Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Butler (2013)

 photo TheButler.jpg
Tagline:   One quiet voice can ignite a revolution
Cusack plays: FREAKIN Richard Nixon

I can't believe I had to wait until I was 30 years old to see Oprah and Cusack in the same film. Alas they share no screen time but Lee Daniels I thank you for bringing them (sort of) together on the silver screen.

The Butler (Or 'Lee Daniel's The Butler' for US audiences) uses the titular character to follow various Presidents through the White House and explore the societal changes that take place over the years they are in office. The character (Cecil Gaines) is loosely based on a black man whose story was revealed in a magazine article a few years ago. Some liberties are taken and details of his life changed to spice things up a tad and elevate the DRAMA.

And this is a drama and a half. From the Cecil's start in life as a black slave on a cotton plantation who is taught to serve, eventually ends up at 1600 Pennslyvania Avenue during Eisenhower's spell in office, and stays until Reagan's reign. During that time he is the silent observer to the national crises such as JFK's assassination and then goes home to a family struggling with it's own issues, for example his son's involvement in the civil rights movement.

It would be quite easy to slate this but it's more of an audience than critic pleaser. I've heard comparisons with Forrest Gump which are fair, but hey, I also like that film. The acting is of the highest calibre, particularly Oprah Winfrey as the Butler's wife.

There is also some light hearted relief from Lenny Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Junior as Cecil's colleagues and watching big names slathered in make up and prosethetics to play the President. Cusack is only on screen 3 or 4 times and I think it's fair to say he looks bugger all like tricky Dicky, but he does get a awesome giant fake nose. Alan Rickman as Reagan looks a bit like a melting waxwork model but Jane Fonda makes for a good Nancy.
 photo 600butler.jpg
Overall, I did  enjoy this film. I wasn't quite caught up in sentimentality as much as other viewers judging by the sniffling and muffled sobs I heard towards the end.  (The end has a massively crowd pleasing chuckle too). My only quibbles would be that Kravitz and Cuba Gooding Jnr seemed to work there even longer than Cecil Gaines as they were there when and he started and when he left - where's their recognition? Also poor old Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter are completely cut out.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Frozen Ground (2013)

Tagline: The hunter becomes the hunted
Cusack plays: Alaskan Serial Killer Robert Hansen

So here we go with the slightly scary real life story of Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen and the attempts to bring him to justice. Hansen killed at least 17 women, and may be responsible for the deaths of many more. A keen hunter of animals he turned his evil eye and gun to women. One young prostitute manages to escape his clutches and detective Nicolas Cage decides to use her testimony to turn the tables on Hansen and bring him to justice.

Cage tones down his usual crazy tendencies and plays it straight, and Vanessa 'High School Muscial' Hudgens is prostitute Cindy Paulson, a part which requires quite a lot of sobbing, running around and generally being in peril (also, dancing about in her pants). And so to Cusack, turning in a fairly scary performance as the family man with a dark past and present. A creepy dude indeed, but i did like his glasses.

The period setting of 1983 doesn't make too much of a difference to things, although we do glimpse a giant mobile car phone and a very dodgy hairdo on 50 Cent (playing Hudgen's pimp). However, the film crew didn't may due attention to removing all signs that this was filmed in the present day - my eagle eyed cinema going companion spied a Trip Advisor (founded 2000) sticker in one scene.

At times I found some of the events repetitive and a little irritating - why is that person running away again? they would be much safer if they stayed put etc- but as it's based on a true story I suppose it's hard to quibble with things people genuinely did.

Overall, a decent film, telling an interesting story with a good, if a little terrifying performance from Cusack.

Friday, 19 July 2013

The Numbers Station (2013)

Tagline: The Code has never been compromised. Until now.
Cusack Plays: CIA Operative Emerson Kent

After a black ops killing job gone wrong Cusack is sent over to England to watch over a remote number station and to pal up with one of the ladies who works in it. A number station, for those not au fait with clandestine broadcasting techniques is a sort of radio station which broadcasts sequences of numbers which are then picked up by agents and decoded to get their orders. One has to assume this is some sort of well paying job, because seriously who wants to sit in an underground bunker and read out lists of numbers for a living? Especially when you’re the gorgeous Malin Akerman. 

