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10 items from 2004


'Happy' trio brings Spirit to Sundance

21 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The nonprofit group Women in Film will inaugurate its new Spirit of Sundance Award at the opening-night ceremonies of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, which gets under way Jan. 21 in Park City. The first recipients of the award will be Laura Dern, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lisa Kudrow, the female stars of Don Roos' Happy Endings, the fest's opening-night feature from Lions Gate Films. The award honors one or more artists who exemplify the standards of Women in Film and who have shown through their work support of independent filmmaking and the Sundance Film Festival. "Women in Film is thrilled to honor these three incredible women who really are the spirit of independent movies," WIF president Iris Grossman said. »

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Sundance unveils remaining lineup of 2005 films

1 December 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Happy Endings, Don Roos' envelope-pushing, intricately structured comic drama that intertwines characters from many stories, will open the 2005 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20 in Park City. The Lions Gate release stars Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom Arnold, Laura Dern and Jason Ritter. Festival director Geoffrey Gilmore calls this world premiere "the perfect film to open the festival because it examines the many layers of relationships in American families and changes in family values in the sense that it's not all red states vs. blue states. Things are more complicated than that." Opening night in Salt Lake City on Jan. 21 features the world premiere of On a Clear Day, a World Cinema Dramatic Competition film, directed by U.K. director Gaby Dellal and starring Peter Mullan and Brenda Blethyn. As befits the more conservative crowd that attends the Salt Lake City screenings, the film is, in Gilmore's words, "mainstream but really touching. It's going to get bought and do well in the market place." »

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Dunst and Gyllenhaal Back Together

19 October 2004 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Hollywood hunk Jake Gyllenhaal and his actress ex Kirsten Dunst are back together again - only five months after splitting. Jake's sister Maggie Gyllenhaal - who co-starred with Dunst in Mona Lisa Smile - introduced the handsome couple in 2002 and they dated for two years before splitting in June. The forthcoming issue of American magazine Us Weekly has exclusive pictures of the reunited pair in Los Angeles, who were spotted kissing in a car last Tuesday. And according to gossip site Pagesix.Com, later on last week Dunst and Gyllenhaal were partying at Brent Bolthouse's bash in LA's Concorde Club, were according to onlookers, "They were making out like crazy." »

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Criminal

24 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

If you believed everything you see in the movies, you would never leave your home for fear of running into the seemingly endless spate of con men attempting to relieve you of your money. The latest example of the cinematic grifter genre, which only last year produced Matchstick Men, is this remake of the acclaimed Argentine drama Nine Queens, with its locale transplanted to Los Angeles. Although Criminal retains its source material's cleverness and intricate plotting, something seems to have been lost in the translation -- as is so often the case with American remakes. It premiered at the Venice International Film Festival.

The story, which takes place over a span of 24 hours, begins in a casino, where we see baby-faced Rodrigo (Diego Luna) attempting to pull a two-bit money-changing scam on a beleaguered waitress. When she gets wise to him and starts screaming bloody murder, a police detective who happens to be nearby intervenes and roughly pulls Rodrigo out of the place.

Of course, the cop is no cop, he's Richard (John C. Reilly), a con artist himself who sees in the amateurish but good-looking Rodrigo the makings of a new partner. The two set off on a spree of low-level cons, with Richard making full use of Rodrigo's innocent demeanor to snare the unwitting marks, even an elderly woman who thinks she's giving her money to her grandson's friend.

It doesn't take long for the new partners to tumble into a possibly highly lucrative scam involving a forged rare-currency certificate to be sold to a rapacious Scottish businessman (Peter Mullan) who's due to leave town the next day. As the pair get involved in a series of complex interactions to further their scheme, they also must cope with the family dispute between Richard and his beautiful but estranged sister, Valerie (Maggie Gyllenhaal). She hates him, quite reasonably, because he tried to screw her and her younger brother out of the family inheritance.

As with every con artist flick, Criminal displays the sort of complex plotting in which the details of the sting as well as the true nature of the participants are never quite what they seem. Depending on the execution, this can be great fun or highly annoying, but the middling Criminal winds up somewhere in between.

First-time director Gregory Jacobs, working from a screenplay he co-authored with Sam Lowry, takes a gritty, low-key approach to the material, concentrating as much on characterization and social and ethnic issues in contemporary Los Angeles as on the details of the con. The result is a more realistic example of the genre than usual, but such subplots as the interpersonal conflict between Richard and his sister don't have the intended impact, and the film never achieves the giddy heights of the best of its predecessors.

