So the Oscar season may have drawn to a close but that’s not to say there’s not a load more quality films to get excited about in the coming weeks. This week saw the release of Jim Jarmusch’s vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive. Starring Tom Hiddlestone and Tilda Swinton the indie auteur takes us on a dark yet warm trip with this rather unconventional couple. In his distinctive unusual style the film is not especially plot-driven but is an artistic depiction of these two incredibly interesting characters and array of their acquaintances.
The casting here is superb and can’t be faulted. Hiddlestone’s Adam is a reclusive, suicidal music lover, with a particular taste for funeral music. He is taken care of by Ian, (Anton Yelchin) a human, or zombie as the vampires name them, who delivers Adam anything he needs mainly guitars and in exchange Ian spreads his music into the club scene, albeit without naming Adam at any point with unmarked plain records. Swinton’s Eve is a very different personality to Adam, she is excited and amazed by any knowledge she can gain and has some friends in the outside world, including a fellow vampire Marlowe (John Hurt). Swinton looks absolutely incredible throughout, he back-combed silver-white hair coupled with her otherworldly features, especially her big, dark eyes, have never looked better. Jarmusch manages to create an authentic look for all the characters as a matter of fact and that authenticity is really at heart of why I liked this film so much. Another great character Ava (Mia Wasikowska) is also brilliantly written, turning up un-announced she really provides with an idea of just how different these vampire can be. Music is pumping through this films veins, at times there are long sections of just music without dialogue and these work particularly well to create the Jarmusch’s desired mood throughout.
If there was a problem it would be a lack of tension or excitement, perhaps, it could have done with a more plot-driven script. However, overall this perfectly crafted mood piece is enough to carry you through to the end and leave the cinema having witnessed two characters who define cool and redefine why vampires are such an interesting idea. very much the anti-Twilight the vampire genre deserved.
Following Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart is only the second film on Cage’s filmography that I’d seen before starting this project so going in for a second viewing I knew what I was going to be facing. And simply I couldn’t wait to get back into David Lynch’s Bonnie and Clyde-like road movie. Wild at Heart follows Sailor (Cage) a convicted killed who brutally beats a man to death in the opening scene after having a knife pulled on him and his girl, Lula (Laura Dern). After serving his sentence Lula comes rushing back to him against her mothers demands and the pair of love birds go on a wild escapade across the vast plains of America in what seems to be a particularly strange, Lynchian interpretation of our modern day world.
This film is one of the reasons why I love Lynch so much, its packed to the brim with his unique, stylish, yet awkward and uncomfortable hyper-realistic style. Wild at Heart has a more understandable plot than other Lynch films but that’s not to say its normal by any stretch. There are a number of scenes that don’t seem to have any bearing on the actual storyline, and lots of cryptic lines and shots that are difficult to read and understand. Out of these cryptic tendencies comes one of the films most intriguing themes, the constant reference to The Wizard of Oz, of course, this is partly a nod to one of cinema’s greatest achievements but it’s also an acute and incredibly well thought-out metaphor for what’s going on with these bizarre central characters. As they spiral out of control in a burst of sex, violence and crime it’s as if they’re trapped in this strange new world with larger than life characters. As the film goes on the references become more explicit to the point where Lula even taps her red heels together three times and wishes to go home. There is no escape for her though and she is trapped in this chaotic and haunting place, stuck in a particularly unusual relationship with Sailor. Before going into Cage’s performance it’s important to mention just how brilliant Willem Dafoe is in this movie as Bobby Peru, a slimy wheeler dealer who isn’t introduced till late in the proceedings. He has a habit of saying particularly disturbing stuff before laughing it all off as a joke, but his yellow-stubby braced teeth and crazed eyes show us a bubbling insanity and a dark core at the centre of another strange metaphorical character in Lynch’s vision. Cage is simply exceptional in this film, too. He is perfect casting for Lynch’s over-the-top and almost cartoony world. Every move cage makes, every line and every action is just a bit more hammy than you’d expect and it really gives Wild at Heart it’s all-important mood.
