Sunday, 5 December 2010

The best and worst

So, job done, the obvious question is - which the
best? and worst? Now they all have their pros, cons and things that make them special but in general

The top 5:

"I won? Yay, me".

1. High Fidelity - For me, his most iconic role to date. And its a top 5, so, duh.
2. Grosse Point Blank - The one that got me hooked, and where he looks the most handsome.
3. Being John Malkovich - Fabulously original and playing against type.
4, Say Anything - So sweet.
5. Con Air - So. Much. Fun.

The worst 5:

" I knew she was a cat person, but come on.."

1. Must Love Dogs - for oh so many reasons
2. Tapeheads - badly dated
3. War Inc - utterly wasted opportunity
4. One Crazy Summer - comedy lacking in funny
5. Elvis Stories - I never need to see this again

And some other observations:

The guilty pleasure - Serendipity
The one that made me cry - Grace is Gone
The underrated (or unheard of?) one - The Jack Bull
The one that I just don't seem to like as much as other people - The Grifters
The one that I never pictured him doing, but loved it anyway - Hot Tub Time Machine

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Tagline: Kick Some Past
Cusack Plays: Adam, recently dumped 40-something

So I made it. 50+ Cusack films, done and dusted. And pretty much exactly within a year. Woop.

A fun note to finish on with a time travelling hot tub comedy. 3 friends, plus Cusack's nephew, depressed with their lives in 2010 go on a holiday to re-live the fun ski-trips of their youth. A drunken night where they all pile into the hot tub, a Russian energy drink spilled on the controls, and they're back in 1986.

I was pretty excited when I learned of the existence of this film, and regularly checked for updated trailers. The moment I saw Craig Robinson say "Must be some kind of hot tub time machine" and stare into the camera, I was sold. The 1980s is ripe for mocking and the laugh ratio is pretty high, and although there is some room for improvement I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. If there is a straight guy/everyman it's probably Cusack (what a surprise) and the characters played by Craig Robinson and Rob Corddy get most of the laughs. It manages to be quite crude, and yet rather feelgood come the end.

Hot Tub Time Machine has high re-watch factor in my opinion - perhaps it will be coming along on my ski holiday next month...

Still to come....reflections on the Challenge...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

2012 (2009)

Tagline: We were warned
Cusack plays: Writer/Limo Driver Jackson Curtis (50 Cent's real name backwards!)

2012 - the year the world will end, some say, according to the Mayan calendar. Perfect disaster film fodder. And they really go for it in tearing the world to bits, although I remember the special effects looking a lot better on the cinema screen that watching at home. Its also the film where John Cusack gets to save (some of) humanity, as a failed writer working as a limo driver for a Russian billionaire and his beastly fat children. A chance encounter with crazy conspiracy theorist Woody Harrelson, means he realises whats going down and grabs the family and a plane to get the hell out of dodge.

There are good bits - the epic distruction! - and it functions pretty well as an action film. But there are also bad bits - distractions like a blonde bimbo and her dog and two old guys on a cruise ship. We also get the fabulous line from a pilot: "Come on baby, lift your pretty ass for Sasha!".

And becuase JC likes to revist roles, this is his second time playing a limo driver in a film with Amanda Peet (Identity) and at least his third time playing a writer. Obviously he gets soaking wet, what with the world as we know it ending.

Did you know? This film is appararently banned in North Korea as 2012 is the year designated by the Government for the nation to become a superpower.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Igor (2008)

Tagline: All men are not created Evil.
Cusack plays: The voice of Igor

In this second of two animated outings the voice of Cusack is the hunchbacked lab assistant to an evil scientist with ambitions of his own. When his master dies this Igor (the generic name for them) seizes the chance to enter the annual Evil Science Fair with a fabulous invention.

It's an enthusiastic vocal performace and the plot and script has enough appeal for both a 27 year old and someone 20 years younger (or is it a little too dark for a 7 year old?). Dr Schadenfraude, the kingdom of Malaria...there are some laughs to be had, although its a bit Tim Burton-lite.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

War Inc (2008)

Tagline: When it comes to war...America means business
Cusack Plays: Brand Hauser

There are some links to Grosse Point Blank in War Inc - Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd appearing alonside Cusack's suited killer for hire. Thats really where the similarities end, and the former, fabulous film shouldn't really be mentioned in the same breath as this.

