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Ghost Rider

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It's a mildly entertaining idea -- man sells soul, later becomes a motorbike-riding avenger with a flaming skull for a head -- stretched far too thin in Mark Steve Johnson's unsatisfying adaptation of a Marvel comic. It could have been a short-and-sweet hoot, but Johnson opts for brooding, leavened with off-key notes of humor. Nicolas Cage portrays a gloomy stunt biker called Johnny Blaze; presumably Cage plays his skeleton-on-fire alter ego too, though the Ghost Rider is just so much CGI. Having opted to go semi-serious, Ghost scrimps on developing Blaze's various corporal and emotional burdens, instead dilly-dallying in romantic subplots and lots of body-morphing special effects. It's a bit of an in-joke that Johnson hires the original Easy Rider, Peter Fonda, to bring misery to this film's bikers as the devil. But for grizzled-veteran casting, Sam Elliott, as the OG horseback Ghost Rider, gallops away with the film, leaving Cage dazed and blinking in his dust. (AH)

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