In terms of Cage Rage rating this film has to get top marks, with a scene of hideous violence at the hands of Cage to kick things off the insanity doesn’t let up throughout. While this may not be Lynch at his absolute finest Cage is a perfect match for the director and it’s a real shame the two haven’t worked together since. A great watch and the second 5/5 rating.
Another week sees another Best Picture nomination with Her. The movie I’d been looking forward to perhaps the most of them all directed by Spike Jonze whose flawless track record makes him one of my personal favourites. While his last movie, Where The Wild Things Are divided many opinions I thought it was beautiful film with a tone and mood that is completely unique to Jonze’s style. Her stars Joaquin Phoenix in a slightly futuristic version of our world where the technology has advanced to the point of almost artificial intelligence. Theodore (Phoenix) buys a new operating system OS-1, which simulates a personality and becomes a new love interest for the emotionally awkward Theo.
As with Where The Wild Things Are Jonze manages to create a mood throughout Her, with it’s drained yet bright colour pallet and unique vision of future fashion the film is just visually stunning. The look provides the perfect setting for a touching, emotional story that raises a number of serious questions about where society is headed. Her is beautifully written, Theodore works for a company in the movie called ‘BeautifullyHandwrittenLetters.com’ and with that comes a number of really sensitively letters he’s written for other people but they provide the perfect way in to this complex character and all through the film is used to give us sympathy for him rather than laugh at his plight. The love between Theodore and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is so well written as well, Jonze manages to capture a real essence of what it is to be in love and at the same time cleverly works in the issues that arise with falling for a machine. When the relationship inevitably hits some problems Her finds a real warm heart and whereas it could have left you feeling depressed it leaves you feeling warm yet still wandering about where the world might be headed.
Her is one of the most beautiful films you will see this year and a worthy nominee for best picture. Jonze further makes his name as a unique auteur with a talent for screenwriting that hasn’t been showcased before. Performance-wise Phoenix is just perfect and Her won’t leave your head for days after viewing.
Wings of the Apache is perhaps one of the most dreaded films on the Cage list, with a score of 4.5 on iMDB and the most bland set up for a film you could imagine. Basically the government has offered its services to other countries that need help in the war on drugs, Cage who is training as an Apache pilot is considered one of the best potential fliers in the business and is set to work to learn to fly the Apache and take down an evil drug baron who also flies a fighter helicopter. Cage stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones.
Also known as Fire Birds this Cage outing is a copy cat affair. Following in the footsteps of Top Gun and blatantly attempting to recreate pretty much everything in that movie this film is devoid of any kind of originality. The script is one of the most dire things you could possibly imagine and the majority of it is taken over by a hideous cliched romance btween cage and the only other woman in the Apache school. It becomes apparent that the pair have some previous but that Cage is not going to take no for answer so for many of the scenes in the mid-point he simply reels off hideous chat up lines and innuendos in an attempt to woo her. It’s pretty creepy really until there’s one scene were suddenly he just wins her over with no real explanation. The only other major plot point is to do with Cage having a dominant left eye which means he has trouble guiding the helicopters as you can only view through your right with the aid of an eye piece. However this issue which for much of the film appears to threaten his chances of ever getting to fly for real, is solved in one five minute exercise that involves Cage driving a Jeep with a pair of pants on his head. And that’s not even a joke. Tommy Lee Jones is distinctly average with some dreadful dialogue that he proceeds to just spit out in his monotone voice. Despite all this horror when it comes down to the final action sequence I found that actually hadn’t hated the film at all. It had been awful but there was something really fun about it. Objectively awful but subjectively actually not bad.
Cage is pretty average throughout with a couple of odd moments of shimmering madness and some bubblegum popping cheese that make this an enjoyable if not exceptional performance.
