Posts Tagged ‘John Cusack’

The Most Disappointing Films of 2008

January 7, 2009

Out of the ones that I bothered to see, of course, here are the ones that disappointed me the most.

1.Stop-Loss
With the anticipation of this being Kimberly Peirce’s follow-up to Boys Don’t Cry, I was stunned to see just how much of a by-the-numbers film it ended up being.
2.Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay
They obviously should’ve stopped while they were ahead, because the first film really had no business being hilarious at all. It has definitely run its course now.
3.War, Inc.
Disguised as another film, this is essentially just Grosse Pointe Blank 2, just without any of the good qualities of the first film.
4.The Life Before Her Eyes
It looked like a rare good role for Uma Thurman outside of Tarantino projects, and with a director like House of Sand and Fog‘s Vadim Perelman, it’s hard to believe it came out this disappointing.
5.Step Brothers
If Apatow-produced projects are anything less than non-stop hilarious, then they are a disappointment for sure. This one is such a scattershot piece of mostly-overdone physical comedy that it is just plain bad.
6.Righteous Kill
DeNiro and Pacino are finally together again! Yes they are, but it’s all put to waste in this formulaic murder mystery that would’ve fit nicely between some CSI or Law and Order shows.
7.Smart People
It was hyped as a sarcastic equal to recent indie gems like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, but this one is mostly dull.
8.Be Kind Rewind
Proof once more that Michel Gondry should never write screenplays, but only direct. There are moments of fun in this film, but it is ultimately stale.
9.The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Yes, I had to include this film. Do not take it the wrong way, because I did like it very much…I was just expecting it to move me much more than it did.
10.Cassandra’s Dream
The build-up in this Woody Allen film is promising and the peformances by the leads are very good, but the resolution is maddening, and for the legendary filmmaker – extremely baffling.

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A List Inspired By “Grace Is Gone”

June 5, 2008

My 10 Favorite John Cusack Performances
1.High Fidelity
Rob Gordon, one of the best characters in cinema history.
2.Grace Is Gone
3.Say Anything…
4.Being John Malkovich
5.Max
6.The Grifters
7.1408
8.Grosse Pointe Blank
9.Bullets Over Broadway
10.The Sure Thing

Career Highlight for Cusack in “Grace Is Gone”

June 4, 2008

PG-13, 84 minutes, The Weinstein Company

Throughout the entire winter season for cinema in 2007, (which happened to be a mighty fantastic one!) the James C. Strouse film, Grace Is Gone, was always in my top five most anticipated. The performance by John Cusack, in which he plays a father of two girls who learns of his wife’s death in Iraq and must find a way to break the news to them, garnered a nice little bit of attention in the fall with even some talk of a possible first-time Oscar nomination for the tremendous actor. That buzz, coupled with the fact that it received both the Waldo Salt Screenwriting and Audience Award’s at Sundance a few months earlier, made me think that it would easily find its way across at least Arts theaters in the US. Sadly, that never happened. It received about as limited of a run as a movie with a solid lead actor and award talk could get, never opening anywhere near here and ultimately totaling box-office numbers that were hard-pressed to topple $50,000. To add to the pain of waiting, the video release was rather long compared to most of the swift-paced rush to shelves for most films nowadays, with about six months of time from theater to DVD player. Nevertheless, on May 27th I finally had no more reason to nag and complain, for Grace Is Gone was here. It is a film, and in particular a performance, that I will never forget.

Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, a middle-aged man whose face blatantly shows a dissatisfaction with himself, some disappointment because he is not the family member who is strapped up in military gear and fighting in Iraq. Due to limitations in his eyesight, Stanley was denied from serving at a very early age. But his wife, Grace, with whom he married after meeting in the military continues to serve, which leaves Stanley at not only a feeling of guilt but in the position of raising not only two children, but two girls, and by himself. There is no questioning the love he has for his family, it’s just the level of confidence he lacks in himself that’s what stopping him from handling the regular parenting things the way he could. Each day that Grace is absent from their lives is another day the girls grow older, and it becomes more difficult for Stanley to get a grasp on the entire situation. But he is doing his best, which is all he can hope to do until she comes back. When he is approached at his doorstep by two men who inform him of his wife’s death in battle, Stanley enters an understandable state of shock. When his children come home he attempts to find the right way to tell them, but instead reverts to spontaneous propositions that they’re not accustomed to seeing from him, in particular asking if they want to take a sudden road trip to a popular amusement park, Enchanted Gardens. There are devastating emotions in the most subtle of facial expressions as his mind races faster and faster, through countless ways to find it in himself to let his children know that their mother is gone.

