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10 items from 2007


'Motion' pic captures Perry, Swank

10 May 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

NEW YORK -- Matthew Perry and Hilary Swank are set to star in Laws of Motion, a comedy produced by Plum Pictures, Ideal Partners Film Fund and Hilary Swank Prods. Ben Foster is in negotiations for a lead role in the film.

Perry plays a husband struggling with life in a repressive career and community along with headaches caused by his free-spirited brother (Foster) and sister. Swank will take on a supporting role as the all-too-perfect neighbor of Perry's harried character.

Motion is scheduled to begin production this month. Plum Pictures partners Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Celine Rattray and Galt Niederhoffer will produce the film with Ideal's Jana Edelbaum and Swank.

New York-based indie Plum Pictures has had a recent run of success with big Sundance Film Festival sales this year of James C. Strouse's Grace Is Gone to the Weinstein Co. and Justin Theroux's Dedication to First Look Pictures and the Weinstein Co. Its latest film, Watching the Detectives, premiered last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, and its upcoming adaptation of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar will be produced with star Julia Stiles. »

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2007 Sundance Film Festival Award-Winners

28 January 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- The 2007 Sundance Film Festival Award-Winners are: The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary:Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) - Jason Kohn The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic:Padre Nuestro  - Christopher ZallaThe World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary Enemies Of Happiness (Vores Lykkesfjender) - Eva Mulvad and Anja Al Erhayem. The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic:sweet Mud (Adama Meshugaat) Dror Shaul The Audience Award: Documentary: Hear And Now Irene Taylor BrodskyThe Audience Award: Dramatic:Grace Is Gone James C. StrouseThe World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary In The Shadow Of The Moon David SingtonThe World Cinema Audience Award: DramaticJohn Carney ONCEThe Directing Award: Documentary - Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine War/Dance The Directing Award: Dramatic Jeffrey Blitz - Rocket ScienceThe Excellence in Cinematography Awards – Dramatic: Benoit Debie for JoshuaThe Excellence in Cinematography Awards – Documentary: Heloisa Passos for Manda Bala (Send A Bullet)Documentary Editing Award: Hibah Sherif Frisina, Charlton McMillian, and Michael Schweitzer »

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Sundance jury honors 'Padre Nuestro,' 'Manda Bala'

28 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- The Sundance Film Festival grand jury honored Christopher Zalla's illegal immigration drama Padre Nuestro and Jason Kohn's Brazilian corruption documentary Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) with its top prizes Saturday night.

Some features seemed to justify their high sales prices with popular appeal. James C. Strouse's family drama Grace Is Gone took home the Audience Award: Dramatic, while David Sington's Apollo program chronicle In The Shadow Of The Moon won the World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary. They sold for $4 million to Weinstein Co. for worldwide rights and $2.5 million to $3 million to ThinkFilm for North American rights (excluding TV), respectively. Sington noted onstage that Saturday was the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 incident that killed three astronauts.

Two films won two awards each. Grace is Gone landed 29-year-old writer Strouse the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, and Heloisa Passos was honored for documentary excellence in cinematography for Manda Bala.

"I've been a nervous wreck the entire time I've been here," said Manda Bala director Kohn after delivering an exuberant, four-letter-word-filled speech at the awards and leaving a message for his onetime boss, documentary director Errol Morris. A rep at his sales agent Cinetic Media, which hasn't yet sold the film, warned him it would be a "rollercoaster" week, with people paying attention, then not. "My self worth has gone up and down. It's definitely up now," he said.

Two-time Grace winner Strouse said after the awards that "to be honest, this was the one I was hoping for." The first-time helmer is currently looking at different projects and trying to get more of his fiction published, but a friend is trying to pull him down to Earth. "He told me 'You need to come back home. Sundance isn't the center of the world, '" he laughed. »

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Grace Is Gone

23 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- "Grace Is Gone" is not a dishonest film for you sense the fledgling filmmaker's sincere desire to deal with grief, the natural outcome of war. But the grief in writer-director James C. Strouse's "Grace" is so heavily manufactured that everything rings hollow. In John Cusack, Strouse has one of the screen's more versatile leading men. Yet Cusack seems strangely remote in a surprisingly one-note performance that requires the audience to supply the emotions.

From the sounds of sniffles in the Eccles Theater here, many will do just that. Much of these feelings owes to the highly manipulative use of two very young actors who play Cusack's adolescent daughters. The eldest, Shelan O'Keefe, is the best thing about the movie. But the younger one, Grace Bednarczyk, is Strouse's go-to person when he needs a quick emotional jolt.

Sensing a hot property, the Weinstein Co. snapped up this picture over the weekend. As an antidote to the Bush administration's determination to keep images of grief over Iraq out of the media, the film may work at the boxoffice as a political statement. In theory though, shouldn't this movie be about any war and any family's loss? The marketing campaign may have to be as manipulative as the movie itself if the distributor is going to convince adult audiences they need a good weep.

Instead of creating an air of normalcy before news of the tragedy breaks, Strouse allows the film to open with a sense of melancholy, loss and anger. One can rationalize this approach, but the film never undergoes a dramatic tonal shift to reflect the impact of unbearable news.

