Horror Film Review: Ghost Ship (dir by Steve Beck)


Way back when we first started this year’s horrorthon, Arleigh shared a horror scene that he loved.  That scene was the opening few minutes of the 2002 horror-at-sea film, Ghost Ship.

That scene featured a few dozen wealthy cruise ship passengers all getting bisected by a thin wire cord.  While a young girl named Kate (Emily Browning) watches, everyone on the ship’s dance floor literally falls to pieces.  Torsos slip off of legs.  Bodies split in half.  The captain’s head literally splits in two.  While gallons of blood gush everywhere, people vainly try to reattach their limbs.  Actually, some of them can’t even figure out which limb belongs to them.  By the time everyone’s collapsed, there’s a lot of arms and legs to sort through.

In short, it’s an absolute mess.  I wouldn’t want to be the person assigned to clean up after all that.

It’s also a rather brilliant opening, one that only takes a minute to go from romance and sophistication to bloody dismemberment.  It’s definitely the one moment that everyone remembers about Ghost Ship, which is a bit of a problem because, once that scene is done, there’s still 85 minutes of film to sit through.  Ghost Ship‘s opening is so shocking and visceral that there’s no way that the rest of the film can live up to it.

As for the rest of the film, it deals with a boat salvage crew.  Gabriel Byrne is Murphy, the captain.  Julianne Margulies is Maureen Epps, whose name might as well be Ellen Ripley.  Ron Eldard is Dodge, who is in love with Epps.  And then there’s Karl Urban, Isiah Washington, and Alex Dimitriades, who are all playing characters who you know are going to be doomed as soon as you see them.  When they’re told by a pilot named Jack Ferriman (Desmond Harrington) that he’s spotted a ghost ship in international waters, they set out to claim it for themselves.

Of course, what Jack has spotted is the same cruise ship where, forty years before, everyone was chopped in half.  After Murphy, Epps, and the crew board the ship, they discover a large amount of gold.  They also end up seeing a lot of ghosts, including the young girl from the start of the movie.  To their credit, the crew decides to leave the ship as quickly as they can.  Unfortunately, after their tugboat explodes, escape appears to be impossible and it becomes obvious that they have been lured to the cruise ship for a very specific purpose.

The film encourages us to wonder what the ship wants from the salvage crew but the answer to that question is never really in doubt.  For that matter, it’s not really a shock when it turns out that one member of the boarding party isn’t what he claims to be.  Despite being a bit predictable, Ghost Ship isn’t a bad film.  It has a reputation for being disappointing but actually it’s an atmospheric and competently directed horror film.  Though the characters are all thinly drawn, the talented cast does their best to try to bring them to life.  If the film ultimately doesn’t seem to work as well as it should, it’s largely because nothing that follows can match the power of that opening.  You watching the film waiting for a scene that’ll match that opening scene and when it never comes, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

 

 

Shattered Politics #62: Bulworth (dir by Warren Beatty)


BulworthSo, if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Robert Redford’s Bill McKay after he was elected to the U.S. Senate at the end of The Candidate, I imagine that he probably ended up becoming something like the protagonist of 1998’s Bulworth, U.S. Sen. Jay Bulworth.

As played by Warren Beatty, Bulworth is a veteran senator.  A former liberal firebrand, he may still decorate his office with pictures of him meeting Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King but Bulworth sold out a long time ago.  Now, he just says whatever has to say in order to get elected, including pretending to have a happy marriage. He has become a part of everything that’s wrong with Washington.

Sick of both politics and life in general, Bulworth decides that he’d rather be dead.  But, in order to make sure that his daughter collects on his $10,000,000 life insurance policy, Bulworth cannot commit suicide.  Instead, he arranges for a contract to be taken out on his life.  In two days, Bulworth will be assassinated.

Returning to California for his campaign, Bulworth gets drunk and suddenly starts to say what he actually believes.  He attacks the Washington establishment.  He attacks the voters.  He attacks the insurance companies and comes out for single payer health insurance.  With his desperate press secretary (Oliver Platt) chasing behind him, Bulworth spends the night dancing at a club where he discovers marijuana and meets a girl named Nina (Halle Berry).

(Platt, meanwhile, discovers that he really, really likes cocaine.)

