Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Grifters (1990)

Tagline: Seduction, Betrayal. Murder. Who's conning who?
Cusack plays: Roy Dillon, small-time conman.

Moving into a new decade brings this tale of a con man and the complicated threesome (no not that kind - although there are some slightly unsettling undertones) relationship he has with his mother and girlfriend (also con artists). Anjelica Huston plays Cusack's estranged mum, having had him as a teen. Initially I thought, well she's much older than him, that's a bit of a stretch. But actually she's only 15 years older. Sorry Anjelica for thinking you to be ancient.

I can appreciate certain features of this, but it just didn't really grab and engage me enough. All the characters have 'issues' and Cusack is a bit of a bastard - hitting women! There's violence, there's nudity, and I'm tempted to try the trick with the $20 when next buying drinks.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Shadow Makers aka Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)

Tagline: The story of the extraordinary people who changed our world.
Cusack Plays: Michael Merriman, scientist

Going by the title Fat Man and Little Boy in America (the code names of the two bombs) this film reenacts the Manhattan Project where Professor Oppenheimer (Murdock from the A Team!) and a team worked to design and build the two atomic bombs which would end World War 2. The film begins with the start of the project in 1942, and follows it through to completion in 1945, looking mainly at the relationship between Oppenheimer and the General in charge of the project, played by Paul Newman. The character Cusack plays is fictional, a composite of a few real people.

Plenty of familiar faces here, including Dr Cox from Scrubs as the camps doctor and Laura Dern as the love interest. Gotta watch out though, working with materials like that, it could end badly for someone....Cusack turns in a good performance and shows off some pretty slick dance moves.

Did you know? There is also an episode of The Simpsons called Fat Man and Little Boy.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Say Anything (1989)

Tagline: To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler.
Cusack Plays: Lloyd Dobler, perhaps his most beloved character.
Family Connections: Sister Joan plays his sister Constance

This film, and in particular its iconic scene where he holds up the boombox, is cherished by a certain generation. Perhaps not my generation, and I don't think its as big here as in America, but it deserves to be. Lloyd Dobler doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, but he does know that he wants to be with school high flyer Diane Court. He manages to balance this romance with being a pretty cool all round good guy.

Other plots interweaving with the romance are Diane's dad (John Mahoney) being investigated for tax violations, and Lloyd's friend Corey (excellent supporting turn by Lili Taylor) writing angsty songs about her ex. Joan Cusack pops up playing his single-mother sister.

This is an 1980s teen film, which goes easy on the cheesy, avoids too many cliches and is full of great lines ( "I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen", " I am looking for a dare to be great situation") and moments. Fabulous ending too.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Elvis Stories (1989)

Cusack plays: Corkey, who moulds 'Elvis Patties'.
Family Connections: Brother Bill is in there somewhere

Not actually a full movie but a half hour collection of shorts directed by Ben Stiller with connections to The King. I only found two of them online (Cusack's and one with Ben Stiller as a hairdresser sometimes possessed by Elvis). And I really don't feel I need to see the others. Cusack's 3.44 minute slot has him behaving like a madman who moulds meat into the shape of Elvis' head. I'm sure they had fun making it, but its not so much fun to watch. Thank god I know the next films a good 'un....

Monday, 8 March 2010

Eight Men Out (1988)

Tagline: The inside story of how the national pasttime became a national scandal.
Cusack Plays: George 'Buck' Weaver, Chicago White Sox player, part of the 1919 team who threw the World Series.
Family Connections: Dad Dick plays Judge Friend

Ah goody a sports film. And a sport in which, I, as a Brit do not have much of an affinity with. It's a like a mixture of cricket and rounders, right?

Apparently this team was one of the greatest ever, and it came as a surprise when they lost the World Series that year. Reason being - they threw the games for money, as the team owner was a total tight-ass who didn't financially reward them for their great achievements. The film follows the story from the scheme being organised, through all the games and suspicions and to the trial which followed.

Cusack plays a character who is sort of in on it, but who doesn't play badly and protests his innocence to the end. What a good guy.

Most of the lingo went over my head, but as I didn't know the outcome of the story I was kept reasonably interested throughout. Not bad.