The Astronaut Farmer
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3 items from 2006


The Astronaut Farmer

19 October 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Mill Valley Film Festival

MILL VALLEY, Calif. -- Departing from the dark, twisted sensibility of their feature Twin Falls Idaho, in which Mark and Michael Polish seemed to have channeled the Coen brothers and a dash of David Lynch, the duo's latest effort, The Astronaut Farmer, is goofy, wholesome and, well, sweet. Despite some droll humor and on-target political jabs delivered deadpan by a uniformly strong cast, Astronaut often is too corny for its own good; it could have used more of those zingy lines.

Shot in 33 days for $13 million, a markedly larger budget than they have worked with before, the Polishes do a lot with a little by Hollywood standards to make a polished, mainstream, thoroughly quirky family entertainment. (The brothers collaborated on the script; Michael Polish directed.) If marketed properly, it could be a solid boxoffice draw for families, especially those with small children. It will have a one-week run at the end of the year to qualify for Oscar consideration, and a wider theatrical release is scheduled for early next year.

An ambling pace bogs down this archetypal albeit predictable story about Charlie Farmer (played with sunny optimism by pitch-perfect Billy Bob Thornton), who is indeed a small-town farmer and a charming oddball. Against all odds and the laws of gravity, Charlie achieves his impossible dream: He launches into space in a homemade rocket he built in his barn.

Adults craving more challenging content will be out of luck, but even for those who don't wholly buy into the film's "if we don't have our dreams, we have nothing" ethos, there are many small pleasures to savor. Bruce Willis, looking heroic in a leather bomber jacket, makes a stylish appearance in a small role as Farmer's old buddy, a space shuttle commander.

Thornton, eminently watchable throughout, even while orbiting around Earth -- the CG effects are well done here -- gives a wry, warm performance as a beautiful loser, a disappointed former military pilot and would-be astronaut who dropped out of the space program before he got his space shot. The actor, with his gentle Southern twang, embodies the character's humanity, dogged determination and basic goodness without winking at the audience.

Virginia Madsen is radiant as the supportive, long-suffering wife of a dreamer who drives his family into debt and makes them the object of ridicule. It's a thankless role, but Madsen makes the most of it.

Veteran J.K. Simmons does his evil best as the heavy, the head of the FAA -- or the Dream Police, as one tabloid labels the agency -- who stands between Charlie and liftoff.

Cinematographer M. David Mullen does wonders with New Mexico's light and dazzling sunsets, evoking the romance and bleakness of the Southwest. As Elton John's Rocket Man plays under the final credits, the ubiquitous Jay Leno does a mock interview with Farmer. It's a graceful parting touch.

THE ASTRONAUT FARMER

Warner Bros. Pictures

Spring Creek Pictures/Polish Brothers Construction

Credits:

Director: Michael Polish

Screenwriters: Mark Polish & Michael Polish

Producers: Mark Polish, Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, Michael Polish

Executive producer: J. Geyer Kosinski

Director of photography: M. David Mullen

Production designer: Clark Hunter

Music: Stuart Matthewman

Costume designer: Danny Glicker

Editor: James Haygood

Cast:

Charles Farmer: Billy Bob Thornton

Audie: Virginia Madsen

Hal: Bruce Dern

Kevin Munchak: Tim Blake Nelson

Running time -- 109 minutes

MPAA rating: PG »

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'Breaking' into Mill Valley

14 September 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

The 29th Mill Valley Film Festival, set for Oct. 5-15, will launch with two features, Anthony Minghella's drama Breaking and Entering, starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche, and Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. The fest, which will present 231 films comprising 104 features and 127 shorts, will close with the world premiere of Mark Polish and Michael Polish's The Astronaut Farmer, starring Billy Bob Thornton. Tributes will be presented to Helen Mirren along with a screening of her new film, The Queen, and Tim Robbins, accompanied by a clip program and conversation with the actor. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will be honored at a Spotlight program, featuring an onstage interview and a screening of his latest film, Babel. »

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Warren and White set for 'Housewives'

4 May 2006 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Julie White and Kiersten Warren are set to join the cast of ABC's dramedy Desperate Housewives as recurrings. Their characters will be introduced in the campy mystery series' second-season finale May 21 and are described as "pivotal" to the show's story lines next season. White's character will have a connection to Orson (Kyle MacLachlan), while Warren's character will be a wrench in Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and Tom's (Doug Savant) marriage. White most recently completed filming supporting roles in the features Michael Clayton and The Astronaut Farmer and goes into production on The Nanny Diaries next month and Michael Bay's Prime Directive in July. The actress recently won the Village Voice Obie Award for her work in the off-Broadway play The Little Dog Laughed, which also earned her a Drama Desk nomination. »

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3 items from 2006


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