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5 items from 2004


I, Robot

30 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

The robots in I, Robot are metal figures in black, white and gray with thin limbs and translucent faces and chests. And because the sets are often shot in low light levels, the movie at times resembles a black-and-white 1950s sci-fi thriller.

Which is fitting, for the film works best as a kind of mindless, action-packed B-movie. But on the A-level at which recent science fiction/fantasy films operate -- meaning the Spider-Man, Harry Potter and Terminator series -- this movie falls woefully short. A story about a future revolt of intelligent machines is too old to bear much scrutiny without a new twist. Throw in highly predictable character and story arcs and the film screams, Been there, done that.

Will Smith's drawing power and a snappy marriage of live action with digital elements assure a sizable opening. Domestic boxoffice certainly could exceed $100 million, with much of that coming from young males. Nevertheless, the film will disappoint science fiction fans accustomed to much more from Hollywood's merchants of fantasy.

It's been 36 years since Stanley Kubrick's benchmark 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet director Alex Proyas and writers Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, drawing inspiration from Isaac Asimov's seminal sci-fi collection, plunge into a tale of robots and an intelligent, HAL-like computer as if this were unexplored territory. Only one man on Earth seems to realize the dangers robots pose for mankind. Everyone else thinks he is a paranoid nut. Would not cops, scientists and politicians have at least seen all the previous movies? Wouldn't they at least know that when a monopolistic corporation that manufactures robots houses itself in a large, soulless skyscraper only evil can lurk within? Or that when robots talk in soothing, patronizing tones these disguise a malevolent intent?

Apparently not. For Chicago 2035 is a city filled with robots supposedly trained to be docile servants and programd to never harm a human. Then one robot, a new NS-5 model that goes by the name of Sonny, emerges as chief suspect in the death of the scientist who created him, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell). Yet brash police detective Del Spooner (Smith) cannot persuade anyone -- not his boss (Chi McBride), the head of U.S. Robotics (Bruce Greenwood) or robot psychiatrist Dr. Susan Calvin (Bridget Moynahan) -- to stop the rollout of the NS-5s. They won't even consider Sonny a suspect.

"What suspect?" his lieutenant demands. "It's a can opener!"

A can of worms is what gets opened. Soon hundreds of vicious NS-5 robots chase and attack Smith when he drives through a tunnel, leaping off large trucks, destroying his car and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But -- get this -- no one in the middle of the city sees a thing! Everyone writes off the incident to Spooner's mental instability.

Spooner, it turns out, is himself part man and part machine, having been pieced back together by Dr. Lanning following a tragic auto accident. So thanks to his superhuman strength and Dr. Calvin's newfound ability to point a gun, close her eyes and still hit her target -- this after Dr. Calvin becomes convinced of Spooner's theory -- humanity is able to battle back against the NS-5s.

Visual effects supervisor John Nelson and special effects house Digital Domain tackle a movie with more than 1,000 effects shots. Sonny himself is a three-dimensional CG character that channels the voice and movements of actor Alan Tudyk. Yet the robot and human worlds never truly merge. Fights between men and machine look fake, and other than Sonny, no robot develops any personality other than that of relentless menace.

Smith carries the movie on his broad and often bare shoulders, which is a heavy load since nearly everyone including the human cast acts like automatons. Even Smith is not very good company as the script requires him to act pissed-off before given a reason to behave so. Moynahan brings a stiff beauty to the role of the techno-scientist, but her timid filmmakers won't allow romantic sparks to fly between their black male and white female leads. That's not futuristic; that's retro.

I, ROBOT

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox in association with Mediastream IV present a Davis Entertainment Co./Laurence Mark/Overbrook Films production

Credits:

Director: Alex Proyas

Screenwriters: Jeff Vintar, Akiva Goldsmith

Screen story by: Jeff Vintar

Suggested by stories by: Isaac Asimov

Producers: Laurence Mark, John Davis, Topher Dow, Wyck Godfrey

Executive producers: Will Smith, James Lassiter, Michael Shane, Anthony Romano

Director of photography: Simon Duggan

Production designer: Patrick Tatopoulos

Music: Marco Beltrami

Visual effects supervisor: John Nelson

Co-producer: Steven R. McGlothen

Costume designer: Elizabeth Keogh Palmer

Editors: Richard Learoyd, Armen Minasian, William Hoy. Cast:

Del Spooner: Will Smith

Dr. Susan Calvin: Bridget Moynahan

Sonny: Alan Tudyk

Dr. Alfred Lanning: James Bromwell

Lawrence Robertson: Bruce Greenwood

Granny: Adrian L. Ricard

Lt. John Bergin: Chi McBride

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time -- 114 minutes »

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Trio go 'West' with Spielberg

15 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Skeet Ulrich, Alan Tudyk and Matthew Settle are in negotiations to play key roles in Steven Spielberg's epic limited-run series for TNT, Into the West. The 12-hour project, budgeted at about $50 million, tells the story of the opening of the American West in the 19th century through the eyes of two multigenerational families, one of white settlers and one of Native Americans. Ulrich, Tudyk and Settle will lead an ensemble cast, playing three brothers from Virginia who have the same spirit of expansion of the West but take different routes toward their destination. »

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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

9 July 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Buried under several layers of crass humor, a wickedly funny satire about sports movies struggles to free itself in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."

