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It is only fitting that this year starts with a Nicolas Cage movie, since this very column started with a Nicolas Cage movie. It is officially a conspiracy. Of sorts.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Unfortunately not about our real National Treasure: Oprah.

Are you having a Very New Year kids? Did you make a resolution yet? I did! My first one is to stop being such an obnoxious asshole, but I believe I’ve already broken that one. The second one is to cut back on all that crystal meth, cause my teeth are falling out and I’m sure you know how hard it is opening those packs of Sudafed without some good, strong incisors. That one: also broken. The third is, hopefully, to cut back on Nick Cage films. Although, Leaving Las Vegas is available on demand, and I think I should start watching that movie over and over again, just in case I decide to return to my old ways*.

And I did TRY to avoid having to see this movie, but since it’s been number one at the box office for 3 frakkin’ weeks straight I guess it was unavoidable. Just like that “being an asshole” thing and the crystal meth. And, to my surprise, just like those things, National Treasure was pretty fun.

The film starts out, as most totally awesome films do, with a flashback to the final days of the civil war. The Lincoln assassination conspirators find out that Nicolas Cage’s great-great-grandfather, Thomas Gates, is pretty good at figuring out puzzles. So they give him a cipher from John Wilkes Booth diary to solve. He, of course, figures out what the cipher reads, rips out the pages and gets killed by the bad guys. Now where or how it got into Booth’s diary is really of no consequence. All that matters is that a century and a half later, Ed Harris shows up with the missing pages at a lecture Cage is giving. These pages imply that Thomas Gates was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln, and by golly, Nick Cage can’t have his family’s named sullied by such things! Somehow, it turns out that if they find the missing City of Gold, Gates will be clear of all wrongdoing.

Got it? Good. Cause all that doesn’t matter anymore.

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What does matter is the puzzles in movie. I guess people must enjoy watching actors pretending to be smart and figure out puzzles. Take this to the Nth degree, and I can imagine the next film in this series will be Nick Cage solving Sudokus. You know how popular Sudoku is these days.

As in the first film, each clue leads to the next clue, which leads to the next clue, which leads to the next clue. This continues until they eventually find what they are looking for. Unlike the first film, there’s no ambiguousness about whether this is a futile meaningless quest for something that doesn’t exist. That’s what made the first National Treasure more interesting. Mr. Cage doesn’t have to convince everyone he’s not totally insane anymore. It’s just assumed that he’s correct and that they eventually will find the Lost City of Gold. I’m sure you can guess what happens.

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But the filmmakers HAVE done something impressive.> They’ve managed to make a movie that feels like you’re playing a fun videogame without having to go through the hassle of actually playing the fun videogame. It’s like watching someone else play the Legend of Zelda, but with snappier dialogue and better actors**. And you know when that was fun to do? Sixth grade. Actually, you don’t really have to be a sixth grader, but if you want to enjoy this film, you better start thinking like one. Good thing it’s not that hard for me to do!

(Since a lot of the people I’ve talked to can’t figure out if I liked the movie from my review, I’m going to clarify them from now on by using a new rating system. From best to worst: Totally Radical, Awesome, Whatever, Sucks, Heinous)

My reaction: Whatever

Next week: We are officially in the cinema dead zone kids. Expect National Treasure to top the list again, which means my editor gets to choose what I see. I don’t expect anything good to come of this. Til then, I’m not drinking Mickey’s again. EVER. Stay sober, kids.

*drinking myself to death, falling in love with a hooker, overacting. Oh, and avoiding Julian Sands at all costs. That’s the big one.

**Three oscar winners: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Hellen Mirren. Two oscar nominees: Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris. Its good to see that sometimes people just need money.

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