Simon West, 1997
reviewed by Sergiu Gustus
Monday, February 13th, 2012
It’s really hard not to write a lot about Con Air. Hell I don’t even know how to begin. First of all, I’m going to praise its cheesiness. This movie shouldn’t be taken seriously; it’s a glorious homage to the 80’s action flicks, but compared to those this one takes it to a new level. Featuring an all-star cast such as Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, and many other big-name actors, this movie is in my opinion THE blockbuster action movie of the 90s.
If I’m not wrong, this was also Simon West’s directorial debut and I must say he did a terrific job. At the moment he’s working on The Expendables 2, so hurray for that upcoming action movie.
The film starts off with Cage’s character being incarcerated into a maximum facility prison for a seven year sentence due to (accidental) murder, even though it was in self-defense. Apparently self-defense is no excuse for killing somebody who tries to murder/rape your wife if you’re a member of the Rangers Police Department. A ‘deadly weapon’ must be convicted. In prison he meets what’s likely to be the friendliest black inmate ever, Baby-O, played by none other than Mykelti Williamson (aka the guy from Forrest Gump). After a two-minute scene in which we see Nicolas Cage spending his 7 years in prison by writing and reading a couple of letters from his daughter, working out, and learning Spanish, he can finally be released on parole, but for some reason this needs to be done via transporting him in an airplane together with several deadly and menacing criminals.
This is where the fun really starts as we meet the rest of the characters. The criminals manage to take over the plane by outwitting what seem to be the most incompetent police officers in the history of mankind. Luckily for Nicolas Cage’s character, the guy remains on the plane after refusing to get out while he had the chance – he couldn’t leave his diabetic prison buddy behind. He befriends the head criminal, Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (played by John Malkovich). His performance is probably the best although he was apparently not satisfied with the movie’s script.
Nicolas Cage’s superior army training and judgment pulls off the unthinkable and he succeeds in contacting Vince Larkin (John Cusack) from within the plane. Following a testosterone-filled battle at an abandoned airplane landing site, the convicts triumph (once again) to escape the clutches of the American Special Forces. In the final act, the last straw seems to have been pulled for our protagonist Cameron Poe as he is forced to crash-land an airplane on the streets of Las Vegas, followed shortly by a Michael Bayesque chase scene. God bless explosions.
The face of America.
This was the short version of the plot; I don’t want to spoil too much away. I’d rather discuss Nicolas Cage’s horrible southern accent. He has the talent to make every scene cringe-worthy, but at the same time notoriously hilarious. All the lines coming out of his mouth throughout the movie are so cheesy and so bad that they end up being golden. I mean, ‘I’m gonna save the fucking day.’ and ‘Why didn’t you put the bunny back in the box?’ are classics I tell you.
All the characters are as thin as paper; you never get to care for them, but they still manage to entertain. Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dave Chapelle and John Malkovich are at the top of their game, delivering memorable, action-packed moments. John Cusack is hysterical with his over-the-top, taking-it-too-seriously type of acting, and Colm Meaney portrayed the dumb get-out-of-my-way cop to perfection. He was more annoying than the ‘We’re all gonna die’ marine from Aliens.
Michael Bay, is that you?
The soundtrack is terrible, ranging from heavy metal guitars to Spanish flamenco. The theme song accomplished the amazing feat of being nominated for both the Academy Awards and the Razzies. Needless to say, it won nothing.
You have everything in Con Air: Nicolas Cage, and I quote, ‘saving the fucking day,’ roundhouse kicks, explosions, cheesy one-liners, Nicolas Cage in a tank top, more explosions (without looking back), a misplaced ballad, and most importantly, America. God bless America!
Not a particularly productive week, this one, but hey, it was the summer. Yes, I count that as a valid excuse. Moving on, though, I’d say the two films that I did get to watch this time around both defied expectations in one way or another. Read on for more.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) - 7/10
I really didn’t know what to make of The Lincoln Lawyer going into it. The trailers made it look like a potentially good, but likely forgettable experience, and it’s been a long time since Matthew McConaughey last turned in a notable performance (no thanks to all the romantic comedies he’s starred in recently). I eventually ended up checking the film out after reading up on some positive reviews and receiving it as a recommendation from people, and I’m glad I did, because The Lincoln Lawyer actually turned out to be a really great courtroom thriller. The directing is solid, the screenplay is all around well-written, and Matthew McConaughey hasn’t been this good since Frailty, which was about ten years ago. Not only that, but the movie also boasts a remarkable supporting cast, with William H. Macy and Marisa Tomei as frontrunners. I was a bit divided on Ryan Phillippe as the antagonist, but he pulled it off well enough. There’s really not much else to say about The Lincoln Lawyer, so I’ll just conclude with recommending it, just as it was recommended to me in the past. It’s an entertaining film if I’ve ever seen one.
