Thursday, March 31, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH FINALE: Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Director: Mike Figgis
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Elizabeth Shue

Sera: Is drinking a way of killing yourself? 
Ben Sanderson: Or, is killing myself a way of drinking?

This is one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s full of colors, from the seductive scarlets of Nicolas Cage’s hotel room to the mesmerizing neons of Las Vegas and its various wacky characters to the bright yellows of the desert roads. It’s a movie that is full of colors to its brim, endowed with a lot of really lush, dense scenery that draws you in like a lethal intoxicant; alcohol, perhaps, as is Nic Cage’s drug throughout the movie. This is a very alcoholic movie at its core in the way that once you’re drawn in, you don’t want to leave. Like a drug, this film captivates instantly and for a long time. The scenery is coupled with a constant flow of slow, moody music that make the film look often like a warped music video. It’s actually done quite well.

So the cinematography is golden. But really, you’re not here to watch a glorified two hour music video, so how’s the story? It basically revolves around Nicolas Cage as a depressive alcoholic filmmaker who has been laid off his job. He decides to go to Las Vegas to drink himself to death, where he meets a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who helps him and who he helps in return…even if he doesn’t know he’s doing it. They’re spiraling on a path of destruction but they both really need one another, clinging for comfort. “You’re my angel,” Cage keeps saying, lost in a drunken haze. Shue puts up with all the shit he breaks, all the places he gets her kicked out of. They compromise for each other. Like a good relationship should do.

Not that their relationship is a typical one. It’s almost hyperreal, in that it is so powerful and so emotionally chained down. These people would be destroyed without each other, and when they do finally break up near the end of the film (after Cage sleeps with another prostitute), it’s clear that they are. Everyone who’s seen this movie knows that it’s about dependency, but really, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a surprise. This is a very honest and raw portrayal of a relationship – glamorized in some ways, sure; but only little touches, just to make the movie flow better. It’s dramatic, it’s destructive, it’s teary, it’s hyperreal. These people are locked in together, both with past sorrows, both needing one another more than anything else in their lives – more than water, more than food, more than air. They complete one another wholly.

So that’s enough about the story and such, how about the actors? This is probably Nicolas Cage’s highlight of his career. And it seems that everyone else agrees, too, because he won an Oscar for it. Being Cage, there are a few moments of extreme goofiness at hand. Right from the start when you see him strolling along with his sunglasses on and picking out different beers from the grocery store, you will laugh. He kind of reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson here. Maybe it’s just the sunglasses, but his callous, somewhat violent and carefree nature really reminded me of him. For the most part, though, this is a very serious and tragic performance, and Cage attacks it with a lot of heart and soul. When he smiles, you can see it; that odd, careless flare of a man who has lost everything…and when he freaks out and does something ridiculous, you feel for him, because he can’t help himself.

The real turning point with him comes when he fucks the other prostitute in Shue’s own house. I mean, how far gone are you? Look at his eyes. He’s gone, man. He’s never coming back, and he knows it. This is why he came here. It is unfortunate that he fell into such a heavy relationship, but really, he was headed for this crash-landing all along, as much as he loved Shue and as good of a guy as he may have been when he wasn’t screwing everything else up. He spends so much of the movie in a drunken stupor that you wonder how his liver doesn’t give out sooner. Watching some of these scenes, you really get a good picture of the lowest points a human being can be at. It really shows you the worst places a formerly well-established man can sink to, short of being homeless or dead. And he welcomes it with open arms, Cage does. This is the endpoint. Game over. No future anymore.

Shue’s character, Sera, is jaded and cynical on the outside. One of the most telling moments early on in the film is when Cage tells her he’ll drive her back to his hotel. She gets in the car and he asks her name, and the look of surprise on her face, subtle as it is, really shows a lot about her character. There’s this guardedness in her that you see in most prostitutes – although of course her character is a ‘movie prostitute,’ tried and true; most of the real ones probably aren’t so pretty and clean-cut. I really like the hidden delicacy and femininity she has hidden under the rock-hard exterior, and the small slivers where it does show. Like when she gives Cage his gifts when they move in together. She is a strong woman who will put up with a lot of crap. She just wanted someone to lie her head down on, someone to comfort her. It’s a shame Cage couldn’t be that for her.

Her profession is rough and not very glamorous, and she knows it, but has to keep doing it to pay the bills. She’s got it pretty damn hard. One of the more trying scenes to watch is when she gets raped by those three fratboy-jock douchebags in their stupid sports shirts in that crappy motel room. You really only see parts of it, but damn, it’s brutal, even moreso because you probably like her character so much. No one should ever be abused or hurt like this. And for an extra punch in the gut, she gets evicted right afterward. Isn’t that nice? Shue is a lot soul and it shows. Her character isn’t the most original out there, but DAMN does she ever pull it off. That goes for Cage, too; he just plays a regular old drunk. But he does it with such style that it does not matter. Goddamn, this has such great characters! So real, so passionate.

Leaving Las Vegas is an epochal film. It is truly one of those movies that says a lot with very few words. If you’ve seen it, then you know what I’m talking about; this movie is powerful. And if you haven’t, go rent it now. It’s worth your time more than…well, most Nicolas Cage movies at least. And then some. Nicolas Cage even won an Oscar for this film, which to some people might not matter, but in the end, does place Leaving Las Vegas and his performance in a very special, hallowed golden hall. Worthy of respect.

So this has been Nic Cage Month, everybody. There were bad times, there were good times. We laughed, we cried and we felt our minds go numb from confusion, mostly at Cage’s acting. We didn’t review as many Nicolas Cage films as we wanted to, but all things considered, we did an OK job. Nicolas Cage is one of those guys who you just can’t avoid. He does so much weird, crazy shit that eventually, you have to notice him, and I can just hope that this month’s reviews have served as a helpful guide.

