Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Letter to Nicolas Cage

Dear Mr. Cage,

I know you can act. I have seen you do it. You have put out some performances that have been extraordinary--for example, The Weatherman, Lord of War, Guarding Tess, Adaptation, and apparently Leaving Las Vegas (though that one I have never seen.) And I have certainly enjoyed some of your movies that were...well, let's say they are not going to be contenders in the "Top 10 Films of the Century" contest. I mean, I enjoyed The Rock and Trapped in Paradise a lot , but they are not winning you any Oscars. However, I think you could do even better if you'd take a few pieces of advice from me.

1. YOU CANNOT DO ACCENTS. PLEASE STOP TRYING. I don't care what accent it is, don't do it. You are not fooling anybody. New York, deep South--no. Just no no no. You suck at them and it's time you admitted that and stopped trying. I think Moonstruck, Ghostrider, and Con Air would all have benefited from this advice. Weak or stupid dialogue is easier to camouflage if it's not delivered in a shitty fake accent.

2. YOU NEED TO HIRE A GOOD STYLIST. You are balding, okay? You know it, we all know it. Putting a long, scraggly wig on is NOT going to fool anyone (see Con Air and Next). Showing off your muscles is not going to distract anyone. You need to get in touch with someone who get you a really good hairpiece, or you need to take the Bruce Willis route and just stop trying.

3. YOU NEED TO BE A LITTLE PICKIER ABOUT YOUR MOVIE CHOICES. Do you really expect me to believe that you thought The Wicker Man was going to be good? That you read the script of The Family Man and were like "Hey, this is really great!" If that does happen to be the case, you need to get a much MUCH better agent. Even Ghostrider (which I enjoyed despite myself) should have set off some alarms with its occasionally horrible dialogue. I mean, yes, it IS cool to play a bad-ass flame-headed guy, but perhaps you should look for more than that in your search for scripts. I sometimes think you just throw darts at script to choose what you do, because some of your movies are spectacular and some are pig vomit. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it, either.

4. DON'T OVERDO IT ON THE TEETH-BARING, CRAZY-EYED, "LOOK AT ME, I'M LOOOOOSING IT!" FACE. This is a minor peeve, but you sometimes overact quite a bit. I'm a fan of campy (What else can explain my love for some of your work?) but there's only so much a girl can take. Your best roles tend to be the more subtle ones.

Please don't think that my bluntness indicates that I dislike you; on the contrary, I think you're usually pretty entertaining. I am a sucker for Valley Girl and Moonstruck, and I totally LOVE Con Air, even though you commit every sin I've listed here (and a few I've neglected to mention.) You are not untalented, you are just misguided. You can turn it around--I believe in you :)

I hope your upcoming films are good.
Yours,
The Caustic Critic

Monday, May 5, 2008

"Yeah, I can fly now." : Iron Man

On Friday night, The Boyfriend and I (as well as a few of the usual suspects) ventured out into the wilds of Boston proper to go see Iron Man. I will admit that I was not originally stoked about the idea, seeing as it was a chilly, drizzly, graduation weekend in Boston which leads to larger than usual movie-going crowds, and when combined with it being opening weekend of the first of the summer superhero blockbusters, I was sure there would be far too many of "the humans" to allow me any cinematic entertainment. And at first, I was right. We were herded into a little corral for the 25 minutes leading up to the theater opening (though it seems kind of extreme, I think Loews's management of the crowd was pretty reasonable) with the rest of the deranged and slavering fanboys. But as we were standing there waiting, the previous showing of the movie let out, and everyone looked...happy. I mean REALLY happy. They were all talking and gesturing and a couple people were actually leaping up in the air with joy.

Hmmm, I thought to myself.

The previews were pretty exciting in themselves: The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones VI in particular (I like to pretend that I never saw the one for Love Guru...that is like three minutes of my life I can never have back.) There was also one for the new M. Night Shaymalan picture, The Happening. I very seriously question his casting of Marky Mark (I know, I know, he's "Mark Whalberg, the very serious actor" now, but he will ALWAYS be "Marky Mark, the rapper in his underpants" to me) as the lead. I'm actually not really sure what it's about, but I'd be willing to bet there is some kind of craaaazy twist at the end.

As for Iron Man...let me make a list so I can talk about this without babbling.

Things I Liked About Iron Man:

1. Robert Downey Jr. I have always liked Robert Downey Jr., and I think he's probably one of the better actors of his generation. I particuarly enjoyed his performance in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and had been looking forward to seeing him again in a bigger movie. He manages to do the superhero thing without going down the "I'm Batman, oooh, I'm so brooooody" road, and he studiously avoids the "I'm Spiderman/Superman, and I'm just so gosh-darn wholesome" trap, too. I mean, the character of Tony Stark is...well, obnoxious. But he's obnoxious like that friend you have (and everybody has one...if you don't, then you ARE that guy) that is kind of a douchebag, but he's such a hilarious, charming, self-deprecating, FUN douchebag you just kind of forgive his jerky behavior in exchange for the good stuff. In all, Stark is a character I liked played by a massively talented actor. Score 1 for Iron Man!

2. Jon Favreau. I am not entirely sure how Jon Favreau lucked into this gig--up until this point, the only major movie he'd directed was Elf--but thank goodness he did. The script for this was pretty great, the casting was pretty much great, the effects choices were excellent, and best of all, the fight scenes were COOL. None of that "flashy flashy ultra close up flash flash blurry close up POV shot flash flash explosion!" thing that directors seem to be favoring in action movies. You could actually SEE the fight! It was amazing! Who knew that the guy who played Gutter in PCU would go on to do this?

3. Dialogue. Most action movies have some issues with dialogue. There is usually at least that one scene when you kind of slap yourself in the forehead like "Oh, jeez, ow, that was lame." Even Batman Begins--which I LOVED--was blighted with a few of those moments (all courtesy of the robotic Kat(i)e Holmes). Iron Man didn't seem to have any of those moments. Partly, I suppose, because the romantic subplot was kept pretty aggressively "sub," and partly because RDJ managed to keep his character from really saying any soppy out-of-character bunk.

4. Comedy. The scenes with Stark in his lab with his robots were PRICELESS. I laughed until the tears rolled down my face.

5. Villain. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to buy Jeff Bridges as a villain. As a commenter on a review site I read (Pajiba.com) mentioned, "Every time he and RDJ were arguing, I just kept waiting for him to say 'That's just, like, your opinion...man.' like the Dude." As someone who lives with a Big Lebowski addict, I'm kind of ruined on Jeff Bridges. However, he did the best he could to be menacing with a smile (which is muc more disturbing than outright menacing.) As a sidenote, though, the guy who runs the superhero's company while he is away is ALWAYS evil.

6. Special Effects. Incredible. Come on, the suit? The sexiness is overwhelming.


I was not particularly thrilled with the casting of Gwenyth Paltrow as the lead female/possible romatic interest Pepper Potts. However, she was not terrible (once again, I bring up Ms. Holmes in Batman Begins--in my opinion, that woman ruined every single scene she appeared in...not even the hot sexiness of Christian Bale could help her...it was like watching a nervous kid doing Shakespeare with Olivier) and in her favor did have really excellent shoes. I think they would have better off casting someone a little more snarky and less pretty (something along the lines of a young Janeane Garofalo, maybe?) but on the whole it could have been so so so much worse.

Overall, I give two thumbs up--it was just really really fun, and that is something I look for in my blockbuster films.