BARE BONES: GHOST RIDER (2007)

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GHOST RIDER (2007)

Comic book based Ghost Rider is a silly and uneven supernatural/action flick, about stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) who makes a deal with the Devil (Peter Fonda) to save his sick father (Brett Cullen) and becomes Satan’s bounty hunter. When the Devil’s son (Wes Bentley) rebels and seeks to enslave the earth and overthrow his father, The Ghost Rider blazes into action against the forces of evil…for the forces of evil.

Nic Cage gives his usual performance switching back and forth between somnambulant and insane. Eva Mendes is pretty and hot, but not much else, as his love interest Roxy. Wes Bentley is almost laughable as the Green Day member-looking villain, Black Heart…and the lack of a strong bad guy really weakens this comic book based tale. In supporting roles, Peter Fonda is suitable creepy as Old Scratch and the always good Sam Elliott appears, basically to deliver exposition as a former Ghost Rider, but still delivers the film’s best performance. Ghost Rider’s pacing is as uneven as it’s tone and the film comes across as hokey as it’s overused CGI. The Crow mixed the supernatural and the comic book just perfectly, by taking the material very seriously and playing it straight. Rider misses the mark by choosing a more campy approach and that keeps the supernatural elements from being effective. Director Mark Steven Johnson, from his own script, takes a much lighter approach than his Daredevil flick, which makes no sense considering this story has even darker elements. It’s as if he couldn’t take the spooky material seriously and decided to just have fun with it and that neutralizes any impact. The film should be intense and spooky, but it’s campy and silly. Johnson has a good visual eye, so at least there’s that and the FX are adequate, but most of the CGI looks like CGI…and some of the action set pieces look like theme park stunt exhibits from one of Johnny Blaze’s stunt shows. The movie always looks like a movie and thus never really draws us in to it’s world.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: DAREDEVIL DIRECTOR’S CUT (2004)

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DAREDEVIL: DIRECTOR’S CUT (2004)

