John Cusack

Love & Mercy

“Oh, the loneliness in this world / Well, it’s just not fair” “Lonely. Scared. Frightened.” If we take Bill Pohlad’s impressive Love & Mercy at face value – which is difficult to do with any biopic, particularly ones that are as complicated and complex as Pohlad’s feature – Beach Boy Brian Wilson wrote both of those lines during a fraught time in his life. The first lyric is taken from his song “Love And Mercy,” from which Pohlad’s film (obviously) takes its name, the second is scribbled on a note early in the feature. Both lines reflect the pain Wilson felt throughout his life, an emotional and mental ailing that eventually pushed the musical genius into a lifestyle that approached that of a recluse, a captive and a victim. The story of the Beach Boys proper has been put to the screen before, but Pohlad’s film (beautifully scripted by Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner) is concerned with Wilson, the unofficial leader of the band and its primary songwriter during its most successful years. Wilson, for all his success and genius (and a lot of that is on display in the film, an addition that will please Wilson’s fans and help clarify the depth of his talent to viewers who are perhaps not familiar with him), has long suffered from anxiety attacks and auditory hallucinations (he hears voices, to put it crassly), and Pohlad’s film traces the beginning of those issues up through their unexpected consequences with care and respect. […]

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Maps to the Stars Movie

Canadian auteur David Cronenberg has a well-documented fascination with seeing social systems disrupted by chaos, whether they be romantic (The Fly), domestic (A History of Violence), psychological (A Dangerous Method), criminal (Eastern Promises), automotive (Crash) or technological (Videodrome, eXistenZ) in nature. Just as his suffocatingly stilted Cosmopolis set out to skewer the folly of capitalism in a long limo ride across Manhattan, Cronenberg’s latest, Maps to the Stars, seems explicitly crafted to serve as its West Coast counterpart, taking to task the wealthy, self-involved ranks that populate Hollywood. It may not be the sharpest of satires, but perhaps that unruliness is simply a matter of form reflecting content.

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20th Century Fox

This week is the 25th anniversary of Cameron Crowe‘s first feature, Say Anything, and while he went on to direct three more fantastic films (plus one good one and two stinkers) this one holds a special place in many of our hearts. It’s a rare honest look at teenagers in and out of love, is eminently quotable and features a high number of memorable and possibly iconic scenes. A quarter of a century later and the film is more beloved than ever. The anniversary has led to a handful of editorials on the movie — our own Kate Erbland even had the nerve to question whether Lloyd and Diane were still together 25 years later! The responses were varied and highly pessimistic, but the truth is clear in Lloyd’s persistence and optimism and in Diane’s joy and satisfaction. You only have to watch the movie to know that the two are still living it up in London. The commentary on the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray of Say Anything features something I’ve never seen (or heard) before, and that’s a twenty minute introduction set against a slide show of b&w set photos. Crowe, John Cusack and Ione Skye start things off strong with their recollections on what brought each of them to the film. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Say Anything.

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Maps to the Stars trailer

Although you won’t see her in the first promotional trailer for David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, it appears (at least according to the film’s IMDb page) that Carrie Fisher is co-starring in the auteur’s latest film as herself (or, perhaps more accurately, as a version of herself). Whereas the rest of the star-studded cast is saddled with hilariously fake-sounding names (John Cusack is “Dr. Stafford Weiss,” with Julianne Moore set to play “Havana Segrand” and Robert Pattinson rounding things out as “Jerome Fontana”) that make everyone seem like they’ve been picked to play characters in a high-minded pornographic film, Fisher apparently gets to keep her own. It’s a fitting choice for Cronenberg to file in a “Fisher” amongst other roles that are stuck with names like “Azita Wachtel” and “Sterl Carruth,” because at the very least it adds a touch of actual veracity to his latest feature – which is about Hollywood itself. Even in a city steeped in stage names, there has to be at least one “Carrie” to normalize things a bit (and this Carrie is a real one!), though Maps to the Stars looks as if it’s gloriously unbound to the normal.

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Say Anything

Sometime during the spring of my freshman year at college, a friend of mine decided to break out a big romantic gesture for his girlfriend of just a few weeks – they weren’t celebrating anything special, no anniversary or holiday to peg it to, he just wanted to do something – and he decided to recreate the infamous boombox scene from Say Anything. It went over like gangbusters. He drove his truck to the back of her dorm, stood in the bed of it, and blasted Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” for everyone to hear. I’m certain that was part of the charm – his girlfriend heard it, the rest of her dorm heard it, people walking to class heard it. (She was, to put it delicately, a bit of a show-off.) Most importantly, everyone seemed to get it. Cameron Crowe’s film was nearly fifteen years old when this particularly over-the-top expression of love occurred, and although I’d never dare to compare the epic love story that was Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane Court (Ione Skye) with a pair of dumb college kids eager to make their affections public in a world pre-Facebook, they did have something in common – neither couple is still together. 

