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THE WEATHER MAN

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Michael Rispoli, Gil Bellows
Director: Gore Verbinski
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: February 21, 2006

"Things didnít work out the way I predicted. Accepting that isnít easy, but easy doesnít enter into grown-up life."

Film ***1/2

Nicolas Cage had a very good year in 2005; itís just too bad that the films he made that year almost went unnoticed.

The intense actor who remains one of my favorite actors of all time made two fantastic films in which he played characters that werenít entirely sympathetic, and yet you ended up rooting for, which is a tough thing to accomplish. He had one of his darkest roles ever as an emotionally distant arms dealer in one of last years very best films, Lord of War. Now, Cage scores again with another fantastic character piece, The Weather Man, one of best edgy comedies since that of American Beauty.

I give Cage so much credit for playing the kinds of characters that are very risky for an actor and that are loaded with flaws. Chicago television weather man Dave Spritz is probably the most flawed character heís played to date, and thatís saying something. Heís nothing short of a human train wreck, whose personal life only seems to worsen as he attempts to fix everything thatís wrong with it.

Professionally, Daveís life isnít so bad. He is perhaps the most popular weather man working in Chicago. He has an engaging personality in front of the camera. But with his job comes one setback, and itís a big one. Every once in a while, he gets smacked in the face with some sort of fast food item from people whom he feels are either annoyed by his on-air personality or simply jealous of the fact that he happens to get paid handsomely for a job where very little effort is required.

But Dave feels like a disappointment elsewhere, especially in the eye of his father, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), a highly successful writer who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize at quite a young age. Obviously, Dave has always wanted to measure up to his father, and though he has achieved something of success, he feels that heís let him down for some reason. Part of that may have to do with the fact that Dave changed his last name a bit for television purposes.

Then thereís the family life, which illustrates the biggest of Daveís shortcomings. His ex-wife Noreen (Hope Davis) has currently moved on with another man, which he is unwilling to accept. His two kids, daughter Shelly (Germmenne De la Pena) and Mike (Nicholas Hoult) are both experiencing troubled paths. Shelly is secretly smoking, while Mike has just gotten out of rehab following a drug problem.

How conflicted is Dave in wanting to make things the way they used to be? He gets a job offer from a nationally televised morning news show in New York, hosted by Bryant Gumbel, where he will get an outstanding annual salary. But still, he seems more concerned with rekindling a marriage that can never be saved than take his profession to the highest level possible. That, combined with the fact that his dying father is facing death in a matter of months, put Dave in a compromising state.

I was surprised to see that the director of the film was Gore Verbinski, who enjoyed back to back success with The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. I admire the choice to make a small little character piece on Verbinskiís part. In the wake of box office success, he had freedom to choose any project to follow up with, and he clearly chose the one he was most passionate about.

I only wished that audiences were willing to discover this film in theaters. But then again, many films have enjoyed great rediscovery on DVD. As I mentioned earlier, Nicolas Cage had a great year in 2005 making two distinct character pieces. They were missed out on in theaters, and like Lord of War, The Weather Man demands rediscovery, as well as a good cult following.

Video ****

Paramount produces yet another outstanding looking disc! Gore Verbinski is a director who really does understand visual atmosphere, and there is plenty of that in this film. The look of Chicago is much similar to the look Verbinski gave Seattle in The Ring, and the anamorphic picture embraces this look to full effect. The image is fully clear, crisp and cool, and the original choice of colors mixes in to create a picture with a 99% chance of amazing detail.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix is put to a good enough use for a film that is solely a dialogue-oriented character piece. Words are delivered strongly and clearly. Hans Zimmerís top-notch score to the film marks the presentationís highpoint, and the many sequences shot in and around downtown Chicago provide some nice moments of surround sound.

Features ***

The extras on the disc are essentially 5 featurettes, each well informative about various aspects of the making of the film. The featurettes included are "Extended Outlook: The Script", "Forecast: Becoming A Weatherman", "Atmospheric Pressure: The Style And Palette", "Relative Humidity: The Characters" and

"Trade Winds: The Collaboration". Also included is a Theatrical Trailer and Bonus Previews.

Summary:

With The Weather Man, count on a forecast of some brutally funny laughs, a sharp level of style, and an insightful character study anchored by yet another bold and fantastic performance from Nicolas Cage. Bring an umbrella, and watch out for that incoming Frosty!

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