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Tag Archive: John Cusack


Excelsior!  Legendary comic book writer, editor, actor, producer and publisher Stan Lee will be making a special appearance at Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines tonight and Saturday, May 20.  The most iconic and well-known of all comic book legends and the spark that lit up the current heyday of comic books and comic book movies, Mr. Lee has done it all–the man behind Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and hundreds of other characters, he is a member of both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.  This weekend he will greet fans, pose for photos, sign autographs, and conduct an interactive Q&A at the Iowa Events Center as Wizard World Comic Con celebrates its third year in Des Moines.

Mr. Lee will be joining fan-favorite genre actor John Cusack, another late addition to the headliners appearing at this year’s event.  Cusack’s impact on a generation of moviegoers can’t be overstated.  Most first saw him as a kid in Sixteen Candles and Stand By Me.  He became a household name in teen flicks like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead…, and One Crazy Summer, but it was Say Anything… that made him a star as the lovable Lloyd Dobler, the boyfriend with the boom box.  His adult drama work resulted in many cult classics, like Eight Men Out, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, and Pushing Tin.  Films like Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, Clint Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, and Robert Altman’s The Player proved he was the real deal, and later films High Fidelity and Hot Tub Time Machine proved he’s willing to return to his roots as the everyman good guy that audiences love.

John Cusack and Charlie Sheen in the baseball film classic Eight Men Out.

This weekend Cusack joins a big pantheon of celebrities including Eight Men Out co-star Charlie Sheen, plus Dean Cain (Lois & Clark, Supergirl), James Marsters and Emma Caulfield (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th), Holly Marie Combs and Brian Krause (Charmed), Barry Bostwick (Spin City), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), and more.

The convention will be held at the Iowa Events Center at 730 Third Street in Des Moines, beginning May 19, 2017, opening at 4 p.m. and continuing until 9 p.m., Saturday, May 20, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A full list of Wizard World Comic Con Des Moines programming is available here (subjects, guests, times and rooms subject to change).  For more on the event, visit the convention website here.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

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chris-pratt-moneyball

It’s that time of year again.  The 2016 World Series is now in full swing with the first game a sweep by the Cleveland Indians.  How will the Chicago Cubs fare in Game 2 tonight?  If you’re not in the baseball frame of mind yet, we have five of the all-time best baseball movies you can stream right now for free or for less than four dollars on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.  Most of these can also be rented on Netflix.  And let’s face it–everyone should own our fifth movie on the list.

Have you seen them already?  Then you know these great films can be watched over and over again.

Let’s start with a classic:  Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees from 1942.  The movie recounts the then-recent personal triumph and tragedy of what baseball as an American pastime has created over and over for more than a century: baseball players as American icons.  Pride of the Yankees shows the personal side of being a famous baseball player, and features real-life legends Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey, all playing themselves on-screen.  Academy Award winners Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan co-star.  If you want to see classic baseball from a contemporary view, this is your movie.  Although the story is certainly bittersweet and a tear-jerker, it reflects baseball as more than just a game.

pride-of-the-yankees-babe-ruth-gary-cooper

The most recent movie on our list is Moneyball, from 2011, a modern classic we’ve already watched over and over.  Moneyball reveals the game as a modern business.  The conflict between playing the game as classically envisioned and the game as seen from an analytical angle is wrestled with from the real life mostly true story of the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he turned the team around in its 2002 season.
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Mr Selfridge promo

PBS’s Masterpiece Classic is now playing a period television drama mini-series about Harry Gordon Selfridge and his London department store Selfridge & Co.  It was produced by ITV Studios for ITV and PBS and is much longer than your typical British mini-series, where you’re often lucky to see three episodes (such as the brilliant but too short series Zen).  You’ll see plenty of comparisons to Downton Abbey from reviewers but they are all wrong.  Where Downton is steeped in the dramatic of a restricted age, Mr. Selfridge is a rollercoaster of movement and progress.  Led by Jeremy Piven here totally in his element as a forward-thinking business man with ideas to spare and never enough money to accomplish everything he wants to do, this BBC mini-series is a chronicle of progress in a place everyone knows well–the department store.  Ever wonder why the perfume counter is at the front of Macy’s and JC Penney’s?  Why make-up is sold with perfume but gloves with hats and belts?  Things that now seem trivial once had real meaning because of social mores of a bygone era.

