Shorties: Assassins and Diaper Changing

life-as-we-know-itThe Ghost Writer

Now on DVD, Roman Polanski's clever adaptation of Robert Harris' thiller bows down to Alfred Hitchcock, especially with its superb Bernard Herrmann-like score by Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Fantastic Mr. Fox).

The plot starts off simply enough. A nameless writer (Ewan McGregor), unambiguously known as "The Ghost" in the production notes, is hired to rewrite the memoirs of Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British Prime Minister (based upon Tony Blair). The previous ghost who had penned the rather boring first draft had recently fallen off a local ferry dead drunk and drowned. Or did he? Could it have been murder and if so, why?

Isolated on a rich man's island estate in the States with Lang, Lang's wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), his secretary/mistress Amelia (Kim Cattrall), and a slew of bodyguards and servants, The Ghost at first believes this job will be a simple yet vexing chore, but for $250,000, who said it would be easy?

However, as the days tick by, he realizes he's caught up in a spider's web of deceit. Lang has just been accused of being a war criminal, Ruth is distressed and horny, and The Ghost's deceased predecessor has left some papers and photos around that seem to reveal a sort of conspiracy that could create a worldwide scandal.

With a first-rate cast and Polanski at near the top of his form, plus Pawel Edelman's award-worthy cinematography, The Ghost Writer clearly deserves a Netflix downstreaming.

Life As We Know It

Only intermittently irritating (especially the opening ten minutes), this star vehicle for Katherine Heigl eventually, with some solid emotional battering, warmed up the cockles of my heart. In fact, having not teared up since the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, I was surprised to find myself sniffling and aching for love by the end of this nearly by-the-numbers dramedy.

Predictable from the get-go, Life as We Know It has restauranteur-on-the-make Holly Berenson (Heigl) being set up on a horror date with an up-and-coming TV sports director Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel). Of course, he's an hour late, hasn't made restaurant reservations, and has picked her up on his motorcycle. Holly's little black dress is not made for such an outing. What's worse, while the duo are sorting matters out, Eric gets a booty call for later that night--and he accepts it. Consider this rendezvous over.

However, it seems Fate wants to keep this pair together, or at least their dating best friends, Alison and Peter, do.

You see, after the failed matchmakers Alison and Peter get engaged, wed, have a child (Sophie), and then die in a car crash, Holly and Eric discover they are the kid's guardians and now have to live together.

Forced into the American dream against their wills, Eric keeps screwing around and Holly continues to make gourmet cupcakes, yet they both fall in love in with Sophie. But what about with each other? What are the obstacles? Well, Holly has her hunky dreamboat pediatrician Sam (Josh Lucas) to fool around with, and Eric has been bedding every gal in every grocery store who get the hots for an attractive "dad" wheeling around a child in a shopping cart.

Where will it all end? With baby poop on Holly's face and more poop in Eric's favorite baseball cap.

Pleasantly acted and adequately directed by Greg Berlanti (The Broken Hearts Club), Life As We Know It is the perfect date film, and if you are over 18, it might just lead to more than a kiss. - Brandon Judell brandon.jpg

Mr. Judell is featured in the forthcoming documentary Activist: The Times of Vito Russo and has been edited out of Rosa von Praunheim's New York Memories. In the fall, he'll be teaching "American Jewish Theater" and "Theater into Film" at The City College of New York. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire.com, The New York Daily News, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).