The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
We start this week of big screen stars in DTV flicks with Trespass, a Joel Schumacher directed suspense thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. I first got wind of this one when our buddy Simon at Explosive Action sent me an e-mail with a link to an article about it being Direct to Video-- which isn't entirely true, it had a very, very short theatrical run followed by a quick turn around onto video, but close enough. The article also discussed if this meant the beginning of the end for Cage and Kidman as far as carrying a film in the modern movie market. I think this is more of a blip, at least for Cage, but we'll see.
Trespass has Cage as a very wealthy diamond dealer who lives in a very nice house with his wife, Nicole Kidman, and teenage daughter. Their world is turned upside-down when a group of thugs break in and hold the family hostage, looking for millions of dollars in diamonds they think he has. Cage is a little wilier than they expect though, and things begin to unravel as loyalties are tested and nerves are wracked. Who will get the upper hand in this deadly game of cat and mouse?
Though this isn't a great movie, the quality isn't why this wasn't given more theatrical support. Maybe it had more to do with Schumacher as director than anything, and I'll get to that in a bit, but this doesn't look much worse than a lot of the mediocre paint-by-numbers thrillers we see populating big screens in this country. Yes, there are too many double crosses and twists, but isn't that what happens in every suspense yarn? My biggest issue with it was that they had great talents in Cage, Kidman, and one of my new favorites, Ben Mendelsohn, but they leaned too heavily on Cam Gigandet, who, for my money, is just the heel in a teen movie. You want to put him in Twilight, fine; but you put him in with these actors, and give him a character with too much nuance, it's a little beyond his pay grade, and as a result, the end product suffers. Do I want a teen movie heel mean mugging it and acting tough with Ben Mendelsohn? Not after I've seen Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom I don't. Still, with that aside, this was good enough to get a big theatrical release, it was just one those ones that slipped through the cracks and ended up DTV.
This isn't the first time we've seen Mr. Cage here at the DTVC. Back when I did box office bomb posts, we looked at Bangkok Dangerous. Then, when we did our series of bad comic book movies, I reviewed Ghost Rider. Finally, when I did Friday wild card posts, I looked at Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-- New Orleans. (Man, I used to run a lot of gimmicks here, huh?) I'm sure in those other posts I've mentioned this, but it bears repeating, Cage's movie rap sheet is pretty prodigious. Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas-- one of my top 10 of the 90s--, multiple nine-figure grossing flicks, and at one time the distinction of being one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. If you look at his recent flicks, while there's definitely a drop at the gate, I don't know that he's slipping into any kind of DTV-dom anytime soon. Another thing you can look at is his propensity to mix in projects like this that won't make a lot of money. It's as if he does his Family Man and Knowing so he can afford to make his Bad Lieutenant and Trespass.
Nicole Kidman has a similar rap sheet. Also an Oscar winner, and up until about 2008's Australia she commanded about $15 million per picture, making her one of Hollywood's most expensive leading ladies. That year's important, because in 2007 she turned 40, and we all know Hollywood doesn't like its leading ladies north of 40. It seems then, based on her imdb bio, that she's playing the lead in films like this and Rabbit Hole-- for which she was nominated again for an Oscar, and one of my favorites of 2010--, then taking supporting parts in bigger grossing pics like the Billy Madison-style Adam Sandler romp Just Go with It. Hollywood's loss is our gain though, because she was great here, looking as stunning as ever, and showing that she hasn't lost her ability to carry a film as one of its leads.
Joel Schumacher has been much vituperated against for a lot of his big budget films, especially Batman and Robin (another that we did during our comic book series) and everything after it. It's after the Jim Carey silly-fest 23 though that he appears to split from Hollywood and start out on his own, working with more indie outfits with smaller budgets. If you look at his imdb bio, he actually discusses the problems with working in the current big Hollywood climate where all the major studios are owned by massive corporate conglomerates-- a problem that we movie bloggers know all too well with the power those massive conglomerates wielded in trying to get SOPA passed. I think that's what we're looking at here then, Schumacher making a film that he expects will make its money in DVD sales and video rentals, because he doesn't want to go through the traditional channels and deal with his work being controlled by those big conglomerates. That's a very important distinction from the usual mindset that DTV means someone's career is on the decline, and something that might be a benefit to us in the DTV world in the future, as more film makers and actors look to work outside the massive corporatization of Hollywood.
I can't wrap this post without mentioning Ben Mendelsohn. He was absolutely chilling in Animal Kingdom, every scene he was in was just dripping with menace. I was a little disappointed here, not with him, but with the way his character was written, because it's kind of all over the place, and betrays a lot of what he builds up early on. I'm sure my Aussie readers are much more familiar with him than I am, but based on what I've seen, I'm a big fan. There's a couple other people I want to mention too. Dash Mihok play a member of the gang, and he's great. Just a one-note tough with a sadistic streak, but he plays it well. The other is Jordana Spiro, who plays Mendelsohn's drugged out girlfriend. You probably remember her from the TBS sitcom My Boys, but I'll always remember her from the MTV late night soap Undressed. Remember that show? Why don't they make TV like that anymore?
Anyway, I better wrap it up, because this post has been long enough. If you're looking for the demise of Cage and Kidman into the depths of DVD-dom, you won't find it here. On the other hand, you won't find anything all that remarkable beyond some solid performances from Cage, Kidman, and Mendelsohn. This is pretty paint-by-numbers, and while it's not worse than a lot of the stuff that in theaters now, it's also not much better either. If you're curious though, in the States it's currently available on Watch Instantly.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1674784/