Tag Archives: john malkovich

Con Air – Review

17 Oct

When I think of the first R-rated movies I ever saw, my mind goes to the same two. The first that comes to mind is Gladiator and the second is Con Air. Two very different movies, yet they both have a special spot in the heart of this overly sentimental film geek. I actually haven’t seen Con Air in a really long time, so I had this fear that it would be nowhere near as great as I remember it being. So, I put it on and hoped for the best. What I got isn’t nearly as spectacular as I remembered it being, but it’s certainly an acceptable and memorable action fest that could’ve used a few more brain cells amongst other things.

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Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has just finished serving his country as an Army Ranger and is celebrating his return with his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). That night, Poe gets into a fight with a couple of bar patrons and accidentally kills one of them in self defense. Because of his extensive military training, he is deemed a human weapon and sentenced to 8 years in prison for manslaughter. After quietly serving his time in prison, he’s finally paroled and ready to be reunited with his wife and his daughter whom he has never met. Poe, along with some other inmates getting transferred board the transport plane, which doesn’t get too far until it is high jacked by the psychotic criminal Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) and his crew. With U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) fighting on the ground to get the plane back, Poe is left to his own devices on the plane to stop Cyrus from using the plane to gain his own freedom, while also staying alive long enough to get home and see his family.

Like I said, I have very fond memories of watching this movie when I was younger, and while it still has some elements of being a guilty pleasure, I’ve noticed a lot of weird things that I really dislike about it. Before we get to them, I’d like to something I really like about the movie. The cast of Con Air is fantastic. Other than the names I’ve already mentioned there’s also Danny Trejo, Dave Chapelle, Colm Meaney, Ving Rhames, and Steve Buscemi. All of these actors do a fine job in their roles, with Buscemi bringing a really creepy performance as a Jeffrey Dahmer like serial killer that has disturbed me ever since I first saw this movie. The real scene stealer, though, is John Malkovich as Cyrus. Cyrus the Virus has remained one of my favorite screen villains, and this viewing of the movie still holds that opinion to be true. He just oozes with over the top villainy, and it’s so easy and fun to hate this character. I honestly feel like Malkovich is the only person that could’ve played this role, which is odd because it feels so out of place from what he usually does.

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So while the majority of the cast is really fantastic, there are parts of this movie that are so distractingly terrible, they pull me out of the movie and makes me think twice about what I’m watching. For one thing, I can’t get into Nicolas Cage’s character even though he’s the hero of the movie. There are scenes of his ridiculous long hair blowing in the wind and some really awful lines of dialogue that are so bad, it almost isn’t even funny. But I really can’t totally fault Nicolas Cage for this. Despite what many people think, Cage is a fine actor and has proven so in the past. Con Air isn’t quite a shining point in his filmography. I’d much rather blame the writers for most of the cringe inducing moments. Let’s just say that Con Air is one of those movies that you can only show to the closest of friends in order to save yourself massive amounts of embarrassment, solely because of all the awkwardness and corny dialogue.

Honestly, that one paragraph doesn’t really do justice to the amount of negativity that I would have towards this movie if it wasn’t for some really badass action sequences. The fact that a lot of this movie takes place on a plane is enough for plenty of set pieces, but there’s great sequences on the ground as well. Add in an element of time sensitivity, and you got yourself some suspense filled and memorable action scenes. There’s plenty of explosions and gunplay, but what really makes these parts so great are the maniacal villains and their psychopathic nature. There’s plenty of stand out scenes, and it’s funny to say that Con Air was nominated for an Academy Award for its sound design. It’s an example of really well constructed moments of mayhem, and these parts save the movie from being a complete flop.

The bottom line is that Con Air didn’t hold up quite as well as it did when I was a kid. I remember all of the characters and the action to their full potential, but I simply didn’t realize how awful some of the writing was. Now that I have more experience with film and how real people talk in real life, I know awful writing when I hear it, and this film is filled with it. As an action movie, it’s memorable for many different reasons, and it’s arguably a good escape from the real world. Objectively, however, it’s got so much going against it that the whole experience can feel kind of awkward.

Final Grade: C+

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Deepwater Horizon – Review

2 Oct

On April 20, 2010, the offshore Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded which caused the worst oil spill in American history. I remember hearing all about it on the news and in school and watching the aftermath that almost destroyed an entire habitat of life. A lot of people don’t seem to be on board with making a movie about this tragedy so soon after it happened, but I’m on the side that it’s a good way to honor the people who lost their lives while also raising more attention for the people responsible and showing the viewer the terror of what happened on that rig. I wasn’t too thrilled with the trailers for Deepwater Horizon, so I had no intention of really liking this movie, and now after seeing it I have to say that it’s a stand out film of 2016.

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Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) seems to have it all. He has a loving wife, Felicia (Kate Hudson), a daughter, and a good, respectable job on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. At the start of one of his 3 week shifts on the rig, there’s some tension between his boss, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and BP representative Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) over how fast they can get started extracting the oil. What Harrell and the rest of the crew are trying to get Vidrine to understand is the unsafe level of pressure in the tubing that can’t exist when they start excavating. Vidrine finds the tests run to be acceptable and pushes the job to start. This leads to a massive oil eruption which leads to an explosion that engulfs the entire oil rig. With time running out, Williams and the rest of the crew begin fighting for their lives to get to the life boats and help anyone on the rig that they possibly can.

