Thursday, May 22, 2008

John Cusack Goes “Down the Rabbit Hole” with Mary Lyn Maiscott on

John Cusack as Brand Hauser, CIA hitman, in War Inc.

In an interview with our own Mary Lyn Maiscott for Vanity Fair magazine’s Web site, John Cusack talks about his new film, War Inc.

Cusack, the star and co-writer of this scathing political satire, which has been compared to antiwar classics like Dr. Strangelove and Catch 22, explains that the movie is really only a slight exaggeration of the “down the rabbit hole” reality of the endless war on terror.

[Former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was hosting a ski tournament for soldiers who had lost a limb and he was also sitting on the board of a company that was making the prosthetic limbs,” says Cusack in the interview, referring to a scene in the film in which a chorus line of amputees dance at a trade show to demonstrate the latest in prosthetic limb technology. “There’s nothing we could do in the movie that has a fraction of the real obscenities of the war profiteers and the mercenaries and these so-called free marketeers.”

So, if you want to know “what’s so funny ’bout prosthetic limbs, torture, and beheading” (as we asked in our own review of War Inc.), click here to check out Mary Lyn’s revealing interview.

War Inc.
opens Friday in New York and L.A. Click here for more information.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Million Little Parodies

Can we declare a moratorium on book reviewers’ mimicking the style of the book they’re reviewing? Although I seem to recall a scathing and amusing Valley Girl-esque critique by Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin’s piece in the Times this morning is a slog to get through, with its choppy prose, missing punctuation, missing words, and sentence fragments. Oddly, her review is pretty much a rave, ending with “That’s how James Frey saved himself.” Yes, that James Frey, of A Million Little Pieces and shamed-by-Oprah-Winfrey fame, currently profiled in Vanity Fair’s June issue. Everybody loves a story of redemption (except for, in this case, maybe Oprah?), but next time perhaps Maslin can tell it in her own voice instead of trying to imitate the writing, especially if it’s good writing. I don’t have strong feelings about Frey one way or the other, but I do believe Maslin should have let Bright Shiny Morning have its day in the sun, unshadowed by this confusing, counterproductive pseudo-Freyness. —MLM

Friday, May 2, 2008

(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Prosthetic Limbs, Torture, and Beheading?

Hauser (John Cusack) walks through the troubled land of Turaqistan.

Tribeca Film Festival 2008, April 23-May 4

War, Inc.
Directed by Joshua Seftel
Screenplay by Mark Leyner, Jeremy Pikser, and John Cusack

With John Cusack, Hilary Duff, Marisa Tomei, Joan Cusack, Ben Kingsley, Dan Aykroyd, and Lubomir Neikov

106 minutes
From USA

By Robert Rosen

I wouldn’t say that War, Inc. is the best political satire since Dr. Strangelove—it’s too ragged and meandering for that. But in the same way that the Kubrick classic was able to provoke laughter at the notion of nuclear annihilation in the grim aftermath of the Kennedy assassination (and with the Cuban missile crisis still fresh in everybody’s mind), War, Inc. performs a miracle of its own: It fires off a barrage of one-liners and sight gags about prosthetic limbs, torture devices, and beheading videos that demonstrate the much overlooked comic potential of the endless War on Terror and the cabal of criminals who’ve transformed the United States of America into an outlaw nation.

Set in the Green Zone of a country called Turaqistan, in the very near future, War, Inc. shows us what the world might be like if the entire US government and military were completely under the control of multinational corporations.

Hauser (John Cusack) is a charming CIA hit man who settles his troubled conscience with straight shots of hallucinogenic hot sauce as he goes about the business of trying to assassinate a Middle Eastern oil minister (Lubomir Neikov) in town for a Brand USA trade show. Natalie Hegalhuzen (Marisa Tomei) is a lefty freelance journalist on assignment for The Atlantic, determined to write an honest appraisal of the situation in Turaqistan. Marsha Dillon (Joan Cusack) is a foul-mouthed government operative who functions as Hauser’s office assistant. Yonica Babyyeah (Hilary Duff) is a Britney Spears-like pop singer slated to perform at the trade show and to marry one of the dancers in her posse. The former vice president (Dan Aykroyd) is a corporate CEO who likes to teleconference while moving his bowels. And Walken (Ben Kingsley) is Hauser’s Strangelovian CIA boss.

There’s a lot going on in this movie—often subtly, in the background. You’ve really got to pay attention. But is it entertaining? That all depends on how funny you find the notion of a chorus line of Turaqistani amputees dancing at a trade show to demonstrate the latest in prosthetic-limb technology.

I didn’t think I could laugh at such a thing. But I did.

***½ (3½ Stars)