The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (2022)

Quick synopsis: Unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, actor Nick Cage accepts a $1 million offer to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party. Sadly this fan turns out to possibly be a drug lord, so the CIA get Cage to spy on the person for them.

Let’s face it, someone like Cage is perfect for this film. He’s not so much as an actor, as he is a living meme at this point. Capable of greatness, or being terrible. You never see a Cage performance and think “he was alright, nothing special”. He’s one of those people who you could hear any story about and believe. “hey, I heard Nicholas Cage slapped a Rhino with a sea bass” “yeah, that seems like something he’d do”.

So a film in which he plays himself, who gets roped into doing an investigation into a suspected drug lord? Perfect. The result? Well it’s not perfect, it is very, very good. It has a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but just not consistently enough to consider it great. Also, there are too many issues which stop it from reaching the next level. What issues? Well I’m glad you asked, and your hair looks great by the way.

Well firstly, a big issue is that this has been done before. An action star who is having family trouble, being caught up in a crime? If you want to see how that’s done, watch JCVD, that’s a superb movie featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme giving (genuinely) one of the best performances you’ll ever see. The other issue is that ONLY Cage is playing himself. I’m okay with Sharon Horgan playing his wife, and there are other similar performances. Put Neil Patrick Harris is too big a name to just play Cage’s agent. When I first saw the trailer I assumed he was playing himself too, and he knew about the wealthy person who liked Cage because he’s been invited to his parties too. But nope, he’s just his agent. I feel it would have made more sense to have it as himself though, would have set Pedro Pascal’s character up as the kind of eccentric rich guy who pays celebrities to hang out with him. I kind of have a similar issue with Pascal, who is definitely too big a name to not known. But overall I’m more okay with that, because he is so much fun in this. He doesn’t normally do comedy, but he should, he has a talent for it, and him and Cage bounce off each other wonderfully.

The other downside? This could go further, it features moments where Cage is interacting with a younger version of himself. It’s a bit weird, happens enough that it is notable, but doesn’t happen enough to make you comfortable. I mean, it’s Cage, this has room to go a lot weirder, and it’s weird how refrained it is. I also have an issue with the fact that the guy we thought was good, turns out to have been good all along, and the actual villain is a guy we’ve seen only once or twice in the film, and then very fleeting.

I know this sounds negative, but I have had to be very nit-picky to make those points. Overall it’s a very fun watch. I’m glad I saw it, and probably will see it again if it’s on streaming services, or I find it cheap at a boot fair or charity shop. As I said before, it is very funny, even if some of those laughs have been ruined in the trailer. The plot makes sense, even when people make stupid decisions, you can understand the logic. It also has actual characters with their own personalities and motivations. This means that when the film aims to be emotional, it actually works.

So yeah, if you get a chance, go see it. But don’t rush out RIGHT NOW. Treat it like a deer, approach slowly and realise you may not see it.

Pig (2021)

Quick synopsis: Someone steals Nicholas Cage’s pig.

This……..this was unexpected. From that synopsis, and from knowing what else Nicholas Cage has been in this year I expected it to basically be John Wick but sillier. This is completely different. For a start it’s much more nihilistic, it doesn’t really have a happy ending, it’s just super depressing throughout. It’s also lacking in action/fight scenes. There’s a scene where he walks into a fight club and you think it’s going to be a “kick ass and take names” style action setpiece. Nope, it’s just him being punched in the face by chefs he’s criticised in the past.

It’s a good summary of this film, bleak, dark, and hits hard. It’s genuinely one of the most intimate and personal films you can hope to find this year. Nicholas Cage is actually really good in it too. He has a reputation for his performances being over the top and containing more scene-chewing than that scene in Willy Wonka where they eat the scenery. But in this, he’s incredibly subdued. He’s performing like a man who has lost everything and genuinely just wants to be left alone to wallow in his sadness.

That’s the word that sums it up: Sadness. From the colour scheme through to the story and the characters, it’s all just so sad, but in a cinematically beautiful way. The ending in particular is just someone playing an audio tape and it’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful things you will witness all year.

So yeah it’s a weird film, but one I think you’ll be glad you see.

Prisoners Of The Ghostland (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A captured bank robber (Nicholas Cage) is tasked with retrieving a Governer’s adopted granddaughter/sex slave in this Japanese-inspired western horror. At one point his testicles get exploded.

