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The Ending Of ‘The Usual Suspects’ Still Wows, 25 Years Later

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“I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.” — Script Guru Robert McKee, to Charlie Kaufman, in Adaptation.

Never has the “wow them in the end” adage been illustrated more effectively than in The Usual Suspects, directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie, which hit theaters 25 years ago in August-September of 1995. It’s a movie with plenty of flaws but the ultimate trump card: a home run ending that makes those flaws vanish from memory.

Singer and McQuarrie had worked together once before, on Public Access, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, despite fairly tepid reviews. The two had known each other from childhood — in Princeton Junction, New Jersey — where Singer’s mom and McQuarrie’s dad had run together on an unsuccessful bid for a township committee seat. Singer supposedly met Kevin Spacey at an afterparty for Public Access. The idea for The Usual Suspects came to McQuarrie, Finding Forrester style, title first.

While waiting in line for a screening at the festival, a friend asked McQuarrie about his next script. “I said, ‘I was reading this article in Spy magazine called “The Usual Suspects.” I thought that would be a great title.’” As for the story, McQuarrie said, “I guess it’s about…the usual suspects. The guys who always get arrested for some type of crime. I figure they meet in a police lineup and decide to work together. I told Bryan. He forgot about it a few seconds later.”

That this half-assed, barely formed kernel of an idea would go on to win two Oscars (one for lead actor Kevin Spacey and one for writer Chris McQuarrie) and be recognized by the WGA in 2017 as the 35th greatest screenplay of all time, is a perfect illustration of the adage “writing is rewriting.”

Of course, with its director and lead actor becoming varying degrees of unemployable in recent years (Spacey hasn’t been in anything since 2018) — not to mention one of its stars, Stephen Baldwin turning full MAGA grifter (as well as becoming Justin Bieber’s father in law) — The Usual Suspects feels a little like a time capsule of the recently canceled. But all that would come later.

In the first two acts, it’s easy to wonder if this perennial fixture of best-of lists is overrated. Christopher McQuarrie was 27 when it came out, Singer 29, and in certain ways, their youth shows. While Singer had gone off to film school, McQuarrie hitchhiked in Australia, worked first at his uncle’s detective agency and later as a movie theater security guard, and The Usual Suspect feels like McQuarrie tried to cram every oddball character and weird story he came across in the course of his peripatetic young adulthood into this one, impossibly dense script.

It’s a movie that’s as much of its time as it is of its creator. The dialogue, in particular, is smart-alecky, swear-filled, and slightly smug in that particularly early-90s-indie-movie kind of way, like an amalgamation of Tarantino, Shane Black, and David Mamet, where creativity counted for more than naturalism (it probably always does). When the police round up the titular usual suspects, to a man, each character has something casual and sneeringly cool to say to the arresting officers.

“Don’t you guys ever sleep? …F*ck you pig.” -McManus

“…Think you brought enough guys?” -Todd Hockney, as he tosses an oily rag directly at the camera

It’s all Shane Black snappy and Steven Soderbergh slick. The cool-guy sarcasm probably suits Kevin Pollak’s character (Todd Hockney) the best, but it extends to virtually every character. They’re slightly undifferentiated in that way, all in some way guys who would blow cigarette smoke in your face behind the minimart, a very specific Gen X conception of “cool.” No one flinches at having a gun stuck in their face, no one looks at explosions.

Lots of nineties crime films had that in common. You could draw a straight line through Hockney describing what he’s going to do when he goes to prison (“F*ck your father in the shower and then have a snack?”) to Samuel Jackson’s character in The Long Kiss Goodnight (“Nah, I usually sock ’em in the jaw and yell ‘pop goes the weasel‘”) to pretty much any Samuel Jackson line in Pulp Fiction. Where the Shane Black version is slightly more comic book pulp, McQuarrie’s tough guy swear nuggets tend more towards writerly, and slightly tortured. Think Ryan Philippe growling “shut that c*nt’s mouth or I’ll come over there and f*ck start her head” in The Way Of The Gun (McQuarrie’s follow up to The Usual Suspects).

