Ford thriller burns with action; magic nanny teaches life lessons


By Phil Boatwright

The Movie Reporter



Stars: Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Robert Forsteradn  Alan Arkin

Director: Richard Loncraine

Rating: PG-13

Good guy Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is a trusted computer security executive for a prestigious banking institute. Bad guy Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) has been studying Jack and his family for the better part of a year. This white collar thief has been methodically infiltrating every aspect of Jack’s identity, and now Cox is ready to make good on his investment. See where we’re going?

I’m sure real computer security experts would find the plot laughable, but maybe a bank exec and a thief can siphon off $100 million by way of a computer hack job. Feasible or not, Firewall is engrossing and intense, a true actioneer for grownups.

However, filmmakers find it too tempting to portray a psycho-thief these days without revealing his gruesome side. Filmgoers have come to expect, perhaps even desire bloody gunfights, and even bloodier fistfights, and director Richard Loncraine makes sure we get them. There’s even a fierce, drawn-out finale fight scene that has the hero pushed over balconies and through windows, then stomped on, all barely winding him.

Nanny McPhee

Stars: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly Macdonald, Thomas Sangster

Director: Kirk Jones

Rating: PG

Emma Thompson, whose first screenplay won the 1995 Oscar for Sense and Sensibility, returns to screenwriting with Nanny McPhee, a film adaptation of the Nurse Matilda books. In this dark and witty fable, Thompson portrays a person of unsettling appearance and magical powers who enters the household of the recently widowed Mr. Brown (Colin Firth) and attempts to tame his seven ill-behaved children.

At first we see the brats being bratty and chasing off magic-less caregivers. But are the brats really brats; or are they just afraid of change and responding to dad’s busyness? Hey, it’s a movie about kids made for kids, they can’t be the bad guys. And what’s this? Is nanny getting prettier every time she teaches the young ones a life lesson? By film’s end, the warts and snaggletooth are gone, the family seeing her in a new light.

A sweet-tempered film about unruly children bewitched by the nanny, at first it may appear to suffer from the inevitable comparison with that other fairytale governess. You know, the one who always had a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. But past the magical nanny/ kids in need of love scenario, the two films are apples and oranges, each deserving the same audience. Thompson’s work, both as writer and actress, is gem-like, flawless as she blends pie-fight slapstick with themes of loss and reconciliation. Funny, insightful, even romantic, one could say that Nanny McPhee is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.