I say "creepy" because Untraceable’s theory could actually be a reality. The possibility of a tech-savvy psycho setting up a Web site that displays graphic murders could happen with the fate of each of the tormented captives left in the hands of the public: The more hits the site gets the faster the victims die--and in the case of Untraceable die in very gruesome ways. Of course Untraceable also gives us a peek at the good guys--the FBI division that is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals. Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is one such Internet expert who along with her co-worker (Colin Hanks) is stymied by KillWithMe.com’s untraceablity. But soon the movie turns predictable as the cat-and-mouse game gets personal and Marsh must race against the clock to stop the madman. Lane has certainly looked better in her past movies. For obvious effect they’ve made Agent Marsh rather worn-down with dark circles under her eyes and very little makeup as she sits in front of the computer hunting the bad guys all night on the late shift. The fact that she’s also a widow having lost her cop husband to the job and caregiver to her young daughter doesn’t help the woman get anymore rest. Then when the crap starts hitting the fan and people close to Marsh get hurt the actress really shows the pain on her already haggard face. Marsh even admits “I do a lot of things well but I don’t lose people well.” It’s a standard tough-FBI-agent role and Lane is very capable at it. Supporting her is Hanks (Orange County) as the resident comic relief (what little of it there is) as well as Billy Burke (Fracture) the local cop trying to help Marsh catch the psycho Internet killer. As for the killer himself the actor who portrays him (and I won’t give it away) is very effective in the role. There are a couple of other things Untraceable has going for it besides the chilling premise: director Gregory Hoblit who knows his way around a crime thriller having directed gems such as Primal Fear and Fracture and the dank Portland Oregon locale. Hoblit creates just the right amount of tension and dread as the clock ticks down and the race nears its end but something about an overcast rainy environ just lends itself to more doom and gloom doesn’t it? Of course there are also the torture scenes which add a certain level of Hostel-like horror. What Untraceable lacks is a compelling narrative. The bevy of writers involved (never the best of signs) tend to throw in too many conventional thriller plot points--like the red herrings on who the killer is before he’s revealed and explaining why the killer is doing what he’s doing. All these things dilute the film’s initial potential. Still let’s just hope this doesn’t spawn real-life copycats.
Bob Munro (Robin Williams) is your average hardworking dad trying to wrest back the power from his modernized kids (Josh Hutcherson and pop star JoJo) casualties of the Internet generation who “Instant Message when dinner’s ready.” So he decides to take the brood and his wife (Cheryl Hines) on an RV trip to Colorado in hopes of bringing them closer--and conducting business on the side to help salvage his job. RVs are large cumbersome machines that require some experience and Bob is lacking so the usual hijinks set in immediately--you know steering problems parking problems projectile excrement that shoots up 50 feet in the air before landing squarely on Bob…nothing out of the ordinary. Along the way the Munros encounter the Gornickes a family of simpletons (led by Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth) that they just can’t seem to evade. But ultimately the Munro clan ends up learning a thing or two from the Gornickes and it helps draw them closer. Which is an absolute Hitchcock-like twist! Everyone always says Williams needs medication to help quell his manic personality. Well be careful what you wish for because R.V. might happen. In his dramatic work Williams tones it down very well but in comedies people pay to see him go stir crazy; it’s more punchline delivery here almost robotic by Robin Williams standards. Hines simply changes her name from Curb Your Enthusiasm boring us with her never-quite-satisfied wife instead of showing off her comedic chops. The only freshness comes from the least-used actors. We could’ve hung out on Daniels and Chenoweth’s RV and actually laughed the whole way through. Jeff Daniels is highly reliable--and underused--in all of his work and Chenoweth looking like a buxom Reese Witherspoon at least provides some excitement with her part. The only true hilarity comes from Arrested Development’s Will Arnett as Bob’s arrogant boss but it’ll likely be lost on the kids anyway. If director Barry Sonnenfeld was considered in decline with his last three films--Wild Wild West Big Trouble and Men in Black II--then he's officially kaput now with R.V. Once a fixture in the ‘90s thanks to exciting fare like Men in Black and Get Shorty the acclaimed cinematographer-turned-director’s career has reached a low point with this uninspired formula even though it’s not likely to struggle at the box office. It hits a snag right out of the gate thanks to his caricature of the 21st Century family in which kids are overly precocious and their parents submissive old hags. Soon thereafter the problems peak (but never really come back down) with the gratuitous feces scene. It runs almost 15 minutes long and even the kiddies will become awkwardly silent. From that point on Sonnenfeld turns out the worst mimicry of National Lampoon's Vacation since National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation.
