Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
Traffic came away the big winner Wednesday at the fifth annual PRISM awards, earning the prize for theatrical feature. Director Steven Soderbergh's Oscar-winning depiction of the drug wars beat out Bounce, Pay It Forward, Requiem for a Dream and 28 Days.
The Entertainment Industries Council, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation hand out the awards to encourage the entertainment industry to address drug abuse in America.
NBC earned the Larry Stewart Leadership and Inspiration Award for accurately portraying drugs and alcohol use and addiction.
Other winners include Cosby, for television series episode, and Sex and the City, for television comedy series story line.
Getting "Lost" successfully
Wanted: a sense of direction.
NBC will air a new six-episode reality series that dares contestants to make their way to the Statue of Liberty after being abandoned in the middle of nowhere, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Inspired by an upcoming British series, Lost pits three teams of three people--including a trained camera operator--who are each blindfolded, transported to a remote area and given only $100 to aid their trek to the Big Apple.
NBC expects to put Lost on its fall schedule.
Online music services announced, contemplated
Another day, another round of online music service deals on the bubble.
In a bid to supplant the besieged Napster song-swapping service, Internet provider Yahoo! announced Thursday a non-exclusive online music subscription venture with Sony Music Entertainment and Vivendi Universal's Universal Music Group called Duet, according to Reuters.
Also, Reuters reported Thursday that Universal Music Group might have reached a preliminary deal to buy Emusic.com Inc. and its online library of independent music.
Viacom Inc. also announced its MTV and VHI Web sites will make available 10,000 songs for download by the end of the month, Reuters reported.
Earlier this week, AOL, Bertelsmann and EMI Group Inc. joined forces with software company RealNetworks to form an online music subscription service called MusicNet.
WGA: No deal with studios
The Writers Guild of America moved quickly Thursday to squash rumors that writers and the studios had reached an agreement to prevent a threatened strike, according to Variety.
"No tentative agreement has been reached," the guild told Variety.
Talks will resume later this month with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the guild said.
The guild's contract with the AMPTP expires May 2.
Corman in an explosive mood
B-movie maestro Roger Corman made a career out of doing things on the cheap.
So, rather than just move out of his Concorde/New Horizon studios and let the wrecking crew to go to work, Corman decided to memorialize its demolition on film.
On Monday, Corman blew up the remainder of his Venice, Calif., soundstages for a low-budget chiller he wrote especially for the occasion. The demolition occurs in Slaughter Studios when a character takes his hatred of horror films too far and destroys a studio in the process.
"When I say blow it up, I'm making it sound a fraction more dramatic," Corman told the Hollywood Reporter. "We tore down and burned the whole interior and the roof, leaving a lot of the shell still there so that we didn't have to get into major explosives. Almost nothing was left of the interior. We started a fire and then blew the flaming section."
Corman shot more than 100 movies and 22 Black Scorpion episodes at the studios, which he bought in 1979. He sold the studios in 2000 to real-estate developers and now plans to beef up production at his Concorde Anois studios in Galway, Ireland.
Life on "3rd Rock" ends
Those wild and crazy aliens are heading home.
After 138 episodes, 3rd Rock from the Sun will rise one last time on May 22, Reuters reported Thursday. NBC's announcement ended months of speculation that the sitcom would end after its sixth season. Though it scored big ratings immediately following its January 1996 launch, 3rd Rock became the victim of 18 time-slot changes.
Not seen on NBC since Feb. 27, 3rd Rock will return Tuesday, April 17. The final episode will feature John Cleese and Elvis Costello.
The sitcom focuses on the trials and tribulations of a quartet of aliens (led by John Lithgow) who monitor life on earth. During its run, the show managed to secure eight Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for best comedy series.
Birthday boy Hefner to throw party
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who turns 75 Monday, will celebrate his birthday two days early in true Hefner-esque fashion: he will throw himself a pajama party at his Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, Calif, according to Variety.
The party also will mark the 11th birthday of Hefner's son, Marston, who will celebrate his birthday Monday with a bash for his friends and family.
