Drive Angry

Drive Angry

Nicolas Cage can remember when it was his career that was on fire.

(2011) Supernatural Action (Summit) Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner, Billy Burke, David Morse, Todd Farmer, Christa Campbell, Charlotte Ross, Tom Atkins, Katy Mixon, Jack McGee. Directed by Patrick Lussier

It is said that a man will walk through the fires of Hell for his daughter. For some that’s more literally true than for others.

John Milton (Cage) has been away for a very long time. You might think he’s been in prison and he has, after a fashion; y’see, Milton’s been dead for several years – in the biggest, nastiest, prison of them all, Hell.

But he’s out now, walking the Earth from a place where you don’t exactly get paroled for good behavior. He’s a man on a mission; as it turns out, his daughter has been murdered by a charismatic cult leader going by the name of Jonah King (Burke) and not merely murdered, but butchered. To make things worse, her infant daughter (Milton’s granddaughter) has been kidnapped by King, earmarked for human sacrifice that will bring about a new world order – Hell on Earth.

Chasing him is the Accountant (Fichtner), an urbane demon who never gets ruffled but is someone you definitely do NOT want to mess with, as well as the police, as personified by the brutal Cap (Atkins). Assisting him is Piper (Heard), a waitress at a diner who Milton saves from being beaten up by her boyfriend (Farmer, who co-wrote the movie incidentally), and Webster (Morse), a former compadre of Milton’s.

Piper and Milton drive through the south, chasing the cult and trying to retrieve the baby before the full moon. Hell is walking the Earth and things are going to get strange before all is said and done.

Director Lussier has been impressive in some of the opportunities he’s had; this is very much a tribute to a variety of different grindhouse genres. Quentin Tarantino would have a field day with this kind of thing; in many ways, his Deathproof has the same pedigree as this does, which owes a little more to Race with the Devil in many ways with its satanic cult overtones.

Nicolas Cage has had a really bad run in terms of box office. The one-time Oscar winner and A-lister has taken on enough B movie projects to become in danger of becoming the next Steven Seagal. Milton is not really given much of a personality and Cage doesn’t really supply him one. He talks in a laconic monotone and doesn’t show very much anger or desperation. Maybe it’s because he’s dead, but he doesn’t seem to have much passion about…well, much of anything. The title of the film may be Drive Angry but Drive Irritated might have been more suitable to the tone as Cage projected it.

The movie is carried to a very large extent by Amber Heard. She kicks ass, but not in an unrealistic way; she gets beaten up early on but she takes no crap from anybody. The fact that she looks awesome in her Daisy Dukes (yeah, there are all sorts of references like that here) doesn’t hurt. She isn’t so much a damsel in distress, even though there’s a little bit of that here.

Fichtner, who’s created a nice niche for himself as a bureaucratic corporate sort, takes that role and plays it to the “nth” degree here, only with a certain amount of a sly wink. He has a good time with the role, giving it the right amount of attitude to make it memorable. I found myself looking forward to Fichtner’s screen time more than Cage’s.

Burke, best known for his work in the Twilight series, channels both Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin as the cult leader. It’s not amazing work, but solid enough; fortunately Cage doesn’t provide enough fireworks to make their showdown more meaningful.

However, there is plenty of bang for your buck here. Plenty of things get blown up, lots of jiggling boobs (including a great scene when Cage is having sex with a barmaid (Ross) when his hotel room is attacked by a horde of farm tool-wielding cultists, Cage starts shooting at his attackers, all the while remaining inside his partner even when one hits him with a taser, giving the lady a good shaking) and enough bullets flying to make an NRA highlight reel.

This movie is essentially mindless fun. If you try to think about what the plot means too much, your head might just spontaneously combust. However, it’s fine grindhouse entertainment that stands proudly alongside the best of that genre from the 70s and 80s.

REASONS TO GO: Mindless entertainment, lots of things blow up and lots of sex and violence.

REASONS TO STAY: Little plot, zero plausibility and Nicolas Cage is strangely flat.

FAMILY VALUES: Hmmm, where to begin? There’s violence, sex, nudity, rough language and disturbing images. There’s also baby sacrificing going on but that’s a whole other ball of wax.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In the film, Milton drives a 1964 Buick Riviera, 1969 Dodge Charger and a 1971 Chevy Chevelle.

HOME OR THEATER: I know I’m in the minority here but I think this is one that should be seen on the big screen.


TOMORROW: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days


Four-Warned: March 2011

March 2011Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

4. PAUL (1.9)

1. I SAW THE DEVIL (1.7)
3. I AM (2.0)
4. BLACK DEATH (2.1)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

MARCH 2, 2011

UNCLE BOONME WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Strand) Genre: Fantasy. An elderly man at the end of his life sees visions of his dead wife and son as he journeys to the cave where his first life began. Release Strategy: New York (opens in Los Angeles March 4). RATING: 2.8 The Thai film industry is producing some wild, creative movies and judging from the trailer this is another one.

