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Category: John Cusack

'The Raven' is macabre and muddled, quoth the critics

April 28, 2012 |  8:00 am

The Raven

"The Raven," a new mystery thriller that imagines Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) helping police solve a series of murders inspired by his stories, follows in the footsteps of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" movies, combining 19th century literary figures and Hollywood flair. Alas, many movie critics have found the result scattered and silly.

In a mixed review, The Times' Betsy Sharkey calls the film "more pulp fiction than macabre masterpiece," though she does concede that it has "a nifty idea" at its center. What's lacking most, Sharkey says, "is the tightly constructed tension-building that Poe did so unsettlingly and inventively well." On the plus side, Luke Evans is "excellent" as the detective who teams up with Poe, and style points are awarded to cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann and costume designer Carlo Poggioli.

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Chat with 'The Raven' actor John Cusack on Thursday

April 24, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Edgar Allan Poe and John Cusack
Romantic comedies of the 1980s like "Say Anything" and "Sixteen Candles" launched John Cusack's career, but since then, his acting resume has continued to broaden -– from the thriller "1408" to the dark comedy "Being John Malkovich" to the quirky dramedy "Martian Child."

Now Cusack is preparing for the release of "The Raven," in which he plays 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe. And at noon Thursday (Pacific time), you can chat with Cusack live on 24 Frames about "The Raven" and his other films.

Opening Friday, "The Raven" mixes the "history, fantasy and legend" of Poe, the actor told an audience at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books over the weekend.

A period mystery/thriller, the film follows the crimes of a madman inspired by Poe's dark and horrifying poems and tales. A Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) recruits the expert on these stories — Poe himself, of course — to get inside the mind of the killer and help track him down.

The role "was a great opportunity to immerse myself in Poe's mind. It's not a place I'd want to immerse myself in year-round, but it's a nice place to visit," Cusack said at the Festival of Books.

Cusack began visiting that mind in August 2010, when he was cast in the film and spent several months researching the author before a two-month shoot in Eastern Europe.

Sign up for the live chat with Cusack below.


Edgar Allan Poe festival gets San Diego engaged

Comic-Con 2011: John Cusack calls Poe 'godfather of Goth'

Working Hollywood: Gábor Tóth runs the carriages in 'The Raven'

— Emily Rome

Photo: The real-life Edgar Allan Poe, left, and John Cusack in "The Raven." Credit: Larry Horricks / Relativity Media.

Los Angeles Times week in Hollywood (March 19, 2010)

March 20, 2010 |  2:08 pm

A quiet weekend at the box office means that "Alice in Wonderland" has even more room to flourish, even as studios worry about a growing shortage of 3D screens. The Times' John Horn and Steven Zeitchik break down the week in Hollywood, also looking at just what it is that made "Green Zone" fail, and why "Hot Tub Time Machine" can help MGM -- but not in the way you'd expect.


Hot Tub Time Machine: The gross-out comedy as '80's-movie rummage sale

Time Warner still mulling MGM bid as deadline passes

Why Green Zone failed

Fight over 3D screens heats up with high-pressure tactics

'Hot Tub Time Machine': The gross-out comedy as '80s-movie rummage sale

March 18, 2010 |  5:39 pm

It's unlikely the American Film Institute will be calling the producers of "Hot Tub Time Machine" for a print of their movie any time soon. But after catching the comedy at its Hollywood premiere last night, we have to give its credit for something we didn't anticipate: an unlikely tour through recent Hollywood history.

On one level, "Hot Tub" is the same gross-out comedy you'd expect from the writers who brought you the outsized raunch (but not necessarily the outsized comedy) of "Sexdrive." Catheters get yanked out to scatological effect, a man's shoulder socket spews blood "Saw"-style, the prospect of male-on-male fellatio is trotted out, exploited, overdone. An exuberantly alcoholic Rob Corddry vamps around the screen acting crazier than a hyena on Ecstasy.

Actually, on pretty much every level "Hot Tub" is the gross-out comedy you'd expect.

But in subtle and sly moments, Steve Pink's film -- which, as the title makes no effort to obscure, is about a group of 30-something underachievers who jump back to their high-school selves thanks to a magical jacuzzi -- has a little more on its mind. Instead of just plopping the characters back in the Reagan era and tricking then out in Miami Vice colors, it offers up a full serving of references, generally made with little fanfare, to 1980s films.Fu

There are implicit allusions to "Real Genius" and "Sixteen Candles." There are explicit references to "Red Dawn" ("Russkies!") "Better Off Dead" ("I want my two dollars") and "The Karate Kid" ("Put him in a body bag," from a couple characters modeled after the "You're dead meat" guys.).  And, of course, there's the whole "Back to the Future" leitmotif, what with the time travel back to high school, the fears of people disappearing because of the butterfly effect, and characters trying to avoid sleeping with their mothers. There's even an "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance scene, only  here's it's the music of the Black-Eyed Peas, not Chuck Berry, that gets imported from the future.

Meanwhile, John Cusack , perhaps the ultimate '80s-film reference point, is not only in the picture -- he's basically playing a version of himself from his "Say Anything" days: the good-hearted but still slightly dangerous romantic.  In fact, the whole premise of "Hot Tub Time Machine" harks back to the '80s, when not only "Back to the Future" but time-travel movies as different as "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "The Terminator" came into their own.

There have been movies, such as "The Wedding Singer" and "Adventureland," that were either in or about the '80s. But it turns out "Hot Tub Time Machine" isn't really a movie about the '80s. It's a movie about '80s movies. (Taken with "MacGruber," the SXSW sensation that trades on the action-movie cliches of that decade, the two form a little duo of meta-ness.)

It's hard to know if the young male audience that "Hot Tub" is aimed at will catch many of the Easter eggs, or care much about them. That's the commercial gamble for studio MGM, which may find that the target audience of males in their teens and 20's miss the movie's best jokes, while those in their 30's and 40's  may be a little too old to run to a gross-out comedy on opening weekend. But there's something fun just the same about a movie trying to accomplish two things at once.

It reminds us a little of the two-handed approach in which a silly joke was followed by a sophisticated one in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" -- which, incidentally, seems to be the only '80s movie not referenced here.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos: "Hot Tub Time Machine." Credit: MGM. Back to the Future. Credit: Universal Pictures.


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