A political satire which sees a Middle Eastern country run by private American corporations, with Cusack brought in to kill a big wig in the oil industry. His cover is as a producer of a trade show featuring the wedding of pop star Hilary Duff. Brand Hauser also has a penchant for drinking hot sauce, and a troubled past, including a dead wife. At this rate I should create a tag for that...

Now I find the privatisation of war an interesting topic, but sadly it did not make for an entertaining and engaging film. Disappointing.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Summerhood (2008)

So I must admit partial defeat on this one, as I haven't seen it and am unlikely to anytime soon. I'm saying only partial defeat though because this film hasn't actually had a proper release and has only shown at film festivals. Also, he's the uncredited narrator, so not actually appearing in it.

I wil endeavor to watch it though if it ever gets a proper release. Here's the trailer:

Martian Child (2007)

Tagline: Some fathers and sons grow up together.
Cusack Plays: Science fiction writer David Gordon

Yet another dead wife scenario, as widower writer David decides to adopt a child. That child turns out to be Dennis, a weird little guy who sits in a box all day, claims to be from Mars and wears a belt of batteries to ensure he doesn't float away. Yes its a PG family film all about 'belonging' and 'finding your place'.

I wasn't really rushing to watch this one and had the dvd sitting out for a while. Its all very tame stuff, but putting my cynicism aside it made for an bearable Saturday afternoon watch while doing some ironing. The Cusack siblings team up again to play brother and sister, in a story based on a novel, itself based on a real experience. Although in real life it was a gay writer adopting a son - changing the character's sexuality apparantly caused a bit of bother.

The kid is ok, despite being one of the annoying ones from Must Love Dogs, and whispering all the time. In fact a lot of this film is softly spoken.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

1408 (2007)

Tagline: No one lasts more than an hour.
Cusack plays: Writer Mike Enslin

Since The Shining, hotel rooms have been really creepy places, which Cusack's character acknowledges in this reasonable, but not terrifying horror, based on a Stephen King short story (Cusack's second King adaptation, after Stand by Me).

Mike Enslin is a writer, who has made a career of visiting haunted hotels and inns and rating them on a scary skull scale, despite the fact that he doesn't believe in the paranormal. He receives a postcard warning him not to check into room 1408 ("=13, cute") at New York's Dolphin Hotel. Despite the protests of manager Samuel L Jackson ("It's an evil fucking room!") he checks in and almost immediately the horror begins, with the clock counting down one hour, and the Carpenters 'We've only just begun' blasting out.

Largely Cusack's film to carry (with some flashbacks and minor creepy characters) he does a pretty decent job as a desperate and haunted (dead daughter in his past) man, but while the shocks and jumps work well in a dark cinema they just don't have the same effect watching at home on a sunny day. Depending on which dvd version you have, there are different endings, the orginal one having been reshot for theatrical release, and I had the original one. Reading the description of the other, I think I probably preferred the one I was given. Don't recall which one it was when I first saw it at the cinema...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Grace is Gone (2007)

Cusack Plays: Stanley Phillips whose solider wife dies in Iraq.

Another film, another dead wife. He's really not having much luck.

So if anyone ever says that Cusack isn't a great actor or that he plays the same role in every film, this is the one you bring out to show it ain't so. Gone is the sarky, sexy, witty Cusack and here emerges a different guy, playing the rather dowdy father of two girls whose mother is killed in Iraq. He can't bring himself to tell them so instead they take a road trip, where he struggles to connect with them and break the news.

It's simple stuff, with a thin plot and relying on the strong acting performaces (Cusack and the two young actresses are excellent). In fact its the kind of performance you get nominated for an Oscar for, but no such luck here. I don't think the timing of its release was great, and came at a time when people really didn't want to see another Iraq film, and it didn't even get a UK release - I remember waiting in vain at the time. It did get two Golden Globe nominations though - for the score, by the one and only Mr Clint Eastwood.

Sad, sweet, and yes there were a few tears by the end.

Boy does he look different with those glasses on.