The road trip itself is like a coming-of-age-quickly excursion for Stanley and a chance, albeit under the most unfortunate of circumstances, to come closer to his girls, especially with his oldest, Heidi, played by Shelan O’Keefe in one of the best adolescent performances in recent memory. Strouse has created a simple and straight-forward screenplay that is very good, but in finding the right lead actor it becomes memorable and near fantastic. This is one of those movies that can find a level ground with everyone who views it, even those who disagree about the many directions and actions American government have taken on the war, because it doesn’t act like it has answers for anything. Strouse chooses to simply tell the story of how it all affects our regular families and those who extend from there on out. Cusack digs deep as Stanley, creating a character that can certainly be added among the most impressive in a career filled with outstanding performances. There are moments in this film, especially near the finale that will stay with you forever if you have any sort of feelings inside. Clint Eastwood was so impressed by an early cut of the film, that he agreed to do the score for it, which turned out to be a wonderful companion piece. Stanley was prevented from serving in the military and thus destroying his aspirations of becoming an identifiable American hero, but he still has time to realize that he can be a good, caring father, which in the eye’s of two children can be seen as heroic as anything anyone’s ever done on a battlefield.

Ranting and (Arguably) Raving

May 27, 2008

Things that have been happening lately:

1) This afternoon I filmed a music video with Corey, but the editing of it will not be finished tonight, due to an excruciating migraine that I developed some twelve hours ago and it continues to eat away at my brain. I am very excited to finally find myself picking up the camera again. The footage was fun and will be even more of a good time to edit, which I entirely miss doing. I can say that you will want to check it out upon its completion, which will most likely be tomorrow. It features a song by Dan Deacon.

2) I have officially put an end to the disease of being unable to watch films at home, which I was diagnosed with several months ago. It is unknown as to what the cure to this was, but I am happy to say that I came out of it all without entering chemotherapy. It is a great feeling to be watching some of the films I missed out on lately.

3) In the very, very near future I will have consistent time with an awesome new laptop, which I am confident will help me finally make good on my promise to deliver more frequent reviews on this establishment. I think there’s no betting against the combination of Panera Bread, dark and vibrantly brewed coffee, an XPS laptop, and me. I will make it happen.

4) A list of the films that I have viewed in the past five days, all of which I plan to have words to write about and to make available for you to read…

5.21: Hannah Takes the Stairs
5.21: George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead
5.22: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5.22: Wristcutters: A Love Story
5.23: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
5.23: Delirious
5.23: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
5.24: Teeth
5.25: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
5.26: You Kill Me
5.26: Sleuth
5.26: The Hunting Party

5A) Tomorrow, two good things will be happening. Immediately when I wake up I will be going to rent the three films that are seeing new release and that I have been anticipating for months. The one that is most desired is the James C. Strouse-directed, John Cusack-acted, and Clint Eastwood-scored, Grace Is Gone. It was sadly never released at the Keystone Art Cinema as it was promised. The same has also happened with this year’s David Gordon Green-directed Snow Angels, which I will never fully get over. If you know me, then chances are you know that Cusack has always been one of the highest actors on my list, and with this newest role being considered among his best, I cannot wait for tomorrow morning. Another film on the list of three promising releases this week is Woody Allen’s latest effort, another attempt at all-out drama, Cassandra’s Dream. It had a couple weeks of runtime earlier this year at the Art Cinema, but I just couldn’t manage to make it out. Tomorrow I will watch it and give my apologies to the great Allen for missing my first film of his in theaters since 1999’s Sweet and Lowdown. The third film of the trio, and the one I chose to watch as the finale of them all, is Paul Schrader’s The Walker, in which it seems Woody Harrelson gets another chance at a significantly dominant starring role in the vein of Natural Born Killers, and The People vs. Larry Flynt. Perhaps I am saving the best for last? I will soon find out.

5B) Later on in the day I will be going to an interview, which I fully expect to nail in the easiest of ways. Needless to say at this point, I am extremely unhappy with my IMAX projectionist job…or was I extremely unhappy with the IMAX projectionist job that I spontaneously quit? If that question lingers inside your head as you’re reading this, then there is even more reason to watch the music video Corey and I filmed today. The answer is there. Anyway, some new directions will most likely be starting tomorrow, regardless.

6) I have become exhausted with the A-F rating system that I have used on films for the past I don’t know how long. I have reached back to the 1-4 stars that I began with in the very beginning…I’m talking about classic Frankton High School “Fergy Reviews” column days. How has it already been 8 years since journalism class? That’s sort of scary.

7) Last weekend, filming began on the latest full-length Neckbrace Substitute film. I will not reveal much on this under-wraps project, but I will tell you that it is a documentary collaboration with Tony Marshall and an extension of various members of his family. I hope you all will watch when we finish it in July and have it available later that month.

That is all that seems to be happening right now. I am happy that things are apparently keeping my mind occupied on being productive. FERGUSON REVIEWS will not fall into nothingness with constant delays between posts. I am making this a place to cuddle up in and stay. Grab a beverage or something and make yourself feel at home. What’s mine is yours.