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Hilary Swank will be a shell-shocked war vet in the ghost story 'Dreams of a Dying Heart'

Who says only men are haunted by the ghosts of war? Hilary Swank will show us how horrific it can be for both genders in this upcoming 2012 horror picture.

Written and directed by Shawn Lawrence Otto (The House of Sand and Fog), Dreams of a Dying Heart will be produced by U.K. company Intandem Pictures and will be one of the few movies to incorporate a woman's experience as a soldier in the current Iraq war.

Rachel Watson (Hilary Swank) returns home after surviving a fatal chopper crash, but soon after her husband Dan and 16-year old daughter Clara meet her at the airport, strange things begin to happen. The ghost of a boy dressed in blue seems to be haunting her. She wakes up screaming and covered in blood. Pictures of her are missing from the wall. Odd voices are on the phone. And a strange middle-easterner is in her house,
See full article at Planet Fury »

Young@Heart and 'Burning The Future' pick up early Ida awards

  • Put a smile on your face and some beat into your step Young@Heart and eco-activist docu portrait Burning the Future: Coal in America are among the early bird winners for this year’s International Documentary Association’s annual awards given out to docu films that get theatrical or television play. Not surprisingly, Fox Searchlight’s extremely popular film fest audience winner YoungAHeart took the award for Ida /Alan EttAlan Ett
[/link] Music Documentary Award, while to David Novack’s docu on the nauseating affects of the coal industry (I reviewed this early in the year) claimed the Ida/Pare Lorentz Award. The remaining three categories for Best Feature, Best Short and Audience award will be given out on the 5th of December. This year’s main feature category will see Kassim the Dream, Man on Wire Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane that Crashed in the Mountains, Young@Heart
See full article at IONCINEMA.com »

Top 100 Most Anticipated Films of 2008: #54 Savage Grace

[/link] Director: Tom KalinWriters: Howard A. Rodman (Joe Gould's Secret) Producers: Pamela Koffler, Iker Monfort, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon Distributor: IFC First Take The Gist: Based on the winning Mystery Writers of America in award for Best Fact Crimebook written by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson, this tells the incredible true story of Barbara Daly, who married above her class to Brooks Baekeland (Moore), the dashing heir to the Bakelite plastics fortune. Beautiful, red-headed, charismatic, Barbara is still not a match for her well-born husband. The birth of the couple’s only child, Tony, rocks the uneasy balance in this marriage of extremes... Fact: Kalin had not directed a feature length film since 1992's Swoon. See It: Delicious euro-flavored drama will get under the skin of many thanks to disturbing themes and chilling acting performances. Read my review here. Release Date/Status?: After preeming at
See full article at IONCINEMA.com »

Then She Found Me

Then She Found Me
Toronto Film Festival

TORONTO — Playing like an adult woman's rejoinder to the Peter Pan factor in recent rom-coms, "Then She Found Me" prefers the mature man to the overgrown boy, gets knocked up without freaking out, and never -- well, maybe once -- goes for the startling gag over the pointed observation. With subtle laughs but solid emotional thrust, it will play very well with older audiences.

In her debut as feature director, Helen Hunt also stars as a teacher whose husband has a change of heart after less than a year of marriage. The earth beneath her continues to shake as her adoptive mother dies and her purportedly real one -- self-obsessed talk show host Bernice, played with pushy panache by Bette Midler -- makes her presence known.

Not a good time for new love, which makes the immediate arrival of Frank such a perfect vehicle for Colin Firth's patented choked-back-emotions act. Frank is the recently-divorced dad of April's student, and the two make a valiant (but doomed, natch) attempt not to ask each other out. Their quick rapport contrasts with the tentative relationship, threatened by half-truths and showbiz flakiness, between April and Bernice.

Then April, who has been worrying about getting too old to have a child, learns her estranged husband got her pregnant on the night he left -- just the spark needed to kick all the plot's tricky relationships into high gear at once. April's poor obstetrician (a truly left-field celeb cameo) hardly knows how many supporters she'll have with her each time she's due for an ultrasound.

