Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Maybe I’ll Sleep With You if You’re the Last Man on Earth. But We’re Not on Earth.

My inspiration for watching this movie was pure randomness. I saw it in my instant queue and thus I watched it. I really should get to some of those review requests I have building up, but I decided at random to watch this movie. This will be a short introduction indeed. I have no idea how this movie got added to my queue, I don’t know why I picked it to watch today, and I know nothing about it beyond a few people that star in it. And most of those people aren’t even reasons to watch a movie! It doesn’t really matter. I watched it and now I reviews it. This movie is Ghosts of Mars, written by John Carpenter and Larry Sulkis, directed by John Carpenter, and starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Pam Grier, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Liam Waite, Joanna Cassidy, Duane Davis, and Richard Cetrone.

In the 22nd century, on a mostly terraformed Mars, a team including Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge), Helena Braddock (Pam Grier), Nathan Jericho (Jason Statham), Bashira Kincaid (Clea DuVall), and Michael Descanso (Liam Waite) are sent to a small mining town to transport a murderer named “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube) to prison. When they arrive, the town is virtually deserted. They find a few survivors and one of them named Whitlock (Joanna Cassidy) explains that they found a hidden doorway that was opened, releasing “ghosts” into the air that inhabited the miners, turning them crazed and violent. They form an uneasy alliance with Williams to hold out against the threat long enough for their train to return.

Was I mistaken, or is John Carpenter generally regarded as a good filmmaker? ‘Cause the movie I just watched was typical, poorly-conceived shoot-‘em-up bullshit. It’s mostly just a collection of better movies put together in a way that was as interesting as it was easy to follow … which is to say “not”. The bad guys looked like they were from the Mad Max movies, though they mostly acted like zombies, and the main bad guy looked like the Kurgan from Highlander, but he only spoke in gibberish. The sets in the movie looked like they were stolen straight out of either Total Recall or Judge Dredd. And the story was pulled straight out of the toilet behind a Mexican restaurant. A good bit of the dialogue was just trying very hard to sound official. I could just imagine them sitting in the office and yelling out the door, “I need a book of military terms. STAT! Okay, I definitely want to use ‘clicks’ for distance, ‘marks’ for targets, and I probably only want to refer to time in hundreds. And, by God, cock your damned guns instead of punctuating!” Of course they would do this to make their police team seem more qualified, forgetting the fact that everything else they wrote made them look like the worst team of police officers that’s ever existed. They were decent enough in a fight, but every 10 minutes or so they’d get in a position where they were being held at gunpoint and everyone had to slowly lower their weapons to the floor. Also, after everything they go through, they don’t accomplish any one of their missions, but they do lose the greater majority of their team. To try to make their team a little stronger, they add in some of the prisoners and murderers that they’ve encountered without bringing the collective IQ of the group into triple digits. Hell, one of them cuts his thumb off trying to open a can of food with a machete. They were only able to succeed because the enemies were even stupider. The closest thing they could come up with for motivation for these guys is destruction. Living creatures aren’t supposed to want to destroy the planet. They live there too! All they ever did was try to destroy things and, when they didn’t have things to destroy, they all stood around and either yelled gibberish at each other or stuck pieces of metal into their faces. If they weren’t these guys, they were a red/purple smoke that would take control of the camera and smack into people’s face, though it seems that was to indicate that they were being inhaled. All I could see was that it looked like I was wearing old school 3D glasses when I was supposed to be seeing from their point of view. What I could also see is that this movie sends the worst kind of message ever. When Melanie inhales the crazy smoke, they give her some of the drugs out of her stash, which allows her to overcome her possession. That is not a joke! Drugs saved her life! I don’t know why the movie didn’t just end with the good guys wrapping the town in cellophane and hotboxing all of the bad guys until they came out of it.

The performances didn’t impress but, in their defense, most of them didn’t seem like they were trying either. They all probably just agreed to be in this movie based on John Carpenter’s involvement, thinking they would be in one of his good ones. But they had already signed the contracts by the time they read the script, so they just had to ride it out. Natasha Henstridge did a good enough job. She played badass pretty well on occasion, I suppose. In the beginning, she does get needlessly defensive at her debriefing, but I think that was probably the piss-poor writing. She walks in to the room with a committee, they tell her to have a seat, and she starts demanding a lawyer. We haven’t even asked you anything yet! Jason Statham did a decent enough job, but he was never really likeable. The only concern he had was to try to fuck Natasha Henstridge through the entire movie, paying little mind to the weirdos trying to kill them all. Speaking of which, the crazy people never did a good job. They came off more goofy than scary.

