John Cusack discusses the lasting appeal of Edgar Allen Poe

While making the rounds last week doing press for “The Raven,” Bullz-Eye’s Bob Westal had the chance to sit down with John Cusack to discuss the actor’s new film, his recent star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and other projects in development. But perhaps the most interesting tidbit in the interview is his explanation of why late American poet Edgar Allen Poe has remained so contemporary for all these years:

“I think he’s this classic sort of archetype for all of the shadow parts of ourselves that we don’t want to admit out loud or you’re not supposed to admit in polite company or society. You know, all of these terrors and fears and phobias and anguishes and torments, and also this kind of grave, deep love of language and poetry. I think he’s a genuine genius and he spoke to the language of the subconscious and he was a great poet and artist. A great storyteller; a wild creator of different genres and hybrids of genres and mash-ups of genres. He was a pretty talented man, and he was also just wired way too tight, so it was a volatile mix.”

Be sure to check out the full interview with Cusack at the Bullz-Eye Blog for more on “The Raven,” the possibility of a “Say Anything” sequel, and his upcoming role as Richard Nixon in Lee Daniel’s “The Butler.”

  

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Box Office Recap: ‘Think Like a Man’ still on top


Despite making 46.5 percent less than it did last weekend, “Think Like a Man” remains on top of the charts, so I see no reason not to reuse this picture. After grossing nearly $34 million last weekend, “Think Like a Man” dropped to $18 million. This should be evidence enough that it was a very slow weekend at the (domestic) box office, parentheses required as “The Avengers” made its debut in 39 foreign territories, scoring $178.4 million.

Total domestic revenue dropped 30 percent as compared to a year ago, when “Fast Five” raked in $86 million. “Think Like a Man’s” $18 million is the lowest weekend gross for a number one movie since “New Year’s Eve” made $13 million in December.

Coming in second with $11.4 million was swashbuckling stop-motion comedy “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” followed by “The Lucky One.” In fourth was “The Hunger Games,” which is still going strong in its sixth week, beating out all new releases save “Pirates!”

In fifth was “The Five-Year Engagement,” which made a disappointing $11.2 million. Heading into the weekend, the Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy was expected to be “Think Like a Man’s” biggest competition. The film brought the writing team of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the same pair who wrote “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets,” who also starred and directed, respectively. Few of Apatow’s flicks have had such poor opening weekends. Most of the Apatow films “The Five-Year Engagement” beat out are highly unremarkable (does anybody remember “Drillbit Taylor?”). The lone exception being “Walk Hard,” which was critically acclaimed but never found an audience while in theaters.

The highly predictable “Safe,” directed by Boaz Yakin (“Remember the Titans”) and starring Jason Statham (every Jason Statham movie), came in an equally predictable sixth with $7.7 million.

In seventh and last among new releases with $7.2 million was “The Raven,” which starred John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe. Good. That’s all I have to say about that. I’m disappointed in each and every one of you who helped support this abortion.

Here are the results for this week’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume

1. Think Like a Man, 2/2,015, Sony, $18 million, $60.9 million.
2. The Pirates! Band of Misfits, 1/3,358, Sony/Aardman, $11.4 million.
3. The Lucky One, 2/3,175, Warner Bros., $11.3 million, $40 million.
4. The Hunger Games, 6/3,572, Lionsgate, $11.25 million, $372.5 million.
5. The Five-Year Engagement, 1/2,936, $11.15.
6. Safe, 1/2,266, Lionsgate/IM Global, $7.7 million.
7. The Raven, 1/2,203, Relativity/Intrepid, $7.3 million.
8. Chimpanzee, 2/1,567, Disney, $5.5 million, $19.2 million.
9. The Three Stooges, 3/3,105, $5.4 million, $37.1 million.
10. The Cabin in the Woods, 3/2,639, Lionsgate/MGM, $4.5 million, $34.7 million.

  

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Box Office Preview: The Movie that Shall Remain “Nameless here for evermore,” Jason Statham, Pirates! and the next Apatow/Stoller/Segel Comedy

The Raven

Let’s just get this out of the way, this movie looks like shit, which is unfortunate given some of the names involved. “The Raven” was directed by James McTeigue, who was an assistant director for the “Matrix” trilogy before making his directorial debut with “V for Vendetta” in 2006. The cast includes Brendan Gleeson (“Braveheart,” “Gangs of New York,” “Harry Potter”), and stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s death is shrouded in mystery, so the filmmakers took more than a few creative liberties in this fictionalized account of the writer’s last days. When a serial killer begins using his work as the inspiration for a series of gruesome murders, police enlist Poe to help bring the assailant to justice.

Reviews have been bad, hovering around 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and not without reason. Edgar Allan Poe was a fascinating human being. In 1836, at age 27, he married his 13 year-old first cousin. The man was a great many things: author, poet, alcoholic, opium addict, and the inventor of detective fiction. He uneqivocally was not an action hero or some macabre version of Sherlock Holmes. With such an intriguing life story, there was no reason to make him into such.

“The Raven” is the 241st film or television adaptation of Poe’s work. That leaves you 240 options that might not be garbage, so pick one of those. Or, better yet, pick up some of his written work, which is in the public domain (that means it’s free).

Safe

In “Safe,” Jason Statham plays Luke Wright, “the Big Apple’s hardest cop, once up on a time.” Now, he’s a a second-rate cage fighter who drives fast, kicks ass, and always has a wry one-liner up his sleeve. That is, Jason Statham plays Jason Statham doing Jason Statham things, only he’s got an American accent (sort of). In this case, his excuse for coating the streets in blood is protecting a 12-year-old Chinese girl who’s memorized a valuable code from some Russian mobsters. Purely by coincidence, they’re the same Russian mobsters who murdered his wife.