Things are moving quickly, but Hunt aims for restrained believability rather than glossy bounce. The script isn't afraid to crack a joke, but it also doesn't want to exploit April's angst for cute laughs; accordingly, Hunt the director allows Hunt the actress to look realistically beat-down from time to time. The relatively sober mood means that when things turn ugly, the blow-ups don't come off as manufactured plot points. (That's particularly true with Firth's character, a memorably damaged suitor.)

The picture is set apart not only by its tone but by the way it takes seriously some elements that might get reduced to window-dressing in a movie more carefully engineered to reach the broadest audience: details of the protagonist's Jewish upbringing, for instance, but especially the attitude toward children, who here aren't fashion accessories but an essential part of the way April and Frank think about where they stand with each other.

That's not the kind of consequence-factoring theme you find in the average date movie, but it helps give "Then She Found Me" a character that many viewers will respond to.

THEN SHE FOUND ME

ThinkFilm

Killer Films / Blue Rider Pictures / John Wells Prods.

Director: Helen Hunt

Writers: Alice Arlen, Victor Levin, Helen Hunt

Based on the novel by Elinor Lipman

Producers: Helen Hunt, Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Connie Tavel, Christine Vachon

Executive producers: Jeff Geoffray, Louise Goodsill, Walter Josten, Ralph Kamp, Chip Signore, John Wells

Director of photography: Peter Donahue

Production designer: Stephen Beatrice

Music: David Mansfield

Co-producer: Matthew Myers

Costume designer: Donna Zakowska

Editor: Pam Wise

Cast:

April: Helen Hunt

Frank: Colin Firth

Bernice: Bette Midler

Ben: Matthew Broderick

Freddy: Ben Shenkman

No MPAA rating, running time 100 minutes

An American Crime

An American Crime
Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- Would anyone have greenlighted "An American Crime", a movie about a real-life female sicko, were it not for the success of "Monster"? The Gertrude Baniszewski case in 1965 is one of those nauseating wonders that somehow attracts artists who want to dig deep into the details to ferret out some truth about American society. (Note the film's title.) Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood", of course, set the standard, which "Monster" did a decent job of emulating as it established an empathetic context for its prostitute-murderer.

"Crime" falls far short of these benchmarks. It is not, thank goodness, exploitation. Director Tommy O'Haver grew up in Indianapolis, the scene of the crime, and he appears genuinely obsessed with the case. Despite his fluffy comedies "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss" and "Ella Enchanted", this is the film he really wanted to make.

His obsession never becomes the viewer's obsession, though. The movie is unpleasant at every turn and about as enlightening as the newspaper recap when Baniszewski died. It serves the facts but makes little sense of them. Despite the presence of Catherine Keener as the movie's monster, this depressing though not gripping drama will have little impact in art houses.

Briefly, two irresponsible parents, traveling carnival workers, dump two teenage daughters with a complete stranger. Gertrude (Keener) eagerly takes them in for the extra $20 a week to help feed and clothe her brood by an ex-husband and a very young boyfriend (James Franco). She takes a dislike to the elder girl, 16-year-old Sylvia (Ellen Page), who in her mind is a liar and thief.

Gertrude punishes her by having her youngsters throw the girl into the basement, where over a period of weeks she is subjected to mutilation and torture by the mother, her children and neighborhood kids. (Sadly, the indignities and torture in the actual case were much worse.)

The film is an "interpretation of events" based on court transcripts. While many individuals involved are still alive, O'Haver and co-writer Irene Turner chose not to talk to any. They wanted the freedom to make up things other than courtroom scenes.

Whenever the prosecutor (Bradley Whitford) asks a young witness why he or she did such unspeakable things to a fellow human being, in actual testimony the reply is: "I don't know, sir." Unfortunately, the movie is equally as unforthcoming. The suggestion is that when an adult gives permission to young people to act criminally toward a helpless victim, animal-like behavior seizes everyone. No one, not even Sylvia's younger sister, Jennie (Hayley McFarland), goes to the police.

