Did you know there are scientifically documented cases of very young children who had spontaneous memories of things and people and places they could never possibly have known about? Apparently The Return’s screenwriter Adam Sussman discovered this phenomenon and created the character Joanna Mills (Sarah Michelle Gellar) a young woman who since she was 11-years-old has been having disjointed flashbacks of some horrible attack she never experienced herself. She flashes regularly on a dank bar paintings of seahorses and ends up hiding from a man who calls her "Sunshine.” And who knew hearing Patsy Cline on your radio would spell supernatural trouble? The best part is when Joanna has one of these episodes she ends up cutting herself. Needless to say the girl’s a tad screwed up. Eventually Joanna finds herself inexplicably drawn to La Salle Texas where she finally starts to piece together the murder mystery that has been plaguing her for so long. Thank god! Someone just needs to hand Sarah Michelle Gellar a Coke and a smile. Forget about being a scream queen Gellar has become the queen of depression with the two Grudges and now The Return under her belt. She has actually made an art form of sad teary-eyed stares in the mirror sinking onto a bed with head in hand and general malaise. She also plays scared pretty well but deep down you know at any moment Gellar can get all Buffy the Vampire Slayer on whoever is threatening her especially as the tough Joanna. But the actress has to be getting tired of all this despair so let’s hope she decides to move on. The other Return cast members really aren’t worth mentioning except for a brief appearance by Sam Shepherd as Joanna’s dad. One can only imagine he did this for some extra cash. The Return is one of those cases in which the trailer makes the movie look a hell of a lot scarier than it really is which is probably why the studio didn’t pre-screen it for critics. It’s a marketing ploy of course pitching a thriller with an established horror actress attached--except this time they are messing with their built-in audience. Reminiscent of the truly creepy What Lies Beneath The Return may have a few jumps and bumps here and there but as a ghost story there isn’t any oomph. Maybe it has something to do with the ultra-depressive main character who isn’t nearly developed enough. We aren’t invested in what happens to Joanna or the woman periodically possessing her so she can solve her murder. The Return doesn’t measure up to its expectations lulling us instead of thrilling us.
As a legendary Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer Ben Randall (Kevin Costner) was all heart and no regret. But it all comes undone in the span of one night when he goes out to the menacing seas with his crew to make a rescue and he is the sole survivor. Following that fateful night he’s ordered to teach at “A” School--a demotion for a man of his stature and seniority--an elite training program that helps turn the best recruits into the best Rescue Swimmers. Randall teaches the cocky students the only way he knows how and his tough tough love is initially met with skepticism by his fellow trainers who think of him as a has-been. But one student in particular Jake Fischer (Ashton Kutcher) catches his eye and draws his ire. Fischer is cocky hotheaded and highly skilled--just the right pedigree to make a great Rescue Swimmer and a lot like Randall was at his age. Randall rides him extra-hard while Fischer only hopes to one day be in the same boat as his mentor. Be careful what you wish for Jake! Costner's always been an acquired taste--sometimes a downright noxious one on first bite--but there's no denying he slides right in here. Roles that feature him as the aging provider of wisdom are now his true calling and the sooner he accepts it the better. And even still Costner gets to flex his action muscle a bit. As for Kutcher the only thing he shares in common with Costner is the last two letters of his last name--as actors these guys are each other’s antitheses! And in a weird way they strike a nice chemistry because of it one that is borderline exciting to watch. As a standalone actor in The Guardian Kutcher is a bit misplaced and seems to know it. He nails the physicality of the role but while the character's attitude and brashness befit Kutcher the peak dramatic scenes with Costner leave something to be desired. A pleasantly surprising turn from relative unknown Melissa Sagemiller (The Clearing) as Kutcher's girl toy and reliable supporting performances from Sela Ward and Neal McDonough round out the cast. Director Andrew Davis' proximity to his career peak The Fugitive cannot be measured in time: He's a lot further away from the mega-hit than a mere 13 years. But in Hollywood if you have a Fugitive under your belt you'll never run out of chances to replicate it. That's the current juncture for Davis--one last shot at Fugitive glory...till his next last shot. It's hard to say what The Guardian will do at the box office but Davis' stodgy direction doesn't necessarily help its chances. The movie can be boiled down to awful pacing: the first and last 15 minutes are high-octane action and everything in between is low-octane Top Gun (the non-action scenes!). That blame belongs to Davis and writer Ron L. Brinkerhoff. But only Davis can shoulder the other flaws such as a single scene of dubious camerawork--filmed to look like handheld-montage style completely deviating from the movie's context--and the special effects during the somewhat cheesy action sequences which may remind you of a theme-park tour during which you learn how they filmed a boat scene...in the '80s!
