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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As with other films, the background I have about this film was limited. South Africa — nada. Rugby — less than nada. But, it’s an Eastwood film and it has two of my favorite actors, so what the heck. And, boy, what a great film. Morgan Freeman does a spectular job of playing Mandela…he’s less about the looks of the Nobel Prize winner and more about the persona. So, at the start of the film in the early 1990s, Mandela gets out of jail and is elected to president. Apartheid is over. Mandela sees rugby and it’s “whites” only popularity as a way to try and help some of the white South Africans that he determined to unite his racially divided country. Matt Damon plays the rugby team captain who is in awe of the inspiring Mandela. Some believe (both black and white) that Mandela’s focus on rugby as a uniting tool is fooling. The blacks want to know why he is focusing this much attention on a white sport. And the whites don’t believe he is sincere and feel he has some sort of ulterior motive. South African politics are a big part of this film, as is rugby. Knowing next to nothing about those subjects did not hinder my enjoyment here. The story is intense and passionate enough sustain interest throughout. This film is about heart and friendship. It’s about determination and spirit. It’s a movie for all — not only political or sports junkies.

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Albert Finney plays pre-Prime Minister Winston Churchill to a tee in this historical drama done by HBO. Disliked by many of his Parliament cohorts and thought as a buffoon by others, Churchill, in the 1930s, thought he was on his way out…or at least down…of British politics. Enter Hitler and his pesky little brand of Arians who started taking their rampage through Europe…Churchill saw and felt that Hitler needed to be stopped before most other of his counterparts in Parliament. This desire to defeat Hitler before anymore damage was done is what eventually brought Churchill back into the fray of power in Parliament and eventually to THE position of British power, Prime Minister. But, this film, rightfully so, stops before Churchill comes into power. Rightfully so, since this film is more about the MAN…and the marriage between him and Clemmie than about Parliament and politics and war. Excellent performances by both Finney (who really becomes Churchill in every way) and Vanessa Redgrave as Clemmie.

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I’m assuming this is how police work really is…sometimes it’s just waiting around, and sometimes it’s busier than can be. This HBO series goes into the inner-workings of a special task force of police detectives who work on complicated, complex cases…cases that require more time than most police would be willing to give. Season one deals with the tracking down of a drug kingpin in the Baltimore (where the show is set) projects. The entire season of shows is based on this one case…which is also how subsequent seasons are as well. No, it’s not boring…they catch small members of the drug gang and then they just keep working up the food chain until the catch some big fish. It’s intense and riveting and as exciting as any cop show I’ve seen (maybe even more exciting) even though the cast of criminals stays the same. If you like crime stories on TV, this one is a must!

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I’m only vaguely interested in history, so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get into this one. I’m on season two and boy, am I hooked. It is riveting TV, even though much of the plot is known already. Henry is played with charm, charisma and a touch of evilness that makes it impossible to love him completely, but also impossible to turn away. His quest for power is addictive and the men (and women) around him seem to feed off of his need for world domination. Sexy and biting, this show is much more than just history. Now, whether it’s accurate in its historical tellings, that is something I will leave to the experts.

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Trade is a tough film to watch. There is a rape. There is violence toward children. I felt, though, that the movie handles these tough issues very well and respects all of the characters throughout the film. Once the Kevin Kline character enters the story, there are moments of unbelievability and even sappiness but for the most part, I felt this was a realistic portrayal of a small slice of the world of human trafficking. The movie does not end how you think it will…where I thought it was going to end would have been unsatisfying for me…since it would have been a clichéd, happy ending. It went one step further and took the ending back to a place of realism and believability.

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This film gets most of its attention because ladies around the world wouldn’t mind being in the back seat of a limo with Kevin Costner. Aside from the very famous limo romp, this is a spot-on thriller that holds the suspense right up until the end. Actually, it’s one of those films that’s best watched more than once…since after a first viewing, you’re still wondering if you can go back and find clues the would predict the ending. I have seen it more than once and trust me, there are very few clues, if any, that prepare the audience for the trick at the tail end of this one. But, before you get to that shocker of an ending, this movie will keep you guessing and writhing in your seat all the way through. Set in Washington D.C., No Way Out features Costner as a Naval officer who is assigned to lead the murder investigation of a woman who has been killed by a Russian spy. The main problem is that he knew the woman, but cannot tell anyone this since it would make him a suspect in her murder. The other problem is that he knows his boss, the Secretary of Defense (played to perfection by Gene Hackman), is the real murderer. No, I’m not ruining anything here…all of this (including the limo scene) is told pretty early on in the film. It is after the murder that the movie takes off in all directions and leaves the audiences constantly surprised. Based on the novel The Big Clock, which was also made into a 1948 movie of the same name as the novel with Ray Milland, the setting of the political climate in D.C. only enhances the look, style, and edge of this intense thriller.

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Presidential look-alike Dave (Kevin Kline) saves the day and the country when he stands in for the president after the “real guy” has a stroke. Problems ensue when he decides to institute policies without permission and falls in love with the first lady, who soon discovers the secret about her real husband (who is a compassionless, womanizing man) when she gets to know nice-guy “fake” husband Dave. Not the finest comedy ever made but a pretty decent stab at a Capra-like film that succeeds in most areas.

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Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy, this film holds up well against the first one of the series, The Bourne Identity. When it comes to series films, regardless of how good or bad the first one is, the subsequent films are usually never good…or at least as good…as the first. By a third film in a series, everything just seems to run out of steam…especially the screenplay. Plot is just mostly ignored…since blowing things up for no reason does not fall under the list of acceptable plotlines. In The Bourne Ultimatum, the script stays taut and clever from start to finish, the action stays consistently tied to the story, and the actors do not behave like they are sleepwalking through their performances. Beginning with the plot thread that left Supremacy up in the air, Ultimatum takes charge right from the beginning. Jason Bourne, this time, remembers more about his past and is determined to find out who is the person responsible for that said past. No, it’s not MUCH of a plot but at least it’s some justification for all of the action and fighting. It’s simple…a simple story…Jason Bourne wants to find out who he is and why he does what he does. Basing all the action on that logic, the movie makes sense. And it is one heck of a wild ride – once again Greengrass and his crew incorporate the camera in the action…make sure to take your Dramamine before this one because when Jason Bourne gets in a brawl, you feel like you’re punching right along with him. If you were a fan of the first two films, this one is a must see!

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