Fast Five (2011) - 6/10
I think we can all agree that The Fast and the Furious series of films aren’t exactly the be-all, end-all of modern filmmaking, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. I don’t really know why – perhaps it’s the recurring characters that give you a sense of familiarity, perhaps the amount of entertainment that these movies provide – but I’ve been drawn to this series since I saw the first movie, and things haven’t changed much since. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift were some real stinkers, but I do think that the films in-between the two are rather decent. They’re not great pieces of filmmaking, but I don’t believe that dismissing them as poor is appropriate. That being said, I found the latest instalment in the series, Fast Five, no doubt to be a good film – possibly the best one yet. I was glad to see that the movie stuck with the original cast of characters (we know how well it worked out when they tried to start from scratch with Tokyo Drift) as it definitely added more gravitas to the plot. Action films like The Fast and the Furious series don’t really have time to develop their characters, with most of them having one-dimensional or stereotypical types, so keeping the same characters throughout a franchise helps develop them over time. Such is also the case with this series, and I truly believe that with Fast Five these characters have finally been set free of the ‘throwaway’ status. As for the new characters, such as Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and Elena Neves, they really seem to find their place in the story in this film. All of what I said above reverts back to the writing, and it’s fair to say that Fast Five is a very well-written action film; it has a smooth opening, a solid third act, and things actually tie in together nicely in the end. Plus, it also delivers some pretty memorable action scenes, and even though the vault heist is rather implausible and tough to suspend belief for, it’s undoubtedly well-done and constructed from a filmmaking standpoint. All in all, if things go well, I wouldn’t mind another couple of entries into the franchise as long as it knows to stick with its guns and as long as Justin Lin is directing. He may have screwed up with Tokyo Drift, but he’s undoubtedly learned a lot since then and I say he’s become a filmmaker worth keeping an eye on in the future.
The lives of a family are turned upside down when the husband decides to bring home and 'domesticate' a violent woman who seems to have lived in the wild all her life.
- utterly shocking and heart-rending
- thought-provoking on many levels
- well constructed story with a few impressive twists and turns along the way
- leads to a heart-stopping finale
- generates dread and terror without the use of cheap tricks
- introduces one of the most terrifying characters in recent horror cinema history
- outstanding performance by Pollyanna McIntosh
- pulls no punches in its depiction of the subject matter
- feels self-indulgent at times
- the soundtrack does not blend well with the film
- some scenes feel out of place
- very high violence and gore
- moderate scares and frightening scenes
- high nudity and sexual themes
- moderate profanity
things I learned from watching this movie
- living in the woods can actually work out pretty well for some people
- skipping gym class automatically means you're pregnant
- teachers should avoid visiting their pupils' homes at all costs
Unlike most contemporary horror films, Lucky McKee's The Woman has no trouble generating terror and dread throughout its running time, and it does so without the use of jump scares as well. Tackling controversial issues such as domestic violence, gender inequality and the abuse of power, this film is as shocking as it is thought-provoking, and its courage to venture into some of the darkest corners of the human mind is truly commendable. In the role of ‘the Woman,’ Pollyanna McIntosh’s captivating performance helps turn the titular character into one of the most iconic ones in recent horror cinema history. In short, The Woman makes for one of the most unnerving and disturbing rides at the cinema while also providing an important social commentary which sets it apart from most horror movies of today. The words ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ have never rung truer before.
Cameron Crowe, 1989
reviewed by Sergiu Gustus
Sunday, February 5th, 2012
First of all, let me start by saying that I’m a big Cameron Crowe fan. He manages to capture human emotions in a way that makes it very easy for the viewer to relate to. His particular trade marks include the use of great pop/rock music and the promotion of the outcast, or ‘the uncool,’ as in Almost Famous. Crowe has a talented flair for portraying the agonizing emotions that are part of approaching adulthood. With movies such as Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, one can say that Cameron Crowe has established himself as a respected and well-known director.
His directorial debut was in 1989 with the coming-of-age movie Say Anything…. Starring John Cusack and Ione Skye, this Generation X motion picture became an instant classic and is widely regarded as one of the best modern romance movies.
The story is pretty basic: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) an average student falls for the valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) and they both end up spending the summer after graduating high-school together. The story takes place in post-grunge Seattle, a time when love was still in its most innocent stages. Without giving too much away I’ll make this as short as possible. The entire cast, from the two leads to even the brief cameo appearance of Joane Cusack makes the job so much easier for the audience to relate to virtually every scene in the film. Lloyd is an aspiring kick-boxer lost in his struggle to find a meaning for his future while Diane just won a prestigious fellowship to Reed University in England and will be going there at the end of summer. Although she is lovable and intelligent, she can’t seem to manage well at a social level. Intrigued by high-school misfit Lloyd’s boldness to ask her out on a date, she accepts, and their relationship flourishes after seeing each other on a regular basis. I’ll stop here, because giving away more details about the story would ruin your viewing experience. I will however encourage you to keep a sharp eye throughout the movie, as you will recognize actors such as Jeremy Piven, Eric Stoltz and a brief cameo of Pearl Jam’s rhythm guitarist Stone Gossard.
The film really begins to shine in the important moments of Lloyd’s and Diane’s relationship; that’s when you see how different this movie is from the average Hollywood tear-jerking ‘chick flick.’ The script is also top-notch, ranging from subtle jokes and remarks to plenty of memorable quotes. Cameron has a way of turning a simple scene into something beautiful and iconic. You’ll know which one I’m talking about once you see it.
Needless to say, the soundtrack plays a huge role in Say Anything..., as with most of Crowe’s films. His choice of songs never disappoints; from teen party rock songs to the most heartbreaking howls of guitar solos, it’s all there. My only complaint about this movie is the way it aged – it does feel a little outdated.
To fully understand Say Anything… you must take a deeper look into the roots of the film’s main theme: love. What is love? Is it a desire to share one’s deepest secrets and feelings? Is it a longing to depend on someone and not be alone? Better yet, another question: how far are you willing to go for love? – You may or may not find some of these answers in this movie, but all in all it will act as a reminder about falling in love for the first time, without all the hurt and misbelief that usually comes with it.
Anyway, enough rambling; this is a perfect date movie that’s well worth renting and enjoying.