Now. To April!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: The Wicker Man (2006)

Director: Neil LaBute
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan

“You have my permission to STAY OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY!”
-Nicolas Cage

What a vile, vapid, stupid pile of visual garbage. What a rancid cinematic venture…oh, sorry, I was just expressing my HEINOUS dislike of this GODAWFUL movie I just saw. Yes, it’s still Nicolas Cage month, and this is one of his worst movies ever. People, prepare your missiles, grab your shotguns and get ready to want to kill everyone involved in this one. This…sigh…is The Wicker Man.

And I don’t mean the 1970s suspenseful thriller that had a chilling atmosphere and sense of isolation and terror around every corner. I mean the ass-raping remake that came out just a few years ago starring Nicolas Cage. Why Nicolas Cage? Because he’ll do anything, and nobody else was STUPID enough to sign on for this horse diarrhea of a movie. This is a really stupid pile of clichés and plot craters (not holes; CRATERS) that will make you want to dig your eyes out with a rusty spoon, so let’s just get started.

We start off with an empty, barren road with nothing on it at all. Very fitting as it probably describes this movie quite well. Then we see the diner from Legion where two cops are having lunch. One of them is Nicolas Cage! Haven’t seen him in the last few weeks at Cinema Freaks, have we? The idea of Nicolas Cage being a cop is almost as scary as Nicolas Cage being a magician is hilarious, but I guess I’ll just go with it. We see him doing incredibly risky and daring cop-like things like…handing little girls their dolls back when they threw them on the side of the road. Edgy.

The true horror of this film.

But then tragedy strikes when a big 18 wheeler comes out of nowhere and slams into the car, making it burst into flames. How did this happen in broad daylight? God only knows…well, really, probably not even God knows that. No, this is just in that special realm of logic known as Hollywood Logic, where big, heavy vehicles are driven, apparently, by blind people. Nic Cage tries valiantly to save the little girl and her mother but sadly cannot, and an explosion destroys the car once and for all. We then fade to black.

The movie re-opens with Cage sitting around on his couch taking pills for his depression. I just hope it isn’t like that other movie where he took a lot of pills to ease his pain…


So this female officer comes in and gives him a bunch of letters from concerned folks wishing him well, and in the pile he finds one that isn’t stamped at all. This one is from his old flame Willow.

Not that Willow; that would be if this movie was actually awesome. But anyway, she’s writing to Cage to tell him that she has a missing daughter, and that she only trusts Cage to help her find her. Cage talks to one of his buddies at the station about it, and it is revealed that the place Willow lives at is called Summersisle, a sort of weird Amish-hippie commune of women who grow their own crops and everything. Cage decides to go to the island to help despite his cop buddy’s skepticism.

He gets a lift from this old fuck who’s delivering food and stuff after bribing him with lots of cash. He is immediately greeted by three old hags who pretty much act condescending and rude to him from the get go, oblivious to the fact that he’s been invited there by his ex. Their reasoning? HE’S A MAN. HE MUST BE EVIL. DESTROY THE PENIS.

Yeah, you’re in for quite a lot of feministic vomit from this movie in the next hour and a half, so buckle your seatbelts. They tell him that Willow’s daughter, named Rowan, doesn’t really exist, and it’s incredibly obvious from the get-go that they’re all hiding something. If these women are so smart though, how come they had no idea he was coming? And since they’re obviously covering something up, why the hell do they even let him stay? Yeah, he’s an officer of the law, but…they don’t have to abide by the United States laws. They’ve got their own rules and governing practices and everything, so what the hell, man? It’s like, ‘Oh, you’re trying to destroy everything we’ve established and possibly cause the obliteration of everything we stand for. OK, you can stay the night.’ STUPID!

Oh, and there’s this really weird part where the old ladies have these two guys bring up this burlap sack dripping with blood and writhing crazily. When Cage tries to touch it, they scare him and start laughing…uh, I don’t get it. I guess it must be some of that oh-so-highbrow hippie coven humor that I’ve heard so much about. Truly these people keep alive the art of good humor!

Ugh, so then Cage finally meets Willow, who I think is trying to set a record for the most penetrating wide-eyed stare ever recorded on film. Seriously, she looks like a fucking raccoon half the time she’s on screen.

The eyes are the windows to the soul...

It’s established that nobody on the island likes Willow; they’ve been saying it ever since Cage got on the island, and she even admits that she has ‘wild ways.’ Which brings up another question for this movie; how come they don’t just kill her? She’s the only one on the whole fucking island who’s going against the accepted story that Rowan never existed, and they’re all pretty obviously bugged about that, so why don’t they just make her disappear too? THIS MAKES NO GODDAMN SENSE AT ALL!

After that, Cage goes on a trek through the city looking for people to interview, when he comes across a school of identical little girls who probably didn’t make it into The Shining for that one famous scene. The teacher, Sister Rose, steps outside with him and tells him exactly what happened: Rowan is not ‘dead,’ but has been ‘given to the Earth,’ or some hippie-ass crap like that. But she also has a Freudian slip and lets out that Rowan will be sacrificed, rather than already has been. Whoops.

Well at least he isn't trying to teach the ABCs again.

So…how come nobody else couldn’t have told him this? If they just lied and told him she was dead from the start, this whole thing could have been over in 2 seconds! Why the hell are they making it so complicated? Why is this movie so stupid? Why did Nic Cage even agree to do it? Why? WHY?

