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From Marvel Comics, creators of Spider-Man, Blade and X-Men, comes a new hero... Ghost Rider. Long ago, superstar motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) made a deal with the devil to protect the ones he loved most: his father and his childhood sweetheart, Roxanne (Eva Mendes). Now, the devil has come for his due. By day, Johnny is a die-hard stunt rider... but at night, in the presence of evil, he becomes the Ghost Rider, a bounty hunter of rogue demons. Forced to do the devil's bidding, Johnny is determined to confront his fate and use his curse and powers to defend the innocent.
For more about Ghost Rider and the Ghost Rider Blu-ray release, see Ghost Rider Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 8, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Peter Fonda, Brett Cullen
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
» See full cast & crew
Ghost Rider Blu-ray Review
Ride on past this dud of a movie.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 8, 2009
The thing about legends is, sometimes, they're true.
The thing about legends is, sometimes, they're overshadowed by far more interesting ones. Such is the case with Ghost Rider, a late-model motion picture cobbled together from the inky pages of the Marvel Comics and victim of the decade-long influx of superhero-themed motion pictures. The fan-favorite comic's filmed adaptation both failed to live up to expectations and has subsequently been reduced to something of a mere afterthought in the wake of the success of films like The Dark Knight, not to mention other and more popular Marvel franchises-turned-superior-pictures, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Nifty special effects aren't enough to save Ghost Rider from a bland story with an inflated runtime and poor acting; the film is simply not in the same league as its aforementioned Marvel cousins, an unfortunate fate for a character and series that, particularly in this day and age of surprising good superhero/comic book filmed adaptations, deserved far better.
Young Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) and father Barton (Brett Cullen) are motorcyclists that perform dangerous stunts to adoring crowds. However, Barton is dying of cancer. Enter Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda, Easy Rider), a demon who transforms human souls into his demonic minions to carry out his deeds on Earth. Promising to cure his father of cancer, Mephistopheles convinces Johnny to sell his soul. When his father dies the following day during a stunt gone wrong, Johnny abandons his world and girlfriend Roxy (Raquel Alessi) as he heads out alone in search of who he is. Years later, Johnny (Nicholas Cage, It Could Happen to You) has become one of the world's top stuntmen, successfully performing various and deadly feats on his motorcycle. After a chance meeting with Roxy (Eva Mendes, Hitch), Johnny is once again approached by Mephistopheles who tasks him with collecting an old contract of souls before Mephistopheles' son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) can obtain it and use it as leverage to defeat his father and rule uninhibited. Johnny soon discovers his power as the Ghost Rider, a flaming skeletal creature capable of great destruction -- or life-saving heroics. With both Mephistopheles and Blackheart maneuvering to gain total power, it's up to Johnny and his supernatural ability to choose sides and shape destiny.
The funny thing about Ghost Rider is that it's a slightly better film before the whole "Ghost Rider" angle really begins to pan out almost halfway through the film. Johnny Blaze's early life, his father's illness, selling his soul to the devil, leaving his girl behind, and his exploits as a professional stuntman aren't particularly handled with any sort of gusto nor do they make for must-see filmmaking, but it's enough -- cliché ridden and all -- to hold one's interest. It's almost too bad the movie delves heavily into heightened special effects, nonsensical action, and a trite plot line that even viewers that doze off several times throughout can easily keep up with. A film falling apart when it gets to the crux of the story is a bad sign to be sure, and it's the death knell of a fairly inconsequential Superhero motion picture. Once Ghost Rider moves past the opening act, the story drags considerably, and at two hours in length, the movie is far too long and spends too much time with meaningless character backstory that's not handled particularly well and only serves to maximize the blandness between action sequences. Ghost Rider is the antithesis of something like Iron Man; Director Mark Steven Johnson's (Daredevil) picture is proof-positive that a lackluster script and bad acting cannot be overcome by strong special effects and loud action sequences. Iron Man delivers the perfect balance of character development and action; Ghost Rider admirably tries, but falls short at every turn, the result a dragging, purposeless picture that's good for a few laughs but not at all memorable as a hallmark of its genre.
Sadly, the problems plaguing Ghost Rider don't end there. The film is terribly bathed in cliché, both in dialogue and supporting visuals and sounds. Mephistopheles' pitch to a young Johnny is supported by booms of thunder meant to accentuate every dastardly piece of the proposal; the romance between a young Johnny and Roxy is handled with the same delicateness as a hammer to the head; and the first act ends with Johnny literally at a crossroads as he leaves behind both Roxy and his recently-deceased father to head out on his own and deal with the new circumstances now defining his life. The avalanche of cliché only makes the movie all the more predictable; there's no sense of surprise as to character fates, identities, or how the final showdown will play out. Adding insult to injury is a nearly top-to-bottom collection of listless performances that are devoid of even a hint of vigor; Nicholas Cage delivers his usual monotone and droopy-eyed unenthusiastic effort, Eva Mendes serves virtually no purpose other than as someone to be placed in harm's way at film's end, and even Peter Fonda's effort as Mephistopheles is best described as "routine." Nevertheless, and despite all the problems, Ghost Rider works to a point; the special effects are well-executed, and the action is passably entertaining. Mark Steven Johnson's direction and Russell Boyd's (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) cinematography both are surprisingly solid even through the film's numerous other problems, and the ever-reliable Sam Elliot delivers the film's only engaging performance; in fact, his story would have made for a better movie.
