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12 items from 2008


Review: Gardens of the Night

7 November 2008 4:03 PM, PST | Cinematical | See recent Cinematical news »

Damian Harris spent the better part of two decades researching child abductions for Gardens of the Night, a fictional saga about one young girl's ordeal after being snatched away from her parents at the tender age of 8. That dedication to getting the details right, however, doesn't save his film from missteps typical to stories about such topics, as the tendency to exploit lurid material for dramatic purposes is something he can't avoid. Still, as a serious-minded attempt to trace both the literal and psychological means by which abductors carry out their plots, Harris' tale is not wholly without merit and, with regards to its portrait of kid-snatcher Alex (Tom Arnold), occasionally flirts with complexity. Generally refusing to simplify characters or scenarios, his film strives to burrow into the mind of captured 8-year-old Leslie (Ryan Simpkins), who - in an extended flashback instigated by 17-year-old Leslie's (Gillian Jacobs) lies about her »

- Nick Schager

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Opening This Week: Gay zombies, the literal Sundance kid and the Muscles From Brussels

3 November 2008 7:28 AM, PST | ifc.com | See recent IFC news »

By Neil Pedley

Those nursing a Halloween hangover can enjoy a little hair of the dog with some amusing takes on terror, a double bill featuring the greatly missed Bernie Mac and a trio of Fantastic Fest titles coming their way.

"The Alphabet Killer"

Eliza Dushku reunites with "Wrong Turn" director Rob Schmidt for this supernatural riff on the infamous Alphabet murders that took place in Rochester, NY in the early '70s. Dushku stars as the lead investigator in a series of brutal child killings who's struck down by a severe mental breakdown. Two years later, her career as a detective is ostensibly over, yet when the killings inexplicably start up again, so do her crippling hallucinations and she must find a way to track down the serial killer with or without the help of her former colleagues at the police department. Timothy Hutton, Cary Elwes and Michael Ironside »

- Neil Pedley

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Indie Film Focus: "Gardens of the Night" - Official Trailer!

22 October 2008 8:41 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

We are pleased to host the official trailer for City Lights Entertainment's drama "Garden of the Night" with a strong cast consisting of Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. The drama opens November 7, 2008 in limited areas and is directed and written by actress Emilia Fox's ("Flashbacks of a Fool") brother-in-law Damian Harris ("Mercy," "The Rachel Papers," "Bad Company"). Star Gillian Jacobs was recently seen in the Sam Rockwell starrer "Choke." »

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Indie Film Focus: "Gardens of the Night" - Official Trailer!

22 October 2008 8:41 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

We are pleased to host the official trailer for City Lights Entertainment's drama "Garden of the Night" with a strong cast consisting of Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. The drama opens November 7, 2008 in limited areas and is directed and written by actress Emilia Fox's ("Flashbacks of a Fool") brother-in-law Damian Harris ("Mercy," "The Rachel Papers," "Bad Company"). Star Gillian Jacobs was recently seen in the Sam Rockwell starrer "Choke." »

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Indie Film Focus: "Gardens of the Night" - Official Trailer!

22 October 2008 8:41 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

Get the embedded code! We are pleased to host the official trailer for City Lights Entertainment's drama "Garden of the Night" with a strong cast consisting of Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. The drama opens November 7, 2008 in limited areas and is directed and written by actress Emilia Fox's ("Flashbacks of a Fool") brother-in-law Damian Harris ("Mercy," "The Rachel Papers," "Bad Company"). Star Gillian Jacobs was recently seen in the Sam Rockwell starrer "Choke." What's this about? Leslie (Gillian Jacobs), struggles with a hand to mouth existence on the streets of San Diego with only her childhood friend Donnie (Evan Ross) to look after her, both of them trying to cope with the trauma of having been abducted and held captive by two men nine years earlier. As an eight-year-old girl, Leslie (Ryan Simpkins) was abducted through trickery by an »

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Indie Film Focus: "Gardens of the Night" - Official Trailer!

22 October 2008 8:41 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

We are pleased to host the official trailer for City Lights Entertainment's drama "Garden of the Night" with a strong cast consisting of Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. The drama opens November 7, 2008 in limited areas and is directed and written by actress Emilia Fox's ("Flashbacks of a Fool") brother-in-law Damian Harris ("Mercy," "The Rachel Papers," "Bad Company"). Star Gillian Jacobs was recently seen in the Sam Rockwell starrer "Choke." »

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Indie Features - "Gardens of the Night." New gallery in.

9 October 2008 6:44 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

In indie film, we have new images in for the Damian Harris helmed and written drama "Gardens of the Night." In this strong cast are Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. Harris' last attempt at the wheel was for the 2000 release "Mercy" starring Ellen Barkin, Wendy Crewson, Peta Wilson, Karen Young and Julian Sands. City Lights Entertainment distributes the Shoot Productions, Station 3 and Fastback Pictures film. Jacobs was last in Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Choke" with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. »

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Indie Features - "Gardens of the Night." New gallery in.