But no, then we get Cage wandering around through some corn fields to a graveyard, where Willow finds him. They exchange some awkward dialogue when Willow just comes out with the big stupid plot twist we were all waiting for: CAGE IS REALLY THE FATHER! This just gives a whole new meaning to all those times a character asked why Willow didn’t just contact the father! Boy, movie, you really threw me for a loop…go shoot yourself. Slowly and painfully.


So Cage keeps investigating, all the while experiencing pointless, vague “visions” from his drug use, I guess, that don’t really point toward anything so much as just confuse us all. He’s running around outside when he gets attacked by bees, which he’s deathly allergic to. He gets healed by this crazy doctor lady who, of course, used only natural herbs to do it. Then he talks with Sister Summersisle herself, who has perfected the language of vagueness to the extreme.

NIC CAGE: What happens if someone happens to have a boy? What happens then?
NIC CAGE: One more question, because I just don’t get you; I don’t get this place…
SISTER SUMMERSISLE: You will…in time.

Can you be any less specific?

So yeah, then Cage goes prowling in the graveyard again and this time finds himself locked inside an underwater vent all night. He does find Rowan’s shirt and her little doll, but he’s also REALLY PISSED OFF when Willow comes to rescue him. He goes running around in the village looking for Summersisle, and finds instead a bunch of really weird crap, like an old one eyed man locked in a room, naked in bed. And then a naked girl covered with bees, tied to a chair…these people have some very odd ideas about feng shui, don’t they? None of this is ever explained or shown again, by the way. Because I guess showing us things that are actually disturbing or worth talking about isn't this movie's bag.

So Cage goes nuts. This, ladies and gents, is the best segment of any Nicolas Cage movie. It is what I like to call, Cage Rage. It’s where he completely loses his shit and freaks out on everyone involved. It’s…not so much fun for everyone else in the movie, but for us, it’s just golden. So, Wicker Man. Bestow upon us your hallowed Cage Rage.

He punches a few women, puts on a bear suit and sneaks into the parade (to Willow’s complete lack of surprise – I guess he did this kind of shit all the time) and then runs up a hill and knocks out the people trying to burn poor Rowan.

…seriously? That’s really it? That’s all the Cage Rage you’re giving us? I’ve seen paper towel dispensers with more energy than this! What a frigging ripoff! I’m very disappointed.

He escapes with Rowan into the woods, where they hide for a while before running back into the feminist mob out in the field. It is then revealed that – gasp, shock, awe – the whole thing was a set up the entire time! Yes, Willow was just pretending to like him all along, even back when they were together. Apparently the whole thing was a plot to offer Nicolas Cage as a sacrifice to the gods to bring the crops back, even though they couldn’t possibly have known exactly when their crops would go bad 7 or 8 years previously when Cage and Willow were actually together, could they? And why the hell would they go through all this trouble, waiting almost a decade if not more, to get the guy who starred in National Treasure? There really wasn’t any other way they could get someone to sacrifice? I mean, look at him:

I mean OK, so it has to be someone ‘connected’ to them, fine, whatever. But here’s another question, then; why the hell couldn’t these hippie-feminist hags have gotten Willow to bring Cage over while they were still together? It probably would have made a lot more sense than waiting so fucking long. And why were they acting so creepy and weird this whole time? Wouldn’t it have been easier to entrap him if they had acted nice and hospitable to him, to catch him off guard? None of this makes any fucking sense at all! It’s like a labyrinth of plot holes; truly a landmark in horrible writing. Nothing in this movie is even remotely connected to normal human logic.

So they burn Nicolas Cage alive, sing about how the drone must be sacrificed, and the movie ends. Yeah. It ends with Nicolas Cage burning alive. Isn’t that twice now in his career that he’s been set on fire and burnt alive? Well, Kick-Ass came after this movie. But still.

What kind of mindboggling thought process ever conceived of this movie? How can anyone think it’s even remotely redeemable? The Wicker Man is one of those movies that is just spectacularly unentertaining in every possible way. Even the Cage Rage wasn’t all that great! God, it’s like they were trying to be as horrible as they possibly could.

And aside from that, what am I supposed to gain from it? The original one was scary because you were so detached and removed from this alien world the main character was in, and the whole theme was about a man in over his head in a completely isolated area. You get that a little here, but it's played up a lot more sympathetically here. In the new one, you get a tragic backstory for the main guy and a lot closer into his personal life, so when he burns alive at the end, you’re not really left with anything because there wasn’t really a reason he had to die. Sure, people die in real life, but what does this story gain from having Nicolas Cage burn alive at the end when all he was trying to do was help out his own damn daughter? There’s no reason for it; no artistic integrity and no gain in the plot. This whole movie is just a gaping black void of quality. Nothing about it is remotely good. It’s as meaningless as they get, it’s clichéd beyond belief and it just has no reason to exist at all!

Eugh, screw it, I’m just gonna go listen to the Iron Maiden song instead. Way better than this shit.

You watch the world exploding every single night
Dancing in the sun a newborn in the light
Brothers and their fathers joining hands and make a chain
The shadow of the Wicker Man is rising up again

None of these images are mine. Nor is the Iron Maiden song mine. However awesome it may be.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Bad Lieutentenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer
Director: Werner Herzog


Okay, before we get to...this...let's do a little introduction to director Werner Herzog. I'm not too familiar with his work, but I know that he is capable of doing very well-crafted films such as "Rescue Dawn". But then he pulls a stunt by making the documentary "Grizzly Man", which is to this day the funniest movie I have ever seen which was not suppose to be that funny. I do not know whether this is accidental or if he just has a weird sense of humor. Either way, that vibe can definitely be felt in this picture.