Stanley Phillips' (Cusack) sullenness while his wife is deployed to Iraq, you later learn, is due to the fact the spouses are U.S. Army through and through but Stanley was forced out of the service due to bad eyesight. He fakes good cheer as manager of a large Midwestern housing supply store, but at home he is often silent and overly stern with his kids, Heidi (O'Keefe), 12, and Dawn (Bednarczyk), 8.

Then an Army officer and chaplain knock on the door one morning to inform him that Sgt. Grace Anne Phillips has been killed in Iraq. Stanley goes into shock, which doesn't look all that different from his demeanor the night before. That afternoon, he gathers the family in the living room to break the news -- only he can't. He seeks a delaying tactic by suggesting a dinner out. Heidi points out it is only 4 o'clock.

The remainder of the movie is one delaying tactic after another. Dad suggests an impromptu driving trip to a theme park in Florida. En route, he makes an impromptu visit to his mom's home for an encounter with his unemployed anti-war brother (Alessandro Nivola). A stop at a motel is interrupted by an impromptu middle-of-the-night departure.

All of these "impromptu" incidents are meant to resonate with the sense of loss that such a death brings. Most have a symbolic purpose as well, such as getting the girls' ears pieced at such an early age -- i.e., the premature loss of childhood. Yet these incidents are as blatant as they are bland. The filmmaker's scheme is writ so large on the screen as to provoke embarrassment rather than grief.

The mind starts to wander to little irritating details. When the girls climb back and forth between the front and back seats of the family SUV, you wonder what kind of responsible father would allow his children not to wear seatbelts. The most egregious devise has Stanley constantly calling the home answering machine to hear his wife's voice.

When the movie finally must resolve the dad's prolonged dilemma, half way through the pivotal scene Strouse allows Max Richter's sappy music to drown out the dialogue. The button-pushing music is accompanied by a washed-out look in Jean-Louis Bompoint's cinematography that is apparently meant to give the film true grit. Like all of these strategies, these only underscore the film's lack of true depth.

GRACE IS GONE

The Weinstein Co.

Plum Pictures and New Crime Productions in association with Hart/Lunsford Pictures

Credits:

Writer/director: James C. Strouse

Producers: John Cusack, Grace Loh, Galt Niederhoffer, Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Celine Rattray

Executive producers: Paul Bernstein, Reagan Silber, Jai Stefan, Todd Traina

Director of photography: Jean-Louis Bompoint

Production designer: Susan Block

Music: Max Richter

Costume designer: Ha Nguyen

Editor: Joe Klotz

Cast:

Stanley Phillips: John Cusack

Heidi: Shelan O'Keefe

Dawn: Gracie Bednarczyk

John: Alessandro Nivola

Running time -- 92 minutes

No MPAA rating

»

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New Role Makes Cusack Angry About Iraq's Silent Body Count

23 January 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Movie star John Cusack hopes his harrowing new movie will lead to debates about the US troops coming home from Iraq in body bags. The High Fidelity star plays a dad trying to come to terms with his soldier wife's death in the line of duty in first-time director James C. Strouse's new movie Grace Is Gone, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah over the weekend. And the portrayal touched a nerve for Cusack, who admits he can sympathize with families whose sons, daughters, husbands and wives are simply sent home without fanfare in body bags. He fumes, "I thought it was the most brazen, cowardly, egregious political act I'd seen in my lifetime. Do you think that's going to stop anything? Do you think if you don't show the coffins we won't find out?" In the film, Cusack plays a pro-war patriot, who missed out on the chance to serve his country due to his poor eyesight. He's glad Saturday's premiere led to great discussion among Sundance regulars, many of whom left the cinema in tears. Director Strouse adds, "I hope it's the type of story that holds up five or 10 years from now, but I hope that it does sort of hit a nerve." »

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Sundance starts on cool note

22 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- The dropping temperatures at the Sundance Film Festival seem to be tempering the acquisition fever that usually accompanies the annual Utah confab. While acquisition executives are looking at a healthy number of films premiering at the event, no one title has sent any firm into an unreasonable bidding war.

That being said, a number of titles have been sold or are in the process of being sold to a wide array of distributors.

Although opening-weekend deals didn't reach the stratospheric heights of last year's $10.6 million price tag for Little Miss Sunshine or the $6 million sale of The Science of Sleep, or 2005's Hustle & Flow, which went for $9 million, they still retained some of the late-night negotiating hustle that has become a Sundance staple.

James C. Strouse's John Cusack starrer Grace Is Gone lived up to its prefest buzz, luring the likes of the Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics into an all-night bidding war. The Weinstein Co. nabbed worldwide rights to the movie for $4 million, closing the sale at 4:30 a.m. in co-seller Cinetic Media's Deer Valley condo.

Dan Klores' documentary Crazy Love marked the first sale of the festival, fetching mid-six figures from Magnolia Pictures for North American rights excluding television. The film tells the bizarre, half-century love story of Burt and Linda Pugach, a New York couple who got married decades after Burt spent years in jail for blinding Linda.

