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Ghost Ship (2002)
7/10
Does enough, could be better
29 August 2006
Well, not bad. Not great, but not bad. I am a big fan of horror movies that aren't all about the horror but are more about a good, well thought out storyline. Think "Sixth Sense". While Ghost Ship pales in comparison, it has enough elements in it that satisfies me for me to give it a thumbs up, albeit a hesitant one.

Set and production design ... brilliant. It's incredibly difficult to not believe it's being filmed on location on a real decrepit, falling-apart ship. Inside and outside, it's filled with lush visuals that draw you into the movie. But i'm jumping ahead of myself.

The beginning is awesome. I love it. Never before have I been so impressed by the first couple of minutes of a movie, like I have been with Ghost Ship. Although the 'dramatic pause' after the event goes on for a bit too long (it doesn't really build up tension because you know what happened) the effect still works well overall and the special effects and acting are pretty damn good. Very nice. As is all the gory stuff in the movie.

Katie is brilliant. The first close-up we get of her, she looks cold and wet and although not frightening, she looks seriously spooky. Initially, I was mentally preparing myself for her to be heavily involved in the 'scares' of the movie, but was pleasantly surprised at her innocence throughout the movie, revealing later on exactly why she is the way she is.

The acting is solid enough - not brilliant (with exception of Katie, who does a very good job of tensing things up again - more so than any scare tactics) and the direction is pretty good, with the focus being on the right things and the pace of the movie consistent.

I do feel not enough attention was paid to the history behind the back-story of the ship's strange events (i.e. the "Lusitania" and how the gold came to be on the ghost ship itself) as well as a suspiciously obvious lack of character background for some of the characters, although the lack of it doesn't really detract from the movie itself, but makes you realize how important these details can be after watching the movie.

Emotionally I swayed through the movie. Many times I was thoroughly engaged to it, and you feel like a part of the world. At other times I felt totally disconnected as the actors didn't do enough to keep my attention. But then, something would happen that would raise my eyebrows just a bit.

Speaking of that, the scene where Katie takes Epps 'back' and shows her what happened - wow! I must say that I love that scene ... the camera work is awesome and the acting from the many extras is outstanding. But once again, it is what happens to Katie that is utterly harrowing. It's not often that I utter "Oh my God ..." in a soft shocked whisper as my mouth refuses to close. That scene packed a punch that lasted a long time.

On the other hand, the scene near the end with the people in the cargo room was totally rushed, with just too much happening and too many switches and deaths and, well, the message is obvious but it occurs with seemingly minor character such as Francesca that didn't seem to (at the time) make any significant contribution to the story. Having said that, after re-watching, I see how Francesca fits into it, based on the motive of the characters and the flow of the story. But it just seems a bit over-the-top ... not in violence, but in concept.

The thing that killed it ... the ending. Awful. Did they run out of money? Time? I just didn't get why it had to end like that. Sequels aside (how can there be a successful sequel? The 'Antonio Graza' sunk ... so would there be a different boat? Hmmmm...) the ending feels totally pointless. I didn't get it, and I didn't like it either. Do the bad souls leave the ship and go to another ship in the near future??

Having said that, I think the whole 'souls' thing is a bit ridiculous, because despite it tying in with the movie's concept, it seems to justify having strange occurrences on the ship, rather than having the strange occurrences justify the reason for the ghosts. I hope that makes some sense.

At the risk of looking at this too deeply for a horror flick, I think that there's more to the gold than just being 'stolen gold' - in my mind, the movie is not about the ghosts, or the gold, or the ship. It's mostly about pure greed - which the gold represents, and the evil in people which will never die. Which is the only reason why the ending could be as it is, in my eyes, since 'evil' walks out with the gold, to trap some more people into 'being evil' and therefore 'selling his soul' - note that the gold has no markings AT ALL and the tracing numbers have been 'filed down' - does the gold even exist??? After all, it was pure greed that got the crew out there in the first place, even though there was a good chance that they'd leave with nothing of significant value despite the attached investment of time and money but without being 'intentionally' greedy.

