Tag Archives: Nicolas Cage

[Trailer] – The Croods

3 Oct

For a while now I’ve been really interested in DreamWorks Animation‘s The Croods which opens early next year and now we’re getting our first look at it thanks to the just-released trailer.

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[Review] – The Raven

10 May

Title: The Raven
Year: 2012
Director: James McTeigue
Writers: Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare
Starring: John Cusack, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Luke Evans, Kevin McNally
MPAA Rating: R, bloody violence and grisly images
Runtime: 111 min
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
Metacritic: 44

I like John Cusack quite a bit. And I like Edgar Allan Poe‘s literature, too. I also liked James McTeigue‘s directorial debut V for Vendetta from 2006 quite a lot. So I should dig the idea of John Cusack playing Poe in a film directed by Mr. McTeigue about how the author and poet pursues a serial killer whose murders are just like those in Poe’s stories, right? Well, not really. Since I heard that The Raven was being developed something about it didn’t quite sit well with me, the fact that they were fictionalizing Poe’s last days and turning him into a detective story just seemed too dumb. Well, now I’ve seen it and I can tell you I was right; this film’s just not good.

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[Review] – Seeking Justice

17 Apr

Title: Seeking Justice
Year: 2012
Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Robert Tannen, based on a story by himself and Todd Hickey
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R, violence,  language and brief sexuality
Runtime: 105 min
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Metacritic: 38

Ah, Nicolas Cage, we meet again. It was just a couple of months ago when I reviewed the actor in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, his second go at that superhero franchise which I gave a C to. I opened my review for that film with a couple of paragraphs that tried to explain my feelings toward Mr. Cage as an actor these days, who had that 2003 (post-Matchstick Men) to 2009 (pre-The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans) period in which he only appeared in really bad movies giving some really phoned in performances. That era in his career has grown to define him to some extent nowadays as this really loud actor who’s very easy to make fun of.

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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

24 Feb

Title: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Year: 2012
Directors: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer, based on a story by Mr. Goyer
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Idris Elba, Christopher Lambert
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Metacritic: 32

Nicolas Cage’s career choices are super entertaining to watch, and the fact that he seems to be in a zillion films every year has become a mocking matter, one that he himself joined in at laughing at in a recent SNL episode, so at least the guy’s a good sport about it. The thing is, for every horrible Nic Cage performances, there’s a really good one so he keeps it balanced, though there was that 2003 (post-Matchstick Men) to 2009 (pre-The Bad Lieutentant: Port of Call – New Orleans) period in which he did pure crap. During that period, in 2007, he did the original Ghost Rider, and that film was truly bad with dialogue that was horrible and performance by Mr. Cage that was just such a disservice to the comic book character, an even sadder fact when you consider Mr. Cage himself is a big comic book fan.

So of course when it was announced that there was going to be a sequel to that film I thought it was just a hugely unnecessary move by Marvel, who should stick to the really good films they make, or at least try and reboot the character in a whole new (darker) direction. But a part of me held out some hope because part of what came with Nicolas Cage’s fame of doing bad films and bad roles is the fact that he went so insanely over-the-top in his portrayals that it could be funny, it could get to the so-bad-that-it’s-good territory, much like what happened in last year’s ridiculously exaggerated Drive Angry, which I ended up giving a B+ to. So, if the film wouldn’t turn out to be good, I at least expected Nicolas Cage to be really loud and larger than life to get the film into that so-bad-it’s-good territory, and the fact that trailer had Ghost Rider peeing fire and that the film was being directed by the Neveldine/Taylor team (whose Crank films fall under that category) had me thinking that might just be the case.

Well, it turned out my cautious hopes were totally for naught, as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance falls to a level just as low as its predecessor, if not slightly worse, thanks to a seriously horrible script (which surprisingly came from David S. Goyer and, less surprisingly, also had two other cooks in the kitchen with him) and visual effects that really should have been better. And, what’s worse, it’s as though this movie knew that it was no good to begin with and tried to be the type of movie I explained above in which it was so bad that it was good. But that’s not something you can plan to be, you can’t calculate the amount of badness needed to be a fun kind of bad, so what we get was just a plain bad movie that has a Nicolas Cage performance that, while as unhinged as usual, feels too predictably over-the-top, so there wasn’t that surprise element to how crazy this guy was. Truly a movie we didn’t really need.

