This week at the movies…

Ghost Ship
by Matt Windman

The poster for the new film Ghost Ship features a large skull rising out of a cruise liner. It was probably designed to scare pre-adolescent children (it desperately screams “I’m scary! Come see me!”). To anyone who’s actually made it through puberty though, it comes across as a tad ridiculous.

Ghost Ship, directed by Steve Beck of Thirteen Ghosts fame, is the story of a second-rate sea-faring crew that is tempted to explore a lost sea vessel.

Who knew the thing would be haunted with the souls of its dead passengers, most particularly that of a creepy little girl?

The movie begins with the needlessly gory murder of the ship’s original passengers (I’ll spare you the details). The exposition is fast and formulaic, as if trying to get to the “good stuff” as soon as possible. The rest of the movie is chopped full of singular, fear-provoking moments, random expletives and cheap laughs appealing to the seventh-grader without HBO.

The film’s colorful, video game feel is clearly the movie’s forte. The cinematography is packed with images of the large-scale ship meant to project an eerie disposition on the viewer.

The script acts like a recycled product of every thriller you’ve seen before, ranging from The Shining to The Perfect Storm. It has almost no emphasis or care for its actors.

The more prominent characters include ex-“ER” nurse Julianna Margulies and Spike Lee star Isiah Washington.

Ultimately, the movie acts like a $10 roller coaster ride. You can bet it’s packed with plenty of thrills and bumps, including murders, dirty words and explosions, but you’ve definitely ridden this one before.

The Truth About Charlie
By Jeff Frost

Sometimes the truth hurts. Nothing aches more than to see Jonathan Demme, director of Silence of the Lambs, and Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption) take the uninspired Hollywood path. I suppose even the most impressive resumes need a little Wite-Out now and then.

The Truth About Charlie centers around Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton), a woman who just returned home to find her Parisian apartment ransacked and her husband of three months in the morgue.

As the police bombard her with questions, Lambert begins to discover that there was a lot she did not know about her husband. Logically, she turns to Joshua Peters (Mark Whalberg), a man with whom she once shared a cab, for help. From there we bear witness as Lambert stumbles through a web of truth and lies involving Peters, French policemen, ex-military jewel thieves, an American O.D.C. agent (Robbins), and a creepy little piano player named Aznavour.

A remake of the 1963 Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn outing Charade, Demme’s Truth script has some snappy dialogue but little else. The story is predictable yet still manages to be a bit overly complicated. The film itself is classy yet hollow.

Like the relationship between the two leads, most of the plot twists that ensue can only be described as illogical. The film’s caper in question is entertaining at times, but the romantic subplot does nothing more than break any sort of momentum the film might have been gaining.

However, the film is not a total waste. The acting is sufficient considering the characters. Wahlberg has to do little else but play a suave-tough guy and Newton aptly manages as his “damsel in distress.” They breathe some life into the mostly flat characters.

Robbins has little more than a cameo, simply strolling through the film. The film’s visual aspects, as well as the music, are what serve to justify its existence.

Demme’s fast-paced direction, combined with the European backdrop, provides for some notable aesthetics. On top of that is a jazzy techno-hip-hop score that keeps the tone of this scatter-brained flick.

Paid in Full
Lauren Spitzer

Money, cars, clothes and power. What else is there?

Director Charles Stone, III’s takes on the precept of excess in his new film Paid in Full. The movie tells the true story of 1986 Harlem and the downfall of those who consumed money, power and respect with reckless abandon.

Based on a true story, Paid in Full is a well-documented drama that chronicles a year in the life of Ace (Wood Harris), a once deprived laundry service employee who falls into the world of drug dealing. After a laundry-related encounter with Lulu (Esai Morales), another wealthy dealer, Ace “connects” and decides to go into business himself.

The film’s realistic content simultaneously shocks and excites the audience. The rise and fall of the characters, such as Ace’s friends Mitch (Mekhi Phifer) and Calvin (Kevin Carroll), is told with genuine characterizations.

Paid in Full depicts underprivileged Harlem, showing a district consumed by crime. Drugs are the source of this violence, the negative consequence of an industry that also provides the neighborhood with expensive cars, women and gold chain necklaces. These material objects pronounce one’s power in the community.

The accuracy of character emotions allows the audience to connect with the characters, even if they lack an ability to directly understand the film’s context.

Several jaw-dropping scenes captivate the audience, making the film truly remarkable. In the midst of the violence, the characters fail to show much, if any, emotion toward the doom present in their surroundings.

The characters show loyalty to their friends, mostly by killing those who hurt them. Yet there doesn’t seem to be much sentiment when people are harmed. Perhaps that is the reality that the film depicts.

Paid in Full is a moral film about the illicit “underworld” of 1986 Harlem, but it is fair and accurate in its depictions. The flashback style of the film clearly illustrates how much a person can change in only a year.

Stone does a nice job of illustrating the reality of “paying full” price for money, power, and respect – three key elements of Harlem citizens’ desires. If you are up for the harsh, yet cleverly interesting, reality of this true story, take a friend and see it in theaters this weekend.

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