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6 items from 2006


Notes on a Scandal

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

This review was written for the festival screening of "Notes on a Scandal".This may run counter of the auteur theory, but "Notes on a Scandal" feels much more like a film by writer Patrick Marber than by director Richard Eyre. Eyre does a fine job overseeing performances by a terrific cast that rings true until female hysteria takes over the final act. But in tone and theme, the film has all the hallmarks of playwright-screenwriter Marber's stark, uncompromising misanthropy, if not misogyny.

That would mean neurotic women daring to experiment with unconventional if not outlaw sexual relationships ("Asylum") and the depiction of love as tawdry acts of betrayal and exploitation ("Closer"). While "Scandal" is indeed based on a novel by another writer, Zoe Heller's "What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal," Marber never bothers to import into his screen version any of the wit or subtlety that so pleased its literary critics. Instead, he goes for a dispiriting hard-heartedness.

To whom will such a film appeal? To misanthropes perhaps? Perhaps lonely, bitter folks with no Christmas bird to share with friends or family. Remarkably, Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench almost make sense of these extreme characters. Possibly enough enthusiasts of these fine actresses may turn out to deliver a modest art house boxoffice for Fox Searchlight.

The story tells of a scandal provoked by a colossally foolish affair between a married female schoolteacher and a 15-year-old male student. The arrival of art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) at a comprehensive high school in north London catches everyone off guard. Her slightly bohemian manner and oddly out-of-fashion attire furrows the brows of fellow teachers and provokes sex-crazed male students. One student, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), pursues her with great ardor. He has about him just enough modest artistic talent and a whiff of poverty within an abusive household to provoke her unhealthy interest.

Sheba appears to have a content home life with a lawyer husband several years her senior (Bill Nighy), a teen daughter (Juno Temple) at a difficult age and a cheerful son (Max Lewis) with Down syndrome. Perhaps that contentment comes from this being a household of "semiprofessional drinkers."

But none of these characters narrate the story. That tasks falls to diarist Barbara Covett (Dench), a history teacher nearing retirement who describes herself as a "battle-ax." Barbara takes the novice teacher under her wing. When she discovers the affair, she acts as mother confessor. When it becomes public knowledge, she acts as Sheba's only defender.

However, she proves both an unreliable narrator and friend. She sees Sheba's dilemma as a personal opportunity to gain the upper hand in the relationship. Marber's screen adaptation makes it clear that Barbara's friendship with and defense of Sheba springs from a strong Sapphic impulse.

Barbara believes the affair puts this good-looking woman in her power. When that power fails her, when Sheba shows insufficient compassion for her dying cat -- a cat, for Pete's sake -- Barbara makes certain rumors will spread, thereby destroying Sheba's life and family. From this point on, female hysteria reigns, egged on by an unusually emotional Philip Glass score.

For a while, two of the finest actresses in cinema make these characters believable. Nothing they do in the final act, however, retains this credibility. Nighy certainly earns our sympathy, though we don't really get to know the man. The youngsters are more props than flesh-and-blood characters, more like Barbara's cat, in fact.

On the plus side, the film nicely surveys the scruffy, genteel sections of contemporary London thanks to excellent design by Tim Hatley and cinematography by Chris Menges. »

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Notes on a Scandal

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

This may run counter of the auteur theory, but Notes on a Scandal feels much more like a film by writer Patrick Marber than by director Richard Eyre. Eyre does a fine job overseeing performances by a terrific cast that rings true until female hysteria takes over the final act. But in tone and theme, the film has all the hallmarks of playwright-screenwriter Marber's stark, uncompromising misanthropy, if not misogyny.

That would mean neurotic women daring to experiment with unconventional if not outlaw sexual relationships (Asylum) and the depiction of love as tawdry acts of betrayal and exploitation (Closer). While Scandal is indeed based on a novel by another writer, Zoe Heller's "What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal," Marber never bothers to import into his screen version any of the wit or subtlety that so pleased its literary critics. Instead, he goes for a dispiriting hard-heartedness.

To whom will such a film appeal? To misanthropes perhaps? Perhaps lonely, bitter folks with no Christmas bird to share with friends or family. Remarkably, Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench almost make sense of these extreme characters. Possibly enough enthusiasts of these fine actresses may turn out to deliver a modest art house boxoffice for Fox Searchlight.

The story tells of a scandal provoked by a colossally foolish affair between a married female schoolteacher and a 15-year-old male student. The arrival of art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) at a comprehensive high school in north London catches everyone off guard. Her slightly bohemian manner and oddly out-of-fashion attire furrows the brows of fellow teachers and provokes sex-crazed male students. One student, Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson), pursues her with great ardor. He has about him just enough modest artistic talent and a whiff of poverty within an abusive household to provoke her unhealthy interest.

Sheba appears to have a content home life with a lawyer husband several years her senior (Bill Nighy), a teen daughter (Juno Temple) at a difficult age and a cheerful son (Max Lewis) with Down syndrome. Perhaps that contentment comes from this being a household of "semiprofessional drinkers."

But none of these characters narrate the story. That tasks falls to diarist Barbara Covett (Dench), a history teacher nearing retirement who describes herself as a "battle-ax." Barbara takes the novice teacher under her wing. When she discovers the affair, she acts as mother confessor. When it becomes public knowledge, she acts as Sheba's only defender.

However, she proves both an unreliable narrator and friend. She sees Sheba's dilemma as a personal opportunity to gain the upper hand in the relationship. Marber's screen adaptation makes it clear that Barbara's friendship with and defense of Sheba springs from a strong Sapphic impulse.

