I...just don't know what to make of this movie. I knew before I watched the trailer that it was a Werner Herzog kind-of sort-of remake of the 1992 Abel Ferrara film The Bad Lieutenant, but since I haven't really seen that movie, I still had no expectations here. Well, that's not entirely true. Because I believe that Herzog is a way-out-there, unpredictable, unexplainable director, I know that Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans would probably be strange and quirky. I also knew that because the movie stars Nicolas Cage, I probably wasn't going to be too keen on what it has to offer.
And yet, there's something oddly appealing about BLPOCNO (as I am going to call it from now on). Yes, Cage is totally overacting here, but it's a manic, insane sort of overacting that seems appropriate given that his character is pretty much deep into various drug and might have crazy, over-the-top tendencies to start with. There are two lines in the trailer (I'll let you pick them out for yourself - one is in the first scene, the other is in a scene with Val Kilmer) that are so ridiculous that I laughed out loud - and yet I know that's Herzog's intent. I have no idea what BLPOCNO is going to be, and it might be a truly awful film, but I actually want to see it. Given how I feel about Cage, that's saying something.
Speaking of not knowing what to say about a trailer, now we have Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables. Basically, this is a combination of a trailer and an extended clip, all mashed together for a three minute preview. Now, I'm not the type of person who will generally go for an overblown action movie like this one. I've never been a big Stallone fan (though I like some of the Rocky movies a lot). I haven't seen Rambo or any of its sequels/prequels. But The Expendables is kind of appealing. Maybe it's because Jason Statham is cracking wise, or because Jet Li is there. Perhaps it's because I love Terry Crews, who will always hold a soft place in my heart for his role as Julius, Chris's cash-strapped dad on Everybody Hates Chris. Or it could be because Eric Roberts is just a terrific villain. I don't know the reasons why, really, but this might be something I'd go see in theaters. And if I'm saying that, you just know that the people who love violent action flicks are going to be out in force.
Trailer Grade: B
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
"Nothing's permanent. Not even death."
I can't decide if this line is poignant, manipulative, or something else altogether. For those unaware, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is Heath Ledger's final starring role, as he died while shooting of the film was taking place. Director Terry Gilliam has been beset with adversity many a time during the shooting of various projects, and it looked like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus would be the latest to suffer from this quirk of bad luck (see the documentary Lost in La Mancha if you're interested in learning an awful lot about what it takes to get a movie made and how fortune can impact a production in profound ways).
Yet, Gilliam had the inspired idea that Ledger's character, Tony, would be played by a variety of actors as he moves through dreamlands. Thus, we see Ledger in the role, but also Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. It seems to have been a Very Good Idea to do this, as the trailer shows brief glimpses of each actor in the same costume, and it works extremely well to stir up the imagination.
Of course, that's only the beginning for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which looks simply amazing. There are the trademark Gilliam visuals, of course, but they seem crisper, more carefully created, and all perfectly suited to the mood of the film than some of his recent creations.
The story is your classic "deal with the devil" trope. Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) makes a deal with the devil (Tom Waits, in a bit of inspired casting) so that he he might be immortal. One thousand years later, the devil comes to collect Doctor Parnassus's debt, in the form of his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole). Doctor Parnassus and his traveling theater troupe, and Tony all rally together to try to save the girl.
I'm very excited to see this film, but I do temper my anticipation with the memory that Gilliam's recent work has been interesting but far from perfect. I expect this to be a similar situation, but the trailer has certainly made Doctor Parnassus look like something I'll enjoy a great deal.