There's a definite B-movie appeal to the ham-fisted acting, high body count and heavy metal soundtrack of John Carpenter's sci-fi/action/horror flick "Ghost of Mars."
The man has been making roguishly chintzy movies for a living since 1974's space-faring spoof "Dark Star," and he's good at it. But give Carpenter an A-movie budget and a script devoid of camp value, and you just don't get what you paid for.
Here's a high-concept story about long-dormant ethereal Martians taking over the bodies of human colonists and going on killing sprees en masse, and there's not a tongue-in-cheek laugh to be had in the whole picture. Instead, there's a lot of testosterone posturing, heavy artillery fire and a burdensome flashback-within-flashback narrative that follows a police unit dispatched to a remote "Mad Max"-like mining outpost to bring back a supposedly savage criminal played by the permanently furrow-browed Ice Cube.
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Adapted from Sam Shepard's play about betrayal, blackmail, and a horse racing scam that haunts its conspirators for 20 years, "Simpatico" gets by for a while on a cast full of tense, brutal, benumbed performances.
Nick Nolte stars as Vinnie, a haunted, hard-drinking and fraudulent private eye who has lived a near-destitute existence in Los Angeles for two decades on hush money extorted from a former friend named Carter (Jeff Bridges), his partner in a pony-fixing during their younger days.
As the film opens, Vinnie sets in motion a chain of events designed to see him trade places with Carter, now a rich Kentucky breeder. He plans not only on usurping the wealth his ex-buddy has amassed since their friendship disintegrated, but also on recapturing the cold heart of Rosie (Sharon Stone), the girl that came between them.
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