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The “Ghost Rider” directors talk Easter Eggs, inner demons, and the superhero brawl they’d love to film

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” roars into theaters this weekend, bringing audiences a reinvention of the skull-faced, motorcycle-riding Marvel character as seen through the lens of “Crank” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Although Nicolas Cage returns to the role of Johnny Blaze that he first played in 2007’s critically panned “Ghost Rider,” the new film has been described as anything but a straight-up sequel by the studio, and looks to offer a more kinetically-charged, darker take on the character that blends intense action and horror elements.

In the film, Johnny Blaze is tasked with rescuing a boy named Danny from the demonic forces pursuing him across Eastern Europe. Along with a host of bad guys armed to the teeth with all manner of heavy weaponry, Ghost Rider must contend with a vicious supernatural villain who can decay anything he touches and a demon who may or may not be the devil himself. This is all in addition to Johnny’s own internal struggle with the demon that lurks inside him and yearns to exact fiery punishment on the wicked.

IFC spoke to Neveldine and Taylor about the new film, and got their take on bringing Ghost Rider back to the big screen, some of the movie’s comics-friendly plot points, and the two superheroes they’d like to bring together in a perfect world.

IFC: I’ve noticed over the last few years that the filmmakers and actors who take on certain comic book movie projects tend to have a pre-existing connection to the character — whether it’s one of their favorite characters from back in the day, or just a character they discovered recently and pursued. What was your connection to Ghost Rider? Why did this particular film appeal to you?

BRIAN TAYLOR: Well, it’s kind of the same connection Nic has to the character. We all have demons, and that’s what the Ghost Rider is. Johnny Blaze has a demon — but it’s a real one. Anybody who has a dark side and struggles with it can relate to what the Ghost Rider is, so of all the heroes it seemed like the perfect one for us to take on. Also, we like to wear leather.

MARK NEVELDINE: And motorcycles… [laughs]

IFC: After the poor performance of the first film, a lot of people were surprised when Sony announced that it was making another Ghost Rider movie. When you two came on to the project, what elements did you focus on changing this time around? Were there any particular parts of the first “Ghost Rider” that you identified as problem areas?

NEVELDINE: We didn’t look at it that way, actually. I didn’t see the first movie, but it wasn’t about changing things with this one, it was about starting from scratch again with a script David Goyer wrote years before the first movie came out. So it really was its own thing. When we got on board, we said, “Hey this is what we’d like to do with it,” and Sony said they loved the aesthestics of what we wanted to do with the skull, the rider, and the motorcycle, and this dark demon that he’s battling with — like he’s battling an addiction. They dug all of that, and we just put our stamp on it and made it.

We’re super happy the first movie was made, though. I think a lot of kids loved it and it was kind of the Disney version of the Ghost Rider. I’m actually going to watch it the night before our movie opens to finally see it. I’m excited about it. [“Spirit of Vengeance”] is really a reinvention of Ghost Rider.

IFC: One of the big questions surrounding the film right now is whether the boy named Danny is actually supposed to be Danny Ketch, the character from the comics who eventually becomes Ghost Rider after Johnny Blaze. Danny’s last name is never mentioned in “Spirit of Vengeance,” so what’s the deal? Is he Danny Ketch?

TAYLOR: We threw that in there to drive people crazy talking about it. Is he Danny Ketch? We don’t even know yet. Did J.J. Abrams really know how “Lost” was going to end when they started it?

NEVELDINE: He probably did.

TAYLOR: [Laughs] Well, we don’t know the answer to that one yet.

IFC: Outside of the Danny might-be-Ketch, are there any other elements from the Ghost Rider comics that managed to fit into the film? I know the villain was based on the character Blackout, right?

TAYLOR: Yeah, we never actually call the villain Blackout, but fans of the comic will recognize him as an altered, evolved version of Blackout. For the most part, Ghost Rider is a character who’s so cool, but he’s never been done the way you really want to see him — even in the comics. The stories written by Garth Ennis were really cool, but with the exception of those, you always wanted something different from the Ghost Rider. You always wanted him to be darker, scarier, or weirder, so we really didn’t use the first movie or the comics as a jump-off point. We just tried to do the coolest version of the character that we could with what we were handed.

