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4 items from 2004

Nguyen swims with Blanchett in 'Fish'

13 August 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Dustin Nguyen is joining the cast of the Cate Blanchett starrer Little Fish, for Australian production unit Porchlight Films. Penned by Jacqueline Perske and directed by Rowan Woods, Fish follows Blanchett as a former drug addict trying to rebuild her life. Nguyen will take on the role of Blanchett's ex-lover, a onetime druggie-turned-stockbroker. Martin Henderson, Hugo Weaving and Sam Neill also star in the film, set in the Little Saigon section of Sydney's suburbs. Vincent Sheehan and Liz Watts are producing. Nguyen was repped in the deal by Alan Iezman at Shelter Entertainment. Myriad Pictures is handling worldwide rights. »

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Old Man Who Read Love Stories

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

Director Rolf de Heer, whose previous films "The Quiet Room" and "Dance Me to My Song" garnered worldwide acclaim, continues to display his penchant for imaginative storytelling with this adaptation of Luis Sepulveda's novel. A combination romance and adventure tale that successfully mines its literary roots, "The Old Man Who Read Love Stories" is not going to make much of a mark in the commercial arena, but, thanks to an excellent cast including Richard Dreyfuss, Timothy Spall, Hugo Weaving and Cathy Tyson, it could have a long ancillary life, especially with sophisticated cable stations.

The film recently received its U.S. premiere at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

It takes a bit of getting used to Dreyfuss' performance as the sixtyish Antonio Bolivar, a Hispanic man living in a small town in the jungle on the banks of the Amazon. A recluse since his wife died shortly after they arrived four decades earlier, Antonio lives a simple life, taking most of his pleasure from the books provided to him by a visiting dentist (Weaving) who shows up only twice a year.

The dentist has procured the books, mostly cheesy romantic novels, from Josefina (Tyson), a local servant and prostitute who works for the town's obnoxious mayor (Spall). Eventually, Antonio and Josefina form a bond, thanks to their mutual literary interests.

The main action of the piece centers on the hunt for a vicious jaguar that has started killing the town's residents after her cubs were massacred by poachers. Although reluctant, Antonio agrees to help because of his extensive hunting skills. The resulting search for and confrontation with the animal triggers Antonio to reflect upon his life, with flashbacks depicting earlier experiences like his lengthy interlude with a native tribe.

While episodic and sometimes confusing in its structure, the film is filled with smart dialogue, well-drawn characterizations and haunting visuals, with the literacy of the screenplay well-matched by Denis Lenoir's gorgeous widescreen cinematography of the French Guiana jungle locations. Although the very American Dreyfuss would seem an unlikely choice for the title role, the actor manages to make the performance work, despite a sometimes shaky accent, be-cause of the emotional depth he provides to the character. The supporting roles are equally well-handled: Tyson does her best work since her not-dissimilar turn in "Mona Lisa", and Weaving and Spall invest their roles with a bracing pungency.



Director-screenwriter: Rolf de Heer

Adaptation: Marcel Beaulieu

Producers: Michelle de Broca, Julie Ryan

Executive producer: Ernst Goldschmidt

Director of photography: Denis Lenoir

Editor: Tania Nehme

Production designers: Gil Parrondo, Pierre Voisin

Music: Graham Tardif



Antonio Bolivar: Richard Dreyfuss

The Mayor: Timothy Spall

The Dentist: Hugo Weaving

Josefina: Cathy Tyson

Nushino: Victor Bottenbley

Running time -- 110 minutes

No MPAA rating


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Russian Doll

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

Demonstrating that other countries are just as capable of making vapid romantic comedies as we are, this Australian film about the burgeoning romantic relationship between a private investigator and the beautiful Russian woman he marries in order to keep her in the country suffers from a slow-paced, contrived script. The film is playing an exclusive engagement at New York's Angelika Film Center.

The film's improbable romantic lead is Hugo Weaving, a talented Australian actor perhaps best known for attempting to kick Keanu Reeves' butt in "The Matrix". He plays Harvey, a morose P.I. who specializes in finding proof of marital infidelities. One day on a job he's too successful, discovering that the woman sleeping with the subject of his investigation is his fiancee.

Concurrently, a beautiful Russian woman named Katia (Natalia Novikova) has arrived in Sydney to meet a prospective groom arranged through an international bridal agency. Unfortunately, he's dead on arrival (hers, that is), and she's stuck on her own in a strange city. Coming to the rescue is Harvey Best's friend Ethan (David Wenham), who despite being married, quickly strikes up an affair with her. He begs Harvey to marry her so she can stay in the country legally, and he reluctantly agrees, allowing her to move into his apartment on a platonic basis. Needless to say, after some initial bickering -- he likes peace and quiet, she likes loud music, etc. -- lots of meaningful glances are expressed, and the pair wind up in the sack, with predictable complications ensuing.

To its credit, "Russian Doll" isn't stupid in its execution, with reasonably smart dialogue and understated direction. And the characters, particularly Katia and her randy best friend, aren't nearly the silly stereotypes that they might have been. But the film is ultimately forced and unconvincing in its depiction of its central relationship, and Hugo Weaving's repressive performance, while psychologically credible, doesn't exactly help the film's charm quotient. On the other hand, Novikova, making her feature debut, is luscious and quite winning as the title character, even if she doesn't suggest quite as many layers as the Russian doll of the title.


