Film review – Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)

John Carpenter’s history as a filmmaker may have many blemishes on it. For every Assault on Precinct 13, there was a Village of the Damned. For every time Kurt Russell escaped from New York, he also escaped from L.A. Yet few of his films have stunk as badly as Ghosts of Mars, which, unlike most of his other films, hasn’t got better with time.

Set on a remote Martian mining town, the plot concerns police woman Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) transporting dangerous criminal “Desolation” Williams (Ice Cube). However, upon arrival she realises that the planet has become infected, essentially, by zombies. She has to team together with a group of survivors including Jason Statham, Pam Grier and Clea DuVall.


The film was a box office bomb, making back just $14m of its $28m budget (global sales, according to Box Office Mojo). It’s hard to see why. Why it cost so much, that is. Conceptually, the mining town should look gritty, desolate and run down. It actually ends up looking more like a half-baked Crystal Maze set that was abandoned half-way through.
The plot isn’t terrible, and good movies have been carved out of much worse starting points. The soundtrack, provided by John Carpenter, is brilliantly varied.

What lets it down is dated visuals – they’re very 2001 – and an unreliable script. The actors do their best with it, but it simply doesn’t hit the marks.

It must be tough to turn down an offer to work with someone as great as John Carpenter. One can only assume that those involved looked at the script and were reminded of his best work. 

[Note] I hated all the official posters for this film, but unearthed the brilliant poster by Ralf Krause on the website AlternativeMoviePosters.com. Check out the website for more great alternative movie posters and order some to decorate your wall with something wonderful!

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Spy (Paul Feig, 2015)

Earlier today, my wife and I found ourselves walking on the red carpet, alongside Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz, for the UK premiere of new film Spy. It was at the ODEON on Leicester Square. Here’s a photo of me on the red carpet.

I’ve been on the red carpet a couple of times before and it’s always a lovely experience. Of course, nobody cares who we are, though that doesn’t mean we didn’t ham it up a little. [1]

There’s been quite bit of interest for the film over the last few weeks and the anticipation was well justified. We laughed so much our faces hurt.

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McCarthy and Law are hilarious throughout.

Spy is an action comedy about office-based CIA data analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy), who is forced to go out onto the field when her partner Bradley Fine (Law) disappears and the identities of other top field agents – including Rick Ford (Statham) – are compromised. Going undercover to attempt to infiltrate arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) with the help of her office friend (Hart), the story is the perfect platform for some caper-based hilarity.

I was a little apprehensive going into it as the premise is quite familiar and hasn’t been done well for a long time. I was immediately pleasantly surprised, with an opening scene that sets the story up well, falsely draws us in to a serious film, then slaps us in the face with a huge laugh.

Jason Statham has never been so likeable. His character can best be described as Jay from the Inbetweeners if he somehow became a CIA agent. You can see he’s flexing his comedy muscles and really trying hard to make his co-stars laugh whilst holding back himself. His character is a highlight.

The real star, of course, is Melissa McCarthy. Her comic timing is impeccable and it’s easy to see this film becoming a critical and commercial success with her out front. She has had several opportunities to show us what she’s got, but she has fallen slightly short on several occasions (see Identity Thief). This is a comic actor at the top of her game.

The rest of the cast are excellent, especially Serafinowicz, and you can see they’re enjoying such a fun script. I can’t recommend it enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the start of a franchise.

[1] About a month ago I speculatively tweeted a review of Furious 7 as an entry to a competition run by Stella Artois and Film4. Actually, it was a review of the trailer. I’ve not seen the film, nor have i seen the trailer. Indeed, of all the films in the series I’ve only seen Tokyo Drift. I didn’t think much of it. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I’ve included the review here, in case you’re interested.