Anyway, those are some questions that I wasn't too sure about after watching the movie, even after another viewing. So, overall, pretty decent. But more work needed to be put into the ending and the character development ... even if it added an extra 15 minutes. It would turn a goodish movie into a solidly good movie.

6/10 is too low, 7/10 is too high. 6.5 but promoted to 7 because of that awesome opening and 'flashback' scene.
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6/10
A good movie ... but the end made me mad
14 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A fantastic movie, a bit clichéd for today's times but quite breakthrough in 1995. Well acted, well written, funny at times, serious at other times. Altogether well balanced.

Except the end. I mean, seriously ... what happened at the end??? I know that she left for her "reasons" but it is never actually clear what her reasons are. Is she leaving because she's upset at Emilio's death? Is she upset at the 'system' and it's lack of flexibility? Is she bored with helping these kids?? I don't actually know! The ending seems way too sudden, as if the producers ran out of money and had to finish the film by the end of the day. The movie took the perfect amount of time getting itself introduced. The pace was good, until Emilio's death. I don't know ... the ending left me thinking "Well, why is she so special? She hasn't actually DONE anything except bribe these kids with candy bars and roller-coaster rides!" Overall the message is good, and the storyline is fine. The movie is shot nicely and it works well enough for me. It was entertaining. But it left me wondering exactly why she even bothered trying to educate these kids in the first place if she was so willing to just leave them just at a time when they were starting to appreciate her message!
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Swimfan (2002)
5/10
A bit of a mixed bag
1 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Well, after watching this movie (knowing that it was similar to the classic 'Fatal Attraction') - I smiled and shook my head because even though the movie is so predictable, there could have been so much done to change the characters from predictably stupid to vaguely normal.

Having said that, given what they had, the acting was actually quite good. I said good. Not wonderful, not great. Just good. Casting was excellent. Madison (Erika Christensen) is perfectly cast. She looks so seductive, innocent and devilish at the same time. Amy (Shiri Appleby) is fantastically cast as the somewhat quiet girlfriend of Ben (Jesse Bradford). Both girls are very beautiful, which adds to the sex appeal of the movie as well as the plot. We aren't told so, but it's more than obvious that although Ben and Amy are in love, they don't get intimate too often, leading to Ben's weakness (and he didn't try to stop Madison's advances too hard) and his ultimate mistake.

The direction is quite good. Camera angles are suspenseful, lighting is excellent, with an obvious emphasis on blue (which, through the whole movie, exudes a rather powerful 'chilling' feeling) The pacing of the movie in general is okay, although something tells me that a lot of key scenes are lying on the cutting-room floor ... and this brings me to the negatives.

The story is terrible. Apart from the 'Fatal Attraction' clone (which isn't a problem in itself) - the characters are insanely stupid and naive. As a viewer, you are dragged straight into the story with absolutely no room to begin to understand the characters. There is absolutely no character development, no character arcs and no plot twists whatsoever. We are not given any motivation as to why Madison is the way she is, what her motivations are, why she's attracted to Ben (or other athletes), how she really got to know about Ben so soon, and we're also rushed through major scenes in the movie (the urine-switch etc.) It all culminates to an overly-dramatic climax which is frankly quite disappointing but predictable. I would like to have seen a 'stalker wins' kind of ending, just adding another victim to her tally.

If the point of the movie was to be a dramatic thriller, then they failed miserably. Too dramatic, not thrilling. Mildly comedic, and quite irritating at times. You just want to shake Ben and say to him (when the coach tells him that his urine tested positive for steroids) "Dude! Demand a re-analysis! MAKE A FUSS for crying out loud!!" - But he stupidly walks off after a weak attempt at convincing the coach of his innocence, only to open his locker and find a baseball bat (as a viewer, I thought "Huh? Where did this come from??") Anyway, a passable movie...entertaining but not good enough to make me want to watch it again in a hurry. Major plot holes, stupid characters and key elements that were glanced over or cut out (or not written in the first place) changes this from a 8/10 to a 5/10.

Surprising though, I thought that Polson did a fantastic job with Hide & Seek. Lets hope he keeps improving!
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