In about 6 seconds, I will lose a lot of geek cred… 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I’m not a fan of Ricky Gervais. There, I said it. Also, I have yet to get into either the British or American versions of The Office. ::gasp:: I know, a travesty. That said, I caught David Koepp‘s Ghost Town at the Toronto Film Festival, and I didn’t hate it. I also didn’t love it either. It’s your paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, with a little dry humor thrown in for good measure.
In Ghost Town, Gervais plays a loner dentist who dies for seven minutes during a routine operation, and is now able to see ghosts. Living in New York City, you can imagine there are a lot of ghosts. The ghosts need Gervais to help them fix the various unfinished business before they are allowed to enter the after life. And once all of the ghosts realize that someone can see them, they won’t leave Gervais alone. So for Ricky, it is a nightmare instead of a gift. Ricky just wants to be left alone.
Greg Kinnear plays Frank, a cheating husband who narrowly escapes being crushed by a falling air conditioner only to be hit by a bus a second later (movie cliche #1). Frank offers to get rid of all the ghosts if Ricky can fix his problem, which is to scare off his ex-wife’s (played by Téa Leoni) “money grubbing” human rights lawyer fiancée. And of course, when a connection develops between Ricky and Gwen, the film goes into full-on romantic comedy mode.
Ghost Town is a movie that you’ve already seen. It’s a romantic comedy version of Ghost, with Just Like Heaven and Roxanne thrown in for good measure. It’s not bad, but the whole thing feels below Gervais. It’s like the guy from the British Office got trapped in a generic American romantic comedy. The main gag involves Gervais being caught by others talking to “thin air” and having to talk his way out of it. You can imagine that this gets old pretty fast. Kristen Wiig is wonderful as the quirky spray-on tanning surgeon who is responsible, but not legally liable for Ricky’s short lived death.
/Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Flash of Genius is one of the surprise films that is being shown at this year’s Telluride Film Festival. Based on a true story, Flash of Genius follows Doctor Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), a Detroit-based inventor and engineer professor, who decided to take on the automotive industry, and more specifically Ford Motor Company, who he claimed stole his patented idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.
Yeah, it doesn’t immediately sound like a compelling narrative for a feature film, but Philip Railsback’s screenplay brings the story home, resulting in a fascinating family drama. The battle over inventor-ship lasted many years and at what cost? His wife, his family, his job and even his mental stability. Kearns wasn’t after a huge out of court settlement, he just wanted credit for the invention that he believed he created.
I’ve enjoyed Kinnear’s many performances over the years, but I’ve always believed that his range was somewhat limited. In Flash of Genius, Kinnear takes it to the next level, disappearing into the role and showing a transformation which might rival Benjamin Button on a micro level. Co-stars Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda and Lauren Graham also turned in notable performances, but Kinear stole the show.
Marc Abraham has been producing films since 1991’s The Commitments. He has been involved in various types of films over the last 17 years, everything from The Babysitters Club to Children of Men. Flash of Genius is Abraham’s directorial debut, and a passion project that he has been developing for almost a decade.
The film will ask questions of yourself. Would you, could you, sell your legacy for $30 million or even $100 million? When is it time to give up on something, even if you know/believe it to be right?
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
“For the last time, I’m not Traci Lords”
War films were notorious for not connecting with audiences (and critics) last year, but the studios seem determined in 2008 to push one or two through to leave an indelible mark for generations. For one, I am glad to see such resilience on the part of Hollywood. The best of these films will be the primary way kids in the future come to gage how much impact events like 9/11, the Iraq War, and the War on Terror had on our current culture. Sadly, it’s not the same with music. Back when I discovered Vietnam films like Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and especially, Apocalypse Now they informed my nascent political views, creative sense, musical tastes and were like tabs of LSD compared to my AP history books. Even if none of the new war films come to be labeled a masterpiece, films like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood will be appreciated as time-capsules that bottled up our current zeitgeist and anxieties, and stared into the soul of America to see nothing but a black, oily abyss. And then there’s I Am Legend and Cloverfield, apocalyptic popcorn movies that subversively toyed with the modern death drive we all sensed popping into high gear this decade.
Sorry, I need to turn down Black Sabbath’s Sabotage. Per a definitive Iraq War film, Paul Greengrass‘ Imperial Life in the Green Zone is building up its box office armor with a strong cast that now includes Amy Ryan, hot off Gone Baby Gone, and Greg Kinnear (Talk Soup) in addition to Matt Damon (Matt Damon).The film’s title is lifted from the nonfiction book by Rajiv Chandrasekara, with the author and Greengrass co-writing a fictional screenplay set in Iraq’s Green Zone, the safe zone where U.S. troops, officials, media, diplomats and Kid Rock reside.
Damon will play a CIA officer on the hunt for traces of WMDs, with Kinnear also playing CIA. Ryan’s character is a NY Times reporter sent to Iraq to see what’s what. No word on who will play Curveball, if applicable. I’m sure Horatio Sanz is available. Greengrass seems to exercise the semi-topical Bourne installments as a springboard for timely films like this and United 93; he’s also attached to They Marched into Sunlight, which reportedly focuses on the uproar of college students circa the Vietnam War. Imperial Life in the Green Zone is scheduled to hit theaters in 2009.
Universal has sent us the first photo from the new comedy Baby Mama, which stars Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear, Dax Shepard, and Sigourney Weaver. Writer turned director Michael McCullers‘ (Austin Powers 2 and 3) feature film debut tells the story of “two women, one apartment and the nine months that will change their lives.” Yeah, doesnt sound that interesting to me either.
Tina Fey is funny, and good to look at on screen, but her true talents are behind a computer keyboard. Her work writing SNL was a highlight of the show, and Fey wrote (er adapted) one of the best teen comedies in the last 10 years: Mean Girls (remember when Lindsay Lohan was still “family friendly”?). If Fey was attached as writer, than I’d have a lot more faith. But truth be told, Baby Mama was penned by the same guy who wrote both the 2004 big screen adaptation of Thunderbirds and Undercover Brother.
I received an email last month from someone who claimed to have seen a test screening of the film. This is what he said: “It’s an average, decent comedy. Like Knocked Up but nowhere near as good.” Take that for whatever it is worth. Check out the full photo and newly released plot synopsis after the jump.
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