Cusack and Akerman turn up for work one day  -  all is not well and people start shooting at them – what follows is them listening back to the recording of the last shift, and trying to piece together what’s going on and undo the wrongs that have been done – spoiler – essentially someone sending out some unauthorized lists of numbers which translate to orders to kill people.  

If you like guns, lists of numbers and people using words like 'cypher' you will be all over this bad boy. And for the rest of you, I wouldn’t bother unless I have somehow made that synopsis sound tantalising. Cusack and Akerman's acting talents probably elevate this slightly above other similar films, and they both enjoy a lot of screen time as we don’t see too many other characters, especially when they are in the bunker. Having been binge watching Game of Thrones of late though I did notice ‘Married to her Dad’ Gilly near the start and "Onion Knight" Davos as one of Cusack’s fellow agents.

Looking ahead, this weekend sees the release of The Frozen Ground where Cusack plays a serial killer. I have to say I’m pretty tired of seeing him play killers and cops though so looking forward to “The Butler” where he plays Richard Nixon…

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Factory (2012)

Tagline: 'Based on actual events'
Cusack plays: detective Mike Fletcher

Not a biopic of Andy Warhol’s studio, the factory in this case is a baby making factory. A crazy dude is picking up prostitutes, taking them back to his and them impregnating them and making him call him ‘daddy’. Oh goody.

As cop Mike, Cusack has been on the case for a while along with his partner Kelsey (Jennifer ‘Deb from Dexter’ Carpenter) when it gets personal after ‘daddy’ kidnaps his teenage daughter. Daughter is not a hooker but sort of gets mistaken for one and taken. Taken, incidentally being a far superior film if you're in the mood for a man looking for his kidnapped daughter. Anyway, I digress.

This is a just about passable, if very predictable watch. There are some big ‘reveals’ but you will likely see them coming a mile off. Cusack is looking good with a nice full head of hair and some super big black coats and leather gloves for investigating. It has a nice gruesome start when crazy killer Gary accidentally picks up a transsexual prostitute who is of no use to him and disposes of them accordingly.

The film claims to be ‘based on true events’. Can’t find any real proof of this after a quick google but I suppose there have been a few cases where girls have been kidnapped and impregnated by their captor. Probably not the taking-the-cops-daughter-by-accident though.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Paperboy (2012)

 photo the-paperboy-movie-poster.jpg

Cusack plays: Death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter

Here I am making my yearly return to my blog to post the latest Cusack film review. And Blogger has changed and looks different, argh. But anyway -

The Paperboy, based on a 1990s novel of the same name, is a warm film. Not warm in a a family friendly Christmassy huggy way, but warm, like sticky and hot, dripping with sweat. I went to see it on one of those evenings in Edinburgh where it was snowing every night so it felt odd sitting there in my wellies while Zac Efron pranched about in his pants in a sweaty Southern 1960s summer. If Zac Efron in his pants is something that interests you, seek this film out immediately - it happens a lot.

The plot - The titular paperboy refers to Efron, college drop out delivering papers, while Matthew McConaughey is his investigative reporter older brother who returns to town to look into the case of death row inmate Cusack, a bad guy for sure, but did he really do the murderous crime? While banged up he has begun a letter writing romance and pledged marriage to trashy Nicole Kidman. The film follows the efforts to exonorate Cusack while Efron falls hard for Kidman.

This film seems to have received seriously varied views suggesting its an acquired taste - and dependent on how much you like the trashier bits (eg Kidman peeing on the jellyfish stung Efron, Kidman and Cusack dirty talking across the prison visiting room) and alligators being sliced open and their guts flying everywhere. Me? I sort of enjoyed it, but am not in a rush to rewatch.

Ned Bellamy pops up again, which must surely now make him Cusack's most frequent co-star. Next in the challenge? Imdb suggests we are in for a ropey looking thriller and Cusack playing another murderer..