I Can’t Believe They All Left Me Behind!

One of these days, I’m going to start a post with, “I hate…” but not today. I love apocalyptic movies. The end of the world and/or humanity (because one does not necessarily presume the other) has always fascinated me.

I loved the Omen series (the first one is a classic, the second one apes the same formula and is still quite good, the third one is a real mixed bag but still enjoyable, the remake is garbage). Still for some reason I have never gotten around to watching the Left Behind series.

All three volumes of Left Behind starring Kirk Cameron and the new one starring Nicolas Cage are available on instant Netflix.

 

Left Behind

 

Left Behind (2014) – Rated PG-13

After millions of people on Earth suddenly disappear, a pilot flying a plane stuck at 30,000 feet must find a way to ensure the passengers’ survival.

Okay I decided to try the Nicolas Cage one first as I thought his presence would make things more bearable. Well, I actually groaned aloud at some of the dialogue less than three minutes in.

I live in the deep south. I have plenty of religious friends (yes, I know that sounds a little too close to ‘some of my best friends are…’ but bear with me). People of faith do not talk like this. People do not talk like this. Yet this is their version of a ‘meet cute’. Ugh.

Wow. I was tempted to type OMG but refrained. Somewhat. The speechifying is incredible in this movie and not in a good way. This movie is just awful and I am now only ten minutes in.

When the event occurs, hilarity sets in. Clothes rain from the sky as if people had been floating there. In 2.5 seconds, a massive looting riot of the mall sets in even though most people weren’t raptured. They throw a driverless car straight at one of the characters in the mall (was the driver headed straight for these doors prior to rapture?). After the looting, she goes to her car and they throw a pilotless plane straight at her. I am thinking she did something to tick off somebody upstairs.

Left Behind actually turns into an Airport movie (Airport ’15?). Once all the other pilots disappear (who knew pilots were so pious?) from the plane and an altogether too close other plane, Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) is left to calm all the remaining passengers on his plane and bring them safely home. The passengers on the other plane are just out of luck.

There is a fair bit of hemming and hawing. Did the terrorists invent a new bomb? Was it aliens? a parallel dimension? The Langoliers? Eventually people figure out what happened (apparently the clothes LEFT BEHIND did not clue anyone in).

Other than that, Steele is left to land the plane. There is no real urgency in this, even though the script throws various disaster tripes at us. This has to be the most boring airplane in peril movie I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. That would not be a fatal flaw except that the movie really isn’t about the rapture.

Avoid at all costs. In spite of this, I’m going to check out the Kirk Cameron versions tomorrow.

Knights of Badassdom on The Frozen Ground

Knights of Badassdom and Frozen Ground are currently available on instant Netflix

Knights of Badassdom

 

Knights of Badassdom (2013) – Rated R

Venturing into the woods to act out a medieval fantasy, three friends face a real-life struggle for survival after inadvertently conjuring a succubus.”

You just summoned a succubus from Hell!” – “Sorry”

First-time writers Kevin Dreyfuss and Matt Wall nail the particulars of LARPing in this mildly amusing movie. The script could have used a serious polishing though to make it shine.

Director Joe Lynch has had an absolutely fascinating career. He started as an actor, creative assistant, and best boy in the movie Terror Firmer. Since then he has been an actor, director of photography, editor, cinematographer, writer, and producer. He has even been an editor on pornographic films under the rather ridiculous alias of Fernando Phagabeefy. In 2007, he took a franchise that was hackneyed from the first film (Wrong Turn) and made a very tongue-in-cheek sequel that was much better than the original.

Lynch assembled a dream cast from nerdvana. Ryan Kwanten, Jason Stackhouse of True Blood, plays our reluctant LARPer, Joe. Summer Glau, River Tam from Firefly and the main Terminator in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, plays our requisite love interest, Gwen. Peter Dinklage, Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, overacts outrageously as drunk redneck LARPer, Hung. Danny Pudi, Abed from Community, plays Lando. Steve Zahn is along for some (extra) comic relief.