Negotiations also heated up Sunday afternoon on the George Ratcliff-directed Joshua, with multiple parties entering the talks. Fox Searchlight was among several distributors vying for the psychological thriller, which centers on a precocious child who wreaks havoc on his family. Although the deal hadn't closed by press time, Searchlight is almost certain to be the buyer. UTA and attorney Andrew Hurwitz are co-selling the project.

Despite repeated denials that they were buying the feature, sources said late Sunday that the Weinstein Co. »

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Sundance: Weinstein has 'Grace'

22 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- How did Grace Is Gone, a drama made for just under $3 million about a sad sack Iraq War widower played by John Cusack who avoids telling his daughters about their mother's death, become the center of the hottest bidding war at this month's Sundance Film Festival?

First-time director James C. Strouse, who had never helmed even a short film, said he had no idea. "It might be the timeliness of the story," he said. Although he added that he included some levity to avoid a "doom and gloom" feeling for two hours, he admitted "the terror in John Cusack's face never really leaves."

Audiences nonetheless responded to the somber tale, leading to the first overnight bidding battle of the festival. Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics were in the running, but by 4:30 a.m. Sunday, the Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein had won over the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of producers New Crime Prods., led by Grace Loh and Cusack, and Plum Pictures with a $4 million offer.

Strouse's pregnant wife, Plum Pictures co-founder Galt Niederhoffer, was in the room phoning reports to her husband as Cinetic Media's John Sloss and William Morris Independent's Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson negotiated the deal.

"Harvey had passion and energy for it, and we knew he'd back it up 10 million%," Loh said.

Strouse added, "Harvey just understood the importance of the story, and that the film transcends any political side."

It also helped that Cusack has a long history with the Weinstein brothers, from Miramax Films' 1990 drama The Grifters to Dimension Films' upcoming 1408, which will be distributed by MGM. »

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'Gone' to the Weinsteins

21 January 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- There will be a lot of ink spilled on the comparisons between last year’s major Sundance buy and what is most likely going to be the top purchase at this edition. Comparably similar with their family road-trip dramatic nature and its intended audience, The Weinstein’s new purchase Grace is Gone will draw plenty of parallels to Little Miss Sunshine. Note Grace is Gone was probably in production as Lms was being unveiled in theatres. Written & directed by first-timer James Strouse, this centers on a father who takes his two daughters on a road trip upon learning that his wife has been killed in the line of duty in Iraq. The father is played by John Cusack. The picture was unanimously the most popular of titles (among slim pickings) with buyers in the current Sundance edition – check back here for our review. »

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Sundance: Weinstein has 'Grace'

21 January 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY -- How did Grace Is Gone, a drama made for just under $ 3 million about a sad sack Iraq War widower played by John Cusack who avoids telling his daughters about their mother's death, become the center of the hottest bidding war at this month's Sundance Film Festival?

First-time director James C. Strouse, who had never helmed even a short film, said he had no idea. "It might be the timeliness of the story," he said. Although he added that he included some levity to avoid a "doom and gloom" feeling for two hours, he admitted "the terror in John Cusack's face never really leaves."

Audiences nonetheless responded to the somber tale, leading to the first overnight bidding battle of the festival. Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures Classics were in the running, but by 4:30 a.m. Sunday, the Weinstein Co. co-founder Harvey Weinstein had won over the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of producers New Crime Prods., led by Grace Loh and Cusack, and Plum Pictures with a $4 million offer.

Strouse's pregnant wife, Plum Pictures co-founder Galt Niederhoffer, was in the room phoning reports to her husband as Cinetic Media's John Sloss and William Morris Independent's Cassian Elwes negotiated the deal.

"Harvey had passion and energy for it, and we knew he'd back it up 10 million%," Loh said.

Strouse added, "Harvey just understood the importance of the story, and that the film transcends any political side."

It also helped that Cusack has a long history with the Weinstein brothers, from Miramax Films' 1990 drama The Grifters to Dimension Films' upcoming 1408, which will be distributed by MGM. »

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Sundance 2007 preview: Dramatic Comp

18 January 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- Quick Links  Complete Film Listing:  Premiere's section lineup:  Dramatic Competition:  Documentary Competition:  World Dramatic Competition:  World Documentary Competition:  Spectrum:  Park City at Midnight:  Frontier (New Directions in Filmmaking):  Short Film Programs January 18 to 28, 2007 Counting Down: updateCountdownClock('January 18, 2007'); At least a good half of the films represented in the U.S Dramatic comp this year are by first time filmmakers. Headed by veteran filmmaker (and yet relatively new) David Gordon Green and his Stewart O'Nan novel adaptation of Snow Angels but perhaps the most loudest (in term of controversy and spotlight shall go to) the rough Deborah Kampmeier portrait Hounddog - starring a Dakota Fanning in what shall become a transition role for her from Hollywood to Indie, but from child actor to adult-material. And an indie festival wouldnâ€.t be a festival without the presence of the Posey name. Zoe Cassavetes will introduce our friend Parker in »

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10 items from 2007


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