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8 items from 2005


The Constant Gardener

7 September 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

John le Carre's densely plotted novels, which revolve around espionage, moral corruption and forces of evil at work around the globe, often flounder when transferred to the screen. Plots gets severely truncated and nuances are lost. Filmmakers try to cherry-pick the "cinematic" bits from the stories -- the cloak-and-dagger maneuvers -- but those separate with difficulty from the texture of his characters' lives and the thorough documentation of how rogues, governments and multinational corporations behave.

"The Constant Gardener" is a happy exception. One reason might be the inspired choice of Fernando Meirelles, the Oscar-nominated Brazilian director of "City of God", to bring the story to the screen. His impressionistic, guerilla style of filmmaking works surprisingly well in capturing the hypnotic urgency of le Carre's fiction. And his viewpoint is less British and more Third World. There are awkward moments, given the need to rush through a convoluted plot, and the peripheral characters that never fully come alive. But "The Constant Gardener" gets the essence of the story.

With Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz toplining a work of clear passion, the film looks set for late summer counterprogramming as well as a competitive run with upcoming prestige offerings for Oscar nominations. Boxoffice should be steady though well short of blockbuster status.

The film, like the novel, opens with the death of a major character. Tessa Quayle (Weisz), a tireless political activist, is discovered brutally murdered in a remote area in northern Kenya. Her older husband is Justin (Fiennes), an ineffectual career diplomat attached to the British High Command in Nairobi, mostly concerned with tending his flower garden and keeping up appearances.

Initially, he takes the news with the apparent sangfroid of a true Etonian. Indeed it is Justin's associate, Sandy Woodrow (Danny Huston), who throws up at the sight of Tessa's mutilated body in the morgue, not Justin. Complicating his reaction is an indication that her murder might be a crime of passion: The Kenyan doctor (Hubert Kounde) with whom she was traveling has disappeared and is the chief suspect.

Justin then makes discoveries that could substantiate rumors of other infidelities by his young wife. But what no one in the community of expats in Nairobi counts on is the fierce love this man still has for the woman he scarcely got to know in their brief marriage.

The story moves in a nonlinear way as Justin turns into a mild-mannered bulldog, seeking an explanation for his wife's death. Then, in flashbacks, he examines more closely who his wife was. In the course of his confrontation with things he previously chose not to see, he draws closer to his wife; he understands her point of view, what mattered to her, and comes to love her even more.

This odyssey pulls him into the shady world of multinational pharmaceuticals or "pharmas" as the drug giants are called. These are organizations with enormous resources and economic power, virtual nations onto themselves, who think nothing about testing new drugs in the impoverished Third World.

Justin's investigation into what might have caused someone to order his wife's murder takes him into a scary and sinister terrain, where one feels no safer in the blazing light of day then in the mysterious dark of the night.

He visits Kibera, the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. In London, the British government confiscates his passport. He travels to Berlin with a fake passport to interview the scared head of a pharma watchdog group. He returns to Kenya to confront those with blood on their hands, then journeys to Sudan, where refugees live in vile conditions. The journey ends at the strangely beautiful site of his wife's murder.

(For all the criticism of the Kenyan government by the book and the film, the same government allowed the film to shoot in that country.)

The major disappointment comes in Justin's encounters with the crooks, thugs, spies, corrupt businessmen and Her Majesty's mendacious civil servants. These are played by such wonderful actors as Bill Nighy, Pete Postlethwaite, Nick Reding and Gerard McSorley. Yet they are all too familiar types. No doubt perfectly accurate types but le Carre -- adapted here by Jeffrey Caine -- is capable of creating characters with greater subtlety and dimension.

What distracts us from such things is Meirelles' arresting style that creates a vivid sense of place. Working again with cinematographer Cesar Charlone, the director overexposes some scenes, producing a kind of white on white. Meanwhile, in the slums and villages, as with the favela in "City of God", are a riot of deeply saturated colors. The camera jumps and tries to focus, as if a documentary film crew were shooting the film. Editor Claire Simpson keeps the story rushing forward as Alberto Iglesias' soft music, containing hints of African rock, pulsates in the background.

