Tag Archives: John Cusack

Con Air (1997) Review

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Con Air

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence & offensive language
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe
John Cusack as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin
John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom
Steve Buscemi as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene
Ving Rhames as Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones
Colm Meaney as Agent Duncan Malloy
Mykelti Williamson as Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell
Rachel Ticotin as Guard Sally Bishop
Director: Simon West

Cameron is a wrongly convicted prisoner who is going to be released when his plane is hijacked by other criminals. While they seize control of the plane, he attempts to wrest control and return home.

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When it comes to the 90s and especially for Nicolas Cage, Con Air is one of the quintessential action movies, even if I wouldn’t consider it one of the all time best. I rewatched it after many years after seeing it for the first time, and it was even more enjoyable than I remembered it being. It is absurd, yet thrilling, and constantly entertaining from beginning to end.

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One thing that everyone will say is that Con Air is very over the top and ridiculous, it is almost insane that this movie was made at all. It just runs with whatever ridiculous happens, no matter the absurdity, and it just keeps escalating and escalating. Its very noisy, and nothing about the movie is subtle. It is helped by a light tone and the simplicity of the plot, which is basically Die Hard on a plane. Nicolas Cage is a prisoner going home on a plane full of convicts, and the convicts take over the plane. This movie is always moving, with rarely a dull or boring moment. I also love how confident this movie is, there is an earnestness to the movie, even with the tongue in cheek and self-aware moments, which gives it a real personality. There are even certain choices that are played completely straight, but come across as unintentional comedic, and that adds to the movie if anything. Its really hard to criticise the writing of the movie because any negative you could find in it also serves as a positive (on an entertainment level at least). What I will say without spoilers is that once everything with the plane is done, there is a final action segment to conclude the movie. It is still enjoyable, but does feel a little tact on.

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There is a stacked cast with plenty of recognisable names here, and everyone delivers in their parts. They know what kind of movie they are in and are committed to the film despite the goofiness. Nicolas Cage leads this movie with long hair and a wonky Southern accent. Even though its not one of his all time best action roles, its one of his most memorable. He’s likable, easy to follow, and has some memorable moments and delivers some fun one liners. John Cusack is also good as a US Marshal who helps Cage along the way. The standout is John Malkovich as a menacing and great villain, I really don’t think the character and movie would’ve worked as well without Malkovich. Supporting villains including Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo are solid, and Steve Buscemi is a scene stealer.

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Something that also helps the movie is the direction by Simon West. Its so overblown yet well filmed, stylistically it is the epitome of 90s action cheese. The action is entertaining and intense, the camera movements are great, and everything from the fight scenes to the shootouts are crafted well. The score is wonderfully bombastic, and is operating at the right tone and feel for this movie.

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Con Air is the most Michael Bay movie that isn’t directed by Michael Bay. It has the right amount of absurdity, earnestness, and self-awareness, made even better by Simon West’s solid direction, and an ensemble of enjoyable performances led by Nicolas Cage. It is a lot of fun, and is a great candidate for the ultimate popcorn movie. If you like action movies especially those which are incredibly over the top, I think Con Air is worth checking out.

1408 (2007) Review

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Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Director: Mikael Håfström

A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences (John Cusack) checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. As he settles in, he confronts genuine terror.

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I heard about 1408 for some time, I knew it as a horror movie based on a Stephen King book that starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and involved a specific hotel room. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect from it, though I did notice some reactions to the movie to be a little mixed. I actually ended up enjoying it, even if I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie.

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The setup of the movie is pretty simple, and the plot moves at a reasonable pace, really picking up from the moment that lead character Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) first enters Room 1408. The story is pretty fun and kept my interest, especially with the mystery of the room even if by the end it doesn’t live up to its potential and build up. The movie does fall into some typical clichés of the genre and doesn’t surprise too much. With that said, I can say it very much feels like a Stephen King story, for better and for worse. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and creative as everything is thrown at Enslin and he tries to figure out what to do next. I can’t tell whether some of the scenes are intentionally funny or just unintentionally funny, but some scenes were so over the top that I had fun with them, and not necessarily in a bad way. A particular scene involving a very agitated John Cusack and a mini fridge does make me feel like there was some self-awareness while making the movie. At the same time, there are some genuinely effective scenes, especially in the second half of the movie. I should point out that there are two versions (and apparently somehow three endings) of the movie. Strangely enough, the director’s cut is now the version of 1408 mostly on display for people to watch on Blu-ray and streaming services. Also strangely enough, the theatrical cut ending ended up being superior to the director’s cut. While I liked the initial idea and different direction of the director’s cut ending, ultimately the execution just ends up being really nothing and was unsatisfying. The ending in the theatrical cut, while seemingly less dark, was actually a lot more effective; sadly, you’ll probably only get to see that version if you have the DVD copy of 1408. So in saying that, directly after watching 1408 (it’ll no doubt be the director’s cut), I would recommend looking online at the theatrical cut ending.