While he was promoting this one he managing to get interviewed by this silly cow who got him mixed up with Kevin Spacey. Doh.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Contract (2006)

Tagline: Every Killer Meets His Equal.
Cusack Plays: Cop turned Gym Teacher Ray Keene

The plot - widower Cusack tries to bond with his wayward son Chris by taking him camping, but on their travels encounter assasin Morgan Freeman who has just busted out of a police car. He encourages them to leave him and move on, but Cusack instead decides to march them through the woods. Freemans hitman pals are following closely behind.

Despite the decent cast, The Contract is widely regarded as a pretty awful film, going straight to video in the US and Europe. Indeed for both Cusack and Morgan Freeman it's their most poorly rated film on Rotten Tomatoes (Currently on Imdb there are 4 other Cusack films which score lower - Grandview USA being the ultimate loser).

Thankfully Cusack has had a haircut since The Ice Harvest and is looking much better, and he gets to do a bit of action hero stuff and running about with a gun. I have a feeling his previous career as a cop was obviously just eluded to so that it wouldn't be utterly unbelieveable when he picks up a gun and manages to bring down a helicopter with it at one point. Only the big names and their charisma stop this being a total bust. There's plenty of bad dialogue and idiotic bits like not being able to get a phone signal to call 911 but others being able to go on the internet fine. Would have been way more fun had Cusack played the bad guy (but with redemptive qualities) in this one rather than the sad sack dad. Or if he reprised his role in Grosse Point Blank and was a hit man too.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Ice Harvest (2005)

Tagline: Thick Thieves. Thin Ice.
Cusack Plays: Mob Lawyer Charlie Arglist.

So After Must Love Dogs things can only get better. And they do, but only really marginally in this fairly mediocre black comedy. Charlie is a lawyer, who along with Billy Bob Thornton steals over $2 million from his mob clients on Christmas Eve. But things don't go so smoothly and soon hes scrambling around town without knowing who to trust.

The comedic elements work fairly well, with the icy weather preventing their quick escape and facilitating some falls, crashes and deaths, and the story does keep you guessing as to whats coming next. However, overall it just feels fairly thin and unsubstantial but if I watched it again, it would be mainly for Oliver Platt's drunken turn as Cusack's ex-wifes current husband. Apparently the book of the same name, set in 1979 is far superior.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Must Love Dogs (2005)

Tagline: The hardest trick is making them stay.
Cusack Plays: Jake, boat builder and recently divorced

So, this is the one I've been dreading, the one I felt like walking out of the cinema at. "If that dog jumps into the water, so help me god...." And I think I might have figured out why. Cusack must have had a tough 2004 becuase he seems to have aged considerably in this time. Or perhaps the film did not have good lighting (*grasps at straws*)

The story is that recently divorced Sarah (Diane Lane) is encouraged to start dating again by her big family, with her sister setting up an internet profile for her insisting potential dates "must love dogs". Through this she meets with fellow divorcee and boat builder (another one of those random movie careers), Jake whose friends are also encouraging him to get back out there.

Some problems I have with this film.
  • Talented actors, wasting themselves on a seriously sub par romantic comedy.
  • Sarah is a teacher so we get cute, no sorry, annoying children saying things like "Lord it's a gusher" when they get hit in the face in class.
  • A barrell of cheesy lines.
  • The cringeworthy scene where Sarah and Jake run all over town trying to find a shop selling condoms.
I just want to reach into the screen and drag Cusack away from all this. He sounds and looks fed up.

Can I find anything positive to say? Well it has an okay-ish soundtrack, and Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp!) and Stockard Channing (Rizzo/Abby Bartlett!) are in it. Also, the main character has a great name.

Now I'm off to pretend that this film does not exist.

For a slightly more benevolent review, visit my fellow Cusack Challengee

Friday, 3 September 2010

Runaway Jury (2003)

Tagline: Trials are too important to be decided by juries.
Cusack Plays: Juror Number 9, Nicholas Easter

Remember a time pre JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer and Dan Brown? John Grisham was the big name in books and a bunch of his legal tales made their way onto the big screen, to varying success. In 2003 Runaway Jury was released and was deemed to be one of the better ones. Although the subject matter was shifted from a lawsuit against a tobacco company to a gun manufacturer, the general legal arguments and story remain in place.

