Movies on the Brain: Runaway Jury

WATCHED: 2/29/04

John Cusack is one of my favorite actors and he’s a big reason why I wanted to see this one. I’ve never seen a performance by him that I didn’t enjoy, even in America’s Sweethearts. I read the book a number of years ago and know the plot has been changed to be a jury sitting on a gun-control case and not a tobacco-death case, but I’m OK with that.

0:01 – Does anyone remember Johnathan Brandmeier’s late-night talk show? Didn’t Rick Dees have one, too? For a while there in the early nineties talk shows were coming and going it was hard to keep track.

0:02 – Yes! Jeremy Piven is in this! My wife and I loved his short-lived show “Cupid” about five or six years ago. It was witty, well written and offbeat so of course it was cancelled fairly quickly.

0:04 – Dylan McDermott got killed in the first four minutes of the movie and I’m thinking, how badly does his agent suck. “Hey, Dylan! I’ve got you a part in a big money adaptation of a John Grisham book. Who do you play? Some schmuck who bites it after 150 seconds of screen time.”

0:05 – John Cusack just blew into an envelope he was opening and now I’ve got Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent going through my mind. “No one, I repeat NO ONE has seen the contents of these envelopes!”

0:08 – Gene Hackman is freaking out a cab driver by acting like he’s psychic. Why not just go the full nine and show him getting a kick out of messing with people’s heads like that?

0:10 – Does Jeremy Piven get a “Best Friend of the Lead Actor” rate for these movies? Not that he’s not a good actor, but I have to wonder if his being given a role is just a standard part of Cusacks’ contracts at this point.

0:11 – I think Gene Hackman has set up his war-room in the CIA headquarters from “Alias”. I keep waiting for him to brush past Victor Garber.

0:12 – Given my being from the Chicago area I have no problems when Jeremy Piven or John Cusack connect their characters to Chicago in some way.

0:14 – I want “Buck Rogers” on DVD for three reasons: 1) Erin Gray; 2) I want to watch it again to see when exactly the decline in quality started; 3) Erin Gray.

0:16 – Bruce Davison is a very good actor, but ever since X-Men I keep waiting for him to melt into a pool of water. By the way, how ridiculous was Halle Berry’s performance in those movies? On a scale of one to ten do these officially go to 11?
0:17 – Is it all right to hold it against the French that so many buildings in New Orleans are pink? I realize they may have had absolutely nothing to do with this, but does that really matter?

0:19 – Nora Dunn would have fit in perfectly in the National Public Radio spoofs they’ve done on Saturday Night Live recently.

0:25 – I, personally, find standing up in a courtroom, yelling at the top of my lungs and smearing myself in blood to be a bad thing. Call it upbringing, but I think this is not appropriate behavior.

0:29 – My mind has been wandering to the diner scene from Chasing Amy for the last few minutes for no real reason. I think this worked for me so well because Kevin Smith had kept Jay and Silent Bob out of the movie up until that point, so it was a pleasant surprise.

0:32 – I thought Enemy of the State was a fairly decent movie, except for Will Smith. Good performance by Hackman, though.

0:35 – Just realized this movie marks another pairing of Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz, the first of course being Confidence, which I liked. It convinced me Edward Burns could be a pretty good actor; he just needs to stop being his own director. Please realize I say that having never seen 15 Minutes.

0:39 – Can’t stop thinking about what this movie would have been like had they retained the original cigarette-based plot device. I guess it was seen as not “flashy” enough.

0:44 – I love southern food, especially grits. This completely disgusted some friends of mine when we were on a road trip to Florida. Their revulsion really just increased my enjoyment. Is that wrong?

0:46 – I’d love to see Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford on screen together again.

0:49 – No pun intended, but is the jury still out on Jennifer Beals’ career resurrection? It seems like she’s trying to get back in the game ever since Roger Dodger, which I thought was fantastic. It’s kind of too bad she’s got the whole Flashdance persona hanging over her.

0:51 – Do schools still have kids say the Pledge of Allegiance before the day begins anymore? Use to be a big deal in grade school on days when we would have to wear our Boy Scout uniforms and we would have to salute instead of placing our hands… No one is paying attention anymore are they?

