This is why you should never carry expectations for a movie prior to watching it. Affleck both directed and starred in Argo, and has done the same in Live by Night (2016) – plus he received the sole screenwriting credit as well, but even as an experienced filmmaker, Affleck could not shine his trademark direction on such a bland script.
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The storyline is as generic as the cinematography. Based on critically-acclaimed Dennis Lehane’s Edgar Award-winning novel of the same name, this flick won’t be nominated for an Oscar anytime soon.
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The dialogues and character exchanges are unforgettable (though majority of the good talks would’ve been taken verbatim from the source material). Other things I liked about Live by Night include:
Acting is top-notch by both the main and secondary cast members. Both Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana did a lot with the little screen-space that they shared.
Some fight scenes and chase sequences were brilliantly choreographed.
However, this venture is let down by its super-generic and predictable plot. It could’ve concluded in 90 minutes but we have an extra 35 minutes of what seems like extra footage, which I heard from people who’ve read the novel version, was done in order to mirror the ending of the book (which I’m sure is superior to this mediocre adaptation as Dehane is also the mastermind behind Shutter Island).
If Affleck decided to forego his directorial role in the next Batman movie, then it’s a wise decision, because WB already have made a massive commercial and critical loss with this one.
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Nicolas Cage: From Blockbuster Hero to Low-Budget Super Star
Nicolas Cage might not be the blockbuster star he was once. There is something known as the post Oscars curse where Oscar-winning Best Actors and Best Actresses, like Hailey Berry, start in lackluster movies (Catwoman) right after giving the finest performance in their life (Monster’s Ball).
According to my article, Nicolas Cage Palm Reading, the downfall of Cage’s career was round about the same his fate line ended on his head line denoting that 1. A person would become a millionaire by the age of 35 (which he did become). 2. A person’s career might not be as fulfilling as it was before they had entered their mid-30s.
Nicolas Cage Palm Reading
Those too lazy to read the article can check out the video reading of Cage’s palm below.
Prelude to B-Movie Stardom
Despite the memes and countless articles stating that Cage’s career has finished, he has found a reawakening in Hollywood’s low-budget film industry. His latest movies, which could be stated as an unrelated horror trilogy, comprise of (in order of newest release) Willy’s Wonderland, Color Out of Space and Mandy. The latter are most likely to become cult classics in the future.
If we are to note the release date of the last Nicolas Cage wide theatrical release where he played the lead role, it’s the Christian post-apocalyptic film, Left Behind (2014), based on the popular Christian-fiction book series of the same name.
And it was a hit! Despite the majority of Cage’s big-budget films (where he played the main role) in the 2010s flopping at the box, there was certain exceptions to this fact:
Cage suffered a number of setbacks which led to him taking roles left and right, but another reason for taking B-movie roles is also because Nicolas Cage must’ve been tired of not being the A-list star he once was. Ironically, with movies like The Frozen Ground and Joe, some of his 2010s low-budget films are actually superior to his high-budget counterparts in the same timeline.
Below I list reviews of the films which serve as a prelude to Nicolas Cage’s eventual and current B-movie career.
The Start of Nicolas Cage’s B-Movie Career
Below I list reviews of the films which serve as the starting point to Nicolas Cage’s low-budget journey.
Will Nicolas Cage Make a Big-Budget Comeback?
Unbeknownst to most, Nicolas Cage occasionally stars in big-budget films, which have all been box office hits: Snowden, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and The Croods 2.
But note the common denominator between all the afore-mentioned flicks; none of them star Nicolas Cage as the lead character.
So, the real question is will Nicolas Cage make a big-budget live-action lead starring comeback? But does he really need to work harder than he is already? Every year he stars in such a diversity of roles which he might not have ever done before due to contractual commitments.
Remember the old times which were not so politically correct, where movies like Dance Flick, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans, etc., had average critics’ scores but tripled their budgets at the worldwide box office? Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) seems to follow the same trend; it’s like a parody of the torture porn genre, with the main difference being, that the viewers themselves are the ones being tortured.
Surprisingly written by the same duo who penned Jigsaw, namely Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger, Spiral follows another set of copycat killings, but unlike the OG Jigsaw, this imitator’s targets are the cops.
Besides the first trap involving a tongue on the line, the rest of the traps fall super short of unpredictability. To further this statement, the plot itself is 99% foreseeable especially if you have seen majority of the previous entries in the Saw universe.
The funniest aspect of this movie involves the comic scenes involving lead star Chris Rock and surprise co-star Samuel L. Jackson feeling so scripted, while the serious sequences are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
I was of course not surprised by Chris Rock’s against-type casting (he was perfect in Fargo season 4; I did not realize he had such depth of acting prowess) but here his casting reminds me of when Nicolas Cage’s brother (Christopher Coppola) directed a film (1993’s Deadfall) and let Cage choose how to portray the character assigned to him (Eddie), with the primary distinction being that Cage’s performance became the centerpiece of the film, while I have no idea whether Rock acted like a comedian by nature or on purpose (as if he had a grudge against the director/writers).
Samuel L. Jackson didn’t seem out of place at all. Oftentimes, his performance is enough to save a film much in the vein of Nicolas Cage, and although Jackson plays his signature self to a tee, it is not enough to save this dumpster fire from burning your brains out.
I often like movies which are just about feature length (80 – 90 minutes) but here I was wishing they had found a way to have made this one even shorter. Spiral is a spiraling mess of a horror movie, and I’ll tell you what Jigsaw’s spiral symbol in this flick actually represents: It illustrates the brains of the creative team behind this disaster.
I’ll have to say, this movie would have worked better as a Scary Movie type parody, hell, I hope that Marlon Wayans gets inspired enough by Spiral that he makes a parody of it akin to the duology of A Haunted House.
I tend not to include spoilers in my reviews but there are just some parts in this flick that were too stupid to skip in my analysis. You can scroll down to the rating or read on further, live or die, it’s your choice.
In all of the previous entries of the Saw franchise, we have so many suspects, but here we basically have two from the get-go: Samuel L. Jackson’s Marcus Banks and Max Minghella’s William Schenk.
In most of the past parts, the traps are so ingenious that you wouldn’t be able to guess whether the trapped would survive, but here everything is set up to present a foreseeable conclusion.
The afore-mentioned point robs the core purpose of Jigsaw. He legitimately offered second chances to his victims but here there is no way (in 90% of the traps) that the victim can escape.
Samuel L. Jackson’s character Marcus Banks is a former chief of police who is also corrupt, but even he couldn’t decipher that he was being baited by a person pretending to be his son Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock)
The hands-down funniest moment was when the current captain of police, Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols), is tricked by “Jigsaw” and even appears right in front of her, and at this point she has her pistol pointed at him, but decides to run away instead to a door even a rookie detective could see being slammed shut on her.