Daniel Radcliffe showed off his caring side on U.K. TV on Saturday night (21Jan12) by feeding penguins with naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The actor then helped lead the creatures backstage on The Jonathan Ross Show.
Perhaps Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should have been a trilogy. Splitting the sprawling finale to author J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard saga into three parts — as opposed to its chosen two-part incarnation — might have come across as shameless profiteering (admittedly a not-uncommon practice in this town) but it wouldn’t have been without merit. At 759 pages Rowling’s source novel is said to be a rather dense work plot-wise; surely it could have easily warranted another installment?
I only say this because Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 though certainly a decent film clearly strains from the effort required to fit the book’s proceedings into a two-act structure. While Part 2 slated to open approximately six months from now is alotted the story's meaty parts — namely the spectacular Battle of Hogwarts and its emotional denouement — Part 1 must bear the burden of setting the stage for the grand confrontation between the forces of Light and Dark magic and framing the predicament of its three protagonists teen wizards Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) in suitably dire terms. And it's quite a heavy burden indeed.
As the film opens the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) having assumed control over Hogwarts since the events of the preceding film Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has wasted no time in initiating his reign of terror. As far as historical evil-dictator analogues are concerned Voldemort appears partial to the blueprint laid by Stalin as opposed to that of his genocidal pact-pal Hitler. Enemies of the Dark Lord's regime are prosecuted in dramatic show trials presided over by the Grand Inquisitor Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) while muggles (non-magic folk) and half-bloods are denounced as "undesirables" and “mudbloods” in Soviet-style propaganda posters and forced to register with the authorities.
As the only viable threat to Voldemort’s dominion Harry and his allies are hunted vigorously by Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and her goon squad of Death Eaters. The Boy Who Lived now fully grown and in more or less complete command of his powers is still no match England's nasally scourge. Labeled "Undesirable No. 1" by the Gestapo-like Ministry of Magic he's is forced to go on the lam where he labors along with Ron and Hermione to solve the riddle of Voldemort’s immortality.
For those not well-versed in Rowling’s source material the film’s opening act is a frustrating blur: After an all-too-brisk update on the bleak state of affairs in Hogwarts we are hastily introduced (or re-introduced) to a dozen or so characters the majority of whom are never seen again. A few even perish off-screen. Had we gotten a chance to get to know them we might be able to mourn them as our heroes do; instead we’re left racking our brains trying to recall who they were and how they figured in the plot.
Rowling's flaws as a storyteller — the over-reliance on deus ex machina devices (in this case we get both a doe ex machina and a Dobby ex machina) the ponderous downloads of information (not unlike those of that other uber-anticipated and somewhat overrated 2010 tentpole Inception) the annoying ability of characters to simply teleport (or "disapparate") away from danger etc. — are more evident in this film than in previous chapters. And rather than obscure these flaws director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves both franchise veterans arguably amplify them.
What saves the film are Rowling's three greatest achievements: Harry Ron and Hermione who along with the actors who play them have evolved beyond the material. The film's narrative gains its emotional footing during the heroic threesome's exile ostensibly a series of camping trips — with tents and everything — during which they reflect on their journey together the challenge that awaits them and the sacrifices it will require. Though they occasionally verge on tedious these excursions into Gethsemane allow us precious quality time with these characters that we've grown to adore over the course of seven films even if the plaintive air is spoiled a bit by some rather puzzling attempts at product placement. In their rush to flee the Dementors and Death Eaters it seems that they at least took care to pack the latest in fall fashion:
As devout readers of Rowling's novels know all too well the only foolproof shield against Voldemort's minions is the Bananicus Republicum charm.
Gus Van Sant, the eclectic director of such films as To Die For and Finding Forrester, will reteam with his Good Will Hunting stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck (yes, Ben's little brother) for a new film, Jerry. According to the buzz at Cannes, the film is being kept closely under wraps, so there's not much known on the subject matter. Could be about a mouse or a TV evangelist or maybe a raunchy TV talk show host. What is known is that the project is being put together by the William Morris Agency Independent department, with co-heads Cassian Elwes and Rena Ronson negotiating the deal.