IFC: There were a lot of familiar horror-movie elements in the film, like the way Ghost Rider lurches around at varying speeds and just suddenly appears in front of his victims. It’s something we see a lot in modern horror films. Was there a conscious effort on your part to make this more of a horror movie than a superhero movie?

NEVELDINE: Yeah, we wanted him to be frightening. We love those horror elements, because they feel like a natural part of the character. When you think about this character, he should frighten the person he’s standing in front of.

TAYLOR: He is more of a horror character than a superhero. A lot of that stuff we came up with while talking with Nic, too. There’s a particularly inexplicable and insane moment when Ghost Rider kills all of the guys at the quarry, and when the smoke clears you find Ghost Rider levitating in the air, slowly spinning around like a clock or a compass. That was something that came out of us batting around an idea with Nic that the Ghost Rider inflicts psychological warfare on his victims as much as he does physical, and a lot of what he does is similar to the demonic presences in “Evil Dead” and “The Ring” and movies like that. They’re fucking with people’s minds and want to destroy your brain before they destroy your body. [Ghost Rider] does a lot of stuff like that because he’s a demon from another dimension, and you will never understand why he does it. Humans will never understand why he does what he does, and you’re sort of in awe and horror of it at the same time.

IFC: So, if all goes well with your reinvention of the character, would you be interested in returning to the character for a sequel? Do you feel like you have more Ghost Rider stories to tell?

TAYLOR: As always, it’s up to the fans. If people embrace this movie, I’m sure they’ll want another one. The challenge for that would be: Can we make as big of a leap from the second movie to the third as we did from the first movie to the second?

NEVELDINE: There’s a lot of territory still to cover, though.

IFC: There’s been more than a few people who have suggested that you guys should do more comic book movies. If you could have your pick of any characters in the comic book world, who would you want to make a film about?

TAYLOR: We would love to answer the age-old question of who’s stronger, Hulk or Superman.

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” hits theaters Friday, February 17. The film stars Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, and Fergus Riordan.

What do you think of the “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” directors’ answers? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Jackie That 70s Show

Jackie Oh!

15 That ’70s Show Quotes to Help You Unleash Your Inner Jackie

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-10P on IFC.

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When life gets you down, just ask yourself, what would Jackie do? (But don’t ask her, because she doesn’t care about your stupid problems.) Before you catch That ’70s Show on IFC, take a look at some quotes that will help you be the best Jackie you can be.


15. She knows her strengths.

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14. She doesn’t let a little thing like emotions get in the way.

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13. She’s her own best friend.

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12. She has big plans for her future.

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11. She keeps her ego in check.

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10. She can really put things in perspective.

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9. She’s a lover…

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8. But she knows not to just throw her love around.

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7. She’s proud of her accomplishments.

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6. She knows her place in the world.

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5. She asks herself the hard questions.

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4. She takes care of herself.

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3. She’s deep.

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2. She’s a problem solver.

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1. And she’s always modest.

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“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” trailer offers more chaos, fire and chain-whipping action

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” trailer offers more chaos, fire and chain-whipping action (photo)

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Keep your seatbelts fastened, true believers, because there’s a new trailer for “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” — and though it doesn’t feature the skull-faced hero peeing fire, there’s a lot of other craziness to behold.

The new trailer comes hot on the heels (pun totally intended) of an early screening during this year’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon. And while our reporter in attendance at the film festival didn’t have much praise for “Spirit of Vengeance” (“It makes the first ‘Ghost Rider’ look like ‘Iron Man,'” he wrote), there’s still plenty of time for you to make up your own mind about Nicolas Cage’s return to the role of Johnny Blaze, the human host for Marvel’s fiery spirit of vengeance.

In the film, Johnny Blaze is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (played by Fergus Riordan) from the devil himself (Ciaran Hinds). In order to do so, he’ll have to embrace the demon inside of him and bring Ghost Rider back for another adventure.

Along with the trio of aforementioned actors, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” stars Violante Placido, Idris Elba, and Johnny Whitworth. The film is directed by the “Crank” duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, and premieres February 17.

