To those only vaguely familiar with The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel about a murdered teen who observes her family — and tracks her killer — from beyond Peter Jackson might seem like an odd choice to direct the film adaptation. Why would the visual effects maestro who orchestrated such grand spectacle in films like King Kong and the Lord of the Rings trilogy be attracted to Bones’ somber reflective subject matter wherein nary an orc or a goblin can be found?
Shortly after the film's opening moments Jackson’s definitive answer arrives in the form of the “in-between place ” a breathtaking limbo where our wide-eyed heroine 14-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) arrives after her life is cruelly cut short by a next-door neighbor and closet predator named ominously enough Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci). Susie’s experience of the afterlife as a sort of spiritual way-station featuring elements of both heaven and hell (but mostly heaven) is a veritable CGI playground for Jackson one in which he can employ all of the digital tools in his vast arsenal in the service of a powerful affecting story.
And what a gorgeous playground it is. As Susie journeys through her wondrous netherworld — sometimes alone sometimes accompanied by a perky young spirit guide named Holly (Nikki SooHoo) — Jackson serves up a succession of exquisitely rendered landscapes for her to explore from placid spring meadows to boundless Alpine slopes to lush green forests. Jackson knows all too well that the issue of life after death especially when considered in regards to those who left us too soon is fertile emotional ground. With the help of an irresistibly expressive Ronan he mines it shrewdly.
Back on Earth unfortunately The Lovely Bones takes the form of a poorly-constructed deeply unsatisfying police procedural. Frustrated by the authorities’ inability to find the killer Susie's anguished father (Mark Wahlberg) mounts an investigation of his own aided occasionally in Ghost-like fashion by his daughter’s unseen hand. Tension rises as the mystery unravels — Jackson having drawn us in with his shamelessly manipulative handiwork has us by the emotional short-hairs so much so that we’re willing to overlook the film’s gap-laden storyline redundant narration underdeveloped supporting characters and a generally underwhelming Wahlberg. We just want payback damnit.
But when The Lovely Bones’ moment of truth arrives Susie abruptly changes her mind effectively turning almost every preceding plot point into an infuriating red herring and depriving us of the emotional release Jackson so steadfastly prepared us for. What we’re left with ultimately is an experience akin to taking a shot of morphine and watching someone play the videogame Myst for two hours (a span that might very well be reduced to 45 minutes if the film’s copious slow-motion shots were all played at normal speed). And once the anodyne buzz wears off the comedown is agonizing.
Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's haunting novel The Lovely Bones has looked like an Oscar-bound project from the get-go (despite that little casting hiccup early on).
It boasts an A-list and Oscar-winning director as well as Oscar winners and nominees in the cast, including Susan Sarandon, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan, and is based on a beloved best-selling book that would allow a director of Jackson's vision the opportunity to create something potentially breathtaking.
The dark story of a young girl who is brutally raped and murdered and her family's struggles to deal with the fallout and find her murderer -- all told from the POV of the dead girl in heaven -- is not a bright and shiny one, to be sure. Reuters is reporting, however, that early audiences wanted the film even darker than Jackson had first cut it.
In early screenings, he told the news agency, audiences "were simply not satisfied" with a scene of one character's death.
"They wanted far more violence," Jackson said, so he returned to the editing room to "basically add more violence and suffering."
The scene concerned is one of a man falling to his death, which Jackson originally set with the man disappearing off the edge of a cliff.
"We got a lot of people telling us that they were disappointed with this death scene, as they wanted to see (the character) in agony and suffer a lot more," Jackson told Reuters said. "They just weren't satisfied."
Jackson said digital effects were used to incorporate shots where (the character) bounces against the cliff on the way down.
"We had to create a whole suffering-death scene just to give people the satisfaction they needed," he said.
Top Story: Hilton's Sex Video To Be Released
Just when we thought this notorious scandal was put to bed, so to speak, Paris Hilton's infamous home video of her having sex with former boyfriend Rick Salomon is going to be released in adult film stores, Reuters reports. Red Light District Video, a suburban Los Angeles porn production company, said on Thursday it has acquired rights from Salomon to distribute the full 45-minute video under the title One Night in Paris. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, Reuters reports. A spokeswoman for the company said the homemade tape, parts of which surfaced last year on Internet porn sites, will be released commercially in adult video stores on June 15.