I’m not going to fail this movie, though, because it wasn’t as big a waste of time as I may have made it out to be in the above paragraph, that was just frustration for it being a seriously huge waste of potential. This really could have been a cult kind of hit when you consider all the ingredients: a lesser-known Marvel character that was inspired by Evel Knievel, the shamelessly indulging Neveldine/Taylor team, the crazy Nicolas Cage and a cast of supporting actors that includes Idris Elba who’s about four different kinds of awesome and is surely headed for great things no matter how bad this film is. It’s as though this film went from a bad idea, to a good one in its badness, to bad again after not hitting its marks, and it’s a pity in my opinion, I wanted to but this one in blu-ray and watch it at midnight a few years from now whenever I needed some mindless entertainment.

This is a (very slight) grittier version of Johnny Blaze we get here, our motorcycle-riding friend who, whenever he is in the presence of evil, becomes an angry monster complete with a flaming skull for a head. That happened after a deal he made with the devil in order to save his dying father years ago, and so he became satan’s bounty hunter of sorts. But then a group of rebel monks, led by Mr. Elba, tracks him down to ask for his help to save a young boy from the devil, and in the process Johnny may get ride of his curse as well.

What we get never really comes close to what we should have gotten. The use of CGI should have been far more inventive in the hands of these maniac directors, and Ghost Rider feels really stale as a character, a really sad fact considering it had Nicolas Cage there in order to bring in some over-the-top personality to the character, but it’s just not to be, he tries but it all feels recycled, maybe he should go back to doing decent films again. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, let’s hope, will be the last we see of this character, at least until some more daring and imaginative filmmakers try to offer up a new take on him.

Grade: C

Trespass

26 Nov

Title: Trespass
Year: 2011
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer: Karl Gajdusek
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman, Cam Gigandet, Jordana Spiro, Ben Mendelsohn
MPAA Rating: R, violence and terror, pervasive language and some brief drug use
Runtime: 91 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 5.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 11%

When I heard there was a psychological thriller made by Joel Schumacher and starring Nicolas Cage I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, the combination of the two seem destined to make this one the sort of train wreck of a movie that I would like to watch and laugh at. Yes, Nicole Kidman co-starred here, and that indeed gave it a sense of respectability, but I mean, it was obvious this one was going to suck. Thankfully, reception to the film indeed indicated it was horrible, and after grossing a measly $25’000 at the box office (against a $35 million budget) the film was pulled from theaters after just ten days, and only an extra week after that passed before it was available on DVD.

Mr. Schumacher is of course best known for his entries in the Batman franchise, with 1995’s Batman Forever (which starred Ms. Kidman) and, most infamously, the sequel to that one, 1997’s Batman & Robin, which was just utterly horrible and is best remembered because of the nipples in George Clooney’s batsuit. He has some good films in his filmography but lately Mr. Schumacher has become a director I just don’t really care for at all, he directed 2003’s Phone Booth which I thought was damn great, but other than that he’s just been churning out all of these really mediocre films again and again, like last year’s Twelve (to which I gave a C-).

Trespass is another one of those really mediocre films, the kind of thriller that Mr. Schumacher can probably now make without any effort at all and that’s just really bad entertainment, I really can’t see anyone liking this film. But then there’s Nicolas Cage. This is an actor who’s become famous nowadays not for his great performances of the past (the guy has an Oscar, people) but because for the past decade or so the man has apparently been saying yes to every script that comes his way, even though the vast majority of the times those turn out to be seriously horrible films.

I count myself amongst those who can’t wait to see what Mr. Cage does next, and that’s precisely because he’s become such a weird kind of sellout, the guy will play any kind of role no questions asked. And I’m interested in that because in the occasions when the films he makes aren’t bad, they either turn out to be seriously awesome like The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans from 2009 which proved the guy can still be a damn fine actor, or they get to the point in which they’re so crazy bad that they fly off the rails and end up being really entertaining, which was the case previously this year with the unhinged Drive Angry, to which I actually gave a B+.