THE CONSTANT GARDENER

Focus Features

Focus Features presents in association with the U.K. Film Council a Potboiler production in association with Scion Films

Credits:

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Screenwriter: Jeffrey Caine

Based on the novel by: John le Carre

Producer: Simon Channing Williams

Executive producers: Gail Egan, Robert Jones, Donald Ranvaud, Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman

Director of photography: Cesar Charlone

Production designer: Mark Tildesley

Music: Alberto Iglesias

Costumes: Odile Dicks-Mireaux

Editor: Claire Simpson

Cast:

Justin Quayle: Ralph Fiennes

Tessa Quayle: Rachel Weisz

Sandy: Danny Huston

Sir Pellegrin: Bill Nighy

Marcus: Pete Postlethwaite

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 130 minutes »

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'Constant Gardener' to open London fest

24 August 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- Fernando Meirelles' The Constant Gardener has been selected to open this year's Times BFI London Film Festival with a gala event Oct. 19, organizers said Wednesday. The Nov. 3 closing night gala will be a screening of George Clooney's Good Night. And, Good Luck. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, Gardener, based on the John le Carre novel of the same name, tells the story of a man's journey to uncover the truth behind a personal loss and a global conspiracy. The film, which also stars Danny Huston and Bill Nighy, was produced by Simon Channing Williams for Focus Features. United International Pictures is releasing The Constant Gardener in the U.K. Good Night, executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, chronicles the real-life conflict between television newsman Edward R. Murrow and Sen. Joseph McCarthy. David Strathairn stars as Murrow and is supported by an ensemble cast including Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. Redbus Film Distribution has U.K. rights to Clooney's sophomore directing effort. »

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Pettyfer cast as boy spy in 'Stormbreaker'

29 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- Alex Pettyfer, 15-year-old star of ITV's recent Tom Brown's Schooldays, was tabbed Wednesday to play schoolboy special agent Alex Rider in the upcoming film version of Anthony Horowitz's children's book Stormbreaker. Others set for the $43 million film include Mickey Rourke (Sin City) as a villainous businessman, Bill Nighy (Girl in the Cafe) as a spymaster and Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) as his assistant. Ewan McGregor will have a cameo as the schoolboy hero's superspy uncle. Other names in the cast include Alicia Silverstone, Missi Pyle, Sarah Bolger, Ashley Walters and Damian Lewis. Geoffrey Sax (White Noise) is directing from Horowitz's script as the film, produced by Marc Samuelson and Peter Samuelson, commences shooting July 3 on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. The Weinstein Co. has North American rights while Entertainment Film Distributors holds U.K. rights to the film, which is also produced by Steve Christian of Isle of Man Film and Andreas Grosch of VIP Medienfonds 4 (HR 5/19). The U.K. Film Council's Premiere Fund, fueled by the National Lottery, has contributed to the budget. Capitol Films is handling international sales. »

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BBC America broadens sked with new adds

27 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The musical love story/thriller Viva Blackpool and the gritty medical drama Bodies are among the slate of new co-productions that BBC America announced Monday. Other new projects include a made-for-TV movie starring Bill Nighy and Miranda Richardson, the miniseries Messiah: The Promise, the comedy-drama series Love Soup and comedy show The Robinsons. The slate announcement follows news in January that BBC America is doubling its programming budget over the next two years. »

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

6 June 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens Friday

Arthur Dent fans need not panic.

After succeeding splendidly first as a BBC Radio series, then as a five-book "trilogy" and a subsequent TV series, Douglas Adams' beloved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has taken that tricky leap to the cinema with largely pleasing results.

While the long-awaited movie version has some trouble sustaining the blissfully ironic, witty irreverence that was the Adams sensibility, the fact that it hits the nail on the head to the extent it does should come as great relief to the legions of fans who had reason to be dubious following the author's death in 2001.

That Monty Python-esque target demographic, the one also responsible for making Spamalot a big, fat Broadway hit, should reward the Touchstone Pictures release with stellar though less than astronomical boxoffice, followed by some very smart DVD business.

Using Adams' own second draft as a blueprint, screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run) and innovative music video director Garth Jennings remain true to the highly distinct brand of sci-fi satire that would go on to influence the likes of Men in Black and Ghostbusters.

For those unfamiliar with the Babel Fish, Vogons and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters that occupy the Hitchhiker galaxy, the movie actually begins back on Earth, where everyman Arthur Dent (perfectly cast everyman Martin Freeman, late of The Office) is fighting a losing war with a bulldozer that's about to raze his home.

Coincidentally planet Earth also happens to be minutes away from total annihilation in order to make way for a hyperspace freeway, and Dent, still wearing his pajamas, is rescued in the nick of time by his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who's really an alien who has just been posing as an out-of-work actor.

The two briefly stow away on a spacecraft belonging to the highly bureaucratic, bad-poetry-reading Vogons, before ending up on the Heart of Gold spaceship, which was stolen by the energetic but rather dim President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell channeling George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and assorted rock stars).