The central premise of this film is that the jury in the case (wife sues gun makers for husbands death at hands of deranged gunman) has been infiltrated and will sell the verdict to either side for a hefty price. Both sides (especially the defence) are already spending huge amounts on consultants to analyse, select (and sometimes do other definitely illegal things to) the jury. Cusack is what initially seems to be a reluctant juror, but we quickly discover that's not the case. Jeremy Piven (him again) plays a consultant for the plaintiff.

Another rewatch where I could remember the basic plot and outcome but not all the details, this is a pretty decent thriller, bolstered by some solid performances from fine actors. Had totally forgotten the opposing sides in the case were Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, both great, and the first time in their long careers that the two H-Man's were on screen together.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Identity (2003)

Tagline: The secret lies within.
Cusack Plays: Limo Driver Ed

Another re-watch I was looking forward to having seen it once back upon release (sooo long ago!). I could roughly remember the premise and the ending but not much else. For the John Cusack in the rain fans this should be a favourite as the whole film is set during a violent storm and everyone gets plenty damp. Yay.

10 strangers (including an actress, prostitute, cop and criminal) are stranded at a motel in a storm, and they start getting bumped off one by one. The scares aren't too big but theres some enjoyment to be had in trying to work out whats going on and how this ties in with another side story.

Max (2002)

Tagline: Art + Politics = Power
Cusack Plays: Art Dealer Max Rothman

Shaking off the romantic comedies for a film he was obviously keen to make (he took no salary), Max is the story of a Jewish art dealer in post WW1 Germany who encounters a young artist who is torn between art and a burgeoning interest in politics. The artists name? Adolf Hitler. What if art had won out?

I remember going to see this (alone) when it first came out, unable to convince anyone that it would be a great film. I think I enjoyed it more first time round, and its not one I'll be rushing to view again anytime soon. Probably your only chance to see John Cusack playing a one armed man who delivers the line "Come on Hitler I'll buy you a glass of lemondade".

Featuring actors from all over the world I was pleasantly surprised to see some Scots pop up including Kevin McKidd and Peter Capaldi (all I could see was Malcolm Tucker though).

Friday, 27 August 2010

Serendipity (2001)

Tagline: Destiny ... With A Sense Of Humor.
Cusack Plays: Jonathan Trager.

I have to say I have a bit of a soft spot for this romantic comedy. Its all Christmassy which is always good and though the plot is fairly ridiculous I enjoyed watching it again. Cusack and Beckinsale bump into each other while out buynig Christmas presents and have an amazing night together. She convinces him that they should leave it to fate as to whether they meet again. He writes his number on a $5 bill and she puts her digits inside a book which she then sells. Years later they both are on the verge of marrying other people but then fate steps in.

Yes, yes ridiculous but the idea of having an object to chase, and having to check every time you go into a book shop or get change, is kind of cool. Of course in Edinburgh you'd probably find it or bump into each other again in about 5 minutes and find you had a cople of mutual friends of Facebook. Also her coy/crazy act only works becauses shes pretty. Otherwise, would he bother?

I also like the buddy act between real life friends Cusack and Piven and the narcissist in me loves that the central female character has the same name as me so I get to hear him say it over and over. Really like the song "When You Know" by Shawn Colvin used in it too.

Did you know? There was originally meant to be a gap of 12-15 years after the first meeting, but it was felt they didn't look fresh faced enough to pull this off.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Americas Sweethearts (2001)

Tagline: America's hottest couple has just broken will take more than special effects to get them back together.
Cusack Plays: Major Movie Star Eddie Thomas
Family Connections: Sister Ann plays an assistant to Billy Crystal

Teaming up again with Catherine Zeta-Jones after High Fidelity to play America's Sweethearts, Eddie Thomas and Gwen Harrison who have starred together in a number of hit films as well as being married in real life. Gwen meets someone else, Eddie goes a bit of the rails... Publicist Billy Crystal must bring them together again to promote their most recent film, with the help of Gwen's sister, Kiki (Julia Roberts, playing the supporting role rather than the Catherine ZJ part).

On the one hand its nice that he got a big star packed film like this (apparantly he got it instead of Robert Downey Jnr who was having 'issues' at that time), and it does have some funny moments (love the morning breath scene, very cute). On the hand other some of the jokes misfire a bit and Eddie's mental illness doesn't really play that well. Billy Crystal, scripting as well as starring kept the best jokes for himself.

