My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
In honor of Nicolas Cage’s birthday (January 7th), I caught up on nearly all of the movies he released during 2023.
THE RETIREMENT PLAN (2023)
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
I spent the first week of January catching up on all the movies Nicolas Cage released during 2023, so many that his films now feel like they deserve a category of their own. This one felt like it might be a throwaway action film like the ones Cage made in his phase of financial trouble but it’s better than that.
It gets by because of its characters: Cage in shaggy dog mode, Perlman as a literate thug, and Haley as a vicious bad guy. It’s even nice to see Ernie Hudson again, though he doesn’t have much to do. Where the film falters is when it tried to have too much of a plot, overcomplicating a silly story with twists and turns. All of that is tiresome when they could have just played around with these fun characters in the tropical setting.
Still, THE RETIREMENT PLAN has enough in it to enjoy and pass the time. The most amusing parts are the least obvious, little things Cage or Perlman do that might go by unnoticed by some audience members.
Watched on Amazon.
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL (2023)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
This midnight movie reminded me of Eric Red’s work from the 80s/90s, namely THE HITCHER and COHEN & TATE. It features another unhinged performance by Nicolas Cage but one that ends up being more complex than some of his crazy roles of late.
Taking place entirely at night and mostly in a car, this wild ride kept me engaged, especially as the story takes a turn in the second half. What appears to at first just be another crazy Cage character (honestly I prefer his more subtle work) ends up having hidden layers of depth. I won’t say more but I recommend this to anyone who likes dark, violent thrillers.
Watched on Amazon.
DREAM SCENARIO (2023)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Few movies are as good as the critics claim. DREAM SCENARIO might be better.
This refreshing satire comments on our satire without being too tongue-in-cheek. In fact, my favorite part of DREAM SCENARIO is that it doesn’t wink at the audience. It isn’t self-aware like most comedies and constantly patting itself on the back for being clever. Instead, Kristoffer Borgli approaches the whacky story with sincerity. The performances are genuine and Cage is once again at his best, playing it subtle but with slight brilliant touches as he did in PIG.
I don’t think I laughed once in DREAM SCENARIO but I found it to be hilarious. It gets to the heart of what is so wrong with our culture. I’ll be thinking about this movie for a long time.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
I avoided this film all year because the trailer looked like such a disappointment and the last thing I needed was a big swing and a miss from my favorite actor. I will admit that RENFIELD is better than its marketing plan but it is still a frustrating and often discouraging movie.
Here’s what works: Cage’s fresh take on Dracula, his unpredictable and amusing performance, the interplay between he and Hoult, and… that’s about it. What doesn’t work are the weak villains, the unnecessary plot about crime families/corrupt cops, the voiceover, and most of all the cartoonish comic book action which only gets worse as the movie progresses. The fight sequences totally undermine what feels at select moments like a clever, dark comedic character piece. Instead, McKay’s film is a stylized piece of junk that wastes the most inventive American actor’s shot at playing Dracula.
Watched on Amazon Prime.