Big brother Ben
Casey's big bro Ben Affleck, after battling the Japanese in the upcoming Pearl Harbor, is set to star in director Martin Brest's Gigli. Brest, who has taken a three-year hiatus since his last film, Meet Joe Black, will direct from his own script about a down-and-out hit man (Affleck) who kidnaps the mentally challenged brother of a powerful district attorney. While waiting for ransom demands, he hooks up with a free-spirited female partner, whom he assumes is a hit woman. You can't say it doesn't sound original. This marks the first time Brest has directed from his own script in 20 years, the last being 1979's Going in Style starring George Burns. And let's hope this one is more memorable.
Bakula will explore new worlds
Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula is taking another strange journey into the unknown as he has signed on to play Capt. Jonathan Archer (in company with other great names such as James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard) on Enterprise, the fifth Star Trek series. Paramount Network Television described the character of Archer to The Associated Press as a "physical and intensely curious captain" who maintains a sense of duty. He also is "a bit of a renegade and is not afraid to question orders or even disobey them if he feels in his gut that he is right." Ah, just the kind of starship captain we need.
Booked on the love "Boat"
Sometimes it pays to take your clothes off. Former Playboy playmate of the year Victoria Silvstedt and actress Vivica A. Fox (Kingdom Come) are joining the cast of the indie feature Boat Trip, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Horatio Sanz. Story centers on two men (Gooding and Sanz) who set out on a Caribbean cruise to find love and romance only to realize they are on a gay cruise. Oh no! Fox will play Gooding's fiancée and Silvstedt plays Inga, the head of a Swedish swim team. Who magically appears on the gay cruise to the Caribbean? Production starts at the end of the month in Germany.
Director Terrence Malick is back once again. He will produce a new adaptation of author Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock. The original 1947 film, directed by John Boulting, starred Richard Attenborough as a small-time gangster in the English seaside town of Brighton who self-destructs after murdering a rival. The strange and elusive Malick will not direct, even though he is officially out of seclusion after directing the 1998 war film The Thin Red Line. Before that, his last film was the 1978 Days of Heaven with Richard Gere and Sam Shepard. Rock is slated for a summer 2002 start date in the United Kingdom.
Cameron and Cousteau team up
Director-producer James Cameron must have a thing for undersea exploration. Remember all that footage of the doomed Titanic in his Oscar-winning film? Now he is teaming up with ocean explorer-environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the legendary Jacques Cousteau, to produce a series of undersea exploration specials for ABC. Ironically, the first installment will be about the remains of Titanic - which is easy enough. The series seeks to use the latest technology in oceanic photography to view areas of the deep blue sea never seen or explored before. So, now we can finally see all the weird prehistoric creatures that dwell on the ocean floor.
Kasdan, Goldman do King's "Dreamcatcher"
Director Lawrence Kasdan and writer William Goldman have teamed up with Castle Rock Productions to bring Stephen King's latest novel The Dreamcatcher to life. The story revolves around four childhood friends who share a secret bond after they perform a heroic act. Years later, as they have drifted apart, they must reunite to save the Earth from a mysterious force. Sounds a little like a conglomeration of several King stories, including Stand By Me and It. But with the talent of Kasdan and Goldman, plus the Castle Rock contingency, who've produced probably the best King adaptations such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and Misery, this film has every chance to be another winner. Now, let's see whom they cast.
Kudrow looking for "Scouts"
Friends funny lady Lisa Kudrow will produce and star in the dark comedy indie Intense Girl Scouts, about a woman who leads an unofficial Girl Scout troop into doing out-of-the-norm good deeds. Yet, when some of those deeds go awry, she is ostracized and ends up becoming involved in questionable activities with her creepy neighbor-ultimately leading to murder. If anyone could pull this off, it'd be Kudrow, who showed some excellent acting chops in another independent gem The Opposite of Sex. Unfortunately, her bigger features, such as Hanging Up and Lucky Numbers, didn't fare as well. Might be the wisest for her to stick to the little guys.
