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2 items from 2004

3 'Surrender' to CBS telepic with Keaton

18 October 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Tom Everett Scott, Lauren German and Alexa Davalos have been tapped to star opposite Diane Keaton in the CBS movie Surrender, Dorothy. Also cast in the project is Peter Riegert. Based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer, the film centers on Natalie (Keaton), whose 30-year-old daughter, Sara (Davalos), suddenly dies. It follows Natalie as she goes to the summer house where Sara spent a month every year with her best friend, Adam (Scott), a successful gay playwright, and Mandy (German) and Peter, Sara's long-married friends. Natalie takes Sara's room and spends a few weeks with her daughter's friends. Riegert will play Mel. »

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How to Kill

9 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Other than Woody Allen films, comedies about curmudgeons are few and far between. Audiences tend to see little reason to sympathize with a perpetually disgruntled fussbudget who lashes out at everyone in his life. But screenwriter-director Michael Kalesniko has managed to pull off such a comedy with "How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog," and he succeeds for two reasons: His protagonist is played by a rumpled yet robust Kenneth Branagh, who brings surprising warmth to the role of a playwright beset by problems on many fronts, and Kalesniko's script lets us understand immediately what's really bugging his hero — the dreaded writer's block.

Movies about writers usually don't set boxoffice records, but this Millennium Films release has an unusually high ratio of laughs per minute.

Crises come at Peter McGowan (Branagh) from many angles. There is, of course, dilemma No. 1: After a run of boxoffice successes as the angry young playwright of Los Angeles, McGowan has hit a wall. Three successive flops have devastated his self- confidence, so he decides to workshop an incomplete drama with a hotshot director (David Krumholtz) who is addicted to Petula Clark songs and two flighty actors (Jonathan Schaech and Kaitlin Hopkins). But the idea is not working.

Meanwhile, wife Melanie Robin Wright Penn), a children's dance instructor, wants a child of her own; his mother-in-law (Lynn Redgrave) battles Alzheimer's; a stalker (Jared Harris) insists he's the real Peter McGowan; and the mutt next door barks all night.

Also new in the neighborhood is 10-year-old Amy (Suzi Hofrichter), afflicted with a mild case of cerebral palsy. Melanie invites the girl over frequently, hoping that Peter will warm up to children. This tactic fails miserably until his play's producer (Peter Riegert) and director insist that Peter's dialogue for a 10-year-old character doesn't ring true, so Peter befriends Amy to study her speech pattern.

"How to Kill" is, in essence, about the creative process and how an artist uses life for their own purposes. It also is about the selfishness to which an artist must cling if they are to achieve their goals. But this makes the film sound heavy — which it never is.

Peter's ego-deflating situations keep him off-balance, in search of creative equilibrium. Kalesniko's writing and direction are ever on the prowl for the oddball and offbeat.


Millennium Films

in association with Cinerenta

South Ford Pictures

in association with Lonsdale Prods.

Producers Michael Nozik, Nancy M. Ruff, Brad Weston

Director-screenwriter Michael Kalesniko

Executive producer Robert Redford

Co-executive producers Willi Baer, Avi Lerner, Danny Dembort, Trevor Short, John Thompson

Director of photography Hubert Taczanowski

Production designer Stephen Lineweaver

Music David Robbins

Costume designer Mary Claire Hannan

Editor Pamela Martin



Peter McGowan Kenneth Branagh

Melanie McGowan Robin Wright Penn

Amy Walsh Suzi Hofrichter

Edna Lynn Redgrave

Stalker Jared Harris

Larry Peter Riegert

Brian Sellars David Krumholtz

Adam Jonathan Schaech

Victoria Kaitlin Hopkins

Running time — 104 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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