The Lookout begins like what might seem a teen horror flick with a convertible full of prom kids speeding and then crashing along a dark road at night. Luckily what follows is decidedly adult. The driver of the car Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) suffered brain trauma as a result of the accident and in the four years since has struggled with memory and sensory lapses. He lives with a man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels) who has his own handicap: blindness. Chris helps with everything Lewis can’t see and Lewis in return mentors his much-younger friend about life. But Lewis is rendered helpless in Chris’ latest conundrum. After an encounter with an old friend (Matthew Goode) Chris is persuaded to aid in the robbery of the Kansas City bank at which he is a night janitor. He likes the rediscovered sense of autonomy the proposed heist brings him and the rebelliousness of robbing the bank whose boss won’t let him become a teller; he also likes the girl (Isla Fisher) that’s apparently a throw-in. But when it comes time to literally and figuratively pull the trigger Chris is rattled by second thoughts--and clarity. Whereas the Lindsays and Britneys of Hollywood perpetuate the "Former Child Star" cliché Gordon-Levitt makes it a title worth being proud of. The former Third Rock from the Sun star has stayed pretty much under the radar for the past several years on his way to becoming one of the best young actors former child star or not but he can only resist big paydays for so long with such talent. In The Lookout Levitt is able to grasp the less-is-more concept that is usually only understood by actors decades his senior. In so doing he adds depth mystery and suffering to a character that probably would’ve been played quirkily by most of his peers. But Levitt never needs to play for laughs because he’s got Daniels--speaking of quirky--for that. The ever-self-reinventing actor continues his odd role choice and great performances in the film by serving up primarily much-needed comic relief. Fisher (Wedding Crashers) has breakout potential and leading-lady looks and acting chops but she’s inexplicably offscreen too much while Goode (Match Point) who will make the female viewers blush is ominous from the first scene he’s in--and that’s a compliment. The Lookout's writer-director Scott Frank is a first-time director but don’t call him a rookie. One of the most highly regarded screenwriters of the past 20 years Frank has twice worked wonders with Elmore Leonard novels (Out of Sight Get Shorty) and done justice to sci-fi god Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) in addition to penning his own material (Little Man Tate and others). Indeed the man knows his drama. While The Lookout may not appeal to some of the aforementioned authors’ fans Frank’s story is wholly original and in many ways seems adapted from his own crime-fiction novel--he’s a true writer’s writer. Frank relies on the occasional flashback an unfortunate form of exposition but with such deep rich characters that he thought up one little crutch is forgivable even necessary. As a director Frank could do a lot worse and more pretentious than The Lookout for his first of hopefully many efforts; in fact the vast majority of his veteran contemporaries should be so lucky as to have their best dramas be as engrossing as Frank’s first.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, the latest installment of George Lucas' sci-fi prequel trilogy, opens wide in U.S. theaters next week, but its creator won't be there to witness the pandemonium. The Associated Press reports that Lucas will be at the Cannes Film Festival instead, where the film will be screened using digital projectors rather than standard 35mm format.
Actress Julia Roberts took on a more serious role Thursday at a hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee in Washington. Holding back tears, an emotional Roberts appealed for more money to research Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects about 200,000 girls and women worldwide, the AP reports.
Richard Gere's alleged stalker is being held on a $5,000 bail after being charged with stalking the actor, the AP reports. Ursula Reichert-Habbishaw of Kassell, Germany, was arraigned on charges of harassment, aggravated harassment and stalking after supposedly calling Gere as many as 1,000 times during the past year.
The new PlayStation 2 video game which features pop star Britney Spears is now available nationwide. In Britney's Dance Beat, players audition to be a backup dancer on the singer's virtual concert tour, gaining points along the way for each correct move.
Samuel L. Jackson has been cast as a Los Angeles police chief in Columbia Pictures' S.W.A.T., according to The Hollywood Reporter. In the film, Jackson leads a SWAT team that arrests a drug kingpin. Clark Johnson, who plays Detective Meldrick Lewis in the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street, is in talks to direct.
Director Barry Levinson will direct Ben Stiller and Jack Black in the DreamWorks comedy Envy, Variety reports. The film's story line centers around two best pals whose friendship is tested when one of them (Black) becomes filthy rich by selling inventions, which causes the other (Stiller) to go crazy with envy.
In the Biz
On Thursday a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the family of late fishing boat captain Frank William "Billy" Tyne Jr., who claimed the film The Perfect Storm depicted him in a false and unflattering light, the AP reports. Judge Anne C. Conway explained that the First Amendment protects the film, and the Supreme Court has given filmmakers broad leeway in portraying people and events.
The world's most infamous houseguest, Brian "Kato" Kaelin, has shot a pilot episode for a reality TV series entitled House Guest. Kaelin described the premise of the show to Barbara Walters on ABC's 20/20 Wednesday, saying he goes across America knocking on doors of unsuspecting families and invites himself to spend a weekend with them.
The concept was fun while it lasted, but former President Clinton said it is unlikely he will host a television talk show. In a National Public Radio interview scheduled to air Friday, Clinton, who met with NBC executives in Los Angeles last week to discuss the possibilities of a show, said he didn't think it was going to happen, the AP reports.