Sort of, but not really, based on the 1992 film "Bad Lieutenant" (haven't seen it, so I can't be sure), the film is actually for the most part a fairly gritty police drama. Terrance McDonagh, played by, you guessed it, Nicolas Cage, is a police officer in New Orleans who is injured on the job which gives him chronic back pain. This eventually leads him to become a drug addict, stealing from the evidence locker of his department and committing other immoral acts. In one particularly disturbing scene, he confronts a couple coming out of a club, confiscates their drugs, uses them, and then has sex with the woman right there in the parking lot. Yeah...he's not a very nice guy.

Anyway, he takes on this case involving a triple homicide, which he has to juggle with a number of other tasks, like paying off his bookie, dealing with his alcoholic father's dog, as well as his hooker girlfriend, played by Eva Menedes.
No, this is not that movie...Thank God...

None of this appears to be too unusual...until it gets to this one part where they zoom in on and alligator on the side of the road. Why? I don't know; its never really explained. This is when the film starts to get a little weird.

And by weird, I mean...this:

What the fu...really?! Almost full minute of iguanas?! WHY?!!! I mean, the obvious exclamation is that McDonagh is really high and is having a hallucination. But it does not take place from his point of view! Sure, there have been other films that have done this, but this doesn't seem to match up: it literally just looks like the camera man zooming in and out on the iguanas for no reason at all!!! What have you been smoking, Herzog?!

Ok, after...that...McDonagh volunteers to take care of a kid who witnessed the triple homicide. How does he do this? By snorting coke while driving the car they are in, getting into argument with a some douchebag who beat up his girlfriend, and then taking him to a casino. WORST. POLICE PROTECTION. EVER!

So after the kid runs off (can you blame him?), McDonagh confronts witness' grandmother at a retirement home where she is taking care of an elderly patient. Tired and stoned out of his mind, he proceeds to harass them, putting a gun to the grandmother's head and pulling out the old lady's oxygen tank. I know this sounds really awful, and it kind of is, a sick, dark, twisted way, it is actually really funny! I love the lines he says at the end of the scene about...well, I won't ruin it for you.

I will not get into too many more details because I do not want to spoil the rest of the film. Let's just say he gets into a lot more mischief, and yet somehow things seem to work out okay...sort of. Oh, and if you have seen the trailer for it where McDonagh says "Shoot him again...Because his soul is still dancing. HAHAHA!", definitely watch out for that part; it is hilarious! The last two lines of the film, particularly the last one, are great as well.

Overall, I would say that this is a decent movie. Aside from Val Kilmer not doing anything (he can't help it, he's Val Kilmer), the acting is pretty good (Cage has his fair share of his trademark "freak outs" in this one), and most of the subplots seem to come together pretty well. It is very slow paced and so it kind of drags during some parts. And as I have said before, despite most of the stuff I focused on, its a bit of a downer. Still, the scenes that I will always remember are the weird, trippy ones. They appear out of nowhere and just leave you bewildered and laughing. I don't know what Herzog was thinking when added those scenes, whether it fit with the character's mindset or to lighten the mood or some other reason. Whatever it is, I am glad they are in there.

I recommend this movie. I know it has gotten a lot of critical acclaim and some people are probably going to get annoyed with me for not taking it that seriously, but hey, I'm not trying to bash it; I'm just praising it from another prospective: the perceptive of the iguanas. Anyway, it's a good film by itself, but even if you don't feel like watching the whole thing, at least download some of the clips from YouTube. It's totally worth it.

Well, NIC CAGE MONTH is almost over. I don't know if this will be the last entry for the site, but it is for me (granted, it's also my only one, but, what can you do?). And so, I leave you with a few magical moments from Cage...when he did five commercials in Japan for a company called Pachinko. Enjoy:

These images and videos are not mine and are for entertainment purposes only. Please don't sue me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

Director: Jon Turtletaub
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina

Today’s movie is called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, or alternately, Nic Cage Needs Money. It’s a very loose remake of one of the segments of Fantasia, and I do mean loose. I mean, how many times did you look at this:

…and think, hey, I really think this would be improved if they added Nicolas Cage in there!

Never? Well, that’s because you have a functioning brain. Let’s get this over with quick.

The movie opens with epic music and a riveting tale about how Merlin had three apprentice sorcerers he trusted with his secrets – among them Nicolas Cage, who plays a guy named Balthazar. Apparently in medieval times they were all fighting against Morgana Lefay (because there’s nothing else to do in medieval times) when one of the other sorcerers, Horvath, betrayed them and went to her side. The narration says that there is one person called the Prime Merlinean who will be able to stop her. The Prime Merlinean? Really? That sounds like the name of some weird mathematical tool. So yeah, apparently the female sorcerer, Veronica, traps Morgana Lefay’s soul inside herself, except then Morgana Lefay starts killing her from the inside, like some viral form of the alien from Alien.

Like that except less bloody. That's not Disney-friendly.

So Cage has to trap them both inside a statue thing called the Grimhold, or better yet, Incredibly Forced Plot Device. He then spends the next thousand years wandering around to different countries searching for this Prime Merlinean to help defeat Morgana Lefay, who apparently will get out someday, or something. How come he can’t just perform some other Deus Ex Machina spell to get rid of her for good? Because…well, it’s Nic Cage, do you even have to ask? He probably spent his time searching for the Prime Merlinean by doing this to random people on the streets:

We then immediately cut to a Buzz Lightyear alarm clock, a little kid with a dog and his mom screaming at him to wear clean underwear. That fits in with the epic medieval sorcery we just saw five seconds ago, right?

So this is our main kid Dave. He likes to engage in such hobbies as drawing on the bus windows in permanent marker only so when the bus passes the empire state building for 3 seconds, it looks like King Kong is climbing it. That’s…really lame. He apparently likes this girl in his class named Becky, who he passes a note to with two boxes asking if she wants to be either his friend or his girlfriend. She checks off one of the boxes and puts the paper down, only for it to blow away in a very convenient gust of wind. He chases it down, but we all know that she really wrote in a third option that just said “Get me out of this movie ASAP.”