0:53 – When I was a kid, playing with toy guns wasn’t really seen as a big thing. Now, of course, allowing your kids to play “war” is tantamount to giving them a real gun and pointing them in the direction of the local 7-11.
0:56 – Who invented cable television? Did they just sit down and say, “I want to put a TV signal through a wire in the ground”? Did manufacturers of antennas threaten him like the cigarette company threatened Russell Crowe in The Insider? If so, can you imagine him opening up his mailbox and seeing a pair of old-fashioned bunny ears?

1:02 – The commercials for drugs on television crack me up. My favorite is the one for the social-anxiety disorder treatment with side effects of “gas with oily discharge” and “frequent, uncontrollable urination”. They remind of the “Happy Fun Ball” commercial on Saturday Night Live years ago. “Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball”.

1:05 – Does Cusack demand his characters are shown to enjoy the latest in hip music? His apartments always have posters for underground bands and such.

1:10 – Going back to the whole Cusack/Piven thing, I was kind of surprised Cusack didn’t show up in Family Man, even in a brief cameo. Yes, I know – there’s no good reason to watch Family Man. Let’s move beyond that.

1:13 – There’s all kinds of good acting going on in this movie, but I really am waiting to see Cusack and Hackman together.

1:15 – Continuing my Kevin Smith-based run of non-sequitors, I am now replaying the scene in Dogma when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are forced off the bus after Damon starts shooting people. “I can spot a commandment breaker a mile away.”

1:19 – Considering all the spam I get, I occasionally start thinking I’m paying too much for my free email accounts.

1:22 – Did Dustin Hoffman decide halfway through filming that his character was not going to have an accent? Where was the person in charge of continuity?

1:23 – I think Hoffman and Rachel Weisz are having this meeting in a Six Flags food court. Must have been a bitch to take the sound of roller coasters out during post-production.

1:26 – Hackman and Hoffman are having their confrontation in the courthouse men’s room. I didn’t really have a joke or gag written down here, so I’m wondering what I was trying to make a note of. A little voice in the back of my mind, though, keeps reminding me not go for anything obvious.

1:29 – Did Gene Hackman have a mortgage payment that he couldn’t make when he decided to take the role in Quick and the Dead? That’s the only explanation I can think of.

1:31 – Apparently John Cusack’s character used to live in Cincinnati and I’m thinking: I’ve been to Cincinnati. You’d leave too.

1:32 – I graduated high school about two years before the whole “Goth” look became nationally recognized. There were a few kids who dressed like that, but it was never a whole sub-culture like it seems to be now.

1:36 – Cusack’s jury has been sequestered in a shady looking motel and now I’m worried people are going to start dying off mysteriously.

1:37 – Cool, here’s the Cusack/Hackman confrontation I was waiting for and both actors are holding their own.

1:39 – I am a complete snob when it comes to widescreen versions of movies. If I see a pan-and-scan version on TV, I don’t care if it’s The Godfather, I’ll skip right past it and instead grab my DVD copy.

1:42 – Why do people always take out their frustrations on the phone they’ve received bad news on? You don’t see people punching their computers after getting a bad email nearly as much. How weak is the product placement group for phone companies that this keeps happening?

1:47 – Raise your hand if you’re under 30 and actually had a stereotypical disheveled-looking liberal professor in college. That’s what I thought.

1:54 – Sorry, but you can’t really do a jury deliberation scene without my waiting for Lee Cobb to threaten Henry Fonda.

1:57 – The judge keeps calling the bailiff and I can’t help but wait for Richard Moll to pop up.

2:00 – I think one of the patrons of this bar is Francis Ford Coppola. Is he in there drinking after realizing his daughter has had more successful films in the last five years than he has?

PARTING THOUGHTS – I really liked this one. It had all the markings of a big-budget studio movie but didn’t fall into as many of the potholes as those usually do. Great performances by the entire cast certainly deserve a large amount of the credit for this. Pretty nice, if not completely surprising, twist at the end along with a nice tight script and good pacing also made this movie enjoyable.

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