Friday, April 29, 2011

Obscured Hairline

I've discussed this phenomenon in some of my reviews, but felt that it deserved further attention.  I've noticed that in the poster or box artwork for many of his recent movies, Cage's hair has been cropped or otherwise obscured.  Out of the 60+ films he's starred in, he is featured in the artwork of 44 of them.  I took those 44 and split them into 2 groups of 22.  The first group represents Valley Girl to City of Angels (1983-1998) and the second group represents Snake Eyes to Drive Angry 3D (1998-present).

The first group breaks down as following:
17 images show his hairline unobscured.
2 images show his hairline partially obscured.
3 images have his hairline totally obscured or cropped.
From 1983-1998, Nicolas Cage had an unobscured percentage of 77.3, which seems pretty reasonable.

The second group breaks down as following:
6 images show his hairline unobscured.
1 image shows his hairline partially obscured.
15 images have his hairline totally obscured or cropped.
From 1998-present, Nicolas Cage had an unobscured percentage of only 27.3.  What a big difference!

A quick look at other A-list stars of around the same age shows that their hairlines are visible far more often than Cage's.  George Clooney and Tom Cruise each only have a couple images in which their hairlines are obscured, and each time there is a good artistic reason why.  Both Clooney and Cruise are older than Cage.  Even young Cage's hairline was hidden more often than that of current Clooney or Cruise.

Apparently, the studios think that we don't know that Cage has a receding hairline or that he often has a ridiculous hairstyle in his films.  It's not like we haven't seen him in other movies.  We know what we're signing on for when we buy our ticket.  If they are so worried about his hair as a selling point, they should do something about it before the shooting begins.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

8mm - 1999

"You killed her on film. And now you're fucked. You're all fucked."
"Hello, Machine. Love your work."  (couldn't pick between these two)
* *  (out of 4 stars)

It's weird that such film was directed by Joel Schumacher right after he made Batman & Robin.  I'd heard so many bad things about this movie that I was really expecting a total mess, but it's really not horrible. It's slightly better than horrible.

Tom Welles (Cage) is a private investigator hired by a senator's widow to determine if an apparent snuff film that she found in his belongings is authentic.  There's really not much of a mystery here, as it's pretty obvious from the get-go that it is.  With the help of  porn shop clerk named Max California (Joaquin Phoenix,) Welles digs deeper and deeper into the underground porn world, and meets some pretty seedy characters.

It's this portrayal of the black market porn trade that is really where the film starts to stray.  It shows us these weird secret porn dungeons where people sell illegal porn.  It doesn't really make any sense though, because the vast majority of what Welles finds there would be perfectly legal.  There's tape after tape of fetish porn that wouldn't really need to be illegally traded, and then a small section of kiddie porn which certainly would.  It implies that the people who buy and sell this fetish porn would be totally okay with someone openly selling kiddie porn right next to them, which is kind of offensive.  Also, to make it totally clear that we're supposed to be disgusted, Schumacher decided to make all of these underground porn locations look ridiculously gross.  The walls and floors are covered in what looks like raw sewage.  It really requires a pretty huge suspension of disbelief to accept that such an underworld exists, which is a big problem in a film that takes itself so seriously.

Despite this, the film has some legitimately suspenseful moments such as when Welles searches the house of Machine, the killer in the snuff film.  It also has some well-acted scenes between Cage and his wife, Amy (Catherine Keener). 
I have to hand it to Cage. You can tell that he's really trying to give the best performance that he can, and with the exception of a couple scenes, he's pretty good.  One of those scenes is the one where Cage views the snuff film for the first time, and it contains some pretty extreme overacting, which was really the highlight of the movie for me.

* *
He gets a little crazy in the final act, and there's the aforementioned overacting scene.  Overall though, he could have played it much more extreme.
hair implausibility:

It's not looking so great, but it looks fairly real.  This film is one of many where the top third of Cage's head has been cropped from the poster and box-cover artwork.
love interest implausibility:
(zero stars)
Pretty believable.  This may be the first Cage movie I've ever seen that has a romantic relationship that hasn't made me raise my eyebrows.  I guess all it takes is casting someone that's close enough in age, and can, you know...  act.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trapped in Paradise - 1994

"I'm robbing the bank."

This movie is pretty unremarkable, especially when you consider that it was released only one year after Cage's most over-the-top performance (Deadfall) and only one year before he won an Oscar.  I liked this film quite a bit when I was a kid, but it just doesn't hold up to an adult viewing.  In fact, it sucks.

Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz play three brothers who rob a bank in a small Pennsylvania town.  Before they can leave the town, they get snowed in and are forced to spend the holidays with the people they just robbed.  The town shows them hospitality and the brothers start to feel guilty.  It's all very predictable, and it's not much fun to watch.