He eventually ends up at the most littered street in the city that happens to be in front of a magic shop. He goes in and immediately knocks over and breaks a ton of priceless artifacts. But it’s OK. Nic Cage dressed up in a black coat and a pointy sorcerer’s hat (I know…) comes out and tells Dave to follow him to a dark corner, then using magic to lock all the doors in the building. Apparently he’s going to give him this dragon ring thing that, if it works, means he is the chosen one, that Prime Merlinean from before. So how does he know to test this kid? Is it like, “Please try it? I’ve asked EVERY OTHER person who’s ever come in here and none of them were ever the chosen one!” I mean, talk about desperate. Cage says something about it being because he’s a bad liar, but how is that a criterion? By that logic, you could just as easily determine the chosen one by what color socks he’s wearing! Or by how many times he's survived having his face cut off and replaced with John Travolta's. That would be a trial of even the strongest man's mortal will.

Surviving a hammy Travolta performance? Even more trying than the MOST DANGEROUS OF QUESTS Merlin could think up!

But seriously, Nicolas Cage as a sorcerer? Hold on while I laugh my ass off! He looks hungover for most of this. But then, can you really blame him? Nic Cage tells him to stand still and not touch anything while he presumably goes to drink more Vodka, so the kid does the logical thing, and sets loose the EEEEVVVVIIIILLL Horvath from the statue thing by accident. Damn kids always letting loose those evil sorcerers who never age and who will remember your name for eternity if you piss them off. No respect for their elders, these kids today.

So they have a big fight and Dave runs outside with the statue and throws it across the street randomly as his teacher comes up and scares him. The building is now empty and Nic Cage and Horvath are both inside the statue again, inexplicably. Dave has a fit of terrible acting on the steps, and everyone makes fun of him for 10 years for it. Should have taken some acting classes, kid.

Yes, we then fast forward 10 whole years and Dave is a nerdy college kid with an annoying voice and no great improvements in acting talent. He talks to his black roommate (because the movie needed one black kid in order to not be completely racist) who tells him that he has to be one of the wolf pack, or else he’ll get eaten by a bear.

Not that kind of bear!

So, yeah, ten years to the day (…yeah, really) and he meets up with that girl he tried to ask out and runs back into Horvath all at the same time. Convenient enough for you yet? I especially like how Horvath is just randomly released in front of the two old farts that came across the jar. The looks on their faces pretty much sum up the whole movie: Slight bewilderment but mostly a sense of condescending annoyance. Dave somehow hits it off with the girl by…well, probably by brainwashing her in a scene they cut out of the movie. There’s no other explanation. I mean, he DOES have magical powers, and he can't get a girl any other way, so I don't think this is too big of a logical leap.

We also get the reappearance of Nic Cage, who flies in on a big metal eagle-shaped scrap heap and saves Dave’s life from Horvath. He then trains Dave in the world of magic. Dave sucks at it, but to be fair, Nic Cage at least isn’t shooting him in the chest as preparation this time, so I think Cage is at least improving a bit on the teaching front. Although maybe shooting this kid a few times wouldn’t hurt anything. Meanwhile, Horvath recruits a famous TV magician who he says is the only follower of Morgana left around. The kid pretty much looks like something Dir En Grey would shit out:


So Dave starts hooking up with that Becky chick again as Nic Cage teaches him about magic. I still can’t get over that; Nicolas Cage teaching magic? Maybe when he’s really high. The kid reenacts that famous scene from Fantasia; you know, the one with the animated brooms. It’s pretty much the only real way this movie is connected to the original Fantasia, and it’s pretty forced. But I guess it could have been worse. We could get an even whinier, even more sad-eyed performance from Dave…oh, wait, spoke too soon. You know, listening to this kid whine, I’m starting to think he should have been shipped off to military school. He really, really does need some fucking humility slapped into him. “Ooh, I can’t go out with the only girl who ever lowered herself to give me a chance! MY LIFE IS MISERY even though my companion is a sorcerer who has been searching a thousand years for me and has probably seen more suffering and pain than I can ever imagine!” Deserving of a slap in the face right there!

And seriously, Becky is his true love? She’s an elementary school crush, kid!

OK, so moving on; Dave has to give up the dragon ring that lets him use his magic powers as well as the statue to Horvath when he kidnaps Becky. Nic Cage forgives him as he would have done the same thing, and Dave has to tell Becky about what is really going on. He starts off in the worst way possible by saying that he is a sorcerer and can do spells. Of course, she believes it without questioning anything at all. To be fair, she has just seen a lot of really weird, unexplainable events, but still, if some guy told me he could do spells, I’d probably assume he had just been playing too much D&D.

For fun, let’s gauge the reactions of a normal human being versus this movie’s extreme liberties taken with suspending disbelief:

NORMAL GIRL: You just told me you’re a sorcerer and that you can do magic spells. Excuse me while I move over here to the phone…I’m certainly NOT calling the mental institution to come pick you up…*smaller voice* Please don’t kill me…

MOVIE GIRL: You’re a sorcerer and you can do spells? AWESOME, LET’S GO DRIVE AROUND!

So yeah, then Dave has the brilliant idea to fight magic with science, as he calls his roommate to come help him set up some Tesla coils to stop the bad guy. His roommate does so even though he’s in the middle of a date…because I guess the kid is Dave’s bitch and will do anything he says. Convenient to have those friends with nothing better to do than run around at your beck and call!