The cast is obviously where a lot of the fun comes from. None of them are even remotely flexing their acting muscles but they all seem to be having quite a bit of fun. The meager special effects budget serves the film well in some ways as the monster seems to be just a few steps above those costumed for the LARP.

Frozen Ground

 

Frozen Ground (2013) – Rated R

In this fact-based thriller, an Alaska state trooper pursuing a serial killer teams with a 17-year-old-prostitute who escaped the predator’s clutches.

Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage anchored tentpole action movies and John Cusack headlined many fascinating independent movies. They even appeared together in the marvelously over-the-top Con Air.

Sadly, Cage’s career hit the skids and he had some pretty severe income tax problems. He turned to quick direct-to-video movies to make a fast buck. His performances were occasionally good but more often than not, they turned lazy, with Cage playing roles somnambulistically or simply yelling his way through them. I’m not sure what happened to Cusack but he appears to have joined Cage in direct-to-video land.

The Frozen Ground is written and directed by first time writer and director Scott Walker. It is competent, by the numbers, but unimaginative. It is based on the story of serial killer Robert Hansen (John Cusack collecting a paycheck). Scenes involving the victims are very mean-spirited, presumably to show realism but it seems like torture porn lite. Nicolas Cage is our dogged detective on the case, knowing who the killer is but having trouble proving it.

The third member of our cast is escaped victim Cindy Paulson. She is played by Vanessa Hudgens, who seems more alive than the rest of the cast. Dean (Breaking Bad) Norris backs Cage up as another detective on the case.

The Frozen Ground catches the actors frozen but breaks no new ground. It isn’t bad per se but there is not a compelling reason to watch it.

Mediocre – Trespass, Demons of the Mind, Slumber Party Massacre

Mediocre: of moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance: ordinary, so-so

I watch a ton of movies and I spend a lot of time writing about the good ones, the unusual ones, and the bad ones. I usually skip writing about the mediocre ones because there isn’t much to say and they aren’t nearly as fun to riff on as the truly bad films. Unfortunately much of what I’ve watched lately has fallen into that category. In short DON’T WATCH:

Trespass (2011) – Rated R

“A husband and wife find themselves pushed to their absolute limit when they’re held for ransom by brutal thugs who invade their home. As tensions escalate and shocking revelations emerge, the couple is forced to take ever-more desperate measures.”

Ugh! I feel for Nicolas Cage sometimes. He can act but lately he has had to rush through one film after another so he doesn’t end up sharing a cell with Wesley Snipes. The bills have to be paid but his acting price will have to come down now that he has had his first (to my knowledge) direct-to-video movie. If this had a theatrical run, I missed it.

Still it was bound to happen sooner or later. Certainly his latest, Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance, should never have been released to theaters. imdb has Cage listed for five movies last year. On the other hand, what is Nicole Kidman doing in this?

Trespass is not terrible but the script makes very little sense, the villains are morons, the husband is script-clever and reality-stupid (watch the safe opening scene and see if any of it strikes you as realistic), and the few people in the film who can act phone it in. This is another in a long line of movies where the plot only moves forward because the script says so. If you watch it, which I do not recommend, you will spend the movie saying things like ‘that wouldn’t happen’, ‘he/she/they wouldn’t do that’, and other phrase with your choice special words.

Demons of the Mind (1971)

“This horror film, set in early 19th-century Bavaria, follows the deranged Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy), who locks his two grown children in a castle and drugs them to protect them from a curse he fears they might have inherited from their late mother. The baron enlists the help of a scientist to cure his son and daughter, who in his mind are not only a hazard to society, but — because of their incestuous attraction — are also a threat to the family itself.”

I was really looking forward to this movie. I love the old Hammer horror movies and, until the other night, this was the only one I had never seen. It is a period piece with some nice atmosphere but it is not terribly well acted and the script is not very coherent and it actually manages to be dull.

Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – Rated R

“Young Trish Devereaux throws a slumber party and, naturally, a gaggle of randy boys turns up. But when an escaped psycho crashes the bash, the mood turns gruesome. As the teens go down one by one, three brave girls draft a plan to stop the killer.”

