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.