9 October 2008 6:44 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

In indie film, we have new images in for the Damian Harris helmed and written drama "Gardens of the Night." In this strong cast are Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. Harris' last attempt at the wheel was for the 2000 release "Mercy" starring Ellen Barkin, Wendy Crewson, Peta Wilson, Karen Young and Julian Sands. City Lights Entertainment distributes the Shoot Productions, Station 3 and Fastback Pictures film. Jacobs was last in Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Choke" with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. »

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Indie Features - "Gardens of the Night." New gallery in.

9 October 2008 6:44 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

In indie film, we have new images in for the Damian Harris helmed and written drama "Gardens of the Night." In this strong cast are Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. Harris' last attempt at the wheel was for the 2000 release "Mercy" starring Ellen Barkin, Wendy Crewson, Peta Wilson, Karen Young and Julian Sands. City Lights Entertainment distributes the Shoot Productions, Station 3 and Fastback Pictures film. Jacobs was last in Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Choke" with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. See the gallery now! What's this about? Leslie (Gillian Jacobs), struggles with a hand to mouth existence on the streets of San Diego with only her childhood friend Donnie (Evan Ross) to look after her, both of them trying to cope with the trauma of having been abducted and held captive by two men nine years earlier. As an eight-year-old girl, »

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Indie Features - "Gardens of the Night." New gallery in.

9 October 2008 6:44 AM, PDT | Upcoming-Movies.com | See recent Upcoming-Movies.com news »

In indie film, we have new images in for the Damian Harris helmed and written drama "Gardens of the Night." In this strong cast are Gillian Jacobs, John Malkovich, Ryan Simpkins, Tom Arnold, Kevin Zegers, Harold Perineau and Jeremy Sisto. Harris' last attempt at the wheel was for the 2000 release "Mercy" starring Ellen Barkin, Wendy Crewson, Peta Wilson, Karen Young and Julian Sands. City Lights Entertainment distributes the Shoot Productions, Station 3 and Fastback Pictures film. Jacobs was last in Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Choke" with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston. »

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Gardens of the Night

11 February 2008 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Competition

BERLIN -- Films about social issues usually exude the deadly aura of good intention and earnest edification, but Damian Harris zones in on his characters in Gardens of the Night. The film gives vivid reality to those photos of disappeared children on milk cartons by letting us peek into the lives of two abducted children subjected to sexual abuse and then prostitution.

The writer-director shuns sensationalism but does sentimentalize the friendship between the two youngsters, seen as children and then as thoroughly messed-up teens. The strength of the film lies in acting performances that make everyone human, even the monsters.

More festival exposure is assured, but only a brave distributor will take on such a tricky subject. The film might be better suited to home entertainment markets.

Reportedly, Harris spent years researching and writing his script, and it shows. The small details feel right, leaving us to accept the utter horror of the larger details. In quiet, subtle ways, his story shows how such things happen and why children gradually lose the will and ability to call out for help. While a screaming child and Movie of the Week fiends might have made a slicker, safer product, Harris takes pains to keep it real. The truly sick thing here is how nice the villain is to the children.

Alex (Tom Arnold in a performance of considerable nuance) and his much rougher partner Frank (Kevin Zegers) clearly spent time laying a trap for their young victim. Leslie Ryan Simpkins), a lovely, blond 8-year-old, is too bright to simply get into a stranger's car. A level of trust and seeming familiarity are carefully built before the two kidnappers can spirit her away from her East Coast home.

Leslie finds herself sharing space with a black youth her age, Donnie Jermaine Scooter Smith), who believes his institutionalized mother sold him to Alex. Leslie, who can read while Donnie can't, uses children's storybooks and her own imagination to create a fairy-tale world into which the two youngsters can retreat, a "jungle" where they feel safe from an adult world that has grown frightening.

The two cling to each other, forging an indissoluble bond. This has become their greatest resource when the film leaps ahead nearly a decade to San Diego, Calif. Now veteran street hustlers, the two live on the streets while selling their bodies or scamming potential clients.

Leslie (Gillian Jacobs) is the rock of Donnie's (Evan Ross) shattered existence, the one sustaining force in his life and only source of affection. Those who would further exploit the two see a need to drive a wedge between them: Leslie, now a beautiful young woman who can project a tarnished innocence, is a valuable commodity. She also could help recruit younger girls to the trade, putting her in the exact same position as Uncle Alex. Donnie, meanwhile, is viewed as a "loser."

By the time Leslie comes to her senses, Donnie has vanished. Then a wise counselor (John Malkovich in an unflashy cameo) at a shelter for runaways and homeless kids goes to the trouble to investigate Leslie's story. She honestly believes her parents are dead, but he locates them.