In his feature debut, writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber comes up with the right idea -- a movie that could do for the pretty useless sport of dodgeball what "Best in Show" did for dog shows -- but the wrong execution. For this piece of juvenilia all too willingly embraces the team motto of the movie's heroes: Aim low.

A pity, though, because underdog sports movies from "The Bad News Bears" to "The Mighty Ducks" could have stood a bit of good-natured ribbing. Aiming low should take in a wide demographic among young audiences, especially males with dates in tow, to achieve boxoffice success for at least a couple of weeks, then move on to the home rental market for frat-house parties and the like.

The film's hero and villain are classic comedy figures. Vince Vaughn's amiable underachiever Peter La Fleur, clearly modeled after Bill Murray's early comedy roles, operates a rundown gym called Average Joe's, where bookkeeping is nonexistent -- he hasn't bothered to collect membership dues in months -- and the clientele consists mostly of the kind of men who seldom frequent gyms. We're talking geeks, obsessive personalities and 95-pound weaklings who dream about girls but are lucky to land a date with an inflatable doll. Directly across the street is the sleek Globo Gym, crowded with beautiful, buffed bodies and run by the egomaniacal yet hugely insecure White Goodman, played to the hilt by Ben Stiller with a fake tan, Fu Manchu mustache and hair blow-dried to perfection.

The bank is about to foreclose on Average Joe's, having taken the precaution of installing attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) to facilitate the process. Eager to acquire the property and turn it into a parking lot is White. To stave off the inevitable, Peter must come up with $50,000 in a month.

Then Peter learns of a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament with a $50,000 prize from gym rat Gordon (Stephen Root), who gleans this news from the pages of Obscure Sports Quarterly. Peter reluctantly organizes a team of misfit dodgeball players from the gym, which consists of the hapless Gordon; Steve (Alan Tudyk), a guy convinced that he is a pirate; Justin (Justin Long), who obsesses over an unapproachable cheerleader; Owen (Joel David Moore), who is exceptionally dim; and Dwight (Chris Williams), an earnest know-it-all.

In the tradition of all sports movies, along comes an aging but tough coach determined to mold these misfits into heroes. This would be Rip Torn's Patches O'Houlihan, a foul, demented, wheelchair-bound dodgeball legend whose idea of training is to throw monkey wrenches at players. They will learn to dodge objects or suffer the painful consequences.

White, believing himself to be a sex machine, makes enough passes at a nauseated Kate that soon she is off the bankruptcy case and on Average Joe's team, where her former softball pitching serves her well. Everyone winds up in Vegas for a grudge match against Globo's all-star team, which is broadcast by ESPN 8, a cable network that boasts, "If it's almost a sport, we have it here!"

In outline, the story is pretty funny, and the film's outlandish takes on sports-movie conventions deliver some laughs. But Thurber chooses the low road to those laughs so often that he undermines his own satirical design. His actors certainly deliver amusing, spirited performances, but again, they get done in by relentless adolescent humor.

The film does score satiric hits in its send-up of the sports media, which includes Globo Gym's infomercial and ESPN 8's graphics and hype-hype-hype broadcasters (Gary Cole and Jason Bateman). Timely and very funny cameos by Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris point up how bright this movie could have been.

Cinematography, production design and costumes suit the mood, poking fun at our national obsession with looks and fitness.

DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox presents in association with Mediastream IVa Red Hour production

Credits: Screenwriter-director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Producers: Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld

Executive producers: Mary McLaglen, Rhoades Rader

Director of photography: Jerzy Zielinski

Production designer: Maher Ahmad

Music: Theodore Shapiro

Costume designer: Carol Ramsey

Editor: Alan Baumgarten. Cast: White Goodman: Ben Stiller

Peter La Fleur: Vince Vaughn

Kate Veatch: Christine Taylor

Patches: Rip Torn

Justin: Justin Long

Gordon: Stephen Root

Owen: Joel David Moore

Dwight: Chris Williams

Steve the Pirate: Alan Tukyk

Fran: Missi Pyle

Me'Shell Jones: Jamal E. Duff

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 91 minutes »

Permalink | Report a problem


Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

18 June 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Buried under several layers of crass humor, a wickedly funny satire about sports movies struggles to free itself in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."

In his feature debut, writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber comes up with the right idea -- a movie that could do for the pretty useless sport of dodgeball what "Best in Show" did for dog shows -- but the wrong execution. For this piece of juvenilia all too willingly embraces the team motto of the movie's heroes: Aim low.

