Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DVD Roundup: The Ghost Writer and Nanny McPhee Returns

It's been a while since I've seen something this good on DVD.  I'm sure as the movies I missed in 2010 make their way to DVD, I'll get some more, but for now this is on top.  The Ghost Writer was something I remember hearing about (I confessed to Rachel on Episode 30 that I kind of thought there might be in an actually ghost involved) and knew Roman Polanski was involved.  It was dark and mysterious with definite undertones referring to Polanski's own situation of being stranded without a country.  Ewan McGregor plays a writer who is well known for fixing the manuscript of a famous person's memoirs.  He gets hired to boost the manuscript of a former British Prime Minster (Pierce Brosnan).  However, when he flies to the US island off Massachusetts (Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard type place), he realizes this may be harder than it looked.  The previous "ghost writer" has died, and the PM is now being investigated by The Hague for crimes he might have committed with the CIA.  Since Ewan is a smarty pants he starts putting things together and finds some research by his predecessor that show things might not be what they seem.  I won't describe any more  because it's too good to spoil.  The acting all around is pretty incredible (except Kim Catrall's bad British accent as the PM's assistant/work wife), with Brosnan trying to figure out why people are always against him when they used to love him.  McGregor is incredibly naive, unearthing things he doesn't think he wants to know anything about but is pretty sure need to be known and his paranoia is well founded by the end.  Loved the thriller nature - the scenery and cinematography lend themselves to the suspense without leaning into cliche.  5 of 5 stars/lambs

Another movie I'll just give a few words is the sequel to the terrific British children's movie Nanny McPhee.  The sequel was called Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang in Britain and perhaps in theaters, but now it's called Nanny McPhee Returns.  Since we already knew what to expect - she meets a family in need, figures out what the children need to learn to become good kids, helps make it happen with a little magic, and she becomes less ugly as they learn.  Sadly, they didn't attempt to do anything particularly new with this one.  It's set during WWI (I think) and Maggie Gyllenhaal's kids aren't helping her save their farm and Nanny McPhee arrives to help.  In the previous version, the lessons took a few tries and you saw the kids going through something (I won't attribute it to better child actors, but maybe it was) with each lesson.  The sequel barely shows what the kids learned before the lesson was over and Nanny McPhee lost a wart.  There are a few moments - and you know I love self-referential comedy - when Maggie Smith says hello to Nanny McPhee and we find out it's Aggie, the baby from the first film.  That kind of tickled me.  Rhys Ifans is funny, but not helpful to the story.  Not exactly sure what was missing, but it didn't spark like the first one.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

6 comments:

MrJeffery said...

i loved 'the ghost writer.' really well-directed (and fun!). one of the year's most underrated.

Jess said...

MrJeffrey - I agree. I want to say it was because of the Polanski connection, but honestly I'd even forgotten that until the credits rolled. Not sure what kept people away - bad trailer, bad marketing? Wonderful DVD discovery though.

clarabela said...

I agree. Ghost Writer is a really good movie that a lot of people may have missed at the theater, but it is well worth the dvd rental.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

The Ghost Writer is an excellent film (I liked Cattrall here, though, British accent and all.)

And I'm surprised at your response to Nanny McPhee. I actually thought it was much better than its predecessor.

Jess said...

Andrew - I didn't dislike the second Nanny McPhee, but I didn't think it was up to the original. What made you think it was?

cinemasights said...

The Ghost Writer is one of the year's finest films and one I think a lot of people egregiously overlooked or avoided.

Say what you will about Polanski, but he's still one of the greatest directors living.