Then we get the BIG FINAL BATTLE, where Morgana Lefay has been released after all and is making a big old ring of fire in the sky. Dave tells Becky to go to the top of this satellite tower and knock it off its course so the ring of fire will not be completed. Yeah, the big Deus Ex Machina this time is just…knocking a satellite a little bit to the left. I guess you can’t accuse them of being unoriginal…meanwhile, at the big battle, Nic Cage is killed. Dave kills Morgana Lefay with his best Kamehameha wave…

Still better than Dragonball Evolution...

…but Nic Cage is still dead. A good character dead in a Disney movie? Like hell! Dave resurrects him in some stupid way and everything is happy again! Dave and Becky go riding off into the night on the big scrap heap eagle thing and Dave says that he doesn’t know how to land it. Becky laughs, and then the credits start to roll. Which is an odd way to end a movie, isn’t it? I mean what happens after that? My guess is this:

DAVE: No…no, really, I don’t know how to stop. We’re going to crash into the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, God, I’ve wasted my life! Somebody save us! Can we make out one more time before we land? What’s that? You hate my guts for getting you into this mess and you could have been doing something actually worthwhile with your life otherwise? Oh, God, here it comes…AAHHHHHHHHHH….*splat* Blrbrbrbblrb….

Yeah, this was stupid. I mean I guess it wasn’t horrible or anything, but it was just so clichéd and so soulless in nearly every aspect that it was just dull. The characters weren’t interesting, with only Nic Cage being even slightly enjoyable to watch, the story was just phoned in, and the connection to Fantasia was shaky at best. Of all the teen fantasy flicks you could have watched…this isn’t one of the good ones.

None of these images are mine. They're all copyright of their original owners.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Snake's Eyes (1998)

Well, got to keep Nic Cage Month rolling somehow, so let’s just dive into 1998’s Snake Eyes, directed by Brian De Palma.

Director: You don't read very well, do you?
Starring: You're not really paying attention, are you?

I know what you’re thinking. Brian De Palma? Didn’t he direct that inimitable gangster classic Scarface? Well, yes. But he also directed the pinnacle of ass-ness known as 2006’s Black Dahlia; a film so horrible that it defies all conventions of horribleness known to man. So what was I supposed to expect from this? Well, it’s a bit in between those two extremes.

I mean, on the one hand, it’s got Nic Cage playing a badass action hero. He does a good job at that, and he does a good job here. His performance is goofy but also heartfelt, and you really get into watching him kick ass as the movie goes on. There are no freak outs in this movie, though. He plays it pretty straight, and overall his performance is acceptable. Carla Gugino is also good as the female lead, mysterious and sexy – you get to see her without a shirt on a few times, if that’s all you care about in a movie chick. She’s pretty convincing, if not a little shallow. I think that’s one of the movie’s main problems – most of these characters are just too shallow. Gary Sinise is especially disappointing. I just didn’t believe his character at all, aided in no small part by the absurd and confusing change his character goes through in the second half.

And the directing is just so sloppy I have a hard time believing that De Palma really thought he was doing a good job. Was he just high the whole time? There are numerous times in this movie where the camera seems to be doing something totally different than what is actually going on in the story. Some of the angles and shots are just awkward as hell. One that I remember in particular is when the camera is doing a bird’s eye view of everything going on in the various hotel rooms. That’s OK, right? Well, yeah, until you PLACE THE BIRD’S EYE VIEW OVER THE TWO CENTRAL CHARACTERS while they’re having a conversation, holding it there like you just went out to lunch and forgot. I mean, come on. This was passed as good directing? It’s not even that stylish. The whole movie is full of weird, awkward shots like that.

So really, with such haphazard directing and uninspired character writing, the only thing that could possibly save this movie was the story, which does admittedly deliver. It’s just a really solid story, and it’s entertaining and engaging even when De Palma is trying his best to screw it up. So yeah, a senator gets killed and everyone is locked inside this boxing arena waiting to be interrogated, while Nic Cage tries to find out who killed the senator and why. He uncovers a big conspiracy, and things get even wackier from there.

So, yeah, this is one of the more average and workmanlike Nic Cage movies. It’s fun, but ultimately shallow and you probably won’t care too much to revisit it after one viewing. Oh and he goes to jail at the end for his crimes. HOORAY FOR BRINGING CORRUPT OFFICIALS TO JUSTICE.

And it isn’t like he doesn’t get Carla Gugino at the end anyway. If he had taken better care of his finances, though, she wouldn’t have had to do Race to Witch Mountain or any Spy Kid movies, and Nic Cage wouldn’t have had to do The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Oops. I have to review that one now, don’t I? Damn.

"You WILL watch me...YOU WILL."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Vampire's Kiss (1988)

Director: Robert Bierman
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso

"Alva, there is no one else in this entire office that I could possibly ask to share such a horrible job. You're the lowest on the totem pole here, Alva. The lowest. Do you realize that? Every other secretary here has been here longer than you, Alva. Every one. And even if there was someone here who was here even one day longer than you, I still wouldn't ask that person to partake in such a miserable job as long as you were around. That's right, Alva. It's a horrible, horrible job; sifting through old contract after old contract. I couldn't think of a more horrible job if I wanted to. And you have to do it! You have to or I'll fire you. You understand? Do you? Good."
-Nic Cage, giving one of his famous pep speeches to his secretary 

Okay, seriously. Whatever crack addled minds in 1989 made this movie were clearly prophesizing Nicolas Cage’s eventual rise to Internet stardom. I mean almost every time he freaks out in this movie, it’s begging to become an internet meme. This movie isn’t even that good! It’s pretty much just ‘watch Nic Cage freak out, laugh at it, and then wait for the next time while being bored at the rest of the movie’s plodding pace.’ The soundtrack is a late 80s synth nightmare and the production values look more like something out of the 70s - it’s like Nic Cage’s equivalent to Hercules in New York.