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John Cusack in Being John Malkovich

Once upon a time, John Cusack was the epitome of understated greatness. His CV wasn’t a flawless one, but an interesting one, littered with interesting film choices that seemed to be just that — choices — with very few money pics. Then, something went terribly wrong. And the only answer is one of his best movies: Being John Malkovich. Look. I’m not saying that there is a clearly insane person living inside John Cusack’s head and making his professional decisions for him. I’m just saying there isn’t not a clearly insane person living inside John Cusack’s head making his professional decisions for him. Let’s go to the list.

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Robert De Niro in THE BAG MAN

It’s been two decades since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction crashed the zeitgeist and sent screenwriters everywhere rushing to their keyboards to create quirky criminals with the gift of gab. The best ones (In Bruges, Suicide Kings, Go) quickly form their own identity, but far too many seem content trying to mash together dark comedy and sharp violence and then calling it a day. Barely a month goes by without some new Tarantino-esque crime thriller hitting screens, and while it’s slowed down a bit recently the flow hasn’t stopped. Exhibit C for 2014… The Bag Man. Jack (John Cusack) is hired by a crime boss named Dragna (Robert De Niro) to acquire a particular bag and then wait at a motel for pick-up and payoff. The most important part of the task? Do not, under any circumstances, look in the bag. Jack struggles to resist the urge, but the waiting game is complicated by a host of characters trying to sleep with him, kill him, or possibly both. Writer/director David Grovic‘s debut is clearly inspired by the kinds of films mentioned above, but it feels more interested in duplicating a checklist than in creating its own unique world. Still, you can’t go too wrong with a movie that lets De Niro say a line like this:

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trailer drive hard

The short answer is no, and there isn’t a longer one. But let a man dream why don’t you? It’s been a while since John Cusack was a box-office draw, and it’s been just as long since he’s worn any color other than black. Coincidence? Probably not. His last lead role in a wide release was in 2012’s The Raven, and since then he’s starred in nine other films. Can you name more than one or two of them? Probably not. The same can be said to an albeit lesser degree for the careers of both Thomas Jane and writer/director Brian Trenchard-Smith. Jane’s leading man status of the mid ’00s has devolved into supporting roles in indies, while Trenchard-Smith has kept busy with TV and DTV titles since his early ’80s one-two-three punch of Stunt Rock, Escape 2000, and BMX Bandits. All three deserve a chance to get back into audiences’ line of sight and good graces, and their new collective effort is hoping to do the trick. Drive Hard (of course) is about a race car driver turned driving instructor (Jane) who gets coerced into robbing a bank by a friendly gunman (Cusack). As is wont to happen, all kinds of gunplay and vehicular hijinks ensue. Check out the first trailer below.

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ff grand piano

So you’re a famous pianist, and the world is your oyster. You have an A-list movie star wife who should be out of your league, but talent goes far and you made quite an impression. All those years studying with that world famous maestro are paying off in spades and nothing can go wrong, right? Sure you fat fingered some ivories during a concert last time you played. No big deal, c’est la vie, right? Wrong. For Tom Selznick (Elijah Wood) the flub was too much of a blow to his psyche. That was the day the house lights dimmed on his professional career. Seclusion came calling and who was he to ignore the call? FIVE YEARS LATER Tom is back! Lured out of retirement he agrees to play a concert honoring his mentor. His wife thinks it is a great idea. His conductor friend thinks it is a great idea. The public thinks it is a great idea. Most importantly, a greedy sniper thinks it is a grand idea. And so Grand Piano begins.

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Grand Piano tells that same old story we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Mid-performance, a concert pianist finds a death threat written in his sheet music, and plays cat-and-mouse with a vicious sniper while dazzling his way through a number of orchestral pieces. Same old, same old. Okay, maybe Grand Piano isn’t what you’d call “boilerplate.” Maybe it’s something very, very strange, and made far stranger with Spanish dubbing and a late-trailer reveal that John Cusack is the one pointing a gun at the noggin of Elijah Wood‘s concert pianist. But this trailer never lacks for excitement, and absence of English doesn’t mean much. The situation Wood finds himself in is weirdly specific enough that the goings-on of the trailer are always crystal clear. Go ahead and watch below.

