The Last of Us (2023)

Its a massive sensation – i’ve heard its been rated as the best television show ever, or the best video game adaptation of all time. The public are crying for awards for its cast, and applauding how modern and ‘woke’ it is.

But…I’m terribly different to everyone else. The Dark Knight is not the best Batman movie, Jupiter Ascending is actually very entertaining, and Nicolas Cage is one of the best actors in cinema today. I have many other controversial opinions, each one driving a wedge between me and everyone else. Heck, the best Star Trek is Voyager. I am allowed to mix curry sauce with pasta and i will have mackerel on homemade pizzas.

So i watched episode one of this series because a friend’s fiancee believed it the best thing since bread layered with bischoff spread. It may even be better than the new Linda Hamilton Monster flavour… so here we go.

The game was released 10 years ago by Naughty Dog (them of the Uncharted franchise) and it won gaming awards aplenty. It completely passed me by, and so i attacked this show oblivious to the plot. I even believed it was a survival story about two people in a battlefield. I did not know it was Science Fiction.

After the pilot my hopes were dashed. Its a post apocalyptic story, in a world where Zombies are running rife. But no, sorry, they’re not Zombies, they’re blind ‘clickers’ which have arisen from a superevolved fungus. They bite people and they become singular-minded undead. But not Zombies.

BUT WAIT: there is a young girl, who is immune, and therefore her blood could save the world. And the grumpy main man (who lost his daughter) has to protect her as they travel across America searching for the “Fireflies” – a bunch of freedom fighters who are potentially Earth’s last hope.

I’m sorry, but its raining cliches, and i don’t have an umbrella. I wasn’t impressed.

Heres the plot twist. Its bloody amazing.

Pedro Pascal absolutely shines as the grizzled, damaged protagonist, and Bella Ramsey gives a wonderful performance as humanity’s last hope.

Do you know WHY its so good (despite the high quality of acting on show)? Its because it ISN’T about zombies / clickers / rage monsters. Its about people. It has shades of Walking Dead – but where the Walking dead fails (with x number of seasons and tens of filling episodes), the Last of Us creates a taught, tension boiler of a season, delivering necessary, emotional flashbacks as well as some rapid fire action, and even a little humour.

Its brutal, it’ll make you cry.

However; i have to say i don’t love it as much as i think i’m expected to. Its not the groundbreaker of television, but it is solid entertainment. Watched at night, in the dark. With a shotgun in hand.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)

“I’m Nicolas Fuckiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing-whoa! Cage!”

I think it would be fair to say its unlikely you will take any interest in this film unless you are a Nicolas Cage fan. And his fanbase is fairly niche, so on that its fairly fair to say this will not be hitting headlines at the next Oscars or winning plaudits or the hearts of critics worldwide. Its a shame, because at the heart of this hugely meta-injoke, there is quite a lot of warmth.

Cage plays “Nick Cage”, who, yes, is the actor we know and love in everything from Face/Off to National Treasure, but there is also a fictional side to the character, with an ex-wife and daughter created for the film itself. (on researching the film itself, it turns out the original draft did not feature Cage, but was rather open-minded; the task was to grab the attention of an ‘infamous’ actor and turn it into an autobiographical focus on themselves. ie Daniel Day-Lewis was considered.) This Cage is struggling to make ends meet, being stooped in debt (like the real actor), forced to film near enough every script that lands on his doormat, and being overlooked by some of his choicier choices. He is haunted by a CG version of his younger self (“Nicky”) who portrays the stereotype “Nic Cage” persona we have come to see in the media, a screaming, mental looney tune.

Cage accepts a million-dollar appearance at a birthday party for a south american celebrity / drug-cartel owner, who is in fact a massive superfan (an absolutely adorable Pedro Pascal). The FBI see an oppurtunity, and the game is afoot.

Oh of course its silly. Of course its horrendous, really.

But its also very obvious, at least to me, in its underlying message: Nicolas Cage is no fool. His OTT mental outbursts are a creation for his on screen persona, all delivered as part of a character. You can watch films like National Treasure, where there is none of the silliness that he may exhibit in the likes of, say, Mandy, or Ghost Rider. He won an Oscar, for goodness sake. Give the man a break. Recent indie-choices like “Joe” prove theres far more to him than we think.

So this film has three acts – act one: reality, the set up of a silly plot introducing us to the actor, the superfan and the drug cartel plot. Act Two is where it diversifies; it becomes a very good film, with some wonderful comedic, endearing banter between the two protagonists and some heartwarming exchanges. And then, intentionally, the third act falls into a silly action flick involving car chases and gunfights. But its all meta; the film itself becomes a film in itself – and ultimately Cages redemption in cinematown.

The film is absolutely chock-ful of Cage references. All his major films get name-dropped or even scene dropped (and there is an entire scene from Con Air shown on the TV, which just immediately make me want to watch Con Air again for the 400th time this year) – and its generally accepted that Face/Off is possibly the best of them, ever… I agree.

This film won’t redeem Cage, but i get the impression we’re going to see some kind of renaissance. What we really need – i’m not being silly here – is National Treasure 3. A family action comedy thats harmless, funny and dims down Nic’s off-putting outbursts. Save them for his niche fanbase, and return the real Cage to the big screen, where he belongs.

These shoes!! They offer no ankle support!” – in the middle of a gunfight. Genius.