Top Story: Kutcher Loves Playing Dad
Ashton Kutcher, 25, loves being a surrogate father to three growing girls. The star of the TV hit That '70s Show told TV Guide he is really loving his life with girlfriend Demi Moore, 40, and her three girls with Bruce Willis: Rumer, 15; Scout, 12; and Tallulah Belle, 9. "Being a part of molding anyone's life is an incredible thing. It's an unbelievable addition to my life," Kutcher admits. "I feel like they've been shafted in the deal. I get four of them [including Moore], and all they get is me. They got the short end of the stick." And he doesn't make any apologies for the age difference between him and Moore. "She's everything to me," Kutcher says. "Funny, sweet, she's anything she wants to be." The TV Guide issues hits the stands Nov. 1.
Crowe Readies for Fatherhood
Russell Crowe is really looking forward to being a dad. "Like, whoa, this is gonna be fun," Crowe told Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart on Saturday. Crowe, who along with his wife, Danielle Spencer, are expecting their first child in January, said he plans on taking the child with him when he goes on movie sets. "I mean that's the plan at this point in time. I think prior to him going to school I think the best thing to do is to make sure that he is wherever I am," Crowe said. "Once he goes to school things are really going to have to change at supposedly that point. 'Cause I don't think I'd like to do anything, you know, more than pick him up from the school gate every day."
Ross' Lawyer Wants Breath Tests Tossed Out
A lawyer representing Diana Ross is asking that a new judge hear his request to throw out breath test results as evidence in the pop diva's drunken driving trial, The Associated Press reports. Ross was stopped Dec. 30 outside a convenience store in Tucson, Ariz., on suspicion of drunk driving and claims she was intimidated and coerced into taking the breath tests. The singer faces three DUI-related charges but has pleaded innocent. One judge has already dismissed the motion filed by Ross' lawyer and will allow the results to be used during the trial, which is now scheduled for January.
Chanel No. 5's New Face is…
Nicole Kidman. The popular French luxury company announced Friday it has signed a deal with the Oscar-winning Australian actress to represent its top selling fragrance, AP reports. "Ms. Kidman was chosen because she represents a unique standard of elegance and embodies the spirit and modernity of Chanel," the company said in a statement. Baz Luhrmann, who directed the 36-year-old actress in the musical Moulin Rouge, is creating, directing and producing the ad campaign, which will be ready in the fall of 2004, AP reports.
The Hobbits Save the Trees
Dominic Monaghan, who stars as the Hobbit Merry Brandybuck in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has banded together with his fellow castmates, including Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom, to save trees. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Monaghan is creating a program that would give Rings fans and environmentally conscious consumers the chance to adopt a tree in a forest that Monaghan hopes will be in New Zealand, where all three films were shot. "It's a way for us to keep our bond together but at the same time do something useful for the planet," Monaghan told The Reporter.
The Shining Scene Voted Scariest Ever
In an online poll for Britain Channel 4, viewers voted the scene from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining in which actor Jack Nicholson axes his way through the bathroom door and announces "Here's Johnny," is the scariest big-screen moment ever, Reuters reports. "The 100 Greatest Scary Moments," which was broadcast over the weekend, had Linda Blair's rotating head and projectile vomiting in William Friedkin's 1973 The Exorcist come in second place, while the severed head popping out of the bottom of an abandoned boat in Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark thriller Jaws was third.