What did you think of the new “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” trailer? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

“‘Crank 3′ is going to happen,” says director Mark Neveldine

“‘Crank 3′ is going to happen,” says director Mark Neveldine (photo)

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You guys don’t need to get me a present for my birthday (*coughDecember23cough*) anymore. I already got everything I wanted. That’s because Mark Neveldine — one half of the brilliant writing/directing tandem Neveldine/Taylor” — told Empire that “Crank 3″ — the second sequel to “Crank,” a.k.a. one of the best action movies of the last decade, and the first sequel to “Crank: High Voltage,” a.k.a. one of the craziest action movies of the last millenium — is “going to happen.”

Empire was talking with Neveldine about his upcoming “Ghost Rider” sequel with Nicolas Cage, “Spirit of Vengeance” and asked whether he’d like to see “Vengeance” co-star Idris Elba join the next installment in the “Crank” franchise alongside series god star Jason Statham. Here’s what he said:

“I would LOVE that! Actually, we joking-but-not-quite-jokingly joked about that with Idris while we were over in Romania and Turkey. Just trying to figure out a way of getting him into ‘Crank 3.’ There are so many different ways that ‘Crank 3′ could go. We’ve been talking about the top 50 ideas we what to do for ‘Crank 3,’ so we’re just trying to pair them down. By the way, ‘Crank 3′ is going to happen, the studios are really excited about it — it’s just all about timing.”

And cue wildly enthusiastic cheering…

Here is my advice to Neveldine and Taylor if they truly have fifty different ideas for what to do in “Crank 3:” Just make them all. I will watch 50 more “Crank” movies. In each one, Statham can have a different debilitating handicap that requires all manner of recharging or juicing or having sex in public (if you haven’t seen the first two films, having sex in public is a weirdly important part of the “Crank” mythos). Like maybe “Crank 3″ could be called “Crank: Hungry Heart” and in that one Statham’s artificial heart is replaced with a sentient alien creature from space that needs to constantly eat human flesh to survive. And then they follow that with “Crank: I Sock It,” where Chev Chelios goes blind and he receives new robotic eye implants that shoot death lasers, but they require a constant supply of Visine drops, so he has to keep schlepping out to CVS.

You get the idea. The possibilities really are endless. I hope we get to see them all.

Psyched for “Crank 3?” Say yes, or we’re never talking again. Leave us your exciting comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

[H/T JoBlo]

Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods”

Butt-Numb-A-Thon 2012 full report, from “The Hobbit” to “Cabin in the Woods” (photo)

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When Harry Knowles, the Grand Mufti of movie bloggers, has a birthday party he does it up big. It starts with the Internet’s most die-hard cinemaniacs filling out an elaborate application for a coveted, assigned seat at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and ends with intense film junkie bragging rights.

The event, appropriately called Butt-Numb-a-Thon, is a (more than) 24-hour movie marathon mixing hard-to-find vintage prints and first looks at forthcoming films. In years past, attendees have had sneak peeks at movies like “King Kong”, “Kick-Ass” and “Hobo With A Shotgun”, as well rare opportunities to see flicks like Disney’s “Song of the South” or Orson Welles’ “Chimes at Midnight.”

This year, after a Friday night kick-off party at an elaborate pinball arcade, the lucky few exchanged tips on how long to wait until drinking coffee (everyone has their own theory) and tried to guess the line-up. This was my second BNAT, but the first one is merely a haze of nachos, laughter and beer breath. I still felt like a noob going into this, and, frankly, a little nervous. It was Saturday at 11:30 am and I wouldn’t be out again til 1 pm on Sunday.

Here’s a rundown of went down.


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Readers of AintItCoolNews (Knowles’ site) know that contributor Eric “Quint” Vespe has been embedded with Peter Jackson’s production of “The Hobbit.” As such he could not be there, so offered a “happy birthday” video of messages from the set. Sir Ian McKellan appeared in costume as Gandalf the Grey and, through the magic of cinema (and some pyrotechnics in the theater) Vespe appeared in the flesh. A nice reunion for he and Knowles, but for the rest of us he brought the first ever peek at the trailer for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” As a gag, he handed the hard drive containing the trailer to frequent BNAT attendee Elijah Wood to bring to the projection room, adding “keep it secret, keep it safe.”