Reilly, in a rare leading turn, delivers his usual expertly modulated performance, and his unconventional looks make Richard's need for an appealing partner all the more believable. Luna certainly fits the bill, infusing Rodrigo with an appropriate puppy-dog quality. Although Gyllenhaal never seems entirely convincing conveying the sister's aggressive edge, she ultimately acquits herself, and Mullan, much like Robert Shaw in The Sting, uses his steely charisma to excellent effect as the intended mark.

Criminal

A Warner Independent Pictures presentation in association with 2929 Entertainment

A Section Eight production

Credits:

Director: Gregory Jacobs

Screenwriters: Gregory Jacobs, Sam Lowry

Producers: Gregory Jacobs, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh

Executive producers: Jennifer Fox, Ben Cosgrove, Georgia Kacandes, Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban

Director of photography: Chris Menges

Production design: Philip Messina

Editor: Stephen Mirrione

Costume design: Jeffrey Kurland

Music: Alex Wurman

Cast:

Richard Gaddis: John C. Reilly

Rodrigo: Diego Luna

Valerie: Maggie Gyllenhaal

William Hannigan: Peter Mullan

Ochoa: Zitto Kazann

Michael: Jonathan Tucker

MPAA rating: R

Running time -- 87 minutes »

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5 intertwined in 'Happy' pic for Lions Gate

1 April 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Laura Dern, Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe and Johnny Galecki are poised to join Maggie Gyllenhaal in Don Roos' Happy Endings for Lions Gate Films. Shooting starts next week. The ensemble project is described as a contemporary comedy set in Los Angeles involving three intertwining stories among 10 characters. Gyllenhaal, Lisa Kudrow, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale and Steve Coogan are already set. Sources indicated that Kelly Preston also might join the cast, but her deal is not yet negotiated. »

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'Wonderful' digital project adds 6 to cast

16 March 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Olympia Dukakis, The Station Agent writer-director Thomas McCarthy, Judy Greer, Will Arnett, Jim Gaffigan and Naseeruddin Shah have joined Edie Falco, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tony Shalhoub in Serenade Films/Sly Dog Films' digital feature The Great New Wonderful for helmer Danny Leiner. Penned by playwright Sam Catlin, the dark comedy weaves five stories against the backdrop of an anxious and uncertain post-Sept. 11 New York. Shooting starts this week in the Big Apple. Leiner, who recently finished work on New Line Cinema's Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, is producing New Wonderful with partner Matt Tauber through their new production outfit Sly Dog Films. Serenade Films is financing, with the company's Leslie Urdang, Michael Nozik, Amy Robinson and Michael Hoffman serving as producers. »

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'Happy,' busy time for Gyllenhaal

5 March 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Maggie Gyllenhaal has lined up a busy spring. The actress and star of Lions Gate Films' Secretary is set to join Serenade Films/Sly Dog Films' digital feature The Great New Wonderful for helmer Danny Leiner, followed by a role in Don Roos' Happy Endings. When she completes the latter film, Gyllenhaal will then reprise her role in Tony Kushner's play Homebody/Kabul at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Penned by playwright Sam Catlin, the dark comedy Great New Wonderful will find Gyllenhaal alongside Tony Shalhoub and Edie Falco in an intertwining tale of an anxious post-9/11 New York. Gyllenhaal plays a competitive cake designer and rival to Falco's character in the high-stakes high-society pastry game. »

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'Happy,' busy time for Gyllenhaal

5 March 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Maggie Gyllenhaal has lined up a busy spring. The actress and star of Lions Gate Films' Secretary is set to join Serenade Films/Sly Dog Films' digital feature The Great New Wonderful for helmer Danny Leiner, followed by a role in Don Roos' Happy Endings. When she completes the latter film, Gyllenhaal will then reprise her role in Tony Kushner's play Homebody/Kabul at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Penned by playwright Sam Catlin, the dark comedy Great New Wonderful will find Gyllenhaal alongside Tony Shalhoub and Edie Falco in an intertwining tale of an anxious post-9/11 New York. Gyllenhaal plays a competitive cake designer and rival to Falco's character in the high-stakes high-society pastry game. »

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Mona Lisa Smile

29 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens

Thursday, December 25

Why filmmakers have chosen this particular moment to become fascinated with the Eisenhower era is puzzling. Whatever the case, the latest film to peer back a half-century is "Mona Lisa Smile". Unlike the more ambitious "Far From Heaven", this film from the usually adventurous director Mike Newell is content to recycle familiar thematic ideas about that era's zeal for conformity and the limited options available to women from the social upper crust.

