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Posts Tagged ‘John Cusack’

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This film is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served as a butler in the White House, working for seven Presidents. In this film, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves eight Presidents, against a backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, among other famous American events. Quite simply, it is an amazing and moving film, in part due to the uniformly brilliant cast. Forest Whitaker never disappoints, and Oprah Winfrey is superb as his wife Gloria. There are some odd casting choices – I couldn’t imagine John Cusack playing Nixon I heard that he was in that role – but it worked. The film combines one man’s personal journey, walking a fine line between supporting his oldest son, who is determined to fight for equal rights, no matter what the cost; and working at the White House, where such subversiveness is frowned upon. Amongst the Presidents he works for are JFK, the aforementioned Nixon, and Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman). The film shows how the job takes it’s toll on Gaines’s family and causes conflicting ideals in his mind.

I loved it – go watch it, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Lee Daniels

Writers: Danny Strong, Wil Haygood

Main cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr, Clarence Williams III, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, James Marsden

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This film tells the true story of the 1919 ‘Black Sox’ scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team, fed up with being underpaid by their boss, accepted bribes to throw games and deliberately lose the World Series. The first half of the movie concentrates mainly on the setting up of the bribes and the games themselves, and the second half of the movie deals with the fall-out of the resulting scandal – the truth being uncovered by suspicious journalists.

There is a stellar cast, including John Cusack as ‘Buck’ Weaver (a player who knew about the bribery but refused to become involved or take any money; sadly he suffered the same punishment as the other team members); D.B. Sweeney as ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, an illiterate but brilliant baseball player; Gordon Clapp as Ray Schalk, the ‘catcher’ for the team who did not know about the bribery and was frustrated at the teams’ apparent inability to play well; and John Mahoney as ‘Kid’ Gleason, retired baseball player and now coach of the team, who had no knowledge (but maybe some suspicions) about the bribes. Charlie Sheen also stars – normally an actor who can be painful to watch, but he’s actually pretty good in this.

The film was enjoyable and far more compelling than I expected.  Although the players were obviously in the wrong to take the bribes, their reasons for doing so were made clear and their actions were somewhat understandable (if not excusable).  These men were playing their hearts out, but only succeeding in making other people rich, while being double crossed and cheated out of a fair wage.

The film was not told from any specific player’s point of view, but perhaps centred most on that of Buck Weaver, and certainly he is the character whose story stuck out the most for me.  He was invited to take the bribe, but refused to do so, and also refused to play at any less than the best of his ability. However, because he chose not to reveal the actions of his fellow team players, he suffered the same punishment of eventually being banned from professional baseball (something which he apparently challenged many times up until his death in 1956).

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable film, which tells a huge part of baseball history.

Year of release: 1988

Director: John Sayles

Writers: Eliot Asinof (book), John Sayles

Main cast: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, Gordon Clapp, D.B. Sweeney

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This is a courtroom thriller, based on a novel by John Grisham (which I haven’t read).  It features an excellent leading cast – namely Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz.  Set in New Orleans, Dustin Hoffman plays Randall Rohr, the pro bono lawyer acting on behalf of a woman who is suing a gun company who she feels is responsible for the shooting of her husband two years earlier.  Gene Hackman is Rankin Fitch is a jury consultant, working on the side of the defence – helping them during the jury selection process in picking jurors who will tend to side with the defence and deliver a not guilty verdict.  Fitch has a remarkable success rate in his career and is clearly excellent at picking jurors who will be easily manipulated, and sympathetic towards his ‘side’.  However, somebody on the jury wants to manipulate the verdict from the inside – and when both Fitch and Rohr find themselves with an intriguing proposition, it becomes anybody’s guess as to which side will win…

I thought this movie was excellent.  The cast of big names does not disappoint, and Hackman and Hoffman in particular, shine throughout.  Cusack also slides easily into his role as amiable juror Nick Easter, who has his own agenda, which is not revealed until near the end of the film.

Although the film was a shade over two hours long, it felt like half that time, as it carried me along with it, and events moved at a rapid pace.  The plotting was clever, but not over-intricate and there were enough about-turns to keep me guessing.  Simply a good solid drama, with plenty to recommend it.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Gary Fleder

Writers: John Grisham (book), Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland, Matthew Chapman

Main cast: Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz

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This is a great movie.  John Cusack – always wonderful – is terrific in this, as Lloyd Dobler, an funny and considerate ‘everyman’ 19 year old, who falls in love with a high achieving student named Diane Court (Ione Skye).

Against the odds, Diane falls for Lloyd too, but her father (John Mahoney) doesn’t approve – and as it turns out, he has problems of his own.

So this is basically a coming of age love story…but it’s done very well indeed.  It’s hard to imagine any young girl not falling in love with Lloyd, and the emotions displayed between the two leads certainly made me recall exactly what it was like to be that age and experiencing that first rush of desire.  In the hands of a lesser actor, Lloyd could have been a forgettable character, but John Cusack manages to make him utterly adorable and totally lovable.

Less obvious and cliched than many other high school romance movies which were around at the time (it’s no surprise that director Cameron Crowe went on to achieve fame), this is a film which can surely be enjoyed by any person of any age.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

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I guess I should put a disclaimer right at the beginning of this blog post – I was really tired when watching this movie, which means that I probably didn’t enjoy as much as I would have done had I been more awake.  The film is about Martin Blank (John Cusack) who is a professional hitman, but he has become disillusioned with his way of life.  He goes back to the town where he grew up for his High School reunion, with the hope that he will be able to rekindle his relationship with his former girlfriend Debi (Minnie Driver).  Meanwhile, there are other people on his tail, including Dan Akroyd, who plays a rival hitman, trying to get Martin to join a ‘union’.

The film does have some very humorous moments, mainly due to John Cusack who is brilliant in his role.  Minnie Driver is also great, and Dan Ackroyd is reliably solid in his role.

The school reunion itself is completely (and obviously intentionally on the behalf of the film-makers) cringeworthy, and served to remind me exactly why I would never want to go to any school reunion myself!

The humour in this movie is not in-your-face; it’s more subtle than that, which I think is a good thing.

Good supporting cast (including two of John Cusack’s sisters), and a great finale.

Year of release: 1997

Director: George Armitage

Writer: Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack

Main cast: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Jeremy Piven, Dan Aykroyd

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