Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."
Agent Clarice Starling could be back on the case in the big-screen version of "Hannibal." After Jodie Foster dropped out to direct "Flora Plum," the project looked to be filed away -- or at least returned to producer Dino DeLaurentiis.
Now it appears that "Magnolia" star Julianne Moore could be ready for her FBI badge and power suit. Daily Variety reports that the busy actress (she appeared in five movies in 1999) is in strong contention for active duty. Although Universal tells Hollywood.com that the actress hasn't committed yet, the studio may very well put her on the front line.
Variety says the role Moore is looking at is indeed that of Clarice Starling -- and not an all-new FBI agent character, as had been rumored when Foster bailed on the project.
Moore is a wild card in a "Hannibal" derby where Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Gillian Anderson and Ashley Judd have all been touted as plucky replacements for the gun-toting heroine.
The casting of the role is key to the "Hannibal" puzzle, since Hannibal Lecter doesn't appear in Steve Zailian's script until one-quarter of the way into the movie. Whoever gets the call to action is also important in a fiscal sense. Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his turn as Hannibal the Cannibal, is likely to take a big bite out of the budget, with a deal worth more than $10 million, plus likely gross points.
Gross, not gore, is also the anatomically correct term for the horror drama's behind-the-scenes players. Before production even begins, DeLarurentiis, director Ridley Scott and "Silence of the Lambs" / "Hannibal" writer Thomas Harris have managed to gobble up a very scary 26 percent of the gross, according to reports.
DOUBLE DUTY: "Pretty Woman" Julia Roberts will definitely head south of the border with Brad Pitt in DreamWorks' "The Mexican," today's Hollywood Reporter says.
And for good measure, the actress also has reportedly said okay to a Vegas side trip with George Clooney in Warner Bros.' "Ocean's Eleven" remake.
According to the Reporter, the $20 million-a-pic mega-star won't receive that kind of spectacular payday for either film. Instead, she settled for a small advance against a significant part of the backend. (Translation: Don't worry about her bank account.)
"The Mexican," co-starring James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"), is an action comedy about a con (Pitt) contending with an ancient gun -- believed to be cursed -- and an impatient girlfriend (Roberts). "Ocean's Eleven" is a new version of the 1960 Rat Pack film about a bunch of guys who rob Las Vegas casinos.
SHE SAYS, HE SAYS . . . NO: Catherine Zeta-Jones had her reasons for dropping out of Oliver Stone's "Beyond Borders." Now Kevin Costner has his excuse. Zeta-Jones is pregnant. Costner can't fit it into his schedule. Daily Variety reports that Stone, ever the optimistic Hollywood mogul, will press on to meet his scheduled May 1 start date with a new cast.
WEIRD 'NATURE': No one will ever accuse Charlie Kaufman of being a regular guy. The screenwriter of the offbeat "Being John Malkovich" keeps things a bit on the oddball side with his latest script, "Human Nature."
Variety reports that the dark comedy starring Patricia Arquette, Paul Giamatti and Miranda Otto begins shooting in May with music video maker Michel Gondry in the director's seat. The premise (believe it or not) is this: A woman (Arquette) suffers a hormonal abnormality that leaves her covered with body hair. Somehow, she becomes connected to a scientist who wants to save the world by teaching table manners to mice. The woman and the scientist, along with an assistant (Otto), have plans for a man (Rhys Ifans) raised in the wild as an ape.
Said Gondry to Variety: "The characters in 'Human Nature' may seem a bit extreme." Really?
STALLONE REVS UP: Sylvester Stallone, missing in action since 1997's "Copland," will try to switch to a higher gear by making a film about Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). According to Variety, Stallone's polishing the script, which will be produced by Franchise Pictures.
Variety also notes that the actor was quoted as saying he was "in total limbo" after being shunned by Hollywood.