When I first read about Baz Luhrmann’s latest movie, The Great Gatsby, a few months ago it became something that I was quietly excited about. While Gatsby sees him return to adapting an old classic, something he did especially well with Romeo + Juliet, it also saw him reunite with DiCaprio for the first time since then. Also starring Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan I was expecting The Great Gatsby to be another hyper-stylish, clever retelling of a story. Going in to the film I didn’t know the story at all so I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time too.
As you may have gathered from the tone of my first paragraph what I was greeted with was not what I was expecting or wanting at all. For at least the first half of the film the plot is just a background element of the film. What Luhrmann is more interested is shoving CGI locations and lavish costumes in your face. One scene in particular that really got to me was when Nick Carraway (Maguire) first meets Gatsby (DiCaprio) and they go for a ride in the car, Gatsby is telling Carraway his story of how he got to be where he is but we can’t hear what he’s saying because we’re supposed to be more entertained by his stylish car zipping round the city streets with engine roaring so much so that the dialogue may as well not even be there. It’s moments like this that really make you not care at all about what’s going on. As you will probably know Jay-Z did the soundtrack, another thing I was quite excited about, but again for the majority it just did not work. We’ve previously seen Luhrmann use modern music in a period movie before in the fantastic Moulin Rouge and in that he manages to make it work, in the case of Gatsby it does not fit at all. When you’re seeing people partying 1920’s style it just seems odd to have Niggas in Paris playing in the background. It’s obvious as well that everyone involved think it’s the coolest thing anyone could come up with making it all the more excruciatingly annoying. The last massive thing that really got to me about the movie was our narrator/protagonist Carraway, played by Tobey Maguire, who is the most boring character I have ever seen in any movie. He has no personality, no traits, he just does as he’s told and somehow manages to be friends with people. I wouldn’t say it’s the fault of Maguire, although he is never much good, its more the writing that gives his character no time whatsoever to develop a personality. I haven’t read the book but I’m almost certain it’s main character can’t be a boring old sap.
While I’ve ranted a lot there were some elements of the movie that weren’t so bad. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Gatsby is spot on and he completely steals the show in the role. Carey Mulligan is another exemplary casting decision and she does well as Daisy Buchanan, a more devious character than I’m used to seeing her play. The third act of the film as a whole improves greatly. It stops caring about the style and starts caring about the story, when it gets down to the real drama of the plot it becomes a much more gripping and enjoyable watch. But unfortunately it just leaves you wishing it was like that from the start, and ultimately its bad points heavily outweigh the good ones, a huge disappointment.
Following the surprising quality of Rumble Fish my Nicolas Cage quest took me on to a different territory with Racing With the Moon. Starring alongside Sean Penn, Cage plays a young man set to go and fight in World War II. We follow the pair as they have fall in love and eventually have to say goodbye to their girlfriends and families when they go off to fight.
It’s a family film really, one that you would sit down and watch with everyone on a Bank Holiday, not because anyone wants to but because its on telly and nobody can be bothered to change it because you’re all stuffed from your roast lunch. The grandparents will fall asleep, the parents will do the washing up and by the time they come in and try and change the channel you’re actually quite enjoying it so leave it on. There are moments here that deal with quite complex issues, Cage’s character becomes pretty much an alcoholic and his girlfriend ends up getting an abortion, but this is ultimately a very normal affair. It follows the framework of any buddy movie where they become best friends through some hard times, go through some hard times with each other before making making up and everything ending happily ever after. Racing with the Moon does not hold back on the cheese though and contains one of the most cringe-worthy sex scenes in history and an ending cornier than that yellow stuff that grows on cobs. Despite that its hard not to find yourself watching it and not hating it or getting bored, its nothing special but its far from being terrible.
In terms of Cage’s rage there are a few classic moments here. Drunken antics and the odd fight make this the ragiest film on the list so far but leaves me in a dilemma as to what to give it on the rating scale and unfortunately I think it just falls short of being the first 3/5 on the list.