Updated Feb 16th, 5:15 PM
GHOST RIDER didn't get a press screening by Sony Pictures. There was a Thursday evening promo screening, which is the same as no screening as no one can get a review into the Friday papers when the paper is at the printer.
Non-screened films are usually crap movies dumped into the market with hopes of an opening weekend to, essentially, trailer the DVD. Ghost Rider isn't nearly that bad. It's 20 minutes too long, the effects are cheesy, and it has one of those problems that beset a lot of the Marvel adaptations.
But it's anchored by one of Nicolas Cage's always fun mad Elvis performances and has a strong supporting cast with the likes of Donald Logue, Eva Mendes, Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott. Ghost Rider, for those who haven't read the comic book (that is, people like me) is about a motorcycle stunt rider (Cage) who in his youth sold his soul to Lucifer (Fonda) to save his father's life. This didn't work out well, as deals with the devil usually don't, and years later, the Devil comes to collect, making our hero into Ghost Rider, a flaming skeleton who works as the devil's bounty hunter.
The Devil's son (Wes Bentley, looking like a gay vampire) shows up searching for a mystical soul contract that's been out there for more than a century. Mayhem ensues.
The weird problem that affects Marvel comic books is their habitual creation of heros who don't have eyes. Spider-Man, for example. Ghost Rider for another, his head being a flaming skull. It's a great and striking graphic concept, but it's a comic book idea. It's a lousy movie idea, because a flaming skull has no emotional range, rather like a hero whose face is entirely masked, including his eyes.
Eyes are what they pay movie stars for. It's where we read the emotions. Take that away, and anyone could star in movies.
- J. Harkness
Dir. by Mark Steven Johnson, runs 112 min.
Updated Feb 16th, 3:44 PM
BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA stars Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb as Jesse and Leslie, bullied fifth-graders who retreat into a magical kingdom of Leslie's imagination. Both kids give excellent performances, and the film accurately captures the joy and sorrow of Katherine Paterson's novel, even if Jesse and Leslie's relationship is drawn less fully here. The CGI, though not top-notch, is used sparingly so it's not a distraction, unlike the overpowering score. The biggest flaw may be setting the story in the present; it's a bit hard to believe that a girl who dresses like early Avril Lavigne would spend her days dreaming of palaces in the sky.
- D. Swain
Dir. by Gabor Csupo, runs 95 minutes