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"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars"

Directed by John Carpenter.
Written by John Carpenter and Larry Sulkis.
Starring Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  8/24/01 


My apologies for not sending out a review last weekend; the embarrassing state of the movies--the worst summer in film history--offered "American Outlaws", "Rat Race" and "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."  Blah!

So, on Friday, I took in a double bill.  First--"John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars."

Have you seen the trailer for this movie?  It looks like it will be a piece of shit, which is about half right.  Much like last year's "Pitch Black", this B-movie has all the goods necessary for a successful action/sci-fi film and it is much better than you think.  Which is to say, average.

Ice Cube plays James "Desolation" Williams.  Should I stop the review right there?  What is even better about Cube's character is that his nickname, "Desolation", is never explained in the film.  So, the first time two cops talk about him, they say

  1. "We need to go out there and arrest James Williams..."

  2. "Shit, 'Desolation' Williams?  That's the most dangerous guy on the planet!!"

I LOVE character development!

Natasha Henstridge, whose career has been in freefall since she was the baddie in "Species", plays one of those two cops that is bent on bringing Desolation in.  Of course, the hunt for the criminal isn't nearly as important as spouting off bad dialogue, showing low-budget special effects shots of Mars, and the shameless amount of death and dismemberment that takes place in this film.

The brief mention of a plot involves a Martian mine colony populated by human settlers in the year 2176.  Some type of ghost--or, is it ghosts?—has possessed many of the miners, and by going insane these demons decapitate, maim and murder the healthy miners until all that is left are those damned crazy people.  Henstridge's character shows up with a squadron of five Martian police officers to investigate and also to pick up the aforementioned Desolation.  Shot almost entirely in flashback, you know in the first two minutes that almost everyone ends up dead, so you wait 90 minutes to find out how.

But, through it all, the director (whose best films were all made successively:  "Escape from New York", "The Thing", "Christine" and "Starman", with cult favorite "Big Trouble in Little China" thrown in) shows why he has been in the business so long:  the man knows how to meet expectations.  Hey, he got B-level talent...Robert Carradine (!), Pam Grier, Jason Statham ("Snatch"), Joanna Cassidy...for a B-level script in a B-movie thriller that has a B-level soundtrack.  And, from the trailer, you knew exactly what you were getting.  For $5, this movie fits the bill like no other.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09