This is one I probably wouldn't turn off if it appeared on tv, a harmless, reasonably funny watch.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

High Fidelity (2000)

Tagline: A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favorites.
Cusack Plays: Record Shop Owner Rob Gordon
Family Connections: Sisters Joan and Susie both appear. Susie as 'party guest' and Joan as friend Liz. Dad Dick is the Minister at the funeral.

Top 5 things I like about High Fidelity:

1. Somehow it makes you side with and root for a guy whos a bit of a bastard and done some horrible stuff to women.
2. Stars Jack Black when he was less annoying. He steals nearly every scene he's in.
3. "What Ian guy?!!" Tim Robbins as Ian/Ray is brilliant.
4. The straight to camera monologues and breaking of the fourth wall from Cusack. Brilliant acting.
5. Bruce Springsteen is in it!

I remember when I heard they were adapting Nick Hornby's book but setting it in America I scoffed. I was wrong and pleasantly surprised. Cusack co-writes and produces a film of which he was obviously passionate about and proud of. And rightly so. There are some problems (the actress playing his most recent girlfriend Laura never really connects for me) but for the most part this comedy/drama about a record shop owner evaluating his love life and relationships in light of his most recent breakup, is a great film with lots of rewatch value. This will be one of the ones he's most fondly remembered for.

Did you know? Eagle eyed Jo spotted that the actor playing young Rob was the same dude (Drake Bell) who played his son in The Jack Bull.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Tagline: Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can.
Cusack Plays: Puppeteer Craig Schwartz

Well this is certainly one of the most original, inventive and fascinating films Cusack will have the fortune of starring in. From the wonderful mind of Charlie Kaufman comes this tale of a struggling puppeteer who takes a job as a filing clerk on the 7 1/2 floor of an office block and stumbles upon a portal into the mind of John Malkovich. He sees a way to make some money by allowing people to be someone else, but the portal has a greater purpose. Meanwhile Craig's dowdy wife (Carmeron Diaz, looking nearly unrecognisable) also becomes obsessed with being Malkovich so s/he can be with Craig's sexy co-worker (an excellent turn from Catherine Keener).

I recall being pretty blown away when I saw this for the first time and it hasn't really lost any of its wonder and charm. I also really love the soundtrack. The scenes where Craig manages to make a puppet of Malkovich himself are my particular favourites as Malkovich really seems to have Cusack's way of speaking down. And of course the part where Malkovich enters the portal himself. "Malkovich, Malkovich..." Definitely one of my favourite Cusack films, even if he isn't looking as handsome as usual.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Cradle Will Rock (1999)

Tagline: Art is never dangerous -- unless it tells the truth.
Cusack Plays: Nelson Rockefeller
Family Connections: Joan plays Hazel Huffman

Cradle will Rock is the title of the musical at the centre of this film tackled by a talented ensemble cast, and helmed by Tim Robbins. It's based on real events of 1937 when Orson Welles took on the first production. As well as 'putting on a show' the film also touches on wider social issues of the time, including mass unemployment, unionisation and the wider global political issues of socialism and facism. Yeah, its a long way from Con Air.

Cusack's story is largely separated from the musical, although he does get to do some crazy dancing, as he plays Nelson Rockefeller (politician and patron of the arts). He enlists the artist Diego Rivera to produce a large mural for Rockefeller Centre but problems arise when Rivera insists on including Lenin in the picture. Arguments ensue.

Easy to admire but difficult to love is my verdict, and the standout performances for me were Bill Murray (ventriloquism tutor to Tenacious D duo Jack Black and Kyle Gass) and Cherry Jones.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Pushing Tin (1999)

Tagline: A comedy about losing control
Cusack Plays: Nick Falzone, Ace Air Traffic Controller

Probably best remembered as being the movie Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton met on and embarked on their brief and crazy marriage. (Remembered the vials of blood and padded sex caves etc?, Ah it seems like forever ago). Cusack is disgruntled by new, reckless controller Billy Bob, and things start to unravel, drawing wives Cate Blanchett and Angelina into the picture.

