Of course it sucked! – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

 

Nicolas Cage. The name conjures scenes from brilliant films like “Adaptation.” and “Lord of War”; awesome films like “The Rock” and “Face/Off”;  fairly decent films like “City of Angels” and “The Weather Man”; and  SHITTY movies like “Next”, “The Wicker Man”, “Season of the Witch”, Drive Angry” and “Trespass” among others.  There’s the rare occurrence where Nick appears in a great film every now and again (“Kick-Ass” is the only film that comes to mind right now). But for the past five or so years, his name has become synonymous for his laughably awful acting, his near-parodies of his trademark bitch fits, and of course, starring in incredibly bad movies. Like “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”.

For those who aren’t aware, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” is the sequel (like we needed one!) to the 2007 film “Ghost Rider” which starred Nick as the title character. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero (or should I say, antihero) of the same name, “Ghost Rider” was one of Columbia Pictures’ attempts at capitalizing at the success of its “Spider-Man” franchise and challenging Twentieth Century Fox at their game of adapting famous comic books to the big screen.  As an on-again, off-again reader of comics, I actually liked Ghost Rider. His head was a fucking skull on FIRE , he rode a bad-ass bike with wheels of FIRE, and he fought his enemies with chains and FIRE! Yeah, he was a fiery dude.  But somehow, I lost interest in the character since Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” (which was blatantly inspired by Ghost Rider, by the way) came out in the mid-90s.

Of course, when the first “Ghost Rider” film came out, I just HAD to see it! The special effects with Ghost Rider riding his bike looked fucking incredible. And I still rated Nicolas Cage as a great actor, with the exception of his laughable performance in “The Wicker Man” a year earlier (you can see examples of this performance on YouTube, by the way). And it was Ghost friggin’ Rider on the big screen at long last, so it HAD to be good, right? And besides, Eva Mendes was in it. I don’t remember what her role (I mean, significance) was in the film but….she was there. She…was….there. Oh yeah!

Despite all that (in a nutshell), the movie sucked! But despite the bad reviews it received, the film was successful in the box office. As a result, a sequel was made – “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. I assume that after a year of bad films (“Drive Angry”, “Season of the Witch” and “Trespass” from last year), Nicolas Cage must have figured that this sequel would be the jump-start that his career desperately needs right now. Unfortunately, it’s just one more film flushed down the drain in the toilet bowl that is now his career.

But enough with the exposition. Let’s get started with the review. Please forgive me if my recollection of the film is sketchy, but then again, the film itself was so shitty that it’s easy to forget the events in it anyway.

 

PLOT

Johnny Blaze, the stunt motorcyclist who made a deal with the devil to save his dad (in Part 1) which resulted in him becoming the Ghost Rider, is on the run. Is it from his past? Is it from his curse? Is it from the IRS? I’m not entirely sure, and the film itself doesn’t take time to answer my burning questions. Sigh. Anyway, a Frenchman named Moreau meets up with Johnny in Eastern Europe. He persuades him to help locate the son of a troubled woman named Nadya. The boy, named Danny, is captured during a fight between Ghost Rider and a gang of thugs hired by Roarke (a.k.a. the Devil). Roarke calls the leader of the group, an asshole named Ray Carrigan, to speak to the boy via cell phone. When Carrigan puts the phone to Danny’s ear. Roarke mutters some unintelligible shit and voila, Danny is possessed! (And remember kids, don’t accept phone calls from strangers!).

 

Roarke’s plan, if I could comprehend it, is to use Danny’s body as a vessel for an upcoming pagan ceremony in which the flesh will be discarded and the Antichrist will be born. And of course, it’s up to Johnny to stop him. Along his journey, he encounters a clandestine group of monks led by Methodius, who was once an angel from heaven who was betrayed (By God? By another angel? Like nearly everything in the film, it’s not explained) and cast down to Earth. According to Moreau, he was once known as the Spirit of Vengeance (or how Moreau says it: “The SPIRIT OF VAGENCE”). And while Johnny tries desperately to rid himself of his curse, he must contend with Carrigan who, thanks to Roarke, is now gifted with supernatural powers. Will Danny be saved? Will Johnny be freed from his curse for good? Will there ever be a Season 4 to the brilliant HBO animated series “Todd McFarlane’s Spawn”? Time can only tell.

