GHOST TOWN * * * *
Cert 12A 101 mins
After cameos in For Your Consideration, Night At The Museum and Stardust, this marks Ricky Gervais’ lead role feature debut. In what could well be tagged Frank Capra’s Sixth Sense, it’s a Scrooge-styled romantic comedy with Gervais as Bertram Pincus, a New York based Brit dentist who likes to keep people at arm’s length and has no interest in idle patient chit chat. There is, naturally, a reason for his emotional lock down; don’t get involved, and you don’t get hurt. Naturally, a woman will come along and make the walls crumble.
That will be recently widowed archeologist Gwen (Tea Leoni), who lives in the same apartment building and to whom he’d previously been obliviously rude. Now, though, he’s doing his best to charm her into breaking-up with her Mother Theresa-like human rights lawyer fiancé, Richard.
Hang on. I should have mentioned this sudden re-engagment with human interaction has been prompted by the fact that, having briefly died during routine surgery, Bertram can now see and talk to dead people. Unfortunately, thankful to finally have contact with the living, they all want him to help complete their unfinished business.
Pushiest ghost of the lot is Frank (Greg Kinnear), Gwen’s husband who got killed (while still in full tuxedo) just as she discovered he was being unfaithful. Now he wants Pincus to see off Richard. Do that and he’ll get the others to leave him alone. Of course, what starts out as a cold exercise in emotional manipulation, soon turns into genuine affection.
Complete with obligatory ‘lose girl, get girl back’ passage, it’s a predictable plot that sees Pincus getting back in contact with his heart and reconnecting to compassion in a redemptive third act that puts sentimentality through the wringer.
Aside from one confessional scene, Kinnear’s not given chance to do more than be a nag while the other ghosts are wheeled on and off in a series of wasted opportunities. However, Leoni is a wonderfully warm presence and fine comedienne while, tossing off the sardonic misanthropic barbs in a manner that recalls Tony Hancock, Gervais is very funny and an unlikely but genuinely appealing romantic lead. With the mannerisms, line delivery and stop/start rambling monologues, he may be still playing the same character he did in The Office and Extras, but if it ain’t broken, then don’t give it a root canal.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR * * *
Cert U 112 mins
No parent of young daughters can possibly be unaware of the HSM phenomenon with its wholesome non alcoholic cocktail of romance, dance, sanitised R&B, soppy ballads, teen mag pin-ups and positive messages. After two TV movies, the third (and I’d wager not last) visit to East High transfers to the big screen as the students prepare to move on to college. But not before staging one last musical that reflects their school years and hopes for the future.
There’s choices to be made. Offered the chance to start Stanford early, 1000 miles away, should Gabrielle (Vanessa Hudgens) miss out on her Prom and graduation? Finding himself unexpectedly one of four nominees for a solitary prestigious Julliard scholarship, should boyfriend Troy (Zac Efron) follow his secret theatrical dreams or stick with best friend and fellow Wildcats basketball star Chad (Corbin Bleu) on a shared jock journey? And how will self-serving diva Sharpey (Ashley Tisdale) manoeuvre Gabrielle out of the spotlight to ensure she gets to Julliard rather than Troy, her choreographer brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), or songwriter Kelsi (Olesya Rulin)?
Kenny Ortega’s a mediocre director, as an energetic Michael Jacksonesque scrapyard routine, a romantic rooftop number, and musical within the musical showstopper Just Wanna Be With You demonstrate, he certainly knows how to choreograph. The characters may be Disney teen movie pap, but the likeable young cast ensure time in their company’s enjoyably spent with a mix of laughs, tears and adoring sighs. A B+ movie perhaps, but for the intended audience and undeniable class act.
INCENDIARY * *
Cert 15 100 mins
It’s been seven years since Bridget Jones’s Diary, during which time Sharon Maguire has clearly forgotten how to direct. Judging by the screenplay, she’s not learned how to write either.
An adaptation of the Chris Cleave novel, published the day of the 7/7 bombings, it tells of an unnamed working class mother (Michelle Williams) whose bomb disposal husband and toddler son are killed in an Islamic suicide bombing at Arsenal football stadium, She sees the live footage on TV while having needy sex on the couch with Daily Express journalist neighbour Jasper (Ewan McGregor on remote).
Rushing to the scene, she’s injured and hospitalised, and the rest of the film concerns her dealing with grief, looking for closure and trying to rebuild a shattered life by way of her relationships with Jasper, her husband’s boss (Matthew Macfadyen, dreadful) and even the unwitting son of one of the bombers. All the while, a dirigible bearing her son’s photo floats over London as reminder of her loss and guilt.
Sporting spot on north London accent, Williams is sensational. However, the film around her is a mess, preposterously plotted, creaking with implausibility, riddled with terrible dialogue, and topped off with a ridiculous ending so archly melodramatic it would have been laughed out of a script planning for The Bill.
Cert PG 40 mins
It seems fitting that Michael Douglas, the man who once played Gordon Gecko, should narrate the IMAX’s new globe-trotting dino doc. In much the same manner as Sea Monsters 3D, this uses the discovery of fossils in the Gobi Desert and New Mexico to reconstruct a Velociraptor and Protoceratops battle, a deadly flash flood and obligatory T-Rex appearance as well as using computer graphics to argue that some birds may well be the descendants of dinosaurs.
A little more CGI dinosaurs and a little less footage of scientists at work wouldn’t have gone amiss, but with some effective 3D this is both entertaining and educational.