Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movie Review: Ghost Rider - Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
 I was looking forward to this sequel as Ghost Rider the original one had been one of my favorites when it released. The Darkest Superhero from the Marvel Stables, Johnny Blaze was truly a phenomenon to watch out for. The first movie was intelligent, humane and totally rocking when it came to high-octane action sequences and grotesque, yet believable villains with interesting superhero strengths that lent itself a touch of difference to the entire good vs evil fight. 

Sad to say, Part –two was a colossal disaster.

Nicolas Cage ought to retire. He looks worse than Clint Eastwood did in his last outing as an actor. (No offence – I think Clint is one of the BEST directors in Hollywood!) Baggy eyes, balding head ( just calling it a receding hairline doesn’t cover it anymore!) and that ever present irritating ham!

Lesson#1: Don’t make a Super-Hero movie with Nicolas Cage ever again. Audience loves a good looking hunk. Ala Chris Evans aka Captain America or the Charming Iron Man Downing Jr.

But the fault ain’t with just poor old Cage. The storyline is insipid, the dialogues feel leaden even as the actors lip sync them with expressionless faces. Villains laughable!! Decay was such a jerk. And the Devil could do with a little more “Sinister” and “Dark” touch, and wait a second, I thought wasn’t he called Mephistopheles? When did he change it to silly sounding “Rourke?”!

Lesson#2: Make sure your villain has an un-pronounceable name that sounds exotic. Preferably starting with “Z” maybe?

And you know what I missed most in this part-2, Eva Mendes! I never thought I will say this, but heck yes, Eva Mendes and Nicolas Cage did bring in some kind of a humane touch to the part-one that was heart- warming.

Lesson #3: Love stories any day make your script livelier as compared to the beaten-to-death track of an anti-Christ born inside a boy whom the dark hero saves and thus redeems himself.

The story is predictable and linear ( except for weird twists when they veer away from the anti-Christ track and get into some cave-ridden country-sides of France where the Rider inside of Cage goes into over-drive while escaping out of the mortal body of Johnny Blaze!) Don’t ask me, the sequences where Johnny Blaze tries to control the Rider from taking over at nights and his face becomes a bizarre grotesque mask – a battleground for the Rider and Blaze – was downright ridiculous. While I missed the laughable “Look-into-my-eyes” dialogue from part-1, this time the Rider speaks undecipherable mumblings and most of the time just screams like his arse is on fire. (well maybe since it REALLY was, huh!) The movie started out as a dark one where they bring in the premise of the Anti Christ being born on earth but then the tone see-saws between sardonic and downright laughably cheesy and stupid – think scene where Rider is relieving himself – hose of fire indeed!

Lesson#4: Choose the tone of your movie and stick to it. If you want dark, stick to dark. Keep it dark. Don’t bring in irrelevant humor.

None of the side characters do anything to the story arc. Neither the French sidekick who hires Rider for the job of protecting the “boy” nor the boy’s hot mom have much to do, except for crack sidey jokes and smirk at the Rider. Villains are as I said, laughable. Atrocious, the less said, the better.

The action bits are actually fantastic, the only saving grace. But then again, the good ones are all the ones you saw in that trailer. Trust me, if you seen the trailer, you seen it all.

Overall, a complete disaster packaged off as a slick trailer promising big things but delivering nothing. Go hire out the DVD for part-1 and relive the Darkest Hero’s best days.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Night of Knives by Ian C Esselmont

Ian C Esselmont forms the 2nd half of the co-creators of that absolutely delightful world, called the Malazan Empire of the Fallen, which from my previous posts, you are quite aware, is my number one favorite epic fantasy series.

If you paid attention, I think Steven Erikson dedicates the "Gardens of the Moon" to his partner and co-conspirator Ian.

Night of Knives picks up from the richly drawn out canvas that Erikson's already painted, and I consider myself fortunate to have timed this one so perfectly – I finished the first 5 books and the sixth one (from MBotF series) is actually set in the Island of Malaz; re-introducing characters who first come in Ian’s Night of the Knives. So this was a lucky piece of timing, (Thanks, Oponn!!) Anyways, coming back to the book, this one’s a real size zero compared to the hefty tomes that Erikson spins out un-failingly year after year. Probably around 500-odd pages. And all of it recounting events set on the famed Malaz Island over one single night, probably a lot earlier than the events that unfold with Gardens of the Moon.

Ian writes with flair, breathlessly like he’s got no time to waste, packing a lot into that slim book, filling it up with tense action, wheels-within-wheels intrigue, flash backs into the history of the Empire (My favorite bits!). But somehow, all along the way, I missed the familiar comforts of Erikson’s beautiful prose, his sardonic humor (think Bridgeburners or best, Tehol and his manservant Bugg! Rib-tickling funny!) and lovely philosophical ramblings even as the original plot moves on effortlessly. Not to say I didn’t enjoy Ian’s writing, he has it easy if I may say that, as the world is already fleshed out for him and he can take his elements from this beautiful canvas and splash them along into his work. And he does that with √©lan, bringing his own unique style. I loved his military clash scenes, where I think he really comes into his own and chugs along.

The best part about this book is the fact that the plot is linear and told mainly from the point of view of two major characters, one a novice thief in the streets of Malaz who meddles into imperial affairs and gets swept along( You’ve probably met her earlier in one of Erikson’s works but I can’t remember until I read Book 6 after this one!) while the second is that of the veteran soldier, who is actually not just a simple soldier, but the chosen bodyguard to the First Sword of the Empire, Dassem Ultor and is trying to live out the rest of his days in anonymity. We finally get to meet those great characters from History, who form the major backdrop to all of Erikson’s books but never really have surfaced (at least not until BOOK 6!) and truly, it was a pleasure. Thanks Ian for making those introductions!

It’s a tight plot that races along, unlike Erikson’s where you keep meandering on journeys through deserts ( Warrens, anyone?) and it has enough blood, guts and glory on the battlefield and individual titanic struggles or fight scenes to keep that bloodthirsty animal inside of you happy. Overall, a terrific beginning to the second view point of this legendary world and am happy to have dived in. Looking forward to the next one, the return of the Crimson Guard now.

A full 3 and half stars on 5. Immensely readable, but please keep your Erikson-isque expectations at bay. This is a fresh take and a splendid one at that.