Stranger Than Fiction
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7 items from 2007

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

15 November 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

One of the central characters in Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium longs to achieve the "sparkle" that shows she's inspired and expressing her highest potential. The film, presumably, aims for that same glow. But for all its playful touches and neat-o nostalgia for nondigital entertainment, the whimsy feels forced.

In the director's chair for the first time, Zach Helm juggles some of the same themes he brought to his script for Stranger Than Fiction -- the process of storytelling, fear of death and the need to live life to the fullest. As in that movie, there's less here than meets the eye, but without the former's Charlie Kaufman Lite layers of metafiction, the emptiness is often glaringly evident. Helm's slender tale doesn't quite know what to do with its four characters; what might have been pleasing simplicity instead feels thinly conceived. As family-friendly fare starring Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman, the fantasy drama should conjure up decent, if not magical, boxoffice.

Divided into storybook chapters, the film begins at "the beginning of the end" for Mr. Magorium, who, at age 243, is preparing to depart this earthly plane because -- well, enough is enough, and he's out of shoes. For the past 113 years he has run the titular establishment, a sort of enchanted indie FAO Schwarz. Hoffman plays the toy impresario in teased 'do and unruly eyebrows and with a wispy, silly voice. The performance isn't a flat-out miscalculation like Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka, but as oddities go, it's more distracting than compelling.

Magorium plans to bequeath his shop, a storefront/house sandwiched between skyscrapers, to its manager, Molly Mahoney (a convincingly tentative Portman). At 23, she's a onetime musical prodigy who feels stuck, unable to complete the concerto she's been trying to compose. She has a fondness for Emporium regular Eric (Zach Mills), a sweetly geeky 9-year-old who has a knack for invention and troublemaking friends. He tries out his nascent social skills on Henry Weston (Jason Bateman), the accountant Magorium has hired to put his finances in order. Being an accountant, Henry is necessarily an impassive skeptic who can't accept that magic exists. He will, of course, be convinced.

For her part, Molly can't accept that her beloved boss is leaving. Neither can the store, whose red walls begin turning gray -- decor body language for a sulk. The books and stuffed animals start acting out, too, until full-fledged magic mayhem forces Magorium to close shop temporarily.

Within the Crayola-hued profusion created by production designer Therese DePrez and costumer designer Christopher Hargadon, there are lovely fillips, and visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug brings high-spirited contributions to the low-fi fantasy. There's not a PlayStation 3 in sight but plenty of such delightful diversions as a squeak-toy gavel, a nervous Slinky, a room full of bouncing balls and a particularly expressive sock monkey.

Until the final sequence, though, the phantasmagoria is mildly charming rather than wondrous. That wouldn't be a problem if the characters had more substance. Chanting a pop-psych carpe diem mantra, the film can't find its own pulse. Helping to set a pace is the lush score by Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman, but its ooh-ahh insistence isn't enough to truly entrance.



Mandate Pictures and Walden Media presenta FilmColony production in association with Gang of Two


Screenwriter-director: Zach Helm

Producers: Richard N. Gladstein, Jim Garavente

Executive producers: Joe Drake, Nathan Kahane

Director of photography: Roman Osin

Production designer: Therese DePrez

Music: Alexandre Desplat, Aaron Zigman

Co-producer: Barbara A. Hall

Costume designer: Christopher Hargadon

Visual effects designer: Kevin Tod Haug

Editors: Sabrina Plisco, Steven Weisberg


Mr. Edward Magorium, Avid Shoe-Wearer: Dustin Hoffman

Molly Mahoney, the Composer: Natalie Portman

Henry Weston, the Mutant: Jason Bateman

Eric Applebaum, the Hat Collector: Zach Mills

Bellini, the Bookbuilder: Ted Ludzik

Mrs. Goodman, Who Wants the Store: Kiele Sanchez

Running time -- 94 minutes

MPAA rating: G


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Gaulding in Sony shift to Screen Gems

25 July 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Shannon Gaulding has been named senior vp production at Screen Gems, it was announced Tuesday by president Clint Culpepper.

Gaulding most recently was vp production at Screen Gems' Sony sister Columbia Pictures, where she joined as a creative executive in 1999. At Columbia, she oversaw such films as The Grudge, Monster House, Stranger Than Fiction and the upcoming 30 Days of Night.

"Shannon has been a huge asset to Columbia Pictures, working on some of the studio's most successful films, and I have been a fan for many years," Culpepper said. "She has great skills handling projects and is respected by agents, talent and filmmakers alike."

