Friday, April 12, 2013

Netflix Suggestions of the Week: 10 Nicolas Cage Movies

My Nick Cage Wine Glass
Several years ago, I was at a Q&A at the Las Vegas film festival where Elvis Mitchell was interviewing Nicolas Cage, and the Cage talked for almost 30 minutes about how it's an acting choice to not play characters, but just be yourself on screen.

He said - one day I realized that the point of acting was ... not to act.

He was wearing leather pants.

Guess what you're doing this weekend?  Well, if you're awesome, and even remotely masochistic, you'll be watching the TEN Nicolas Cage Movies currently streaming on Netflix.

I have ranked them here, for your convenience, so that you can watch them in order from the least awesome, to the most awesome.

PREPARE YOURSELF for the Cage...

10. Season of the Witch (2011)

This is the worst Nick Cage movie of this bunch, and possibly among the two or three worst Nick Cage movies ever. This movie doesn't even make sense. It must have come from a pitch meeting that started out with "Hey, those Lord of the Rings movies are the bee's knees!  Kids love movies with swords and cloaks in them!" and ended with "I heard Nick Cage just lost 25 lawsuits and needs to make some cash fast. I'll call him."

There is a brilliant podcast called "How Did This Get Made?" that goes through this movie and points out the really best moments of nonsense. You should watch this movie and listen to the podcast here:  And, actually, even if you haven't seen the movie, the podcast is still hilarious, and doesn't ruin anything... because there really isn't much to ruin. Oh! This movie also features Ron Perlman. Why aren't you watching it?? It's a horrible train wreck!

9.  Windtalkers (2002)

One day in 2002, Nick looked around him and said, "I'm 38! Maybe I should play the part of a relatively newly enlisted marine during World War II! They were all 38, right?"

Sigh. Oh, Nick. Don't worry. They'll just spray paint your hair and no-one will notice.

This movie is not terrible, it is reasonably acceptable, and even all the Native Americans are played by actual Native Americans! Nick gets plenty of opportunities to overact, and scream, and have crazy eyes. But, really... it's kind of boring and poorly made. It's about World War II, but it feels like it takes place in the 80s (especially with Christian Slater sneaking around in there), and it was made in 2002. Not a good sign. Especially when Saving Private Ryan came out FOUR years earlier, and looks one billion times better. Get your shit together, John Woo!

8: Seeking Justice (2011)

This movie tries really hard. It's one of those movies about some dude whose wife is attacked, and he's out for revenge! It was probably written for Mel Gibson in the 90s, but eventually trickled down to Nick. It's also one of those movies in which January Jones tries to act. Painful. This woman... seriously. It's bad. She always looks like she's thinking about something dumb. She's so hard for me to watch. But, it has some Guy Pearce stuff... eh... it's not so bad.  It has some stuff going on. The plot takes one or two creative turns, but if you have had more than two glasses of wine, you'll get bored and change the channel, because you've seen almost this exact movie about 20 times before. They should have added something to this movie... like humor, or a flame-engulfed motorcycle.

7. Stolen (2012)

Virtually indistinguishable from Seeking Justice, Stolen also features Nick Cage getting revenge over something that happened with a woman (this time his daughter) and has lots of shots of him running! I only rank this movie slightly higher than its twin because this time... Nick is a THEIF! And guess what?  He's the best... but he gave it up... and now he has to go back for ONE MORE JOB. SUSPENSE! Aren't we bored with this formula yet?  I am. YAWN. But still.  The thievery stuff is pretty cool, and you get to see a super grungy-looking Josh Lucas, which is fun, so Stolen beats Seeking Justice by a hair!

6. Trespass (2011)

Another throw-away movie! This movie is a home-invasion thriller, co-starring Nicole Kidman. It has some borderline rapey parts, but really, it's actually pretty good. Pacing is nice. Story is simple, but solid. Has an ok, but kind of predictable twist. It's fine.  You should watch it so you can say you saw it. It even has some genuine tension in it, unlike the two previous movies which are wholly without authentic drama. Nicole Kidman is always great, and it was somewhat of a breakout role for Liana Liberato, who plays the pre-teen daughter.

5. World Trade Center (2006)

Ok, this movie totally sucks, big time. But I'm ranking it this high because:
(A) Michael Shannon.  Hell Yeah.
And (B) Mustache.

Enough said?

PS: What happened to Oliver Stone's awesome stick-it-to-the-man attitude?  So, so sad.

4. Bringing out the Dead (1999)

This movie is not for everyone... but I totally dug it. I think Martin Scorsese did too many drugs and forgot that he already made After Hours, so he wrote a new script that didn't quite work as well, and hired the Cagester. Or, maybe all his movies just have a similar vibe. Who knows. But, there is definitely a reason that you may not have seen (or heard of) this movie, even though it came out at the height of Nick's popularity. It's a weird movie. But, Nick is a weird dude, so I dig it. I feel like he's just able to let loose and be Nick. He's able to have a total meltdown on film, and I am able to watch it from my living room in my PJs. Win/Win.

