A sensational thriller from Oscar-winner Roman Polanski who has filmed one of the best final shots I’ve ever seen on the screen. To me, it’s a simply perfect ending to an already great film. This one leaves you guessing all the way…and even once you think you know what’s going on, you’re usually wrong. Ewan McGregor stars as a ghost writer for a scandal-ridden British Prime Minister, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). While writing the PM’s memoirs, the writer gets himself involved with the same political and sexual shenanigans as his subject. The McGregor character is teeming with intensity and confusion. He knows something is going on, but WHAT? Brosnan does a great job of capturing the scorned political figure who might not be guilty of all he is accused of but is guilty of enough. This is a film, especially that fantastic ending, that you will want to watch over and over again to pick up on all of the slight nuances of each of the characters…not to mention the plot twists! The film Polanski has made here competes with Woody Allen’s Match Point as one of the best thrillers of the 21st Century (so far). The Ghost Writer: Rated PG-13, 128 minutes, directed by Roman Polanski, starring Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Kim Cattrall. The Niles Public Library will have copies of this DVD when it is released on August 3.

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First of all, I’m not a rough and outdoorsy type. I love (LOVE) to travel but the thought of heading to a place where the food consist of things I couldn’t even look at or the thought of being without modern (and sadly, essential) conveniences (like a coffee maker, laundry machine, etc.) or having to sleep outside among the dirt and animals and bugs (THE HORROR!) is just unthinkable to me. But, of course, my idea of travel is not the only one out there. Movie star Ewan McGregor and his pal Charley Boorman come up with a plan to drive motorcycles from London to New York eastbound, meaning the long way around. And, at over 20,000 miles, long is an understatement. In a trip that they estimated would take them three and a half months, they started several months before the departure getting financial backing for their worldwide quest. They accepted an offer to do an ongoing documentary for British TV, they organized a crew of producers and camera people who would be accompanying them (only one cameraperson rode with Ewan and Charley…the other crew members drove different routes in SUVs), they scouted out the best roads, they talked with officials of each of the countries, they exercised to get in shape, and on and on and on. The DVD set (two DVDs at approx. five hours) is the resulting documentary they produced and is simply fascinating to watch. There is a good hour of pre-trek information, but most of the documentary is spent with Ewan and Charley on the road….in Britain, France, Germany, Croatia, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, and finally North America. Each country they go to and each minute they ride gets more and more captivating. It is a story of adventure, survival and most of all, friendship.

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The second installment of the McGregor/Boorman world trek via motorcycles was even more exciting than the first (Long Way Round). This time, most of the episodes were devoted to the trip…rather than all of the preliminary work. Sure, the first few episodes cover some of the pre-trip stuff, but it felt like it moved along faster this time. And, once they got on the road, it was pure enjoyment. Though parts of Europe and then the entire length of Africa, Charley and Ewan ride gravel roads, sand highways, and rocky passages, all while we follow along. Not the most action-packed fun you can have, but for travel buffs who can never get the wanderlust out of their systems, this is a great way to do some good armchair traveling.

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My soft spot for this one is that I love Beatrix Potter’s books. And I’m heading to the English Lake District this year on vacation…hoping I will love it as much as I think I will. Aside from that, is this an accurate film of Potter’s life? Um, not by a long shot. But, it is a charming, sweet film that, on its own, stands as a wonderful love story. Renee Zellweger again (as she does in the Bridget Jones movies) plays a great Brit — aside from perfecting the accent, she has the slightly aloof manner down pat. Here, she plays Potter as a woman ahead of her time…independent, aggressive, disobedient and defiant. If you’re looking for a film to watch with the whole family, look no further. If you’re looking to write a biographical report on Beatrix Potter, keep looking.

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This movie is no Match Point but I found it to be a good thriller that uses family loyalty as the catalyst for a series of wrongdoings. Like Match Point it is a drama, without any hint of Allen’s usual comic banter…also no hint of Allen himself among the cast (also reminiscent of Match Point). Cassandra’s Dream is about two brothers…both with different goals and different lifestyles but who both could need some cash to make their lives better. Enter a rich uncle with a nefarious proposition and the moral dilemma of the story begins. This reminded me a little of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart story about a man who just cannot go on living with what he has done. And like all good thrillers, this one leaves you hanging until the very end. Not Allen’s best (watch Match Point for that — can you tell already I liked that one?) — Farrell and McGregor are not that believable as brothers and Farrell is too over-the-top with his emotions and McGregor is not convincing as a struggling Londoner — but, overall, it’s an entertaining, suspenseful thriller that will keep your nails bitten and your tush at the edge of the seat.

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