Tamyra Gray may not have earned the title of American Idol after her shocking exit from the series last week, but she has become the very first contender to sign a music biz deal. MTV.com reports that 19 Entertainment, founded by show producer Simon Fuller--who has guided the careers of the Spice Girls and Annie Lennox--has picked up an option to manage the 23-year-old singer, once considered by both fans and the judges to be a shoo-in for one of the final slots. Gray's debut won't hit shelves until next year; finalists are barred from releasing any music until three months after the winner's CD is released, likely in September. The show's producers have three months after the Sept. 4 finale to pick up contracts on any of the 10 finalists, who will mount a U.S. tour in October and sing tunes from the show on a compilation album due later this year. Gray told MTV.com leaving Idol was "like stepping out of a bubble and not knowing what to do with yourself."
Country legend Johnny Cash was hospitalized Monday after suffering an allergic reaction to either food or medicine, The Associated Press reports. The Grammy-winning singer's manager, Lou Robin, said the 70-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer may remain at Nashville's Baptist Hospital overnight, but that his doctors didn't think the problem was anything serious. "They're always cautious with any trouble he might have," Robin said. Cash suffers from autonomic neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system that makes him susceptible to pneumonia. He was hospitalized twice last fall for treatment of bronchitis.
American Pie actress Natasha Lyonne pleaded guilty Monday to a DUI charge, the AP reports. The 23-year-old actress will have her driver's license suspended and her car impounded for 10 days, has been fined $255, was sentenced to six months probation plus 50 hours of community service, and must take part in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving panel. Police arrested Lyonne around 2 a.m. on Aug. 28, 2001, after she crashed her rental car. The actress, who was driving with passenger Adam Goldberg (A Beautiful Mind), spent eight hours in the county jail before being released on $2,000 bond, charged with careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and DUI.
Variety reports commercial and television director Matthew Penn, who's directed everything from Shaquille O'Neal hawking Radio Shack to Tony Soprano's therapy sessions, will make his feature directing debut early next year with The Root, a low-budget, Faustian drama about a chop shop operator whose relationship with a crooked police detective prompts him to try to get out of the stolen parts biz. The Emmy-nominated Penn, who directed the regional theater production of The Root, will direct David Strathairn, Gregory Hines, Karen Allen and Eli Wallach in the film.
Boot Camp returns this fall, but this time celebs will take on the mental and physical challenges set by the show's two former Marine Corps drill instructors. In a two-hour Fox special, Celebrity Boot Camp, the recruits--including rapper Coolio, onetime pop idol Tiffany, Married...With Children's David Faustino, ex-Milli Vanilli member Fabrice Morvan; Baywatch babe Traci Bingham, singer Vitamin C; Lorenzo Lamas; Kato Kaelin, Brady Bunch star Barry Williams and Price Is Right spokesmodel Nikki Schieler Ziering will be eliminated one by one until two are left to compete in a series of eight competitions called the "Gauntlet." Taped at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, the show will air on Sept. 30, according to Variety.
Grab your peroxide: ABC has greenlit a two-hour TV movie prequel to the 1997 feature film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Variety reports. The project, tentatively titled Romy and Michele: Behind the Velvet Rope, takes place in the early 1990s. The TV movie will recast the titular blondes, played in the film by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, and follow them as they head to Hollywood after graduating high school. The teleflick, which is likely to air this coming season, may lead to a series.