Before joining Columbia, Gaulding was a production executive at LIVE Entertainment, which later became Artisan Entertainment. Before that, she ran the creative affairs division of Delicious Vinyl, a hip-hop/acid jazz music label. »

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'Last Chance' for Hoffman & Thompson

6 June 2007 | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

- This is for those who enjoyed their same sequence non-pairing pairing in Stranger Than Fiction, veteran actors Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are getting one of those rare opportunities to play romantic leads while very much past the middle age point. Variety reports that the pair will star in Overture Films' newest project set to start in London in September and produced by Tim Perell and Nicola Usborne with Jawal Nga exec producing. Last Chance Harvey will be Joel Hopkins.   Written by Hopkins and Usborne, this is about a man down on his luck finds an unlikely female companion while in London attending his daughter's wedding.I’ve yet to hear about this particular Brit filmmaker, but Hopkins won a BAFTA award for most promising newcomer five years ago for their work on Jump Tomorrow (2001). »

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WGA drafts 'Sunshine,' 'Departed' for awards

12 February 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The WGA shone a bright light on "Little Miss Sunshine" on Sunday night, bestowing upon the indie comedy its best original screenplay award, while Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" grabbed best adapted screenplay laurels to maintain its own Oscar momentum.

"Sunshine", a Fox Searchlight release written by Michael Arndt, overcame fellow category nominees "Babel", "The Queen", "Stranger Than Fiction" and "United 93". "Departed" -- a Warner Bros. Pictures release with a screenplay by William Monahan and based on the motion picture "Infernal Affairs" (written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong) -- bested "Borat", "The Devil Wears Prada", "Little Children" and "Thank You for Smoking".

Arndt thanked his agent and producers for helping him achieve "the screenwriters' dream of seeing their words up on the screen uncompromised and undiluted."

In Oscar's original screenplay category, "Sunshine" is going against a similar field but with "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Pan's Labyrinth" subbing for "Stranger" and "United 93". Academy voters also will select from an adapted screenplay field in which "Departed" squares off against similar movies as figured in the WGA's same category but with "Notes on a Scandal" replacing "Prada".

The WGA held simultaneous ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City and at the Hudson Theatre of the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York. Writer-actor Robert Wuhl presided at the WGA West's gala and actress-writer Tina Fey at the WGA East event.

At least a couple of the studio executives sprinkled throughout the Century City audience wondered whether any of the speakers would mention the WGA's impending talks for a new film and television contract, which expires in October. They didn't have long to wait.

In his welcoming remarks, WGAW president Patric Verrone joked that he would not subject the crowd to long speeches about "the guild's determination to work with our sister unions to preserve health and pension benefits," but then he went on in rapid-fire fashion to list other issues like new-media compensation that would figure in the talks. He also made a point of noting that the executive directors of the WGA, SAG and the DGA were on hand and seated together.

But the remarks served more as comic relief than a call to action. "There will be plenty of time for rambling diatribes at our town hall meetings once negotiations start," Verrone added.

Verrone also trumpeted a previously unannounced honorary award, bestowing the 2007 Robert Meltzer Award, to 12 former writer-producers of "America's Next Top Model". The WGAW president said the dozen were being lauded for "bravery" in striking the reality program in an unsuccessful bid to gain WGA union status. »

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'Borat' Nominated for WGA Award

15 January 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

British funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen has garnered a surprise nomination from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) for his spoof documentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan. Despite losing out at with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on Friday, the controversial comedy has earned the show's star and co-creator recognition in the category of Adapted Screenplay, where it will compete against The Devil Wears Prada, Little Children, Thank You For Not Smoking and The Departed. The award for Original Screenplay sees nominations for Little Miss Sunshine, Stranger Than Fiction, United 93, and Brad Pitt's new movie Babel, as well as The Queen starring Dame Helen Mirren. The winners will be announced at awards ceremony on February 11 in New York and Los Angeles. »

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WGA screenplay noms include comedies

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

The WGA Awards announced nominations for adapted and original screenplays Thursday featuring most early Oscar best-picture favorites but also more comedies than other guilds' recent feature-film noms.

Nominations in the original screenplay category went to "Babel", written by Guillermo Arriaga, Paramount Vantage; "Little Miss Sunshine", written by Michael Arndt, Fox Searchlight Pictures; "The Queen", written by Peter Morgan, Miramax Films; "Stranger Than Fiction", written by Zach Helm, Sony Pictures Entertainment; and "United 93", written by Paul Greengrass, Universal Pictures.

Adapted screenplay noms included:

  "Borat", screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer, story by Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines and Todd Phillips, based on a character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, 20th Century Fox;

  "The Departed", screenplay by William Monahan, based on the motion picture "Infernal Affairs", written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, Warner Bros. Pictures;

  "The Devil Wears Prada", screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the novel by Lauren Weisberger, 20th Century Fox;

  "Little Children", screenplay by Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, New Line Cinema; and

  "Thank You for Smoking", screenplay by Jason Reitman, based on the novel by Christopher Buckley, Fox Searchlight Pictures. »

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Will Ferrell and Wife Welcome Baby Boy

3 January 2007 | WENN | See recent WENN news »

Anchorman star Will Ferrell and his wife, Viveca Paulson, celebrated the New Year early with the birth of their second son on Saturday. The actor's new baby Mattias, who joins big brother Magnus, two, was born just after 2am local time in Los Angeles. Publicist Matt Labov says, "All are healthy, happy and otherwise okay." Ferrell earned a Golden Globe nomination last month for his role in Stranger Than Fiction. »

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