The guest list includes Hefner's seven girlfriends and daughter Christie.
Just when you thought the "Batman" franchise had left superhero movies creatively bankrupt, caped crusaders and masked villains are invading Hollywood once again.
This summer's release of "X-Men" promises to be the first in a long list of big-budget comic book adaptations. Many of these were on the back burner for several years but have been making headlines in recent weeks, ever since it was announced that Sam Raimi will likely be the director of Sony's long-awaited "Spider-Man" movie.
"The Greatest American Hero" The latest, and perhaps most bizarre, project announced is a big-screen version of "The Greatest American Hero," the early 1980s TV show that starred William Katt as bumbling superguy Ralph Hinkley (the character's surname was changed to "Hanley" after John Hinckley's attempted assassination of President Reagan). Space aliens give Hinkley a superhero suit and an instruction manual, but he loses the manual and must learn how to harness the powers of the suit on his own, with zany, madcap results. The show, which also starred Connie Sellecca as Katt's girlfriend and Robert Culp as his boss, is probably best remembered for its scenes of Katt learning how to fly and for its zippy theme song. According to Daily Variety, Touchstone Pictures has bought the rights to make a film about the knight-errant man in red tights and has hired two screenwriters to put the project in motion. No word yet on whether the "hero" will turn in those tights for 1990s-style body armor a la Batman.
While the "Greatest American Hero" news came from out of the blue, other super-duper movies have been eagerly awaited by comic geeks, studio licensing executives and toy manufacturers for most of the 1990s. Finally, just last week, Variety reported that the "Fantastic Four" movie, with its long and tangled history, might finally get off the ground with director Roger Donaldson ("Dante's Peak") at the controls. It's a merchandiser's dream -- four superheroes, plus the villains! -- and it's been in the works since 1994, when Marvel Comics made legal maneuvers to prevent director Oley Sassone from releasing his $2 million feature film version of the classic comic.
It's not that Sassone's version wasn't licensed by Marvel, but the comics publisher had received a bigger, better offer from producer-director Chris Columbus ( "Bicentennial Man") to do a first-class job; thus, the cheap quickie was never released and has been relegated to grainy bootleg videotapes sold on the underground. Now Mr. Fantastic, The Thing, the Invisible Girl and Human Torch, not to mention their nemesis Dr. Doom will probably command a $100 million budget if they ever make it to the screen.
The "Fantastic Four" news comes after word that several other Marvel properties are also moving from the back burner to the front. Last week, the trades reported that Columbia Pictures is close to hiring director Mark Steven Johnson ( "Simon Birch") to write and direct "Daredevil," the story of a blind criminal defense attorney by day who dresses up like a demon by night and stalks the city for criminals using his radar-like, radioactivity-enhanced senses to detect danger and evil-doers. Then there's "Dr. Strange," which writer-director Chuck Russell ( "Eraser") has recently been hired (also by Columbia) to develop. There's no speculation yet as to who'll play the young, crime-fighting psychiatrist Stephen Strange, who was known to utter strange incantations such as "By the hoary host of Hoggoth."
While Marvel Comics has the lion's share of superhero movies in the works (studios are also working on adaptations of "The Silver Surfer" and "The Incredible Hulk," although those two projects have been stuck in development hell for some time), rival publisher DC Comics isn't out of the picture, not by a long shot.
Apparently not even George Clooney and Joel Schumacher could succeed in killing Warner Bros.' "Batman" franchise. The studio is reportedly talking to "Pi" director Darren Aronofsky about making "Batman 5," and the studio's highly anticipated "Superman Reborn," once known as "Superman Forever," is said to be gearing up again now after being shelved two years ago when Tim Burton walked away (or was fired, depending on what you believe).
Warners is said to be pleased with the new "Superman" screenplay by Bill Wisher, and the candidate for Most Unlikely to Direct is ... Oliver Stone. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stone is the No. 1 candidate for the job, and the studio wants to take a nontraditional approach to America's most traditional superhero, "sans the tights and more 'Matrix' like." Did Lex Luthor kill President Kennedy? Stay tuned.