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on March 8, 2008
Did any of you pay attention to the movie that you were watching? Or were you doing something while this was playing in the background? I am just trying to address some of the problems that people seem to have with this movie that I think are not real problems. First, one reviewer wrote that is unbelievable that the characters would be able to walk around without helmets on the surface of Mars. NEWSFLASH, the characters themselves explain how this is possible, and within the first 20 minutes no less. Second, another reviewer said the aliens don't even look like aliens. That is because they are not aliens. The Ghosts that the title refer to posses the humans that are colonizing the planet. That is why they look human, cause they ARE. Third, the dialogue has been commented on in more than a few reviews and while it is cheesy it is not like this is Shakesphere. It is about a group of police officers who are going to place that none of them want to be. Of course they are going to sound irritated, wouldn't you?

I would just like to say before i finish that the next time you review a movie please watch it and at least try to pay attention.
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on June 27, 2004
It's John Carpenter, so what does everyone expect? I know what I expected, and "Ghosts of Mars" pretty much delivered. Thudding sound track, B-movie dialogue, heads on stakes, "Road Warrior" like zanies with metal sticking out of their faces stalking the "good" guys. Bring on the popcorn. Then there's a humorous twist. The "guys" in this future world live in a Matriarchy. Guys make the coffee, defer to the women, but also are told to deal with mechanical problems when they arise. (Well, at least the "breeder" - Jason Statham as Jericho - does.) Carpenter works all kinds of little jokes into the script on this wrinkle alone. Natasha Henstridge as the tough cop hero, and Ice Cube, as the con hero, are serviceable - and they know when to shoot, kick, and punch. And that's all that's needed here. I don't know who the main Martian is (he looks like Marilyn Manson in Kabuki), but he's perfect! Four stars for operating well within genre.
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on March 8, 2004
Ghosts of Mars (John Carpenter, 2001)
Man, was everyone down on this movie or what? Come on, folks. This wasn't great art, and it wasn't meant to be. It's simple turn-your-brain-off fun that follows the formula of most of John Carpenter's earlier flicks to every dotted I and crossed T. And while that seems to be exactly what had the fans howling in the aisles, please, folks, help me out here.
Okay, so all the guns exist today even though it's in the future. (Escape from New York, anyone?) The bad guys look a lot more like the guys from GWAR than they do actual bad guys. (Vampires, They Live, erm, the crazies from Escape from New York.) The action runs a very taut line between not gory enough and ludicrously faked. (Escape from New York-- are you sensing a pattern here?) So what? Everyone overlooked it twenty years ago.
The basic idea is that a team of space marines has to go get a prisoner, Desolation Jones (Ice Cube of Trespass and Friday fame), from a remote outpost and take him back to HQ to stand trial. Problem is, when they get there, they found out a whole lot of crimes matching the ones he's supposed to have committed have happened while he was in his holding cell. So the team, headed up by a drug-addled Lieutenant (Natasha McElhone), her commander (Pam Grier), and their new officer, an overly cocky and wildly oversexed Sergeant (Jason Statham, best known for his Guy Ritchie films) figure there's something nasty going on, and have to figure out what it is and how to stop it before the train, which has gone on to make a few more stops, gets back.
No, you're not going to find great acting, the plot's been done before, and, well, it's about as silly as can be. But folks, that's pretty much what John Carpenter has always been about, from Dark Star till the present day. Some of his movies forget to be humorous, some of them forget to be scary, some of them are just sci-fi action pictures. That's what this one is. Things blow up, the bad guys chase the good guys, things blow up, people bond, things blow up, you get the idea. Turn your brain off and enjoy the ride. ** ½
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Ghosts of Mars(released Aug.01)stars Natashia Henstridge,Ice Cube,Pam Grier,Joanna Cassidy and Jason Statham.It is a good cast wasted on a poor script and the actors just sleep walk their way through this been-there,done-that yawner from John Carpenter.Maybe because it was filmed mostly at night it would explain the yawn part.
