Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
There is so much good to be done with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, so much glee in its conceptual bones and in every ounce of its credentials, and it is altogether a crushing disappointment. Not an awful film, mind you, or at least not awful for the reasons we might expect, but it is most certainly not the film it could have been. To understand why, let us do our duty and note a thing or two about the film as it existed in the mind of a hopeful would-be fan of exploitation cinema, or as it existed before it was actually, you know, released. Continue reading
This film was approved by Satan.
Now, something interesting. Not the film; the film is deliberately passionless. But the existence of the film? Now that is something worth milling over, and savoring the bouquet. Written by Paul Lalonde and John Patus, and based on the novel of the same name by none other than Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins – Yes, The Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins – Left Behind is not the first adaptation of this very novel. Famously, Kirk Cameron’s absolutely bizarre cottage industry of hair-budgeted Christian conversation-pieces adapted the work in 2000, eventually leading to a proper series of religion-by-way-of-looney-bin pieces of sheer, unmitigated thematic emptiness bolstered by filmmaking of such wanton incompetence that the films almost doubled-back on themselves into intoxicating dare-yourself-to-continue-on heights. Add to this recipe for a walking disaster the divine likes of Nicolas Cage and, I mean hey, who wouldn’t want to see a Nicolas Cage-fronted film about the end of times done-up in Biblical proportions and filled with all sorts of ooey, gooey fire-and-brimstone dialogue for Cage to deliver at the tips of his toes and in the depths of his derangement? Continue reading
Joe is a return to maturity for director David Gordon Green, although this is not necessarily the same as a return to full form. Recently, he set his sights on a duo of pot-addled comedies centering a drug most appropriate for viewing Gordon Green’s earlier art films (the first of the two also aped the visual style of Green’s poetic examinations of humanity to fascinating effect), followed by an even more insipid comedy that had nothing to do with weed. He had lost his way. Now, the once-beloved indie director has seen it fit to grasp for his old critical darling status by returning to low-and-slow character drama and natural earthen beauty.
In the transition, he’s lost a certain peculiar magic, and the finished product seems more like a Green impostor that only understands Green on the surface. But then, surface-level Green is a hell of a lot better than most films, and certainly a gargantuan, lurching leap above his recent 2010s comedy ventures. Joe doesn’t have the Midas touch, but it doesn’t need it. It’s a damn fine social realist drama, and I for one am never too curmudgeonly to bask in the glories of a nice social realist stew. Continue reading
A question: Have you ever seen a movie that made you want so furiously to scribble down notes about its greatness while watching that you were actually annoyed that it kept you looking at the screen with its unapologetic greatness to the point of being unable to write anything down legibly? I ask in this form, of course, because naturally I’m only writing to people who would want to write down notes about movies while watching. Everyone else who could conceivably see this film will probably be turned off by how garishly oppressive and gloriously messy it is to have any interest in reading this. And they’d be completely right too, but I still like the film anyway.
Was there ever a better cinematic pairing than Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog? Well, Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog, but here I sense a second coming. The H-man was always obsessed with something, anything, even obsession, and Cage also plays his roles with an unhinged, wild-man version of obsession, even if recently it’s been obsession for paychecks so he can go trampoline in a castle somewhere. And here they’ve produced the kind of film that wouldn’t be more appropriate anywhere than on a screen in front of said trampoline, ready to give you a splitting headache or cast you into the stratosphere. I’m not sure which.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, a spiritual successor to the 1992 film of the same main title, is a film noir, but it’s the kind we haven’t seen in decades – the kind epitomized by eccentric ’50s films like Kiss Me Deadly. These films were gloriously weird and slyly subversive. They played by their own rules, created characters that fit types of their own creations, and took joy in a sort of playful anarchy of their own creation. They were like playgrounds for filmmakers interested in raw emotions taken to extremes that couldn’t exist in reality. They were fantasies, all the more ruthless because they masqueraded as reality. Nowadays, we get stoic, grim films with no sense of humor and a nagging desire to strive for reality. In doing so, they sacrifice unconscious affect. Continue reading