We were asked not to get too specific with the description, but hearing the music and seeing The Shire I was surprised at the flood of emotions that hit me. It was like seeing old friends. (And something to look out for: a band of Dwarves sing. It’s a thing of beauty.)

The Alamo Drafthouse is known for the fun programming that happens between the films, and Butt Numb-a-Thon is no different. In addition to relevant trailers, this year the audience was treated to one-frame blasts of the movie “Teen Wolf.” The subliminal images of a furry Michael J. Fox’s slam dunks was the gift that kept on giving. Threatening to play “Teen Wolf” is a recurring gag, and this year’s 13th anniversary was actually called BNAT13Wolf on Twitter.

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The first feature to roll was Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” An odd choice, perhaps, as it is currently out in theaters, but considering its love of cinephilia and invitation to “dream together” it couldn’t be more appropriate.

This led directly to the only 35mm print in the United States of George Melies’ ninety-nine year old sci-fi/fantasy film “A Trip To The Moon.” Watching it after “Hugo”, while you are still holding back the sniffles and willing to take a bullet for Melies, gives the short film an extra jolt of the warm and fuzzies.

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The next feature was the event’s most obscure, a 1930 sci-fi musical (yes, musical) called “Just Imagine.” You’ve never heard of it, but you’ve seen bits of it. . .in other movies. Many of the sets and props were re-used in sci-fi flicks like James Whale’s “Frankenstein” and the Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon”/”Buck Rogers” serials.

It’s not by any stretch a good film – it a generic Depression-era picture grafted onto sci-fi. Characters say things like, “the only way I’ll be fit to marry her is if I’m the first man to explore Mars!!” Still, there are some odd, subversive jokes (like a baby vending machine) and a surprisingly blunt reference to Henry Ford’s anti-semitism. If you like quips about Prohibition while rockets are zipping through the heavens, this is a movie for you.

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After “Just Imagine” was “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” I’d seen it already in New York, but it is good to be reminded every now and again that not everyone lives in New York. I liked the picture the first time, loved it the second time. (This is precisely how I felt about Thomas Alfredson’s previous picture “Let The Right One In”, so maybe this is a trend to try and squeeze two ticket prices out of people.)

I strongly recommend this movie, and seeing it again confirms that I need to get out an eraser and adjust my end of the year top 10 list. The photography is gorgeous and the script is like a wind-up mechanical automaton (they borrowed it from “Hugo.”) “TTSS” came with a video message, and hearing Gary Oldman say the words “Butt Numb a Thon” with just trace elements of confusion and disdain got one of the biggest laughs of the night.

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This led right to “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” Reaction to this picture was mixed. I liked it for the most part. It’s better than “Pirates 4″, maybe not as good as “National Treasure 2.” I give the action sequences points for a lot of visual panache, even if they don’t really add up to much. For example, there’s a scene where our heroes are running in the woods and getting shot at by canons. It takes the “Matrix” “Bullet-time” effect and cranks it up to a remarkable degree. But it is empty. If feels like Guy Ritchie got hipped to a new technique, was excited to use it, but never bothered to put any depth to the characters or story.

I did not actively dislike “SH: AGOS”, but it is desultory. Jared Harris’ Moriarty is an evil genius because we’re told he is, not because of anything we see him do. I’m pretty sure I saw Noomi Rapace’s big Hollywood debut, too, but other than a moment of sitting in an unladylike pose in her Gypsy gown, I can’t recall a thing she did or said.

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Next was another vintage film, something unavailable on DVD. “The Beast With Five Fingers” stars Peter Lorre at his most bugnuts Peter Lorre-ish, working as one of a number of “kept people” in the service of a rich eccentric in a small Italian village. The other lead is Robert Alda, a composer, small time grifter, lover and all-around good guy who, when the benefactor dies, would like to see the fortune transition smoothly. Some greedy American cousins look like they’re gonna’ get in between Lorre and his Astronomy books, so that’s when the hallucinations and killings start.

The titular “five fingers” are a living hand that runs amok through the compound like an angry version of Thing from “The Adams Family.” The performances (and one-handed classical music selections) are gloriously over-the-top, making this 1946 selection a fun B-picture.

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