The story opens on Mars which is almost fully terraformed.There has been on going exploration of the planet for some time.A remarkable discovery is made when a blasting site reveals an opening in the side of a cliff;obviously artificial.Joanna Cassidy is the person who first explores the tunnel and inadvertently opens up the door at the end of it.This unleashes a reddish cloud which contains the souls of thousands of dead Martians from ages past and they aren't up for garden parties.It is more of a possess now and kill later kind of thing.
Henstridge,Grier and Statham are three out of five cops sent to retrieve a dangerous killer in the form of Ice Cube.When they reach the settlement by train they come upon one grisly discovery after another.This leads to the ultimate discovery of hundreds of miners that have been possessed by the Martian souls and are bent on killing the "invaders"(that's us).The spirits can possess either the living or the dead so the crew has to be careful at all times.
In the end most of the original cops have gone and in fact Henstridge and Cube are alone fleeing on the train.Cube manages to get away from Henstridge who wanted to return him for trial.When she arrives back at HQ,she is interrogated by a disbelieving panel of superiors.As she sits alone in her room she suddenly hears alot of raucous outside.Who should show up but Ice Cube as the possessed beings have reached HQ and Cube and Henstridge are ready to fight but are taking no prisoners.
This movie must have certainly looked better on paper,because it doesn't look good on film.It is almost as if Carpenter had an obligation for one last film to someone,and came up with this lame duck of an idea.The cast goes through their paces barely awake;there is very little excitement or suspenseful build ups at any time.The SFX are really pedestrian at best and do not help anyone or anything about Ghosts of Mars.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1 and looks clear and crisp.Extras include the making of GOM,commentary,a vid diary,featurettes on the making of GOM,the S/FX and the scoring and the trailer.
All in all a very mediocre Carpenter film;a real disappointment.The plot is hum drum and the lack of excitement and drama exuded by the actors on screen really shows,because of it.2 1/2 stars.Pass on it.
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on March 16, 2004
Yeah, everyone's whining about Ghosts Of Mars. Everyone's pretty much given up on John Carpenter. I admire Carpenter for making the films he wants to and not succumbing to whatever trendiness is expected of horror directors. Wes may be hip wit da teens, but John does what he wants to, even if you think it's lame. Ghosts Of Mars isn't his finest hour, it's not even all that great, but it's Carpenter. This is the kind of film Carpenter has always made. He's never admitted to being more than a B film director and he chooses to be such. After Starman, he coulda been in the big time, but chose his own independent Prince Of Darkness over the Hollywood machine. Ghosts Of Mars would have had more critical and fan praise if it were released in the mid eighties. It wouldn't have seemed so cliched. Personally I admire him for making such a film, passe as it may seem. If I were you I'd check it out. Just don't be expecting some sci-fi extravaganza(which I think everyone was expecting), expect cheesy B movie thrills.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon July 27, 2010
All this movie is just mad Max on Mars. There's great quantities of blood lots of action and an appalling lack of sex. Luckily, I saw the Blu-Ray version so I was able to fast forward through most of it. The Blu-Ray also has commentaries that are not worth listening to.

200 years in the future, a train on autopilot enters the station with only one passenger handcuffed. She is brought in to the Council to explain her experiences. We get one big flash back. She was sent to pick up a prisoner in an outpost-mining town. However, what she found there could infect the whole planet. We get to watch as they handle the situation or try to handle the situation or whatever.

No time for story too busy slashing each other up with makeshift weapons that have little points on them and take more energy to build than the standard weapons of the time. No time for love just drugs and killing and more killing and slicing and dicing and chop-O-medics and spitting blood and scratching your eyes out and so forth and so forth and so forth. Wouldn't you know it, no one stays in the car.
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Despite the basically unexplained absurdity of the whole storyline, Ghosts of Mars is a pretty entertaining film to watch, what with all of the explosions, gun battles, decapitations, and bare-fisted brawls riding the crests of John Carpenter's hard-driving musical score. Sure, it takes a little while to put the characters in place and set the Martian scene for us, but once the gauntlet drops, it's pretty much on. You don't need a lot of character development in an action thriller like this one because you know most of the characters you meet aren't going to survive in the end, anyway. I do have to deduct some points for the whole flashback business, though. It's bad enough that the bulk of the film is presented as a flashback, but when you start putting flashbacks inside your flashbacks, I've got to stop you right there and call Shenanigans. Flashbacks within flashbacks should be the sole province of fifth-year, we've-run-out-of-ideas sit-coms.