George Gallo's direction is substandard, the jokes aren't funny, the characters and their relationships are totally unbelievable, and many gags are repeated way past the point of being amusing (if they ever were in the first place).  For example, in order to demonstrate that Carvey's character is a kleptomaniac, Gallo felt it was necessary to have dozens of scenes that show him stealing things.  It's really the only thing he does for the whole movie, and he's one of the main characters.  I got the impression that these scenes were supposed to be funny, but I'm not sure why.  A quick trip to IMDB shows that Gallo has been working steadily as a writer, director and producer since the mid-80s, and it looks like everything he's done is shitty.

Cage does okay.  He seems to at least be trying.  Usually his performances are either 100% crazy or 100% detached.  Here he actually blends the two a bit.  He has a weird voice that I'm not sure I've ever seen him use before.  It's kind of like his Con Air voice, but without the southern accent and not as slow.  It also reminds me of Christian Bale's Batman. The rest of the cast is pretty bad.  Carvey is at his worst, and Lovitz is pretty much just being himself, as always.  Madchen Amick plays the local girl that Cage falls in love with.  The role doesn't really give her any room to do anything interesting.  It's sad to see how she followed the greatness of Twin Peaks with a string of such poor movies.

Most of the problems in this film could have been overlooked if it had just been funny, but it just wasn't.  Not even a little bit.


* ½
He plays it mostly straight, but there a couple scenes where his insanity seeps in.  He occasionally does the thing where he randomly shouts one word in the middle of a sentence (always enjoyable).  There's also a scene where he's yelling at his brothers in the car, and he brings back his bizarre Vampire's Kiss accent for just a few words.
hair implausibility:

It looks a little weird in a couple scenes, but it's not bad.  You can tell he's starting to become aware that his hair might pose a future problem for him.
love interest implausibility:

* * * 
This one isn't really Cage's fault, but writer/director, George Gallo's.  Cage plays the character in a not too creepy way, and the age difference is only 6 years, but the relationship is just not written in a believable way. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bangkok Dangerous - 2008

"Why didn't I kill him? Maybe it's because, and this is strange, somehow, when I looked into his eyes, I saw myself, so I became his teacher."
* (out of 4 stars)

This film is exactly what you would expect from a Nicolas Cage remake of a Thai film that wasn't very good to begin with.  The vast majority of English-language remakes of foreign films are horrible and so are remakes starring Nicolas Cage (Wicker Man, for example).  Plus, the original film sucks too, so you really get the triple-whammy here. The above quote is a perfect example of the most cliche dialog possible, but Cage delivers it as if it's the most profound thing he's ever heard. It took me four sittings to get through this movie. At one point, I sat on the remote and accidentally turned off the TV... I just got up and did something else instead of bothering to turn it back on.

Nicolas Cage plays Joe, a hit-man who wants to get out of the business and decides that a series of hits in Bangkok will be his last.  While there, he falls in love with a deaf girl who works in a pharmacy, and takes a young petty criminal under his wing. (You know... by making him a much worse criminal.)

I'm not sure if I've ever seen another movie where less attention was paid to the main character's appearance.  Aside from his awful hair (as usual), Cage wears sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt for most of the film.  Even when he's on a date!  I can't help but wonder if he just showed up on set that way and refused to change.  After all, he's Nic Fucking Cage!  His appearance has become progressively more and more distracting in his post-2000 roles, and it's really amazing that he's kept his career going despite this.

This film's directors, the Pang brothers, also directed the 1999 original which was basically a ripoff of several John Woo films, most notably, The Killer.  The box cover actually goes as far as to claim that the film is "Like John Woo Morphed with Wong Kar-Wai." This is true in the same way that Battlefield Earth is like Stanley Kubrick morphed with Akira Kurosawa.  The '99 film wasn't totally horrible, but it certainly wasn't good, and I can't quite figure out why Lion's Gate felt it was deserving of a remake, when there are so many far-better foreign films out there. (Not that I think they should be remaking foreign films in the first place, but if they're going to, they should at least pick good ones.) 

Anyway, the Pangs are just plain shitty as directors.  The pacing is weird and they went way overboard with the blue filters on everything for the entire movie. The story is boring, and Cage's acting is pitiful.  I felt sorry for Shahkrit Yamnarm who plays Kong, Joe's protégé. He wasn't necessarily good, but he actually seemed to be trying in a film where no one else was.  I gave it one star because there was a pretty good dismemberment scene.

