Review – That’ll do, Nic. That’ll do. (“Pig”)

Nicolas Cage. Once a highly respected actor, an Academy Award winner (for Leaving Las Vegas) and the nephew of famed film director Francis Ford Coppola, but sometime after 2009 his acting and film choices became, oh. . . how to put this. . . seriously questionable.

After ten years plus of doing either voice-over work (The Croods, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse) or very oddball and B-rated films that either died at the box office or went straight to DVD, Nic Cage continued a streak of “what the hell are you thinking?” movies, but this one is a rare exception. This time around Cage plays Robin “Rob” Feld, a quiet, long-haired bearded mountain man in Oregon. A once renowned & famous chef (like Wolfgang Puck), he now lives like a hermit and ekes out a living because his pet pig can sniff out truffles, a prized delicacy in the culinary world that can fetch hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. It’s true, I watch the Food Network.

Anyway, his truffle agent, an obnoxious little dweeb named Amir (Alex Wolff–sounding like Edward Norton) is his only contact with the outside world until the unthinkable happens. Someone steals Rob’s McGuffin. . . I mean, pig! Those bastards! Devastated, Rob and a reluctant Amir, start an elusive hunt through the woods to find the pignappers, leading them back to Portland and Rob’s old stomping grounds. Picking up clues from a secret underground chefs Fight Club (and getting brutalized in the process), Rob and Amir track down Derrick (David Knell), Rob’s former sous chef pupil at an ultra-swanky restaurant. After a riveting and powerful lecture in the eaterie, Rob learns who stole his best friend.

But getting his swiney sweetheart back isn’t going to be easy, as it’s in the clutches of Darius (Adam Arkin), a maniacally egotistical & powerful restaurateur/businessman, who’s also Amir’s estranged father. But Rob has a few tricks up his sleeve that you don’t see coming, culminating in an ending that is hard to forget. This heartbreaking and memorable film is from newbie writer/director Michael Sarnoski, making his big-screen debut, what a debut it is!

More of a dramatic character study than a slam-bang actioner or some blood-soaked revenge yarn, this film took me completely by surprise with the subject matter and the carefully crafted way it was presented. Often times, many details in the film are left out, like who certain people are, who they represent, and how they fit into the narrative.Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you. Exposition be damned for once! YOU gotta fill in the gaps yourself! It’s wonderfully slow, methodical, well-paced, and keeps you hungry for the next scene.

No bullets, bombs, explosions, superheroes, or lousy dialogue. Just a beautifully rendered tale that is quite an odd duck. . . er, pig. All the acting is top-notch; watch for a sizzling cameo by Gretchen Corbett that is quick, but excellent. And major kudos to Nic Cage for giving a brilliant, grounded, serious performance without going all crazy or flying into one of his famous Cage-rage tirades. Just check out the moving speech he gives to Derrick; that’s Academy Awards stuff right there! Highly recommended!

**Now showing in theaters

Keanu (2014)

Key & Peele (Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele) are ROTFL hysterical. If you’ve followed their five-season run on TV’s Comedy Central, it was inevitable that, as with most comedians, a movie starring the boys would come out just like Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, or Laurel & Hardy did. And THIS one has a kitty-cat in it!

Rolling out like a series of their TV skits strung together with a loosey-goosey plot just silly enough to believe (plus a ridiculous deus ex machina ending), this often hilarious movie starts off with a warehouse massacre. In gangland, the most feared assassins are the mute Allentown Brothers (K&P in heavy makeup and stringy black wigs) who ply their trade in a slo-mo ballet of bullets like The Boondock Saints. In their death wake, they become attached to a tiny, adorable little kitten that escapes their clutches. The kitty runs away and finds its way to Rell (Peele), a nerdy guy in a deep funk since his girlfriend left him.

Rell calls the kitten Keanu (after the Hawaiian word) and his life turns around completely. Meanwhile, Rell’s middle-class cousin, Clarence (Michael-Key) is clueless as to just how “white” he is and loves George Michael music. Together they get into huge trouble when Keanu is cat-napped by the ruthless drug lord named Cheddar (Method Man), head of the notorious 17th Street Blips gang. Desperate and obsessed with getting Keanu back, Rell and Clarence go to the bar where Cheddar and his homies hang out, but they’re mistaken for the infamous Allentown Brothers.

Cheddar, who dressed up little Keanu like a mini-thug, will only give him up if the guys prove their worth by selling some “Holy S–t”, a brand new drug. They agree, but have no idea it’s to actress Anna Faris and some friends who. . .well, let’s just say the night doesn’t end well, okay? That’s because of Cheddar’s chief hood, Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish), the only female in the gang. Things go from bad to worse when the real Allentown Brothers show up and grab their imposters, but the guys escape thanks to Keanu! That’s one resourceful kitty!

Once their identity is blown, they’re sold to the super-powerful drug kingpin, Bacon (Luis Guzman) who wants the kitten too, even though Cheddar refuses to give him up! Geez, everyone wants this kitty! The ending shoot-out and escape is just plain silly and sometimes you have to roll your eyes, as all the loose ends are tied up at once in the most ridiculous way.

Written by Peele and Alex Rubens (Community, Rick & Morty) and directed by long time K&P TV series Peter Atencio, the film plays out like one very long K&P TV episode, laced with profanity and some nudity. As with all skit comedy, some jokes and situations hit their marks and are LOL, while others fall flat and you wait for the next one. Bottom line: if you love K&P, you’ll love this movie. Their brand of comedy is absurd, infectious, outrageous, and sometimes even a little long-winded, but it’s always good for a laugh. And that kitten? OMG, that kitty is just the cutest! Ahem. . . sorry, where was I?

There are some brilliant moments in Keanu and some equally dumb ones as well. The initial story arc of the kitty being the McGuffin is clever, but Clarence’s sub-plot of his iffy marriage is contrived and awkward. Many scenes feel too ‘skit comedy-ish’, as they begin and end abruptly without any reason and some jokes go on longer than they should. But I have to admit, K&P are engaging and fun to watch.

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