Posts Tagged ‘Nicholas Cage’

World’s Greatest Dad: I have never liked those wholesome family comedies or dramas. Hated Problem Child. Loathed ET. Cried during The Lion King for all the wrong reasons. Swore upon my grandma’s grave that I’d find and kill the Little Mermaid, Lassie, Flipper and those annoying 101 Dalmatians. That kind of sparked the anger I had as a teenager for Robin Williams. He starred in films such as Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Toys, Jumanji, Jack, Patch Adams, and Bicentennial Man that tried enticing us with hyperbolic chirpiness. Over time I have grown tolerant towards him and as irony would have it, this comedian looks more convincing in tragedy. Exhibit A to E, Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Insomnia, House Of D and grossly underrated The Big White.

In Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, he plays Lance Clayton – failed novelist, underappreciated teacher and grieving dad of a misanthropic pervert. He is nice enough chap, but lady luck has a habit of kicking him in the side of his head. There’s a young professor who keeps outperforming him in front of his girlfriend. His neighbor is an agoraphobic pot-smoking grandma and even she ignores him. To top it off, his son embarrassingly dies from autoerotic asphyxiation.  Poor old Lance Clayton. Everything he wanted in life kept vanishing into thin air, pausing only to break wind to add to the humiliation of his existence. Needles to say, everything gets turned around once a “suicide letter” is discovered and posthumously published. Few months later, Clayton is the toast of the town. Popular, loved and respected. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?

While the film had all the ingredients of a perfectly respectable indie movie, the second half strays too far from the morbidity that had grabbed me in the first. Even the accidental (hopefully, not ripped off) nod to the final scene in Thomas McCarthy’s fantastic Station Agent doesn’t help matters towards the end. I can only thank heavens that it wasn’t Anger Management climax-level bad.

All’s not lame however. The first half is both funny and fucked up and I quite liked it. Daryl Sabara has shaken off the Little Annie-look that he had in the Spy Kids trilogy; he is quite the revelation as Clayton’s immensely dislikable son – Kyle (who could have run amok the suburban streets with Alex, Dim and the rest of the droogs). Alexie Gilmore does a neat job playing Claire – Clayton’s girlfriend; something about the slyness in her eyes makes her captivating to watch. Oh and Robin Williams just jumped ahead of Marlon Brando on the list of men the world should have never seen naked. It isn’t lame as much it is evil.

Bad Lieutenant: I say this with a heavy heart. I enjoyed Abel Ferrara’s way more than Werner Herzog’s Port Of Call: New Orleans version. The original had Harvey Keitel in one of the grittiest portrayals of a rogue cop, investigating a young nun’s rape while sinking into new levels of decadence and corruption. Herzog’s had Nicholas Cage trying his best to come across as the bad guy. He investigates the drug-related assassination of a family of African immigrants while dealing with his drug addiction. Truth be told, I don’t get Herzog’s casting decisions. I have no friggin clue why he roped in Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, and Xzibit; they were all sorts of bad, especially Val Kilmer (one would think he did more drugs than the bad lieutenant). Thankfully, some worked. Jennifer Coolidge and Brad Dourif (Billy Bibbit!) were impressive as the perennially-sloshed stepmom and the nervous gambler.

On to the Herzog-Cage experiment. One of my least liked actors being led by one of my favourite directors. Well, the thing is, Cage has tried really hard (he even picks up an accent about 40 minutes into the film), so it is hard to fault him. To be honest, it is one of his best performances (Weather Man remains his truest yet), but then again, that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, this also happens to be one of Herzog’s least impressive films. Just so you know, it had nothing to do with the actors or his direction; it  is merely as petulant to expect him to ape another man’s vision as it is unfortunate  how little could have been done to make Abe’s version any better.

For me, the real surprise lies in the visual elements in the film; never has a Herzog film looked this mediocre. Cinematography had a role in making Keitel’s portrayal of the Bad Lieutenant seem more irreverant that he actually is. In this, Peter Zeitlinger’s photography is surprisingly timid as it plays second fiddle to Lt. Terence’s mental deterioration; quite the contrast to the disquieting beauty he conjured in the truly Herzogian Encounters at the End of the World and Wheel of Time.

Having said all that, you should defintely watch Bad Lieutenant, Port Of Call: New Orleans at least to see what once happened in 2009 when Werner Herzog actually directed Nicholas Cage. Two masters (one of new wave cinema, other of bad one-liners) trying to perfect a strange craft. Sort of like watching Jet Li wrestle Mike Tyson for the beach volleyball title. Awkward, vaguely intriguing and a frankly, very disturbing.