I was really hoping that Cage would have some fun with a hit-man role, but he plays it so straight that it's painful to watch.  I gave him one star for general weirdness.
hair implausibility:
* * * ½ 
It's gross.  It avoids the highest rating because it's basically the same style he had in Next, but not quite as bad.  It blows my mind that they would allow hair like that in one film, but now it's been in two!
love interest implausibility:
* * * ½
Charlie Yeung plays Fon, the deaf girl who falls for Joe.  There's a ten year age difference, they can't communicate with each other at all in the movie, and Cage looks like a homeless person.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Age Chart

I'll take a break from the reviews for a minute to discuss this chart I've made.  The X-axis represents the years from 1986-2008 (Cage at 22 - 44) and the Y-axis represents the age of Cage's romantic interest in different movies.  Anyone above the red line is older than Cage, and anyone below is younger.  Each vertical square represents 2 years of age difference.  The number next to each actress' name is the age difference between her and Cage.  I'll be adding to the chart as I see more movies, but these are the ones that I am currently aware of.  As you can see, except for a few outliers, his female co-stars started out much older than him, but he quickly decided "fuck that!" and they started getting younger and younger until now, where they are at an all time low.

It's worth noting that this trend is fairly consistent in his real life.  His first two wives, Patricia Arquette and Lisa-Marie Presley, are both only 4 years younger than Cage.  His current wife, Alice Kim Cage, is 20 years his junior.  Of course, in real life, Nick Cage is rich and famous, so it makes some sense.

National Treasure - 2004

 "We have to steal The Declaration of Independence!"
* * ½  (out of 4 stars)

This movie was actually a little better than I had anticipated.  I had anticipated it being awful. I like that they weren't afraid to go totally over the top with the plot (though maybe they weren't aware that's what they were doing).  Cage is barely trying here, but the role doesn't really require him to.

He plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, the last in a long line of treasure hunters.  A family secret tells of a huge treasure that was hidden by the founding fathers after the Revolutionary War, and each member of the Gates family has tried, unsuccessfully, to find it.

Gates and his sidekick, Riley, follow clues to the treasure while being pursued by the FBI and another treasure hunter, Howe (Sean Bean), the main antagonist. Along the way Gates kidnaps a historian named Abigail (Diane Kruger), when she gets in the way while he's trying to steal The Declaration of Independence (to keep it from being stolen by Howe of course).   As expected, Gates and Abigail fall in love.  Harvey Keitel, who with this and other recent roles, seems to be doing his best to end his career on a mediocre note, plays the FBI agent on Gates' trail.

All in all, it was mildly entertaining 2 hours, though not really essential Cage.  Also, it has a pretty lens-flare on the poster.

(zero stars) 
Nothing notable here.  This is not the movie to watch if you're interested in seeing Cage flip out (and who isn't?).
hair implausibility:
* * ½ 
This hair would certainly raise some eyebrows if it were on any other A-lister.  It doesn't look like real hair, but compared to his other post-2000 styles, it's pretty normal.
love interest implausibility:
* * * 
Diane Kruger is 12 years younger than Cage.  Gates kidnaps her, and hours later they are in love.  They have zero chemistry.  Still, he's not as creepy here as he is in some of his other more recent roles.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Con Air - 1997

"Put... the bunny... back... in the box."
**½ (out of 4 stars)

I can't believe that this isn't a Michael Bay film.  The last 30 minutes or so is just Cage running from explosions while distorted guitars wail.  This sounds good on paper, but it's just not as great as I remember it being when I first saw it.

Here Cage plays Cameron Poe, an Army veteran who returns home to his pregnant wife only to be immediately (and very implausibly) accused of murder.  He kills, in self-defense, an armed man who attacked him along with two others.  He pleads guilty because apparently he has the worst lawyer in the world and he is sent to prison for seven years.

We then fast forward to his release.  The prison transport plane that is about to take him to freedom is hijacked by the prisoners.  Now he must try and regain control of the plane.  Lots of action and explosions ensue.

Steve Buscemi makes an appearance, and the bad guy is played by John Malkovich, continuing the long tradition of actors who are too good to be in Nicolas Cage movies being in Nicolas Cage movies.  Malkovich's character is named Cyrus the Virus, which has got to be one of the least tough sounding villain names ever.  Also, he is supposed to be in his mid-30s which isn't really believable.

But enough about Malkovich... back to Cage!  He uses a really goofy southern accent here.  His accent was great in raising Arizona, but in this film he is a bit too stoic to make it work.  I prefer my Cage hyper and crazy, not brooding and pensive.  Anyway, he's really going for the hunky tough guy look in this one. In some scenes, he almost pulls it off, but in most it just looks really awkward and forced.   Most of the action scenes are pretty standard for a mid-90s flick.  This is a great film by no means, but it is required watching if you like Cage action movies.  It is probably Cage at his most actiony.

He's not really crazy here, but some of his acting choices are.
hair implausibility:
* *
It's kind of ridiculous, but pretty plausible at this point in his career.  If he tried this now, it would be a disaster.  If I was rating the majesticness of it, it would obviously be 4 stars.
love interest implausibility:
She's a few years younger than him, but I can almost buy it.  Small town...  limited options...