Ian Thomas Malone

Monthly Archive: April 2022



April 2022



The Northman offers an arthouse spin on an epic legend of vengeance

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Vengeance is an easy desire to rationalize. The injustice of suffering leaves a void that the heart naturally wants to fill. The cost of delivering such retribution often plays second fiddle to the mind’s manifestation of the sweet delight seemingly offered by correcting an egregious wrong. Of course, the world is not a binary of good vs. evil, not that vengeance has to care about such realities.

The Northman follows a life of vengeance. An adaptation of the legend of Amleth, a Scandinavian figure more familiar to Western audiences for inspiring Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the narrative follows the prince (Alexander Skarsgård, with Oscar Vovak playing Amleth as a young boy) as he seeks to avenge the death of his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke) at the hands of his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang), who also burned his village and abducted his mother Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Prophecy shapes Amleth’s quest, believing himself to be put on the soil solely to take his uncle’s life.

Amleth gives up a promising career as a Viking berserker to stow away aboard a slave ship headed to Iceland, the seat of his uncle’s exile. Becoming enslaved himself in the process, he meets Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), a sorceress and kindred spirit. As Amleth and Olga grow closer, the prince faces a fork in the road, the cost of his quest for vengeance contrasted by the prospects of breaking the cycle, to forge a new path free of the endless violence.

Director Robert Eggers delivers a slow-burn that’s singularly focused in its step-by-step depiction of Amleth’s submission to prophecy. Just as good and evil exist outside a binary, the question of nature vs. nurture is a bit irrelevant when faced with a reality where the two work in almost-complete tandem. Violence may not be the only life that Amleth could choose to live, but it is the only life he knows how to live. Eggers’ every motion hammers that point home.

The cast all seem to understand their place less as characters, but as part of the legend. Eggers seems to understand the weight of epic, the performances and cinematography carrying a soft touch even amidst the narrative’s extreme brutality. Skarsgård never once puffs his chest to assert his place as the hero, in complete alignment with Amleth’s sense of prophecy bestowed upon him at an early age. His approach to character development feels almost more like character actualization than any real sense of growth. Not all boys change as they grow into men.

The supporting cast, also including Willem Dafoe and Björk in bit roles, have quite a lot of fun with the material. The 137-minute runtime is a bit over-bloated, but Eggers never loses his grip on his audience through the cerebral narrative. Larger-than-life material is rarely delivered with such serene execution. Epics are not necessarily meant to feel intimate, yet The Northman carries itself like performers in a black box theatre, welcoming even against a backdrop of endless miles of nothingness.

The Northman demonstrates Eggers’ immense maturity as a filmmaker, a testament to cinema’s power to communicate rich art to a wide audience. In a world full of crowd-pleaser films fighting for their share of the box office, the film instead aims to leave its viewers with a calmer sense of satisfaction by the time the credits roll. It feels good to be challenged in the theatre, to see an epic wrestle with morals humanity has been grappling with for hundreds of years.



April 2022



The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a charming, formulaic celebration of Nicholas Cage

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Few actors truly understand the trajectory of American culture quite like Nicholas Cage. The freaks and outcasts vilified through the 90s and 00s have taken over the mainstream. The MCU reigns supreme at the box office, and San Diego Comic-Con rivals Coachella as one of the hottest events of the season. Somewhere along the way, it became cool to give a shit, to be weird, and most important of all, to be yourself.

For all the criticism Nicholas Cage has received for his often-bizarre performances, or his financial troubles, the man has not let anything alter his fundamental approach to his craft. The modern box office does not have a ton of room for the brand of action blockbusters such as The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off that turned Cage into a A-list movie star. Cinemas are now largely powered by franchises, with a diminished need for star power to fill the theatre seats.

While Hollywood has changed quite a bit over the past thirty years, Cage has remained remarkably consistent. Years removed from his own franchise vehicles, such as Ghost Rider (no pun intended) or National Treasure, Cage has kept busy on smaller films such as Joe, Pig, and Prisoners of the Ghostland. The new movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent aims to wield the old-fashioned action hero Cage energy for a modern audience that missed seeing his face up on giant billboards.

Cage plays a heavily fictionalized version of himself, struggling in a Hollywood that’s mostly moved on from his antics. His ex-wife and daughter are also tired of his bloviated ego, heavy drinking, and poor financial restraint. After an emotional “retirement” Cage takes an offer from his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) of one million dollars to attend a birthday party of a diehard fan, Javi (Pedro Pascal), a billionaire with too much money burning a hole in his pocket.

Director Tom Gormican’s film essentially follows two separate tracks at the same time. Much of the film is an homage to Cage’s colorful career, full of nods to his more eccentric roles, and his bizarre behavior. Cage also plays a younger version of himself, “Nicky,” to play devil’s advocate on occasion. The rest of the film aims to be a by-the-books action-comedy, relying heavily on the chemistry between Cage and Pascal.

The film’s first half is remarkably strong, tightly-paced with more than enough time for Cage antics while Gormican lays out the actual plot, centered around arms dealers who kidnapped a politician’s daughter. Cage is more than willing to poke fun at his career and cult status, frequently noting his decline in star power even as his workload increased. Gormican pulls off the impressive feat of blending the various stages of Cage’s career together, albeit through remarkably tame execution that’s beneath the absurdity of his star.

