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.
When producers of the Step Up franchise first announced that the third chapter in the urban dance saga would be filmed in 3D that increasingly gimmicky audience-baiting tool so popular these days in Hollywood reactions ranged from ambivalence to ridicule. I myself was rather skeptical having been subjected to my share of hastily produced 3D monstrosities a la The Last Airbender. But after watching the film I must concede that the trendy format actually acquits itself reasonably well in Step Up 3D. I only wish I could speak the same about the film's more traditional cinematic components like plot dialogue and acting.
Indeed it’s puzzling why director Jon Chu even bothered to include them. Even more so than its predecessor Step Up 2: The Streets Step Up 3D is fashioned almost purely as a showcase for its talented ensemble of dancers who shake and shimy their way through a variety of elaborate routines and to a pulsing soundtrack of over 50 different songs. In between the dance numbers all of which are genuinely impressive Chu strains awkwardly to maintain the pretense of Step Up 3D being an actual movie and not simply the extended music video we all know it to be. When the music stops the film flounders.
The storyline which marries extraordinary dancing with extraordinarily bad acting involves Step Up 2 holdover Moose (Adam Sevani) joining a team of dancers in their quest to save The Vault a vast New York City loft where dance-loving refugees from the street can practice their craft without having to worry about being harassed by cops the traditional enemies of the urban arts. Its idealistic founder Luke (Rick Malambri) is behind on his mortgage payments and the only way to earn enough money to avoid foreclosure is for the Pirates (as The Vault’s collection of dancers are known) to win a series of quasi-underground “battles ” in which different crews are pitted against each other in loser-goes-home dance duels.
How are these battles judged? What are the rules? I have no idea but compulsory elements appear to include lots of aggressive gesticulating toward the camera lens several menacing glances and at least one acrobatic maneuver followed by a provocative gesture -- e.g. a triple backflip with a double crotch-grab. Step Up 3D certainly doesn’t waste any time on such trivial questions not when there are inane subplots to resolve: Moose is struggling to balance his love of dance with busy life as a freshman at NYU and his best friend Camille (Alyson Stoner) is feeling neglected; Luke is hesitant to follow his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker; sultry newcomer (Sharni Vinson) is torn between conflicting loyalties to her old family at home and her new one at the vault; and some vindictive prettyboy named Julien (Joe Slaughter) from a rival crew is conspiring to bring them all down.
Who will prevail? Eventually it all comes down to Step Up 3D’s climactic Final Battle. By that time however the war between music video and ensemble drama has already reduced it to rubble.
Top Story: Jackson Weaves Voodoo Magic Against Enemies?
He dangled his child off a hotel balcony and admitted to sleeping with boys in his bed. Now Reuters reports that according to an article in Vanity Fair's March issue, Michael Jackson paid $150,000 to put a voodoo curse on his enemies, including director Steven Spielberg and music mogul David Geffen. The Vanity Fair article also says Jackson underwent a "blood bath" as part of the ritual (which took place in 2000 in Switzerland) and ordered his then-business adviser Myung-Ho Lee to wire $150,000 to a bank in Mali for a voodoo chief who sacrificed 42 cows for the ceremony . The magazine also reports Jackson wears a prosthetic nose and a wig and his extravagant lifestyle and declining record sales have left him $240 million in debt.
And Baby Makes Four
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and wife Jessica welcomed their second child, a son named Julian Kal, The Associated Press reports. The six-pound, seven-ounce baby was born Saturday in New York and joins older sister, Sascha, 2.
Holy Smoke, Batman! A Reunion!
AP reports CBS will air the reunion movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, a behind-the-scenes look at the popular 1960s TV show Batman. The show's stars Adam West, now 74, and his dynamic sidekick Burt Ward, 57, will host the special and give some insights into the wacky antics that went on in making the show. It airs Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.
Dating, Newlywed Games Get New Look
Going back to the basics, NBC is developing new primetime versions of the popular early '70s games shows The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game for the 2003-04 season, Variety reports. "In terms of relationship shows, these are the godfathers of them all," Russ Krasnoff, president of programming at Sony Pictures TV, told Variety. "They're just simple, clean, classic formats about relationships and how well people know each other."
Singer Anastacia Has Cancer Surgery
Pop singer Anastacia underwent surgery to remove cancer from her breast and to reconstruct it. Her doctor told Reuters, "Her prognosis is good, as are her spirits, which figures into any patient's successful recovery." She will begin a six-week course of radiation therapy in the coming weeks.
Actor Horst Buchholz Dies
German actor Horst Buchholz, best known for his roles in The Magnificent Seven and Life is Beautiful, died Monday of pneumonia in Berlin. He was 69.
The Eagles Say Farewell…Again
This is the absolute last time--they mean it! Even after stating that their 1994 Hell Freezes Over tour was to be their last, the Eagles will embark on yet another farewell tour, starting May 9 in Richmond, Va. Hey, if the Rolling Stones can do it, why can't they?
ROLE CALL: Black Back to HBO; "Grimm" For Gilliam; "Giants" Among Us
According to Variety reports: Reuniting for the first time since the critically acclaimed HBO cult fave comedy show Tenacious D, Jack Black and his band will return to HBO to develop the half-hour comedy Black Market Music, about a group of twentysomethings who run a Hollywood record shop. Brazil director Terry Gilliam is taking on a feature film about fairy tale spinners the Brothers Grimm, a $75 million Dimension Films/MGM venture that casts authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as traveling spell busters who claim they can protect townsfolk from enchanted creatures but end up facing a real magical curse instead (uh-oh, was Michael Jackson involved?). Director Peter Kosminsky (White Oleander) will take the reins on the Holocaust drama Giants, which follows a German soldier who tries to save a group of Jewish children from execution by leading them across the Alps with the Nazis hot on their trail.