Yes folks...this is Vampire's Kiss.

I mean, this shit is just insane. The basic plot is as follows: Nic Cage is the head of some literary editing company or something, and he loves to harass his secretary Alva, who quite literally lives in fear of him by the end of the movie. He starts going crazier and crazier in his loneliness in the urban city setting, and when he sleeps with a strange hooker (who comes back again and again to suck more of his blood as the movie goes on), he starts to think he is a vampire, thus going even crazier and getting even more violent with his secretary. At the end of the film, he is unceremoniously murdered with a stake in his dilapidated and wrecked apartment by the brother of the terrified secretary.

The two plots (the vampire thing and the secretary thing) don’t really even make a lot of sense together. It’s kind of like the writers were halfway through the script, coming up with these clever metaphors for struggling in life, when the director approached them and said, “Hey, we just got Nicolas Cage to sign on for this. You don’t really have to write anymore. We’ll just have him jump all over the place and scream a lot, and you can still get paid for the half script you did write.”

The writers then had their eyes physically replaced with dollar signs, and that was that.

The movie’s pace is pretty flawed, as I said before, as it’s just too slow and too plodding when Nic Cage isn’t absolutely losing his shit. You’re literally just sitting there watching this movie waiting for the next freak out, because the parts where he isn’t freaking out are just flat out boring. The dialogue isn’t that good and the story is a bit stale – nothing that wasn’t done better by Cemetery Man or American Psycho in years to come. The sole reason to watch this movie is for Nic Cage.

But isn’t that what NIC CAGE MONTH is for, I ask you?

Let’s go through some of the highlights, shall we?

Look at all that rage! Man, that’s insane. And the way he calms down right at the end to say “And you call yourself a psychiatrist”…how can you not be TOTALLY CONVINCED this man is not completely insane, on heavy drugs, or both? He’s just so into this.

“THERE YOU ARE!” I didn't know people his age still got that enthusiastic about hide and seek...

We’ve all had moments like this, haven’t we? Those moments where you think you’re a vampire so you run down the street screaming about it and…oh, what’s that? Nobody’s had those but me? Oh, well OK then.

I just love how obsessed he is with his secretary and with finding those files. It should be sad and scary how creepy he is with stalking her and all, but this is just SO HAMMY. There’s literally nothing else on his warped mind but finding her and making her do the job she’s already trying so hard to do. Imagining it from her point of view is both funnier and even more terrifying. One of which may be more prominent, depending on your point of view.

So, yeah, I think that’s evidence enough. The Vampire’s Kiss is batshit insane. If you like Nic Cage, this is mandatory, but just don’t go in expecting much more than a silly curiosity. Now, I'm off to drink more blood and work on my freaking out in front of the camera.

"It's a very IMPORTANT job!"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Adaptation. (2002)

Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper

"Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your fucking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every fucking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every fucking day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life! And why the FUCK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don't have any use for it! I don't have any bloody use for it!"
-Robert McKee, summing up one of the movie's cardinal themes. 

Two Nicolas Cages. Let me just reiterate that for those slower folks among you…TWO NIC CAGES. THAT’S DOUBLE THE NIC CAGE. Why isn’t this movie talked about more? I mean…it’s two Nic Cages, on screen at the same fucking time! I think the universe just imploded. Monkeys are flying, pigs learned to talk and George W. Bush has been given the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s quite an accomplishment.

I mean, think about it. This movie could have easily been told with two different actors playing the roles of the Kaufman brothers. It’s played pretty straightforward. But they decided to go the extra mile and just have two Nicolas Cages playing both twin brothers. That’s…I don’t even know what that is. It’s both awesome and extremely eccentric.


Phew. OK, aside from the obvious cosmic anomaly present, this movie is actually a really good one. It’s called Adaptation, and it’s about a struggling writer (a fictionalized version of Charlie Kaufman), who is working on a script and has a pretty big case of writer’s block. His agency is pressuring him, his twin brother is becoming a more successful writer and he just can’t seem to get laid. At all. His life pretty much sucks. But that’s only because he hasn’t…adapted.

Lame joke, but at the same time, it also sums up what this movie is trying to get across. Adaptation is a movie of parallels and paradoxes. Nicolas Cage’s character…the first one…is writing about a woman who is writing about orchids. The woman, played admirably by Meryl Streep, is also given her own story arc in a series of cutaways to ‘3 years ago’ – this movie is heavily in love with playing around with time. She’s another paradox in herself, with her main thing being that she is passionate about nothing except finding passion, which she is convinced she hasn’t done yet. Nic Cage’s Charlie, again, could be described the same way. The whole thing is just really cleverly done. It does tend to feel self congratulating a bit, like it’s just SO proud of its own wit, but overall I don’t find it intrusive.

The whole movie is wrapped up in the big theme of finding one’s own way in life, adapting to change and blossoming, as if in the throes of a late stage of puberty. Nic Cage’s character Charlie constantly tries to start up his life but is too afraid to go all the way. He fails at asking out a pretty waitress at a diner, and then is too afraid to meet with Streep’s character when his agent tries to put them together in a last ditch effort to finish the script. He needs to adapt. His most crushing failure is perhaps when he can’t even get the nice girl-next-door who really likes him but is waiting for him to do something. She just finds another guy who does have the balls to say something to her. His brother is more adept than he is; at least he gets Maggie Gyllenhaal to be his girlfriend.

