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The Ghost Writer (2010)

Forty thousand years of human language, and there’s no word to describe our relationship. It was doomed.

— The Ghost

I was interested in seeing Roman Polanki’s, “The Ghost Writer“. I wasn’t because of his arrest in Switzerland when the movie was in post-production. The movie came out in the film wasteland of the first three months of the year from the previous Oscar season the upcoming summer movie season. It was stuck in the middle with Shutter Island. I think that it was shafted in my opinion.

Based on the book “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, it deals with the death of a previous ghost writer that was supposed to penned former British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. Another ghost writer is summoned (Ewan McGregor) to finish what the previous ghost writer started.

This Ghost doesn’t know anything about politics, but the people interviewing him for the position: his friend, Rick Ricardelli (Jon Bernthal), Roy (Tim Peerce), Sidney Kroll (Timothy Hutton) and Jon Maddox (Jim Belushi) think that he would give the perfect outsider looking in perspective the manuscript needs to be a bestseller. He is hired for a month-long assignment that will get him $250,000.

The Ghost learns that Lang has a dirty past of transporting terror suspects to a secret location and torture them. He wonders if he is getting in too deep right out of the gate. He goes against his gut to travel from London to New England where Lang’s vacation house is located.

Arriving The Ghost meets Lang’s loyal secretary, Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall) who shows him around the compound. She has him sign a confidentiality agreement before seeing the manuscript which is not allowed to be removed from the premises.

Meeting Lang and his long-suffering wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), The Ghost wants to know why the previous ghost writer under such mysterious circumstances. The more he gets into the mystery, the more he realizes that it’s not just another writing assignment to him.

I have seen a number of political thrillers and yes, the movie have the clichéd reveals and twists, but there were some parts of the mystery that had me in bated breath. It was intriguing watching everything unfold the way that it did. I thought the unsung hero of the his movie is Olivia Williams. She should have gotten more attention for her nuanced performance as Lang’s wife.

Judgment: It was an enjoyable ride that I wouldn’t mind taking again.

Rating: 8.5/10

Valkyrie (2008)

I’m a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience.

— Col. Claus von Stauffenberg

Since Tom Cruise is the latest person to be in the LAMB Acting School 101 this month, I thought I would revisit a movie that was largely dismissed WWII drama, Valkyrie. There was a lot bad buzz around this movie with the numerous release date changes and even the possibly of changing the title of movie. A movie about killing Hitler, it’s a no-brainer about what the ending is. This movie is something different to offer about the SS.

The film starting in North Africa during the last years of the war where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is conflicted with serving his country and standing up to the atrocities of what Hitler has done to Jews and his people. He is tries to find somebody that would rise up against the Third Reich. Just then his unit is attacked by the Allied forces.

Losing two fingers in his left hand, left eye and right hand entirely, Stauffenburg is held up in a Munich hospital where he is visited by his wife, Nina (Carice van Houten). He has to return to Berlin to await further instruction from the Fürher (David Bamber).

Meanwhile, there have already been plots to assassinated Hitler mainly with Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) trying to kill Hitler with a bomb that did not go off on the plane with him or Colonel Heinz Brandt (Tom Hollander) who unknowingly carried the package into the plan in the first place. After he botched attempt, Treschow returns to High Command to get it back. Tresckow’s co-conspirator, General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy) lets him know that their plan might be exposed when another defector is arrested. They would need another person to lead the uprising.

When Stauffenberg comes back to Berlin, he is recruited by Olbricht to lead the resistance. Stauffenberg is surprised that many people want to overthrow their tyrannical leader like Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) who tries to find a way to destroy Hitler from the inside out.

Stauffenberg suggests that somebody should infiltrate Hitler’s inner circle. He also suggests that they initiate Operation Valkyrie, which is a plan for when Hitler is dead; the reserved army would be active to help with civil unrest. They want to stage a fake coup to arrest the SS soldiers that take over the government. As Beck said in one conversation, “This is the military. Nothing ever goes according to plan.” Truer words were ever spoken.

The rest of the movie chronicles the failed attempt to kill Hitler. This is history. Everyone knows that Hitler didn’t die until 1945. Knowing the end of the movie was a bit anti-climatic. The movie is not awful. It got a bad rap for something that was the studio’s fault.

Hearing Tom Cruise in his Americanized German dialogue was very distracting to me, except for the guy, Christian Berkel playing Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim. Was he in the same movie? He did dinner theater level acting. Just god-awful. Hearing everybody’s British accents and the lone American – Cruise – made me think that these guys were playing Nazi dress up. I couldn’t buy it all the way. At least, have some slight German accents. Oh, well.

Judgment: What’s the point? Hitler doesn’t die at the end. Oh, spoiler. Sorry.

Rating: **1/2

FB Recommendation: “Sense And Sensibility” (1995)

sense_and_sensibility

Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?

— Marianne

This was one of my favorite movies from 1995, Sense and Sensibility. Flipping through the channels, this movies popped up on the screen. Had to watch it.

Being transported back to 19th century England where the Dashwood family is dealing with the death of their patriarch, John (Tom Wilkinson). They are left destitute after the first Mrs. Dashwood acquires all of his assets.

Trying to find their way in society, they try to marry distinguished men to help their family survive. The mother (Gemma Jones) wants the best for her family. There is the older sister, Elinor (Emma Thompson) that is in love with Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), but he is already engaged.

Marianne (Kate Winslet) falls for a handsome gentleman, John Willoughby (Greg Wise) who does not reciprocate her feelings.

There are mix of love, heartbreak, duty and romance in this Ang Lee directed film.

Judgment: I love this costume English dramas. Go watch this film.

Rating: ****1/2

FB Recommendation: In The Bedroom (2001)


On the CW last night, they showed a movie that I loved when it was released back in 2001, In The Bedroom. This movie is vastly underrated as a great film. It was nominated for five Oscars. Deservedly so.

I thought that it was strange that the movie was nominated for Best Picture, but Todd Field was not nominated for directing. The Academy put Ridley Scott and David Lynch in his place. I don’t get that logic.

The movie is about the Fowler family who lives are irrevocably affected a tragic event in their Maine town. Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) is a doctor and Ruth (Sissy Spacek) is a choir director. They are concerned by their college age only child, Frank (Nick Stahl) is having a affair with an older married woman, Natalie Stout (Marisa Tomei).

Their quiet life is rocked to the core when Natalie’s estranged husband, Richard (William Mapother) kills Frank during a fight. The tragedy truly begins when Richard does not go to jail for his crime. This leaves the Fowlers through a path of anger, grief, betrayal and revenge.

A fantastic movie that people should see.

My rating: ****1/2 stars.

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