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.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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An ultra-fast end of the week movie news dump

I’ve basically got an hour here, though some of the news was gathered earlier. Let’s see how we do…

* The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has issued an APB for 79 year-old cinema bad boy, Jean-Luc Godard, director of such groundbreaking classics as “Contempt,” “Breathless,” “Weekend,” “Alphaville,” and others that might be just a little bit of work to sit through (but sometimes work is good for you). It seems they want to give him a lifetime achievement award, but when you’ve made a life of flouting cinema conventions and being lauded more than just about anyone in artsier quarters, an Oscar might not be a guy’s greatest craving. If you have information on the whereabouts of the cineaste, please report it in comments forthwith.

godard

* You know that standard sitcom episode where the office prima donna is given a new “assistant” and is terrified the new guy is really just a replacement in waiting? I’m thinking the set of “Mission: Impossible IV” might be just a little bit like that and I’m in now way implying that I think the new guy is a vastly more interesting actor than the other guy. Okay, I am.

* John Cusack will be Edgar Allen Poe in a new film inspired by the great writer’s poem “The Raven.” Something tells me it’ll be a lot less funny than the last movie with that title.

* Oh, brave, brave Dennis Miller, taking on sacred cow James Cameron whom no one has ever made fun of or criticized. (Remember the “king of the world” remark? Remember about a million pre-“Avatar” release blog posts and few million others afterwards?) Is THR’s Paul Bond completely in the thrall of rightwing radio memes?

* The long-awaited conclusion of the ultimate cinephile blogger summit is upon us. Yay.

* Director Neil Marshall is moving from his ultraviolent sword & sandals pic, “Centurion,” to a horror movie about cutting edge cuisine. Hold the fava beans and go straight to the nice chianti.

* RIP Ahna Capri of “Enter the Dragon.” Very sad.

Specialist-The-Ahna-Capri-98

  

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Take that Kyle Smith! A very special movie moment

I could go on and on and on about how stupid I think Kyle Smith’s attempted take-down of the entire Harry Potter series is. But, rather than go on at length with thoughts about how anyone who writes for the mendacious New York Post should think several times before discussing morality in culture, I’ll simply go with a Harry Potter-inspired fantasy movie moment I forgot to include over the weekend.

This one is from perhaps my favorite Roger Corman film, the relatively lavish 1963 B-picture, “The Raven.” Much more a comedy/dark fantasy than a horror film, and only tangentially related to the Edgar Allen Poe poem, it is written by the great horror/fantasy writer Richard Matheson (the novel I Am Legend, both the book and the film “Somewhere in Time,” and innumerable “Twilight Zone” episodes) and featured three of the true greats of old school horror typecasting: Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and (sadly not featured in this video) Peter Lorre. An extremely young Jack Nicholson is also on hand in the kind of bland, male ingenue roles that helped him to consider writing as a career.

I guess this might be the closest the movies have come to Harry vs. Voldemort until the second “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow’s: Part II.” Of course, since I haven’t read the final Potter novel yet, for all I know they settle the whole thing on page 1 with card tricks and an applause meter.

  

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