Is Nicholas Cage picking films based almost entirely on how fucking strange they are lately? I mean, I’m all for it if it produces stuff like Willy’s Wonderland. That was fun and strange and a one of a kind movie. This was, I dunno. I should like this film, it’s an interesting mesh of genres (western and horror/sci-fi), both of which lend themselves to going weird and out-there. But I just didn’t mesh with this for some reason. I think it’s because when I was watching it all I could think was “I would much rather be playing this and experiencing it that way”. When you do a mash-up of genres like this does you need to do it in a way that highlights certain things from both genres which best suit the story you’re telling. The story should be driving the genres, but this feels like it was done the opposite way. It feels like they got the genres, made them into cars, drove them into each other and then made a script based on the result. The film itself is too surface level, there’s nothing underneath the obvious what you see. No meaning, no deep beauty to it. It feels so in debt to its stylistic forefathers that it doesn’t seem to have an identity of its own. Outside of “modern Japanese western” it’s incredibly flat and one dimensional. Visually it’s not that exciting either. I mean, it’s got a lot of colours, but they just don’t POP. If you look at a film like Blade Runner and how they use colour it’s a visual delight. In comparison this just looks like a Lite Brite a few minutes before the batteries die.

I really don’t have a lot to say about this, because there is nothing to say. I won’t remember this film for too long after I saw it. Maybe this is partly because I watched it at the “wrong” time. I feel this is supposed to be watched with friends while drunk, cheering and hollering at the screen. I watched it on my own in the middle of the day. But I watched Come True in a similar situation and that pulled me in.

The issue is that there’s nothing particularly wrong with this film (although Bill Mosely’s performance seems kind of wrong, he never feels like a character who is in control of the situation, he always looks too nervous and jumpy), there’s just not much I could find to particularly be too invested in. It just exists. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a big mac, fine in the moment, but I would never really go out and hunt it down except if I was drunk. A film like this should not be quite as boring as this one is.

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Nicholas Cage beats up animatronic creatures alongside a group of teens.

Bit weird. That’s an understatement, I mean, just look at that synopsis and tell me there’s a way to make it normal. It’s every bit as strange as that makes it sound. It’s like Five Nights At Freddy’s as a horror movie (a bit like the Banana Splits movie which I still need to see). It probably helped that Nicolas Cage is in it, which allowed it more casual eyes than it would have had otherwise. The script grabbed his attention when he read it on the blood list, and he helped produce it too.

Cage is weird, he is occasionally awful, not just in performances but also in the films he picks (Wicker Man comes to mind), but then he picks something like this and knocks it out the park. That’s all the more impressive when you realise he doesn’t utter a single word in the film. That’s incredibly hard to do, especially in a way that feels natural. But it’s done so well that it’s possible you might not notice. There’s not a moment where you sit there thinking “why doesn’t he just say something?”, he gets his character over so well wordlessly. This is possibly one of his best performances, and to be honest it’s kind of frustrating that he is capable of this, but then makes terrible choices in other films. Either he’s very lazy at times, or he has an evil twin who can’t act.

The other performances are good too. Beth Grant continues to do her usual, but her usual is so damn impressive that it works. Emily Tosta co-anchors the film alongside Cage, and easily matches him in performance levels.

The others are good, but aren’t in it long enough. It’s a shame as they’re good characters with individual motivations. So it’s a shame to see them go so soon when they all had so much potential for their own plot points. The 88 minute runtime slightly hinders it in that aspect, if you added half an hour and spread the characters around you could add more depth to the film whilst also (hopefully) not upsetting the pace too much.

The other main weakness is the animatronic characters themselves. Sometimes they look fine but in some of the more intense sequences they do just look a bit silly. Ozzie Ostrich in particular doesn’t look good when it moves. When that kind of thing happens it can be a bit distracting and take you out of the film. It’s a shame as the general look of the film is good. It has a weird neon look to it. Kevin Lewis has a great sense of light and dark, using the intense brightness among the night-look to create a stunningly unique look.

Now onto the plot, the plot doesn’t need to be this good. It doesn’t need to be as disturbing as it does. It could get away with no explanation, just have it as a schlocky horror. The fact it does is to be commended. The plot is as disturbing as the images, and the images are pretty damn disturbing. This film actually has the balls to kill kids. That doesn’t happen in horror films often enough, usually they’re spared because it would be too disturbing (as if that’s not the point of horror films).

So in summary, see this. But don’t see it alone. Get people around, get drunk and watch it while making stupid jokes.

Unhinged (2020)

I’m well aware of my big flaw when it comes to reviewing: all of it is down to personal taste. So if a film is impressive, but for whatever reason just doesn’t grab me, I won’t review it favourably (and conversely, if a film is technically awful, but I have a soft spot for it, I’ll review it favourably). They’ll be some films I negatively review because they just didn’t gel with me. Keep that in mind when I talk about how much I disliked this film.

