Grosse Pointe Blank (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES D-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 8.25
(OUT OF 10)
This movie, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is about a guy going to his 10-year high school reunion, having graduated in 1986.
I graduated in 1986, and I don't think there is a movie in existence that makes me feel older than this one. Well, there may be one exception: Hot Tub Time Machine, in which John Cusack travels back to his high school days in the '80s, an era that looks like an alien land where strange things happened, and awful clothes were worn.
This film, in which Cusack plays an assassin for hire who goes to his reunion, actually treats the '80s with a lot more grace. All that it really does is play up the music from that time period, and it avoids most of the hair-band stuff.
The soundtrack, when not featuring original music from the legendary Joe Strummer, rolls out the Clash, Pete Townshend, the Violent Femmes and other gems. The film makes me feel nostalgic instead of embarrassed: The '80s did have some cool stuff after all. Cusack and director George Armitage knew this, and their film reflects it.
As for the comedy, it's dark, dark, dark. It features dudes getting stabbed with pens, and former high school buddies having to help each other dispose of fresh kills in the high school furnace.
It also features one of the highlights of Cusack's career: His awesome stare-down with a baby that is handed to him at the reunion. Cusack's reactions are precious, as are the expressions by the baby. (He has an awesome nose twitch.)
Minnie Driver does perhaps her best work as Debi, the girl who, after being ditched on prom night by Cusack's character, is willing to give him a second chance. Alan Arkin is awesome as the therapist treating Cusack; he's depressed that he is giving advice to a confessed killer. Jeremy Piven, in one of his many co-starring roles with Cusack, is hilarious as the former best friend who is a little pissed off that his buddy disappeared for 10 years.
Best of all is Dan Aykroyd as a fellow contract killer looking to start a union. Besides the original Ghostbusters, this could be the best thing Aykroyd has ever put on film.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Nothing but a stupid original trailer. I would've loved to see at least an interview with Cusack.
High Fidelity (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES B-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 8.5
(OUT OF 10)
It's a Cusack extravaganza!
I highly recommend picking up both this film and Grosse Pointe Blank for a double-feature. The two movies go down well together. This features another of Cusack's seminal performances, as a record-shop owner dealing with a breakup. There are lots of great moments with Cusack breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.
It also features one of the great Jack Black performances. He's perfection as a snobby record-shop employee who refuses to sell Stevie Wonder albums to squares. This is a smart comedy full of smart performances, another jewel for Cusack.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Interviews with Cusack and director Stephen Frears—done back when the movie was being made—are fun to watch, as are the many deleted scenes that are actually quite good.
High Noon (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES D
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 8.75
(OUT OF 10)
I'll say this about this classic Western on Blu-ray: You can really see the modern buildings on the Los Angeles skyline during the crane shot of Gary Cooper heading for his final Old West shootout. Whenever I watched this on TV, I suspected that those were modern buildings back there. Now, thanks to the clarity of Blu-ray, I know that the director goofed.
That aside, I love this movie, and, man, does it look good. The picture on this Blu-ray is crisper than an organic Fuji apple from Whole Foods.
Cooper delivered one of his many iconic performances as Marshal Will Kane, newly married (to Grace Kelly!) and ready to hang up his guns. But when an old adversary is reported to be coming in on a train, he decides to stick around.
Much to his surprise, nobody in the town really wants to help him. The film is an allegory for the blacklisting going on in Hollywood at the time, when a lot of friends were hung out to dry as communist sympathizers, with little help from those not in immediate trouble.
A lot of familiar faces, including Lloyd Bridges, Thomas Mitchell, Lon Chaney Jr. and Harry Morgan, are found in the supporting cast. It's one of those classics that hold up really well—even if it does have modern electric poles in the background.
SPECIAL FEATURES: An old making-of featuring that asshole Leonard Maltin. God, I hate that kiss-ass.