Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Cage’

Nicolas Cage

“PIG” My rating: C+ (VOD)

92 minutes | MPAA rating: R

If Keanu Reeve’s John Wick will kill 100 thugs to avenge his pet puppy, how far will Nicolas Cage’s truffle-hunting hermit go to retrieve his kidnapped porcine pet and coworker?

That’s the setup of writer/director Michael Sarnoski’s “Pig,” a good idea that takes itself way too seriously.

The opening moments establish the relationship of the uber-hairy Robin (Cage) and his pig colleague in a cabin in the forests of the great Pacific Northwest.

Robin — who survives without telephone, electricity, running water or even a functional vehicle — hunts truffles, the gourmet fungi that grow among the tree roots and can sell for big bucks.

He locates these delectables with the help of his swine buddy (who’s a whiz at sniffing out their prey); then sells them to Amir (Alex Wolff), who transports them in his ridiculous yellow sports car to Portland and resells the delicacies to the city’s finest restaurants.

We’ve barely able to absorb the details of Robin and Pig’s lives when tragedy strikes. One night the cabin is invaded by unseen baddies; the pig is kidnapped and Robin beaten bloody.

Refusing to even wash the gore off his face (by film’s end he resembles Jim Caviezel in the latter stages of “Passion of the Christ”), Robin takes off for the big city, first on foot and then commandeering Amir and his posh wheels.

Amir throws a blanket over the passenger seat in a probably futile effort to keep Robin’s body odor from impregnating the leather upholstery.

One of Robin’s first stops is at an underground fight club — yeah, just like the movie “Fight Club” — where our man allows himself to once more be beaten senseless in return for hints as to where his pig pal might be.

Eventually the trail leads to Amir’s estranged father (Adam Arkin), a sort of restaurant godfather who rules his culinary world through intimidation and, if necessary, violence.

Along the way we discover that Robin was once a legendary chef but dropped out 15 years earlier for unspecified reasons. Possibly it’s because he hated the direction the restaurant biz was heading ($50 for what appears to be a single berry frozen in a cloud of dry ice fumes). Even more likely it’s because Robin is seriously damaged goods.

“Pig” is Sarnoski’s feature debut; it’s a good-looking film if an emotionally and intellectually impenetrable one.

Aside from his determination to get his pig back (it’s his only friend), Robin is a glowering cipher.

That said, Cage has such a commanding screen presence that I kept watching just to see what he’d do next. This one-time Oscar winner may in recent years have descended into hackdom, but he’s a hack with astounding charisma.

As Amir, Wolff has the thankless task of playing a weak-willed poseur in constant fear of Daddy damnation.

Arkin fares somewhat better; though his character is simply preposterous, the actor finds a vulnerable center.

There are opportunities for humor here which Sarnoski studious ignores. Instead he leans heavily on the pretention button, giving the film chapter titles like “Rustic Mushroom Tort” and “Mom’s French Toast and Deconstructed Scallops.”

When it’s over you may crave a Big Mac.

| Robert W. Butler

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Anton Yeltsin

“LOVE, ANTOSHA” My rating: B+

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

I knew who Anton Yeltsin was, of course.  I’d seen the young actor as Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots, and in a couple of other movies like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

And of course I knew he died in 2017 at age 27 in a freak accident, pinned against a metal gate by his rolling automobile.

None of which prepared me for the gut punch that is “Love, Antosha,” a love letter to the late actor signed by his parents, his boyhood friends, and his heavy-hitting acting colleagues.

It seems nobody who knew Yeltsin had anything but love for him. And that emotion comes roiling off the screen.

Garret Price’s documentary opens with home movies from Yeltsin’s childhood. What we see is an impossibly handsome kid with a big performer’s personality that fills the room.

We also get a bit of back story about his parents,  competitive Soviet ice dancers who emigrated to the U.S.A. to get away from growing anti-Semitism in the new Russian Republic.

Here’s something I did not know:  While a teen Anton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the devastating lung condition (the average life expectancy of a sufferer is 37 years). He was so full of energy, so good at masking his symptoms and plowing ahead, that many of his show biz colleagues were unaware that he had gone through life essentially under a death sentence.


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Nicolas Cage

“211” My rating: C

86 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“211” is less interesting as a film than as a commentary on the failing fortunes of Nicolas Cage.

In the last five years the Oscar winner (for 1995’s “Leaving Las Vegas”) has starred in nearly 20 movies, only one of them (“Joe”) of more than passing interest. “211” is more of the same.

York Alec Shackleton’s action/crime drama is a mashup of “Die Hard” and “Dog Day Afternoon,” with Cage playing a beat cop (he’s about to turn in his retirement papers, of course) who finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery and hostage situation.

Curiously, Cage’s cop, Mike Chandler, is but one of a dozen characters of more or less equal importance.  Shackleton’s screenplay attempts to approach the situation from multiple perspectives.

Thus you’ve got Mike’s partner and son-in-law (Dwayne Cameron), as well as the black teen (Michael Rainey Jr.) who for disciplinary purposes has been required to do a police ride-along.  While pinned down the kid comes up with a MacGyver-ish way to communicate with the outside world.

Meanwhile his mother(Shari Watson),  the head of the hospital E.R., contends with a flood of casualties of the mayhem.

There’s also an Interpol cop (Sapir Azulay) who for months has been tracking the criminals, a band of former U.S. special forces soldiers turned murderously mercenary. These baddies are the least-developed of the characters, delivering curt orders in cliched militaryspeak.

“211” (police code for an armed robbery) has been competently made, with a couple of furious action sequences (and a disturbingly high civilian body count) but it really never adds up to much. Cage doesn’t embarrass himself here, but there’s only so much anyone could do with these cut-and-dried characters.

| Robert W. Butler

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Tye Sullivan, Nicolas Cage in "Joe"

Tye Sullivan, Nicolas Cage in “Joe”

“JOE” My rating: B (Now showing at the Leawood)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Nicolas Cage has for so long seemed a parody of himself that it’s a minor shock to realize that an Oscar-winning actor still lurks beneath the scenery chewing.

As the title character of the rural-Texas drama “Joe,” Cage shows he’s still got it, delivering an indelible portrait of a small-town ex-con trying to get through life without falling back into the violence that almost ruined his life.

The bearded, laconic Joe contracts with a big lumber concern to scour company forest land, poisoning trees that are of no commercial value to make way for new seedlings. He has a crew of workers – unsophisticated, rural black men, mostly – with whom he does a neat balancing act, being both the man who writes the paychecks and just one of the guys.

Gary Hawkins’ screenplay (adapting Larry Brown’s novel) isn’t densely plotted. It’s more of an extended character study.

Joe lives outside town in a nondescript farmhouse. A pit bull on a chain lives beneath the porch. He tends to drink alone at the local bar. He’s hasn’t got a regular girl – although halfway through he allows a local gal to stay with him until her trouble at home blows over. He’s known by his first name at the seedy whorehouse outside town.

At the same time, Joe appears always ready to do a good deed for someone even more hapless at negotiating life than he is. He’s no Chamber of Commerce poster boy, but he tries to keep his nose clean and do right by others.


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