Daredevil is a film that splits the fanboys/girls right down the middle. I personally like the film but, I never read the comic so, I am not that familiar with the details of the mythos or protectively endeared to the material. The director’s cut is a bit darker and a little more violent which does give it more of an edge and definitely improves on the original. Daredevil tells the story of Matt Murdoch, (Ben Affleck) a Hell’s Kitchen lawyer who lost his eyesight as a boy but, all his other senses became incredibly enhanced including, being able to use sound like a form of sonar to see. Matt also takes to the streets at night as the masked vigilante, Daredevil to protect the people and avenge the murder of his boxer father by a local gangster after refusing to take a fall. Daredevil seeks to stop a mysterious crime boss named The Kingpin (the late Michael Clark Duncan) while crossing paths with a beautiful and yet mysterious heiress, Elektra (Jennifer Garner) who may be more then she seems. Obviously the fates of all the characters collide including a deranged yet lethal hit-man named, Bullseye (Colin Farrell). I don’t get all the hate lobbed this flicks way. It’s a fun enough superhero flick and while not perfect, it does entertain especially in the director’s cut which also adds some nice character depth. There is also an added sub plot involving Matt’s efforts to prove the innocence of a drug addict (Coolio) who is accused of murdering a hooker. This subplot gives us more insight as to how deep Matt’s convictions are and how far he will go to support them. The new cut also adds a bit more violence most notably the fight between Bullseye and Elektra is a bit nastier and has more intensity and impact. Mark Steven Johnson directs the film fine. The action is well staged and shot, nothing ground-breaking but, you can see influences from the Hong Kong cinema and there definitely seems to be a bit of “The Crow” thrown in in terms of look and mood. The visuals are nice and give the film a comic book tone and the only drawback is some very noticeable CGI during some of the action scenes that keep us from being completely drawn in. Ben Affleck is just fine as the blind lawyer turned vigilante. He gets a lot of flak but, I think his performance is moody and fits the character. Only a few of his scenes does he fall back into the smarmy acting style that earned him his critics and that’s early on, mostly when he first meets Elektra. And speaking or her, Garner is beautiful and handles her action scenes well but, she doesn’t quite come across as the fiery Greek heiress with the secret identity of her own. She’s fine in the romantic scenes but, once she becomes the vengeful assassin Electra, the role needed someone with a bit more of a smoldering intensity. As for the rest of the cast, Favreau is funny and charming, as always, as Matt’s oblivious law partner/ sidekick, Franklin. Michael Clark Duncan is well cast as the villainous crime boss, Kingpin. He exudes power, threat and strength beyond his massive frame and plays the role with just a bit of a wink. Colin Farrell is a hoot as the over the top Irish hit man, Bullseye. He is having a blast with the material and is both threatening and fun to watch as he skates the edge of camp without loosing the character’s lethal edge. And Joe Pantoliano seems a little out of place as an ace reporter looking to crack the true story of the mythical Daredevil. He’s played so many wise guys and smart asses that he doesn’t seem quite comfortable as a straight arrow despite giving a perfectly suitable performance. Add a cameo by Kevin Smith and David Keith as Matt’s dad, boxer Jack “The Devil” Murdoch and you have a suitably fine, but not perfect, cast for a dark tinged comic book flick. Even with an added half hour of footage… original cut is 103 minutes; director’s 134 minutes… the director’s cut moves along briskly and is never dull and the added material only helps enhance the film and it’s characters. The Coolio sub plot does tie into the Kingpin storyline eventually so, while it’s omission in the theatrical version wasn’t missed, it does fit in here unobtrusively. There is also a larger part for Murdoch’s secretary, Karen (Ellen Pompeo) who seems to have an eye for Franklin which gives Favreau a few nice moments where he doesn’t have to mug for the camera. All in all it’s a decent though, much maligned comic book movie, now become a good comic book flick with the added material. It’s not great, there are flaws, but, there are much worse comic themed movies such as director Johnson’s own Ghost Rider flick with Nic Cage and it’s even worse sequel. So, maybe it was time Daredevil and it’s leading man got cut a little slack. There’s also a really cool soundtrack too that I’ll take a look at below!

3 solid men without fear !

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DAREDEVIL: THE ALBUM

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The Daredevil Soundtrack has a fun mix of moody andhard rocking songs on it and was also the first time I heard Evanescence who, are now one of my favorites and there are two of their songs here. We get Rob Zombie rocking with Drowning Pool on the theme “The Man Without Fear” and an assortment of good tunes from Fuel, Seether, Chevelle, Hoobastank and Nickleback… who, like the film, get a lot of flack but, I like their fun, down and dirty party Rock N Roll just fine. Not every band has to have some deep soulful message behind their music, some just want to have a good time and I think the fun they are having comes across in their songs. I came of age in the 80s and most of the bands back then were like that. But back to The DD soundtrack… It’ a really good selection of songs with some great bands at a time when they were new and fresh. A fun toe-tapping soundtrack with some really good stuff. Not every song is great but, all together a strong soundtrack and a good time listen.

1. Won’t Back Down – Fuel
2. For You – The Calling
3. Bleed For Me – Saliva
4. Hang On – Seether
5. Learn the Hard Way – Nickelback
6. The Man Without Fear – Drowning Pool feat. Rob Zombie
7. Right Now – Nappy Roots feat. Marcos Curiel of P.O.D.
8. Evening Rain – Moby
9. Bring Me To Life – Evanescence
10. Until You’re Reformed – Chevelle
11. Right Before Your Eyes – Hoobastank
12. Fade Out/In – Palo Alto
13. Caught In The Rain – Revis
14. High Wire Escape Artist – BOYSETSFIRE
15. Raise Your Rifles – Autopilot Off
16. Daredevil Theme (Blind Justice Remix) – Graeme Revell and Mike Einziger
17. My Immortal – Evanescence
18. Sad Exchange – finger eleven
19. Simple Lies – Endo
20. Let Go – 12 Stones

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Not perfectly cast but, the future Mrs. Affleck looked damn fine in tight jeans and tight leather!

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