Using words to summarize this movie really does no justice to how intense and thrilling Deepwater Horizon actually is. This is an expertly made film in so many different ways. Peter Berg’s directing style gives the film a very personal feeling and the intelligent use of handheld camerawork often gives the illusion that you’re walking with these characters on the Deepwater Horizon. What really puts this movie over the edge and turns it into a technical wonder is the sound design and visual effects. When the rig finally explodes the combination of the special effects and booming sound made my jaw drop. It was a wonder to look at, but never is anything over done. The goal of this movie obviously wasn’t to wow the audience with its technical achievements, but to create a realistic environment of terror and destruction to illustrate the danger these workers faced around ever corner. When Oscar season rolls around, I expect to see this film nominated for special effects and sound because it’s just outstanding work.

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One of the strengths of Deepwater Horizon is the realistic portrayal of the characters and how they succeed at getting the audience to relate to them easily. Mark Wahlberg gives a good performance as Mike Williams, and I’ll go on record saying that these types of roles are basically meant for him at this point. He’s great as playing a sort of everyman family guy that is thrown into situations he may be unprepared for. I also have to give major props to Kurt Russell, who I believe gives the best performance of this movie. I felt like I knew this guy, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to say about the characters being relatable. Finally, John Malkovich steals every scene he’s in as the BP executive that is just so easy to hate. Anyone who’s worked in a corporate company knows how off putting “corporate” folks can be, and seeing him manipulate and and put unreasonable pressure on the workers in this movie was infuriating. It’s hard to call him a villain in this movie, but a lot of his action and motivations can only be described as villainous.

The only possible fault I can give this movie is its pushing of a certain agenda. I understand that movies exist partially so film makers can have a voice and express their thoughts and beliefs, but when a movie has an agenda that is so clear and pushed so hard, it can become annoying. That’s mainly why I can’t really get into the work of Oliver Stone. This film is nowhere near as guilty as something like American Sniper, but it does have its moments where I felt like Berg was preaching to me and laying his beliefs on pretty strong in that obnoxious kind of way. The strange thing is that I agree with a lot of what this movie is trying to say, but some of it didn’t have to be done in such a heavy handed way. These are just a few instances, and overall I think it was handled pretty well.

I really wasn’t to keen on seeing this movie, but I’m so happy I did. Deepwater Horizon is an extremely intense movie that is a technical marvel and bolsters some pretty good performances. While it does push certain ideas pretty hard, it rarely gets bogged down in what it’s trying to say and it works best as a testament to the bravery and strength that can be latent in everyday human beings. This is an exhausting movie that will make you feel that you just got whacked with a sledgehammer, but it’s a film that shouldn’t be missed.

Final Grade: A-

Being John Malkovich – Review

16 Oct

There are some movies where I think to myself, “How did this even get made?” 9 times out of 10 that means that I’m watching a piece of shit movie that seems like little to no talent or effort went into it at all. Now, it’s true that I had the “how did this get made” though while I was watching Being John Malkovich, but it was the rare 1 out of 10 chance where I had this thought even as I was watching an incredible movie that was full of talent, effort, and one of the most original screenplays I have ever seen. Still, with a story as surreal and other worldly as this, the movie has a lot to say and it really is some of the most fun I ever had watching a film.

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Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a struggling puppeteer who has recently gotten a job on the 7 1/2 floor of an office building as a file clerk. The office has incredibly low ceilings and the only was to get there is by prying the elevator doors open when it is in between the seventh and eighth floors, but that isn’t the strangest part about it. Hidden behind a filing cabinet is a portal that leads Schwartz, and anyone who enters into the mind of John Malkovich (who plays himself). Craig and his coworker Maxine (Catherine Keener), who refuses to return the love that Craig is pouring on her, decide to open the portal to the public for two hundred dollars. Everything seems to be going fine for everyone (except John Malkovich) until Maxine and Craig’s wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), become attracted to each other, but Maxine will only love her if she is inside John Malkovich. This odd love quadrangle soon results an existential crisis for everyone involved.

While this movie was released in 1999, I saw that an early draft of the script was actually being circulated by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as early as 1989. This just adds to the miracle that this movie was made in the first place. Screenplays are very often around for years before being made, but this one is just so odd. John Malkovich was attached as producer for a while, but never actually planned on playing himself when the movie was made. Many people were suggesting other actors to play the part, including Tom Cruise, but Kaufman was only going to allow the movie to be made if John Malkovich was the celebrity whose mind would be entered. After much convincing, Malkovich decided to act in the movie, and the rest is history at its most surreal.

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From the get go, this movie plays by its own rules, and I need to give so  much credit to Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, who before this movie only worked on music videos and commercials and is now an Academy Award winning film maker/writer. The fact that these two took a story about a portal that leads to the mind of John Malkovich and then spits you out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike and made it work well is really incredible. Beneath all of the surrealism and strangeness is a wonderful look at how people obsess over the idea of celebrity to the point where they want to stop being themselves in exchange for a life that is much more exciting. If you want to dig deeper, it actually is a powerful movie about self worth and respect that is hidden beneath a dreamscape of portals and advocates of ever lasting life.

Another thing that’s wonderful about Being John Malkovich is that it made me laugh, and laugh very hard. The now famous “Malkovich, Malkovich” scene is one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen in a movie ever. I feel like I’m very harsh on comedies in the sense that it has to be original, somewhat smart or witty, and not rely on gross out or sexual humor. A movie that doesn’t apply to these personal rules are not funny to me. This film almost exists on a different dimensional plane of comedy where people like the members of Monty Python thrive. It’s smart and original on so many levels, but also just unbelievably funny. This is comedy, ladies and gentlemen.

Being John Malkovich is one of the most interesting, original, and insightful comedies that I’ve seen in a long time, not to mention that it provided me with enough surrealism to last a year. This was to be expected from the writer of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation, and the director of Her and some of the most wild music videos you’ll see. This is an excellent film that I would normally say isn’t for everyone, but it really sorta is for everyone. I feel like there’s joy in this movie for everyone and even some things that everyone can relate to. Being John Malkovich is one of the best comedies of all time.