‘Face/Off’: Review

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Face/Off is a film that is utterly ridiculous and implausible, but the film relishes these fallacies, embraces them and creates a dedicated tone to telling a relatively “serious” story among it all. It of course comes as no surprise that John Woo was behind  the helm of this thing, making the fun and off-the-wall plot even more bizarre by his stylized direction and choices. The idea alone is very cool, basically all boiling down to John Travolta’s FBI agent character Sean Archer switching faces with the Nicolas Cage villain Castor Troy in order to infiltrate his dependents and hopefully take him down. Troy in turn takes the face of Archer’s and a fun and interesting dichotomy is born when they’re fighting against each other as each other. Again, it’s a cool concept made all the better by the direction.

John Woo of course knows his way around an action film, and it’s no different here, getting his first real crack at a Hollywood movie completely under his control. You get all the things you want, epic fight scenes, sprawling gun battles, a speedboat chase, goddamn doves flying around Nic Cage in slo-mo, epic music, religious allusions, it’s stylized to the nth degree. While it may seem a bit bunch, or outwardly cheesy, it all works in concert, especially with the fantastic and committed roles from Cage and Travolta, nobody takes the film lightly and thus never suffers any drop in quality.

As mentioned, I think the biggest strong suit of the film are Cage and Travolta. They are game for anything, and introduce a fidelity and realism to this heightened world that draws you even further in. I was looking forward to seeing Cage ham it up as the fantastically weird villain he created, but of course the whole facial swap saw Travolta mainly taking that role. Travolta was great as a bad guy as well, but nothing like seeing Cage wild out when he can be as crazy as he wants. I think that’s the strength of this film though, and why Cage and Travolta were so perfectly cast, because both of them can expertly and believably play a crazy villain, or a pretty straight and narrow good guy, that them switching back made it seamless and enjoyable.

Everything coagulates into a really fun and entertaining movie. On the outset it seems a bit bunch, and just another sci-fi action flick that pops up on TV randomly on your sci-fi channel. And, no, it’s no high-art or anything, but it at least strives to be a bit more than your average mindless thriller. With Woo’s unique direction and the dedicated performances of Cage and Travolta, they’re all able to elevate the seemingly benign material into some of substance.

8/10

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‘Trapped In Paradise’: Review

Trapped In Paradise

As soon as I heard the words “Nicolas Cage” and “Christmas movie” in the same sentence, I knew I was in for an unforgettable experience. Now we all know that Nicolas Cage has yet to turn down a role offered to him, but in my wildest imagination I never thought that he had knocked out a Christmas movie. But, really of course he has, he’s Nicolas Cage after all, the man who thought any part of Bangkok Dangerous was a good idea and who agreed that we needed a Ghost Rider sequel.

Not only is this a Christmas movie starring Nicolas Cage, oh boy, that’s not all, we also have the wonderful co-starring talent of Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. Now, I can assume that once you read their names you immediately surmised that this film was made in the mid-90s, and you would be correct. The only time those names were ever remotely bankable in that succession. And what would we like to see these fine actors doing together, how about some crime caper? Sounds good. I’m an unabashed Cage fan, good or bad, I love just watching him do whatever it is he does. He’s certainly not as crazy in this as he is in later flicks, but there’s enough “acid flashback”-esque moments where he seizes out of nowhere and adopts a weird accent to love the classic Cage Rage that we’ve all come to love.

I would love to meet someone face-to-face who legitimately thinks Jon Lovitz is funny, because I can’t believe someone on this big green earth could actually think that anything he does is funny. I’ve never gotten it, from his Saturday Night Live days, to films, to even his “Simpsons” guest-voicing, I don’t understand how hearing that voice does not send you into a blind rage. Jon Lovitz is literally (and I mean that literally the worst). Dana Carvey didn’t think this movie would be bad enough by itself, so he decided to play a seemingly retarded guy. It’s cringe inducing what Carvey thinks is comedy, really his whole career is an attest to that, but here’s it’s just especially bad and offensive. Tellingly Nicolas Cage is the only one associated with this movie to still have a career. Actually, scratch that, I forgot that goddamn Richard Jenkins was in this for some reason, playing the dude trying to track down these dullards. Jenkins is 1000 different methods of awesome, and it took me awhile to comprehend why his greatness was in this, but I guess the 90s were some dark times.