A charred guitar set alight onstage by rock legend Jimi Hendrix could become the most expensive guitar ever sold when it goes up for auction in London on Sept. 24, Reuters reports. Hendrix's 1963 Fender Stratocaster is being offered for sale by Dweezil Zappa, son of rock guitarist Frank Zappa, who used it on his own 1976 album "Zoot Allures." London auction house Cooper Owen said the instrument was expected to fetch between $534,000 and $610,000. The Zappas had restored the guitar, which still bears the scars of flames, so it would play. Dweezil, who is selling the guitar to help fund the refurbishment of his father's recording studio, told the Cooper Owen Web site: "Just by looking at the guitar you can sense the history behind the music. It's very inspiring."
Frank Ramaesiri, the St. Louis jewelry salesman who sold the video of a topless sunbather to Penthouse, telling the magazine it was Anna Kournikova, testified on Tuesday he mistakenly thought the woman was the tennis star due to the diameter of her nipples. Now how would Ramaesiri, a non-professional photographer, know the diameter of Kournikova's nipples, you may ask? Reuters reported that the salesman told the court he had seen pictures of the Russian beauty in a sweat-soaked tennis dress revealing her nipples, and "the diameter matched what we had on film," he said. Plus, he added, the sunbather looked Russian.
The "sunbather" was actually Judith Soltesz-Benetton, the daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton. While Penthouse has issued a formal apology to both Kournikova and Soltesz-Benetton, the women are still pursuing cases against the infamous magazine for damages.
Steven Spielberg is finally making his life complete--he's graduating from college. After dropping out nearly three decades ago to pursue his career, the famed director, 55, will receive a bachelor's degree from California State University Long Beach, where he recently finished courses in the film and electronic arts major.
Jason Alexander, on the other hand, wants to teach college. The former Seinfeld star will be instructing other young actors on the University of Southern California campus under the George Burns Distinguished Visiting Professor in Performance program.
Rapper Jay-Z won't be moving into that $6.5 million penthouse in New York's trendy TriBeCa complex, after all. He pulled out of the deal without giving a reason, but owner Peter Arnell blames neighbors for sabotaging the deal. Arnell claims two tenants, Lynn Fisher-Hill and Lewis Taffer, posted notices in the halls, referring to the rapper's criminal record and lifestyle of violence, The Associated Press reports.
Jennifer Lopez shelled out the dough for her new Miami home. She recently bought a $9.5 million waterfront mansion in Miami Beach, with a view of Biscayne Bay. Her celebrity neighbors include Lenny Kravitz, Ricky Martin and the Bee Gees, Barry and Robin Gibb.
Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines, two veterans of the Broadway stage, will be hosting the Tony Awards June 2. This marks the second time for Hines, who co-hosted with Glenn Close and Nathan Lane in 1994. It'll be the first hosting gig for Peters.
Anne Heche may be heading for Broadway lights. She could replace the departing Jennifer Jason Leigh in David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof at the Walter Kerr Theater in New York. Mary-Louise Parker originated the play's lead role of Catherine, the grief-stricken, troubled daughter of a math genius, in spring 2000.
In the Biz
Another large ensemble piece for Robert Altman? Go figure. Variety reports the veteran director may sign up to helm The Company, a large ensemble project about ballet dancers, with Neve Campbell (Scream) attached to star as a young dancer distracted by other things. Apparently, there are about 50 roles to be had--piece of cake for Altman.
Jay Kay, the lead singer of the funk band Jamiroquai, was involved in an altercation Wednesday at the post-premiere party for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones in London. Kay's agent told Reuters the singer found his new car damaged and confronted the suspected culprit. Kay suffered some facial injuries.
There is no love lost between rapper Eminem and Vice President Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney. She has been very vocal in her criticism of the recording industry, often citing Eminem's music as offensive. He countered by flinging a four-letter word at her in his song, "White America," on his soon-to-be released album The Eminem Show. Now, now, Marshall.
In a rare appearance, three of rock and roll's greatest legends--Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley--were honored by Broadcast Music Inc. They received BMI's Icon Awards at the 50th annual pop music awards show Tuesday and were recognized for their "unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers," Reuters reports.