There’s another clever thing – duality, two Nic Cages, Charlie and Donald Kaufman, both with very different approaches to life. You have to feel sorry for him when his brother Donald gets his trashy serial killer horror script (based slightly on the movie Thr3e, which I will review here sometime, as it is horrible) picked up. That’s a slap in the face, man. But it also shows the dichotomy between Charlie’s artsy, holier-than-thou attitude towards writing (“I want to write a movie without any big Hollywood clichés”) versus Donald’s more straightforward approach. That is what sells, and overall it isn’t surprising when Donald’s more conventional, less artistic script is the one that gets somewhere. Cage must also adapt to the expectations of a movie-watching public.

Most of the movie is spent with Charlie whining about what he can’t do. He even wonders where he came from to the tune of…a 10 second montage that chronologically tells how mankind first came into existence.

Did I mention this movie was written and directed by the guy who did Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Just thought that might put things into perspective for some people.

On the other side of things, there is brother Donald (the ‘other’ Nic Cage…you know) who is adapting quite well, even despite Charlie’s insistence that he’s a nuisance and an idiot – sometimes, apparently, idealism works better than hard-nosed cynicism. Putting oneself out there to be criticized and to be put down, so one can get back up again and improve…that’s life! That’s adapting. Charlie doesn’t know how to do that, and neither does Meryl Streep’s character, who can’t even muster up a pulse any more lively than a coma patient’s. On the other hand, there’s also Laroche (Chris Cooper), the friend of Streep’s who she’s writing the book about. He has pretty much fully adapted and knows his place in the world – hunting for rare plant life in swamps - like the back of his hand.

The acting is all pretty damn solid, with Nic Cage and Meryl Streep giving standout performances. Nic Cage especially, as he has to do two different parts on screen at the same time, both with vastly different personalities. That takes talent! Chris Cooper as John Laroche is good, too; gruff and raw, living life the way he wants. All of these characters are clearly defined and will make you believe they are who they say they are. Even though there’s some serious star power here, it doesn’t ever feel like a collage of big names and bigger faces, and that’s always good for a film like this.

The first two acts are pretty melodramatic and slow paced. They focus more on the acting of Nic Cage (times two) and his attempts to blossom. The third act, in another paradoxal twist, is the blossoming of the movie’s action (in the same way that one old goat of a screenwriter told Cage to make the third act action-packed), turning it into a high octane chase with a drug scandal, adultery and the swamps of Florida all mixed into this movie’s pot luck of random shit that somehow comes out to a good time. I don’t want to spoil too much, but when your movie starts off with soul searching melodrama in an urban setting and ends up with a chase scene through a Floridian swamp, you know it’s a trip you want to take.

This is a movie about change and about growing into life. Graduation into a higher plane. Learning to cope and live with all the crap society throws at you – there are good times, there are bad times and there are times you just won’t know what the hell is going on. Told heartwarmingly and convincingly by a duo of Nicolas Cage clones. Aren’t all good movies?

None of these images are mine. They're all copyright of their original owners.

Friday, March 4, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Amos and Andrew (1993)

Director: E. Max Frye
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Samuel L. Jackson

Welcome to Nic Cage Month, everyone! All Nic Cage, all the time and our first movie is an interesting little comedy from 1993 called Amos and Andrew.

The movie’s title is a sort of pun on this old radio sketch comedy show that eventually evolved into a TV sketch comedy show, Amos and Andy. The show revolved around the comedic exploits of two guys wearing black facepaint named Amos and Andy – big shock. The movie…is a little different. In this film, Samuel L. Jackson plays a wealthy black writer who comes to a small island to relax and enjoy his summer when he gets mistaken for a burglar in his new house. Two dipshits alert the police as well as the fattest, nosiest reporter alive and then all hell breaks loose.

But wait! When the corrupt chief of police, striving to get elected yet again, realizes he messes up, he consults a very special prisoner in his ranks…Nic Cage! Yes, the first time you see Nic Cage in this movie, he’s in prison; is anyone really surprised? The corrupt cop tells Cage to go pretend to be a house-robber, but things go wrong when he breaks the deal he made with Cage and Cage starts taking his role a little too seriously. What follows is pretty much your standard Comedy of Misunderstandings, so snugly fit into that role that it could be trademarked.

The good thing about this movie is that it is a well constructed, by-the-books comedy with some dramatic elements to make the audience all teary eyed. It pretty much checks all the boxes for what these kinds of movies have to do. Our two main characters are vastly different – Nic Cage is brash and spontaneous, without much regard for the law, and Samuel Jackson is uptight with a chip on his shoulder about his race. Yeah, doesn’t that kind of sound like his character in Die Hard with a Vengeance? Did he just have some kind of contractual obligation to play characters like that in ’93?

"I reserve the right to remain silent." 

But anyway, yeah; the characters get into various tiffs and get their panties in a bunch a few times, they bond with one another and there are several scenes where they point out what is so different about them. It’s pretty much everything you would expect out of a comedy like this. The bad side is that while the movie doesn’t do anything wrong, it also doesn’t really go the extra mile and blow the audience away, either. It’s not a movie you’ll really look back at and remember as a great piece of poignant cinema. It’s enjoyable while it’s on, but Amos and Andrew won’t really stick in your head afterward.

The movie is mostly carried by the two actors, because honestly, could you tell me you would watch this movie if it didn’t have Samuel Jackson or Nic Cage in it? Anybody? No? I thought so. Jackson is good as the prestigious, indignant Andrew Sterling, but it’s really Cage who is the more interesting character. You get a lot of sympathy for him because the cops screwed him over, and I think my favorite moment in the entire film is his speech about sea monkeys somewhere in the movie’s second act. It’s really poignant and will make you want to cry.

"You better not."


So, yeah, check this movie out; it’s got some good moments here and there and certainly is at least a little bit of a gem. But there will be more outrageous discoveries to come in Nic Cage month…just you wait, readers.

Just you wait.

Pictures not mine, copyright of their original owners.