Lot 47 Films

Director: Stravos Kazantzidis

Writers: Stravos Kazantzidis, Allanah Zitserman

Executive producer: Bruno Charlesworth

Co-producers: Hugo Weaving, Allanah Zitserman

Director of photography: Justin Brickle

Editor: Andrew Macneil

Production designer: Elizabeth Mary Moore



Harvey: Hugo Weaving

Katia: Natalia Novikova

Ethan: David Wenham

Miriam: Rebecca Frith

Liza: Sacha Horler

Alison: Helen Dallimore

Running time -- 90 minutes

No MPAA rating »

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

6 February 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Opens Wed., Dec. 17

NEW YORK -- An epic success and a history-making production that finishes with a masterfully entertaining final installment, New Line Cinema's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" is a soaring legend in its own day and destined to be cherished for many ages to come. "The Return of the King" is the longest and most complicated of the three "Rings" films and probably fated to be the biggest moneymaker. Sure to be an Oscar contender in many categories and a breathtaking argument for director Peter Jackson winning every award there is to give, "King" has none of the usual deficiencies that frequently scuttle third films.

Opening unexpectedly with a flashback to the day when the twisted Gollum was a healthy Hobbit-like fisherman named Smeagol (Andy Serkis), who commits murder to possess the powerful One Ring, "King" deftly resumes the story after the events of "The Two Towers". After a brief encounter with the talking lord of the forest Treebeard (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Theoden (Bernard Hill) and other survivors of the Battle of Helm's Deep go to ravished Isengard. Within minutes, we're reintroduced to the many characters, including Hobbits Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd), Rohan fighters Eomer (Karl Urban) and Eowyn (Miranda Otto), Faramir (David Wenham) of Gondor and the one new human character, Denethor (John Noble), the Steward of Minas Tirith, site of the next great showdown between the mighty forces of evil Sauron and the free peoples of Middle Earth.

Frodo and Sam (Elijah Wood and Sean Astin), guided by the vengeful Gollum (again a wondrous combination of special effects and Serkis' inspired performance), finally enter Mordor, but the divisive influence of the Ring almost ends the fellowship of the two heroic Hobbits. When the three infiltrators pass by Minas Morgul (the dead city where the Nazgul reside), they watch another army of Sauron march to battle under the command of the Witch-king.

Eventually, this Black Captain of the Nazgul, who rides one of the dragonlike beasts first seen in "Towers", has a fight with Eowyn and Merry in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, outside the walls of Minas Tirith, that readers have been waiting decades to see. It's a gloriously crowd-pleasing moment, while overall the lengthy siege is tremendously exciting and visually unparalleled.

Huge elephantlike Mumakil and trolls pushing the giant battering ram known as Grond join hordes of Orcs in a gargantuan assault on Minas Tirith, a fight which faithless Denethor turns away from when he gives into fear and fatherly pride by sending Faramir to certain death. It's the leadership-tested Gandalf (Ian McKellen) who commands the defense of the city. Although Denethor comes off too as enigmatic compared to the original material, he sure has a spectacular final scene.

Jackson and co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh make noteworthy departures from Tolkien, including such crucial moments as what happens when Frodo is finally standing on a ledge over the Crack of Doom inside the volcano where the ring must be destroyed, and how Aragorn makes use of the Army of the Dead that only he can command. Whole swaths of the book have been condensed and eliminated, but Jackson and company usually realize splendidly whatever they take on.

There are only brief moments with the saga's Elvish beauties: Arwen (Liv Tyler) refuses to abandon Aragorn. Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) makes a crucial connection with Frodo near the story's climax. Dwarf fighter Gimli (Rhys-Davies) provides much-appreciated humor with his sarcastic remarks. Fearless Elf bowman Legolas (Orlando Bloom) delivers the best battlefield action, while wise Elrond (Hugo Weaving) provides Aragorn with the restored sword that defeated Sauron long ago.

The thunderous conclusion to the story of the Ring that includes the end of Frodo's journey and the battle outside the Black Gate winds down to a sublime denouement, leaving only 20 minutes to wrap up when Tolkien took a hundred pages. The extended DVD should bind "King" and the other two films into one awesome movie deserving of regular revivals in theaters. But who can resist right now a classic fantasy adventure that never drags and is simply ravishing to look at thanks to the thousands of craftsmen, performers, animals and postproduction refiners?

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


New Line Cinema

Wingnut Films


Director: Peter Jackson

Screenwriters: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

Based on the book by: J.R.R. Tolkien

Producers: Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson

Executive producers: Robert Shaye, Michael Lynne, Mark Ordesky, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Director of photography: Andrew Lesnie

Production designer: Grant Major

Editors: Jamie Selkirk, Annie Collins

Costume designers: Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor

Music: Howard Shore

Visual effects supervisor: Jim Rygiel


Frodo: Elijah Wood

Gandalf: Ian McKellen

Gollum/Smeagol: Andy Serkis

Aragon: Viggo Mortensen

Sam: Sean Astin

Gimli/Voice of Treebeard: John Rhys-Davies

Merry: Dominic Monaghan

Pippin: Billy Boyd

Arwen: Liv Tyler

Legolas: Orlando Bloom

Elrond: Hugo Weaving

King Theoden: Bernard Hill

Faramir: David Wenham

Eowyn: Miranda Otto

Eomer: Karl Urban

Denethor: John Noble

Galadriel: Cate Blanchett

Running time -- 200 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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