Can Leslie really go home again? And how many abducted kids ever get that chance? Harris raises such questions within this tragedy without ever mounting a pulpit. He lets connections get made and themes to emerge through the interaction of the two youngsters and how they perceive a hostile world. The only thing he slightly sugarcoats is that interaction, but his actors give level-headed, sincere portraits of youngsters whose value systems have been turned on their head: Vice is virtue and love perverse. They are still, in some ways, children, susceptible to the blandishments of adults and gullible about the facts of their lives. Even if they do survive, how will they ever free themselves from these distortions?

GARDENS OF THE NIGHT

Sobini Films and La Nuit Americaine present a Fastback Pictures Films, Station 3 and Shoot Prods. production

Credits:

Screenwriter-director: Damian Harris

Producers: Pascal Franchot, R.D. Robb

Executive producers: Mark Amin, Todd Olsson

Director of photography: Paula Huidobro

Production designer: Bradd Fillman

Music: Craig Richey

Costume designer: Rhona Meyers

Editor: Michael Shemesh

Cast:

Leslie: Gillian Jacobs

Donnie: Evan Ross

Alex: Tom Arnold

Michael: John Malkovich

Young Leslie: Ryan Simpkins

Young Donnie: Jermaine Scooter Smith

Frank: Kevin Zegers

Running time -- 107 minutes

No MPAA rating

»

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Choke

29 January 2008 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- Another quirky movie out of Sundance, Choke relies on an appreciation for characters who have no foundation in the real world.

The story of a sex addict (Sam Rockwell) and his deranged mother (Anjelica Huston), based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the film is one part social satire and one part off-kilter love story. Some people will find the goings-on hilarious, while others will sit through it not cracking a smile. Choke presents a major marketing challenge for Fox Searchlight, which picked it up at the festival.

Rockwell's breezy and charming performance as Victor Mancini, a man with a raging libido, sparring with his eccentric mother Ida, now deteriorating in a mental hospital, almost carries the film, but not quite.

Much of the time, the action is so absurd that it ceases to have any meaning. The characters don't behave like anyone you have ever met, or are likely to meet. Even a fanciful conceit like this one has to be believable on an emotional level to have any impact.

Well-executed by actor-turned-writer-director Clark Gregg, Choke is all id. In an initially amusing bit that eventually becomes tiresome, Victor works at a colonial re-enactment theme park where he is constantly on the make with visitors and the aloof milkmaid Ursula (Bijou Phillips). As the self-proclaimed "backbone of colonial America," Victor gets to target some well-aimed barbs at ersatz history.

Not surprisingly, he doesn't take his job seriously. He is more concerned with visits to his mother, who usually mistakes him for her attorney Fred. A lifelong eccentric who is probably responsible for her son's random sex life, Ida alternately rescued and abandoned Victor to foster parents as we see in frequent flashbacks from his youth. On one excursion, she and her son broke into the city zoo, where Victor was mauled by a lynx. No wonder the lad is commitment shy.

In an opening narration at his Sex Addicts Anonymous group, Victor informs the audience "we're all here to dig through our own personal valise of perverse heartbreaking memories until we can find one that helps us to break the cycle." His mother's lovely young doctor (Kelly Macdonald) just might be the person to help. But then again she might be as nutty as Victor, and might not even be a doctor. One can only wonder when she suggests that Victor is descendent of Jesus and comes up with a hairbrain scheme to reverse Ida's growing dementia.

Victor's best friend Denny Brad William Henke) is his partner in sexual compulsion until he falls for a stripper named Cherry Daquiri (Gillian Jacobs) and opts for domestic bliss. Victor might be too twisted for that, but in the end even someone as crazy as he is might get lucky in the pursuit of happiness.

Choke plays out like an extreme postmodern fairy tale, and occasionally when it catches the right tone it has the lightness and touch to make it fun. Rockwell's apparent flair for tongue-in-cheek comedy helps, and he makes a nice couple with the deadpan Macdonald. But for much of the way, the film just feels like it's pressing too hard to make an impression.

CHOKE

Fox Searchlight

A Contrafilm/ATO Pictures production

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Clark Gregg

Based on a novel by: Chuck Palahniuk

Producers: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson, Jonathan Dorfman, Temple Fennell

Executive producers: Mike S. Ryan, Derrick Tseng, Gary Ventimiglia, Mary Vernieu

Director of photography: Tim Orr

Production designer: Roshelle Berliner

Costume designer: Catherine George

Editor: Joe Klotz

Cast:

Victor Mancini: Sam Rockwell

Ida Mancini: Anjelica Huston

Paige Marshall: Kelly Macdonald

Denny: Brad William Henke

Lord High Charlie: Clark Gregg

Ursula: Bijou Phillips

Cherry Daquiri: Gillian Jacobs

Running time -- 89 minutes

No MPAA rating

»

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12 items from 2008


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