Keener is an accomplished and talented actress, but the role stumps her. Yes, every choice her character makes in life is wrong and she suffers from asthma, but she does not suggest the murderous anger lurking within Gertrude. There is an unconvincing attempt to insinuate that the real object of her rage is her eldest daughter, Paula (Ari Graynor), who is doing the things Sylvia gets accused of, but this does not explain everyone else's complicity in the crime. Curiously, the most obvious explanation, a diminished mental capacity on the mother's part, is never touched upon.

There is a fantasy sequence near the end -- disguised initially as part of the story -- in which a somnambulant Gertrude suddenly appears in a car's headlights as she stalks her prey. This is the movie's "money shot," but it throws in the towel regarding any understanding of the character. Gertrude is little more than a zombie rising from its grave, longing for human flesh without knowing why.

Alan Lazar's muted music and Byron Shah's moody photography of Nathan Amondson's drab sets establish a Midwestern ordinariness that blankets the blood-chilling evil.

AN AMERICAN CRIME

First Look Pictures

First Look Studios/Killer Films/Oil and Water Prods.

Credits:

Director: Tommy O'Haver

Screenwriters: Tommy O'Haver, Irene Turner

Producers: Katie Roumel, Jocelyn Hayes-Simpson, Christine Vachon

Henry Winterstern, Kevin Turen

Executive producers: Pamela Koffler, John Wells

Ruth Vitale, Richard Shore

Director of photography: Byron Shah

Production designer: Nathan Amondson

Music: Alan Lazar

Costume designer: Alix Hester

Editor: Melissa Kent

Cast:

Gertrude Baniszewski: Catherine Keener

Sylvia Likens: Ellen Page

Andy: James Franco, Prosecutor: Bradley Whitford

Paula: Ari Graynor

Lester: Nick Searcy

Betty: Romy Rosemont

Ricky: Evan Peters

Coy: Jeremy Sumpter

Rev. Bill: Michael O'Keefe

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R

Keener, Page charged with 'Crime' roles

Keener, Page charged with 'Crime' roles
Catherine Keener and Ellen Page will star in An American Crime, a gritty drama being directed by Tommy O'Haver. First Look Studios' Henry Winterstern and Kevin Turen are producing, in addition to Killer Films' Christine Vachon, Katie Roumel and Jocelyn Hayes-Simpson. The story, which O'Haver wrote with Irene Turner, tells the true story of Sylvia Likens, a 16-year-old girl who died in 1965 while under the care of a woman named Gertrude Baniszewski. She put Sylvia through an ordeal that included beatings in the guise of discipline, burnings with cigarettes and matches and scalding hot baths, among other tortures. Encouraging a Lord of the Flies-type cult, Baniszewski involved her own children and children from her Indianapolis neighborhood in the punishments. Keener is playing Baniszewski, while Page plays Likens.

A Home at End of World

Michael Cunningham's 1990 novel makes an assured, if not entirely satisfying, transition to the big screen in this terrifically acted exploration of the bonds that transcend traditional notions of family.

Although gay men will identify most with the story of love between longtime friends, the literary pedigree and tender emotional tone of "A Home at the End of the World", as well as the presence of Colin Farrell, could attract a far broader art house audience. The film closed Los Angeles' Outfest on Monday before its theatrical bow Friday as the second release from Warner Independent Pictures.

In adapting his novel -- which traverses two decades, from the giddiness of the late '60s to the onset of the AIDS epidemic -- Cunningham ("The Hours") has reduced its complexity and detail. While accomplished theater director Michael Mayer ("Side Man") orchestrates the material with a feel for its intimacy as well as its social sweep, the later sections of the story are more static than they should be, muting the film's impact.

Without the book's penetrating descriptive prose, the dialogue too often sounds like the pointed eloquence of literary characters -- especially in the late going, when the story grows increasingly episodic and the characters begin to feel less like individuals than generational symbols.

