Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer who lives with a menagerie and his wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz), but he is depressed, he is unemployed, and he ends up taking a job for filing in a strange office on the 7½th floor. Here, he discovers a small door that leads him into a portal that goes directly into the brain of John Malkovic (played by himself). Then there is Maxine (Catherine Keener)who is out to make a buck and maybe fall in love.
Such a strange film – I loved it so much when I first saw it, and seeing it again now probably fifteen years later, I’m surprised at how much I had forgotten. I think I enjoyed it even more on the re-watch – it is just so very, very strange. The group of elderly folk who need the portal, or the woman in the office who constantly mishears people but blames it on them – magnificent. If you haven’t seen this, and you’re up for a strange movie adventure, here you go!
Being John Malkovich was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Keener), Best Director (Spike Jonze) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
Gib (John Cusack) has gone to college on the East coast hoping that his wit and intellect (well, mostly wit) will prove him to be a charm with the ladies, but he is striking out as much as he did in high school. When his mate Lance (Anthony Edwards), who is partying his way through his degree in California, invites Gib to California for the holidays, it is the promise of a ‘sure thing’ (Nicollette Sheridan) that seals the deal. Only, Gib can’t afford to get there, and ends up car pooling with a couple of perky nuts (Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky) and his nemisis, the girl he has desperately tried to hit on and failed, Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga). When they are kicked out of the vehicle, Gib and Alison must pair up to get across the line.
It’s a classic hate-each-other romantic comedy, but there is something special about this. What is it? I reckon good scriptwriting and Cusack. This charming character of Cusack’s is not unusual – he probably plays the same character in pretty much every romantic comedy he’s been in, but this was probably the first and the most fresh. Zuniga is awesome as well, great comic timing, and I’m surprised she didn’t go on to a more prominent career, but you never can tell. Eighties charm with a hell of a lot of heart. Check it out.
Ah, so here is San Andreas a few years before San Andreas and much bigger, but essentially, a very similar story. There is the massive disaster (San Andreas is just the fault and huge earthquakes. 2012 you have that and also the entire destruction of the planet). There is the divorced couple, the woman (Amanda Peet in this film) with two kids (ok, San Andreas has just the one kid, but then she picks up a couple of mates), and the idiot new boyfriend/husband (this one not as much of a fool, but still, he’s a plastic surgeon and handily is learning to fly). And then there is our hero. In 2009 and 2012 (I love the way that works), it is an author, supported by a few fabulous science type folks (John Cusack and Chiwetel Ejiofor) but now, in 2014, we got muscle man Dwayne Johnson, a rescue worker. But, the plot is just about the same. Man needs to save family, including estranged wife, and wins.
So, two crazy films that are far too similar and really, I loved them both for what they are all about. Is the Mayan Calendar right? (Well, no, come now. It’s 2015, we know that was wrong). Will the world collapse? Who knows. Probably not as spectacularly as this, but still. Will we have heroes that rush to save their ex-wife and children and puppies? Probably. At least, I can hope so. And the big question… The Rock or John Cusack? Hmmm… Can we have two heroes? (Plus, fabulous to have Woody Harrelson being a nutter. Jeepers, he is good at that role!)
This is a tough film… it starts as a film about a couple of hopefuls who are trying to get a possibly innocent criminal out of jail and turns into… well, I don’t really know what. It’s all really tricky.
Zac Efron plays Jack, a young guy in Florida in the 1960s who is dragged into a strange world after his brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) returns to town to try to expose injustices in relation to a murder conviction. The convicted is Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a repulsive man from the swamps. Ward brings along his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo), who creates waves as he is a black man in this racist society, and Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), a racy woman who believes after corresponding with Van Wetter, that not only is he innocent, but that they are in love. Jack is in love with Charlotte in no time. And then things get really horrible. The whole story is told by the family maid, Anita (Macy Gray).
It’s interesting, and then it is creepy, and then it is a bit shocking, and then thing get a bit twisted, and then things get horrible and then more horrible and I am possibly never going to recover. And Nicole Kidman, well, generally I find her very difficult to watch these days, but she it fabulous in this. No wonder she was nominated for both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance.
Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) was a butler at the White House under eight different presidents during over many years of the civil rights movement.
What I enjoyed about this film was the journey of Cecil’s son, Louis (David Oyelowo) through the Freedom Riders, with Martin Luther King Jnr, into the Black Panther movement and beyond. It was a well told story, with the structure of the interactions with the presidents to show the way things didn’t change at the same time that everything changed. Still, you do need to suspend your belief a lot – it is a big ask to have a film span such a long time and have the same actors. Both Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey looked far too old for their young years, though the aging of the other actors was more effective. The story is strong enough to beat those flaws.
The Butler was nominated for BAFTAs for Best Supporting Actor (Oprah Winfrey) and Best Make Up/Hair.
Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has just been released from service as an Army Ranger, returning to his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). However, when they are threatened by some belligerent drinkers in the bar where she is working, he is forced to defend them. Oops! His military skills caused him to accidentally kill a man and end up in jail. Of course, Tricia is now pregnant, and after Cameron serves his eight-year sentence, he is ready to finally meet his little girl. He is being transferred across the country in a flight full of the nastiest nasties: Billy Bedlam (Nick Chinlund), Ramon ‘Sally-Can’t Dance’ Martinez (Renoly Santiago), Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), Pinball (David Chapelle), Johnny-23 (Danny Trejo), all led by Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovic). The transfer is being overseen by US Marshall Larkin (John Cusack) and the idiot DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney). But, a few things happen and by the time they stop to pick up the new prisoners Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene (Steve Buscemi), Swamp Thing (M.C. Gainey) and a few others, the plane is run by the prisoners, Malloy is messing things up, and it is up to Poe (staying on the plane to help his mate, Baby-O (Mykelti Williamson) who is diabetic and requires insulin) to try to ensure that they don’t all die.
Con Air is most definitely amongst my favourite action films. It’s corny and terrible, but it is exactly that which makes it brilliant. Some of the best moments were when everything goes slow motion, Nicolas Cage strides across the screen and there is some wild eighties style guitar solo playing. Brilliant.
Con Air was nominated for Oscars for Best Sound and Best Music, Original Song (How Do I Live)