There are moments in Trespass that made me think this one was part of that group, the films that are so bad they actually become good halfway through their running time, mostly because the dialogue here is already so ridiculously frantic that you can just imagine how hilarious it sounds coming from the mouth of Mr. Cage, the lines he gets here are just prime for a guy like him who just loves to amp it up to eleven and overact his ass off.

Mr. Cage’s character here is Kyle Miller, a diamond dealer close to going bald who has a troubled relationship with his wife, which is the character Ms. Kidman plays here. That already-troubled marriage is put to the ultimate test as a team of crooks invades their home (yes, this is a home invasion claustrophobic thriller done by Joel Schumacher, you can go ahead and giggle at what’s to come next). What’s awesome is that the reason for the break-in is never really clear and the thieves actually start offering up all these different reasons for why they broke in and what they want to get, it’s all kinds of funny.

Everything that happens afterwards is just as silly, you have a daughter who left home in the nick of time coming back and instead of calling for help as she heard the menacing voices of the thieves she calls for her mom and dad. And then of course you have this stupid little sideplot in which Ms. Kidman’s character realizes that one of the crooks is actually the security guard with whom she had been trading lustful glances. That security guard is played by Cam Gigandet who’s just horrible in the role, twitching every second and trying to look like a psycho, because that’s apparently mandatory for this group of thieves, they’re all made out to look as crazy people with some sort of mania, which leads to actors trying to match Mr. Cage’s overacting. Which, in case you were wondering, just can’t be done.

This is a bad movie people, we get crooks who change the reason for their criminal endeavor every other second, and it just starts off totally crazy and just adds a lot of ridiculous kooky stuff to it as it goes along. And it doesn’t matter because Mr. Schumacher directs it in a way that he makes it obvious he doesn’t care about how much he throws into this one and just how little of it is actually plausible. And yet, I can’t get myself to hate this film, because even though it’s not a so-bad-it’s-good film from Nicolas Cage, there’s still something fun about seeing him being given free range to start talking feverishly at a thousand miles an hour.

Grade: C

Drive Angry

10 Apr

Title: Drive Angry
Year:
2011
Director:
Patrick Lussier
Writers: Todd Farmer, Patrick Lussier
Starring:
Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Katy Mixon, David Morse, Billy Burke
MPAA Rating:
R, strong brutal violence throughout, grisly images, some graphic sexual content, nudity and pervasive language
Runtime:
104 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.2
Rotten Tomatoes:
45%

The first 2011 film I saw was Season of the Witch, one that also starred Nicolas Cage and that I gave a low C- to. I talked a bit about Mr. Cage on my review for it, and said that I had respect for the actor because no matter what everyone said about him, he still has been great in a number of films in the past decade (I’m talking about Adaptation., Matchstick Men or Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans), but I did understand why people were so polarized by him.

For once, it seems like the guy is just popping up everywhere, in all sorts of genres and roles and just apparently doing it for the cash. And so long as a few of them end up being hits I won’t mind, but what I expected from the aforementioned Season of the Witch was that it would be so bad that it would approach a great level of campiness and would thus end up being quite fun to watch. That didn’t happen, that film didn’t get to the point in which it was so bad it’s good, but what happened in Drive Angry is more like that. This is a film that’s so awesomely over-the-top, that so fully embraces its B-movie grindhouse look that the end result is thoroughly satisfying.

I love these films, the sort of movies that are so ridiculous that they end up being awesome. Films that are so committed to its own kind of tom-foolery, ones that, while being so crappy in its story and style, are still really well-made, which is quite a rare feat to accomplish. It’s certainly not for everyone, because it’s easy to acknowledge the film you’re watching is quite bad, but once you learn to appreciate that campy aesthetic and demeanor, then you may just find yourself feeling like I did, marveled by its very own existence and nature.

A cool tribute to those nifty exploitation films that are now three decades old, but with the added campiness that the 3D enabled it with. Not to mention that we all know Mr. Cage can be pretty mad in his acting when he wants to, and when you see him just killing, drinking and having sex here, you’ll know this is the crazy vehicle that’s able to go head-to-head with his manic self.

