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'Formula 51' is surprisingly fun

October 31, 2002

Elmo McElroy (Samuel L Jackson) is a clever, kilt-wearing American

master chemist who heads to England to set up his last big deal --

the introduction of a designer drug to the European market. McElroy

soon becomes embroiled in a web of double-dealing as he's escorted

around Liverpool's underworld and rave scene by rabid local hood

Felix De Souza (Robert Carlyle), who hates all things American. Rival

dealers would kill for McElroy's new drug -- they do. The Lizard

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(Meatloaf) is one of them. He has had McElroy under his control for

years. Now he must chase McElroy to Great Britain and use his hit

woman, Dakota (Emily Mortimer), to keep tabs on him until he arrives.

Director Ronnie Yu does his best work to date, with a pseudo-hip

script by newcomer Stel Pavlou. Although the accents were off, the

characters predictable and the credibility stretched, "Formula 51" is

somehow not pretentious while pretending to be a British "Pulp

Fiction." It is just plain dumb fun, with a few gruesome scenes

thrown in for good measure.

Jackson is, as always, a pleasure to watch. His proficiency and

ease allow you to coast through the bumpy parts of the film. Carlyle

and Mortimer have good chemistry and pace, and Rhys Ifans plays a

Liverpool drug kingpin with aplomb.

Don't get me wrong. The movie is awful. There is nothing at all

redeeming in it. It is chock full of senseless and ridiculous

violence. Put all those things together and you've got fun.

* RAY BUFFER, 33, is a professional singer, actor and voice-over

artist.

This 'Ghost Ship'

can't stay afloat

A seaworthy salvage crew is hired by a stranger to retrieve a

deserted luxury liner adrift at sea. The tight knit, professional

six-member crew, however, are unequipped to handle the mission due to

the mysterious and grisly forces laying in wait for them aboard the

ghost ship.

Directed by Steve Beck of last year's "13 Ghosts," "Ghost Ship"

salvages the same story with few minor changes. "Ghost Ship" sets

sail for the high seas with its ghostly passengers trapped on board

since 1962, when an evil supernatural force swept on board and

claimed their souls in a mass slaughter.

Why the innocent passengers aboard the Italian luxury liner were

dismembered and then trapped for 40 years is slowly revealed to the

new arrivals. The more they learn about the fate of the previous

passengers, the quicker they want to disembark and head for home,

even if it means leaving behind the fortune they've found buried

below deck. Instead of a quick get away, however, they each become

entangled in a supernatural cat and mouse game instigated by the

invisible yet deadly evil presence that still needs more bodies for

its own macabre and twisted reasons.

Starring Julianna Margulies and Gabriel Byrne, "Ghost Ship" uses

gruesome bloodletting to divert attention from its weak story line.

The tragic events faced by the passengers in 1962 is repeated often

enough to resemble an instant replay like they do for televised

sporting events. The story line of a group of people disappearing one

by one has been done before, and done better. And, it will be done

again, hopefully better.

* PEGGY J. ROGERS, 39, produces commercial videos and

documentaries.

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