Posts Tagged ‘GHOST TOWN’

Ode to the overlooked: Movies you may have missed in 2013

Film Review-Pain and GainSynopsis: From January to December 2013, hundreds of movies opened on our screens. We saw everything from American Hustle to Zero Charisma, from the ridiculous — 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — to the sublime — 12 Years a Slave. The Reel Guys watched a lot of bad movies this year so you don’t have to and saw many great ones to recommend. But some of the good flicks slipped by without finding an audience. This week they revisit some movies you may have missed but should take a look at.

Richard: Mark, Pain and Gain seemed to me like it couldn’t lose. Starring Dwayne Johnson, who was recently named 2013’s biggest money-making star, Mark Wahlberg and directed by Michael “big bucks” Bay, it was the funny-but-true story about a trio of greedy dumb criminals who kidnap a rich guy. It plays like an episode of CSI: Miami performed by the Three Stooges and should have done boffo box office, but for some reason it didn’t. What did you like that slipped through the cracks?

Mark: I loved Pain and Gain, and if anyone told me one of the best movies of the year would be directed by schlockmeister Michael Bay, I would take it as a sign of the upcoming apocalypse. Another overlooked gem to me was Trance, Danny Boyle’s genre buster. Is it about an art heist? Mind control? Sexual obsession? Revenge? Best to ask James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson, both in fine form, and in the case of Dawson, I do mean — ahem — fine form.

RC: Also in fine form were the giant robots and sea monsters in Pacific Rim. I know they always say about Hollywood that “nobody knows anything,” that you never know what will be a hit, but I thought the combo of Guillermo Del Toro, colossal sea beasts with an appetite for destruction and humungous rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots was a winner. It’s a supersize geek freak out that transports you back in time to wherever you were when you were lucky enough to see your first Godzilla movie.

MB: Sorry, Richard, to me, actual rock-em, sock-em robots are more interesting, and are better actors. Another undiscovered gem for me was Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s Hitchcockian mindbender from early winter. Starting off as a condemnation of the pharmaceutical industry, it turns a lot of corners and becomes a thrilling cerebral murder mystery. And Jude Law, no longer acting with his looks, is magnificent.

RC: Warm Bodies was essentially one joke — the zombie as a metaphor for awkward teenage love — but it’s a pretty good one and well performed. Too bad more people didn’t see it. The movie doesn’t exactly make sense, particularly if you’re a zombie fan of either the Romero or Walking Dead schools, but no matter how fast and loose it plays with the established mythology of the undead it’s still a new twist on an old form.

MB: Warm Bodies reminded me of Ricky Gervais’ Ghost Town in mood and had the same limitations of premise. A foreign film I thought was brilliant was China’s A Touch Of Sin, which interwove four stories Pulp-Fiction style about the new economy in China and its victims, often ending in sad violent episodes. Brilliant Richard.


Ricky_Gervais_in_Ghost_Town_Wallpaper_1_1024Ghost Town, a new comedy starring Brit com sensation Ricky Gervais, Téa Leoni and Greg Kinnear, follows in the footsteps of the ghostly romances of the 1940s. In movies like Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Down to Earth ghostly apparitions had a hand in changing people’s lives and helping romance blossom. It’s an old concept given a shiny new treatment by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull screenwriter, turned director David Koepp.

Kinnear plays Frank, a high powered New York businessman who seems to love his I-Phone more than his wife Gwen (Leoni). When he is killed in a freak accident he discovers that his body can’t make its final journey until all his business is settled on Earth. Enter Bertram Pincus D.D.S. (Gervais) a persnickety dentist with zero people skills. When a simple medical procedure leaves him dead on the operating table for two minutes he awakens with the strange ability to see the newly departed. They’re everywhere. These lost souls wander the streets looking for some way to communicate with their loved ones so they can prepare for the trip to the beyond. Frank latches on to Bertram, initially using him to spy on his widow until he realizes that the dentist is falling in love with Gwen. Frank must learn to give up his controlling ways and let Gwen go before he can rest in peace.

Ghost Town begins as a straight-up comedy and slowly, over its 103 minute running time, turns into a romantic comedy, heavy on the romance, light on the comedy. As the romance angle increases the laugh per minute ratio decreases to the point where, I think, it’s not accurate to call the film a comedy in its final moments.

Gervais is given free reign to flaunt his trademarked misanthropic schitick, but only up to a point. This is his first lead in an American film and it is interesting to see how his acerbic wit is shaped and softened by Hollywood. “[I’m] just what America wants,” he said in a recent interview, “a fat, British, middle-aged comedian trying to be a semi-romantic lead.” If he had been allowed to play up to his strengths—obnoxious and uncomfortable wit—instead of being made palatable for Gladys in Minnesota by smoothing out his patented rough edges Ghost Town might have been a much better movie. Instead of being an effective vehicle for Gervais’s humor, though, the movie made me want to go home and watch his sitcom Extras on DVD.

Ghost Town isn’t a terrible movie, just a misguided and forgettable one.