And this one also has Amber Heard, who I’m a fan of, and who you might probably know from being extremely hot in films like Pineapple Express and Zombieland. Her being so sexy obviously helps her role in a film like this, in which girls have to be ridiculously hot, but she’s also quite good here, just having fun with her role, and further establishing herself as a huge up-and-comer, a status which will be further cemented with future roles in October’s The Rum Diary alongside Johnny Depp and her starring role in NBC’s upcoming Playboy TV series.

And you know what’s so cool about Drive Angry? That it actually made good use of 3D technology. For the record, I usually don’t really like 3D. I mean, I’m not a huge detractor of it, because I can see how it could make a film cooler to look at and I love how insane it is to watch a film come out of the screen, but most of the times I find myself hating the 3D films because I think the technology hasn’t yet been developed to the point in which it can give an added plus to a film without taking something away from it, especially when it makes films look that much darker.

However, in Drive Angry the 3D is used to great effect because this is a film that’s so ridiculous that it’s incredibly fun to watch it all in that added dimension. Cars, women and violence in 3D, it doesn’t get much better than that, and this is a film that knows that, and uses the technology to its fullest advantage, just upping its own stakes with every scene into one noisy-as-hell ride.

I don’t know how much of the plot I should tell you about right now, I mean, every bit of it is so cool in its out-of-there style that it would be better for you to marvel at its nature as the film goes along. The plot, though evidently just thought up to come up with as many crazy-ass situations as possible, is still quite cool, and the characters here are all awesomely manic and unique. There are satanic cults, a 1969 Dodge Charger driven by a gorgeous girl and a whole lot of violence shown in three dimensions for you to behold.

You read that sentence above and tell me how many movies will have all of those elements wrapped together with yet another crazy performance by Nicolas Cage. The answer you’re looking for is none. So, if only because this one is really a one-of-a-kind film, you should go see Drive Angry. There’s a scene in which Mr. Cage is having sex, while smoking, while drinking, and while shooting a bunch of satanic thugs. Enough said.

Grade: B+

Season of the Witch

1 Feb

Title: Season of the Witch
Year:
2011
Director:
Dominic Sena
Writer:
Bragi F. Schut
Starring:
Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Christopher Lee
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, thematic elements, violence and disturbing content
Runtime:
95 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
5.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
4%

 

Oh, Nicolas Cage. Here’s an actor that truly polarizes his audience, some love his stuff, some hate him, and most of the ones who really don’t care seem to think of him as an actor who was once pretty damn good, but that now has resorted to really weird projects to make a buck or two. And while that analysis is partly accurate, I still think Nicolas Cage is kind of awesome. That’s because he’s a guy who can still act up a storm, because when he’s loud and loose he can be extremely good, and, at the very least, make one of his bad project choices at least seem funny, even if it’s in a bad way.

You look at some of the projects that guy has done in the past decade and you’ll see some pretty nifty stuff. Adaptation. obviously landed him an Oscar nomination and was amazing on all regards. But there’s also Matchstick Men, which I absolutely loved. Lord of War, which I thought was quite cool. 2009’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans which was seriously amazing and had Mr. Cage giving an absolutely remarkable performance, which showed just how amazing he can be when the director just lets him go. And, of course, last year’s Kick-Ass, in which Mr. Cage was cool as hell as Big Daddy.

Yes, there have been quite a lot of duds in between those amazing films I just named, but what I mean to say is that the guy is still amazing when he wants to be, and when others let him. Now, Season of the Witch, his latest, I knew would never be great, but a big part of me was hoping that at least Mr. Cage would have been allowed to let loose and be all loud and fun and at least make this film fall into the so-bad-it’s-good territory. But alas, that wasn’t the case, this one just plain sucked. But fret not, Mr. Cage still has Drive Angry 3D coming out next month, and that one really does seem guaranteed to fall into the so-bad-it’s-amazingly-awesome category.

But here we have to talk about Season of the Witch, a film that feels slow and boring and that is so bad it’s not even good to get a few laughs out of how bad it is. I actually won’t fail this film, because I only fail those films which come dangerously close to causing me physical discomfort when watching them, this one sucked big time, but it didn’t approach those parameters, maybe it was because I’m still a big fan of Mr. Cage, not to mention that his co-star here is Ron Perlman, of whom I’m also a huge fan of, or maybe it was just because this one at least didn’t drag itself for that long.

