Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Ghost.

My stand out film by far this week was a revisit, Juan Antonio Bayona’s debut film The Orphanage (2007). A brilliant Spanish ghost story starring the impressive Belen Rueda as Laura who returns to the dilapidated orphanage of her childhood accompanied by her husband Carlos, an underused Fernando Cayo, and their seven-year-old adopted son Simon (Roger Princep), she plans to reopen the facility for disabled children. Problems start when Laura and Carlos discover that Simon is developing imaginary friends including Tomas, around whom he spins a web of fantastic tales. During a children’s party to celebrate the grand opening Simon goes missing! A sequence of sinister events follows including the appearance of a mysterious social worker called Beniga found sneaking around the out buildings late at night. With Geraldine Chaplin as a medium brought in to help find the missing boy and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) director Guillermo del Toro assisting with production duties this is the best ghost story since The Others (2001). Film critic Roger Ebert claimed that the film was ‘deliberately aimed at viewers with developed attention spans’ and goes on to say that the film ‘develops a great atmosphere, a sense of pace, a sympathy with the characters, instead of relying on cheap thrills’ Very highly recommended.

RBC Film Club’s final film of this season was somewhat of a disappointment. The Ghost (2009) is based on the 2007 paranoid thriller of the same name by the English novelist and former political journalist Robert Harris, which he wrote while working with Roman Polanski on the screenplay for a film based on his earlier novel Pompeii (called off because of the actors strike). An unnamed ghost writer played by Ewan McGregor, sporting a grand cockney accent, is hired to sex-up and complete the former British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s memoirs, (Pierce Brosnan), after the previous ghost writer was found washed up on a bleak Atlantic beach following the discovery of his abandoned BMW on a car ferry. There’s an outstanding performance from Olivia Williams (An Education 2009, Sex Drugs& Rock & Roll 2010) as Ruth Lang who makes the wife of the ex PM seem totally believable unlike the hollow performance from Pierce Brosnan. The other high light of this relatively slow moving and drab film is the cameo from Eli Wallach as the ‘old man on the porch’ who spills the beans to McGregor on the death of the original ghost writer. I believe that Polanski was attempting to ‘do’ a Hitchcock and sure enough it does bring to mind North by Northwest (1959), which is not meant as a complement.

Written and directed by John Simpson, Freeze Frame (2004) is a dark psychological thriller. The film, which was shot in the Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast Northern Ireland, stars comedian Lee Evans as Sean Veil a man who was so traumatised by a near murder conviction that he constantly videotapes himself in case he is in need of a future alibi. Due to the video imagery this is a depressing and disorientating movie. Evans creepy performance is strangely disturbing substituting the frantic comedian into a frantic actor.

Greg Mottola drew on his own experiences when he wrote and directed 2008’s adolescent ‘comedy’ Adventureland. This coming of age movie is entirely predictable, quite boring and not very funny. The conventional plot involves James Brennan (Jessie Eisenberg The Squid and the Whale 2005) who has to cancel his dream summer vacation when his parents develop financial problems. Forced into taking a summer job at a tacky local amusement park he meets all sorts of orthodox wacky characters including Em (Twilight star Kristen Stewart) who he fools in love with. American Graffiti (1973) this certainly ain’t!

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