Much to Dent's surprise, Beeblebrox is accompanied by comely astrophysicist Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who went by the name of Trish McMillan back when he met her at a costume party.

And that's just for starters.

Also along for the metaphysical mash-up is Marvin, a chronically depressed robot (ideally voiced by Alan Rickman), rather crazed intergalactic missionary Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) and Magrathean planetary construction engineer Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who has overseen the building of a back-up planet Earth.

Jennings, creatively blending bits of CGI with old school FX and Jim Henson's Creature Shop, gets the tone down cold, but like a number of other novice feature directors who cut their teeth on videos, the inspired sequences don't always effectively link together to form a cohesive, involving whole.

Still, there is much to appreciate here, from the terrific casting (heard but not seen are Helen Mirren as the voice of the Deep Thought computer and Stephen Fry providing the amiably glib narration) to production designer Joel Collins' fanciful sets and especially the rousing musical number, "So Long & Thanks For All the Fish," performed by some very wise dolphins who manage to get out while the going's good.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Buena Vista

Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Barber/Birnbaum prodn./A Hammer and Tongs prodn./An Everyman Pictures prodn.

Credits:

Director: Garth Jennings

Screenwriters: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the book by Douglas Adams

Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, Jonathan Glickman

Executive producers: Douglas Adams, Robbie Stamp, Derek Evans

Director of photography: Igor Jadue-Lillo

Production designer: Joel Collins

Editor: Niven Howie

Costume designer: Sammy Sheldon

Music: Joby Talbot

Cast:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Sam Rockwell

Ford Prefect: Mos Def

Trish McMillan/Trillian: Zooey Deschanel

Arthur Dent: Martin Freeman

Slartibartfast: Bill Nighy

Marvin: Warwick Davis

Questular: Anna Chancellor

Voice of Marvin: Alan Rickman

Voice of Deep Thought: Helen Mirren

Narrator: Stephen Fry

Humma Kavula: John Malkovich

MPAA Rating: PG

Running time: 108 minutes

»

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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

23 May 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Opens Friday

Arthur Dent fans need not panic.

After succeeding splendidly first as a BBC Radio series, then as a five-book "trilogy" and a subsequent TV series, Douglas Adams' beloved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has taken that tricky leap to the cinema with largely pleasing results.

While the long-awaited movie version has some trouble sustaining the blissfully ironic, witty irreverence that was the Adams sensibility, the fact that it hits the nail on the head to the extent it does should come as great relief to the legions of fans who had reason to be dubious following the author's death in 2001.

That Monty Python-esque target demographic, the one also responsible for making Spamalot a big, fat Broadway hit, should reward the Touchstone Pictures release with stellar though less than astronomical boxoffice, followed by some very smart DVD business.

Using Adams' own second draft as a blueprint, screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run) and innovative music video director Garth Jennings remain true to the highly distinct brand of sci-fi satire that would go on to influence the likes of Men in Black and Ghostbusters.

For those unfamiliar with the Babel Fish, Vogons and Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters that occupy the Hitchhiker galaxy, the movie actually begins back on Earth, where everyman Arthur Dent (perfectly cast everyman Martin Freeman, late of The Office) is fighting a losing war with a bulldozer that's about to raze his home.

Coincidentally planet Earth also happens to be minutes away from total annihilation in order to make way for a hyperspace freeway, and Dent, still wearing his pajamas, is rescued in the nick of time by his best friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who's really an alien who has just been posing as an out-of-work actor.

The two briefly stow away on a spacecraft belonging to the highly bureaucratic, bad-poetry-reading Vogons, before ending up on the Heart of Gold spaceship, which was stolen by the energetic but rather dim President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell channeling George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and assorted rock stars).

Much to Dent's surprise, Beeblebrox is accompanied by comely astrophysicist Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who went by the name of Trish McMillan back when he met her at a costume party.

And that's just for starters.

Also along for the metaphysical mash-up is Marvin, a chronically depressed robot (ideally voiced by Alan Rickman), rather crazed intergalactic missionary Humma Kavula (John Malkovich) and Magrathean planetary construction engineer Slartibartfast (Bill Nighy), who has overseen the building of a back-up planet Earth.

Jennings, creatively blending bits of CGI with old school FX and Jim Henson's Creature Shop, gets the tone down cold, but like a number of other novice feature directors who cut their teeth on videos, the inspired sequences don't always effectively link together to form a cohesive, involving whole.