It's the year 2176 and man has established a strong presence on Mars, setting up mining colonies all over the increasingly terra-formed planet. Society is set up along matriarchal lines, which should be interesting but isn't because the story just throws that out there and does nothing with it. It certainly does nothing to stop the practice of male sexism because Sgt. Jericho Butler (Jason Statham, who always brings plenty of action to the party) spends most of his time (when he's not fighting for his life, of course), trying to get into the 22nd century knickers of his superior officer Lt. Melanie Ballard (Natasha Henstridge). Ballard and Jericho are part of a quintet of cops dispatched to a remote post to pick up a prisoner and bring him back for trial. This isn't just any prisoner, though; no, this is the formidable Desolation Williams (Ice Cube), a dangerous but as of yet thrice-acquitted murderer now accused of slaughtering six people. When the cops arrive, they are disconcerted to find a virtual ghost town. Williams is still secured in his cell, but most everyone else in town is hanging upside down, sans head, in one building or another. We already know from the early minutes of the film that Ballard is the only person to make it back to base camp (a fact which robs the movie of a great deal of potential suspense); what we don't know is what happened out there - and that doesn't become perfectly clear until the end of the movie.

Natasha Henstridge doesn't really do a lot for me, but she was pretty good in this film (although some of the scenes wherein she shows her authority and general toughness rang a little hollow). She's not your ideal cop, and that makes her character more interesting - especially when everything hits the fan and she's forced to seriously change tactics in an attempt to survive. I thought Ice Cube was great; his is really the most interesting character in the film, and even Jason Statham can't match him in the "one tough hombre" department. For their part, the "ghosts of Mars" aren't impressive at all, and their minions (whom they "possess") look like a huge gang of WWE rejects trying to channel The Crow. They are evil and relentless (not to mention ugly), though, which pretty much guarantees that all of the fight and battle scenes are going to be fiercely waged. Their little flying body slicers are particularly effective at disarming (and sometimes even "dis-heading") their victims.

Basically, Ghosts of Mars is more of an action movie that just so happens to take place on Mars than it is a makes-you-think kind of science fiction offering. If you're not into relatively bloody action movies, you probably won't enjoy this film very much.
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on February 12, 2004
In the year 2176, Natasha Henstridge (Species, Species 2) is lieutenant Melanie Ballard, a tough-as-iron cop on a colonized Mars. She is sent to a small mining town to take custody of the infamous James "Desolation" Williams (Ice Cube). Once there, Ballard and her team (including the beautiful Pam "Jackie Brown" Grier) encounter a desolate ghost town that should be thriving with night-life. A defiant, uncooperative Williams is found in his jail cell. Aside from a handful of other prisoners, the rest of the town seems to have been slaughtered. Ballard's group soon discovers that an army of self-mutilating crazies have wiped out everyone. This ghoulish bunch were once normal humans, but were possessed by the spirits of ancient martian inhabitants. Now controlled by these ghosts, they are a sadistic tribe of killers, bent on the total annihilation of all who oppose them. Ballard and Williams must join forces and unite their two factions (cops and criminals) into one fighting force in order to survive. This movie combines the better elements of Carpenter's "Assault On Precinct 13" with Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" and Romero's "Night Of The Living Dead". The result is a last-stand / Alamo scenario that is convincingly creepy and entertaining. I really enjoyed GOM, and recommend it to all horror fanatics...
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on October 26, 2003
Oh John where have you gone? HALLOWEEN...THE FOG...THE THING...These were your truly good movies. Since then, we've had to go from THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW to VAMPIRES to this uproariously bad movie! If you intended it to be high camp, well then I would give you three or four stars, but it seems as though you weren't aiming for camp, or it would have been campier! Awful special effects; there's one scene when they're on the train that it looks like a cardboard box. Awful acting...except for Jason Statham, who appared to be enjoying himself. Ice Cube was as cold as his name; Natasha Hensridge should play non-speaking parts, although in this one she isn't even that attractive; shame on Pam Grier for joining the crew. It's like Carpenter cast the real zombies from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And the music, oh John, how awful. It was so distracting from the movie!!! What made HALLOWEEN so effective was it's "ordinariness"--one could actually feel it's reality; THE THING was likewise ominous in its wondering who was possessing who? This face should definitely join the list of the worst sci-fi films made. Yuck!
