Tag Archives: John cusack

Dragon Blade

Dragon BladeDirected by Daniel Lee, Dragon Blade is a fine example of the materialization of the growing motion picture market in China. The industry is so dominate in Asia that Western stars arrive on the scene in Chinese productions.  Like Dragon Blade, the movies are cultural dramas on a grand-scaled of historical epics.  Lee’s movie has done well as a moneymaker, gaining over $120 million in the China market.  The storyline is unique and pleasurable with Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody. Cusack and Brody appear out of place in the empire of men swinging swords and wearing sandals, whereas Chan does a fine job of martial arts and plays a familiar role.

The movie transports the story back to 48 B.C. where Huo An, played by Chan, is a well-intended and compassionate leader of the Silk Road Protection Squad. His squad comes across as a dedicated group. Huo protects and fights altruistically in order to hold harmony for the sanctioned Road.

Thereupon, Huo and his men are framed for gold smuggling and are banished to Wild Goose Gate. They are required to rebuild an entire city in two weeks or be put to death. Clearly an impossible task, something miraculous happens, and they connect up with a lost Roman army. Command by general Lucius, played by Cusack, is a scoundrel. He immediately picks a fight with Huo. After the brawl, they become fast friends with singing, parades, and drinking. Lucius confesses he is trying to avoid being captured by the Romans and has a sick boy, Publius, played by Joey Jozef. The boy is the lawful heir to the Roman throne, and his evil brother, Tiberious, played by Brody, is out to assassinate him. He recently just murdered their father, so we know he is serious. With that in mind, Lucius’ men and other local tribes along with Huo turn the city into a symbol of the peace. Something Huo has desired for most his life.

The visuals are not only majestic but also ambiguous. Seeing Chan in a sword fight with Cusack is conflicting. We are in Asia and here is a Westerner. It is intriguing but unreal for an epic. The $65 million budget availed gigantic spectacles where Lee effectively created a war-torn China during the Han Dynasty.

This is purely fictional with no regard for historical authenticity. True. The Romans and Asians shared commerce and the Silk Road, but nothing more. The many battle scenes are exceptional with the combination of Roman fighting techniques and traditional Chinese martial arts. The movie is invigorating while witnessing the development of a friendship between Huo and Lucius.

Overall, Dragon Blade is a movie worth seeing with Chan outshining his Western co-stars.

Love & Mercy

L&M_bdskewLove & Mercy delves into the part of the entertainment industry where evil people lurk. Such people control and manipulate the artist while feeding off the artist’s life force, creativity, energy force or whatever you want to call it. There are not a lot of these life suckers, but the few that are there can wreak havoc. This movie answers the questions of what happened to Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Robin Williams and so forth. Luckily, Brian Wilson meets a woman who has the tenacity to help him and save his life.

The movie directed by Bill Pohlad, his second film as a director, takes a refreshing, and almost clandestine, approach to the story about Beach Boys co-founder and song writer, Brian Wilson. Two very talented actors play Wilson in different stages of his life. Paul Dano is the younger Brian. Here we see him with his cousin and a good friend, together; they launch the Beach Boys musical group in the early 1960’s. John Cusack is Brian in the 1980’s while under the control of his ingenious and vicious psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy, played truthfully by Paul Giamatti.

The story flashes forward and back while twisting the lives of both the young Brian and the old Brian. Watching young Brian create memorable music, we see a whiz kid. He starts with “surfer” music and moves to more complicated music produced as studio sound. During this time we hear some great music by the young Brian Wilson. He is a unique soul, creating hit song after song.

He did have problems to face, such as not wanting to fly in an airplane or being on the road with the Beach Boys. So, he refused going on the road and worked in the studio instead. He also took popular recreational drugs at the time, which probably caused all his problems. Some may label him while others would say he did have demons, but psychiatric treatment is not the answer.

Dano is great as the young Wilson. His performance captures Wilson and his various mood swings and eccentricities. Here the viewer must not mistake this for mental illness. He is a genius while conversing about the mind and spirit. The older Wilson is constantly under the psychotherapy of Landy’s 24-hour surveillance and over-medication and misdiagnosis. He blatantly manipulates Wilson guising help with a colorized screen of undermining half-truths, invalidation and total lies.

The older Wilson decides he wants a new Cadillac and meets saleswoman, and his champion, Melinda Ledbetter, played brilliantly by Elizabeth Banks. They fall for each other and begin dating, supervised by Landy and his associates. History will prove that there were other interests that Landy had in Wilson other than his mental health, which Melinda touches on as she confronts the ill-intended psychologist.

At first, the flashbacks are a little annoying because the younger Wilson and the older Wilson are two very different people. After awhile it all makes sense. Both the young and old versions are hard to watch, yet Melinda proposes a breather of hope. And when she confronts Landy, I cheer her on. She does the right thing and doesn’t smack him in his demented face as he shrinks back from her absolutely determined smile. She saves Wilson and flourishes.