 

CHARACTERS

Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider – Nicolas Cage

Moreau – Idris Elba

Ray Carrigan – Johnny Whitworth

Roarke/The Devil – Ciaran Hinds

Methodius – Christopher Lambert

Nadya – Violante Placido

 

MY THOUGHTS: From the very beginning, I knew that this film will ultimately suck. And in that right, it doesn’t disappoint in its own disappointment. The film tries to be distinctively darker than its predecessor, but is undermined by its PG-13 rating. And to make matters even worse, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are known in Hollywood as Neveldine/Taylor, directed the film. Their high-octane, hyper-visual directing style worked well with their “mindless-fun” action films “Crank”, “Crank: High Voltage” (both of which I enjoyed immensely) and “Gamer” (which was disappointing as fuck). So you would think that their unique film-making style would add a dimension of awesome to “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. Nope, it doesn’t! Instead, we’re left with action scenes that look so fake, it throws you immediately out of the film. Not to mention, there’s a couple of WTF scenes involving Nicolas Cage/Ghost Rider that looks like something out of a MTV2 death metal music video (and no, I don’t mean that in a good way). The special effects become monotonous and unappealing very quickly (more particularly in the character of Ghost Rider) , and not even Neveldine/Taylor’s directing could help change that. The story runs out of gas after the first couple of action sequences, and the minor characters are uninteresting to say the least. Not even Christopher Lambert, a.k.a. Connor McLeod from “Highlander” and Raiden from “Mortal Kombat” (the GREATEST VIDEO-GAME MOVIE EVER MADE), failed to interest me. The one exception would have to be Idris Elba, who somehow manages to steal the show from Nicolas Cage. And speaking of the devil himself, Nick delivers a superbly LAME performance as Johnny Blaze. Similar to Samuel L. Jackson, Nick plays himself – bored, tired, bitchy at unexpected moments, and unfunny. Not even telling yourself that Nick won a fucking Academy Award for Best Actor in 1996 will help you when you see his performance in this film. Had my expectations been too high for this film, I would have bashed the hell out of “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” even further. But as I said before, I knew it would suck. In my honest opinion, I expected it to be a lot worse. But it is what it is. A bad movie. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  Skip this shit. If you’re an Idris Elba fan, go watch “The Wire”. It’s still the greatest TV show ever! If you’re a Christopher Lambert fan, go watch “Highlander” or “Mortal Kombat”. If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan, go watch any one of his better films. If you’re a “Ghost Rider” fan (for some Godforsaken reason), stick with the original. Besides, Eva Mendes is in it  ;D

MY RATING – 1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked!”)

– Matthew

See it if you really have to – Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds (2012)

Groan. Another year, another Tyler Perry movie. Everyone’s (except mine) favourite actor/director/author/screenwriter/playwright/producer/songwriter/cross-dresser (ahem) has returned with his ELEVENTH film “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds”. I admit that I’ve only seen a few of his films, and I confess that they were actually really good. Like everyone else, I was introduced to Tyler Perry through his first (and still highly popular) 2005 film “Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman”. Also, I was introduced to his ‘alter ego of sorts’, the pistol-totin’, big, bad, grandmamma-jamma Madea. Viewers got a combination of a hilarious comedy with Madea and an emotional drama involving her granddaughter – the aforementioned “Mad Black Woman” – and her husband,  the “Punk-Ass Motherfucker”. (I don’t care if he changed at the end of the film. He treated his wife like SHIT!  I HATED the hell out of that guy! But I guess that’s the initial idea).

I remember looking at Tyler’s second film ” Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion”, but somewhere in the film (not the beginning, mind you!), I fazed out. However, I do remember “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?”, which I admittedly enjoyed. The main reason I did was because of neo-soul/R&B superstar Jill Scott. I mean, who would have imagined that she could deliver such a superb acting performance? She out-acted Janet Jackson and Tyler Perry in the film, and that’s saying something!

Since then, I missed, or should I say skipped, Tyler’s later films. Not even his surprising cameo appearance in the AWESOME reboot of “Star Trek” made me desire to watch ANY film with the text “Tyler Perry”, “Tyler Perry’s (INSERT TITLE HERE)”, “A Film by Tyler Perry”, “Written and Directed by Tyler Perry”. “Produced by Tyler Perry” etc. etc.  Yet by some sort of divine intervention, I watched his latest film “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds”. Before viewing it, I heard through the grapevine that this was his BEST movie to date. I also heard that people CRIED while watching this film!

