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3 items from 2005

The Cave

7 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

As monster movies go, "The Cave" is discouragingly routine with the exception of one thing: These monsters live in a cave. Not just any cave, mind you, but an ancient Romanian cave. Which means a sealed-off ecosystem that contains miles of rivers, rapids, a waterfall, huge caverns, a sulfuric thermal bath, an ice cave, archeological remains and, yes, malevolent invertebrate animals. This bad-news theme park makes you tolerate, for a while at least, a dull script by Michael Steinberg and Tegan West that runs through artificial character conflicts and contrived melodrama. Meanwhile, the monsters, when they finally appear, look like something H.R. Giger designed for "Alien" -- then rejected.

Generally speaking, however, audiences don't go to movies to look at sets. So the film's appeal, limited mostly to young males, will be fleeting. Boxoffice looks mediocre at best.

Stories that send characters -- and audiences -- into uncharted territory usually supply a vital reason for such exploration. A prologue set during the Cold War and a present-day sequence rush a group of adventurers into this cave beneath a 13th century abbey without a compelling justification for doing so. There's no pot of gold or Holy Grail or great scientific discovery lurking within. A Romanian scientist simply summons a group of top divers and cave explorers to head into a cave to see if anyone survives.

Leading the team are the mercurial Jack (Cole Hauser) and his easygoing brother Tyler (Eddie Cibrian). A woman named Charlie (Piper Perabo) adds a touch of glamour, and Top Buchanan (Morris Chestnut) makes a steady right-hand man. Biologist Dr. Kathryn Jennings (Lena Headey) joins her Romanian colleague Dr. Nicolai (Marcel Iures) to take care of the science, Alex Kim Daniel Dae Kim) is the photog, and Strode (Kieran Darcy-Smith) supplies tech support.

A cave-in blocks the party from their entry route, and for some reason, despite this being a well-funded exposition, they won't be "missed for 12 days." As they move into the cave seeking a way out, something attacks and kills a team member. Dr. Kathryn peers at cave specimens through her microscope and detects weird organism and parasites. Then something takes a bite out of Jack, and the infection seems to trigger paranoid hallucinations.

Jack insists that everyone take a ride down the rapids, which dumps them into a huge underground pond. It is at this point someone screams, "There's something in the water!" Actually, these creatures swim in water, fly through air and gallop along the ground and ceiling. There are silly, all-purpose monsters that pick off the cast one by one, leaving you to place bets on who will survive.

Characters are poorly established, so when conflicts arise they do so out of thin air. Attacks are preceded by a weird clicking noise, but most of the tension derives from Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek's musical score, which huff and puffs and thunders and whines.

Australian commercial director Bruce Hunt, making his feature debut, keeps the camera close and the action furious so you can't always be certain where characters are or what is happening. The film requires athleticism rather than acting from performers. Underwater photography and production design, much taking place at the Media Pro studios complex in Bucharest, is thoroughly professional though wasted on such a lame effort.


Screen Gems

Lakeshore Entertainment


Director: Bruce Hunt

Screenwriters: Michael Steinberg & Tegan West

Producers: Tom Rosenberg

Gary Lucchesi, Andrew Mason, Richard Wright, Michael Ohoven

Executive producers: Marco Mehlitz, Neil Bluhm, Judd Malkin

Director of photography: Ross Emery

Production designer: Pier Luigi Basile

Music: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek

Co-producer: Robert Bernacchi, James McQuaide

Costumes: Wendy Partridge

Editor: Brian Berdan


Jack: Cole Hauser

Top Buchanan: Morris Chestnut

Tyler: Eddie Cibrian

Briggs: Rick Ravanello

Dr. Nicolai: Marcel Iures: Strode: Kieran Darcy-Smith

Kim: Daniel Dae Kim

Katherine: Lena Headey

Charlie: Piper Perabo

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 96 minutes »

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The Brothers Grimm

7 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Hugely ambitious but often failing to live up to those ambitions, Terry Gilliam's long-awaited "The Brothers Grimm" emerges as a folkloric adventure that intermittently entertains. The central problem is that Gilliam never figures out what movie he wants to make. "Grimm" ranges from 18th century slapstick to pure fairy tale and from Monty Python absurdity to a semi-serious meditation on the collision between rationalist convictions and mystical beliefs.

Not helping matters at the boxoffice, the movie strands its two young stars, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, in quaint, off-putting period costumes and confusion about their roles. One minute they are cowardly buffoons and con artists and the next they're heroes bent on rescuing a damsel in distress -- despite the fact this damsel has more spunk than the two men combined.

