My friend and I rented “The Monk” (rated R) because it sounded kind of intriguing: A mix of medieval monks, mystery, and sin. The basic plot is that the main character, Ambrosio, is abandoned at the doorstep of a monastery as a child and raised as a strict Capuchin monk. He grows up into a fervent disciple of Christ, renowned for his splendid, inspiring sermons and his great faith. Then, he gets involved with a woman and everything goes to pot (That’s putting it mildly). It is quite a spectacular fall from grace. The most holy monk of his order goes on to commit a whole litany of sins: fornication, incest, and finally murder.
Overall, the movie was interesting; it kept me engaged even though it was a foreign film and all in subtitles. I’m not sure if I should be annoyed at the portrayal of the religious here (I was raised Catholic). It’s set in the 17th century and the church did do some nasty things (like the Inquisition) in medieval times. Still, I don’t know if they would have starved a nun to death for getting pregnant. Maybe they would have. I don’t know (They certainly wouldn’t do that today!). Anyway, they are portrayed as very strict and sometimes, as in the above example, cruel and heartless. That was the backdrop of the movie, and it makes Ambrosio’s ultimate hypocrisy all the more profound. Satan makes a couple of appearances in the film. There’s dark magic, ghostly apparitions, and profound vice. All the elements of a twisted tale, and a twisted tale it was.
Strengths: the acting was good, the script, although twisted, was coherent and logically sound (assuming you accept the premise of Satan, Satanic witches, and what have you). The downfall of the Monk was portrayed quite well. Weaknesses: I think I saw every one of the twists in the movie coming. I mean, they were good twists, it’s just that they were kind of predictable. Again, I remain ambivalent about the portrayal of the church, but since I’m really not up on the history, I can’t really formalize a complaint. Also, the special effects were kind of lacking. I’ve said it before, special effects alone will not make a movie, but they can add to it. Here, they were obviously low budget and not very impressive. Finally, the ending was a little unclear to me. Part of me (most of me) is convinced that Satan wins, but there is a last fleeting image before the credits that made me wonder.
Anyway, I’ll give “The Monk” three and a half, or maybe four, out of five stars.
“A Toast to Dragons” is participating in a Halloween Blogfest at Long and Short Reviews (you may remember them; they reviewed my book, Drasmyr, here) this year. I wrote a short short story (under 1000 words) entitled “A Woman Scorned,” which will be posted on the LASR website on 11/1 at 10 a.m. today. As mentioned previously we are offering a prize for one commenter on the guest blog at the LASR site, NOT the normal biweekly blog at “A Toast to Dragons” which I have already posted (see below). For more information on the Blogfest go here: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/promo.htm.
The prize “A Toast to Dragons” is offering for one lucky commenter on “A Woman Scorned” is a set of metal miniatures; specifically, a pair of vampire counts and a pair of vampire slayers from the Classic Vampire Wars line by West Wind Productions Gothic Horror.
I had high hopes for the Ghostrider film series. I’ve liked a number of Nicholas Cage’s more recent films including “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the “National Treasure” movies. I also enjoyed Nicholas Cage in “The Rock” years ago.
Then I saw the first Ghostrider movie. I was all excited to see it. I mean, demons, hell, avenging spirits… who wouldn’t be? Now, several years later, I don’t remember much from that first movie, except that it was a complete let down. And the worst part is, it didn’t have to be. Everything was there to make a good movie: a cool looking character, sinister forces, what-have-you. They just didn’t follow through particularly well. They seemed to think a cool looking character was all you needed. And everything else about the movie would fall into place. Well, it didn’t and the movie was lame.
Well, despite all that, I still saw potential for the next installment in the series. I was hoping Ghostrider II: Spirit of Vengeance would be the movie Ghostrider I failed to be. And once again, I was let down. In the movie, Nicholas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a former motorcycle stunt man who suffers from a terrible curse. In the presence of evil, he turns into an avenging demon from hell that looks like a skeleton wreathed in flames wielding deadly lengths of chain and riding a flaming motorcycle. He looks cool. He really does. But that’s it. A vengeful spirit must do more than look cool, in my opinion.
The plot of the movie was formulaic at best. There were the good guys and bad guys. The bad guys were searching for a certain child to fulfill a certain prophecy of doom. The Ghostrider is called in to protect the child. And so the story goes. The Ghostrider makes several appearances throughout the film, and whenever he does, destruction galore follows in his wake. And whenever he wastes a particularly bad nasty, we are treated with a “clever” one-liner whispered in a sepulchral demonic voice. But that hardly makes the film anything but a smash-‘em-up that is trying too hard.
A smash-‘em-up film can work. Like the “Hulk” with Ed Norton a few years back. It was great fun watching Dr. Banner hulk out and smash stuff. It had a plot and was fun to watch. The special effects were there, but they didn’t rely on them to make the story. Ghostrider II, however, is just all about flames and whipping chains. I noticed one really clever idea in the movie, and that was about it. I saw the film in 3-D, but looking back, I don’t even remember any particularly cool 3-D effects that I would be sorry to miss, so it even failed in that department as well.
I’ll give this movie two stars out of five. And I think I’m being generous.