The meta-humor overstays its welcome around the halfway point. The script gets way too defensive when it essentially tries to justify its pivot toward mundane, practicable action. Gormican is way too self-conscious in his mainstream work. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if he didn’t let his narrative drag in the process, a few sequences that essentially regurgitate the same point.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is an immensely entertaining film, the kind that deserves to be enjoyed on the big screen. Everyone involved seems to understand the sheer value of bringing Cage back to the blockbuster format he enjoys so much. Pascal is the perfect companion to help anchor the whole experience.

As part of Cage’s overall portfolio, Gormican’s work leaves a bit to be desired. This film could have been a perfect encapsulation of Cage’s career, a mainstream triumph of the man’s eccentricities. The third act plays things far too safe. The film is well-worth the price of admission, Cage superfans deserve better than the end result.



April 2022



Still brimming with mediocrity, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is an improvement over its predecessor

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Video game superfans should generally temper their expectations toward big-screen adaptations of beloved works. Sonic the Hedgehog was a bit of an anomaly in this regard, a generic plot constantly uplifted by Jim Carrey’s nostalgia-heavy performance as Dr. Robotnik. Audiences generally don’t see a film play simultaneously to the generic kids movie crowd alongside older viewers who grew up with the source material.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remains acutely aware that many of the kids who grew up blowing into their Sega Genesis cartridges now have children of their own. The script for the sequel is laden with popular culture references that no one under the age of ten would understand. The efforts toward recreating iconic Sonic boss levels often sharply contrast with the otherwise abundant laziness toward just about every other aspect of the film.

The sequel mostly picks up where the first film left off. Sonic (Ben Schwartz) has the Wachowski residence to himself while Tom (James Marsden) and Maddie (Tika Sumpter) attend the Hawaii wedding for Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) and Randall (Shemar Moore), the latter serving as the film’s sole primary newcomer among the live-action cast. Longtime sidekick Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey) joins Sonic to take on Robotnik and fan-favorite Knuckles (Idris Elba), who seek to harness the power of the Master Emerald.

The plot is about as silly and generic as the first film. The script does little in terms of world-building regarding the Emerald’s power or Knuckles’ beef with Sonic, but it also doesn’t really need to. The chemistry between the pairs of Sonic & Tails, and Knuckles & Robotnik supplies most of the narrative’s best moments.

Director Jeff Fowler has no idea what to do with his live-action performers outside of Carrey. The middle of the film dedicates far too much time to Rachel and Randall’s wedding. The actors work hard to endear themselves to the audience with limited screentime, but that doesn’t really change the fact that the film is pretty boring whenever there isn’t a CGI character on screen.

The script is once again laughably bad, projecting a bland hero’s journey onto Sonic, who’s still quite the loner. You get the sense that someone is trying to say something about the power of self-confidence, but the narrative doesn’t have the attention span to stay on any one strand for very long. Elba’s top-notch voice work is undercut by the silly lines he’s expected to deliver with a straight face, lacking Carrey’s innate ability to work magic with amateur-level screenwriting.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is way messier than it should have been, full of cheap filler like a lazy dance-off in addition to the pop culture references that already feel dated. Fowler does nail the interactions between his principal players. Sonic benefits immensely from the presence of Tails and Knuckles, inching the character closer toward his rightful place as the epitome of cool.

The film fares better at serving its dual audiences of children and adults than most of its contemporaries, but that reality doesn’t change the fact that Sonic 2 is quite content with mediocrity for most of its bloated 122-minute runtime. Fowler delivered a stark improvement over the original film, but he did not craft a particularly impressive feature, once again leaving Carrey with far too much cleanup duty. Sonic diehards will find much to enjoy, but everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog deserves better than this half-hearted attempt at filmmaking.



April 2022



Kyle Moore, Big Brother Canada 10

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We are absolutely delighted to welcome Kyle Moore to the show. Kyle’s Head of Household reign in week three of Big Brother Canada 10 will go down as one of the most exciting in BB history, a botched backdoor attempt on Josh Nash that resulted in an epic house flip. Kyle found himself evicted by key ally Steven “Gino” Giannopolous in a similar backdoor effort the following week.

Kyle talks about his experiences in the game and his thought process during his time as HoH, an extensive perspective on the challenges of strategizing within the BB CAN house. Ian & Kyle also talk about mental health and how mindfulness plays into the rigors of the game. TTTE fans will also enjoy a Theodore Tugboat reference at the end of the episode, a beloved figure in Kyle’s native Halifax.


Ian’s article on BB CAN, which has a heavy emphasis on Kyle’s HoH week: https://ianthomasmalone.com/2022/03/big-brother-canada-is-the-best-reality-show-on-television-right-now/

Kyle hosts the Life’s a Wreck Podcast, which focuses on mental health. You can check out Life’s a Wreck here or wherever you get your podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/lifes-a-wreck/id1471732336

Kyle also has a clothing line, Better Tømørrøw, which he wore many times throughout his tenure in the BB CAN house. You can pick up your own Kyle merch at: https://www.bettertomorrow.world/


Headshots courtesy of Kyle Moore

Production still courtesy of Big Brother Canada & Global Television Network