There are many reasons not to love this film, as I said, it feels horribly slow and boring, not to mention that the special effects look horribly cheap. Another thing one can find fault with is the fact that this is a film set in the 14th century but that’s filled with 21st century words, even our curse words, and, I mean, if you were gonna go and make the language contemporary then you would have probably been excused if you had done so to make the dialogue clever and good, but the stuff on display here is just horrible, and at least it could have been funny if it were done in medieval language.

Let me quickly run through the plot, as dumb as it may be. There’s a lot of crusades and the battles that come with them and over a decade of them go by until we get to the point when our two main crusaders, those played by Mr. Cage and Mr. Perlman, decide to go back to a town where a girl who’s supposedly a witch has set a curse, they will then have to take her to some monastery to have some monks deal with her.

So yeah, if you read the plot summary beforehand then you’ll know what to expect, not to mention that it’s a medieval action film with a contemporary lexicon being released in January, the traditional cemetery of films, after having its release date delayed from March 2010 to this month. If you leave this film feeling disappointed then it’s all on you, because the signs were there, bright and clear for you to know this really was never going to be good. This is also, by the way, a sort of remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, so yeah, that only adds insult to injury.

And even though we all knew the film was going to be bad, it really sucked to see that not even Mr. Cage was going to be good here. I mean, even in the most horrible of his films the way he chews up the scenery with his over-the-top performances always make for some really fun, if not downright good, viewing. And yet here he’s restrained, maybe it’s because even he, the guy who seems unable to turn down a script, knew it was bad. Maybe it was because the script was full of lines that would make anyone look really bad. I don’t know, he just seemed at a loss here. Season of the Witch was obviously meant to be much more of a spectacle, the $40 million budget it had surely was nowhere as big as the filmmaker wanted, but still, this is just plain bad, no matter the budget or lexicon.

Grade: C-

OscarWatch: Best Picture

24 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. And in the very final pre-nominations OscarWatch post we’ll of course tackle…

Best Picture

I’ll give my Top 20 picks for the best films in all of 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of the race, well, it’s a two-way race here. The precursors gave huge momentum to The Social Network, as did its win and mini-sweep at the Globes last week. However, yesterday The King’s Speech won the Producers Guild Award, and considering it will most certainly win the BAFTA, and will have a very decent shot at the Best Ensemble SAG award this really is a two-horse race, and a very very entertaining one at that.