The movie really plays as some dumb Lifetime or TBS original movie. It seems so suited to one of those mindless movies that one of those pay-cable movie channels just throws on in the dead of the afternoon on december 21st, that everyone just ignores in the background while you listen to your Uncle yammer on about his boring life. This is an actual movie exists. Well, I’ve hit 500 words, which is usually at least my goal on these kind of things, and frankly I’m surprised I even hit that with the doldrums that this movie offers. It’s almost a wonder why you can hardly find this movie around anymore…

3/10

‘Bangkok Dangerous’: Review

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Since my last Nicolas Cage review almost killed me, let’s try to take things easier. Oh, no, not because Bangkok Dangerous is any better than The Wicker Man, no, it’s just that my sanity needs a break. It’s fitting though, where The Wicker Man was bad in how outlandish and crazy it was, Bangkok Dangerous is bad in how secluded and dull it is. Where The Wicker Man bred unintentional comedy and made you laugh numerous times, Bangkok Dangerous isn’t even funny in how bad it is, it’s just a depressing bare bones not good at all movie.

It’s a legitimate terrible movie! It’s not hiding behind pomp and ridiculousness like The Wicker Man, it’s the ultimate “check your watch every five minutes because why isn’t this over yet” movie. Nicolas Cage himself doesn’t even get to go all modern-day Cage crazy. Instead, he’s a loner assassin who never lets anyone get close to him. No friends, he travels all the time, no attachments, he’s a stone cold killer. Hey, wouldn’t you know it, this is a movie! The dumb kid he gets to help with delivering him his targets eventually becomes a protege and Cage even says that HE SEES A BIT OF HIM IN THE KID. Aren’t cliche’s so great? And wouldn’t you know it, he falls in love with a deaf girl who works at a pharmacy, and some trials and tribulations follow because this is a movie.

Again, just dull all around. It’s even a depressing movie to look at. It’s like someone decided to film 90% of the film at night, leaving things hard to see and just a drag to look at. There’s a story, but who cares. The main “bad guys” of the movie don’t even become an acual thing until like 20 minutes left in the movie where the writer and director were probably like “Oh, wait, we should probably have at least some cobbled together reason to have a shoot-out at the end…… aaaannnnddd you will be the bad guy.” I guess this is supposed to be an “action movie,” but there’s only like three scenes I can think of that are somewhat action-y and none of them were good. Actually, scratch that, there’s one amazing scene from the whole movie (the best scene, obviously) where Cage is following (and shooting at) a boat along a canal while he speeds along on a motorcycle. Nearing the end of his land real estate under the cycle wheels, he does an amazing slo-mo Cage leap onto the boat he was chasing, and then does the most insane thing ever by grabbing the boat propellor, swinging it around and divorcing the dude from his hand. It’s just an amazingly ridiculous action sequence that only Nic Cage could pull off so fantastically that we had to introduce the word Cagey to describe these types of scenes.

I mean, if you’re going to make a bad movie, at least make it entertaining in how bad it was. I was so excited to watch this, because it’s unofficially the pinnacle of the craziest of Nicolas Cage hairstyles. It doesn’t let you down in that respect, looking like a bird made a nest on his head for 100 minutes. I should also randomly mention that Nic Cage hilariously bows twice in this movie to show us all how in touch he is with Thai traditions. Simply amazing. Really the only good thing I can say about the movie is that the ending at least doesn’t take the easy way out and leaves some threads dangling that usually get tied up in these basic action movies. I never thought I’d say this, but a Nicolas Cage movie was actually boring for me, but at least we’ll always have The Wicker Man to cleanse the palette…..

2/10

‘The Wicker Man’: Review

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting."

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting.”