It doesn’t sound like something someone would actually say, but it sticks in your head. Leather jacket guy masculine was just kind of how dialogue was written in the early ’90s, the same way arch self-referential shouting (with big, bugged-out eyes) is in favor now. You can watch The Usual Suspects, a movie that has exactly one female character (Edie Finneran, the “downtown lawyer” that Gabriel Byrne’s Keaton is “tappin’”) and consists of about 85% gay panic insults (you could make a drinking game out of how often a character derisively refers to a group of men as “ladies”) and see basically what Troy Duffy was attempting and failing with Boondock Saints. “What if there were some dudes who were really cool and also had guns, like a bunch of Andrew Dice Clays in a Ray Chandler novel?”

In a lot of ways, The Usual Suspects is the platonic ideal of the ’90s tough guy neo-noir. It’s far more about the idea of telling a crazy story — a crazy story within a crazy story, really — than it is about any one character growing or changing or learning something about life. The only thing anyone really learns in The Usual Suspects is who Kaiser Soze is.

Early on in the film, the characters feel more like “types” than people (as may happen in a heist movie format that grew out of the idea of guys meeting in a police lineup). Even if they don’t entirely come together as flesh-and-blood humans, Usual Suspect‘s characters get by on novelty value, and it some ways it’s driven by the cosmic synergy of oddball writing and oddball acting. Benicio Del Toro’s rendering of “he flip you, flip you for real,” is unforgettable, even if, upon rewatch, his overplucked hustler “Fenster” doesn’t contribute all that much to the plot. Later in the film, we meet “Kobayashi,” a character with a Japanese name, played by a Lancastrian actor, using an accent that could best be described as “vaguely Indian.” It’s a character that only someone with a face as singular as Peter Postlethwaite could’ve pulled off.

McQuarrie throws so much at you — the lineup, the ring of corrupt cops the gang torches in “New York’s Finest Taxi Service, the downtown lawyer with the ambiguous connections, the fence named “Redfoot,” another heist, a massive drug deal at a harbor, two drug gangs, and finally, Kaiser Soze — that you eventually just submit, letting the facts wash over you without trying to make the connections. Usual Suspects‘ narrative is so convoluted I can’t even follow the Wikipedia synopsis. You think, I must’ve been tricked the first time I watched this. There’s no way this comes together the way I remember. How many goddamn Macguffins does this movie have?

Upon my latest rewatch, I was again convinced, right up until the final five minutes, that The Usual Suspects couldn’t possibly hang together. That it was all an elaborate parlor trick, that we force it to make sense to keep from feeling dumb for not getting it, a Band-Aid that makes you feel okay about having watched it. And then, once again, Chazz Palmintieri and Giancarlo Esposito (the future Gus Fring), with an assist from Dan Hedaya, hit a last-second buzzer-beater, meticulously explaining away every conceivable plot hole. Hot damn, they really did pull it off.

In some ways, The Usual Suspects feels even older than 25. Despite the very nineties style of dialogue, as a narrative it seems to come from the classic, mid-century school of manufactured suspense, where revealing information in drips and delayed gratification were everything. Films rarely trust audiences to hang in there for the big ending reveal anymore. And as a viewer, I’m less accustomed to having to wait for it or being able to trust that my patience will be rewarded.

In The Usual Suspects, you can see the essential blueprint for every Christopher Nolan movie that was to come: keep the audience on their heels with endless subterfuge until you can knock them out with the final reveal. Nolan’s low-budget debut, Following, would debut three years later, and he would go on to (arguably) innovate more than Bryan Singer as a visual storyteller, but as a writer he still has a lot in common with McQuarrie (the other Chris).

To note the obvious, that “they don’t make ’em like that anymore,” is a bittersweet observation. For five or 10 years it felt like every aspiring auteur in Hollywood was trying to make The Usual Suspects, the same way every comedian in the late aughts and early 20-teens was trying to be Louis CK. Whether it was sex scandals or just changing tastes that brought them down (with all due respect to McQuarrie, who never had a sex scandal and seems to have successfully evolved), these were both styles that were widely imitated and rarely pulled off, a hyperspecific flavor of white male cool. 25 years later, we can be simultaneously glad that The Usual Suspects exists and relieved that fewer filmmakers are trying to rip it off.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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Everything Coming In The Japan World Update

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With the new Japan world update, players have access to a redesigned portion of MSF’s world map to fly over and six new airports to land at in Japan.