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on October 24, 2003
Ghost of Mars is the type of movie they don't seem to make anymore. John Carpenter borrows elements from a number of his previous films, most obviously Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, and The Fog, as well as genre staples like Night of the Living Dead, Aliens, and the entire western genre. He also foregoes the excessive CGI typical of a sci-fi action film these days and settles into B-movie territory with gusto. He loves cheese, he loves rebellious statements about society and politics delivered between head bashing action and heavy metal riffs.
In the year 2176, some cops (led by the gorgeous Natasha Henstridge) are traveling to a mining city on Mars to transfer a dangerous prisoner (Ice Cube). They find the city completely empty save for a few bodies, but the prisoners are still sitting in jail. It's not long before they discover a tribe of very angry mutants who seem to enjoy self-mutilation, sharp weapons, and a lot of killing. It turns out that some miners unwittingly unlocked a vault that was keeping some kind of alien life form thingee trapped inside, so we have a little bit of The Keep as well. (Now there's a bad sci fi movie to borrow from if there ever was one). This life form is airborne and takes over people, turning them into speedy zombies that like driving blades through their own flesh, screaming a lot in front of bonfires, and wreaking havoc.
So we get some Rio Bravo (the basis for Assault) action as the cops and criminals band together to blow away the creatures with weapons from the present day. Strange, but today's soldiers seem better equipped than the people in this movie are; it would be like outfitting the US Army in 2003 with muskets.
The head zombie looks like he should be fronting a Norwegian Black Metal band as his role calls for a lot of screaming, waving of a rubbery sword, and Viking action, and the other zombies look like understudies for KISS or GWAR, which lends the film a silly, fun quality. I'm not sure why they're so angry, especially since the humans freed them...
Henstridge clearly cannot act; not sure if Species had a bigger budget than this or not, but that film at least had her running around naked when the violence wasn't exploding on the screen. Her face is very chiseled, but she seems to be thinking of something else (her best 'acting' comes during her drug induced high battle with the demons). Pam Grier shows up, briefly, before her severed head makes an appearance. Jason Statham is always fun with his English equivalent of a Brooklyn accent. Ice Cube, as the criminal James 'Desolation' Williams (er, right) scowls most of the time and gets to do some gangsta action with two guns (check out that chrome plated gun at the end) as well as sport a leather jacket that looks like he wore it to the set that day. Joanna Cassidy shows up to give some exposition and little else.
This is a fatalistic movie, with most of the characters eventually being sliced and diced. It has a typical Carpenter ending, which is always welcome amid the typical Hollywood action endings. There's even a pro-drug message at one point (go Carpenter!)
However, what I can't figure out is how this film, made in 2001, can look cheaper than lower budget flicks Carpenter made earlier in his career. If Carpenter was going for pure B-movie fodder, he succeeded almost too well. In typical Carpenter fashion, the director composes the music himself (apparently with help of Anthrax). It seems hard to believe it even got a theatrical release, given the look of the film. It's like it fell out of 1982 or something, with sets that look like they sprinkled some Star Trek props with red dust. Apparently, people can breathe on Mars now, even with those hot white lights that Carpenter has hanging just out of camera range.
I love John Carpenter, but I have to wonder what's up with his career. He probably has difficulty getting funding for his movies, and I fear another movie like this and he could be off to straight-to-DVD-land. He does, however, get a lot of credit for just not caring about typical Hollywood norms anymore and doing what he wants to do (remaking his previous films).
Ghosts of Mars is a cheesy movie, period. Carpenter clearly misses B-movies of yore, genre films that didn't have to be mega-blockbusters. It's definitely a good cheap DVD pickup with plenty of potential for repeat viewings of the mayhem that ensues on screen (have to love the head zombies excessive screaming and posing). This might offend even Carpenter addicts, but it's a guilty pleasure, completely, totally unpretentious, and fun.
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