 incident in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, where 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot and killed by British soldiers. Here again he takes a hard look at a cataclysmic event to provoke dialogue.

To keep things as accurate as possible, Greengrass reportedly interviewed more than 100 family members and friends of those who perished. He hired flight attendants and commercial airline pilots to play those roles; hired several civilian and military controllers on duty on Sept. 11, including the FAA's Ben Sliney, to play themselves; culled facts from the 9/11 Commission Report; and rehearsed and shot his actors in an old Boeing 757 at England's Pinewood Studios.

Even Barry Ackroyd's hand-held cinematography, John Powell's muted, anxious score and the plane set fixed to computer-controlled motion gimbals to simulate the pitch and roll of the aircraft urge the viewer to think of this as a you-are-there experience. Yet no one really knows what happened on United 93. We have evidence from phone calls made from the plane and those interviews, but that's where it ends. And that is where an artist can pick up the story.

This is what it probably was like, and the experience overwhelms. Time passes in weird ways. The four nervous terrorists wait seemingly forever to make their move. The panicked passengers wait seemingly forever to make theirs. Helplessness engulfs us, then determination takes hold.

During these breathless moments, Greengrass cuts away to the desperation and confusion in airport control towers, the FAA's overwhelmed operations command center in Herndon, Va., and the military's unprepared operations center at the Northeast Air Defense Sector in upstate New York. For all their monitors and electronic equipment, there is a horrific, low-tech moment when controllers at Newark Airport get a perfect view across the Hudson of the second plane hitting a World Trade Center tower. No one can even speak.

In years to come, United 93 may enter our mythology in ways unimaginable. But for now, we have a starting point. "United 93" is a sincere attempt to pull together the known facts and guesses at the emotional truths as best anyone can. Then, in the movie's final moments, the impact of the heroism aboard United 93 becomes startlingly clear.

UNITED 93

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures and StudioCannal present in association with Sidney Kimmel Entertainment a Working Title production

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Paul Greengrass

Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin, Paul Greengrass

Executive producers: Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin

Director of photography: Barry Ackroyd

Production designer: Dominic Watkins

Composer: John Powell

Costume designer: Dinah Collin

Editors: Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse, Richard Pearson

Cast:

Donald Freeman Greene: David Rasche

Himself: Ben Sliney

Capt. Jason M. Dahl: JJ Johnson

Todd Beamer: David Alan Basche

Sandra Bradshaw: Trish Gates

Wanda Anita Green: Starla Benford

Maj. Kevin Nasypany: Patrick St. Esprit

Jeremy Glick: Peter Hermann

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 111 minutes »

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Hamburg has thriller for Uni Pics

7 April 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

In a multimillion dollar deal, Universal Pictures and Working Title have acquired the script "The Troubleshooter" by John Hamburg. Hamburg also will direct and produce the movie, which also will be produced by Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. The comic thriller follows a mild-mannered TV installation technician who, after a case of mistaken identity, goes on the run from a pair of killers. The script is based on a story by Hamburg and Mark Shanahan. »

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Hamburg has thriller for Uni Pics

6 April 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

In a multimillion dollar deal, Universal Pictures and Working Title have acquired the script "The Troubleshooter" by John Hamburg. Hamburg also will direct and produce the movie, which also will be produced by Working Title's Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. The comic thriller follows a mild-mannered TV installation technician who, after a case of mistaken identity, goes on the run from a pair of killers. The script is based on a story by Hamburg and Mark Shanahan. »

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British talent in lineup for 'Hot Fuzz'

1 March 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

LONDON -- A who's who of British talent including Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton and Edward Woodward have signed up for the cast of Hot Fuzz, an action comedy from Shaun of the Dead creators Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Produced by Shaun producer Nira Park and U.K. production banner Working Title co-chairmen Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Fuzz is scheduled to start shooting this month. Natascha Wharton, head of the company's low-budget WT2 division, is executive producing. No budget was revealed. The cast reunites Pegg, who plays cop Nicholas Angel, with fellow Shaun star Nick Frost. The cast also includes Paddy Considine, Steve Coogan, Anne Reid, Martin Freeman and comedian Bill Bailey. »

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5 items from 2006


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