Two Indie Distributors Merge
Independent distributor Lions Gate Entertainment is expected to buy its competitor Artisan Entertainment for $160 million, as well as assume $60 million of debt, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Considered archrivals, the deal between the two ends months of speculation and includes box office bonuses for the Artisan shareholders should the domestic grosses for Artisan's upcoming releases--Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2, due out in February, and The Punisher, set to bow in April--make some decent coin. Lions Gate recently released Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer.
Surreal Gets Real…Again
Imagine watching Tammy Faye Messner, the former mascara-ringed wife of dethroned evangelist Jim Bakker, and porn legend Ron Jeremy duke it out over who's suppose to clean the kitchen. Well, you'll get the chance with the second installment of the reality television spoof Surreal Life, in which yesterday's celebrities bunk together and have their lives taped. According to AP, the other "house" mates will include rapper Vanilla Ice, ChiPs actor Erik Estrada, former Baywatch actress Traci Bingham and Real World: Las Vegas cast member Trishelle. They will also have a celebrity guest move in each week.
Presley Tops Highest-Earning Dead Celebrities
Forbes.com released its third annual list of top earning celebrities who happen to be deceased. The top five include Elvis Presley, who made $40 million followed by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz ($32 million); Lord of the Rings
The vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Stuart Townsend) wakes from a hundred-year sleep to the rock 'n' roll present day and likes what he sees and hears. Tired of the vampire's solitary life he becomes the frontman for an unknown rock band and transforms it into the latest greatest thing gaining the adulation of millions. He also decides to disregard the unspoken rule that vampires must hide away from the rest of world and writes songs encoded with specifics of the secret life of vampires. As expected Lestat's lyrics draw the attention of both the bloodsuckers who want to destroy him and the human vampire scholars (called the Talamasca) who want to study him. One young Talamascan student Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau) becomes obsessed with Lestat after reading his journal from the 1800s. She learns that Lestat had a brief encounter with Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) the most ancient and dangerous vampire to ever exist and the mother of all who walk the Earth in search of blood. He gets his chance to meet Akasha again when his music awakens her from an ancient slumber. She rises and seeks out Lestat to become her king and join her in ruling the world.
The film truly belongs to Townsend and fans of the Anne Rice's novels will be happy to know he completely embodies the charismatic vampire Lestat. The little-known Irish actor who starred in last year's indie About Adam with Kate Hudson rules the screen whenever he is on it and luckily he's on it quite a lot. He's especially powerful when he is in rock star mode. Although Moreau's Jesse is fairly one dimensional she comes alive in her scenes with Townsend. Let's hope they keep asking him to play Lestat (when and if they make any more films from Rice's vampire novels) and next time give him an actress he can have some real chemistry with. The late R&B singer Aaliyah made her second film appearance in Damned as the queen. Even though she is only in the film a short time she possesses a certain charm as the ancient and evil Queen Akasha and makes a great first impression by destroying a vampire coven. Yet her acting skills are just not up to par with the rest of the cast including the charismatic Vincent Perez as the vampire Marius and Lena Olin as the kind-hearted vampire Maharet.
Damned was set to be released in the fall of last year but word of mouth had the film destined for the video shelf before it even made it to the big screen. Then tragedy struck and as the news of Aaliyah's untimely death echoed throughout the world of entertainment Warner Bros. wisely decided to hold onto it and release it in theaters at a more favorable time knowing there would be an audience who'd want to see the singer's last film. Yet for all the bad press surrounding it Damned actually pleasantly surprises you due largely in part to Townsend's mesmerizing performance. Michael Rymer's direction is not a masterpiece of filmmaking by any stretch of the imagination but it has a certain MTV quality about it which makes it appealing. That same quality however also makes it too slick glossing over the meatier parts of Rice's novel making the dialogue and action trite and sometimes downright silly. Come to think of it the 1994 Interview With the Vampire also suffered from the same thing. Maybe translating Rice's words is harder than it looks.