Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and drive-ins including the musical drama “The Cuban,” the meta horror film “Random Acts of Violence,” the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine” and the new Nicolas Cage movie “Primal.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with guest host Matt Harris to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the soulful drama “The Cuban,” the meta horror film “Random Acts of Violence,” the rock ‘n’ roll documentary “Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll Magazine” and the new Nicolas Cage movie “Primal.”
Imagine Noah’s Ark, but with killer CGI animals and a wise-cracking serial killer, and you get the general idea of “Primal,” the latest Nic Cage movie to go straight to VOD.
Frank Walsh (Cage) is a poacher in the jungles of Brazil; a loner who traps exotic animals for export to collectors and zoos in the US. His latest capture, El Fantasma Gato, is beyond rare. Worth maybe $1 million. “It’s a white jaguar,“ he says. “Maybe 350 to 400 pounds. Doesn’t like people.“ “Just like you Frank,“ says his kid sidekick (Jeremy Nazario) in the only comment that passes for character work in the “Primal’s” stripped-down b-movie world.
The action begins with Frank transports the animal on the large cargo ship. Trouble is, the US government is using the same ship to transport a psychopathic killer to justice. Held Hannibal Lecter-style in a cage below deck by Navy doctor Ellen Taylor (Famke Janssen) and Government lawyer Freed (Michael Imperioli), Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand) is a former military man turned international terrorist.
This is a B-movie, so no amount of security, chains or wild animals can stop Loffler from causing havoc on the high seas. Only one man, with a special set of skills and a rare white jaguar, can stop Loffler’s rampage. It’s nature gone wild on the high seas as Walsh snorts, “I’m going hunting.”
“Primal” is the kind of movie Nicolas Cage bangs out between visits to his tax lawyer. It’s a film so far beneath has talent you have to wonder why he signed on. Did he always want to work with a talking parrot? Does he get paid by the cliché these days? Hard to know. What is for sure is that “Primal” is one of those movies where the sheer stupidity of the story supplies the only entertainment value. The thrills fall short and the action is almost nonexistent but it’s almost worth the price of a rental to see Cage try and take down Loffler with a poison blow dart gun or argue with his parrot.
“Primal” will make you yearn for the days when Nic Cage movies like “Con Air,” “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “The Rock” promised and delivered offbeat delights. Cage brings his patented oddball performance style along for the ride but even that isn’t enough to give “Primal’s” bland storytelling and lazy action some zip.
The plot of “Oldboy,” Spike Lee’s new remake of a cult Korean film from 1993, is labyrinthine, relying on twists, turns and suspension of disbelief.
After seeing the film one has to wonder if “Oldboy” isn’t some elaborate real-world scheme of Lee’s. It occurred to me that the filmmaker, who moonlights as a New York University film professor, might well have gone through the convoluted machinations of bringing the movie to the big screen to teach his students how not to make a remake of a well liked film.
Sure, he calls the exercise a “re-interpretation,” not a remake, in the same way that Miles Davis’s version of “My Funny Valentine” is a transformation of the tune and not a cover version, but instead of elevating “Oldboy” onto a different plane, he hits all the wrong notes.
Josh Brolin is Joe Doucett, an advertising executive with an ex-wife, a three yar old daughter and a crippling addiction to booze. He’s the kind of guy who shows upon your doorstep at 3 am yelling, “No one wants to have fun anymore,” when you don’t let him in.
One night, after a bender he wakes up in a cell—actually more like a bare bones Motel Six with no windows but with a television and a mail slot for room service. From the TV he learns that he is accused of the brutal murder of his ex-wife, but is given no clue as to why he has been locked away.
For twenty years he rots in the room, so starved for human contact he fashions a friend à la Wilson in “Castaway” out of a pillowcase.
He emerges from his two decade sentence cleaned up, looking like a movie star, although a somewhat slightly dazed one, in a box in the middle of a field.
A mysterious stranger (Sharlto Copley) contacts him with a deal. Answer two questions and the entire experience will be explained and he will get to see his daughter. Fail and the mysterious goings on will continue.
Along the way the moonfaced Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen) and bar owner Chucky (Michael Imperioli) try and help Joe get to the bottom of the mystery.
If anyone should have been able to pull this off it should be Josh Brolin. There is no more manly-man actor in the mold of Lee Marvin or Lee Van Cleef working today. You believe him as a slickster with a drink in his hand and a practically indestructible force of nature able to withstand physical punishment that would make Grigori Rasputin look like a wimp.
But yet, in “Oldboy,” you don’t care.
The original movie was an epic tragedy, a twisted story (there will be no spoilers here) driven by revenge and dark secrets. All those elements are in place in Lee’s version, but the focus has shifted to the mystery, which is the least interesting thing about the story.
As a collection of red herrings and mumbo jumbo about “faceless corporations” it’s an incoherent mess of information searching for a form. As a story device it deflects the focus from the mental to the procedural, giving Brolin little to do except glower into the camera.
Add to that a badly botched remounting of the original’s most striking scene—a hammer battle in a long hallway—and you’re left wondering what Miles Davis might have done with this instead of Spike Lee.