Barbara believes the affair puts this good-looking woman in her power. When that power fails her, when Sheba shows insufficient compassion for her dying cat -- a cat, for Pete's sake -- Barbara makes certain rumors will spread, thereby destroying Sheba's life and family. From this point on, female hysteria reigns, egged on by an unusually emotional Philip Glass score.

For a while, two of the finest actresses in cinema make these characters believable. Nothing they do in the final act, however, retains this credibility. Nighy certainly earns our sympathy, though we don't really get to know the man. The youngsters are more props than flesh-and-blood characters, more like Barbara's cat, in fact.

On the plus side, the film nicely surveys the scruffy, genteel sections of contemporary London thanks to excellent design by Tim Hatley and cinematography by Chris Menges.

»

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Matthew McCrory the technical director of Flushed Away

7 November 2006 1:21 PM, PST | The Scorecard Review | See recent Scorecard Review news »

When you go to the new animated film "Flushed Away," which opened last week, it’s going to be hard to pick out Matthew McCrory’s work. The West Dundee native is not a voice; that would be the work of Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Bill Nighy and Ian McKellen. Nor is McCrory one of the film’s animators. His title reads “technical director.” Don’t worry, the question of what a tech director does was my first to him. And there’s a reason you see only images from “Flushed Away” for this article — technical directors just don’t do headshots. Bayer: What does a technical director do? McCrory: (Laughing) I get asked that a lot. It’s not always the most straightforward thing to answer. It’s a range of responsibilities. Whenever an artist might not be able to »

- Jeff Bayer

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Keith Richards "Drunk" on 'Pirates of the Caribbean' Set

25 September 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Keith Richards appearance in the second Pirates Of The Caribbean sequel descended into chaos after he reportedly got so drunk on the movie set, the film's director had to prop him up. The hellraising Rolling Stones guitarist finally shot his long awaited cameo as Johnny Depp's father in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End earlier this summer, but he is unlikely to remember the occasion which concluded months of speculation. Bill Nighy, who plays Davy Jones in the film, tells Empire Online that Richards was inebriated by the time the production team retrieved him from his trailer to shoot his scene, and he required a little support from director Gore Verbinski. The 62-year-old rocker is reported to have remarked, "If you wanted straight, then you got the wrong man." »

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Curtis and 'Crash' Filmmakers Honored by Humanitas

30 June 2006 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Screenwriters Richard Curtis, Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco took home the top prizes for their "liberating" work at the annual Humanitas Prize awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Haggis and Moresco were awarded $25,000 for their smash hit movie Crash in the feature film category, while Curtis won the prize in the 90-minute category for his Bill Nighy-starring TV film The Girl In The Cafe, based on last year's G8 summit. Crash was hailed by judges "for its call to reach out with respect and compassion to all of our brothers and sisters." Former US vice president Al Gore won a special award for his documentary by about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth. The Humanitas Prize honors work which serves to "liberate, enrich and unify society". »

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Underworld: Evolution

21 February 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- The scariest thing about "Underworld: Evolution" is its audience.

At the first show on opening day at New York's Loews Cineplex E-Walk (there were, naturally, no advance press screenings), a good percentage of the audience walked out shortly before the conclusion. It's not that they were visibly unhappy with the film, but rather because they were reasonably sure, having seen the chief villain get obliterated in the climactic fight scene, that there would be no more viscera on display.

Fortunately, they had plenty of bloodshed to satisfy them in the preceding reels because, like its predecessor, this tale of vampires and werewolves is a fairly nonstop melange of gore and violence. Opening-weekend grosses look to be substantial, especially considering the lack of new competition.

Besides the aforementioned carnage, no doubt the chief draw for fans is the ever-satisfying sight of Kate Beckinsale, as the vampire Selene, clad in the tightest form-fitting black latex imaginable.

Those with higher artistic tastes can enjoy -- or regret, depending upon their inclination -- the presence of such esteemed British actors as Bill Nighy (virtually unrecognizable) and Derek Jacobi in smaller roles.

The plot, or as much of it as can be determined, revolves around Selene and her hybrid cohort Michael (Scott Speedman) teaming up to battle the evil Marcus (Tony Curran), the king of the vampires, who is determined to free his werewolf Brother William (Brian Steele) and take over the world. Much mayhem ensues.

Repeating their chores from the original, director Len Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride at least succeed in establishing a dark gothic mood.

Unfortunately, there's little wit or genuine suspense to elevate the proceedings above the level of a cheesy comic book. Considering the success of the first installment, one might have hoped that the creators would have taken the opportunity to provide the audience with something more than just a steady stream of ultraviolent action set pieces.

Tedium sets in early, with the repeated firing of automatic weaponry not doing much to raise the audience from their stupor. Beckinsale looks quite fetching reprising her trademark dual gun firing pose -- hell, she even looks great when half of her face is nearly burned off after exposure to the sun -- but her performance is ultimately as monochromatic as the visuals.

Underworld: Evolution

Screen Gems

A Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment presentation of a Lakeshore Entertainment production

Credits:

Director: Len Wiseman

Screenwriter: Danny McBride

Producers: Tom Rosenberg, Garry Lucchesi, David Coatsworth, Richard Wright

Executive producers: Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern, Terry A. McKay, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride, James McQuade

Director of photography: Simon Duggan

Production and creature designer: Patrick Tatopoulos

Editor: Nicolas De Toth

Costume designer: Wendy Partidge

Music: Marco Beltrami

Cast:

Selene: Kate Beckinsale

Michael: Scott Speedman

Marcus: Tony Curran

Corvinus: Sir Derek Jacobi

Viktor: Bill Nighy

Tanis: Steven Mackinstosh

Kraven: Shane Brolly

William: Brian Steele

MPAA rating R

Running time -- 106 minutes »

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6 items from 2006


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