I get some people will like this, it’s a pulpy violent throwback full of well-crafted but realistic car chases. It just wasn’t for me. It might have been fun if I was drunk, or I could have just found it super depressing. Before I start this I’ll point out that the performances are all good, there is absolutely nothing any of the actors could have done to improve on it So why didn’t I like it? Hard to explain, it could be how, despite being only 90 minutes long, I spent a long time looking at my watch. It could be how, outside of the main character, you didn’t care about anybody. There at least 3 characters who have two scenes:

Scene one: the character gets introduced.

Scene two: the character gets killed.

I’m not asking for an essay-level of detail on every minor character, but I need to at least feel like these characters exist outside of this film, and I never felt like that, I was always constantly aware that these are just characters in a movie.

I guess my main problem with this film is it’s just so ugly. Not in terms of look, in terms of spirit and world. It’s all just so relentlessly cruel.

I haven’t seen anything this despairingly ugly since I last looked in the mirror. The “happy ending” of this film is basically the main character letting people do whatever they want and she will just stay quiet. Yay, she’s scared and won’t ever stand up for herself, yay?

It’s not a story, it’s just a bunch of stuff happening one after the other. It’s far too dependent on luck. If characters don’t do the exact thing that they do, there is no film. If the police aren’t as stupid as they are, there’s no film. If bystanders do, well, anything, there’s no film. Again, this all builds together so you never really lose yourself in the film, you’re constantly aware that it’s fiction. It doesn’t help that it never builds up to anything, it starts with him burning someone’s house down and killing them, how can you increase upon that? He doesn’t even change his car until the final act, with all the cameras around, he never gets pulled over by the police? That’s kind of the case for a lot of this film though, it depends on only the main characters being active in the plot. If they’re not a named character, they don’t do anything. So even when Russell Crowe strangles someone with their own tie in a diner, nobody in the building does anything. It’s America, you’d think at least one of them would have a gun. Plus, it’s a diner, so there’s enough knives around, or even things you can just pick up and hit him with. Also, the diner scene happens after Crowe’s character has:

  1. Burned down a house in full view of the neighbourhood.
  2. Run someone over outside of a petrol station.

He parks his vehicle outside the diner and just sits in there for quite a while. Definitely long enough for the police (who really should be searching for him) to spot it and drive there to arrest him. It’s just incredibly narratively frustrating. Especially since there probably is a way to do this, but this film couldn’t be bothered.

All I can say about this film to end this review is this: Nicholas Cage turned it down. That shows the level we’re dealing with.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

Before I start on this review I have to give out the biggest negative about it, and it’s one that will stop many people seeing the film. This film has intense flashing lights, so if you have epilepsy, or have sensory processing disorder, this might not be the film for you. That’s actually really annoying that that was not publicised. I mean, shouldn’t films that do that have a warning? We have warnings for “contains mild peril”, but not this. That’s…..really fucking weird and needs changing.

Now, onto the film…..this film loves the character of Spider-man, you can tell this by the way it mocks him sometimes. It’s like the lego batman movie in that way, it does make fun of previous films, but it’s done with such knowledge and love. This is a different kind of comic book movie, for one thing it’s REALLY weird. It’s a film for kids that deals with multiverse theory, didn’t get that in Thor (well you might have done but I didn’t pay attention because it was awful, or Thor-fal if you’re the type of person who feels the need to cram puns in where they don’t fit). It’s incredibly meta, but not too much so. None of this would matter if the actors didn’t put effort in, but the voice work here is great too. The film-makers didn’t skimp when it came to casting, you’ve got real talent here: Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, Nicholas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn etc.

I mentioned the intense flashing lights earlier, apart from that this film looks SUPERB. The animation is some of the best you’ll see, with multiple styles displayed across the film, each incredibly distinct and gorgeous. The fight scenes are done brilliantly too, you never lose track of whats happening, the final fight in particular is a masterpiece of surreal film-making that plays out like a AAA video game boss level.

The soundtrack too, is amazing. It really suits the film, the songs are not only great but they go perfectly with the images. It does what a soundtrack should do, it complements the film perfectly. It also features what has to count as the best and most heartbreaking Stan Lee cameo ever. This is the first film released after his death (not counting the Deadpool 2 re-release), he appears on screen after Spider-man dies and says “I’m going to miss him”. F*cking heartbreaking. The most depressing part of the film, and there’s quite a lot of them, I mean, the original Spider-man gets killed early on, and all the alternate spider-men/pig/women are haunted by a death of someone, they’re defined by guilt about who they could not save. This is the best time to mention the characterisation of the different universe characters; they are all fully fledged characters with motivations and back stories. This could be a film to launch a franchise.

I honestly believe this might be the best Spider-man movie ever made, it’s VERY close. But yeah, the no warnings about flashing lights of that nature is hard to look past.