Mr Selfridge Jeremy Piven

Jeremy Piven gets to play a character we love to see him play.  He’s flourishing in a world that seems like the Macy’s of Miracle on 34th Street to modern audiences but his department store goes back decades farther into the past.  Lucky for viewers and Piven, Selfridge was an American, so no need to trip over feigned British accents. Piven gets to be a showman with arms wide open to every customer and every prospective vendor, partner, investor, and even an ambitious show girl.

Piven never disappoints, and shines in the varied roles he takes.  Early in his career that meant a variety of smarmy types, but he’s grown on us, and his trying-too-hard characters often end up endearing instead of loathed.  Piven snuck up on us bit by bit in small roles in Lucas and a pile of John Cusack films: Bob Roberts, Elvis Stories, Floundering, One Crazy Summer, Say Anything…, The Grifters, Grosse Pointe Blank, Serendipity, and Runaway Jury.  But it wasn’t until Judgment Night, where Piven’s smarmy and cocky Ray Cochran tries to use his negotiation skill to save (unsuccessfully) a group of friends who take a wrong turn, that viewers really took note of this actor.  Then the Drake University-trained actor starred in PCU, and got to do his own Animal House film with a twist on Tim Matheson’s Eric Stratton–a classic cult favorite today.

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It may be the year of dark and chilly genre flicks.  The Woman in Black, reviewed here, had some of the best atmosphere of any film in recent memory.  Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, previewed here and coming this June, also features a dark and spooky vibe.  If there is something enticing about the forthcoming The Raven from the new trailer, it is mood.  The filmmakers appear to have nailed the “once upon a midnight dreary.”  Check out this new trailer–the film’s UK preview, just released:

This is a great lesson in what a good editor with some marketing sense can do when he/she knows how to do the job right.  Compare the UK version above with the U.S. version of the trailer:

The UK trailer is pretty ho-hum.  Yet the U.S. trailer makes this one look pretty exciting.  Why would you bother releasing the UK trailer when the U.S. trailer is so well done?

Like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, The Raven takes a real-life character and places him in a new, fictionalized, alternate history adventure.  The challenge will be that not only does the viewer need to suspend disbelief to participate in this cinematic work of fiction, the viewer is forced to put aside his or her assumptions about the historical figure.  The harder task may be for the filmmakers addressing a wild rail and vampire splittin’ Abraham Lincoln.  But Edgar Allan Poe as a bit Sherlock Holmes and a bit less-than-willing-participant Ichabod Crane?  That doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the avid fantasy viewer.

The casting of John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe is interesting.  Poe is always shown to be far less outgoing than Cusack’s typical character.  To his credit Cusack is often grouped with some of the finest “serious” dramatic actors.  Just look at his performances in Eight Men Out, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Bullets Over Broadway.  John Cusack is in a rare league of people we like and want to see more of, like Matthew Broderick, and from the same era.  But like Broderick, his choice of film projects is often a letdown (The Road to Wellville, Con Air, 2012), even if his performances are well done.  Cusack was great fun in Say Anything, The Grifters, Grosse Point Blank, High Fidelity, Serendipity, Igor and even Hot Tub Time Machine.  But where his movies seem to disappoint are his ventures into horror, such as Identity and 1408.  Can Cusack give us a good horror thriller with The Raven?

A major marketing plus is the reference that this is directed by James McTeague, who also directed the brilliant V for Vendetta. (although he also worked on Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, the Matrix films and Speed Racer).

The trailer feels a bit like From Hell, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeney Todd, all based on historic stories.  Makes you wonder why Johnny Depp isn’t in this one, doesn’t it?  One concern is the rating notation, which I usually ignore, but Rated R for “bloody violence and grisly images” and some of the images in the trailers probably says all we need to know, and would certainly group The Raven with those three grisly concept films.

The Raven hits theaters on April 27.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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