Ghost Rider Blu-ray, Video Quality
Ghost Rider pulls onto Blu-ray with a high quality and film-like 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer. Though an earlier release in the format's history, this one holds up well and contends with even the newest releases as a pristine example of a transfer done right. Colors are amazingly rich and vibrant at the opening carnival sequence; dominated by bright yellows, supportive hues also dazzle. While much of the film takes place at night or in dark locales, colors never feel under- or over-saturated, the transfer maintaining just the right balance in every lighting condition. Detail is generally exceptional; Johnny's leather jackets in particular offer stunning texture in close-up shots, and the usual suspects in outdoor scenes sparkle both during the day and at night. The transfer also delivers an exceptional sense of depth and sports strong clarity across the entire field of view, both near and far. Blacks aren't impeccable, but only falter in a few scenes where they veer towards a very dark shade of gray. Flesh tones retain a natural and neutral shade. With no visible artifacts, unsightly digital manipulation, and only a hint of banding in one or two shots, Ghost Rider makes for a wonderful visual presentation that's completed by a thin layer of natural film grain. This is another winning transfer from Sony.
Ghost Rider Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Ghost Rider revs up on Blu-ray, spewing out two fine soundtracks from its dual exhaust ports: one of the PCM 5.1 uncompressed variety and the other a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. It seems somewhat superfluous to include two such tracks, and both provide a room-shaking and completely immersive listening experience. Ghost Rider delivers a full-out surround sound extravaganza; barely more than a few seconds go by where either an eardrum-busting sonic assault or subtly pleasing supportive atmospherics aren't pouring from the back channels. An amusement park scene at the beginning of the film features the general din of the park flowing through the soundstage and effectively placing the listener in the midst of the fun, and a gentle breeze during an early romantic interlude between the young Johnny and Roxanne practically blows a cold chill through the listening area. Likewise, music engulfs the soundstage, its presence focused across the front but with strong rear-channel support. Every note is sharp and crisp, the harder rock beats mixing well with the more aggressive sound effects, particularly the rumbling of the motorcycles seen throughout the film. Indeed, the bikes make for the sonic highlight of the show; whether cruising down blacktop or idling at full-stop, the unmistakable rumble is a pleasure to the ears, the effect supported by a strong low end. Indeed, bass is solid, deep, and even foreboding throughout the picture. Also featuring the expectedly clear and precise dialogue reproduction, both of Ghost Rider's soundtracks deliver a practically reference-quality listen.
Ghost Rider Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Ghost Rider zooms onto Blu-ray with a healthy collection of bonus materials. The disc contains a pair of commentary tracks; track one features Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson and Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Mack. Though focused heavily on some of the gritty visual effects requirements of the picture, the participants also speak on the usual array of commentary fodder, including shooting locations, the film's tone and themes, the performance of the actors, some of the tongue-in-cheek moments in the film, shooting techniques, story elements created specifically for the movie, and much more, but much of the discussion always comes back to how effects are integrated into many of the scenes. Track two features Producer Gary Foster who covers a myriad of topics, including the controversy surrounding the film's prologue, shooting locations, assembling the cast and the involvement of Nicholas Cage and Peter Fonda in particular, the exhausting work of a Producer, and more.
Next up is The Making of 'Ghost Rider', a three-part documentary that chronicles the production of the film. Spirit of Vengeance (1080i, 29:03) takes viewers to Melbourne, Australia for a peek into the filmmaking process. The piece features a plethora of cast and crew speaking on the history of the project, the similarities and differences from the comic, the story developed for the film, the work of particular cast and crew members, films and styles that influenced the look and feel of Ghost Rider, and much more. The piece offers plenty of fascinating and raw behind-the-scenes footage intercut with the interview segments. Spirit of Adventure (1080i, 29:56) is a continuation of the first piece, looking in-depth at the construction of several scenes. Again, the piece combines interviews with good on-set footage that effectively places the viewer in the midst of the production. Finally, Spirit of Execution (1080i, 22:55) takes an extensive look at the making of some of the film's digital effects, the creation of various sound effects, the formation of the final audio mix, and concluding with a brief text summary of the film's box office performance. Also included are 1080p trailers for The Messengers, Blood and Chocolate, Premonition, and Hellboy.
Ghost Rider Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
An overly long, cliché-ridden disappointment of a movie, Ghost Rider is a victim of the recent craze of translating comic book heroes to the big screen, this effort one of the unfortunate outings destined to flop next to the giants of the genre. Also hindered by stiff acting and a meandering script, Ghost Rider delivers only good special effects, moderately interesting action scenes, and a solid performance from the underutilized Sam Elliot. Nevertheless, the quality of the movie hasn't prevented Sony from going all-out for the film's Blu-ray release. Boasting nearly reference-grade technical qualities and some lengthy extras, Ghost Rider makes for a good demonstration disc but little more. Worth a rental for those so inclined to check the movie out.
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• Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray - April 9, 2012
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance to Blu-ray this summer. The sequel to the 2007 action-adventure, this film follows the comic-book hero (Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) to Europe, where he finds ...
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