By Stephe Raven

The Unbearable Weight of Being Nicolas Cage

To say that Nicolas Cage is a deep actor may be a stretch. I mean, he has actually won a few awards. To say that he is a versatile actor would be closer to the truth. Don’t get me wrong, he has made some great movies (“Raising Arizona” will always be one of my favs!). He is definitely an actor not afraid to take a chance on a role, and more importantly, to be able to laugh at himself. Being an actor who is known for his quirky characters, he really does know how to let us laugh along him on any crazy ride.

That being said, when you sit down to watch “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” you have no idea what you are in for, but I have to tell you, it’s a ride worth hanging on to. Cage plays a loose version of himself as a down-on-his -uck actor looking for that next film that will showcase his talent. 

His agent (a nice cameo of Neil Patrick Harris) gets him a gig being himself for a rich super fan, the job paying him a cool million just to appear at this guy’s birthday party and even reading a script that the guy wrote himself just for, yep you guessed it, Nic Cage. 

The fan is played quite charmingly by Pedro Pascal. He is such a fan that he has his own Nicolas Cage museum, which goes off the deep end but has to be experienced to see what an avid junkie he is. 

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal Photo Credit: Karen Ballard/Lionsgate

They seem to be in such a sweet bromance that your teeth start to hurt and you are waiting for a big smooch…no but seriously, they seem to find this perfect comedic timing together and you want them to be best buds.

The antics with these two were fun to watch for sure.It doesn’t seem like it will work, but as the plot moves along it just does. You seriously think it’s a total cheese fest, but it works!

All that gets ruined for you when the CIA (hello Tiffany Haddish, you sure are busy this year!) decide they need need help taking down Nic’s new bestie, who appears to be an arms dealer. Every time you think it can’t get any more unbelievable, it does…but not in a bad way. 

Hilarity and LSD take us down the rabbit hole and actually all makes for a silly, but fun movie. And let me tell you, there are so many Nic Cage Easter eggs, you may have to see the movie a few times to catch them all!  Not gonna win any awards here, but it was a lot of fun seeing on the big screen. 

We all need some Nicolas Cage to get us out of the leftover pandemic fog we have been in. Go have some fun and get those laugh muscles back in shape!

Pedro Pascal as Javi and Nicolas Cage as Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Photo Credit: Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a 2022 comedy-action film directed by Tom Gormican and starring Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Kim Coppola, Pedro Pascal, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Lily Sheen and Sharon Horgan. It runs 1 hour and 47 minutes and is rated R for language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and violence. It opens in theaters on April 22.

By Lynn Venhaus
William Tell (a shortened surname) is a broken man, but he hides it well. With his well-groomed appearance, this sharp-dressed man looks every bit a winner when he walks through casinos across the country.

But cracks in his icy façade start showing in “The Card Counter,” once we view his austere existence, his penchant for staying at nondescript motels, his OCD-like tendencies, and the flashbacks to his grisly military service.

This revenge thriller shows how an ex-military interrogator turned gambler is haunted by the ghosts of his past.

Tell served in the Iraq War, and afterwards, spent 8.5 years in military prison for torturing the enemy at the Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad. The abhorrent behavior of the interrogators and the squalid living conditions are well-documented and glimpsed here.

Isaac is convincing as a man trying to come to terms with the lives he destroyed emotionally and physically. But the mental turmoil has clearly taken a toll, and he seeks redemption – despite not being able to forgive himself.

Wrestling with demons is a specialty of writer and director Paul Schrader, whose last film in 2017, “First Reformed,” was about a guilt-wracked pastor (Ethan Hawke, in his best work to date).

The quintessential outsider, Schrader finally received his first Oscar nomination for the “First Reformed” screenplay but has been part of such highly praised films as “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “American Gigolo” for five decades.

He’s not afraid to explore the dark side, and neither is Isaac, who is most well-known as the heroic pilot Poe Dameron in the new “Star Wars” chapters. But he has impressed with edgy portraits in “A Most Violent Year,” “Ex Machina” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

This film is dark and disturbing, but also haunting and hypnotic. That is largely due to the cast’s interpretation of this material as well as first-rate production elements.

The fine young actor Tye Sheridan (“Mud,” “Joe”) plays Cirk, who is hell-bent on revenge. He hooks up with Tell at a law enforcement convention, where their mutual enemy, a retired major turned security consultant, Gordo (customary good work from Willem Dafoe), is the keynote speaker. Cirk blames Gordo for his father’s suicide, and he was Tell’s superior officer.

Tell decides to take Cirk under his wing on the casino trail, where he has met the intriguing La Linda, a keen observer who runs a gambling stable for corporations. She has her eye on Tell. He’s wary of this mysterious financier – Tiffany Haddish, playing against type – but he’s in. The trio’s goal is the World Series of Poker.

Like Rev. Toller in “First Reformed,” Tell writes his innermost thoughts in a diary. He has determined that Cirk is too undisciplined to control, and things will go from bad to worse – let’s leave it at that.

While the garish confines of casinos speak volumes about the people who flock there for refuge, entertainment and competition, it is a fitting backdrop for this drama. Alexander Dynan’s cinematography and Ashley Fenton’s production design add to the bleak atmosphere.

The throbbing music score composed by Robert Levon Been adds to a feeling of urgency and is a superb component to the escalating tension.

This is a tough watch. There is an inescapable sadness to it all, but if you are familiar with Schrader’s work, you would know what you are getting. His themes, as always, are his view of the country we live in, and the vulnerable way we all feel under duress.

“The Card Counter” is a revenge thriller directed by Paul Schrader and starring Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan and Willem Dafoe. It is rated R for some disturbing violence, graphic nudity, language and brief sexuality and the run time is 1 hour, 51 minutes. It opened in theaters on Sept. 10. Lynn’s Grade: B