I’ve mentioned before how I think Nicholas Cage is the great spawn of Satan, his hairplugs the horsemen of the Apocalypse. He’s as clunky and long-faced as a camel, and no director should ever, ever ask him to run and expect the audience to still take him seriously thereafter. But dammit, he still gets roles in the films I still hanker after seeing. (Aliens blow stuff up – I’m there.) So I knew it’d have to suck it up and take myself along to Knowing.

In this tale, a time capsule dug up from a high school yard includes a note that appears to give the dates, GPS coordinates and casualty rates of all major accidents over the last 50 years. Spooky. Old Nick becomes a bit obsessed by this, and tries to make sense of it all before the whole world implodes. But do you know what? the results are really not half bad. The special effects are engaging, with the kind of gasp-worthy violence you just don’t usually associate with this kind of movie, the supporting cast (including the astoundingly lovely Rose Byrne) are solid, and even Old Nick steps off the ham-gas for a moment and throws out a vaguely nuanced and interesting performance. Grudgingly I’ll capitulate; he’s good in this.

The movie is not without its flaws – some of the things these folks do are unaccountably dumb – and you’ll either love or hate the ending. But you know that’s not why I’m here. I loved the fact that Knowing has a real All-American feel about it, particularly the high school scenes, yet it was virtually all filmed in and around Melbourne, Australia. Not all Aussies loved that, of course – see this report in The Age; as the author notes, why not just set the film in Melbourne? It’s the perfect place to make a movie about the end of the world….

Iron Man v. Ghost Rider

Someone up there was making a point; after the local release of the excellent Iron Man movie last week, the MNET Sunday night feature was Ghost Rider, another Marvel Comics superhero, this time starring Nicholas Cage.

The story’s set mostly in Texas, though it was filmed in Australia at the Melbourne Docklands film studios and in a place reportedly called “the motorcycle district” of Melbourne. There’s a video on the landscapes at the movie’s blogsite. I thought Australia did stand-in for the south rather well, though the crowd scenes at the Telstra Dome are created using computer-generated technology rather than real people. This is a recurring theme and flaw throughout the filming; cgi seems to always take precedence over things like substance, character and plot.

The dross that is Ghost Rider simply reiterates why Iron Man is so successful. Says Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Ghost Rider” has everything you don’t want from your superhero movie, including lack of logic, boring action scenes, bad acting in the supporting performances, a brutally slow 114-minute running time and cringe-worthy dialogue…..”

However, (in homage to Rolling Stone Magazine) the real evil in this flick isn’t Blackheart, the Devil’s son, it’s the soul-sucking devil of modern cinema: Nicholas Cage. Possibly the worst ham actor of his generation, Little Nicky Coppola has rarely met a character he couldn’t crucify. In this case, he is reported to have shied away from portraying Johnny Blaze as Marvel’s original “hard drinking and smoking bad ass” but rather decided to “give him some depth.” For the eternally overblown, pompous, sledgehammerish Cage, that means feeding him Jellybabies rather than Jack, and making him a fan of Karen Carpenter. That’s it. That’s what Cage thinks gives depth. It’s rubbish, really, and while you’re watching him grimace and fake, you realise with genuine horror that his hairpiece makes him a dead-ringer for Sir Cliff Richard. Scary.