MARCH 4, 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. An ambitious politician falls in love with a girl and inadvertently upsets the Master Plan. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Although the release was delayed, I’m still eager to see it – anything based on a Philip K. Dick story is always interesting to me.
BEASTLY (CBS) Genre: Fantasy. An arrogant jerk is cursed by a witch to be ugly and remain so for a year unless he could get someone to fall in love with him – or else remain a freak for the rest of his life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 This ain’t no Disney version; but you might find some of its stars on the Disney Channel!
BEREAVEMENT (Crimson) Genre: Horror. A teenager stumbles onto a rural Pennsylvania pig farm that lies at the center of a missing child case. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Good cast and a decent trailer elevates this above standard direct-to-DVD fare.
HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE (Anchor Bay) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young orphan is dropped into the lives of a bachelor and his circle of friends, altering all of them forever. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Decent cast but the trailer didn’t inspire me to go out and see it.
I SAW THE DEVIL (Magnet) Genre: Crime Thriller. When the pregnant wife of a cop is brutally murdered by a sadistic serial killer, he puts his badge aside and becomes a monster himself to gain revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Korean cinema has become one of the world’s best, particularly with films like this one.
OLD CATS (Elephant Ear) Genre: Black Comedy. A pair of feckless schemers tries once too often to swindle money out of their ailing mother, leading to a comedy of terrors. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.5 Haven’t seen the trailer, plot isn’t terribly compelling.
RANGO (Paramount) Genre: Animated Feature. A chameleon with dreams of becoming a swashbuckling hero must become one to save a town in the Old West. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Director Gore Verbinski and actor Johnny Depp created Captain Jack Sparrow…and now…a lizard?!?
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (Relativity) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young man adrift in the 80s tries to impress his high school crush with success he doesn’t possess. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Topher Grace can be very funny but I suspect the best laughs in the movie were in the trailer.

MARCH 11, 2011


3 BACKYARDS (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. Three neighbors in the same suburb find their perceptions of their environment changing during the course of a single day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 These sorts of anthology films are beginning to get old hat.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (Columbia) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. An alien invasion of the Earth finds mankind making their last stand in the City of Angels. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Still wary after the disappointment that was Skyline but trailer looks really good.
BLACK DEATH (Magnet) Genre: Horror. An emissary from the Church investigates the only village in Europe untouched by the Black Plague. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Sean Bean is a terrific actor and I’ll go out of my way to see him in anything.
CERTIFIED COPY (IFC) Genre: Romance. A gallery owner in a small Tuscan village attends the lecture of an author on a book on forgery in art; as the two spend the rest of the afternoon, they are mistaken for a married couple, a pretense they decide to maintain. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The lustrous Juliette Binoche won a Best Actress award at Cannes for her performance here.
THE DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. A passionate Russian art enthusiast cajoles, begs and cons his way into saving a tremendous amount of Russian avant garde art from destruction by the Soviets by hiding the work in plain sight in a museum in Kazakhstan. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles March 18). RATING: 2.3 I’m hoping this lives up to The Art of the Steal.
ELEKTRA LUXX (Goldwyn) Genre: Sex Comedy. A former porn star trying to reform is persuaded by a friend to sleep with her fiancée in exchange for the lyrics to a lost rock album that is purportedly all about her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Strange and funny trailer, but I’d always at least take a look at a movie with Carla Gugino and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it.
I AM (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Director Tom Shadyac (of Ace Ventura fame) has a near-death experience and changes tactics, filming some of the world’s most brilliant minds about what is wrong with the world and how to change it – with surprising results. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opens in New York City March 18). RATING: 2.0 I had to admit to having absolutely no interest in this…until I saw the trailer.
JANE EYRE (Focus) Genre: Drama. A governess gets romantically involved with the master of the house in 19th Century England. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Do we really need a new version of this classic, even with Mia Wasikowska in the title role?
KILL THE IRISHMAN (Anchor Bay) Genre: True Crime Drama. A turf war rages in Cleveland circa 1976 between Irish and Italian mobs. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Looks gritty…just the way I like it.
MARS NEEDS MOMS (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. A young boy is forced to travel to the Red Planet to rescue his mom who has been kidnapped (along with a bunch of other Earth moms) to take care of Martian kids. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D and IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.9 Apparently kids are annoying on every planet in the solar system.
MONOGAMY (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Drama. A wedding photographer becomes obsessed with an exhibitionistic woman whose public trysts capture his eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Seems very sexy on the surface but not sure if the movie here is more prurient than thought-provoking.
RED RIDING HOOD (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror Fantasy. A village is set upon by a mysterious beast and the clue to its apprehension may lie with a plucky young woman. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Think Grimm’s Fairy Tales…with werewolves!

MARCH 16, 2011

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. The iconic fashion photographer for the New York Times is profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 While I suspect the human aspect might be appealing, fashion photography does nothing for me.

MARCH 17, 2011

LORD OF THE DANCE 3D (Kaleidoscope) Genre: Musical. Those who haven’t seen Michael Flatley and his celebration of Celtic dance can catch the experience in their local theaters in glorious 3D. Release Strategy: Special Engagement. RATING: 3.5 I know a lot of people love this show but I’ve never been able to get into it.