I had no reason to watch Ghosts of Mars, and I probably should have taken that as a sign. The story was stupid and pointless, and mainly just tried to steal from so many better movies. The action is decent, but not decent enough to be a reason to watch this when you have to sit through the story to get to it. The performances seemed phoned in, but I couldn’t really blame them for it. Altogether, I see no reason why you would watch this movie. You COULD stream it, but I wouldn’t bother unless you need to write a review for the day as well. Ghosts of Mars gets “The ass end of the universe” out of “Come on, you mindless mother fuckers!”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle). Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Escape from LA (1996)

I decided to keep the Kurt Russell love going by watching Escape from LA next. Snake Plissken (Russell) is back, this time rescuing the President’s daughter from LA because she’s carrying a device that will can set an Electromagnetic Pulse loose that will turn the world back to the Dark Ages.

Time is still a major gripe of mine in this movie, just as it was in Escape from New York. The movie came out in 1996, and it makes the claim that 4 years after the movie came out, LA has turned into a squalid city of sin and vice that, in 2000, is separated from California by a giant earthquake. Okay, I give you that, even in 96, that was an apt description of LA from my experience, but you gave God 4 years to sink that bitch. Suffice to say that didn’t happen. The movie itself takes place in 2 years, so I guess it still has some time for Snake Plissken to get down there and start some shit. At least they realized that CGI would evolve. So we have 2 years to get full holographic recordings. We’re actually on our way there from what I’ve seen. We’ve got that lame 3D nonsense already, and I’ve seen those holographic newscasts on some station before. It’s a dumb gimmick, but a plausible one!

So Snake is again arrested, his status as badass not affected by the fact that he’s not that great at eluding the police. His help is needed again because the President’s daughter stole the EMP device – which I am ashamed to admit I kept trying to type EVP because I watch Ghost Adventures too much – and went into LA to take it to her boyfriend, Cuervo Jones. He of course, is not down like a clown, not even for Charlie Brown, but they entice him by scratching his hand and giving him a virus, which is TOTALLY different than the last movie where almost everything else happened exactly like this but it was an explosive in his neck. He gets in to LA and almost immediately gets close to getting the device from Cuervo by stealing a motorcycle and traversing his motorcade and beating ass on most of his men. Cuervo sees him running up on him with a shotgun and Cuervo takes him down with bolas. Now, if you’re not all weapon nerdy like I am, you may not know what bolas are. Bolas are a snare device dating back to the 1600’s or earlier that are basically a set of weighted balls connected by a string that you throw at something to wrap it up. Badass status slightly diminished there, Snake. You now those shotguns shoot bullets, right? Another thing you learn from this section is that when a motorcycle falls onto it’s side, it explodes into a giant ball of flame. Can’t say you didn’t learn anything, eh?

Along his way to the end of the movie, Snake meets up with a colorful cavalcade of characters. He meets “Map to the Stars” Eddy, played by Steve Buscemi, who is a nervous, shifty, sheister that Buscemi is so good at playing. He comes across the hot chick from Hot Shots Part Deux Valerina Golino, who promptly dies. He escapes from a hospital where – my favorite – Bruce Campbell plays a doctor who trades in body parts to people whose plastic surgery is failing because they’ve had too much and they need it replaced daily, a fair enough commentary on the fakeness of LA. And last but not least, Pam Grier as a transsexual named Hershey, who is so good at playing one that I originally thought she was actually a man before I knew who Pam Grier was. Not to say she’s not hot, but they messed with her voice so I thought she was a dude. I never said I was a smart kid.

So, there were some problems to this movie, the most glaring of which is that it is basically Escape from New York in LA with a better budget. I think people would’ve liked the movie better if they released it as a re-imagining and not a sequel. In the middle of the movie, after being captured by Cuervo, Snake must fight for his life in a win-or-die game of … basketball … so there THAT is. Also, being as LA was split from the world by an earthquake, the city is semi-regularly ravaged by aftershocks, which would be fine if it was actually random and not only when it advanced the plot. It seems like the writer would write himself into a corner and say “How do we get Snake out of this? Oh yes, random earthquake, someone falls down, Snake runs away”.

That all being said, I actually preferred this movie and I seemed to be one of the few. The movie got a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes and Escape from New York got 80 something. I think a lot of that probably comes from the fact that it was basically the same movie, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t make someone just think it’s like the first one with better graphics and more explosions. For a brief time I tried to find out what people’s problem was with this movie, then I realized I don’t care. I give this movie a “Fuck you guys, it’s better than the first” out of 27.