Friday Night Flix: Grand Piano

gp2Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A person receives a phone call from an unseen sniper informing him that if he doesn’t obey a set of instructions precisely, he’ll be shot. If he attempts to flee, he’ll also be shot. Off the top of my head I can think of that dopey Colin Farrell movie Phone Booth and the earlier/better Liberty Stands Still. Now I can add Grand Piano to that list.

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In this case, the victim (Elijah Wood) isn’t being taught a moral lesson — at least not as such — so it’s slightly different. It’s also set up a bit more plausibly, since the action takes place in an enclosed theater rather than a crowded city street with all the impossible-to-predict variables that entails. The other thing that separates it is some astonishing piano playing.

Though there are moments of character development and a few brutal thrills, the focus is genuinely on the music. The centerpiece is a fictional composition called “La Cinquette,” a song so difficult only a handful of people in the world can play it.

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The build-up is so tastefully explained, even if you have no understanding of such things (as I surely do not) you can’t help but sit in rapt attention when Wood finally starts in on “the unplayable piece.” I have no idea what kind of special effects and/or voodoo they used for this stuff because there are numerous closeups in which Woods’ hands and face are fully visible and it always looks like he’s really playing playing these insane pieces of music. Maybe Elijah Wood is secretly a concert-level pianist.

I’m not happy about it but I have to say I’m starting to become a fan of E-Wood. I never thought I’d get over the atrocity he committed against The Lord of the Rings but between this, Maniac and his Woodshed SpectreVision stuff, he’s starting to win me over. I’m sure he’ll be pleased to hear that.

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John Cusack is in this movie too, playing the Wesley Snipes/Kiefer Sutherland sniper character. Without exaggeration or irony, this is his most gripping performance in a long time. Cusack is a little like Ben Kingsley at this point in his career, or to a lesser extent Robert De Niro. All three are still top flight actors but they will take literally any gig, no matter how cheap or rushed.

Cusack is just as likely to appear in a great movie (The Butler) as he is some ridiculous straight-to-VOD crap (The Factory), often in the same year. If you look at his IMDB page, he has EIGHT movies coming out in 2014. Eight! How can someone with such a long and successful career need money that badly? Maybe he’s letting his brother-in-law Paulie manage his money?

Added bonus: BILL S. PRESTON ESQUIRE IS IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE.

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9 thoughts on “Friday Night Flix: Grand Piano

  1. Bill S. Preston! RIGHT!!! The illustrious return of the forgotten Stallyn….Adam, we have never agreed more comparatively (even in your recognition of El-Wood) than we have with our applause of this movie. I am eagerly awaiting “Acoustic Guitar” with Zac Efron and Forest Whitaker, “Ocarina Blues” with Joshua Jackson and Kevin Bacon, and “Blade of Grass” with Johnny Knoxville and Billy Bob Thornton.

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  2. Last night, I watched Cusack in “The Paperboy”. That boy’s gone batsh*t! He was similarly slimy in “The Frozen Ground”. All Hail the Curious Cusack! By the by, “Con Air” ranks in the Top Ten Movies I Must Watch When Caught on TV Regardless of the Myriad Viewings that Have Born Memorization of Dialogue and Anticipation of Action, along with favorites like “Cannonball Run”, “Cannonball Run II”, and “Tremors”.

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      • Con Air – Cannonball Run – Cannonball Run II – Tremors – Annie – Aliens – Ghostbusters – Monty Python and the Holy Grail – March of the Wooden Soldiers – The Gumball Rally:
        Unrelated: last night, I dreamt I died and was resurrected as Bobby Heenan circa 1987.

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  3. Golden era Heenan; not a bad time/place to come back. Think of all the witty banter you’d get to exchange with pre-steroid trial vince mcmahon & still alive Gorilla Monsoon.

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