P.Diddy: "I can act!"
Sure he can. Why not? Mr. bad-boy rapper Sean "P.Diddy or Puffy" Combs has done just about everything else. Having narrowly escaped prison life for real, Combs has decided to play a prisoner in the independent feature Monster's Ball, costarring with Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, Halle Berry and Peter Boyle. The story is about a father and son (Thornton and Ledger) who work at a prison's electric chair facility. Combs will play a death row inmate who is put to death on the electric chair. Thornton's character, a racist, later falls in love with the widow, played by Berry. Combs also will appear in Jon Favreau's movie Made, out this July.
Bell calls "Who Goes There?"
Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot, is set to star in a World War II drama Who Goes There?, based on the true story of a German U-boat that landed its crew in a Welsh village. Bell will play a boy who befriends a German soldier only to find out his friend is not really such a nice guy. Well, that's a surprise. It will be interesting to see whether the young lad is as good as he was in Billy Elliot. But no pressure, Jamie.
Steven Spielberg reportedly has won the race to bring Harry Potter to the big screen.
The Times of London says Spielberg will direct and produce "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," based on the hit children's book series about a schoolboy wizard.
Robert Zemeckis, Jonathan Demme and Mike Newell were among the directors Spielberg beat out for the movie, according to the paper.
Warner Bros., which owns the Harry Potter screen rights, dictated that Spielberg must make the film his next movie. Spielberg, whose docket also includes an adaptation of the best seller "Memoirs of a Geisha," had two possibles in the works: "A.I." and "Minority Report," both produced by his own studio, DreamWorks. "A.I" (the acronym for artificial intelligence) is based on a story outline by late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. "Minority Report" is a possible project for megastar Tom Cruise.
As for "Harry Potter," the Times says the search is now on for a British child to play the title role, although Spielberg reportedly might be considering a computer-animated version of the story.
NEXT "SENSE": "Sixth Sense" writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has settled on his follow-up project: "Unbreakable."
The suspense drama is set to star the prolific Julianne Moore. "Sense" alum Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are also attached.
According to Daily Variety, Moore will play the wife of a man (Willis) who begins to experience strange and unusual things after surviving an accident.
THORNTON "SHIPPING" OUT: "The Shipping News" for Billy Bob Thornton isn't good.
The actor-filmmaker has dropped out of the Columbia Pictures film and might opt instead for Universal/Miramax's "Cinderella Man." He will most likely direct the latter film -- probably with Ben Affleck as the lead.
John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston previously departed "The Shipping News," a romantic drama.
LIVIN' ON A PRAYER: Erstwhile hair-band rocker Jon Bon Jovi gets his rocks off as the latest co-star in Bel Air Entertainment's "Pay It Forward."
Daily Variety reports that Bon Jovi will co-star alongside acting heavyweights Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and "The Sixth Sense's" Haley Joel Osment. The pic, about a young boy's attempt at world peace via random acts of kindness, is being directed by "Deep Impact's" Mimi Leder and co-financed and distributed by Warner Bros.
IN KEY: Hollywood director-in-exile Roman Polanski hopes to return to his Polish homeland after acquiring the rights to "The Piano," an autobiographical book about a musician's survival in Poland during World War II. Polanski told Daily Variety that he plans to start shooting the $20 million feature in December. The story, detailing Wladyslaw Szpilman's experiences in Warsaw from 1939 through 1945, is said to be reminiscent of Polanski's own turbulent coming-of-age in war-ravaged Krakow.
GANDHI MEETS THE POPE: If he's good enough to play Gandhi, why not Pope John Paul II?
That's the thinking of an Italian broadcaster who announced Friday that it's planning a TV biopic about the pontiff to star Oscar-winning "Gandhi" star Ben Kingsley.
"Gandhi" director (and fellow Oscar winner) Richard Attenborough is being considered for a role, as well. Reuters reports that talks are under way with both actors about the project, which is in the planning stage and has not yet received official approval from the Vatican.