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IMG_3052.CR2

Director Scott Walker‘s The Frozen Ground is the kind of thriller your conservative grandmother loves. It’s all around safe and plain, simple and to the point, and all very, very by-the-numbers. It’s like an episode of Law & Order expanded to two hours with an occasional polish or two. That idea may entice some older viewers, but after two hours of a “been there done that” on television, it’s not exactly attention grabbing. And this is a movie that conceptually should work. Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe, played by a determined Nicolas Cage, attempting to bring killer Robert Hansen, played by a finicky John Cusack, should be a joy to watch. Not because of its violent content, but because we’re seeing two notable actors facing off. It’s a cat and mouse game approached with smarts, not guns. There’s no scene of Halcombe confronting Hansen at his job or physically accosting him, but instead he’s simply trying to catch him with good old fashioned police work.

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Say-Anything_scenes

No, there’s no special anniversary for Cameron Crowe‘s directorial debut. At least not for another eight months, when Say Anything… turns 25. The reason it’s a Scenes We Love pick this week is because of all the recognition it’s been getting lately as a major influence on The Spectacular Now. The new indie teen movie’s male lead, Miles Teller, has been called the John Cusack of his generation, and the movie itself is being celebrated for a mix of comedy and drama and romance not achieved so well since the genre’s heyday in the 1980s. Say Anything… came about at the end of the decade and is considered by many to be the best, even considering all the exemplary works of John Hughes. Strangely, there’s a severe lack of clips from the film on the Internet. Maybe it’s because of Fox ordering them removed from YouTube and elsewhere, because there’s not even a proper version of the famous boombox serenade to be found. Not that this would be my first choice of a scene. The movie is full of a lot more than just Cusack being Cusack in a trenchcoat and a Clash t-shirt, giving his heart to Ione Skye and getting a pen in return. We’ve selected a handful of favorites from what could be found, but as always please tell us the scenes you love from the movie below.

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review numbers station

Two men sit in a car having a seemingly casual chat, but while Grey (Liam Cunningham) rambles on about the dollar value associated with all of the various minerals in a human body, Emerson (John Cusack) is recording numbers being spoken on the radio. He writes them down, enters a bar and kills the three people inside. They’re wet work agents tasked with cleanup duty, but when their latest hit goes awry Emerson is reassigned to an underground Numbers Station in England to babysit a civilian named Katherine (Malin Akerman), whose sole job is to transmit numerically coded messages over the shortwave radio to agents in the field. She doesn’t know exactly what’s in them, but she trusts they’re helping in the war on terror. Emerson knows otherwise, and his growing angst and existential concerns are what landed him this temporary demotion to a boring post in the middle of nowhere. The tedium doesn’t last long though, as a group of assassins have found the bunker, and they won’t stop until they accomplish their own mission. Why doesn’t John Cusack play characters who get to smile anymore?

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adult-world-emma-roberts-john-cusack

“Poet” as a career path isn’t exactly the safest or sanest route for the creative youth of America to take, but Amy Anderson (Emma Roberts) doesn’t appear to have taken that sort of thing (i.e. actual reasonable thought) into consideration when it comes to her post-grad life. Back at home with her parents, the guileless Amy wiles away her time penning new poetry, applying for various “accolades” (really, this is how she talks) from different publications and using her parents’ dime to fund the entire endeavor. Sick of putting her up (and putting up with her), Amy’s parents demand she find a job, though they probably weren’t pulling for her eventual hiring at Adult World, the local adult video store. The joke, of course, of Scott Coffey’s Adult World is that Amy is entering the “adult world” for the first time, a realm of maturity that she desperately needs to spend some time in, as she’s been coddled and spoiled to within an inch of her life. Let’s put it this way – when Amy’s parents accuse her of still being a child, she responds precisely as a child would: shooting back with a whiny “I am not a child!” before literally running away from home (she even sneaks out her own bedroom window). It’s a different sort of role for Roberts – Amy isn’t inherently likable, though she does seem to be generally well-meaning – but Roberts’ charm shines through and elevates Amy to someone we can actually get […]

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Beach Boys

Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy is looking to start filming this summer, and it looks like they’ve got the biggest pieces of the puzzle all set. According to The Wrap, John Cusack is in talks to join the production, playing Beach Boy Brian Wilson in his mid-life years while Paul Dano plays the younger version of the iconic musician. With a script from Oren Moverman (The Messenger), the movie seeks to chronicle Wilson’s life from his 1960s success, through his public breakdown to his modern reemergence. And, really, he makes for a fascinating subject with a hell of a soundtrack on his hip, but the names behind Love & Mercy build up a lot of excitement. Pohlad was a producer on Into the Wild, The Tree of Life and The Runaways; Moverman has shown incredible emotional nuance in his scripts; Atticus Ross (The Social Network) is scoring the film; John Wells is also producing; and Wilson himself has given the project his blessing. This is huge. A fascinating story of a genius that has nothing but potential and the best minds surrounding it. Let’s hope the boys of summer get their start date soon.

