Mom and Dad

Year: 2018
Directed by: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur

WRITTEN BY JESSICA PEĂ‘A

As parents, you’re supposed to protect and care for your children, right? Sign their permission slips, feed them, make sure they make curfew, and one day kill them. No? Well, ‘Mom and Dad’ is so strangely engrossing and completely batshit crazy that you can’t help but enjoy your time watching it. Brian Taylor, responsible for those ‘Crank’ films starring Jason Statham, goes out on a limb here as he tries to create something uniquely bold. There’s no better way to tackle a film so bizarre than to assess it just as ferociously as its titular actor, Nicolas Cage. From ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ to ‘The Wicker Man’, Cage has never discouraged his passion to tackle everything. His career of oddball roles and an Oscar win have led him to this role. We see Cage demolish a pool table all while singing the Hokey Pokey. This is admirable in a way only the Nic Cage could pull off, because after all, he is a treasure-seeker. Alongside Selma Blair, ‘Mom and Dad’ tabs quite the impression, just so long as you forgive its crumbling narrative and abnormal editing. It is ridiculousness wrapped up in pure adrenaline fun.

‘Mom and Dad’ is unlike your usual nonsensical trip. Imagine your modern suburban society. Now imagine it if all parents were to suddenly snap into feral instincts to kill their children. That’s pretty much the premise of ‘Mom and Dad’ and it never lets go of you. It cranks up the psycho and leaves you unsupervised to deal with its mess. Fast-paced and sketchy, it makes its way through a string of violent chases to give the audience an erratic feeling of discomfort without ever really saying anything, but that’s it. There’s nothing more to offer here than a nihilistic approach to parenting. One day, parents just show up early outside of school cafeterias just waiting for that bell to ring so they can wring some necks themselves. It’s oddly amusing to see these same parents tackling and murdering their children running across the football field. The choreography is really loose and wild, allowing for some quick camera work to focus in on the madness.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and for that, we’re grateful. You could even give it a pass as a thrilling comedy. Cage and Blair give convincing performances that snap to fluid hysteria like a weak twig. Cage breaks into a maniacal, kill-hungry father and it’s a no-brainer this performance will be recorded as another cult “freak out” in his career. Cage is unabashedly charismatic and glorious in this role. We couldn’t have expected much else here, and hey, we can really get a kick out of this! Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur star as the two kids trying to escape from their parents’ grasp. They have to work together to overcome this insatiable strike and we can sort of get behind them at some points. The game of cat and mouse gets a strange twist here. More than its unnecessary parent backstories and questionable origins, the film suffers a lot out of its abrupt ending. Maybe we didn’t come in for much, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Nothing is quite resolved and we realize it was just all show, no prize.

If you watch ‘Mom and Dad’ hoping for a critically good film, you’re not going to have a good time and you’re going to be greatly disappointed. It’s the kind of film you put on when you have friends over and you just want to see them squirm at just how laughably insane the film is. Truly, it’s a film better enjoyed if you just roll with its lunacy. It’s safe to say it’s self-aware of how crazy the core concept is, so it plays with its execution, although a complete mess, and gives us a backbone of crazy resilience to feast on. I’ll say it, it’s my favourite Brian Taylor film (though that’s not saying much). Our beloved Nic Cage did not go underused and that’s all we really care about.

 JESSICA’S RATING: 5/10

Looking Glass

Year: 2018
Directed by: Tim Hunter
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Robin Tunney, Marc Blucas, Ernie Lively

Written by Tom Sheffield

The latest addition to Nicolas Cage’s CV,  ‘Looking Glass’, heads straight for digital release tomorrow, and coming to DVD later this month. Despite some fine performances from the film’s leads, this shallow thriller fails to build any suspense, and consequently struggles to keep the viewers attention.

Following the death of their daughter in a tragic accident, Ray (Cage) and Maggie (Tunney) buy a motel in an attempt to start a new life together. After Ray makes an unusual discovery in the basement he begins to question the history of the motel, and his life begins to spiral as his investigation uncovers a dark truth.

The opening scene instantly gives off a nostalgic feel to it – as if you had just sat down to watch a film you’d rented from Blockbuster on a Friday night. The credits swoop and fade in during the first few moments of the film, and even the transitions during the brief flashback of their child’s fatal accident are reminiscent of an old-school thriller. These little nostalgic nods really set up what sort of tone you should expect for the 99 minutes that follow.

The film really does feel like an old-school Friday night rental, from the visuals, to the tone, and even the direction. Sadly, that’s about as far as my praise for the film itself goes for me.

60 minutes go by and nothing all that much actually happens – nor is there ever really even a hint of suspense in this ‘thriller’. Despite this, Cage and Tunney kept me invested in their characters and the events happening at their motel – even if the writing didn’t. This is actually one of Cage’s better roles in my honest opinion, and I feel like had it had it been better written, it could of been one of his most memorable – but let’s face it, nothing will top him as Ben in ‘National Treasure’.

‘Buffy’ alumnus, Marc Blucas, plays Howard – the local Sheriff intent on uncovering the mystery behind the events at the motel. Despite being on the side of the law, his character comes off just as weird as the interesting characters that rent rooms at the motel. The film often focuses on a couple of these characters in particular as we discover the motel serves a certain purpose for these regular visitors, but despite the films best efforts to make them feel somehow involved in the mysterious events at the motel, they couldn’t feel further detached from it all.

I think Tim Hunter, whose most recent directorial efforts have been on TV shows such as ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Hannibal’, ‘Riverdale’, and ‘Bosch’, did a reasonable job directing this film. The seedy Peeping Tom scenes were really well shot, and the subtle changes in transitions for some of the scenes really add to an ever-present nostalgic vibe. I really think the fault with this film lies in the poor writing – there’s an incredible lack of depth to any of the characters, the dialogue often feels as though no thought went into it, and it’s constant failure to create any sort of suspense is ultimately it’s downfall.

The film dips it’s toes into the act of voyeurism but doesn’t really go anywhere with it, despite feeling like it will heavily lean on that aspect of the plot in the run up to it’s conclusion. In the end, it kind of feels like they just threw that aspect in to make some of the scenes more exciting. The whole plot in general feels like it loses its way after the first act, despite a promising premise.

It’s not until the last 20 minutes we actually learn not only what happened to Ray and Maggie’s daughter, but also what the pair were like before the incident and why their characters have behaved like they have throughout the duration of the film. However, this doesn’t make the climax better in any way, shape, or form, and despite it’s attempt to surprise you with its twist, its falls flat on its face and is incredibly anti-climatic. If the film managed to keep your attention up until that point, the ending is very predictable.

If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan (and I know there’s some of you out there!) then I’d recommend you give this film a watch for his performance alone – and expect very little from the film itself. Cage, Tunney, and Blucas make the film watchable, even if you do find yourself uninvested in the plot. In the end, it’s the failure to build any suspense that is the most frustrating part of this thriller, as well as being left with more questions than answers (which there are next to none of…

Tom’s Rating: 2.5 / 10