3. Face/Off (1997)

Oh, come on. You've seen Face Off. This movie is one that if it is EVER playing on TV, I'll stop and watch it through to the end. When it was first coming out, I remember seeing one of those old HBO featurettes about "The Making of..." Nick and John Travolta both waxed poetic about the acting challenge of not doing an "impersonation" of each other... but trying to act like the person was really inhabiting the others' body.

Well... I hate to break it to both of them, but they pretty much failed. What they did accomplish, however, was making one of the most enjoyably unintentionally funny action movies of the 90s. Well done, sirs. Plus, you get to learn a lot of totally real, completely believable science. Bonus!

2. Adaptation (2002)

Oh man, Adaptation is good. It's probably the most successful Charley Kauffman screenplay. It's just SO good. I'm a giant fan of everything that happens in this movie. Nick is perfection. This is that movie that you'll watch and become angry at Nick for being so shitty of an actor in SO many movies, because he's just brilliant. Plus, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper. Ugh. It's so good. Watch it immediately. I can't even look at you if you haven't seen it. This movie changes genre at least twice during the course of the movie, and it's done SO masterfully.  Just watch it.

1. Raising Arizona (1987)

This movie is pure perfection. Really, I think that Raising Arizona and Adaptation are probably equally amazing, but I ranked Raising Arizona slightly higher because I really think that every single second in this movie is perfect. There is not one frame that isn't memorable. I've probably seen this movie 100 times, and I still find it to be genuinely hilarious. Plus, I feel like it was a foreshadowing of Nick's bizarre hair-of-the-future. And Holly Hunter has NEVER been better. Genius performances. Amazing script. Nick really anchors the whole movie. Just fantastic. And, the opening sequence should be taught (and probably is taught) in film classes of all kinds as an example of both innovative montage and creative way of getting a LOT of information out without resorting to cliches and boring the audience to death. Love it. Love everything about it. Want to watch it right now.

So, there you have it, folks! A weekend worth of Nick Cage movie magic.  I should mention, also, that while Adaptation and Raising Arizona are two of my three favorite Nick Cage performances, my true favorite might actually be Kick Ass.  It was streaming on Netflix for a long time, but it doesn't appear to be right now.  Sad times! You should go find it, though. You can probably rent it for cheap on Amazon streaming.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

13. Room 237

I have attempted to watch The Shining exactly three times.  

The first time, it was on TV, and I started it part of the way through, and got super confused about what was happening, so I gave up and watched something else. 

The second time, I watched it with a friend that I tend to talk through movies with, and we talked through the entire movie.  

The third time, I was home alone, and I put it on... and fell asleep about 30 minutes into it. 

Because really... despite being acclaimed as one of the greatest horror movies of all time, there is a HUGE stretch just after the beginning sequence in which almost nothing happens. The kid drives his big wheel around. There's an old black guy who says some stuff. There's a walk-in freezer...zzzzzz.... 

I woke up to some bloody carnage and slightly felt bad that I had slept through the masterpiece, shrugged, repositioned myself on the couch ... and fell back asleep. 

Really, The Shining would be my least favorite Stanley Kubrik movie, if it weren't for 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Don't give me shit about that. There are 30 brilliant minutes of movie in there, sure, but that movie is ONE BILLION hours long and makes my brain slowly die.)

So, I saw that Room 237 was playing at SIFF today, and I thought - Hey! I should go watch a documentary all about that movie that I don't really like!  

And guess what? It was AWESOME!!

WAY, way better than watching The *actual* Shining. What was the secret to all this entertainment?  

Postmodern film analysis, Boyeeeeez!

This movie was cleverly edited clips from various Stanley Kubrik (and other) films with voice-over explaining various Shining aficionados' theories about the more global imagery, symbolism, and thematic statements beyond the surface plot and characters of The Shining.  

Yes, one of them is a moon landing conspiracy theorist. 

Others talk about the physical space occupied by the hotel, connections to mythological archetypes, historical events, and ideas about the nature of humankind.  

They also showed several clips of the screenings of The Shining which superimpose a forward-running copy of the film with a backwards-running copy of the film, showing interesting juxtapositions.  

And don't worry, this movie had plenty of laughs. The filmmakers seemed to wink at the audience by allowing "the viewers" to wax poetic about often ridiculous theories.  

Personally, I find it fascinating to hear people project grand meaning onto tiny details. Whether Kubrik had intended any of these meanings remains a mystery. I suspect not. But it's super fun to think about.

Now I need to get my hands on the full forwards/backwards copy of that movie! 

Peggy's Rating: Five out of Five Stars