Fear Of The Black Hat: I love mockumentaries because of their silliness. Even the madcap entertainment of B-grade slasher flicks pale in comparison. From Christopher Guest’s pioneering This Is Spinal Tap to the more recent, Justin Lin-directed Finishing the Game, mockumentaries have generally thrived on satirizing popular phenomenon, be it art, religion, social fads, martial arts or whatever. Rusty Cundieff’s Fear Of The Black Hat is a hilarious take on the gangster rap culture. Focusing on the rise and fall of the controversial rappers in NWH (Niggaz With Hats), a very obvious dig at the gnarliest of west coast rap outfits NWA (Niggaz With Attitude), the mockumentary takes us on a tour in the lives and times of MCs Tasty Taste (Larry B Scott), Ice Cold (Rusty Cundieff) and mix master Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence).

Larry Scott brings most of the funnies, with his character shuffling between spoofing Public Enemy’s Flavour Flav and rapper Too Short, I guess. Matter of fact, with the exception of Vanilla Sherbet (Devin Kamin), the archetypal whiteboy rapper, everything else about Fear Of The Black Hat is very funny. Props must be given to the three lead actors, who, despite the silliness of it all, have done a very commendable job. Seriously, go out of you way to see this.

CB4: The problem with Tamra DavisCell Block 4 (CB4) is that Fear Of The Black Hat was released a year later and had pretty much the same story going for it, but only funnier.  Also, at some point in the film, I think that Chris Rock (who wrote the film and starred in it) and the director started getting all serious instead of sticking to taking potshots at this genre of music and the lifestyle it demands. Charlie Murphy gets a few laughs as Gusto, but it was 1993 and he wasn’t even close to the awesomeness he brought to those skits in the Dave Chappelle Show much later. Not even a reworking of Sugar Hill’s Rapper’s Delight could save CB4. Pretty soon, the dialogues start to wear thin as inside jokes turn into semi-preachy one-liners. For instance, MC Gusto hears this from his dad a good hour into the film.

Albert Sr.: You ain’t tough. There are real some kids out there that are going to kick your narrow ass. You ain’t from the street, I’m from the street. And only somebody who wasn’t would think it was something to glorify.

Riiiight…that’s great. Thanks. Now why don’t go fight the power or something.

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Hangover: The cinematic equivalent of taking a huge hit of LSD and watching a fat dude slip and fall on a banana peel. Ironically, Mike Tyson knocking the fuck out of the tubby Zach Galifianakis qualifies as the only funny moment in the film.

Al-GoreKnowing: Despite Nicholas Cage’s presence, the film is bearable for about an hour. And then they mess it all up by promoting the subjective fear of global warming. It seemed as though the film was trying to emulate Manoj Shyamalan’s Happening and become that late night movie to which Al Gore probably jerks off to. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and Ninth Gate also suffered from the same problem – no, Gore didn’t get turned on by them, it’s just that they were perfectly reasonable ideas that ended up being pale caricatures by the time we had a reason to give a shit about their characters. It also doesn’t help that the acting was really really bad. Cage, like Tom Hanks and Tom Berenger, is wooden as oak and under the impression that a pretending to have constipation is method acting. Rose Byrne is gloriously bad, as well…if only someone told her that a concocting a hundred variations of the “what’s that putrid smell?” look conveys neither fear nor paranoia. If only Roger Ebert didn’t give this four stars. If only I knew.

Kalloori: Director Balaji Shakthivel should be commended for keeping the melodrama down to a necessary minimum. Lord knows that few Indian directors tone it down for the benefit of subtlety and grace. Being loud is very much a South Indian attribute and to portray that in films can be construed as taking the easy way out. How easy would it have been to give one of these characters a glaring archetypal trait or a standout physical abnormality and beat the same to death by referencing it for the sake of comedy/tragedy/whatever? How many more people would have enjoyed Kalloori if it had some bloated comedian spewing socialist comedy? Or how about if they had shown the wrongdoers in Kalloori being brought to justice? A lot of things that could have been done to muddle up this re-telling of the obviously tragic bus-burning incident of Coimbatore were daftly avoided by everyone concerned. With the exception of one or two unnecessary song and dance sequences, I felt that the film was almost perfect in the way it nurtured the central characters.