Wow! Okay this one is pretty bad. When critics talk about the slasher sub-genre being misogynistic, it is because of films like this. All of the components are sub-par as well but the misogyny really runs hot and heavy here. The bizarre part is that this was written by Rita Mae Brown. Yes the same Rita Mae Brown who wrote Rubyfruit Jungle and all of those Sneaky Pie mystery novels. I’m not sure where the disconnect is such that a champion of women’s rights ends up writing this but she is the sole credited writer on the film.

 

Con Air – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Con Air is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Con Air (1997) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“When the government puts all its rotten criminal eggs in one airborne basket, it is asking for trouble. Before you can say, “Pass the barf bag,” the crooks control the plane, led by creepy Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich). Watching his every move is the just-released Nicolas Cage, who would rather reunite with his family. The action climaxes with an incredible crash sequence in Las Vegas.”

“Make a move and the bunny gets it!”

“What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldnt you consider that to be insane”

Okay recommending this movie I realize that I should have a category for Guilty Pleasure. For everything it gets right, it gets something wrong.

This is the first film directed by Simon West. None of his other films so far have been any good (Tomb Raider? The Generals Daughter?) and yet this one is chock full of great action and sort of great performances (more on that later).

We are not even five minutes into the movie when Cameron (Nicolas Cage) is attacked by three thugs who threaten his wife, deface his uniform, and beat him. Clearly they deserve the smackdown. Of course Cameron, a former Army Ranger, allows them to surround him in a rainy parking lot and begin beating him down without initially fighting back which seems quite odd.

The action is fun and pretty much non-stop. The acting is the real reason to watch this movie. They got a great cast and Simon West appears to have told each of them that they should go flat out with their acting. The actors do not seem to interact so much as they try to outdo each other.

Nicolas Cage overacts his heart out. His performance will leave you cringing at times but it does give him a certain charisma. They also take plenty of opportunities to show off his pecs and abs. Even his hair is given plenty of screen time and real estate.

Our other hero is a sandal-wearing U.S. Marshal, Vince Larkin. He is played by John Cusack who is clearly having a lot of fun here. He continually twits rival DEA agent Duncan Malloy played by Colm Meaney (Chief OBrien on Star Trek TNG/DS9 – his keychain has a Star Trek ornament on it).

We know that Malloy is not a hero because the first thing he does is arrive in a very expensive sports car and park in the handicap spot.

Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs was such a part of the cultural zeitgeist by this point that they base not one but two of the felons on his character (Cyrus and Garland).

Cyrus is our main villain and is overplayed to perfection by a scenery-chewing John Malkovich. He is riveting and stands out above the other overactors. His number two is Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog.

Even the minor villains are all chosen for their flamboyance. Comedian Dave Chappelle plays Pinball (humorously of course). The excellent character actor Danny Trejo plays rapist Johnny 23. M.C. Gainey plays white trash Swamp Thing.

Strangely the only actor in the whole movie who seems restrained (and that is only in comparison to the other actors) is Steve Buscemi who gives a delightful performance as Garland Greene.

The actresses are actually restrained (literally in one case). Rachel Ticotin plays a guard and Monica Potter is the love interest, patiently waiting for Cameron to come home. Neither is given much to do – perhaps because they did not overact?

The action is fabulous and almost as over-the-top as the acting. Almost every airplane trope is covered here – emergency takeoff, crash landing, fight in flight, body falling from airplane, landing gear stuck, etc.

I have to say a few words, but only a few, about the plot. The plot is utterly ridiculous – any description of it reveals plenty of plotholes. The dialogue is alternately wonderful and cringe-inducing. The film steals liberally from Flight of the Phoenix, Silence of the Lambs, and others but definitely has its own sense of identity.

I did like that almost the entire movie takes place on Bastille Day.

Con Air was actually nominated for two Academy Awards. Diane Warren was nominated for best song for “How Do I Live”. Con Air was also nominated for Best Sound. Unfortunately it ran into the juggernaut that was Titanic.

I cannot in good conscience call this a good film but I do recommend it because it is a huge amount of fun.

People watch: Powers Boothe does an initial voice-over showing love for the Rangers.