I really don’t even know where to start with this one. Well, some table-setting as I always seem to do, I guess. I’ve been on a Nicolas Cage kick, for, oh, uh, like two months now and am intent on filling in the gaps of his career that I have yet to see. Nonetheless, current day Nic Cage, who just happens to be insane, delivers the most mind-numbing performances that they demand to be seen before any of the handful of his actual “good” films. Of course, The Wicker Man is insanely popular online and such for just how god-awfully, ridiculous and hilariously bad it is. I had to finally see it for myself, and oh my lord how it exceeded all my expectations in how bat-shit it was.

I’m not really sure what the plot was. Something about Cage being a policeman and being summoned to an island strictly inhabited by women in order to find a missing girl, and oh yeah, these women are obsessed with honey and worship bees. Yup, you read that right. It really doesn’t matter, because you and I only watched this movie for everything outside what faintly resembles a plot.

So, what makes a bad movie? Acting? Well, yes, that’s always the chief problem, and it’s bad here of course. But, the dialogue that the actors are saddled with is some of the most baffling words puts together that I’ve ever seen. It’s weirdly cutesy and often attempts to be poetic and philosophical, failing at every chance. Hey did I tell you that Ellen Burstyn is in this? Yes, ELLEN BURSTYN, that ELLEN BURSTYN, playing the matriarch character of the island, who is giving the line-readings of someone who worked a couple days and is just anticipating her check to cashed into her bank account. Molly Parker is also a wonderful actress who has to be terrible here. The wonderful Frances Conroy is very creepy, but deserves oh so much better.

I still can’t process this movie even days after seeing it, so I’m just going to spew out random awful observations from the movie. There is one scene that they cut back to in a flashback for about, no joke, 10 times throughout the movie, providing nothing we didn’t already know. But, hey psychological “horror” movie, right guys? I’m pretty sure they just threw that scene in multiple times just to extend the running time. There’s also about 10 minutes in total, if you combined all the scenes, of Nicolas Cage riding a bicycle. Yup, nothing but him riding to his next destination, but apparently we have to see shot after shot of it. Again, seemingly just to extend the run time. Cage does won of the most hilarious dives into a lake you’ll ever see. There’s a scene where he has a dream within a dream within a dream, and it’s every bit as incredible as you think it could be. Nicolas Cage punches about 37 women throughout the movie, and one such instance he just walks up to an unassuming women, says nothing, and coldcocks her. After he punches some women, he puts on a bear suit, oh my god yes, he puts on a BEAR SUIT and proceed to punch more women. I think it’s time to repeat, that yes, this was a “Hollywood” film that was indeed released in theatres. People worked hard to make this, gaffers, foley, sound, video, sets, costumes, make-up, catering, EVERYTHING. And not once did someone think any of this, not even a small part, was a bad idea. It’s just so, so,so incredible.

It’s so, so, so amazing that this movie is billed as a horror movie. Quite seriously, if they had labeled it as a comedy, we wouldn’t be talking shit about it. No, we’d be hailing it as the funniest movie of 2006. Like, I mean a lot of it is unintentional comedy, but it’s so horrible in spots that it has to be, just has to of been made under knowingly terrible circumstances. Not that it makes it any better, but it’s really just me trying to make sense out of everything. Really the only redeeming aspect of the movie is the ending which is anything but a copout. I guess I should clarify that this is the extended version I’m talking about, whereas the theatrical version has a horrible ending to fall in line with the horrible movie that came before it that randomly has James Franco and Jason Ritter. I don’t know either. I know that I’m missing or forgetting about 1000 other dumb, random incredible bits and quotes that pepper this movie, but it’s impossible to reprint them all without me just copying and pasting the screenplay. Yeah, someone actually sat down and wrote this. Actually, that reminds me of another hilarious thing. Neil LaBute wrote the screenplay, and then felt so obviously connected to the story that he HAD to direct it as well. Apparently, LaBute thinks he’s some kind of auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson or the Coen Brothers. I’m not even watching the movie, but typing words about it is making it melt my brain even more. The Wicker Man, everybody, a movie randomly dedicated to Johnny Ramone. Amazing.

3/10