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Despatches
Selected from the July 1999
Film Review

Menace Means Business
Mauling the criticsWhat were you doing at 12.01 am on Wednesday, May 19? Perusing the TV channels for late night entertainment? Queuing in the kebab shop? Tucked up in slumberland? Well, for several hundred thousand Americans, the answer would be sat in a movie theatre watching the opening credits of the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace. Just over 2,000 cinemas were shrewdly offering midnight screenings: by 6am, the film had already grossed an estimated $7.5m, an astounding figure given the late hour. After 24 hours, the figure stood at $28.5, breaking The Lost World's previous record of $26.1m (achieved on a much busier Sunday). Meanwhile, will The Phantom Menace turn out to be the most critic-proof film in history? Early reviews in the US have been some of the most negative for a Hollywood blockbuster since Godzilla... Report by Jason Caro


Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?
Tom Courtenay knows the answer to that as he plays the man in question in director Peter (The Borrowers) Hewitt’s latest high tone picture currently being shot on location in Sheffield. It sounds a good one too as punk and disco collide in an unpredictable fashion in this 1977-set romantic comedy with a flash of fantasy. Yes, it’s during the heady days of Saturday Night Fever that disco-obsessed, 18-year-old Vince (Michael Legge, soon to be seen in Alan Parker’s Angela’s Ashes) falls in love with work mate, Joanna (Laura Fraser, star of the upcoming Virtual Sexuality and Titus). The trouble is she’s a punk and the question is, Can he really forsake Donna Summer for the Sex Pistols? Stephen Fry, David Thewliss and Charlie Hunnan (hot from the Channel Four series Queer as Folk) also star in the movie which Hewitt is directing while waiting for the big budget Thunderbirds to get the go-ahead.


Cage & Smith Say I Do
Who gets to wear the dress? Hollywood macho men Nicolas Cage and Will Smith are planning to walk down the aisle together in the same-sex comedy I Now Pronounce You Joe and Benny. The Universal picture to be directed by Tom (Patch Adams) Shadyac is about two heterosexual firemen who marry for insurance benefits. Cage will play a widower worried about what will happen to his two children if he dies. After he saves the life of his friend Smith, a slick-talking ladies’ man, the grateful pal vows to do anything to repay him. And what is the request? Marry him, of course. Obviously the situation is loaded with gag opportunities as both men do everything to prove they’re not gay while a familial bond forms with the children. The script was written by Barry Fanaro, who co-wrote the Farrelly brothers Kingpin.


Keanu is Driven
Matrix star turns to indy role He’s back on top thanks to the stunning box-office returns of The Matrix and now Keanu Reeves has agreed to a co-starring role in independent thriller Driven, the feature début of video director Joe Charbanic whose prior work includes clips for Reeves’s band Dogstar as well as Sonic Youth and Soul Asylum. Slated for a late autumn start shoot, Driven is the story of a cunning serial killer (Reeves) who turns the tables on an investigative team hot on his trail. “I’m very excited about this project,” Reeves said. “Joe is a very talented director, and I look forward to working with him.”

Just a taste of Alan Jones' extensive news section. Read the full news pages every month in Film Review.

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