Iron Man v. Ghost Rider

Someone up there was making a point; after the local release of the excellent Iron Man movie last week, the MNET Sunday night feature was Ghost Rider, another Marvel Comics superhero, this time starring Nicholas Cage.

The story’s set mostly in Texas, though it was filmed in Australia at the Melbourne Docklands film studios and in a place reportedly called “the motorcycle district” of Melbourne. There’s a video on the landscapes at the movie’s blogsite. I thought Australia did stand-in for the south rather well, though the crowd scenes at the Telstra Dome are created using computer-generated technology rather than real people. This is a recurring theme and flaw throughout the filming; cgi seems to always take precedence over things like substance, character and plot.

The dross that is Ghost Rider simply reiterates why Iron Man is so successful. Says Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Ghost Rider” has everything you don’t want from your superhero movie, including lack of logic, boring action scenes, bad acting in the supporting performances, a brutally slow 114-minute running time and cringe-worthy dialogue…..”

However, (in homage to Rolling Stone Magazine) the real evil in this flick isn’t Blackheart, the Devil’s son, it’s the soul-sucking devil of modern cinema: Nicholas Cage. Possibly the worst ham actor of his generation, Little Nicky Coppola has rarely met a character he couldn’t crucify. In this case, he is reported to have shied away from portraying Johnny Blaze as Marvel’s original “hard drinking and smoking bad ass” but rather decided to “give him some depth.” For the eternally overblown, pompous, sledgehammerish Cage, that means feeding him Jellybabies rather than Jack, and making him a fan of Karen Carpenter. That’s it. That’s what Cage thinks gives depth. It’s rubbish, really, and while you’re watching him grimace and fake, you realise with genuine horror that his hairpiece makes him a dead-ringer for Sir Cliff Richard. Scary.

Friday Night Lights

OK, so it’s been hectic and there’s not been a lot of time for movie watching. Instead, I did see the first couple of episodes of Holly Hunter’s first foray into TV, the oddly bi-polar Saving Grace. It’s part Walker, Texas Ranger, part Touched by an Angel. Though the drunk and wayward cop thing has been done to death elsewhere, it’s entertaining enough. The religious stuff, by contrast, is horrible, horrible, horrible. Fortunately I’d tivo-ed it, so I could fast forward through the crap bits – which is basically whenever the guy with wings appears. It’s set in Texas, though – which is really the reason for this post.

I came across this fantastic review by Sara Mosle on Slate.com, of the high school football drama, Friday Night Lights. It’s set in the fictional West Texas town of Dillon, and based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger’s book about small-town Texas life.  Now, FNL is a show I haven’t ever seen, haven’t ever wanted to see, mainly because, American Football is not really big news anywhere other than, say, America, and too much “U-S-A, U-S-A” sporting testosterone makes me nauseous. But it would seem as if I’ve misjudged FNL…..  Says Mosle:

Friday Night Lights is….Texas as it’s seldom been seen—which is to say, as it really is. Virtually no one in Dillon wears a cowboy hat, and certainly no one under 30 does. The show has yet to show a single character on a horse. The only person depicted as remotely connected to an oil well is a businessman from Los Angeles, briefly passing through, representing faraway interests…..

….Hand-held cameras follow actors around on location, as they go about what appears to be their actual lives—to the gas station, to the grocery store, to the local diner, into one another’s homes. The cameras even ride in the car, like passengers, staring out at the passing scenery.

The show shoots in and around Austin, using city locations rather than sets, in order to build authenticity. (though this was a close call; filming nearly moved to New Mexico when much-hoped-for Texas film incentives were initially not forthcoming.)

If only for the realistic portrayal of modern America, I really think I must check this series out…..