MARCH 18, 2011

THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF AND THE SWORDSMAN (China Lion) Genre: Martial Arts Comedy. A group of misfits get involved with a kitchen cleaver made from the five great swords of martial arts. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Sounds like something along the lines of Kung Fu Hustle; at least that’s what I’m hoping for.
CRACKS (IFC) Genre: Drama. A girl’s school dive team’s dynamic is disrupted by the arrival of a beautiful Spanish exchange student. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Eva Green is indeed beautiful and sexy, but a prim girls school teacher?
DESERT FLOWER (National Geographic) Genre: Biographical Drama. The riveting story of Walis Dirie, the supermodel who brought international scrutiny on the practice of female genital mutilation on African women. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 An amazing cast and a wonderful trailer make this a film to look out for.
LIMITLESS (Relativity) Genre: Science Fiction. A pill gives an underachieving writer access to 100% of his brain function. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 An intriguing trailer and an equally intriguing cast, including Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Lionsgate) Genre: Mystery. A sleazy lawyer who works out of his car gets a high-profile case that calls into question his long-held amorality. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Based on the bestselling novel could be a franchise picture for Matthew McConaughey.
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. When a son is victimized by brain damage, his father utilizes music therapy to bring him back and in the process, creates a place where the two can find common ground for the first time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 From the author of Awakenings, this is based on an actual case study.
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. In Chile’s Atacama Desert, astronomers study the sky while relatives of the victims of Pinochet’s repressive regime search for the remains of their loved ones there. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 From what I understand this has an amazing emotional impact.
PAUL (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction Comedy. A couple of sci-fi geeks from the UK touring the United States run into a real live alien in Area 51. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with Seth Rogen directed by the guy who did Superbad; what’s not to like?
TORNADO ALLEY (Giant Screen) Genre: Documentary. An ambitious filmmaker tries to film the inside of a tornado with a 70mm camera. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Science meets spectacle.
WIN-WIN (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A struggling lawyer who earns extra cash by being a high school wrestling coach finds his world upended by the teenage grandson of a client who has run away from home. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Paul Giamatti has been as good as any actor over the past ten years.
WINTER IN WARTIME (Sony Classics) Genre: War Drama. A 14-year-old boy becomes involved with the Dutch Resistance near the conclusion of World War II. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Sounds like it could be along the lines of Verhoeven’s Black Book.

MARCH 23, 2011

MY PERESTROIKA (IFC) Genre: Documentary. The last generation of children raised under Soviet rule in Russia adjusts to life in a different political system. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 Makes you wonder how well we’d adjust to an entirely new economic and political system.

MARCH 25, 2011

THE 5TH QUARTER (Rocky Mountain) Genre: True Sports Drama. After the death of his younger brother in a tragic accident, Wake Forest football star Jon Abbate dedicates the season to his brother’s memory and in so doing helps engineer one of the great turnarounds in college football history. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I’m not sure but I think I’m beginning to burn out on these sorts of films.
BAL (Olive) Genre: Drama. The sensitive son of a beekeeper in remote Turkey must enter a deep and treacherous forest to find his missing dad. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.6 I’m interested to see a bit of Turkey I’ve never seen but not sure the story will hold up.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family Comedy. Greg Heffley enters the seventh grade to find a whole new set of challenges coming his way. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 The trailer isn’t terribly impressive but the first film was a surprise success.
THE LION OF JUDAH (Animated Family Films) Genre: Animated Feature. A family film revolving around Biblical themes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Not my cup of tea.
MIRAL (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. An orphan in an Israeli refugee camp quickly becomes involved in the Palestinian resistance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 The trailer looks intriguing but the plot sounds a little bit confusing.
PEEP WORLD (IFC) Genre: Comedy. As a dysfunctional family gathers for their father’s 70th birthday, tensions run high after the youngest sibling publishes a book detailing all their dirty laundry. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The trailer looked pretty hilarious.
POTICHE (Music Box) Genre: Comedy. A trophy wife proves to be even more adept at running her husband’s business than he was. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 French sexual politics – and Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu! Mon dieu! C’est magnifique!
SKATELAND (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Coming of Age Drama. An East Texas teen hangout in the early 80s begins to lose its luster as the kids who hung out there begin to grow apart. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds a bit like The Last Picture Show.
SUCKER PUNCH (Warner Brothers) Genre: Fantasy. A young woman is thrown into an asylum with only days to get away before she is lobotomized; she utilizes a fantasy world in order to make her strong enough to get out. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.2 Zack Snyder is one of the most visually interesting directors working today.
WHITE IRISH DRINKERS (Screen Media) Genre: Drama. A pair of working class Irish brothers in 1975 Brooklyn concocts conflicting schemes on getting out of their dead-end lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I have a soft spot for working class Irishmen from Brooklyn.

MARCH 30, 2011


THE FOUR TIMES (LE QUATTRO VOLTE) (Lorber) Genre: Drama. The pastoral setting of a goatherd in Calabria provides the setting for a musing on the nature of rural life and its decay. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 There is no dialogue and the movie sounds a little bit too avant garde for my tastes.

The Adjustment Bureau, Beastly, Rango, Battle: Los Angeles, Red Riding Hood, Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Paul, Sucker Punch