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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Better to See You With, My Dear 2/23

The last two movies I watched are:

Ghost Rider (2007)

Synopsis from IMDb : Based on the Marvel character, stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze (Nic Cage) gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante, to fight against power hungry Blackheart (Wes Bentley), the son of the devil himself (Peter Fonda).

I grew up reading comic books: Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Green Arrow, and several others. Naturally I am a bit possessive of some of my childhood icons, so, when they are made into big-budget, feature-length films, I am always wary. I don’t like to see these characters cheapened, trivialized, or misrepresented. I am pleased with directors who care enough about their subject matter not to simply make special-effects-driven, poorly-acted, poorly-written, melodramas in spandex. (The movies, that is. The directors can wear whatever they want.) These directors succeed in elevating the material as they translate it to film. Sam Raimi did it for Spiderman; Richard Donner did it for Superman; Tim Burton did it for Batman; and Ang Lee did it for the Hulk. (Some of you may disagree with that last statement. That’s okay. I don’t mind letting you be wrong.)

I did not read “Ghost Rider” with any regularity as a kid, so I wouldn’t call myself a real fan. After seeing Ghost Rider: The Movie, yesterday, I must say I feel sorry for those who are fans.

What a terrible movie! The dialogue makes “Seventh Heaven” look like “The West Wing.” The only actor who seems to be able to pull it off at all is Sam Elliott, but that guy can make a beef commercial voice-over sound like it was written by Elmore Leonard. Nicolas Cage’s Johnny Blaze evokes Elvis (ooooh, shocker!) in both characterization and costume. As I said, I didn’t regularly read “Ghost Rider,” but I also don’t recall Johnny Blaze possessing the inexplicable quirk of “sipping” jelly beans out of martini glasses or being a devotee of the Carpenters. Plus Cage is just bad. This is less apparent, however, whenever he shares the screen with Donal Logue or Eva Mendes, who appear to have thrown out all of their previous theatrical training and attended the prestigious Andie MacDowell School of Acting specifically for this movie. Mendes is absolutely wooden as Cage’s love interest, but at least she looks good -- so much so, in fact, that her cleavage may actually have separate billing (and, frankly, gives a far more effective performance).

Story discrepancies abound. Nicolas Cage is safe from the bad guy demons in a cemetery because they cannot step on “hallowed ground.” Not long after this revelation, we see one of the demons kill a priest inside a church. (Huh?)
I think this movie was pushed forward before the script was ready because comic-book fan Nic Cage wanted to make a superhero movie before he was too old. (He may have just missed it.)

The special effects are pretty cool, if a little inconsistent, but, at times, they only seem to confuse the story more. When in full Ghost-Rider-mode, the motorcycle explodes windows it passes, melts a trail in the asphalt, and even fries a Gila monster at one point. And there aren’t even any bad guys at the time. I wonder what Ghost Rider’s deductible is on his superhero liability policy?

Basically, Ghost Rider was an hour and fifty-five minutes of my life that I can never get back. If you’re that curious, wait for it to be released on DVD, then wait for your neighbor/friend/cousin to rent it and ask to borrow it.

Do not spend money on this movie! It’ll only encourage them.

Failure to Launch (2006)

Synopsis from IMDb : At 35, Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) has an interesting job, a hip car, a passion for sailing, and a great house - trouble is, he lives with his parents (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw). They want him out, so they hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), an "interventionist," who has a formula in these cases: chance encounter, get him to ask her out, involve him in a trauma, meet his friends and get their nod, delay sex, have him teach her something, then launch him. It's worked up to now, but this gets complicated when Tripp thinks she's getting too serious and one of his pals is attracted to Paula's deadpan, semi-alcoholic roommate, who's plagued by a mockingbird. Too many secrets may scrub the launch, and what if Paula really likes him? Who can intervene then?

Well, it's better than Ghost Rider.
Oh, be forewarned. I would have avoided this movie altogether if someone had simply warned be about one scene by saying the following four words: "Terry Bradshaw's naked backside." (Of course, some of you freaks are probably into that sort of thing.) That scene alone was as scary as Ghost Rider wanted to be.

Last weekend for Performance Now's 42nd Street. I highly recommend it.

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