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Ghost Rider 1 & 2

Ghost Rider (February 15/07)

Thoroughly dull from start to finish, Ghost Rider is undoubtedly one of the worst comic book adaptations to hit theaters since the genre's recent resurgence - as writer/director Mark Steven Johnson is ultimately unable to offer the viewer anyone or anything worth caring about over the course of the film's interminable, egregiously drawn-out running time. Nicholas Cage stars as Johnny Blaze, a showboating stunt motorcyclist who - having signed away his soul to the devil (Peter Fonda) in exchange for his father's health - must periodically assume the guise of the title character and perform Mephistopheles' evil bidding. Johnson has infused Ghost Rider with a relentlessly campy vibe that's reflected in virtually every aspect of the production - from the laughably overwrought dialogue to the superficially-developed characters to the flat-out silly look of the central character - with the end result a film that's destined to provoke unintentional laughter and Mystery Science Theater 3000-style mocking from audiences. That Cage delivers virtually the same tired, ultra-quirky performance that he's long-since cornered the market on certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the inclusion of several seriously illogical plot holes - with the most glaring example of this undoubtedly the age difference between Cage and co-star/love interest Eva Mendes (their respective characters are portrayed as teenagers in a prologue, and yet they somehow grow up with a 10+ year difference between them). Ghost Rider is nothing short of a complete mess, and it seems highly unlikely that even the most forgiving comic book buff will find much of anything worth embracing here.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (June 12/12)

An atrocious sequel to 2007's atrocious Ghost Rider, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance follows Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze as he attempts to save a little boy (Fergus Riordan's Danny) from the clutches of no less than the Devil (Ciarán Hinds) himself. It's clear immediately that directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are looking to distance themselves from Mark Steven Johnson's lackluster original film, as the movie boasts precisely the sort of pervasively (and aggressively) over-the-top sense of style that one has come to expect from the Crank filmmakers. And while the pair's unapologetically broad sensibilities initially seem somewhat promising - especially when compared to the high-camp atmosphere of the first movie - Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance eventually (and perhaps inevitably) begins to morph into a seriously trying and hopelessly uninvolving mess that features an almost stunning lack of compelling elements (ie there's nothing here designed to capture and sustain the viewer's interest, with the one-dimensional characters and wafer-thin plot ranking high on the film's list of undercooked attributes). It ultimately goes without saying that the movie's problems are compounded by Neveldine and Taylor's consistently incompetent directorial choices, with the duo's relentless use of handheld camerawork and rapid-fire editing proving instrumental in cementing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance's place as an utterly unwatchable piece of work. (It's also worth noting that Neveldine and Taylor's larger-than-life modus operandi apparently doesn't extend to Cage's performance, as the actor delivers a curiously subdued turn, with the exception of one gleefully broad sequence, that stands in sharp contrast to the ridiculously excessive bent of the remainder of the proceedings.)

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About the Blu-ray: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray armed with an impressive assortment of bonus features, including a 90 minute (!) behind-the-scenes documentary and an in-depth video commentary with directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
© David Nusair