Tag Archives: John Cusack

Doin’ It For The Kids

And who said it was only high-brow French cinema that gets a nod on this blog. Shame on you!…..

So winter has hit Scotland after the four weeks of slightly warmer rain we like to call summer. This is traditionally a time for mass movie going for Lauren and I as there’s precious little else to do indoors in Edinburgh that generates any real fun, there is only so many times you can walk round that damn castle.

Last weekend we took in the new animation feature IGOR, which features the voices (because it’s all about the voices) of John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Jennifer Coolidge, John Cleese and Jay Leno, amongst others. I have to say, I found this to be a nice little movie. British film critic Mark Kermode said it’s “a Tim Burton movie with all the Tim Burton bits removed” and while I can kind of see where he’s coming from, I think there’s enough in this film for it to stand on its own two feet, albeit just.

The film, like most contemporary mainstream animation, attempts to work on two levels by providing engaging material for both kids and their long suffering parents. The movie delivers some nice slapstick in the form of Scamper the suicidal rabbit who is voiced by the perfectly cast Steve Buscemi, there’s just something wonderfully defeatist about Buscemi’s delivery which works to great effect in this film. The nice touch here is that the rabbit is not actually suicidal but is just tired of living after being made immortal by the brilliant but totally ignored Igor, voiced by John Cusack. The third character in the trio of friends is brain that is simply a brain in a jar but ironically, is thick as mince in the neck of a milk bottle. Brain, like scamper, is the result of Igor’s inventive, but hidden talents.

The film is based in the fictional city of Malaria and follows Igor’s quest to prove to the world how clever he is by winning the annual science fair, this has been tough due to the fact that Igors are expected only to be bumbling servants to the ego maniac scientists that litter the city. It could be said that the Igor’s are held back because of the way they look, talent means nothing as long as you have an ego and beauty, very fitting when considering this alongside our X Factor obsessed society. Igor’s master is voiced by John Cleese and for me is the best drawn character in the picture, of course it’s this aesthetic that leads to the Tim Burton comparisons but I like it all the same.

On seeing his master blown up by his own stupidity, Igor seizes the chance to enter an invention, dressed as the work of his dismantled oppressor. Great hilarity ensues as Igor creates a Frankenstein woman who instead of being evil, is programmed to act like an actress. There’s a bit of a twist at the end that again, is more aimed at adults and goes as far as saying the government is corrupt and creating a smokescreen that leads to the population having a fear of what isn’t really there…… Sound familiar? This message isn’t too subtle either which led me to like the movie even more. Not that this is a great film, it’s only just reaching good, not a bad way to spend some time with your kids on a horrible Scottish afternoon however.

What REALLY gets on my nerves now is how little choice there is for kids under 12 these days. Back in the golden age of “the code” kids could pretty much go and see anything. You’re lucky if there’s 2 features specifically for kids at any one time in mutiplexes these days, and those are usually advertising vehicles for merchandise, this begs the question, where can modern children develop a love for cinema? If their parents aren’t pumping them full of old Marx Brothers, Preston Struges and Ernst Lubistch pictures, they’ve no real grasp of how wonderful the cinema can be…… I despair.

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I’ve been away

The usual cinematic musings have been on the coolest of back burners due to an unprecedented amount of time spent hanging about theatre types at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been working with the 30 Bird production company on their fantastic show PLASTIC, which they asked me to film.

Theatre doesn’t get a lot of press on the blog, not surprising considering it’s cinematic allegiances but I have to say folks, if you’re in Edinburgh just now and are looking for something to go see, don’t go watching the usual ridiculous amount of comedy on offer, you can get that any time, get yourself down to the Pleasance Undergrand and check out what is a very unique visual experience. Mehrdad Seyf has created a piece which lingers in your consciousness long after you leave the space, which is not the norm for a fringe show. A special mention should go to my ex flatmate and good friend Claire Hicks who has produced the show, god that girl works hard. (She drinks tea in nightclubs you know)

Check a review HERE.

I can’t let the post pass without mentioning at least one flick. During some rare and much needed free time I took in the 1992 Robert Altman film THE PLAYER starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a hot shot Hollywood producer and features cameo appearances from…. well just about everyone. During the making of documentary, it’s revealed that had all the stars been paid their normal fee for appearing in a film, the picture would have cost in excess of $100m in salaries alone.

I make no apology for the size of the movie poster, it is HUGE though, there can be no doubt about that. I particularly like what this poster does, it actually tells you something about the picture. The strip of celluloid fashioned into a noose captures the nature of the film. Hollywood has no soul and no moral. No matter how powerful you may think you are, there’s constantly someone behind you looking to take your place by giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

The way that Altman uses cameo appearances from the likes of John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and Burt Reynolds as themselves, casually seen dining in the restaurants that Griffin frequents, is a clever authentication of Griffin’s world. Richard E. Grant also turns up (with Dean Stockwell as his agent) playing a ridiculously overplayed but highly believable scriptwriter who’s trying to get his film made. The shallow nature of Hollywood is portrayed perfectly as initially, he’ll not allow his self proclaimed work of art to be altered in any way but later on in the picture, we find out he’s sold his soul to progress himself by allowing the studio to butcher his work.

The film is full of these little comments on the “system” of Hollywood.

The main premise of the film however is Griffin’s obsession to find a disgruntled writer who, in an effort to repay him for ignoring his (or her) work, sends him increasingly threatening, anonymous notes. This series of hostile correspondence unnerves the normally callous executive so much that he decides to seek out the perpetrator.



This element of the film, although the main focus, is probably the weakest. The comments and observations of the selfish movie merry-go-round are far more engaging and interesting than the search for the poison pen. There’s so much going on in this picture however, that you forgive this weakness in appreciation of what it actually accomplishes.

THE PLAYER could have easily been used in a recent essay I wrote on postmodernism in film. The first 8 minutes is one of the strongest examples of homage in cinema. (Gus Van Sant’s version of PSYCHO maybe takes that prize) Not only does Altman use the same one shot opening that Orson Welles used in TOUCH OF EVIL, he actually has the characters reference the film in conversation during the shot.

I’ve uploaded the full scene onto youtube for your enjoyment. Just for the record, he apparently used take 3.