So with a hardened heart and a sarcastic mind, I set out to watch “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds”. Is it truly Tyler’s best movie? Has he truly matured as both a director and an actor? And will his previous film “Tyler Perry’s (God, putting his fucking name before the titles of his films get really fucking annoying to write!) Madea’s Big Happy Family” ever get a consensus on Rotten Tomatoes? I don’t know….and I don’t give a shit. But I’ll try……(fake cries). Lord knows, I’ll try!

PLOT

In “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds”, Tyler Perry plays Wesley Deeds, the entrepreneur of his late father’s company, the Deeds Corporation. Through the opening narration by Tyler himself, it’s revealed that Wesley was groomed for years by his parents to run the company. His younger brother Walter desires to run the company, even though he’s irresponsible and has a really short temper. Despite his controlling mother and pissed-off brother, Wesley’s life is seemingly perfect. And he’s about to share it with his bride-to-be Natalie, who has grown accustomed to Wesley’s predictability in his daily life.

However, Wesley’s ‘perfect’ life is turned upside down when he meets Lindsey Wakefield, a single mother and cleaning woman for the Deeds Corporation. Her life is the complete opposite of Wesley. While Wesley worries about which tie goes with what shirt, Lindsey is evicted from her home. Things get from bad to worse as she’s forced to work the night shift (just to make ends meet) while her 6-year-old daughter Ariel has to stay unattended. Not surprisingly, Wesley meets Lindsey and feels concern over her plight. He helps her out by getting her a place to stay. Not surprisingly, a ‘platonic’ relationship develops between the two, which arouses the curiosity of Natalie. While all of this is taking place, he still yearns to live his own life, based on his own decisions and not someone else’s. Will he finally get his wish? Or is he just fooling himself? And the audience for that matter?

CHARACTERS

Wesley Deeds – Tyler “My name is a label now” Perry

Lindsey Wakefield – Thandie “she’s actually British” Newton

Natalie – Gabrielle “one of the good things about Bad Boys 2” Union

Walter Deeds – Brian “I get to play the asshole” J. White

Wilimena Deeds – Phylicia “the mother from The Cosby Show” Rashad

MY THOUGHTS: A protagonist with worries on the brain, relatives giving him a hard time, a chance encounter with a perfect stranger that somehow changes his life for the better, some sort of conflict, a resolution where tears are shed,  and then, the happy ending. As you may have guessed from its plot, “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” is exactly what’d you expect from a Tyler Perry film.  Unfortunately, that’s all you’re going to get! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the movie sucks. I mean, the performances were okay, the direction was okay, and the story was….ooookay. But the main problem I had with the film is similar to its protagonist…. it’s TOO PREDICTABLE! You can predict nearly everything that takes place in the film, making it less engaging and less rewarding to the viewer. There’s only a few surprises to the film – the main one being a brief, PG-13-level sex scene between Tyler Perry and Gabrielle Union. I was startled when I saw it, not because it came in (Get it?  ‘Came’ in) such an awkward moment in the film, but that it was in a FUCKING TYLER PERRY MOVIE!  I honestly don’t think the congregation at his church (whatever it is, and if he still goes) would accept Brother Tyler dry-humping Sister Gabrielle in a cliched sex scene, but hey, what can I say? It’s only entertainment! Overall, while Tyler has indeed matured as an actor and director, he needs to lessen the predictability. I give the guy credit. He has stories that he feels passionate enough to tell. But with a few more twists and turns, and a lot more originality, this film would have been greater than anyone would have expected. But due to a formula of generic melodrama that continues to please the ‘fans’ up to this day, “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” is, unfortunately, just another typical film by Tyler Perry.

SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM?  If you hate Tyler Perry movies, avoid this one at all costs. If you love them, then by all means, go see it. Nothing that I’ve written would stop you from going to see it anyway. If you love the music of the late, great 2Pac (like I do), then you’ll feel offended (as I was) by the censorship of his hit single “How do U Want It” (featuring K-Ci & Jo-Jo). Yes, it’s a PG-13 Tyler Perry movie, so it’s understandable that the n-word should be censored (and in this case, replaced with a ridiculous DJ scratch). But why couldn’t they have just played the CLEAN VERSION of the song, which already had the n-word cut out? Beats me. But seeing Tyler Perry dance to this song is just as awkward as his sex scene. Damn, I can’t wait to see what he does next. Groan.

MY RATING – 2 1/2 out of 5 stars (“See it if you really have to”)

– Matthew