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Much of the movie belongs to John Cusack, it’s basically a one man show for him and he does very well. His character is a strong sceptic about ghosts and hauntings as a writer, who is confronted with so much while inside this room and it’s very entertaining to watch him. He’s super into his scenes and embraces his character and all the emotions he’s tasked with delivering. Much of his acting can be hilarious at points, but I think that accompanies the tone of the movie very fittingly. On a side note though, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if Nicolas Cage was in the role instead simply for the over the top insanity scenes (that aforementioned mini-fridge scene certainly felt like a moment right out of a Cage film). Samuel L. Jackson is second billed in the cast but wasn’t in the movie much. However, he’s very memorable and good as the manager of the hotel who warns Cusack’s character about the dangers of staying in Room 1408.

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One of 1408’s strongest aspects was the direction from Mikael Hafstrom. The look of the movie outside of the hotel (and especially during the day) looks a bit off, but otherwise the film looks really great and is shot and composed well. Some strong atmosphere and tension are created early on, and again it shines particularly in the scenes in Room 1408. I don’t think the scares were particularly good, some the jump scares are honestly rather lame and ineffective, but the atmosphere and mystery portions of the film were good. The editing at points can be a little uneven but nothing movie breaking.

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1408 does have its issues and I wouldn’t place it as the top tier of Stephen King film adaptations, but I think it’s pretty good. The intriguing and entertaining story, the solid direction and the committed lead performance from John Cusack come together to make a decent horror movie. Don’t expect something at the level of like The Shining, but I do think it’s a movie you might have a lot of fun watching, worth a look.

Cell (2016) Review

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Time: 98 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
John Cusack as Clayton “Clay” Riddell
Samuel L. Jackson as Thomas “Tom” McCourt
Isabelle Fuhrman as Alice Maxwell
Stacy Keach as Charles Ardai
Wilbur Fitzgerald as Geoff
Alex ter Avest as Chloe
Owen Teague as Jordan
Catherine Dyer as Sally
E. Roger Mitchell as Roscoe
Erin Elizabeth Burns as Denise
Director: Tod Williams

When a strange signal pulsates through all cell phone networks worldwide, it starts a murderous epidemic of epic proportions when users become bloodthirsty creatures, and a group of people in New England are among the survivors to deal with the ensuing chaos after.

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Cell reunites John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson for another Stephen King adaptation after 1408 (a film I still want to check out). Now I already heard that this movie was bad but the film somehow ended up being way worse than I thought it would be. The direction, writing, everything about this movie is so incredibly faulty that it astonishes me. However there are parts of it that were so unintentionally hilarious, so there were at least some enjoyable parts to the film.

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Cell has an interesting premise but the film doesn’t execute this premise well. There’s not much to say about the story, it’s not interesting at all. From the beginning of the movie I could tell something was off. The opening credits scene was terrible, random black boxes would appear on the screen with white writing for the credits. It’s one of the worst opening credits scenes I’ve seen. This movie has so many unintentionally hilarious moments, most of it is due to the execution of the scenes. A good example of this is the opening airport scene, which was so laughable. The direction was really bad (which I’ll talk about soon) but also the violence, the zombies, the reactions, everything that was going on was so over the top it was so hard to take it seriously. The film has some of these moments every so often. And then it gets to the point where it’s just boring. Although I liked some performances in the movie I didn’t care about any of the characters because they weren’t really given any characterisation. The ending to this movie is so underwhelming, this film tries to be smart or tries to leave it up to interpretation but it just ends up feeling confusing. Also the scene is directed horribly. The ending was actually changed by Stephen King because some people didn’t like the novel’s ending. That’s another thing to mention, Stephen King co-wrote the script. One last thing to mention, this film uses the Trololo song in one scene, and as some people know, it’s a bit of an internet meme. It was the most hilarious moment in the entire film. Just thought I should mention that.

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John Cusack is okay in here but it often seems like he’s phoning it in (no pun intended). He often seemed bored throughout the movie. Samuel L. Jackson had a lot of energy though, and it was entertaining to watch him, he definitely made the movie more watchable. Isabelle Fuhrman is also pretty good here. However as I said earlier, the actors didn’t have much to work with, their characters aren’t interesting and we don’t particularly care for them.

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As I mentioned before, the direction of the film overall was terrible. The cinematography must’ve been all handheld, it was hard to tell what was going on, especially in action scenes. However it’s shaky even in simple dialogue scenes. The editing was also bad as well, often cutting and interrupting characters’ actions or dialogue. Whenever the film uses special effects, it was horrid. In the previously mentioned Airport scene, a plane crashes (for some reason) and it looked borderline Asylum film levels of effects. Overall, every action scene was hilariously bad, and unintentionally were some of the highlights of the film.

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Cell is an absolutely awful movie, it’s one of the worst movies of 2016. The whole direction of the movie was horrible, the characters aren’t interesting, the story wasn’t riveting at all and it just wasn’t good. What saves this movie from being complete garbage was a couple of performances and certain aspects of this movie that were unintentionally hilarious. Otherwise this film is mostly a boring disaster, it’s a shame, this film had a lot of potential.