kalluri_mTamanna (Shobana) and Akil (Muthu) taunt us with such quiet restraint. They could have gone all giggly and light-headed on us; instead they convincingly plow through the tragic irony that ends up epitomizing their characters. The supporting cast adds to the realism, as well, with their complete nonchalance for the camera that seldom zooms into their faces. In fact I don’t remember one other character’s name other than the two lead characters and well, that’s just life isn’t it? Most of the people we pretend to care about mean jack shit in our grand scheme of things and what only matters is the sequence of events they might possibly set in motion to either make our lives better or truly fuck it up. Director Balaji Shakthivel knows this. Cinematographer Chezhiyan knows this and all the actors and actresses, as well. A rare moment for recent Tamil cinema.

pollathavanPollathavan: Hype has turned Dhanush into Kollywood’s sad little anomaly. People have always believed that he was capable of things that so naturally seem to elude him on-screen. For instance, comic timing and charisma. He is so far away from being someone who can entertain the masses with brevity in thought (like his post- Moondru Mugam era father-in-law so easily did) that I almost pity him for considering the journey. I mean, look at the way this man cries on your television screen. Seriously, take any film that he has acted in and skip to the scenes in which he expresses sadness…it is friggin hilarious. I do believe Catherine Zeta Jones has met her match. It is dam near impossible to misconstrue his annoying overconfidence for talent unless you pay zero attention to the finer details. Even in his debut (Thulluvadho Ilamai), the final scene (apparently, it made grown men cry) featured the diminutive Dhanush rocking a B-grade porno mustache as comfortably as a redneck would a leather jacket at a Prince concert. As far as Pollathavan is concerned, thankfully it is not a remake of V Srinivasan’s 1980 Rajinikanth-thriller of the same name…but it is a far scarier proposition; it is a modernized version of Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thieves, which was in fact was a novel written by the Italian painter Luigi Bartolini. Surprisingly, Vetri Maaran’s version has many great things going for it.

Dhanush’s dad is yet another brilliant character essay by Malayalee actor Murali. The villain and his drug-addled psychotic brother are over-the-top but for once with good reason, as are the fight sequences and the Karunas-inspired comedy. The camerawork during the seedier moments of the film is pretty fucking great too. Most importantly, Dhanush’s presence does not bother you at all. Another landmark in Tamil cinema.

Judgement nightSaroja vs Judgment Night: A few months ago, I wrote this post on Saroja saying that director Venkat Prabhu seems to have been tremendously influenced by Guy Ritchie films. A lot of the quicker-than-a-blink editing used to keep the ambience wry and sudden seemed familiar from films such Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the tremendously average Revolver. Even worse was my misconception that Prabhu had written an original barnstormer of an urban adventure. Unfortunately, Saroja is an almost identical remake of Judgment Night with only the kidnapping drama conspicuous by its absence in the original buuuuut…after watching Judgment Night, I had a gut feeling that the he had a firmer grasp on irony than Hopkins ever did (or ever intended), as was evidenced by the humour with which he treats the cowardly nature of the protagonists. In the English version, Stephen Dorff‘s fear and insecurities act as a balance to Cuba Gooding‘s violent braggadocio and Emilio Estévez‘s sense of morality, and we, the audience, are almost told to judge these characters based on their traits. In Saroja, I guess the director’s intention was just for us to point our fingers at the characters and laugh as loud as we can.

If ever I had one bone to pick, it would be this…director Prabhu has apparently stayed away from putting his own spin on Jeremy Piven’s character (Ray Cochran) from Judgment Night, which is sort of confusing. I can only imagine the insane levels of awesomeness Saroja would have gone through if someone like Karthik Kumar had played Piven’s character. Then again the director could have willfully left out the best part of Judgment Night only to showcase his own originality. Bah who do you trust anyway? Some non-conformist, talented director who can save Kollywood from its recent slump and whose bloodline was singularly responsible for shaping music in Tamil cinema? Or a mean-spirited critic who hasn’t made a single film in his life, much less a short film?

What? Seriously?

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Srikanth’s fantastic review of Om Darbadar on Seventh Art

I can safely say that the Venkat Prabhu‘s version was leaps and bounds better. I had a gut feeling that the he had a firmer grasp on irony than Hopkins ever did (or ever intended), as was evidenced by the humour with which he treats the cowardly nature of the protagonists. In the English version, Stephen Dorff‘s fear and insecurities act as a balance to Cuba Gooding‘s violent braggadocio and Emilio Estévez‘s sense of morality, and we, the audience, are almost told to judge these characters based on their traits. In Saroja, I guess the director’s intention was just for us to point our fingers at the characters and laugh as loud as we can.

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