Still, there is much to appreciate here, from the terrific casting (heard but not seen are Helen Mirren as the voice of the Deep Thought computer and Stephen Fry providing the amiably glib narration) to production designer Joel Collins' fanciful sets and especially the rousing musical number, "So Long & Thanks For All the Fish," performed by some very wise dolphins who manage to get out while the going's good.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Buena Vista

Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present a Barber/Birnbaum prodn./A Hammer and Tongs prodn./An Everyman Pictures prodn.

Credits:

Director: Garth Jennings

Screenwriters: Douglas Adams and Karey Kirkpatrick

Based on the book by Douglas Adams

Producers: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach, Jonathan Glickman

Executive producers: Douglas Adams, Robbie Stamp, Derek Evans

Director of photography: Igor Jadue-Lillo

Production designer: Joel Collins

Editor: Niven Howie

Costume designer: Sammy Sheldon

Music: Joby Talbot

Cast:

Zaphod Beeblebrox: Sam Rockwell

Ford Prefect: Mos Def

Trish McMillan/Trillian: Zooey Deschanel

Arthur Dent: Martin Freeman

Slartibartfast: Bill Nighy

Marvin: Warwick Davis

Questular: Anna Chancellor

Voice of Marvin: Alan Rickman

Voice of Deep Thought: Helen Mirren

Narrator: Stephen Fry

Humma Kavula: John Malkovich

MPAA Rating: PG

Running time: 108 minutes

»

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Where the boys are this weekend

28 April 2005 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

It's sure to be a foot race for a fan base this weekend at the movies. Both new wide releases -- Buena Vista Pictures' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Sony Pictures' XXX: State of the Union -- are looking to draw young males, and the winner will be decided by whichever group of fans shows up in greater numbers and how wide that core fan base expands. Suspense is sure to build because industry insiders are hoping these two broad-based pictures will provide the necessary shot in the arm that the recently beleaguered boxoffice needs. The Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Pictures might have the upper hand with the first film adaptation of Douglas Adams' uber-popular book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Originally done in 1978 as a BBC radio show about a group of interplanetary travelers and later turned into the widely successful novel and a TV series, the cult satire has a loyal and devoted following. Whether that fan base translates into moviegoers remains to be seen, but sources say tracking puts the film in the mid-$20 million range. The film version is based on a screenplay originally written by Adams. After the author died unexpectedly in 2001, the script was rewritten by Karey Kirkpatrick (Chicken Run, James and the Giant Peach.) Directing the film is Garth Jennings, who along with Nick Goldsmith make up the British commercial and video production and directing team of Hammer & Tongs. Hitchhiker marks Jennings' feature film debut. Spyglass Entertainment is co-producing the PG-rated film. The sci-fi adventure stars Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent, with Mos Def filling the role of Ford Prefect. Also featured are Bill Nighy, Zooey Deschanel, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell and John Malkovich. Hitchhiker is sure to play huge on college campuses, but its weekend gross is likely to be more dependent on positive reviews than the other wide opener in the market. The film bows in 3,133 theaters. Sony will open Revolution Studios' XXX: State of the Union on 3,480 screens. A continuation of 2002's high-octane spy actioner XXX, which earned $141 million after opening to $44.5 million, the sequel features neither the original film's star nor its original director. Vin Diesel declined to reprise his role as Xander Cage, an extreme sports athlete-turned-secret agent. And Rob Cohen, who bowed out of directing the sequel, took an executive producing role. Neal Moritz and his Original Film production company produced the movie for Revolution. »

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'Vera Drake' Steals British Film Award Ceremony

8 February 2005 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Vera Drake director Mike Leigh and actress Imelda Staunton were the big winners at Sunday night's 2004 Evening Standard British Film Awards in London. The gritty drama about a 1950s illegal abortionist was named Best Film and Staunton - who is also nominated at this year's Academy Awards Ceremony - was honored as Best Actress. Paddy Considine was named Best Actor for his performance in Dead Man's Shoes; Shaun Of The Dead star Simon Pegg picked up the Peter Sellers Award for Comedy; and Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason was voted Evening Standard Readers' Film of 2004 at the British capital's Savoy Hotel. The Alexander Walker Special Award, which honors lasting contributions to the British film industry, was presented to Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner - the co-chairmen of Working Title films. The production company has produced a string of successes including My Beautiful Laundrette, Billy Elliot and About a Boy. Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt shared the Best Newcomer award for their performances in My Summer Of Love, and director Pawel Pawlikowski took the Best Screenplay crown. Roger Deakins won the technical achievement award for his cinematography on The Ladykillers and The Village at the ceremony attending by Dame Judi Dench, Kim Cattrall, Charles Dance, Bill Nighy and Colin Firth. »

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8 items from 2005


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