Tag Archives: John Cusack

Hot Pursuit (1987)

hot pursuit 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: He misses the plane.

Danny (John Cusack) attends a private school and when he flunks his chemistry test he’s not allowed to leave with his girlfriend’s family on their trip to the Caribbean. Then his professor inexplicably gives him a reprieve, which allows him to go anyways, but he misses the plane and is forced to play catch-up. First he meets up with some locals, but when their jeep gets submerged in water he takes up with a captain (Robert Loggia) who strands him out at sea. Meanwhile his girlfriend and her family have problems of their own when they inadvertently come into contact with drug smugglers.

The film is poor from the get-go and wastes Cusack’s appeal with material that lacks any imagination. The basic premise is derivative and the characters are one-dimensional. The plot plods along too slowly and the various hijinks that Danny finds himself in aren’t funny at all. The natives that he first meets up with are a bit on the creepy side and Loggia’s captain character is an over-the-top caricature that adds little.

The film’s biggest problem is its severe shift in tone. It starts out as an escapist comedy, which would’ve been alright had it actually been funny, but then ends up turning into a thriller when the family gets kidnapped by drug kingpins and it’s up to Cusack to get them out. Had it tried to keep some humor going during the tension it might’ve worked, but instead it gets unnecessarily serious and implausible with characters that are so poorly fleshed-out that the viewer really doesn’t care what happens to them making the climatic sequence boring and prolonged.

Cusack is good as always and I kind of liked him with his long hair look, but the character tends to be a bit too clean-cut. A young Ben Stiller appears here in his film debut and seeing him play against type as a leering, cocky bad guy is the only interesting thing about this movie and makes it somewhat worth catching.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: May 8, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Steven Lisberger

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Sure Thing (1985)

the sure thing 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love blossoms between opposites.

Walter Gibson (John Cusack) becomes smitten with Alison (Daphne Zuniga). He is a slacker while she is a very studious student. Both attend the same college English class and he uses the ruse of needing help with his studies as a ploy to get closer to her, but it doesn’t work and she ends up hating him. Then his friend Lance (Anthony Edwards) invites him out to California where he has a really hot girl (Nicollette Sheridan) waiting for him and promises that she is a ‘sure thing’. So Walter takes a ride with a couple (Tim Robbins, Mary Jane Persky) that is also going out there only to find that Alison is riding with them as she wants to visit her boyfriend.  Needless to say it is a rocky ride, but after several misadventures love finally begins to blossom between the two.

On a purely romantic level this film scores big time. It nicely recaptures the period in one’s life where everything is still new and exciting and before such things as marital discord, ugly divorces, child custody battles and all that other crap. Instead it emphasizes the rush one feels at being in the presence of someone they are really crazy about and learning to know them through layers. It’s the magical innocence of young love that makes it so endearing and engaging.

Zuniga is beautiful but fortunately not in an overdone, glamorous type of way. My favorite scene with her is when she tries to drink a beer for the first time ‘shotgun style’ and becomes a bit overwhelmed by it. Cusack shows his usual charm, but his social graces seem severely lacking at points near the beginning and I wouldn’t have been surprised if every girl would have found him to be an annoying geek.

In support Edwards is good as his friend and I especially liked his room that is lined with empty bottles of every different brand of beer that he has drunk. Viveca Lindfors is sexy and appealing in her own way as the English teacher and George Memmoli in his last film role has an engaging bit as an overweight man that Walter meets and befriends at a bar in a scene that I wished had been more extended.

The film though does have a few problems. One scene has Walter accusing Alison of being ‘repressed’ and so to prove him wrong she strips off her shirt and bra and then flashes some other cars that they are passing, which to me seemed like too much of an extreme shift in behavior and not realist for that type of character. There is another scene where the two are stranded in the middle of nowhere during a rainstorm and with no money since Alison forgot it at their last hotel stop only to find out that she has a credit card. The film then cuts to showing them eating at a fancy restaurant, which was too much of a jump as a credit card isn’t going to get them from an empty field by itself and the scene needed to show more of a connection on how or who got them out of there.

The biggest problem though is that we have this stunning beautiful, bikini clad blonde in the form of Nicollette Sheridan who apparently can’t get a guy on her own and needs to be ‘set-up’ on a date, which makes no sense. The scenes showing her walking around all alone at a party are absurd because in reality just about every guy in the room would be showing her some attention and she would have no reason to waiting around for an average guy like Cusack to come by to date here. This is the one segment in the movie were it goes dangerously close from being this pleasing slice-of-life romance to a crazy 80’s teen fantasy.

Despite the issues listed above I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It should appeal to the romantic in all of us and nicely balances the old-fashioned love story formula with modern day sensibilities.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 1, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Rob Reiner

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray

Say Anything (1989)

say anything

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Geek dates honors student.

Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) is a classic underachiever living with his sister Constance (Joan Cusack) and no real idea what he wants to do with his life after graduation. He has a crush on Diane Court (Ione Skye) who is a valedictorian. Lloyd manages to ask her out, but finds that she is set to go to England in the fall on a scholarship. Her father (John Mahoney) feels that Diane can do better and tries to convince her to dump him, but it turns out he has some serious problems of his own.

The film is a refreshing change of pace from most Hollywood romances that tend to portray relationships in too much of a shallow way. Here you see things build slowly and are full of all the awkward moments and obstacles that come into play with any blossoming relationship. The two don’t just jump into the sack right away either. In fact after their first date they don’t even kiss, but instead share a nice little hug, which I really liked.

Both characters are likable, but in opposite ways and I enjoyed how the film cuts back and forth between the two during the beginning and shows the viewer just how different their personalities and lifestyles are. Skye has a highly appealing face and the fact that she is not some partying ditz, but instead a studious student who even enjoys working with old folks at a retirement home makes her all the more interesting. Cusack’s inability to decide on a career path is quite relatable and it is nice seeing him share some scenes with his real-life sister, who strangely appears unbilled.

The humor is subtle, but amusing. I loved the part where Diane accepts a date with Lloyd after he calls her up and then when she hangs up the phone she takes out her yearbook to see what he looks like. The best moment though is where Lloyd is getting advice about women from his guy friends only to turn around and ask them why if they know so much about women are they sitting on a street corner all alone on a Saturday night.

The talented Lili Taylor appears in an early role as Lloyd’s friend and famous model-turned-actress Lois Chiles can be seen briefly as Diane’s mother. I was a bit shocked to see Eric Stoltz in such a small and insignificant role that had only a few lines as he was at the time only four years removed from his starring role in Mask.

The only complaint that I have about this otherwise gentle slice-of-life flick is the secondary story thread concerning Diane’s father who gets into trouble for embezzling money from the senior citizens at the retirement home that he runs, which when compared to the romantic angle seemed very jarring and out-of-sync. In a way it kind of tarnishes the coming-of-age quality of the story and I felt the film would’ve have been more successful had this part been left out completely. I also wasn’t quite sure what the meaning was for the title or how it had anything to do with the story.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: April 14, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Cameron Crowe

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming