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The 'Grimm' leaper

By Nick Nunziata
CNN Headline News

Director Terry Gilliam's latest movie, "The Brothers Grimm," is due out in 2005.
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CNN -- To the casual moviegoer, the release date of a film is irrelevant. The radio, television and Internet advertisements warn us all a few weeks prior to release what's on the horizon and we plan our weekends accordingly. As a result, the frantic waltz of films around release dates is often lost on the populace. It's a war waged in trenches in Beverly Hills and Burbank, but not in the public eye.

There are exceptions of course. "Titanic" was a notorious release date shifter, viewed as a giant stinker of a film due to pre-release bad buzz. We all know how that turned out. Other films shimmy around the calendar like suitors looking for a dance partner, waiting to capitalize on a star's hot streak or scampering away from one of their recent bombs.

Terry Gilliam's upcoming "The Brothers Grimm" isn't changing its date because of bad word of mouth or due to a lack of star wattage (the movie stars "IT List" candidates Matt Damon, Heath Ledger and Monica Bellucci), it's just being positioned to come out in a marketplace where it can shine and with plenty of time to nail the many special effects needed in conveying the fabled horrors and curiosities the "Grimm" clan is known for. The surprise is that it's being pushed a full year away from when it was originally expected to debut.

A full year -- that's incredible. It's also just the controversial cherry on top of the career of Gilliam, a director whose every project seems to balloon out of proportion, be mired in creative struggles, or flat out dissipate into thin air as the director's Don Quixote epic did.

The recent release "Lost in La Mancha" succinctly demonstrates both the incredible passion of Terry Gilliam and the horrendous luck his projects tend to be cursed with. Were the former Monty Pythoneer not such an amazing and brilliantly complex director, such a massive shift might be considered a doomsday sign, but all signs point to the shift as one that will allow the film's post-production process some breathing room, as well as the marketing people at Dimension Films the tools they need to sell the macabre film to audiences who normally see Ledger and Damon as heartthrobs or postmodern action heroes.

Still, a year is a long time. The increasingly shaky relationship between Dimension/Miramax and its parent company, Disney, could erupt, and there's no knowing what the fallout could be. The public awareness for "Grimm" is nonexistent, so there's no risk of ruining any momentum the film has amassed. Granted, hardcore Gilliam fans (myself included) want this film to come out as soon as possible, but we represent a tiny chunk of the public. As a whole, shifts like these are documented in the margins of trade publications, away from the glossy mainstream newsstand magazines, but a Gilliam film is an event film, and now one that seems so far away.

If nothing else, release date witchcraft like this should serve as an eye-opening example of how malleable and amorphous the movie industry can really be.

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