Sean Connery

Matchstick Men

Year: 2003
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Eric Garcia (book), Nicholas and Ted Griffin (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Recently I saw an episode of Community that pondered the question “Nicolas Cage: good or bad?” I thought the whole thing was hilarious because when reviewing Cage movies in the past I have talked about how great he can be in some films and how hopelessly awful he can be in others.  On the show the question proved to be too much for even Abed Nadir to handle.  Scary stuff in truth because if Abed couldn’t handle it then not even Cage himself should broach the subject.  Nevertheless it is a very compelling question about an actor who has made over 70 films in the last thirty years.  It is interesting indeed to see an actor achieve the highest honor in film, the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1995 and follow it up the way he did. With his performance in Leaving Las Vegas Cage beat out Tom Hanks (who was going for his third straight win with his role in Apollo 13) and followed it up with The Rock. While I have always personally loved that film it is what it is, and I was twelve when it came out so naturally I thought it was awesome. The Rock was just a cheesy action movie but it wasn’t all that bad and it paired him with Sean Connery. More or less I think it was an acceptable idea for Cage to win such a prestigious award and then branch out into a new genre that was looking for new heroes as the regulars (Schwarzenegger and Stallone) were getting too old.  However, then in 1997 he starred in Con Air…….now what is there to say about that one? A cool cast all around but Cage was so specifically bad in that movie it made the whole thing a joke.  I actually referenced it specifically in our review of Lord of War saying that Cage could be great but you just never knew when he was going to do something like this:

Cage is certainly an interesting actor and maybe one day someone will succeed where Abed could not in answering that question posed by Community, but I’m not driving myself crazy trying to figure it out.  I ony bring it up because when it comes to this film I don’t really think there is much more to talk about beyond Cage.  It’s a good enough movie and everybody does their job well but as it goes with movies about con men the story is generally the same.  If you have seen one you have seen them all because there isn’t usually anything fresh brought to the table.  You might see some cool new cons but at the end of the film our characters have betrayed one another and the big shocker is not shocking at all.  Despite that I love this film because I think it is one of the films that will make you lean toward “Good” when trying to tackle that unsolvable Nicholas Cage question.  I think Sam Rockwell is exceptional in it and expected so much more from him after this.  It has sadly been quite disappointing to see his career never take off quite like I imagined it would ten years ago.  In this movie he is smooth and cunning as the protegé that has much more going on than he lets on.

I specifically thought Alison Lohman was incredible in this movie and like Rockwell I don’t know why it didn’t lead to greater things for her.  Rockwell however has still found marginal success here and there while Lohman has fallen off the map completely, not acting at all since 2009.  I read that she was twenty-two when she played this part and got the role by showing up to her audition dressed like a fourteen year old.  Apparently Ridley Scott was surprised when he found out how old she actually was and obviously she made an impression with her audition.  She had incredible chemistry with Cage and brought a lot to the film.  I also relate to it more now maybe because I have daughters myself. The father-daughter aspect of the film really gets to me and makes the movie more significant to me personally.  Regardless how it transitions into my fondness for Alison Lohman as an actress I still think it is unfortunate she isn’t out there making movies anymore.  I think this film proves she has plenty of talent and hopefully one day she will be able to showcase those skills again.

Ridley Scott is a director you can have faith in.  When he makes a movie you know it’s going to be made right and every once in a while one of them will absolutely blow you away.  No director is without his busts and Scott is not immune.  He has his fair share of films that weren’t successful but I think his successes far outweigh them.  I have always considered him the better of the two Scott brothers.  While I wasn’t specifically a fan of his younger brother I was still sad at the news of his passing a couple of years ago.  He was a good filmmaker and it was an unfortunate loss.  In this film Ridley Scott did a great job.  He specifically pushed for the ending to correlate with the book in which Cage’s character loses everything.  Producers didn’t want the “hero” of the film to end up like that and initially the script called for a different ending.  I think Scott made the right call and compensated the producers with a final scene in which we see Cage has moved on and into better things.  I like that ending better because his character didn’t deserve to win. As viewers we need to keep in mind that while we are enjoying watching this character he is still a seriously awful guy.  Con men are piranhas that prey on the weak and feeble.  There is nothing noble about them and every one of them out there deserves to lose everything and then be caught.

