Move over, Nicolas Cage. You've got company.
Once the undisputed king of random straight-to-video movies you might stumble over at the Hoyts kiosk (think Redbox for you North American readers), Cage has since ceded his throne. Or, at least, scooched over his butt cheeks to make room for a couple more pairs.
And as it happens, they both appeared in one of the greatest films ever made (so says me): Pulp Fiction.
I've been following the freefall in selectivity by Bruce Willis and John Travolta for some time now, and thought it was finally time to write about it.
The inciting incident, to use a screenwriting term, was my decision to stop at the Hoyts kiosk on Friday night.
I didn't come away with anything to rent -- two phone calls to my wife went unanswered, and I decided that either selecting something she'd like or renting something for myself to watch when I was this tired, and she and I might watch something else together anyway, were both too great of a risk. But it did give me the chance to scroll through not one, not two, but three movies apiece by Mr. Travolta and Mr. Willis that I'd never heard of. Or really, that I'd heard of only because I'd scrolled through many of these Hoyts kiosk choices on other occasions.
Look, I'm not saying Willis and Travolta should be in the primes of their careers. The former is 61, the latter 62. I am saying they should be going more gently into that cinematic night with choices that are better than these:
Most legitimate element: Director Chuck Russell also directed such comparatively respectable films as The Mask and Eraser, though he hadn't directed a feature in 14 years, since The Scorpion King in 2002.
Least legitimate element: It steals its IMDB tagline from Pulp Fiction! "I lay my vengeance upon them." If only Samuel L. could be there to deliver it.
Least legitimate element: I think Kellan Lutz was a guy once, maybe.
Most legitimate element: Jackie Earle Haley (The Bad News Bears (original), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake)) directed this. Interesting. Though Dan Stevens' decision to leave Downton Abbey early is looking worse and worse by the year.
Least legitimate element: The script was written by a guy named Robert Lowell, who died 38 years before the film was made. (Look it up! The guy linked in IMDB could be the wrong Robert Lowell, I suppose. But still.)
Most legitimate element: It co-stars Dave Bautista. After Guardians of the Galaxy, its upcoming sequel and Spectre, his career has got real heat.
Least legitimate element: This was directed by the same guy who directed Extraction.
Verdict: Not good.
Most legitimate element: At least there isn't a gun in the poster.
Least legitimate element: That beard is just ridiculous.
Most legitimate element: None.
Least legitimate element: I understand Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Claire Forlani were once people. Plus, this was written and directed by the guy who wrote Extraction. Not the guy who directed Extraction -- he directed Marauders -- but the guy who wrote it. Are we clear?
Of note: Christopher Meloni also appears in both Marauders and I Am Wrath. Maybe Nicolas Cage needs to gives those buttocks one additional squeeze tighter.
Yes, it's really true that you can walk up to any Hoyts kiosk in Melbourne and walk away with any of these six movies. But I wouldn't recommend it.
But before I paint too dire a picture of these men's fortunes, we should pause to recognize that John Travolta just won an Emmy for his work as producer on the terrific The People vs. O.J. Simpson, and was also nominated for his acting as Robert Shapiro, which may have been my favorite performance in the whole series.
Well, there's a rumor they're making Die Hard 6.