Ozzy Osbourne is on a roll. Following the success of MTV's hit reality series about his family, The Osbournes, getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and signing a book deal, the self proclaimed "bleeping Prince of Darkness" scored a Prism Award Thursday in Hollywood for his accurate depiction of drug, alcohol or tobacco addiction in his new single "Junkie," Variety reports.
Veteran Mexican singer-songwriter Juan Gabriel cleaned up at the annual Billboard Latin music awards Thursday night in Miami Beach, winning four out of his five nominations. Gabriel won awards for best songwriter, Latin track and Latin pop airplay track for his single "Abrazame Muy Fuerte." He also won the Latin vocal duo track award with compatriot Nydia Rojas for "No Vale la Pena, " Reuters reports.
We all knew this was going to happen at some point. When Madonna had a baby with quirky British director Guy Ritchie and then married him, it was just a matter of time before she'd star in one of his movies. Madonna is just as hot as she can be right now, coming off of her "Drowned World" concert tour and spectacular HBO special, and Ritchie is staking a claim in the world indies with his cult hits Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Now Ritchie plans on directing a remake of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 Italian film Swept Away about a spoiled rich woman who goes on a Mediterranean cruise with her husband and friends. The boat's captain is a communist who loathes his clients, but when he and the woman are stranded on a desert island, they end up falling in love. Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) is in negotiations to play the woman's husband, an evil industrialist. The original film starred Mariangelo Melato and Giancarlo Giannini as the combustible lovers. Who the heck is going to generate that same heat with Madonna? Certainly not Willem Dafoe--he already tried that in Body of Evidence and it just didn't work out. Maybe Ritchie should think about acting?
Bullock and Grant in office romance
Sandy and Hugh, sitting in a tree.... The two likeable stars, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, are pairing for the first time in an untitled romantic comedy from Castle Rock Entertainment and directed by first time helmer/writer Mark Lawrence. Although the plot is being kept closely under wraps, the film apparently explores the question of whether it's ever too late to say "I love you." As a romantic myself, I say of course it isn't!
Bullock's character, Lucy Kelson, is described as a brilliant but slightly neurotic attorney, with Grant playing her charming, irresponsible and ridiculously wealthy boss. Hey, wait a minute. Didn't Grant already play a charming and irresponsible boss to Renee Zellweger's Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones' Diary? Guess this is getting to be a habit for him.
Also, I just discovered that Bullock has finished filming Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood with Ashley Judd for Warner Bros., based on the fabulous best-selling novel of the same name. If you are huge fan of the book, which I am, you can get excited about this one.
A "Cold" day for Cruise
No, this has nothing to do with his divorce from ice princess Nicole Kidman. However,Tom Cruise is eyeing the big screen adaptation of another best-selling novel Cold Mountain to be his next feature film, a co-production between MGM and Miramax.
Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) wrote and will direct the adaptation about a wounded Confederate soldier (Cruise) who, in the final days of the Civil War, walks home to North Carolina to the woman he loves. However, Cruise isn't in yet. Other big names have been attached including Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis. So, we'll see who the best man for the job is.
Personally, I'd pick Daniel Day-Lewis, if he was available. He'd bring that quiet intensity he's known for to a role that sounds right up his alley.
Hanks is caught
If you remember last week's column, I mentioned director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks were finally going to get the intriguing story Catch Me If You Can off the ground. The film centers around Frank Abagnale Jr., an imposter and counterfeiter in the 1960s who was the youngest person to ever be on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. The film already has Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star as Abagnale and now it looks like Tom Hanks may play the role of FBI agent Joe Shaye. Shaye tracked down and captured Abagnale after six years, and during their cat-and-mouse game Shaye and Abagnale came to enjoy their interaction and ultimately became friends. Shaye was instrumental in getting Abagnale released from prison after five years on the condition that he teach and assist federal law enforcement agencies--without pay. Abagnale is now 53 and currently lectures extensively at the FBI Academy.
Prince Charming is a cad
Hyde Park Entertainment has picked up the pitch Long Ago and Far Away from writers David Titcher and Diane Saltzberg. This really isn't a role call yet, but I had to mention this because I just love the idea. The story combines several classic fairy tales to tell the story of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty who all come to find out they are married to the same Prince Charming. Now, if I were casting this, here's a few suggestions: Helen Hunt as Sleeping Beauty, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Snow White, Gwyneth Paltrow as Cinderella and George Clooney as Prince Charming. Let's see if my choices are anywhere near close.
A hip-hop "9 to 5"
Will Smith wants to remake 9 to 5 with an all-black cast, and gosh darnit, he should go for it! We all remember the delightful 1980 film with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, as co-workers who are disgruntled with their sexist and abusive boss. Through a series of wild events the trio ends up kidnapping him and running the office themselves. Of course, in a Smith world, he'd most likely cast himself as the boss and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith as one of his girls. As well as remake that Dolly Parton song with a definite hip-hop beat. I can see the video now.