Personal Top 20

  1. Black Swan – My favorite film of the year by heaps and bounds, a true masterpiece, directed by one of Hollywood’s most ambitious and perfectionists minds, featuring a handful of exceptional performances and just nailing every single frame.This is intense and passionate filmamaking at its very best, and were it up to me it would win absolutely everything.
  2. The Social Network – This is being heralded as the film of a generation. And as huge a statement as that may seem, it’s really kinda sorta on the money. A film about the phenomenon that’s consuming huge amounts of time of our lives, directed to perfection by a guy who can’t seem to do a bad thing and who started directing music videos, bolstering sensational performances by a cast full of up and coming actors, and with a script full of words and witty remarks. This really is the film of a generation.
  3. Inception This was the popcorn film that was actually stimulating, the smartest film of the year directed by the visionary we have all embraced like crazy into our lives. This was the one everyone talked about even months after its release, the one that when released on home video showed us just how awesome a blu-ray can really be, the one that had some seriously amazing performances and a very emotional story in the midst of all its visual spectacle. True innovative filmmaking.
  4. Blue Valentine The rawest, most emotional film experience I had in all last year. Bolstered by two pitch-perfect performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this film showed how quick love can start, and how quick it can all end. It’s portrayal of a crumbling marriage is a very powerful thing to watch, the actors putting everything on the line, masterful stuff all around.
  5. The Kids Are All Right – This one has superb performances around the board, and tells a very contemporary story about family which we can all relate to in one way or another. Beautifully written, directed and acted, The Kids Are All Right was one of the best films of year just because of that, but it became even better when you realized just how much the writers knew their wine.
  6. Somewhere – Sofia Coppola’s back at it again, coming back to the stuff she’s comfortable with, and directing a quiet and gorgeous film. One which takes quite a bit from her own experiences as the daughter of a big star, and has her exploring celebrity like few directors can.
  7. Never Let Me Go – And I’ll say it one final time in these OscarWatch posts, this was, to me, the most underappreciated film of 2010 by a fair amount. Capturing the style and essence of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel it was based on was going to be a tough task for anyone to accomplish, and yet Mark Romanek did so splendidly, directing Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley to beautiful performances.
  8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – A truly original film, one that captures to perfection the style and flair of the graphic novels I love so much and that found in Edgar Wright the perfect director to convey the precious little life of Scott Pilgrim, and in Michael Cera the perfect guy to bring the character to life. This one goes by really fast, with its stunning visuals and cool one-liners, and every last second of it is pure bliss.
  9. Toy Story 3 There hasn’t been an official confirmation that this will be the last Toy Story film. But if it is, it’s probably the most graceful conclusion to any trilogy ever, coming full circle, full of memorable moments, of huge laughs, of meaningful tears. A beautiful film that ranks amongst Pixar’s best.
  10. 127 Hours A really powerful film, this one is. James Franco delivering the best performance of his career for director Danny Boyle, who entrusted him with portraying Aron Ralston, the real life man who was trapped when a boulder crashed his arm in a Utah canyon. The result is really breathtaking, with a stunning performance by Mr. Franco, sharp directing and writing by Mr. Boyle and some really gorgeous cinematography.
  11. True Grit – The Coen brothers are at it again with True Grit, continuing the ridiculous string of stunning films. They also have a wonderful cast full of amazing veterans in Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin and found in Hailee Steinfeld one of 2010’s coolest new stars, who clearly has a very bright future in front of her. If you liked Intolerable Cruelty, and manage to ignore that underwhelming The Ladykillers then you just might say the have a perfect body of work.
  12. Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik creates a very bleak and somber atmosphere for her film about the Ozarks, and found in Jennifer Lawrence the perfect actress to bring Ree to life, and carry and bring a speck of hope to the film. This is a real starmaking turn from her, and what lies in her future is just amazing to think about.
  13. The Town – The film that proved to us that Ben Affleck really is a fantastic director. A film that was extremely entertaining and full of spot-on performances by a cast that included Mr. Affleck himself, as well as Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Pete Postlethwaite, Blake Lively and Chris Cooper.
  14. The King’s Speech – If you exclude Black Swan this is the best-acted film of all 2010, the sort of thing you can write “Oscar bait” on, everyone delivering some truly masterful performances, directed by Tom Hooper from a fantastic script. If Black Swan was a very polarizing film, this is one I cannot see anyone not really falling in love with, if anything just because of how amazing Colin Firth is in it.
  15. The Fighter – Yes, this is another rather predictable boxing film, but the real-life story and people in it make it a very very compelling family tale. This is not a boxing film with a human story in it, but a human story with boxing in it. The performances here are just amazing, with Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg all doing wonders with their characters.
  16. Let Me In – The fact that this film ended up being nearly as perfect as the original Swedish one is the biggest compliment one could give it. This is the perfect definition of a good remake, one that never once tries to lose the essence of the original, but that adds enough spice of its own to separate itself from it in order to be judged on its own.
  17. Greenberg – Noah Baumbach yet again delivers a darkly comic script and amazing directing chops to a small little film that deals with the intricacies of an offbeat character. That character is played by Ben Stiller in what might be the performance of his career, a nuanced portrayal that was perfect in all the best ways. Not to mention that it was also the film that introduced us to Greta Gerwig, and she’s all sorts of lovely.
  18. Kick-Ass – A very fun film to watch, one that honors its graphic novel roots, isn’t afraid to show a cursing thirteen-year-old or hugely graphic and gnarly violence. This really is a treat for the eyes, one that has Nicolas Cage in full-on spectacle mode being awesome, and in Chloë Moretz one of the best finds of the year.
  19. Animal Kingdom – The stunning portrayal of the Australian criminal underground world. The performances here are just stunning to watch develop, the script is really clever and the film is just intensely plotted and structured to deliver a really thrilling ride.
  20. Biutiful – This is a very powerful film, one that’s many times hard to watch, but one that’s extremely rewarding to watch as well. Bursting to life by a beautifully raw performance by Javier Bardem and confident filmmaking by Alejandro González Iñárritu, it’s strong stuff, but compelling, too, and one that will have you leaving the theater and really thinking deep about what you just saw.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The Fighter
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • The Town
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit

