Life is good up here in the mountains, but it can always be better. You probably didn't even realize how much value a Nicolas Cage chainsaw fight would add to your humble existence, did you? Me neither, but guess what? The path to enlightenment is upon us. And Cage is on the throttle.
Like pineapple on pizza, abortion, and nerd-rockers Rush, Nic Cage is a polarizing dude—people either love him or hate him. But regardless of how you feel, he's hard to avoid—Nic Cage has been in almost 90 films since 1982 (averaging four per year since 2007) and in 2018 he shows up in five films and two cartoons!
While there have been some missteps, it's easy to see the magic of Cage's unique acting style when he's paired with exceptional filmmakers like the Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona), David Lynch (Wild at Heart) or especially in Spike Jonze's Adaptation, where Cage plays real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Kaufman's fictional twin brother (that movie is all-time awesome; revisit it).
With lesser talent at the helm (Ghost Rider, Drive Angry, The Rock) Cage's penchant for tapping into acting techniques few "stars" ever reach for (German Expressionism! Western Kabuki!) can be off-putting, but the fact remains, Nic Cage makes good movies better and shitty movies good.
The good news is that after all those incredibly nuanced roles, he finally engages in that much-needed chainsaw battle with a super-tabbed-up biker/freak in Mandy, a mind-bending acid flashback art/horror/revenge flick from Vancouver-based director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow). The even better news is that the Nic Cage chainsaw battle is just the cherry on top of one of the most batshit crazy and refreshing horror flicks to come along in ages.
Set in "1983 AD," Mandy stars Cage as a logger who lives in semi-isolation with his awesome girlfriend, Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), who mostly just wears kick-ass rock shirts, reads fantasy novels and, on one unlucky day, catches the eye of Jeremiah Sand, the psychotic leader of a drug-fuelled cult of '60s-style "Jesus freaks."
Cosmatos' pacing is almost Kurosawa-ianly laidback (the title of the movie doesn't appear until almost an hour in), but all that time he takes setting up the characters pays off huge in the end. And without giving too much away, Mandy is basically the ultimate midnight, grindhouse cult film with a heavy subtheme about duelling masculinity, alienation, and the rage that endlessly flows just beneath the surface of love, life and humanity.
Steeped in colour washes, brooding camerawork, and plenty of gaussian blur, Mandy watches like the product of Heavy Metal magazine, They Call Her One Eye, and 2001: A Space Odyssey all taking acid in the back of a 1979 van with a mural of a chick with a laser gun fighting a dragon on the moon painted on the side. A.k.a.: one of the best films of the year.
And Nicolas Cage is its shining star, stepping into a role with minimal dialogue and unleashing a transcendent level of "Cage-rage" craziness tempered with deep and genuine emotion. (Who else could nail a "knock knock" joke about Erik Estrada the way he does?)
If choosing actors for a film is like picking the right tool from the shed, Cosmatos just busted out the most finely tuned chainsaw and went absolutely apeshit. Mandy is available on iTunes.
On the big screen, the bloody good times continue with Hell Fest, a more standard horror flick about a group of teens in a horror theme park being terrorized by a masked serial killer. The catch is everyone thinks it's just part of the act. As with most horrors, there were no pre-screeners for this one, but we do know it's directed by the guy who made the shittiest entry in the Paranormal Activity franchise and has three credited screenwriters (beware). There's never a bad time to see a horror movie in the theatre, but don't expect too much out of this one.
And for the kids (and non-horror fans) Smallfoot is also opening. It's an animated flick about a community of yetis that discover something they've never seen before: a human. With B-rate animation and some decent songs, Smallfoot will play just fine with the kids, but the moralizing is pretty heavy handed.
For sure, lying to your people to protect them from oppression is actually just another form of oppression, but are seven-year-olds really gonna pick up on that? (Also, isn't that what we do to seven year olds pretty much all the time?)
Smallfoot could have used some Nicolas Cage.