4 items from 2007
Legendary playwright and novelist Ira Levin has died. He was 78. The writer - who saw many of his works turned into major Hollywood movies - died of natural causes on Monday at his home in New York. Levin is most famous for writing the novel Rosemary's Baby, which was made into the 1968 film of the same name, directed by Roman Polanski. He will also be remembered for writing The Stepford Wives - first adapted for the big screen in 1975 and then remade again in 2004 in a version which starred Nicole Kidman. Levin wrote on a variety of genres throughout his career and sold millions of books worldwide, despite only producing seven novels in 40 years; he also penned the hit Broadway play Deathtrap, later made into a movie starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. He leaves behind three sons, Adam, Jared and Nicholas, by his first wife Gabrielle Aronsohn, who he divorced in 1968. He divorced second wife, Phyllis Finkel, in 1981 »
We've seen the spawn of Satan in such films as Rosemary's Baby and The Omen, and bad seeds have frequently tickled and terrified audiences. Child saviors haven't been as prevalent in the movies. But in The Seeker, based on the popular children's novel The Dark Is Rising, we have the story of a child chosen by the forces of light to battle evil spirits; the fate of the earth hangs in the balance. With some quasi-religious overtones, the film might have a built-in audience, though it's not going to make much of a dent in the Harry Potter franchise.
The opening cleverly thrusts us into an ultra-contemporary world of cell phones and high-tech malls where Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) is not quite at home. The youngest of six sons in an American family transplanted to England, Will is not comfortable with his peers. To make matters worse, he keeps seeing flocks of ravens that want to claw his flesh. Eventually, he learns that he has a mission to save the world from dark forces that intend to wreak havoc. His nemesis is a threatening figure called the Rider (Christopher Eccleston), but he also has a group of allies known as the Old Ones who instruct him in his supernatural powers and guide him on his otherworldly quest.
Seeker is well cast with a mix of British and American actors. Ian McShane, who often is cast as a Satanic figure, here plays Will's spiritual guide, and he lends stature and dignity to the battle between good and evil. Eccleston exudes malevolent power, and he has fun playing the Rider's alter ego, a bumbling English doctor. The young actors who play Will's siblings have a natural ease on camera, and Ludwig is inherently likable, capturing the character's befuddlement as well as his innate decency.
Yet the film plods along without a lot of excitement or inspiration. There's one scary sequence with an army of snakes led by an albino cobra, but a lot of other scenes depend on elaborate CGI effects that aren't all that thrilling. Another problem is that the plot requires young Will to go through a series of trials to find the six signs that will enable him to save the world, and there simply isn't enough variety in these ordeals. The movie's one surprise twist will be pretty transparent to anyone above the age of 6.
Although the film is extremely well photographed by Joel Ransom, it fails to build a sense of mounting terror. The denouement is completely predictable, which might be satisfying to young viewers who haven't seen a lot of movies. For the rest of us, Seeker is a ho-hum exercise in mysticism and hocus-pocus.
THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING
20th Century Fox and Fox-Walden
Marc Platt Prods.
Director: David L. Cunningham
Screenwriter: John Hodge
Based on the novel by: Susan Cooper
Producer: Marc Platt
Executive producers: Ron Schmidt, Adam Siegel
Director of photography: Joel Ransom
Production designer: David Lee
Music: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Vin Burnham
Editors: Geoffrey Rowland, Eric A. Sears
Will Stanton: Alexander Ludwig
The Rider: Christopher Eccleston
Merriman Lyon: Ian McShane
Miss Greythorne: Frances Conroy
Dawson: James Cosmo
Old George: Jim Piddock
Maggie Barnes: Amelia Warner
John Stanton: John Benjamin Hickey
Mary Stanton: Wendy Crewson
Gwen Stanton: Emma Lockhart
Max Stanton: Gregory Smith
Running time -- 99 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
American actress Kirsten Dunst has signed a deal to step behind the camera and direct her first movie. The star will make a short film based on a ghost story sent to a US women's magazine by a reader. The 25-year-old says of the project, "They've giving me carte blanche. "I pick everyone I want to collaborate with. "I've always been a fan of Roman Polanski and, you know, Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve and Rosemary's Baby. We just don't make movies like that any more." »
PARK CITY, Utah - Fox Searchlight confirmed late Sunday night that they have purchased virtually all worldwide rights minus Canada to Joshua, a psychological thriller from co-writer and director David Ratliff, the documentary filmmaker behind Hell House.
The film, which debuted Saturday night at the Racquet Club Theatre, tells the tale of a disturbed and disturbing child who slowly turns the life of his family upside down. Starring Sam Rockwell, Vera Farmiga and young newcomer Jacob Kogan, Joshua received interest from multiple parties but it was Searchlight who came through in the end.
"George Ratliff and David Gilbert have created an unbelievably tense and frightful tale," said Searchlight president Rice, who plans a summer release.
The studio purchased the film, reminiscent of The Omen and The Bad Seed combined with the urban dread of Rosemary's Baby, for $3.7 million. Tony Safford, senior vp of acquisitions & production at Twentieth Century Fox and executive vp, business affairs Stephen Plum negotiated on behalf of Searchlight while UTA and attorney Andrew Hurwitz represented the filmmakers. »
4 items from 2007
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