Jackson's Defense Takes Stand
The recent grand jury indictment against Michael Jackson is likely to be challenged by the singer's defense team for being compromised by extraordinary secrecy precautions, The Associated Press reports. Jackson's attorney Mark Geragos, still on a mandatory gag order, has indicated in public hearings that he will argue on how authorities blocked sidewalks, hid and intimidated witnesses and delivered grand jurors to secret locations in buses with blacked-out windows to in order to keep the proceedings under wraps. "It's an interesting argument," Santa Clara Law School Professor Gerald Uelman told AP, who succeeded in getting a grand jury dismissed in the O.J. Simpson trial. "I think the courts are sensitive now to the criticism of the way grand juries are conducted." The indictment was to remain undisclosed until April 30 when Jackson is scheduled to be in court in Santa Maria for a pretrial hearing, where he could be arraigned.
"Idol" Voting Under Fire
Storms causing power outages in the Midwest may have been a contributing factor to the surprising turn of events on American Idol Wednesday, AP reports. Favorites LaToya London, Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson--or "The Three Divas" as they've become known--were in the bottom three, with Hudson being voted off. More than 15,000 people in Hudson's hometown of Chicago were unable to watch the show or dial in Tuesday night, when the vote turned out to be the closest in the show's three-year history, TV's Extra said. AP reports, however, that others, including many outraged voters, are claiming perhaps the voting has been rigged. "It simply seems inconceivable that the Idol results would turn out this way," Sam Rubin, an entertainment reporter with local station KTLA, said on the air. "You would almost expect (boxing promoter) Don King to replace Ryan [Seacrest], it looked so fixed." Idol executive producer Ken Warwick told AP, "You can never assume that any contestant is safe…that they have enough votes. It's imperative that viewers vote for their favorite idol every week."
Spacey's Quips About Mugging
Probably wishing he had never opened his mouth to begin with, Kevin Spacey was again asked about his alleged mugging-turned-con job in which his cell phone was stolen while walking his dog at 4 a.m. in a London park last week. Reuters reports the actor laughed off the incident Thursday at a news conference to announce the agenda for his first season as artistic director of London's Old Vic theater, joking it had all been a cunning plan to help the beleaguered soccer star David Beckham, whose face has been plastered on the tabloids due to his string of affairs. "Before I begin I would like to put to rest rumors that David Beckham offered 100,000 pounds to the Old Vic if I took him off the front pages for a few days," Spacey said. "After this news conference I am going to text him myself if someone can lend me a phone," he added.
Mr. Bean Settles With Newspapers
British actor Rowan Atkinson, best known as Mr. Bean and Johnny English, settled for undisclosed damages and a public apology Thursday from London newspapers Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail who had alleged he was suffering from depression and on the edge of a nervous breakdown, AP reports. Atkinson told reporters that such reports were "indicative of a continuing sensationalizing and stigmatizing of the issue of mental health, and of the condition of depression in particular--from which I am fortunate enough never to have suffered."
Eminem Prevails in Cybersquatting Case
Eminem won a cybersquatting case against a British firm found to be misusing the rap star's trademark on an Internet site selling mobile phone ring tones and picture messages, a United Nations agency told Reuters Thursday. The ruling was announced by the U.N.'s World Intellectual Property Organization, who had been named an arbitrator to examine the rapper's complaint against Tim Mcintosh and Visitair Ltd., which registered the domain name eminemmobile.com a year ago. Reuters reports Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, objected to his trademark name and hit songs including "Real Slim Shady" and "Stan" appearing on the site, which carries a disclaimer that it is unofficial and in no way connected with the five-time Grammy award winner, according to the ruling.
Role Call: Jackson Takes Over Lovely Bones, Weir Holds Pattern
Peter Jackson is in negotiations to take over the reins from exiting director Lynne Ramsay on the film adaptation of Alice Sebold's best-selling novel The Lovely Bones. The novel is a heartbreaking tale narrated by a 14-year old girl--after she has been raped and murdered. From heaven, she observes her shattered family's attempt to heal and acts as a detective to try to solve the case as her killer moves along his demented path…Master and Commander director Peter Weir is attached to direct the thriller Pattern Recognition, based on the novel by William Gibson. The story follows the adventures of a marketing expert who finds herself in a dangerous puzzle when she's hired to track down the source of a strange collection of video footage on the Internet. No cast has been set as yet.