A pity, though, because underdog sports movies from "The Bad News Bears" to "The Mighty Ducks" could have stood a bit of good-natured ribbing. Aiming low should take in a wide demographic among young audiences, especially males with dates in tow, to achieve boxoffice success for at least a couple of weeks, then move on to the home rental market for frat-house parties and the like.

The film's hero and villain are classic comedy figures. Vince Vaughn's amiable underachiever Peter La Fleur, clearly modeled after Bill Murray's early comedy roles, operates a rundown gym called Average Joe's, where bookkeeping is nonexistent -- he hasn't bothered to collect membership dues in months -- and the clientele consists mostly of the kind of men who seldom frequent gyms. We're talking geeks, obsessive personalities and 95-pound weaklings who dream about girls but are lucky to land a date with an inflatable doll. Directly across the street is the sleek Globo Gym, crowded with beautiful, buffed bodies and run by the egomaniacal yet hugely insecure White Goodman, played to the hilt by Ben Stiller with a fake tan, Fu Manchu mustache and hair blow-dried to perfection.

The bank is about to foreclose on Average Joe's, having taken the precaution of installing attorney Kate Veatch (Christine Taylor) to facilitate the process. Eager to acquire the property and turn it into a parking lot is White. To stave off the inevitable, Peter must come up with $50,000 in a month.

Then Peter learns of a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament with a $50,000 prize from gym rat Gordon (Stephen Root), who gleans this news from the pages of Obscure Sports Quarterly. Peter reluctantly organizes a team of misfit dodgeball players from the gym, which consists of the hapless Gordon; Steve (Alan Tudyk), a guy convinced that he is a pirate; Justin (Justin Long), who obsesses over an unapproachable cheerleader; Owen (Joel David Moore), who is exceptionally dim; and Dwight (Chris Williams), an earnest know-it-all.

In the tradition of all sports movies, along comes an aging but tough coach determined to mold these misfits into heroes. This would be Rip Torn's Patches O'Houlihan, a foul, demented, wheelchair-bound dodgeball legend whose idea of training is to throw monkey wrenches at players. They will learn to dodge objects or suffer the painful consequences.

White, believing himself to be a sex machine, makes enough passes at a nauseated Kate that soon she is off the bankruptcy case and on Average Joe's team, where her former softball pitching serves her well. Everyone winds up in Vegas for a grudge match against Globo's all-star team, which is broadcast by ESPN 8, a cable network that boasts, "If it's almost a sport, we have it here!"

In outline, the story is pretty funny, and the film's outlandish takes on sports-movie conventions deliver some laughs. But Thurber chooses the low road to those laughs so often that he undermines his own satirical design. His actors certainly deliver amusing, spirited performances, but again, they get done in by relentless adolescent humor.

The film does score satiric hits in its send-up of the sports media, which includes Globo Gym's infomercial and ESPN 8's graphics and hype-hype-hype broadcasters (Gary Cole and Jason Bateman). Timely and very funny cameos by Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris point up how bright this movie could have been.

Cinematography, production design and costumes suit the mood, poking fun at our national obsession with looks and fitness.

DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox presents in association with Mediastream IVa Red Hour production

Credits: Screenwriter-director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Producers: Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld

Executive producers: Mary McLaglen, Rhoades Rader

Director of photography: Jerzy Zielinski

Production designer: Maher Ahmad

Music: Theodore Shapiro

Costume designer: Carol Ramsey

Editor: Alan Baumgarten. Cast: White Goodman: Ben Stiller

Peter La Fleur: Vince Vaughn

Kate Veatch: Christine Taylor

Patches: Rip Torn

Justin: Justin Long

Gordon: Stephen Root

Owen: Joel David Moore

Dwight: Chris Williams

Steve the Pirate: Alan Tukyk

Fran: Missi Pyle

Me'Shell Jones: Jamal E. Duff

MPAA rating PG-13

Running time -- 91 minutes »

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Balfour, Hanks run for border with 'Receta'

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

Helmer Ariel Vromen will direct the indie drug drama RX Sin Receta, starring Eric Balfour, Colin Hanks and Lauren German. Shooting is scheduled to start Monday in New Mexico. Receta centers on a financially desperate young man (Balfour) who decides to cross the border into Mexico with his girlfriend (German) and best friend (Hanks) in order to smuggle pharmaceuticals back across the border. Alan Tudyk, Ori Pfeffer and Danny Pino round out the cast. Tudyk and Pfeffer play two guys who live in Baja running an illegal business, with Pino playing a mechanic in Tijuana. Andrew Zamfotis and Nicholas Simon are producing from a script by Vroman and Morgan Land. Mark Glickman, Rosanne Korenberg and Shawn Hopkins are executive producing. Korenberg is representing rights to the film through Stone, Meyer & Genow's Traction Media. Vroman is repped by Hopkins at Anonymous Content and attorney Jeff Frankel. »

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5 items from 2004


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