Microsoft Flight Simulator has become one of the hottest games of the summer after releasing just a few weeks ago.  The updated graphics and new areas of the world to explore have pulled in players from all over the globe. With the new Japan World update, players have access to a redesigned portion of the world map to fly over and six new airports to land at. There’s new landing challenges in and around six Japanese cities that have been updated using high-resolution 3D photogrammetry. The free update will go live on September 29.

Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t a simple game. It simulates flight using real-world data along with precise globe-mapping, alongside realistic, stunning graphics. It’s beautiful to look down from the window of a plane and see recognizable landmarks or realistic representation of land forms in whatever area the player chooses to fly over. There’s also lots of real-world weather data that’s used to make Microsoft Flight Simulator as realistic as possible.

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Related: Microsoft Flight Simulator Played By Twitch Chat Is Nail-Biting Fun

The Japan update, or Microsoft Flight Simulator’s World Update 1, as the devs call it, focuses on six cities in The Land of the Rising Sun: Yokohama, Tokyo, Takamatsu, Tokushima, Sendai, and Utsunomiya. There’s also six airports that received major attention during the update: Hachijo-jima island Airport, Kerama Airport, Kushiro Airport, Nagasaki Airport, Shimojishima Airport, and Suwanosejima Airport.

What MSF’s Update Changed

Microsoft Flight Simulator DA40NG

The designs for the new airports come along with landing challenges in and around the Airports. There’s no assisted landing features in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, and so it will take a few practice lands before players should head over to Japan to try and land in Hachijo-jima Airport, which is located on a volcanic island.

There’s updates to specific buildings in Japan. Cultural landmarks like Himeji Castle and the Kobe Port Tower strongly define the country’s architectural personality, while natural features of the land like Mt. Fuji and Matsushima Bay stick out of the landscape in the most pleasant way. The game offers an experience much better than browsing Google for images, because the landmarks and architecture are able to be viewed from any angle. The experience is visually rich at varying altitudes, which creates an authentic flight experience. Just switch on Auto-Pilot and enjoy the view.

The release of updates for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will alternate between World Updates and Simulation Updates. Developers Asobo Studios will continue to make these updates free, but will also mix DLC content into the game as time goes along. Since this update focuses on the world of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, the next update players should expect to see is expected to focus on the simulation aspect of the game, and could include new planes. As for the Japan World Update, there’s six new cities and six new airports to keep players busy.

Next: How Easy Microsoft Flight Simulator Is For Beginners

Microsoft Flight Simulator can be played on Xbox One and PC.

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Jeff Daniels’ ‘Instant Credibility’ Makes James Comey a Hero in ‘The Comey Rule’

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“I was about to throw up on my shoes,” Comey said of the experience of watching Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson reenacting his one-on-one dinner scene with POTUS.

Fired by President Donald Trump in May 2017, former FBI Director James Comey’s first reaction to writer-director Billy Ray and producer Shane Salerno adapting his 2018 memoir was “Hell no,” he said in a recent live Washington Post Zoom interview. “I didn’t want to be part of such a thing. They talked me into it.”

Ray wrote “The Comey Rule” as a story about how heartbreaking it can be to be a public servant. It was because of that take that Comey finally agreed, after months of resisting, to give him the rights to adapt his “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” The resulting two-part limited series launched Sunday on Showtime.

On a certain level, Comey’s hesitation was understandable. “Start with the fact that the guy to play him was in ‘Dumb and Dumber,’” said Emmy-winner Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”), who, in fact, brings his trademark decency and gravitas to the role. (He’s also 6’3″ to Comey’s 6’8″.)

But Ray wanted Daniels because “he brings instant credibility,” Ray said in a phone interview. “You know the guy’s telling you the truth. With someone as polarizing as Comey, that’s an important hire. Jeff is someone America already trusted.”

Equally important, Comey is quiet and contained; he’s got a poker face. “I needed to have an actor so confident that he wouldn’t be thrown by the fact Trump is the bells and whistles fireworks part in this show,” Ray said, “an actor who can trust his own stillness and quietude and know a lot of power in that.”

“The movie shows you what he’s thinking,” said Daniels, who listened to Comey read his own audiobook. “You put the thought in your head and show what he was thinking. I had so much, I could hear his voice in my head. We tried to show you him thinking about what to do, moment to moment. His decisions were so often between a rock and a hard place.”

