Actor Nicolas Cage has a lot in common with his superhero counterpart Ghost Rider featured once again on the big screen in the pseudo-sequel Spirit of Vengeance. Much like the daemon-infested crime fighter Cage has the power to make anything he touches explode into a wild blazing inferno thanks to his unique performance techniques. Cage does not simply deliver a line he detonates it; He does not simply react to his co-stars he executes an interpretive dance; He does not simply throw a punch he unleashes physical armageddon. Occasionally the style provokes unintentional laugher but in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance anything less would be unrealistic.
The new adventure finds Ghost Rider aka Johnny Blaze a former stunt man cursed after begging the Devil to save his father's life hiding out in Eastern Europe where he believes his soul-sucking alter-ego can remain silent. But Blaze's TLC session is cut short when Moreau (Idris Elba) an Algerian priest with connections to the Devil's latest diabolical plan arrives. Seems Satan who walks the Earth under the alias Roarke is hellbent on inhabiting Danny the young son of Nadya who made her own deal with the Prince of Darkness. If he succeeds Roarke will continue existing in the world of man—so of course it's up to Ghost Rider to put the kibosh on the end-of-the-world scenario.
If you didn't see the first Ghost Rider movie don't fret; the sequel isn't confined by any established mythology nor is it that concerned with the logic of its own story. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor employ a manic eye for action displayed in earlier films like Crank and Gamer shooting motorcycle chases shootouts and flaming skull transformations with adrenaline-infused camerawork that should leave anyone susceptible to motion sickness running to the bathroom. The 3-D transfer of the movie is a non-factor the post-convereted stereoscopic effects rarely intrude on the zippy camerawork. Unlike the Crank films Ghost Rider contends with its script dragging when the movie tries to explain what the heck is going on and only picking up when the directing duo and Nic Cage are allowed to play.
A host of solid supporting actors breath traces of life into half-baked villain and characters—Ciaran Hinds stands out as Roarke playing him like a forgotten Dick Tracy baddie—but at the end of the day Spirit of Vengeance is all Cage's show. With the fire of hell burning inside Blaze is in a constant fight against himself and Cage embodies the monstrous struggle with cockeyed rage and growling vocals. Neveldine and Taylor make the most of their larger-than-life lead and Cage spends most of the film teetering on the edge ballistic fury. That's not to say the movie doesn't take its quiet moments–a scene between Cage and Elba where Blaze begs Moreau to remove the Ghost Rider curse is surprisingly dramatic—but the movie has goals: to rattle you at 100 miles per hour.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance isn't as fun flashy or poignant as some of its recent comic book contemporaries but for 90 minutes Neveldine and Taylor revel in the ridiculous wringing their character and lead actor for every ounce of mayhem. This is a greasy gritty grunge Ghost Rider purposefully disgusting and low-fi. While a stronger emphasis on story would only help the spotty action flick Spirit of Vengeance proves a decent alternative to the faithful boyscouts and friendly neighborhoood superheroes that fill our big screen blockbusters. Ghost Rider belches magma pisses fire and plays nasty—you probably already know if this movie is for you.
This stunning looking Merchant Ivory production is set in remote southern India in 1937 when Englishmen ruled the colony and had a life-changing impact on the local people both personally and professionally. Henry Moores (Linus Roache) is one such man with plans to create a spice plantation in Kerala which requires the erection of a new road through the mountainous region. He enlists the help of a crafty villager T.K. (Rahul Bose) who works hard for his new boss by convincing his people this is a good thing. Henry’s involvement with the locals doesn’t stop there as he carries on a clandestine--and forbidden--affair with his married house servant Sarjani (Nandita Das). When Henry’s own wife (Jennifer Ehle) and son arrive from England the plot thickens. Sarjani can’t let go emotionally and is threatened with death for her betrayal; she wants Henry’s protection from her husband. She also pleads for help from T.K. now caught in the middle between the traditions and morals of his country and his own career ambitions. The ultimate decisions Henry and T.K. are forced to make could have great human and political consequences. Law and Order star Linus Roache returns to his comfort zone in English art-house cinema in past movies like Priest capturing just the right balance between an ambitious man looking for upward mobility professionally and satisfaction personally against a turbulent backdrop of emerging nationalism in India. Love scenes with the gorgeous Nandita Das are sensual and believable--the stuff of classically tragic movie romance. Das is a real find. Not only does the camera love her she acts with great poignancy as a woman trapped in traditions her heart will not let her follow. The other big female role goes to Jennifer Ehle a fine actress stuck with a rather thankless role as “the wife.” Along with Das the other standout in the cast is Indian superstar Rahul Bose who makes his “right hand man” conflicted and convincing as a man smack in the middle of two worlds with only one way out caught up in events drifting out of his control. Often foreign directors taking on their first English language projects flounder as something gets lost in the translation and they stray too far from roots they are comfortable with. For Indian director Santosh Sivan the choice of this fascinating if somewhat soapy story is perfect. Based on an Israeli short film Red Roofs the setting characters and time period have been changed but its universal truths remain with Sivan working in a new language while shooting in his native land. He successfully walks the fine line between a starkly realistic approach and melodrama landing somewhere in the middle. Perhaps key to his triumph over the language barriers is the international feel of the whole enterprise and the choice of Indian actors who are able to make the leap themselves. But without question the key ingredient to Sivan’s vision is his own stunning jaw-droppingly gorgeous cinematography. When director and cameraman are the same the results at least in this case are really something to watch.
America's patriotic spirit is still going strong: Touchstone Home Entertainment's Pearl Harbor DVD has set an industry record by selling 3.7 million copies after one week on the shelves, grossing more than $130 million. The 60th anniversary commemorative double-disc edition tops Universal's Thanksgiving release of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which sold 3.5 million units in its debut week.
Tom Hanks, last seen in Cast Away, will be starring in DreamWorks Pictures' Terminal, where he'll play a Balkan immigrant forced to live in an airport lounge after his country falls apart. Hanks will also be starring in Sam Mendes' The Road to Perdition for the studio.
Barely out of the saddle, CBS's The Early Show host Bryant Gumbel presented his longtime gal pal Hilary Quinlan with a large ring and asked her to marry him, according to Pagesix.com. Gumbel's messy divorce from his former wife, June, has only been final for three months.
Three generations of the Douglas family--Kirk, Michael and Cameron--will be making a film together called Smack, a comedy about three generations of a dysfunctional family. It'll mark the first time Kirk and Michael have appeared in a film together and will be Cameron's first major film role.
The online music provider Pressplay will be the first online music subscription service to allow users to transfer music to their own CDs. Backed by Sony and Universal, Pressplay, with a library of more than 100,000 tracks, will launch at the end of the year, and joins other online music services, including MusicNet and Listen.com.
Napster, the original online music-swapping site, and the record industry spent another day in court, hashing out the details on court-ordered, copyright infringement restrictions. The sticking points remain on how to share the burden to prevent illegal song exchanges.
Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, soul singer Al Green and bandleader/pianist Count Basie will be among the musicians honored at the 44th annual Grammy Awards next year, as they will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards. The Grammys will air Feb. 27 on CBS.
The Patrice Chereau English-language feature Intimacy won the coveted Prix Louis Delluc for the best French film of 2001. It was also the winner of the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year.
Prince Charles won an award for his watercolors at the Florence Int'l Biennale Exhibition of Contemporary Art. The man who would be king's award-winning 20 lithographs depict his country estates.
Indian actor Ashok Kumar, considered the Grandfather of Indian cinema and star of more than 250 films, died Monday of complications due to old age. He was 90. One daughter, Preeti Ganguly, survives Kumar.