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David Boreanaz - "Ghost Writer" Movie - Ign.com Review

dimanche 28 décembre 2008, par Webmaster

Ghost Writer DVD Review

This stagy horror/melodrama could have used a ghost director.

US, December 23, 2008 - Just a few years ago, it seemed like Alan Cumming was going to be a big rising star. With X2 under his belt, it seemed like his potential to become a Hollywood leading man, or at least a quirky character actor, was limitless. Sadly, Cumming turned down the third X-Men film and went off to lesser work like Son of the Mask and one more Spy Kids film. His career has since faded into near cult obscurity, forgotten by the mainstream masses.

Now Cumming returns, not only as a performer but in the director’s seat, with an adaptation of the Thomas Gallagher play, Suffering Man’s Charity (retitled Ghost Writer in the states). Unfortunately, Cumming continues to fail his audience with this stagy adaptation that lacks energy and punch.

Cumming plays John Vandermark, a neurotic musician who never quite made his mark on the world. He’s a man on the brink of his own sanity, struggling with some sort of emotional disorder while keeping his homosexuality a secret. Staying with Vandermark is Sebastian St. Germain (David Boreanaz, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), a young writer hoping to make it big with his latest novel. Vandermark has taken a liking to St. Germain, even going as far to let him fall behind on the utilities and rent.

However, Vandermark grows furious at the late night promiscuity of his dashing roommate and secretly harbors anger that St. Germain has not returned the love he was so quick to give him. He even questions whether or not St. Germain is writing a novel at all. Soon, he plots to hold him hostage until he can get to bottom of their coiled, twisted relationship. It is only after this event that Vandermark learns that St. Germain hasn’t just written a novel, but perhaps one of the greatest novels of our time.

Woven like a two-act stage play, the story initially follows the hostage exploits of St. Germain and Vandermark, as they bicker back and forth about their devious lives. The second act grows more elaborate, but sadly more convoluted and cliche, as Vandermark begins to take credit for St. Germain’s brooding, humanistic novel and finds himself trapped by the guilt of stealing his work, even haunted by St. Germain himself.

Cumming’s Vandermark is raucous, abrasive and over the top. He feels like a poorly written character dizzyingly crafted by an amateur college playwright, and Cumming does nothing to tone the character down for the screen. Perhaps the lack of direction for his performance led him down this dreary "dinner theater" path, or perhaps it’s intentional — a wink to tiresome one-set stage plays. Either way, it makes for a weakly developed, unsubtle character that is simply a bore to watch on screen.

Even more boring is the muted, drab house that most of the film takes place in. Lit with shoddy overhead lighting, the film isn’t exactly pretty to look at, nor does it feel very exciting. Instead of crafting the lighting to help elevate the intensity of the scenario and mood of the characters, the lighting feels naturalistic and tiresome, robbing the film of any visual crescendo.

It certainly doesn’t help that Cumming stages almost every element of the film as though it were a play. His direction is staler than stage and film director Kenneth Branagh, who usually executes a basic one-shot, two-shot structure that barely keeps the attention brewing in his audience. With Ghost Writer, the performances are stagy, the direction is stagy, the lighting is stagy…even the dialogue is forced and stagy, obviously written to be performed in a theatrical setting, not on film.

The only bright spot in this dimly lit film is David Boreanaz, who seems out to prove something to his fans and critics. He hasn’t made the best creative decisions with his career as of late (he’s starred in a hefty helping of straight-to-video films) and it seems he wanted Ghost Writer to be his return to form. While he draws the film’s best moments to the surface, his character lacks dimensionality or development, and he’s only really given a small handful of decent performance moments.

It’s a shame Ghost Writer doesn’t quite work in the way it should, or was probably intended. The film just isn’t inventive enough to prove fresh or original, leaving audiences with a drab bore of a story coherently directed and performed by Cumming and his all-star cast, but tiresomely executed to a fault.

Video and Presentation

Ghost Writer is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen on a single-layered DVD. The film was shot in HD and the print looks every bit as murky as the video source it was shot on. The film’s drab palette is often muted by soft and natural overhead lighting with little pop or zing. Digital compression issues are also present, such as mild interlacing, combing, digital hiccups and artifacting. The HD source also suffers from noticeable motion blur, which bogs down the overall presentation. As far as straight-to-disc releases go, this one is a bit of a letdown.

Score : 4 out of 10

Languages and Audio

Ghost Writer gets a pretty standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. No subtitle options are available. Sound design is quite incredible considering how subtle and low-key this picture is, particularly during the film’s opening moments, which take place in the city. Wonderfully placed discrete effects punctuate scenes giving them an added creepiness and intensity, enveloping the listener. Bass effects are minimal though, but powerful when they appear. Center dialogue is mostly clean, but a few spots were hard to hear thanks to poorly balanced surround effects or low levels. This is a good mix, but a few tweaks here and there would have elevated its effect on the listener.

Score : 7 out of 10

Packaging and Extras

The disc comes in a standard DVD case sporting a somewhat uninspired cover design. Extras include teature commentary with director Alan Cumming and trailers.

Alan Cumming seems a delightful fellow, and his commentary shows off his style and sense of humor. Sadly, the occasionally informative track is muddled by far too many dry patches where Cumming simply watches a scene and explores his performance. Other times, he simply recites what he’s seeing on-screen, rarely delving deeper than the basic emotions of the characters (which should be obvious for the viewer watching). It would have been great to know more about how he got involved in this production and how he came to wrangle the mostly solid cast.

The disc is also contains a few selected trailers for upcoming Genius Entertainment films, but no trailer for this film is present.

Score : 2 out of 10

The Bottom Line

While the film boasts a mostly solid surround presentation, the murky, tiresome transfer distracts from an otherwise decent straight-to-video release. IGN’s Ratings for Ghost Writer

4 The Movie

Too much like a stage play, wooden and cold, and annoyingly over-the-top.

4 The Video

Muddled and murky, dampened by it’s drab source, a flat palette and motion blur.

7 The Audio

A decent surround mix with a few fun discrete effects and mostly clean dialogue.

2 The Extras

A few promotional trailers and a dry, talky commentary from Alan Cumming.

4 OVERALL (out of 10 / not an average)


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