According to Comey, his literary agents had to force him to include the most incendiary material in the book: his one-on-one meetings with Trump, who is played with powerful menace by Brendan Gleeson. “I didn’t want to write a book,” said Comey, who scribbled notes after each Trump meeting. “I wanted to leave the Trump stuff out…I wanted to share a message about institutional values, about these people and the values they represent in American life. I’m sensitive to criticism. I don’t like the narrative that I’m a showboat…the idea of a screen production of my book made me cringe.”

It turned out that Ray “had a lot to say about the Trump presidency,” he told me. “It was making me slightly crazy, the way he was talking about the Deep State, which is just a bunch of public servants who cared about their country and the apolitical intentions of its most important institutions. I was looking for a way to express this idea.”

Salerno told Comey that this was the way he could get his message to more young people than would ever read his bestseller. When Comey talked it over with his wife Patricia (played in the series by Jennifer Ehle), they decided to cooperate, after all, without conditions.

Comey chose the Oscar-nominated Ray (for the adapted screenplay for “Captain Phillips”) for the adaptation “because I knew he would tell the truth. I’m a human being. I have strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t care how I was portrayed. I wanted the institution shown in an honest way. There’s a whole lot flying around about the FBI; I knew Billy had a passion for truth. That’s what sold me.”

And Ray returns the compliment. During all the research and phone, email and in-person interviews that he did with dozens of players including Comey, he told me, he “has never said a word in public that has been proven false, ever, not even questionable. You can’t say that about Trump or [Michael] Flynn. He tells the truth. You may disagree with this interpretation of things, but that guy doesn’t lie, manipulate or spin.”

Billy Ray, Jeff Daniels and James Comey at a live video interview for “The Comey Rule.”

Anne Thompson

To diffuse some of the criticism about Comey, Ray has U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (Scoot McNairy) lay out the showboating claim right at the top of the show. “I know people are conflicted about James Comey,” he told me. “Who better to preach that than Rod Rosenstein, because he’s the Salieri to Comey’s Mozart. He’s the guy who would like to be a leader but doesn’t have it. He’s the one who asks James Comey, ‘Please come talk to my team about leadership.’”

One criticism of “The Comey Rule” is that it glorifies Comey as a Washington do-gooder. “I never thought of it that way,” said Ray, who transitioned from movies to television with this series. “I never thought about how to make Comey into a hero. I thought, ‘Let’s put the world in Jim Comey’s shoes for five minutes, create a story, and go inside the rooms and the decisions he made that so profoundly affected the electorate.’

“We tell the truth and present the facts,” he said. “This is what Jim Comey was facing. Here were the facts, pressures, constraints, and political realities. ‘What would you have done?’ It’s not my way of saying he did the right thing or the wrong thing. It’s the thought process that went into those decisions, and the staff around him [most of whom have since left the FBI], challenging and/or amplifying those decisions. It was a noble process, the intentions of the process were pure.”

In fact, “The Comey Rule” refers to the ex-FBI chief’s Achilles heel. After all, he’s the executive who insisted on investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails on the eve of the presidential election that swung into Trump’s favor. As Ray was talking to people at the DOJ, one of them told him that they came up with that term, he said, “for when you have such a fierce belief in your own perspective that it supersedes the norms of the DOJ.”

After his research, Ray took a 144-page treatment to the networks, selling the project to CBS because it could go to either streamer CBS All-Access or premium cabler Showtime. The drama easily broke into two parts. Night One ends with the election of Trump, and Night Two starts with his taking office. “At the end of Night One we made the case there’s a shark in the water,” said Ray, “and as we go to break, our hero is in the water, ‘Now what’s going to happen?’ I thought a lot about ‘Jaws’ as we were making this: the decision to hold off on seeing the shark for as long as humanly possible, so that when you do, it really pops. You don’t see the shark until your hero does.”

Having directed two features (“Shattered Glass” and “Secret in Their Eyes”), Ray was eager to take the reins on the $40-million four-hour limited series after another director dropped out. In some ways it felt the same, he said. “I shot ‘Shattered Glass’ on a 28-day schedule and this was two movies on a 51-day schedule. We were moving faster,” he said.

How to handle the first dramatic interpretation of Trump caused some anxiety — it would be so easy to overplay him. “We’re not doing a cartoon version of Trump,” Ray said. “I feel if we portray him accurately, he is by definition cartoonish, so we made the decision to play him straight to the extent we could. His hair couldn’t be a joke even though the hair is as ridiculous as Trump, and his suits fit better. We did not do a ridiculous voice or mannerisms.”

