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Blake I. Collier | The Dirty Deacon

Contributor for Mockingbird | Co-creator of Son of Byford | Contributor for Christ & Pop Culture
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Amanda Peet

The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)
When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 
From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!

The Cusack Chronicles: 2012 (2009)

When I first heard about this film, I was thinking, “Great, another disaster film with little to no storyline and based on some thinly veiled scientific explanation.  Not gonna see it.”  Then I saw the preview and there was John Cusack driving a limousine (reprising his role in Identity?) down a crumbling road, weaving around falling buildings, it was at that point that I realized that I had been suckered in to going to see this film.  This was mainly for the simple fact of seeing John Cusack playing lead male in a summer blockbuster film.  If you had asked me if Cusack would have ever taken a script for a summer blockbuster, I would have told you no.  He is just too eccentric to simplistic summer blockbuster male leads.  However, I was once again proven wrong and to my surprise he makes a formidable blockbuster star.  I can’t say that about 2012, though. 

From the same guy that directed The Day After Tomorrow (which I found to be surprisingly entertaining), this apocalyptic tale about the end of the Mayan calendar has a lot of possibility but it ends up killing itself with its own pretension.  All of the character interactions could have been intriguing, but instead the writers went for cliches instead of realistic dialogue.  The scientific explanations are laughable at best and ultimately leave the film impotent in making any kind of serious point.  The highlight of the film, however, revolved around Cusack’s and Harrelson’s characters who were by far the most interesting and even they were tamer than they should have been.  That being said, there is nothing better than seeing Cusack crawl out of a crack in a landing strip in order to run towards a moving plane while the ground is crumbling behind him.  Great scene, made the movie worth watching right there!

The Cusack Chronicles: Martian Child (2007)
What happens when you adopt a child who thinks that he is a martian?  That is exactly the premise behind this film.  So many aspects of this film could have easily led it down a very cliched and emotionally shallow path, but Menno Meyjes, the director of Max, another Cusack vehicle, is able to keep the messages of the film from being overly simplistic, which these types of family films often fall into.  They take shortcuts in finding solutions for conflicts between the kids and the parents.  However, even though it does fall into this at times, the overall point of the film has a much deeper, introspective meaning.  The emotional and psychological effects of child abandonment and abuse present themselves in relatively realistic ways in the film.  David (Cusack) is a widower who is just figuring out life without his beloved wife and decides to adopt a child, because it had always been a wish of his wife’s.  The creative side of the film is that it does seem, at times, that Dennis may in fact be what he says, though the viewer already knows the inevitable conclusion. 
John Cusack does a great job as a single father who finds a portion of his heart that needs to be expended to this adopted child, but, knowingly, does not have it all together.  He is often figuring out how to survive in the same world.  It is the interaction between John Cusack and Bobby Coleman (who also was in Must Love Dogs) that makes the film.  There is a natural ease in how they act together.  I think the strongest point of the film is the very pro-adoption stance that the film takes.  At one point, David states, “I don’t want to bring another kid into this world. But how do you argue against loving one that’s already here?”  That line alone expresses a very Christian theme that we often overlook in this world.  Yes, it is good to have your own children, but there are tons of children out there that don’t have families, people who love them, role models, etc.  Whether they can be found in America or overseas, there is a need there and to not, at least, weigh that option of giving love to those who are orphaned, abused, abandoned, or so forth is, in fact, selfish on our parts.  The movie provides something challenging to people to open their hearts to children who are already living that are in need of love and a home.  This is ultimately the message that makes this movie a solid effort by all involved in it. 

The Cusack Chronicles: Martian Child (2007)

What happens when you adopt a child who thinks that he is a martian?  That is exactly the premise behind this film.  So many aspects of this film could have easily led it down a very cliched and emotionally shallow path, but Menno Meyjes, the director of Max, another Cusack vehicle, is able to keep the messages of the film from being overly simplistic, which these types of family films often fall into.  They take shortcuts in finding solutions for conflicts between the kids and the parents.  However, even though it does fall into this at times, the overall point of the film has a much deeper, introspective meaning.  The emotional and psychological effects of child abandonment and abuse present themselves in relatively realistic ways in the film.  David (Cusack) is a widower who is just figuring out life without his beloved wife and decides to adopt a child, because it had always been a wish of his wife’s.  The creative side of the film is that it does seem, at times, that Dennis may in fact be what he says, though the viewer already knows the inevitable conclusion. 