I watched this with my good chums Jo and Joe, after we had tried and failed to persuade Joe that he really wanted to watch Practical Magic with us. I think we all had the same general impression (well Jo and I thought Angelina was more slutty than Joe thought she was). The premise is interesting and the job seems fascinating, but it doesn't really make for a great two hour movie. I assume that major incidents and near misses are fairly rare (or as someone getting on a plane next week I hope they are) but in this you have to have a bunch of them for the drama. Still the acting is fairly decent, and you would hope so with three Oscar winners taking 3 of the 4 central roles (I know Billy's was for writing, but he's been nominated for acting too). Cusack sings. And wears a bunch of tracksuits. Be warned.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Jack Bull (1999)

Tagline: All men want justice. Few are willing to pay the price.
Cusack Plays: Horse Trader Myrl Redding.
Family Connections: Written by father Dick, who also has a small role as the Jury Foreman. Brother Bill is apparently also in there somewhere.

Hmm, he must have wondered, what genre haven't I had a crack at yet - aha a Western! There's horses, guns and its set in Wyoming as the area is set to become officially part of the United States. Horse Trader Myrl gets mighty pissed off when a neighbouring big shot rancher mistreats two of his horses and his Crow Indian Caretaker Billy. When the law fails to make amends he takes it into his own hands and goes vigilante to make the bastard pay! Mostly bad things then ensue.

This is the second time I've seen this made for TV (HBO) film and I really like it. The performances are excellent (John Goodman is scene stealing in his role as the judge), the story is engaging, and quite heartbreaking by the end. It's a lot better than some of his films which made it to the cinemas. Dad Dick wrote the script and its produced by John's company New Crime. Friend John C McGinley also co-produces and co-stars.

Mr C is properly grown up now and looking quite gorgeously rugged in this one. It's also the first time he plays someone's dad onscreen.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Tagline: Every man fights his own war.
Cusack plays: Captain John Gaff

The Thin Red Line was released at around the same time as Saving Private Ryan, and consequentially was overlooked by some, although many contend its a much better film. Ryan is probably more accessible and tear jerking, but this is also a good film (and it was nominated for 7 Oscars). The action focuses on the battle of Guadalcanal (in the South Pacific) and instead of having one of two leading men, its stacked full of big names (Clooney, Penn, Travolta, Harrelson, Nolte). If there's a lead its arguably Jim Caviezel as Private Witt, although a lot of the heart comes from Ben Chaplin pining for his wife back home. I also thought that a young wide eyed Adrien Brody did a lot with his few lines and limited screen time and made a real impression.

The first cut of the film was a bum numbing 5 hours, and was then cut down to 2 hours 40. This editing meant completely cutting the appearances of talents such as Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, Gary Oldman and Martin Sheen. People who thought they had big roles had them reduced to only a few lines.

Cusack is impressive as a captain who leads a charge to take a bunker on a hill where the Japanese are holed up and shooting at them from. He stays cool and gets the job done. What a man.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

This Is My Father (1998)

Tagline: A Journey Of The Heart.
Cusack plays: The pilot, Eddie Sharp

Very much the brothers Quinn film with Aidan as the lead and Paul writing and directing. History teacher James Caan travels to Ireland with his nephew to track down his own heritage and see if he can find out about the father he never knew. Thankfully the B and B owners mother has been around for years and can fill him in. The action then flashes back to rural 1939 Ireland to see his pretty 17 year old mother fall for an shy older farm worker (Aidan Quinn).

I found this enjoyable and touching, although the Cusack appearance is very short and sweet. He meets the couple one night on a beach after landing his plane and takes their picture. And guess what, the photo has a part to play in the story. Caan and Quinn are both excellent and it's a shame that lead actress Moya Farrelly, playing Fiona, didn't seem to do much after this.

The (spoilery) trailer doesn't make it look so great.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997)

Tagline: Welcome to Savannah, Georgia. A City Of Hot Nights And Cold Blooded Murder.
Cusack plays: John Kelso

Rather interesting (if a little long) film based on the book of the same name. John Kelso is a writer sent to cover a millionaires Christmas party in Savannah, Georgia. After befriending the man, Kelso then walks in to find the man (Kevin Spacey) has shot and killed his young lover/handyman, Jude Law. Was it self defence? A murder trial follows and Kelso ends up embroiled in the case and the city's strange residents, including drag queen Lady Chablis.