I don’t consider this film to be exceptional but it is entertaining and I enjoy it.  Little else matters right? I may not be willing to tackle the unsolvable question about Cage but I will be the first to point out where he is “Good” as opposed to “Bad.” At the end of the day I am just more interested in appreciating what he is good at and happy to ignore what he is bad at.  So maybe he takes an easy paycheck and makes a bad movie far too often.  The man is in the game to make money and he isn’t getting any younger.  Cage is great in this movie and I for one am happy just to appreciate his compelling and considerate performances.  This is a cool movie and I think it is more than worth your time to see.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This is one of my favorite movies in our collection. I remember the first time that I saw this and thinking how great Nicholas Cage was in this movie. I found him to be incredibly believable in this role. I was drawn in and interested from the very beginning and I really like how the whole movie played out even in the end. This is one of those movies that not a lot of people have seen or even know about really, but it is a really interesting flick.

matchstick_men

There is absolutely nothing exciting to me about this poster. I feel like someone used a few photoshop filters and effects and viola! you have…this. It includes the main players of the movie, which is good, but I really have no allusion to what this movie is about. It doesn’t even give you a reason to want to see the movie. The typography of the title is killing me. I really dislike it. I just overall really just don’t like this poster at all. I don’t think it does this film justice. I think a better solution to this poster would be to see Nicholas Cage smoking in his superbly clean house maybe beside the dog which shows some cash and the gun hanging out. See, now I am interested. I think this design is lazy.

NEXT MOVIE: The Matrix (1999)

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Year: 1989
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Jeffrey Boam, George Lucas, and Menno Meyjes

RYAN’S REVIEW

Let’s face it, Indiana Jones is at his best when he is fighting Nazis and I thought this movie really brought the franchise full circle and made it what it was. I think when your first sequel runs amuck you go back to square one and do things right the next time around.  That’s exactly what this movie did when it went back to fighting Nazis and brought back a couple of characters from the first film. Opening the movie with somewhat of an origin story was an excellent touch that went on to spawn a television series that I remember watching in my youth.  This was an altogether better film than Temple of Doom, and I will even go as far as to say that it rivals Raiders of the Lost Ark in the franchise.  Raiders is hard to top, but this comes as close as it gets and did plenty to create the marketability of the franchise.

I really think it is awesome that the franchise went back to the Nazis in the third film, being set in 1938.  It really disappoints me how the fourth film played out.  I have always thought that the greatest story line for a continuation of the franchise would go back to the Nazis again.  Sometime during WWII specifically.  I mean, what was Indy doing during “The Great War”? As a big time American enemy of the Nazis there should be little doubt there was a story line there.  Unfortunately we got something at a later date that ultimately settled around aliens.  Two thumbs way down on that. I can’t remember where I heard it but I remember being told George Lucas was to thank for the direction of the fourth film.  Another reason I despise the man that so many people love.

I think they really got back to the Indiana Jones roots in this movie, literally in fact.  River Phoenix was great as the young Indiana Jones.  This movie specifically is what I know the actor from and growing up knew his brother Joaquin much better.  I am a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix actually, despite his problems.  I expect nearly every day to find out he followed the same path as his brother and died from some kind of overdose but am always grateful when it doesn’t happen.  River Phoenix of course died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of twenty three with all the promise of a successful and fantastic acting career ahead of him.  His brother Joaquin shares his talents as well as his tendencies towards drugs unfortunately. His troubles are well known but I am a fan nonetheless, I think he is a great actor.  River could have been a great actor as well, and this movie as well as any he was in proves as much.  I thought he owned the role of the young Indiana Jones and I like how they explained the scar on his chin, a scar Harrison Ford got on his own that has been with him forever.

Harrison Ford again is great in the title role, he is the man that so many of us grew up with and idolized.  People will argue that Han Solo was a better role but I don’t think it got any better than Indiana Jones for Harrison Ford. It was the role of a lifetime and he was very good at it.  I really like that they brought back Denholm Elliott and John Rys-Davies for this movie. It made their characters more important to the franchise and I liked that.  Alison Doody served well enough in the female lead despite her name. She was beautiful and played her part well but it never took her anywhere.  I really liked Sean Connery in the part as Indy’s father, although it doesn’t make much sense for our ultra-American hero to have a father with an English accent.  Connery was one of the actors that proved age couldn’t slow down someone who was good at what he does and this movie played a big part in that. Harrison Ford plays a really strong character in Indiana Jones and it took a strong actor to play the part of the man that humbled him.  I think Connery did that in the deft fashion of a seasoned actor who knew his trade.  He brought a lot to the movie while not stealing the scene and I think it set the stage for all his roles to come over the following ten years.

For what Julian Glover lacks in the role of the lead villain Michael Byrne makes up for in spades.  General Vogel was evil and intimidating while Walter Donavon was just a weasel.  It was a bit of a twist when Dr. Schneider turned out to be bad but Indy should have been smarter than to fall for a beautiful blonde with a German accent. I do think it is weird that the movie implies that she had a relationship with both father and son but I suppose that was her job.

Indiana Jones jousts with a Nazi in this movie on motorcycles while he is armed with a flag against a machine gun and Indy wins, need I say more? This movie did as much as  Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Indiana Jones franchise and it is more than worth your time. I grew up with this as the completion of the series and it turns out that things would have been better off that way. I was really disappointed with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull despite how much money it made. There were parts that appealed to me as a fan but overall it was a disappointment and I wish the franchise had simply been left with this.  It is an awesome movie and proved to be incapable of being outdone twenty years later.

NEXT MOVIE: Inglousious Basterds (2009)