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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Haunted/Shooting Fish

Getting back to my Kate Beckinsale film festival, I start with Haunted, a 1995 film directed by Lewis Gilbert. It's a low-budget ghost story, and is interesting for having all the modern ghost-story twists, but before The Sixth Sense and The Others. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that you never know who's a ghost and who's not.

Aidan Quinn stars as a psychology professor in 1928 England. He's wracked by guilt over the death of his twin sister during childhood, and has come to be a debunker of spiritualists and mediums. He is called to an estate by a family whose nanny is going nutso thinking there's ghosts on the premises. The first family member he meets is the ravishing Beckinsale, but her brothers are a bit off the boil. One of them, Anthony Andrews, paints nude portraits of her.

Ghost stories are seldom done well, and this one moves in fits and starts (and Quinn is particularly wooden). Once again we get to see gratuitous nude shots of Beckinsale. And would a ghost really be able to drive a car? Stunning moment in the credits--one of the executive producers was Francis Ford Coppola.

Shooting Fish, from 1997, is a dreary example of a film that tries way too hard to be charming and eccentric and just comes off as annoying. It stars Dan Futterman and Stuart Townshend as con-men, and Beckinsale is their secretary. Futterman is the smooth-talker, while Townshend is the socially awkward technical genius. Both were orphans, and dream of living in a huge mansion, so they con rich people to meet their goal.

The film misfires on so many levels its hard to know where to start. The director and co-writer Stefan Schwartz starts with a supposition that was not true to this viewer--his main characters are sympathetic. I don't find their antics charming or noble or anything in between. I inwardly cheered when they did a stint in prison. Then there's a ridiculous ending, which involves a horse race, that comes out of nowhere, and has the outcome dictating whether some children with Down Syndrome will get kicked out of their house or not. Talk about loading the dice.

I hated almost frame of this movie, but Beckinsale comes out unscathed. Since she does not get naked in this film, I assume her career had turned a corner.

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