And Trump makes a strong villain. Gleeson, who initially resisted accepting the role, does not dismiss him as stupid. “You’d never call a mob boss an idiot,” Ray said. “Brendan is a brilliant actor with incredible physicality. Most important, he’s fearless. He was worried [how it would be received.] That’s why he’s sitting in Dublin right now not doing press. He knows how much blowback there’s going to be. He’s hiding under a rock 8,000 miles from here.”

Comey got the shakes when he sat in a director’s chair on the set during the filming of his one-on-one dinner scene with Trump. “I was about to throw up on my shoes,” he said, “sitting in the dark as they recreated what I lived in a way I found very disturbing. I found it really difficult to relive…it hit me like a wave.”

He recalled how his mind raced as he asked himself, “‘How do I protect the FBI? What do I say?’ I was trying to maintain distance. ‘How do I do that now?’ Watching that scene, Jeff doesn’t say anything, but you can see the turmoil by looking at his eyes and the way he’s holding his jaw.”

“You’ve ruined my day,” he told Daniels. “You brought back the struggle, the awkwardness.”

“That’s my job in a nutshell,” Daniels said, “without saying a lot, to show you all that. If the guy I’m playing saw it, touchdown! I’m there.”

Jeff Daniels and Brendan Gleeson play James Comey and Donald Trump in “The Comey Rule.”

It was the plan to air late “The Comey Rule” in May or June, but some higher-ups at Showtime parent Viacom decided to air the series after the election. Ray objected, saying that the cast delivered spectacular performances, notably Daniels. After his letter of apology to his cast was leaked to The New York Times, Showtime redated the series. “We wanted the world to see the biggest number you can get,” Ray said, “to air it before the election was white hot, a lot of eyeballs. After it’s an historical artifact you don’t get as many.”

Comey remains surprised that 53 Republicans, members of U.S. Senate, “took the oath to support the Constitution and twisted it,” he said, referring to the vote on the second count of impeachment towards Trump, that of Obstruction of Congress. “They told themselves a story, that ‘the American people need me, and if I stand up, I might lose a primary, or deprive the American people of my services.’ We have to remember what goes on so that it isn’t repeated.”

In case anyone was wondering, Comey is endorsing Joe Biden. “A new Attorney General will work to restore commitment to values,” he said.

“The rule of law is on the ballot as well,” Daniels said. “If we don’t have that we are no longer the America we keep telling everybody that we are.”

“The Comey Rule” airs its second episode Monday, September 28 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime. The limited series will then be available to stream in full on Showtime.

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Was Larissa Dos Santos Lima Fired From ’90 Day Fiancé’?

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After three seasons and multiple arrests, 90 Day Fiancé star Larissa Dos Santos Lima claims she was let go from the TLC franchise. The 34-year-old announced the news on social media over the weekend, maintaining that her recent lingerie show on website CamSoda led to the firing.

“I am no longer a cast member of the show 90 Day Fiancé,” Dos Santos Lima wrote on Instagram.  “Because of my show with CamSoda, I was released from my contract with TLC by the phone the day before ICE arrested me. I will continue producing content for my official channels on Instagram, OnlyFans and YouTube. Thanks for your understanding, love and attention.”

Dos Santos Lima appeared on Season 5 of 90 Day Fiancé, and Seasons 4 and 5 of 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After? Audiences watched as Dos Santos Lima wed Las Vegas resident Colt Johnson, and followed their subsequent divorce. Dos Santos Lima shared her journey with beau Eric Nichols on this current season of Happily Ever After?, culminating in her estimated $72,000 plastic surgery makeover. The couple is currently in the process of relocating to a permanent home in Colorado Springs.

Dos Santos Lima was also arrested by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on September 19, but was released a few hours later. Her representative Lindsay Feldman issued a statement claiming the arrest was a “misunderstanding.”

According to TMZ, Dos Santos Lima earned over $100,000 for her one-hour live webcam show. Former 90 Day Fiancé cast member Anfisa Nava shared her support for Dos Santos Lima’s choice to pursue other modes of self-expression, posting “good for you…you’ll be a millionaire in no time.”

Dos Santos Lima’s final appearance for TLC will be in Parts 2 and 3 of the Happily Ever After? Tell All Reunion, airing this week.

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