The Rock (1996)

America: where the President would rather annihilate 81 innocent civilians than pay reperations to families of people who died on illegal missions that he sent them on. The plot is full of rockin’ entertainment but is occasionally hard to get into when said country is such a major player in it and isn’t always viewed through a critical lens. Still, the cast’s got charisma for days (Cage and Conn err not once) and the action overflows (see the destructive joyride through San Fran tangent).

Color Out of Space (2019)

Odd, and not just because its entire premise post-meteorite is “weird shit happens” (mediocre editing, performances, and dialogue make it feel off even when considering the bizarre plot-world-looking at you, Nic “Nathan” “Trump” Cage) but it works in the compelling grand stew of things-a mix of grotesque horror, investigative sci-fi, and contemplative mood-movie capped off nicely by a grounded epilogue. Couldn’t help but wish the VFX was as good as that of genre counterpart Annihilation though.

Con Air (1997)

A solid action-thriller with some excellent hair, I mean flair, like a sweaty, golden-maned Nic Cage in a southern drawl delivering lines like “Don’t treat women like that” and “I’m going to show you God does exist”, plus weirdly sappy bookending scenes. Not without flaws (the final chase was overkill) or truly WTF-moments though (the horrible treatment of the Indigenous prisoner, the baffling redemption arc for an inconsequential mass murderer side character, the TV sitcom-esque end credits).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)


Miles Morales becomes the Spider-Man of his reality and crosses paths with his counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat to all reality. (IMDb)
Despite its meta, self-aware take on the hero origin story it still feels a little too familiar by the classic big-explosion end (a different use of the shoulder-tap with the tragic villain would’ve helped). That said, it nails its humour and pace (though the Uncle Aaron twist is under-explained), and Miles is a refreshing lead for the old coming-of-age arc. More significant than anything though, is the fantastic animation (the action sequences are amazing) and unique comic book-esque flair.
8/10 (Great)


Next (2007)


A Las Vegas magician who can see into the future is pursued by FBI agents seeking to use his abilities to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack. (IMDb)
The main concept makes for lots of fun sequences (see Cris’ opening casino escape) but also one cheesy/creepy romantic subplot (“I’m her future”), while its dramatic potential (“Life is supposed to be a surprise, isn’t it?” “It would be nice”) is never realized. The cat-and-mouse action is entertaining when you ignore the cliche Euro villains and the fact that he’s running away from the good guys for no real reason (and he ends up helping them anyways, except not really–thanks, cringe-y twist).
6/10 (Mediocre)

Knowing (2009)


M.I.T. professor John Koestler links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule to past and future disasters and sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. (IMDb)
Cheesy acting and bland dialogue throughout are overcome by a story that-while scattered-is stocked full of so many interesting ideas (on death and the future, with strong religious undertones), genre shifts (from chilling horror-cue silent stalkers, creaky houses, kids who hear voices-to disaster thriller-the set pieces are excellent-to apocalyptic drama-see the drive through New York-to even alien sci-fi), and bold twists (see the third act death and departure) that it refuses to be ignored.
7/10 (Good)


Raising Arizona (1987)


When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family’s quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated. (IMDb)
Bursting with a brilliant and bizarre sort of energy right from its fast-forwarded how-we-met-story intro to its surprisingly touching final montage (both which star Cage’s excellent narration), with a wonderfully wacky premise serving as the foundation for some gut-busting slapstick (see the post-diaper heist chase with the dogs; the final baby bonanza) and outrageous secondary characters (see the obnoxious escapees Gale and Evelle; the redneck Glen and Dot and their destructive children).
8.5/10 (Amazing)


National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)


Benjamin Gates must follow a clue left in John Wilkes Booth’s diary to prove his ancestor’s innocence in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (IMDb)
The basis for another exciting clue-following adventure feels forced this time around but the one here is still delightfully rambunctious (helped by another memorable Cage turn: “I’m going to kidnap the president of the United States”). Unfortunately, the repetitive bad guy has even shakier motives, and the sequel-version of sidekick Riley is no longer funny but whiny and annoying. Attempted additions to the first film’s formula (see the marital woes of father and son) are less than engaging.
6.5/10 (Alright)

National Treasure (2004)


A historian races to find the legendary Templar Treasure before a team of mercenaries. (IMDb)
Far-fetched but fun and fast-paced treasure-hunt fodder led by the charismatic Cage. The long trail of clues-adventure (appreciably self-aware; see Patrick’s skepticism) starts with an exciting heist sequence and is continually heightened by its fugitive framework and the rival chasers (admittedly cliche), while comic-relief Riley tempers Ben’s historical exposition and even cheekily calls out the “got the girl” trope in an epilogue that regrettably compromises its “it doesn’t matter” message.
7/10 (Good)

Face/Off (1997)

To foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a ruthless terrorist. But the plan backfires when the same criminal impersonates the cop with the same method. (IMDb)
Cage and Travolta are both fantastic in their respective dual roles (each especially as the crazy Castor) in this cop vs. killer flick with a really cool (albeit far-fetched) identity switch twist. The main premise is mined for all its worth in a script loaded with delicious scenes of deception, but the intriguing character drama is tainted by a thin plot and an overload of excessive gun fights and action sequences: The resultant film teeters between unique thriller and typical action movie.
7/10 (Good)