John Cusack does a great job as a single father who finds a portion of his heart that needs to be expended to this adopted child, but, knowingly, does not have it all together.  He is often figuring out how to survive in the same world.  It is the interaction between John Cusack and Bobby Coleman (who also was in Must Love Dogs) that makes the film.  There is a natural ease in how they act together.  I think the strongest point of the film is the very pro-adoption stance that the film takes.  At one point, David states, “I don’t want to bring another kid into this world. But how do you argue against loving one that’s already here?”  That line alone expresses a very Christian theme that we often overlook in this world.  Yes, it is good to have your own children, but there are tons of children out there that don’t have families, people who love them, role models, etc.  Whether they can be found in America or overseas, there is a need there and to not, at least, weigh that option of giving love to those who are orphaned, abused, abandoned, or so forth is, in fact, selfish on our parts.  The movie provides something challenging to people to open their hearts to children who are already living that are in need of love and a home.  This is ultimately the message that makes this movie a solid effort by all involved in it. 

The Cusack Chronicles: Identity (2003)
As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away. 
These are the first lines of the movie and after you have watched the film, the audience realizes how close this phrase comes to giving away the plot of the whole film.  James Mangold, though not a director that you will find on the Oscar bill very often, does excellent work on what films he picks to do.  This one is no exception.  Though panned by some critics to be too much of a “flash-in-the-pan” thriller (in the same vein as Shyamalan), this movie has more to it than just a twist ending.  Yes, there is one, but it is not there just as a plot device but as a means of shifting the whole landscape of the story for the rest of the film.  This movie plays out like an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Nothing is as it seems.  Mangold, also, cleverly tossed in every cliche that is usually in these kinds of supernatural who-dun-it films only to show how absurd those actually are (including a brilliant jab at Spielberg’s massacre of the Tobe Hooper-helmed Poltergeist with the suggestion of the Indian burial ground).  Once the audience gets past the “trick” of the film, they are not just left with a clever ending, but a challenge as to the nature of identity in general.  What constitutes identity and how does it manifest itself in the average person.  Nonetheless, there is a lot that is good and intelligent about this movie, including an ensemble casting of mainly character actors to fill out the film. 
The one thing to notice about Cusack in the 2000s is his willingness to star in thrillers and how he transforms his eccentricities into the real strengths of those characters he plays.  This is the first film that the audience really sees the beauty of having an eccentric actor in a leading role.  He is able to tell more about his character and endow the script with his mannerisms and facial expressions.  I think, as far as acting goes, we will see that the 2000s is Cusack’s most important decade as an actor.  Not every film is great, but his acting is stellar and he is able to figure out how to best use his eccentricities to his advantage in acting instead of just allowing them to bring a certain odd, but enjoyable awkwardness to the film.  Identity is my first case in point for this argument.  Watch it several times and you will be surprised at how many layers you will find in the film.

The Cusack Chronicles: Identity (2003)

As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away. 

These are the first lines of the movie and after you have watched the film, the audience realizes how close this phrase comes to giving away the plot of the whole film.  James Mangold, though not a director that you will find on the Oscar bill very often, does excellent work on what films he picks to do.  This one is no exception.  Though panned by some critics to be too much of a “flash-in-the-pan” thriller (in the same vein as Shyamalan), this movie has more to it than just a twist ending.  Yes, there is one, but it is not there just as a plot device but as a means of shifting the whole landscape of the story for the rest of the film.  This movie plays out like an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Nothing is as it seems.  Mangold, also, cleverly tossed in every cliche that is usually in these kinds of supernatural who-dun-it films only to show how absurd those actually are (including a brilliant jab at Spielberg’s massacre of the Tobe Hooper-helmed Poltergeist with the suggestion of the Indian burial ground).  Once the audience gets past the “trick” of the film, they are not just left with a clever ending, but a challenge as to the nature of identity in general.  What constitutes identity and how does it manifest itself in the average person.  Nonetheless, there is a lot that is good and intelligent about this movie, including an ensemble casting of mainly character actors to fill out the film. 

The one thing to notice about Cusack in the 2000s is his willingness to star in thrillers and how he transforms his eccentricities into the real strengths of those characters he plays.  This is the first film that the audience really sees the beauty of having an eccentric actor in a leading role.  He is able to tell more about his character and endow the script with his mannerisms and facial expressions.  I think, as far as acting goes, we will see that the 2000s is Cusack’s most important decade as an actor.  Not every film is great, but his acting is stellar and he is able to figure out how to best use his eccentricities to his advantage in acting instead of just allowing them to bring a certain odd, but enjoyable awkwardness to the film.  Identity is my first case in point for this argument.  Watch it several times and you will be surprised at how many layers you will find in the film.