Soon, Nina and Bulworth are hiding out in the ghetto, where Bulworth meets both Nina’s brother (Isiah Washington) and local drug dealer, L.D. (Don Cheadle), and gets a lesson about how economics actually work in the ghetto.  Soon, Bulworth is appearing on CNN where he raps his new political platform and suggests that the solutions for all of America’s problems would be for everyone to just keep having sex until eventually everyone is the same color.

Of course, what Bulworth doesn’t know is that Nina also happens to be the assassin who has been contracted to kill him…

I have mixed feelings about Bulworth.  On the one hand, the film starts out strong.  You don’t have to agree with the film’s politics in order to appreciate the film’s passion,  Bulworth is an angry film and one that’s willing to say some potentially unpopular things.  It’s a film about politics that doesn’t resort to the easy solutions that were proposed by some of the other films that I’ve reviewed for Shattered Politics.  Warren Beatty does a pretty good job of portraying Bulworth’s initial mental breakdown and Oliver Platt is a manic wonder as he consumes more and more cocaine.

But, once Warren Beatty starts rapping, the film starts to fall apart and becomes a bit too cartoonish for its own good.  You get the feeling that Warren Beatty, at this point, is just trying to live out the liberal fantasy of being the only wealthy white man in America to understand what it’s like to be poor and black in America.

Bulworth starts out well but ultimately, it begins better than it ends.

The Oscar Season Begins With The Gotham Nominations!


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Can you guess what my favorite time of year is?

If you guessed November, you’re right!  My birthday is on November 9th, our own Dazzling Erin’s birthday is on November 24th, and then Arleigh’s birthday is on November 27th!  November is a big month here at the Shattered Lens.

My second favorite time of year?  October, of course!  How can you go wrong with so much horror?

And then, of course, my third favorite time of year is December because that’s when I get most of my presents.

Along with being my favorite three months of the year, another thing that all three of those months have in common is that they comprise what is known as Oscar Season.  Oscar Season is the period of time when the majority of the Best Picture contenders are released and all of the critic groups give out their awards in the hope of influencing the Academy’s nominations.  I love movies and I love awards so how can I not love Oscar Season?

Well, I’m happy to say that Oscar Season officially began earlier today when the nominations for the 23rd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards were announced.  The Gotham nominations aren’t exactly the best precursor of what’s going to be nominated in January but, nonetheless, they usually manage to include at least a few legitimate contenders.

This year, for example, Oscar front-runner 12 Years A Slave managed to collect the most Gotham nominations.  Personally, I’m just happy to see that my favorite film of 2013, Upstream Color, collected two nominations.

The Gothams will be awarded on December 2nd.

Here are the nominations:

Best Feature

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen, director; Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Anthony Katagas, producers. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

David Lowery, director; Tony Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Amy Kaufman, Cassian Elwes, producers (IFC Films)

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Sara Woodhatch, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors; Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, producers (CBS Films)

Upstream Color

Shane Carruth, director; Shane Carruth, Casey Gooden, Ben LeClair, producers. (erbp)

 

Best Documentary

The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge, Joshua Oppenheimer, producers (Drafthouse Films)

The Crash Reel

Lucy Walker, director; Julian Cautherly, Lucy Walker, producers (HBO Documentary Films)

First Cousin Once Removed

Alan Berliner, director and producer (HBO Documentary Films)

Let the Fire Burn

Jason Osder, director and producer (Zeitgeist Films)

Our Nixon

Penny Lane, director; Brian L. Frye, Penny Lane, producers (Cinedigm and CNN Films)

 

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Adam Leon for Gimme the Loot (Sundance Selects)

Alexandre Moors for Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

Stacie Passon for Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

Amy Seimetz for Sun Don’t Shine (Factory 25)

 

Best Actor

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Robert Redford in All Is Lost (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Isaiah Washington in Blue Caprice (Sundance Selects)

 

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon (Relativity Media)

Brie Larson in Short Term 12 (Cinedigm)

Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color (erbp)

Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now (A24)

 

Breakthrough Actor

Dane DeHaan in Kill Your Darlings (Sony Pictures Classics)

Kathryn Hahn in Afternoon Delight (The Film Arcade and Cinedigm)

Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Robin Weigert in Concussion (RADiUS-TWC)

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