Review – Cagey Delight (“The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent”)

His name is Nicholas Kim Coppola, nephew of famed filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now), but we all know him as Nicholas “Nic” Cage, an eclectic actor that has been in both major blockbuster films and strange low-budget movies.

In this wildly fictionalized story, Cage plays a version of himself where he parodies the very outrageous lifestyle we all know him from. After a failed attempt at getting a part in the latest hottest Hollywood movie, Nic is not only in a slump, but he owes 600K in back rent, his 16-year-old daughter Addy (Lilly Sheen) and ex-wife, Olivia Henson (Sharon Horgan), are not enjoying his company, and he’s getting a weird offer from his agent (Neil Patrick Harris). Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), a billionaire and Cage super-fan in Mallorca, Spain will pay Nic $1million just to have him fly over for his birthday party.  A million dollars? What could possibly go wrong?

With nothing to lose (and giving up acting on his mind), Nic agrees. Meanwhile, a B-story starts up as Nic arrives in Spain and is made an unwilling CIA informant by two agents (Tiffany Haddish & Ike Barinholz), who suspect Javi to be a vicious cartel mastermind who kidnapped the daughter of a Spanish president. So, while Nic is trying to help the two CIA agents get the goods on this guy, Javi is trying to sell Nic on a screenplay that he wrote. Nic and Javi soon bond despite Javi’s possible shady reputation and the two become pals, deciding to write their own screenplay.

In a third act surprise, the tone of the movie switches (like the screenplay they’re writing–how very meta!) to an action thriller as Javi brings Olivia and Addy over from the USA to help Nic with his personal demons. This is one crazy, outlandish movie as the real life of Nic Cage isn’t anything like this. . . or is it? He’s actually been married five times and has a son named Kal-El, yet they never mention that. But, they do manage to name drop quite of few of his movies like Face/Off, The Croods 2, The Rock, Con Air, Mandy, National Treasure, Moonstruck, Guarding Tess, and a hilarious shout-out to The Wicker Man.

Although not written by Cage, the screenplay by TV writer Kevin Etten (Ed, Desperate Housewives, Workaholics) and first-time director Tom Gormican (TV show Ghosted), is saturated with Cage-isms and pays a loving tribute to the man and his career. I can’t imagine Cage not inserting a few things in there himself at some point, after all, the film is about him, right?

Nic is simply playing himself, or what we perceive him to be, after seeing him grow up in the cinema. There are several times in the film where talks to himself. . . literally. Cage having a conversation with Nicky, a younger, leather-clad, more exuberant version of himself is so off-the-wall insane. Cage playing Cage in a movie about Cage being Cage is something you never see today and so worth a look!

It’s funny, odd, and has a quirky story worthy of any bizarre Nic Cage movie out there. Pedro Pascal is excellent as the Cage super-fan (you know the kind) who even has a museum dedicated to the actor. These two share a terrific chemistry and, take away that this is supposed to be a “fact-based” movie of sorts, this could have been a damn fine movie on its own. 

**Now showing only in theaters         

Private Parts (1997)

I don’t like Howard Stern. There, I said it. There’s something about this shock-jock (and the man) that rubs me the wrong way and his radio program is, to me, the height of on-air debauchery that exists solely to service his legions of fans. Oy!

So, it was no surprise to me that back in 1997, Stern put out a self-indulgent, congratulatory, narcissistic movie all about himself, his life, and how amazing he is on the radio. Massive ego, anybody? Based on his autobiography of the same name, Stern stars as himself, just after his catastrophic appearance at the MTV Music Video Awards as Fartman, an idiotic superhero character he created. On a plane bound for home, he feels the need to spill his life story to some lady (Carol Alt) next to him. Narrating (he sounds like Chazz Palminteri or Ray Liotta), Stern starts with his childhood, his strict parents, and his love of wanting to be on the radio.

After meeting his soon-to-be wife, Alison (Mary McCormack) in college, they hopscotch all over the Mid West and East Coast as Stern slowly eeks out a living as a “wacky radio DJ” at various radio stations. But at a Washington, D.C. station he finds his niche: riffing on sex, stream of consciousness stuff, and bouncing ideas and thoughts off of news anchor, Robin Quivers (playing herself). Despite his highly unorthodox show, over-use of sexual content, and blatant shock appeal, his ratings are up, much to the ire of his producers who can’t stand him. His success is noticed by execs at WNBC in NYC and Howard is offered a new radio show there with Robin and his old radio buddy, Fred Norris (playing himself). 

Just like in Washington, several execs there, like Kenny “Pig Vomit” Rushton (Paul Giamatti), futilely trying to stop him from doing his racy, raunchy, sex-laden radio show. At one point Howard throws Robin under the bus to save his butt which gets her fired, but later she gets re-hired after Stern begs with an apology. In the end, Howard became NYC’s beloved shock-jock, getting a ginormous Central Park celebration in his honor. And he wants all the world to know just how wonderful he is in the process.

I suppose that screenwriters Len Blum (Meatballs, Stripes) and newbie Michael Kalesniko must love Stern, ’cause they make him look like a saint and a truly misunderstood degenerate. The first third of the movie follows Howard’s mediocre rise in radio, then after his Washington gig, it’s pretty much Howard just doing his usual radio show schtick stuff, plus a whole lotta nudity thrown in for that ‘R’ rating and fans of Stern. Yes, it’s all very, “Hey, everyone! Look at me! Ain’t I great?!” but that was the whole point of the movie.

Actress Betty Thomas, who has directed only a handful of films like The Brady Bunch Movie and I Spy, does an adequate job, but really, she just points the camera around for the most part. Stern himself is a credible enough actor in his own right, I’ll give him that, as his antics on camera are very natural. Giamatti is excellent and look for Allison Janney in a small role as a radio producer. The real star here is McCormack as Alison, Stern’s long-suffering wife. McCormack plays it real, honest, and is the only one believable in this movie. 

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