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The Numbers Station

Everybody keeps shooting at John Cusack. To get them to stop, he and Malin Ackerman are going to have to crack a long string of numbers because, as we all know, the left side of the brain is the sexiest. In The Numbers Station, Cusack plays a dishonored black ops agent who is biding time protecting Ackerman’s character as she works at a numbers station in the middle of nowhere. She’ll be glad to have him, though, when the station comes under attack and a plan to kill some important world figures gets set in motion. This action thriller has been a long time in the making (Ethan Hawke was first attached to it back in 2010), and it represents a test for some newcomers. The first is screenwriter F. Scott Frazier, who has nailed down some work since, but who will see his first script sale finally emerge on the big screen here. The second is director Kasper Barfoed, who is not at all well known beyond his native Denmark. The trailer looks pretty damned cool. Despite the generic gloss over everything, it has the promise of a deeper mystery looming in the numbers:

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Hot Tub Time Machine

According to The Hollywood Reporter, MGM is in exploratory talks (aka dipping their toes in the water) with Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke to see if there’s a possibility of making a Hot Tub Time Machine sequel. Apparently John Cusack isn’t involved right now (which is curious, because he’s the ball game), but there’s a chance Corddry might work with Steve Pink on the script. Pink is, as you can guess, in talks to return to the director’s chair. Hot Tub Time Machine was a funny enough movie, and bringing these comedians back together would certainly be better than, say, watching Grown Ups or being clawed to death by a horse-sized duck. Still, with the way the original ended, it’s going to take some narrative hopscotch to get the guys back in time. Think about it. If you saw all your dreams of wealth, fame, love and success come true, you probably wouldn’t go near another hot tub again. So what entices everyone to take the plunge? That’s the inexplicable part, but there’s no doubt that — if this moves forward — Pink will find something appropriately ridiculous to bring everyone into the second act. So MGM wants it, but do you? And where do they go? A Reality Bites-style look at being 20-something in the 90s?

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A Look Back at the Cinematic Facial Hair of 2012

The movies released in 2012 have been notable for many reasons, impacting or reflecting news events both positively and negatively. It’s also seen new innovations, the most notable being the first release of a film in 48 frames per second. However, cinematic historians will also look back on 2012 as being a banner year for facial hair. The entire crew of Film School Rejects relishes glorious facial hair (and yes, that also includes the ladies on staff). We all wish we could have half the style that characters in the movies this year displayed on their lips, chins and cheeks. Now, as the year draws to a close, we reminisce on the many styles we’ve seen on movie screens in 2012, and maybe give some tips on how to grow your own face so glorious.

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Nicolas Cage

What is Casting Couch? It’s your Monday look at all of the great work casting agents and PR people did over the weekend to keep those Hollywood gears turning. UPDATED: We dreamed too soon, kids. It seems like Sylvester Stallone is fully committed to his experiment of figuring out how many big name celebrities have to be packed into an Expendables movie before one of them actually becomes interesting. The latest news regarding his quest (found on Stallone’s Facebook page by JoBlo) is that Nicolas Cage has been confirmed for a role in The Expendables 3, and that Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and Mickey Rourke are the names he intends on recruiting next. You keep on trucking there, Mr. Stallone. With the addition of just five or ten more celebrities, The Expendables 3 is bound to be the one that finally gets out of first gear and actually becomes a decent action movie. We have faith!

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Christoph Waltz

What is Casting Couch? It’s a daily roundup of all the casting news you care about, and maybe (probably) one or two items you don’t. Some info has finally leaked about James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller’s upcoming sequel to The Muppets. Turns out it’s going to be a caper movie, somewhat along the lines of The Great Muppet Caper, but with more of an international flair. How international? So international that THR is reporting they’re closing in on signing Christoph Waltz to play one of the main, non-Muppet roles—that of an Interpol inspector. Other important parts for humans are said to include a Russian femme fatale and a male lead with mysterious intentions. Actors looking to land the part should start sending in their shifty-eyed head shots now.

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published: 10.30.2014
B-
published: 10.29.2014
D+
published: 10.27.2014
C-
published: 10.24.2014
C-


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