“Safe” couldn’t have a more appropriate title. It’s another formulaic Statham action movie that’s split critics right down the middle because even though you know what’s going to happen, you can’t help but be entertained. Perhaps Aaron Hillis of The Village Voice put it best: “Safe” is a “preposterously enjoyable—or enjoyably preposterous—action-thriller.”

If “Safe” is your style, go and enjoy it, you’ll get no argument from me. But since you already know the endings anyway, you might as well rent “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” instead.

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A roundtable chat with director Stephen Frears of “Tamara Drewe”

Stephen Frears on location for Anyone who thinks that the only interesting directors are the ones with obvious personal styles needs to take a long, hard long at the filmography of Stephen Frears. Something of a contemporary, English throwback to such versatile craftsmen of pre-auteur theory Hollywood as William Wyler, George Stevens, Robert Wise, and Michael Curtiz, the Cambridge-educated Frears began his career neck deep in the English New Wave cinema of the 1960s as an assistant director on Karel Riesz’s “Morgan!,” and Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 surreal youth revolt drama, “If…” Later moving on to directing for the BBC, his second theatrical feature, 1984’s “The Hit,” was mostly ignored despite an all-star cast, but did gain a cult following of which I am a proud member. Frears’ follow up collaboration with writer Hanif Kureishi, a then-bold cross-racial same-sex romance, “My Beautiful Laundrette,” co-starred a young Daniel Day Lewis and got more immediate results. It was a hit in arthouses on both sides of the Atlantic and helped make Lewis a star; it also paved the way for Frears’ smashing mainstream Hollywood debut, 1988’s Oscar-winning “Dangerous Liaisons.”

Since then, Frears has enjoyed success both here in the U.S. and at home in England with numerous BAFTAs and films as diverse as “High Fidelity” and “The Grifters” — for which he was nominated for an Oscar — as well as the ultra-English “The Queen” and “Mrs. Henderson Presents.” He’s dealt with modern-day cowboys (1998’s “The Hi-Lo Country”), English fascism (2000’s “Liam”), the monarchy (2006’s “The Queen”), and the illegal trade of human organs (2002’s “Dirty Pretty Things”). When George Clooney decided he wanted to try a live television remake of “Fail Safe” back in 2000, Frears handled the chore to no shortage of acclaim.

Frear’s latest, “Tamara Drewe,” has fared reasonably well with critics on the whole, though not so much with this particular longtime admirer. An adaptation of a graphic novel originally serialized in England’s The Guardian by cartoonist and children’s book author Posy Simmonds, the tale is a comic, modern-day homage to Thomas Hardy’s tragic 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd starring Gemma Arterton as a formerly large nosed “ugly duckling” whose swannish post-operative return to her family’s estate sparks chaos at a writer’s retreat in ultra-picturesque rural England.

Apparently taking the casualness of California fully to heart, the 69-year-old Frears, who bears some resemblance to the late Rodney Dangerfield, arrived unshaven and in a t-shirt that had seen better days. If the “just rolled out of bed” look was disconcerting, however, we needn’t have worried. Frears was in good spirits and clearly enjoys sharing his views with the press.

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Johnny Depp or John Cusack as Marty McFly? It could have happened…

With the release of “Back to the Future: The 25th Anniversary Trilogy” preparing to hit DVD and Blu-ray on October 26th, Bob Gale – co-writer and producer of the films – has been doing a lot of press, providing him not only with the opportunity to wax nostalgic but also the chance to dispel a few rumors, some of which are more ridiculous than others.

For instance, I can now confirm definitively that, despite what you may have read on Wikipedia, it seems very unlikely that Corey Hart, the man who made a career out of wearing his sunglasses at night, was ever really in the running to play Marty McFly.

“I don’t think so,” said Gale, chuckling. “I don’t have any memory of that. Somebody said that he was our first choice, but that’s insane. I don’t know where that one came from. C. Thomas Howell was the other finalist at the time. John Cusack was somebody we considered. Johnny Depp read for this, believe it or not. I don’t remember the screen test. I looked through the notes, and I said, ‘Geez, I don’t even remember that we read Johnny Depp!’ So whatever he did, it wasn’t all that memorable, I guess! And there was a kid called George Newbern who flew out from Chicago for an open casting call who was pretty good. I think he’s on some TV series now. I don’t remember what it is, but I remember him. But Corey Hart? Nope. Don’t think so.”

There have also been rumors that John Lithgow was in the running for the role of Doc Brown, but according to Gale, any such discussions didn’t get very far.

“That was just kind of in passing,” said Gale. “The only other guy we really seriously considered for Doc Brown was Jeff Goldblum. Jeff came in, and…I’m certain we talked about John Lithgow, but I don’t remember if he ever actually came in, or if we met him. But I vividly remember meeting Jeff and liking him.”

In regards to the long-unreleased Eric Stoltz footage that has finally emerged within one of the documentaries on the 25th anniversary set, one can’t help but notice that we never hear so much as a single line of dialogue uttered by Stoltz.

“It was Laurent Bouzereau, who directed and produced the documentaries, who really badgered us about putting that footage in,” said Gale. “So if you like seeing it, he’s the guy to give the credit to and the thanks to.”

“Look, we don’t bear any ill will to Eric at all,” Gale continued. “We don’t want to make him look bad. We don’t think this makes him look bad. We hope it doesn’t. We figured, ‘Let’s just soft-pedal it and not put a whole lot of that in there,’ because, you know, the story’s about how the movie got made, not about him. Maybe in the 35th or 45th anniversary edition, we’ll put the actual scenes in. We never destroyed that footage. We recognized at the time that there was historical significance to it, so the footage exists. But Eric’s a working actor. We don’t want him to have to answer questions about it…not unless he comes forward and says, ‘Hey, I wanted to talk about that!’”

  

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