Still, Mayer displays a true affinity for actors, and his cast delivers subtle work. As the central character, a young man caught between innocence and experience, joy and loss, versatile Irish actor Farrell evinces more vulnerability and ingenuousness than he's yet shown onscreen. (But he doesn't show everything: A full-frontal shot of the actor proved too distracting for audiences and didn't make the final edit.)

The story begins in 1967 Cleveland, where 9-year-old Bobby (Andrew Chalmers) worships his older brother, Carlton (Ryan Donowho), a lanky, self-possessed teen so at ease in the world that he seems to lower its pulse. They trip together on acid and their own wild potential. When Carlton dies in a horrific accident, it's the beginning of Bobby's unmooring from his nuclear family.

By the time he's orphaned at 16 (Erik Smith plays the teenage Bobby) and moves in with his best friend, Jonathan (Harris Allan), he has long since become an integral part of that household. He and Jonathan's mother (Sissy Spacek) enjoy a deep connection, beginning with the lovely scene, complete with Laura Nyro on the stereo, when Bobby turns Alice on to pot.

Having experienced brutal loss so young, Bobby looks upon the people he cares about with a sweetly unfocused gaze, as though he dare not tempt fate by attaching himself to anyone again. Even when he and Jonathan add sex to their relationship, Bobby views their actions merely as an expression of free-floating love.

When Bobby and Jonathan reconnect as young adults -- played by Farrell and the impressive Dallas Roberts, in his first major screen role -- Bobby is yet again joining Jonathan's household. This time it's an East Village walkup Jonathan shares with the exuberant Clare (Robin Penn Wright), survivor of a bad marriage. She's in love with Jonathan, who's still in love with Bobby and moving restlessly through a succession of one-night stands. The trio navigate their unresolved longings, toward a tentative equilibrium.

Clare is the kind of role that could be a bohemian cliche in lesser hands, but the redoubtable Wright Penn transcends the character's showiness, infusing her with an aching hope. She and Roberts convey the fragility beneath their characters' banter, while Farrell embodies Bobby's guileless charm.

But as strong as the performances of Farrell, Roberts and Wright Penn are, the film's early sections are its most affecting. From the apt period tracks by Nyro, Leonard Cohen and the Band to the patterned fabrics of Beth Pasternak's costumes and Michael Shaw's evocative production design, the Ohio scenes are alive with the birth pangs of a new world. The young actors, who are excellent physical matches for their adult counterparts, provide outstanding work.

Throughout, Enrique Chediak's widescreen camerawork is intimate and vivid. Duncan Sheik's understated score enhances the polished production.

A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD

Warner Independent Pictures

Killer Films/John Wells Prods./Hart Sharp Entertainment/Plymouth Projects

Credits:

Director: Michael Mayer

Screenwriter: Michael Cunningham

Producers: Tom Hulce, Katie Roumel, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon, John N. Hart Jr., Jeffrey Sharp, John Wells

Executive producers: John Sloss, Michael Hogan

Director of photography: Enrique Chediak

Production designer: Michael Shaw

Music: Duncan Sheik

Co-producers: Jocelyn Hayes, Bradford Simpson, Robert Kessel, Julia Rask

Costume designer: Beth Pasternak

Editors: Lee Percy, Andrew Marcus

Cast:

Bobby Morrow: Colin Farrell

Clare: Robin Wright Penn

Jonathan: Dallas Roberts

Alice Glover: Sissy Spacek

Bobby (1974): Erik Smith

Jonathan (1974): Harris Allan

Carlton: Ryan Donowho

Bobby (1967): Andrew Chalmers

Ned Glover: Matt Frewer

Running time -- 97 minutes

MPAA rating: R

Camp

Camp
Screened

IFP Los Angeles Film Festival


Inspired by his stint as a camper and then a counselor at the upstate New York theater camp Stagedoor Manor (not to mention a certain 1980 movie set at New York's High School for Performing Arts), screenwriter Todd Graff makes his directorial debut with "Camp", a film that, intentionally or not, succinctly reflects the title's various connotations.