The Town and 127 Hours are the wildcards for me here. The other 8 I think are guaranteed to score an invite to the big race. I named both The Town and 127 Hours as hypothetical candidates, but I could actually see either one of them being bumped off the shortlist in favor of Winter’s Bone, we shall wait and see what happens Tuesday morning.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

2 Aug

Title: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Year: 2010
Director: John Turteltaub
Writers: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard and Matt Lopez based on the screen story by Matt Lopez, Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci, Teresa Palmer
MPAA Rating: PG, fantasy action violence, some mild rude humor and brief language
Runtime: 111 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 41%

My main problem with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was it’s running time, I think it could have done with a good fifteen or so minutes less, that way we could have stay charmed by its rather likable cast and pretty damn splendid special effects, but by having it run for so long you see through its flaws, the main one being that it pretty much has no plot at all, all it has is a nice enough premise that has been dismantled into a mindless amount of clichés. However, I must say I didn’t dislike The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at all, I mean, yes, it wasn’t great, but I really liked what they did with the CGI, and I think the eccentricity shown by Nicolas Cage and Alfred Molina in their performances was fun to watch.

I must now note another thing, which is the commercial side of this film, it’s being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer who, as I noted in my review of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, has been in a bit of slump as far as churning out huge blockbusters like he usually did, and such is the case with this one, too, it’s been out now for a couple of weeks and its gross revenue stands at less than $100 million even though its production budget carried a $150 million pricetag, so this one’s not enchanting audiences either, and that’s why these films are made, to lure in huge audiences into seeing these (most times) over-marketed action-comedy films, audiences mostly comprised of kiddies and their parents and young teenagers, audiences who don’t care for plot nearly as much as they do for huge special effects, and the fact that these sort of films have been underperforming as of late is I think, something great, it proves that audiences are now getting smarter, opting for films like Inception which, as I write this, is on its way to be the number one film at the box office for the third straight weekend. Now, huge mindless blockbuster’s are far from extinct, Twilight and Transformers will still do huge business when they roll out their next installments, but I’m just saying that audiences seem to be maturing, and I love that.

The fact that the best part of this film is the one that comes from the segment of Fantasia this one was inspired from goes to tell you how uninspired it really is, and even that part isn’t nearly as great as the original segment from Fantasia remains to be. Jay Baruchel is Dave, who when he was a kid was seen at a weird sort of store by Balthazar, the sorcerer played by Nicolas Cage. Balthazar, you see, was left by the famous wizard Merlin to guard the two most evil forces in the universe, which he had managed to lock up, and Balthazar in turn saw in Dave the potential to maybe become the next Merlin, or at least a pretty kickass sorcerer. But then Balthazar leaves Dave to guard the place where the two where locked up, which was this sort of toy prison, and of course Dave would be curious to see why a toy prison needed guarding, so he opened it and the two evil forces, Morgana and Horvath, were out again.

The thing, though, is that that’s about it as far as plot, and then the rest is just special effects. As I already said, I really loved the special effects, I thought they were really well done and there were some smart ideas around many of them, and they are the sole reason I found myself enjoying the film, but the film was far too long for us not to care about there not being any more scenes with substance, so it lost some of its magic. But I will say that kids twelve and under will certainly have a kick out The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they will eat up the effects like crazy and will love it that Dave was just a kid their own age when he was first seen by Balthazar who even then thought he had potential to become a sorcerer, so those kid should definitely go see this one, more so when you consider that The Last Airbender, an infinitely worse film, has made $70 million more than this one, so yeah, if you want cool effects just go to this one instead, please.