With an all-star cast that includes Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Marcia Gay Harden, the movie should develop shapely legs. However, rote characterizations and a trite, even condescending, attitude toward that era's misguided mores robs the film of the satiric punch Todd Haynes delivered in "Far From Heaven". Newell is in top form, though, moving the story along at a brisk clip and nicely delineating the characters and subplots. But Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal's screenplay lacks any insight into what motivated either the enthusiasm for conformity or the rebellion against those attitudes.

The film's feminist heroine, Katherine Watson (Roberts), journeys from California to the New England campus of Wellesley College in 1953 to teach art history. She labors under the misapprehension that her students, the "best and brightest" young women in the country, seek higher education as a means toward careers. To her horror, she discovers that the primary goal of her charges is to get married.

Her students comprise the female stereotypes of that era: snobbish debutante Betty (Dunst), smart girl Joan (Stiles), bad girl Giselle (Gyllenhaal) and shy wallflower Connie (newcomer Ginnifer Goodwin). The closet lesbian also is represented, albeit as school nurse Amanda (Juliet Stevenson), who has the audacity to hand out contraception to students.

Despite an advanced curriculum at Wellesley, the pivotal class belongs to Katherine's roommate, poise and elocution teacher Nancy Abbey (Harden), a spinster carrying a torch for the fellow who jilted her long ago. Battle lines form quickly. Simply by being over 30 and unmarried, Katherine is labeled "subversive." By teaching Picasso and Jackson Pollack, her class becomes an affront to social orthodoxy.

Katherine and newlywed Betty become immediate enemies because Betty feels threatened by her teacher's feminist independence. Meanwhile, Giselle lives the life Katherine preaches as she smokes cigarettes, dates a male professor (Dominic West) and later a married man. Joan gets caught in the middle when Katherine pushes her to apply to Yale Law School despite an imminent proposal from her boyfriend. Connie actually lands a boyfriend only for mean-spirited Betty to interfere, mostly as a reaction to her own failing marriage.

These mini-soap operas serve mostly to belabor '50s social rigidity. The film's dogged insistence in re-fighting the cultural wars of the '50s without shedding any new light on either side reduces nearly all the characters to shallow mouthpieces for predictable points of view.

Roberts' Katherine is much too strident to gain much sympathy despite her "modern" attitudes. Katherine at least is shown in an unflattering light as she holds up impossible standards for any male suitor to meet and has a stubborn streak. Gyllenhaal gets to steal the show as the bad girl -- bad girls usually do. Dunst and Stiles enliven but cannot deepen their cliched characters. Goodwin manages touching moments as the lovelorn Connie.

Cinematography, art and costumes splendidly celebrate the early-'50s look without completely mocking the era. The one period element the film revels in is a fine collection of '50s pop tunes that bridge scenes and punctuate all that was lively and hip in that era.

MONA LISA SMILE

Columbia Pictures

Revolution Studios presents a Red Om Films production

Credits:

Director: Mike Newell

Screenwriters: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Producers: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Deborah Schindler, Paul Schiff

Executive producer: Joe Roth

Director of photography: Anastas N. Michos

Production designer: Jane Musky

Music: Rachel Portman

Costume designer: Michael Dennison

Editor: Mick Audsley

Cast:

Katherine Watson: Julia Roberts

Betty: Kirsten Dunst

Joan: Julia Stiles

Giselle: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Connie: Ginnifer Goodwin

Bill: Dominic West

Amanda: Juliet Stevenson

Nancy: Marcia Gay Harden

President Carr: Marian Seldes

Running time -- 119 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 »

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'Primer' gets surprise win at Sundance

26 January 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

PARK CITY -- A film with a budget "about the price of a used car," according to its director, has stunned the independent film world by winning the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival. In a less-surprising development, HBO Films continued its roll at Sundance -- where, last year, its American Splendor captured the Grand Jury Prize -- by claiming audience awards Saturday in the dramatic and documentary categories. For this year's Dramatic Grand Jury Prize, writer-helmer Shane Carruth's Primer beat out several films that had carved mountain-high profiles during the previous week -- including Zach Braff's Garden State, Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman and John Curran's We Don't Live Here Anymore, all of which star major talent and found homes with indie distributors. Carruth was nearly speechless at his own upset, thanking "the cast, who was also the crew." He remembered when the project "wasn't a Sundance film but was a bunch of guys moving furniture" at his parents' home, which he used as a location. The Dramatic Competition jury consisted of Danny Glover, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ted Hope, Frederick Elmes and Lisa Cholodenko. »

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10 items from 2004


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