The Season of the Bitch

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Bragging needlessly on Facebook this evening I announced I was going to see Nicolas Cage’s new cinematic offering, Season of the Witch. I got the expected sniggers and virtual heads shaking but in the midst of it Chili’s upbeat comment was, “Oooh – I want a review; I’ve been intrigued by this movie since I first saw the trailer…” Now, I have boundless respect for Chili as an intelligent, kind, fun individual but she retains a certain…optimism concerning some productions that I have trouble matching. The lady wants a review, though, so I’m going to give it to her. Please pardon my brutal honesty.

As the story goes one night many years ago my friend, Pony Express, and I decided we wanted to see a movie. We didn’t want anything intellectual or heavy, we wanted to be able to turn our brains off, maybe have a laugh and spend a couple of hours away from the madding crowds. We chose a lesser-known Heath Ledger project, A Knight’s Tale. Perhaps you’ve seen it? Anyway, about a third of the way through the movie it stuttered, stopped and burned right up before our eyes, which was not inappropriate. The theatre employees ushered us out handing out free passes for another movie of our choosing. However, I’m a Capricorn and I have trouble with loose ends. I needed to see the rest of the movie. Which is how we found ourselves a month or so later sitting at a bar convincing two other friends to join us at a completely different theatre for another showing of this ridiculous gem. We told them it would be fine, we promised, the trick would be  to drink first. Not a lot but not a little either. This was the sort of thing that required a good, sustainable buzz.

Thus was born a tradition of, every so often, picking out an amusing, clearly awful, flick and making a night of it. It has to be a night where we have time before for a couple of drinks and we have to be in the mood to flip our brains’ off switches and have a good time no matter what flits across the screen in front of us. I wasn’t surprised when I got the call from Pony Express tonight. She’s been rubbing her hands together in glee over Season of the Witch for weeks now. It promised to fit our bill perfectly.

I knew I was properly lubricated when I turned the corner to head up to our theatre and tried to board the down escalator.

Pretty much the easiest way to work out why you shouldn’t bother with this movie is to check the character list. I’ll save you the trouble. There are about 6 women in the whole thing. 1 of them logs more than 3 minutes screen time. One. List doesn’t tell you that, though, the list tells you her character name.

The Girl.

We posit that the screen writer has moved on to another profession by now. Probably firefighter. Maybe cowboy. After all he can’t be older than a fourth grader. The script, as indicated by not even the effort to give the character mentioned in the title A NAME, is atrocious. After the opening credits the next 20 minutes of the movie are a montage of Cage and Ron Perlman fighting the Crusades. Well, in theory it’s both of them. In fact it’s shots of the two of them entertaining loose women in random middle eastern drinking establishments intercut with footage of Perlman getting one hell of a work out with the broad sword. Perlman in the day time, Perlman by torch light, Perlman sweating, Perlman in the snow, Perlman laying waste to the thirteen tribes of Egypt one overworked Northern European stuntman at a time.

Which brings us to the film’s saving grace, the cast. I don’t know how hard this casting director had to work to dig up enough dirt to convince these folks to sign on to this movie but clearly it was some fine work. I had no idea that Brian F. O’Byrne fucked a pig at the opening night party for Doubt but this casting director must have photos of it. Clear ones, validated by an expert and a federal judge.

Perlman, no stranger to cheese, acquits himself beautifully. He’s the same tree trunk of man, stalwart and true, as he is everywhere. He commits to the heavily cliched dialogue and makes you believe him because you love him. And I do love him.

O’Byrne, arguably one of the greatest theatre actors of his generation, is stuck playing some stiff amalgam of Billy Graham, Coach Taylor and Pope Benedict. He stands atop hills and declaims God’s hatred for the infidels whether he’s surrounded by a congregation or a battle. Usually after a sentence or two the director cuts to another shot of Perlman running someone through and tones the volume down on O’Byrne’s heroic voice over efforts.

Last but no least is one of the History Boys, Stephen Campbell Moore. As a British actor he’s clearly fine with the just-do-your-job school of thought. Sometimes that means you’re acting prize winning words opposite Richard Griffiths and sometimes you have to cut your hair in a tonsure and go around scolding people in Latin. He’s good at both but I hope we get to see him do more of the former.

All that being said, for me, Season of the Witch gave exactly what the trailer promised. There’s action, there are fancy, historically inappropriate costumes (props to whoever hand knit those fantastic hoods and cloaks), there’s laughable dialogue and it’s all strung together on the gristle and sinew of Nicolas Cage’s best gravelly whispering topped with his trademark j’accuse squint. If you’re in the mood for turning your brain off and laughing at a movie even when it’s trying to be serious then this is a great choice. It ain’t no Spartacus (it’s not even Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, the Starz series) but it’s perfect for a frigid Friday evening when you’ve got a couple of belts down your gullet.

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4 Responses to “The Season of the Bitch”

  1. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I do love Perlman. And in the same vein as my… optimism… I don’t share the same disdain for Cage that most people have, either.

    That being said, this one’s going to be a dollar rental from Red Box. I can think of a number of other films I’d rather spend theatre money on.

  2. kizzbeth Says:

    I think Cage has the ability to do some interesting work, even when I don’t like it. (Favorite Cage film? Mine is The Rock.) However, a series of films like National Treasure send a message that he mostly doesn’t feel like doing anything strenuous. Or, you know, different. He’s not different here but he does what he does with all the verve he usually does so it works. Unless you have an ulterior motive (or a much creepier and deeper need for Perlman than you and I have) it’s not worth $12 (or whatever the price is in one’s area).

  3. Wendi Says:

    Wasn’t “A Knight’s Tale” a Brian Helgeland thing? (Fun fact: I once got to hold his Oscar from “LA Confidential” because I was friends w/his assistant.)

    Nicolas Cage is so disappointing because he just picks dreck when he can be so talented with the right project.

  4. Kizz Says:

    It was Helgeland. I didn’t realize that. It was fun, one of my faves, actually, but it’s not high art I don’t think.

    A friend read an article about Cage which said that he is very choosy about what he works on. If that’s the case I’d love to hear about what his criteria are. Because, unless you’re supporting a friend or getting back-the-truck-up kind of money I can’t imagine what his motivations are.

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