Prospects for the Dimension/MGM co-production -- pegged at $75 million but with production delays that must have pushed that figure seriously north -- are iffy. Certainly, Gilliam puts on a splendid show, one filled with bizarre imagery and imaginative design that serve a Borges-tinged tale about collectors of folklore who find themselves living through one of their own fairy stories.

The movie gets off to a rocky start by thrusting a viewer into so much frantic action that one struggles to get one's bearings. Nor does the film pay much attention to the one thing vital to all storytelling -- creating empathy for its protagonists.

The screenplay by "The Ring"'s Ehren Kruger imagines that the legendary German brothers, Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm -- here called Will (Damon) and Jake (Ledger) -- are rogues who travel from village to village in "French-occupied Germany" in 1796. They pretend to protect townsfolk from witches and enchanted creatures by performing fake exorcisms. The French authorities, led by the autocratic snob, Gen. Delatombe (Jonathan Pryce), get wise to their con and arrest the brothers.

The Grimms are threatened with gruesome torture and death, then presented with a deal they cannot refuse. Apparently, even greater con artists are terrorizing a small village, where young children are missing and villagers blame an enchanted forest. The Grimms can escape their grim fate by uncovering the miscreants behind the hocus pocus and delivering the children back to their parents. To make certain that the boys keep the bargain, the general saddles them with a sadistic Italian torturer named Cavaldi (Peter Stormare.)

Things in the village are as bad as advertised. What's worse, the Grimms cannot unmask the magician: The forest seems to be really haunted, and the village's curse proves all too real. Will refuses to believe folk tales are anything other than superstition and lies told by village elders. Yet brother Jake, even as a small boy, has believed in fairy tales. There is, in other words, a clash between the Napoleonic rationalists, personified by Delatombe and Will, and traditionalist inspired by folk tales, represented by Jake.

Further upsetting the delicate balance between the brothers is the beauteous Angelika (Lena Headey). She has lost two sisters to the curse, yet is reluctant to help the brothers other than guide them into the enchanted woods to demonstrate the impossibility of lifting the curse.

There is never a dull moment onscreen, but this perhaps is the movie's curse. Actors bustle here and there. Creatures, insects, toads and enchanted animals pop up everywhere. Trees move menacingly. A horse swallows a small girl. A wolflike beast turns into a man and back into a beast. Actors chew the scenery and, for once, the scenery chews back.

While the Brothers Grimm cannot fathom the magic that confronts them, the modern moviegoer has no such problem. The CGI and visual effects are all too transparent. Overall the production feels disjointed as the tone keeps shifting even as the fake scenery keeps shaking.

Damon and Ledger don't really locate their characters until about the midway point. By then, viewer allegiance has shifted to Headey, the most charismatic figure in the film. Stormare is so over the top that he is simply annoying. Pryce at least is consistent as the smug commander determined to root superstition out of the territory. Monica Bellucci lends an eerie eroticism as an ancient queenly corpse whose struggle for rebirth is the key to the village curse.


Dimension Films

Dimension Films and MGM present

a Mosaic Media Group/Daniel Bobker production


Director: Terry Gilliam

Screenwriter: Ehren Kruger

Producers: Charles Roven, Daniel Bobker

Executive producers: John D. Schofield, Chris McGurk, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jonathan Gordon, Andrew Rona

Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel

Additional photography: Nicola Pecorini

Production designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas

Music: Dario Marianelli

Co-producer: Jake Myers, Michael Solinger

Visual effects supervisor: Kent Houston

Costumes: Gabriella Pescucci, Carlo Poggioli

Editor: Lesley Walker


Will Grimm: Matt Damon

Jake Grimm: Heath Ledger

Delatombe: Jonathan Pryce

Angelika: Lena Headey

Cavaldi: Peter Stormare

Mirror Queen: Monica Bellucci

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 119 minutes »

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Gilliam's Rage at Weinstein Takeover

10 August 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Twelve Monkeys director Terry Gilliam is furious with movie moguls Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein for scrapping his ideas and undermining his authority during filming of his new Matt Damon movie The Brothers Grimm. The powerful pair first ditched Gilliam's plans to cast Samantha Morton in the lead role in favor of lesser known actress Lena Headey, and then further enraged the former Monty Python star by sacking his cinematographer Nicola Pecorini for working too slowly. Tensions escalated to the extent that Gilliam refused to shoot for two weeks as he was so staggered by what he viewed as the Weinsteins' constant interference. He fumes, "I'm used to riding roughshod over executives, but the Weinsteins rode roughshod over me." But Bob Weinstein insists, "Any film involves the making of 10,000 decisions. If you only concentrate on the few we had issues with, you ignore the 9,997 we left to totally to Terry." »

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