Although certainly not the smoothest run of operations, the clunky transitions and less than fluidly staged musical numbers aren't the deal breakers they might have been thanks to the picture's genuine affection for its milieu and its committed ensemble of fresh-faced teen talent.

But even with the on-camera endorsement of musical theater deity Stephen Sondheim, backing from Jersey Films and specialty pros Killer Films ("Boys Don't Cry", "Far From Heaven") and the marketing savvy of IFC ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding", "Y Tu Mama Tambien"), the closing-night selection of this year's IFP Los Angeles Film Festival isn't exactly sleeper material.

With its arsenal of in-jokes, the picture will likely have to settle for an audience demographic limited to musical theater buffs overlapping with those who felt they never fit into a more traditional summer camp setting.

Shot on the actual site of Stagedoor Manor, whose campers have included Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and an 8-year-old Robert Downey Jr., "Camp" introduces the current fictional crop after a dispensable opening musical number.

Among those arriving for an artistically expressive summer at Camp Ovation: newbie Vlad (Daniel Letterle), a certified player with boy-band looks who wastes no time in seducing several female campers -- including sweet but insecure Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), her bunkmate Dee (Sasha Allen) and the conniving seductress Jill (Alana Allen) -- while managing to find a little time to flirt with sensitive Michael (Robin De Jesus), who still bears the physical and emotional bruises of being beaten up when he attended his high school prom in drag.

Unlike regular summer camps, which might mount one major production at the end of each month, Camp Ovation puts the kids through the rigorous task of putting on a new show every two weeks, complete with costumes, sets and a resident house band.

Adding to that challenge is the arrival of this year's guest director, the cynical, hard-drinking Bert Hanley (musician Don Dixon), who had a hit show on Broadway a decade ago but hasn't been able to finish anything since.

Will Bert ever put down the bottle and get those creative juices flowing anew?

Will Vlad ever learn to stop playing people like they were strings on his guitar?

Will the evil Jill get her well-deserved comeuppance?

Will everybody get their encore?

Actually, in Graff's hands, nothing feels quite like a sure thing. The awkwardness experienced by the group of adolescents also extends to the construction of sequences and the uneasy juggling of characters, which keeps throwing the film out of balance.

And while the script has no shortage of tart, knowing wit, too often scenes seem set up solely to pay off some sight gag, undercutting key emotional credibility in the process.

But Graff, whose writing credits include "Coyote Ugly" and "Dangerous Minds", at least has his heart in the right place, and those expressive, talented kids are the real deal.

Mr. Sondheim aside, Graff also manages to round up some heavyweight support in the persons of composer Stephen Trask ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), musical director Tim Weil ("Rent"), songwriter Michael Gore ("Fame") and lyricist Lynn Ahrens ("Ragtime"), but somehow, rather than summoning "Fame", many of the group performance pieces end up having all the infectious energy of a musical interlude on "The Partridge Family".

Camp

IFC Films

An IFC production A Jersey Films/Killer Films/Laughlin Park Pictures production

Credits:

Director-screenwriter: Todd Graff

Producers: Todd Graff, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon

Pamela Koffler, Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Jonathan Weisgal

Executive producers: John Wells, Richard Klubeck, Holly Becker, Caroline Kaplan, Jonathan Sehring

Director of photography: Kip Bogdahn

Production designer: Dina Goldman

Editor: Myron Kerstein

Costume designer: Dawn Weisberg

Music: Stephen Trask

Music supervisor: Linda Cohen

Cast:

Vlad: Daniel Letterle

Ellen: Joanna Chilcoat

Michael: Robin De Jesus

Shaun: Steven Cutts

Spitzer: Vince Rimoldi

Petie: Kahiry Bess

Jenna: Tiffany Taylor

Dee: Sasha Allen

Jill: Alana Allen

Fritzi: Anna Kendrick

Bert: Don Dixon

Running time -- 110 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13

See also

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