Sunday, September 21, 2008

They Posted Them ... Appaloosa, Ghost Town, etc.

I thought they were holding off on Appaloosa for later content, but - they posted it! Good, good.

Cowboys and Zellweger; Icy Dead People; Water: Movies (Update1)

Review by Morgan Grice

Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Pairing Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris makes the pulse quicken. All the great films they've done individually (and together, in ``A History of Violence'') come to mind, and the possibility seems awesome. As gunslingers for hire in ``Appaloosa,'' however, they never clinch the Western thing.

All the elements are in place: Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hicks (Mortensen) have been brought in to rid Appaloosa of the bad guys terrorizing the town. The top thug is played by a sneering but weirdly-dapper Jeremy Irons, who never quite captures the spirit of his archetypal role.

As they begin separating the outlaws from the lawmen -- a tenuous distinction back in 1882 -- Cole and Hicks meet Allison French (Renee Zellweger) in a saloon. New to town and in need of a job, Allison plays a jarringly-bad organ, won't allow herself to be called a lady of the night and is too rough around the edges to be squeezing into corsets made for proper ladies. None of this matters to Cole, who is instantly taken with her.

This leads to some friction between the dusty lawmen, whose relationship is built on a subtle symbiosis. Ever since Hicks saved Cole's life sometime back, Cole has helped him establish himself in the peacemaking game. Allison changes the dynamic between the men. Their discomfort is palpable.

The movie's second half gains momentum with some exciting standoffs and cowboy-style set pieces that will remind the genre's fans of more spirited examples from the past. ``Appaloosa'' is just a little too slow and uninvolving to join their ranks.

``Appaloosa'' from Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. opens today across the U.S. Rating: *

`Ghost Town'

Walking, talking dead people are all around us in ``Ghost Town,'' starring Ricky Gervais as a hilariously misanthropic Manhattan dentist who can see them.

It's a familiar premise that sounds silly and could be easily botched. But it works: ``Ghost Town,'' co-written and directed by David Koepp (``Jurassic Park,'' ``Carlito's Way'') is clever and refreshing, a standout comedy when the genre is saturated with sloppy schoolboy humor.

Gervais plays Dr. Bertram Pincus, a foulmouthed, tactless dentist with a visceral disdain for people. When his patients try to get personal, he stuffs more cotton in their mouths to shut them up. He's not above calling colleagues ``babbling idiots'' to their faces. He's a cynical jerk, if an extremely quick and clever one. (Gervais's role as the irritating office manager David Brent in the original U.K. version of ``The Office'' certainly primed him for the role.)

Freak Accident

The movie starts with cocky, philandering Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear) dying in a freak accident involving a falling air conditioner and a bus. Soon after, Pincus goes in for a routine colonoscopy, during which he dies for seven minutes. Rather, it was somewhere between six and seven minutes we learn, in a great exchange with ``Saturday Night Live's'' Kristen Wiig, who plays Pincus's doctor.

After his brush with death, Pincus begins being bothered by a slew of spirits (many of them played by stars in cameo roles) with unfinished business, unable to cross over before they set things straight.

Herlihy is the most aggressive. He shows up at inopportune moments, hoping Pincus will help sabotage his widowed wife's planned marriage. Gwen, the widow, is Tea Leoni, a nerdy, beautiful Egyptologist who always deserved more than her dead husband gave her. She lives in the dentist's building, but Pincus has always had his nose stuck too high in the air to acknowledge her.


Gwen's fiance (Billy Campbell) is annoyingly flawless, a well-intentioned fundraiser for human rights projects. Certain that he's only after her for her money, Herlihy drafts Pincus to his cause.

It all makes for a good time. Pincus predictably falls for the widow; he becomes more human, realizing that his look-out- for-number-one mentality isn't sustainable. And by movie's end, you're left entertained and impressed by the great comic performances in a movie that could have made you regret spending $12 on yet another cheesy romantic comedy.

``Ghost Town,'' from DreamWorks Pictures, opens today across the U.S. Rating: ***


Taken at face value, Irena Salina's documentary ``Flow'' is extremely frightening. It opens strong, warning of a full-blown, global water crisis that will result in the world running out of clean water within 25 years. One-half to two-thirds of the world population will be living with acute freshwater shortages.

If it weren't for the film's bald one-sidedness, it'd be hard to believe anyone could argue with the idea that it's all caused by greedy corporations, the ``Washington Consensus'' and overt government neglect. Instead, you're left wanting a few counterarguments, just to keep things honest.

The film introduces us to an array of experts testifying to the evils of privatized water supplies, especially for the poor who can't afford to buy it. Many people are forced to turn to polluted rivers or streams. Each year millions become sick or die from waterborne diseases.

We learn that water is a $400 billion global industry, with investors buying up water rights, commoditizing a resource that seems like it should be free and universally accessible. We even get a glimpse of T. Boone Pickens bragging about cornering the water market, one of many interviews with industry bigwigs reduced to cold, heartless sons of capitalism.

We get virtually no face time with anyone who makes a case for abandoning public water systems in favor of a for-profit water industry. It's hard to swallow the story entirely.

``Flow'' is very effective, however, in interweaving stories and scenes from Africa, Bolivia and South Africa, always being sure to come back to the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps it's a way to ensure that those from rich nations, who may be inured to images of people suffering in the Third World, remember that we will all be affected.

``Flow,'' from Oscilloscope Laboratories, is showing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:

**** Excellent
*** Good
** Average
* Poor
(No stars) Worthless
(Morgan Grice is a critic for Bloomberg News in New York. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of the story: Morgan Grice in New York at

Last Updated: September 19, 2008 12:58 EDT