Grade: B-

Kick-Ass

12 Jul

Title: Kick-Ass
Year: 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, adapting form the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: R, strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children
Runtime: 117 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

This was one of the films I was anticipated the most this year, the buzz surrounding it was surreal, and, when the moment of truth came, I actually found myself loving Kick-Ass just as much as I first thought I would, which is saying a whole lot, and I love it when films live up to their hype for me. I am a huge huge fan of the comic book, and I relate to the main hero so much it’s unbelievable, and I’m obviously not alone in saying that, after all, what teenager doesn’t dream to be a superhero?

Kick-Ass is outstanding, really. Yes, it’s hugely violent and the best violence in the film is done by a pre-teen girl, but that’s part of what I love about this film, because it tackled that by being calculating, and by being really self-aware, and that’s a quality these type of films all need and most lack, a film like this needs to know what it is and not pretend to be something else, even if the pretension is accidental. The aforementioned pre-teen girl is the best part of a film with a lot of great parts, she’s played by Chloë Grace Moretz, and she kills people and she uses so much cuss words in such great ways she would have looked right in place in Pulp Fiction or some other cool Tarantino film, and yes, talking about Tarantino films I guess this one does have a bit of Kill Bill in it.

Moretz is Hit Girl, who learned her superhero skills from her daddy in what has to be one of the best parenting role models ever in film, her dad (Damon by day, Big Daddy when kicking ass) is played by Nicolas Cage who in this film does what he does best, which is to give a hugely entertaining, high-octane, no holds barred performance, and he rocks the shit out of Big Daddy, he’s just great in this one, both Mark Whalberg and Daniel Craig were considered for this role before he got it, and while I like those two actors as well, this film wouldn’t have been nearly as great had they gotten it. Plus, Nicolas Cage is a huge comic book fan, like, seriously huge, and the influence of comic books is incredible in this movie, that’s another thing I love so much about it, Big Daddy talks like Adam West’s Batman, the Red Mist characters quotes the Joker, there are references to Watchmen and The Spirit and to a Robin comic and the obligatory use of the “great power comes great responsibility” quote form Spider-Man, albeit implying that with no power comes no responsibilities.

The movie starts with Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson a British actor who’s pretty good at concealing the accent, he is the aforementioned teenager who we all relate to that wants to become a superhero, he goes online and buys a costume, adopts the film’s name as his superhero moniker and goes to street to fight crime and subsequently goes viral on YouTube, then he gets the attention of Hit-Girl and Big Daddy and the attention of Frank D’Amico, the millionaire villain of the story who has a teenager himself, who’s played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who will then adopt a superhero personna himself to try and impress daddy.

I really like the directorial style of Matthew Vaugh, too, a British filmmaker who also adapted the screenplay form the comic book along with Jane Goldman, he really knows how to do this stuff really well, the grotesque violence while at the same time not making it dark and keeping it light and funny, and he also deals really well with the complexities of his characters, especially when we dig into the backstory of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, it’s a great and emotional ride this one, and it works so well because Cage and Moretz have ridiculous chemistry, it works so well in fact, that I doubt anyone liked the main storyline, that one being Dave’s, better than this one, because this is what makes the film stand-out, the discovery of a seriously bright young star in Moretz and the enjoyment we get of seeing Cage rocking the shit out of roles, this guy has been in bad movies the past decade, but when he’s good he’s seriously good.

The sequel to Kick-Ass has already been greenlit, and I can’t wait to watch it, what I can’t wait to watch either is whatever Chloë Moretz does next, and according to her IMDb page that includes, excluding the sequel to this, the Let The Right One In American remake, a Martin Scorsese film, a Seth Gordon film, roles alongside the likes of Sam Worthington, Jessica Biel and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and this one compilation of comedy shorts that has an unbelievable cast and which I actually didn’t knew about before writing this but that sounds pretty damn orgasmic. But, seriously, I loved Kick-Ass, and I enjoy it time and time again when I rewatch it, many critics have been negative about it, many people have complained about Moretz and the violence and swearing seen from a pre-teen, she was eleven when she filmed this one and used the word “cunt” among many other expletives all too freely and awesomely, but to me that just added to the fun of it all, I fucking loved her kicking the shit out of them cunts.

Grade: A