Apparently Cusack's performance in Grosse Point Blank persuaded director Clint Eastwood that he was right for the job, and he gives a pretty good account of himself. Its hard playing the straight man (literally) to a drag queen and the flamboyant Spacey. I have a hunch the book might be more enjoyable and maybe I'll get to it one day.

Fun fact: There are two Lex Luthors in this film - Spacey, and Michael Rosembaum from Smallville.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Anastasia (1997)

Tagline: Discover the Adventure Behind the Greatest Mystery of Our Time
Cusack Plays: Dimitri

Oh yeah, I'm doing the animations too, check my dedication to the cause. Anastasia is a non-Disney animation, loosely based on the story of the Russian Princess Anastasia and the urban legend that she escaped when her family were slaughtered. The film sees her living as a poor amnesiac orphan called Anya who is recruited by John Cusack's Dimitri to pose as the real Anastasia and get her grandmother to stump up reward money.

Its an interesting story and there are some nice songs. Alas Cusack doesn't do any singing. Boo.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Hell Cab aka Chicago Cab (1997)

Tagline: Do you dare pay the fare?
Cusack plays: Scary Man

The title and poster are a little misleading. It looks more like some kind of killer car or murder wagon. In reality, this is a film following a Chicago cab driver on a long shift, who experiences all kinds of customers from rape victim, druggies, drunk old lady and Cusack's Scary man. Who sits there looking scary and smoking while directing the cabby to drive down the street. A really good central performance by central character Paul Dillon as he tries to keep it together and finish the shift. He, Cusack and regular collaborators Pink and DeVincentis also produce the film which is based on a play.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Con Air (1997)

Tagline: One wrong flight can ruin your whole day
Cusack Plays: US Marshal Vince Larkin
Family Connections: Bill Cusack gets a role as a paramedic

Die Hard, stand aside, for Con Air has to be my favourite action film of all time. I take your "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker", and raise you a "put the bunny back in the box". Utterly ridiculous, but rather joyfully so. Cusack plays the straight(ish) man in the this over the top action fest. Criminals (all with fabulous names and backstories) being transported on a plane take it over. Thankfully good-ish guy Nicolas Cage and his mullet are on board to help Cusack who's down on the ground.

If I had a criticism it would be that the end scenes in Vegas aren't really all that necessary, but the ending (which Bruckheimer didn't originally want) is fairly fantastic in making you feel terribly happy a mass murderer walks away unscathed. Also I suspect that there must be several brilliant drinking games you can play along to this one.

He did this one for the money, but John, you really don't have to be that ashamed. It was nominated for two Oscars. And two Razzies.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Even A Hit Man Deserves A Second Shot!
Cusack plays:
Hitman Martin Q Blank
Family Connections: Sister Joan being awesome as Martin's assistant Marcella, brother Bill as 'waiter' (clocked him puring drinks at the reunion) and bit part for sister Ann.

For one of the key films in the Cusack catalogue you think they would have gone for a different picture for the poster - looks a bit unlike him right?

Things which are great about this film: every single Dan Aykroyd scene, the 80s soundtrack, Cusack looking ace in a suit, sharp script, the performances (wasn't a massive fan of Minnie Driver before but I guess she's ok in this), and THAT scene where he holds the baby as Under Pressure plays in the background. Swoon. This is probably the film which made me fall for Cusack, and it was great to watch it again with friends, cakes and Rum. One of the best.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

City Hall (1996)

Tagline: Murder...Corruption...Cover-up...Scandal...
Cusack plays: Deputy Mayor Kevin Calhoun

Cusack goes Southern (Loueeeessssssiana) to play the deputy Mayor of New York to Al Pacino's Head honcho. The story begins with a shoot out between an off-duty police officer and a drug dealer. Both are killed, as is a young boy in the crossfire. Events take a turn for the sinister with lies, bribes and coverups.

Cusack is pretty irresistable as a perma-suited guy who grew up loving politics and wanting to do the right thing (or maybe thats just my kind of chap...) and although the story was interesting, it wasn't thrilling enough to be a top notch example of the genre. Or maybe I've been tainted by all the outlandish plots in other films that this just seemed quite tame.