Tagged: James Franco

Mindy Newell: As The World Turned

jackie kennedy shooter

Here is a bulletin from CBS News… in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.” • Walter Cronkite‘s first news flash on the shooting at 1:40 P.M. EST, interrupting the CBS soap opera As The World Turns. It is an audio-only report over the “CBS News Bulletin” slide on the screen.

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago – pause as Cronkite fights back tears, then regains his composure – Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States…” • Walter Cronkite announcing the death of J.F.K., 2:38 P.M. EST, November 22, 1963

Being a sucker for both time-travel and alternative history stories – genres that are not necessarily exclusive – I read Stephen King’s novel when it first came out and liked it fine, though I did think it was a little dry at times and a bit overly long and, dare I say, padded? I looked forward to the mini-series when it was first announced, and loved the first episode. Then, because Hulu was releasing each episode on a weekly basis, and being busy with that annoyance called life, I got really lazy about staying current – well, I wouldn’t say I forgot about it, but every time I reminded myself to watch 11.22.63, something else popped up.

Finally, inspired by Bobby Greenberger’s review of 11.22.63 here, I spent most of yesterday binging on the Hulu mini-series, which is now available at the site in its entirety. (Really, Hulu, deciding to dole it out like a weekly television show in this day of streaming and instant gratification was a really dumb idea. Take a clue from Netflix, why don’cha?)

I gotta say, it was definitely worth the wait.

Every generation seems to have at least one seminal historical event, and for us baby boomers, the assassination of J.F.K. was it – well, it was for me, anyway.

ActionComics309SupermanKennedyI was 10 when the President was murdered as his motorcade passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas; I was in my 5th grade classroom, doing math, when the principle of the P.S. 29 on Staten Island came and knocked on the door, gesturing to my teacher to come out into the hallway. One moment that has been impressed onto my mind is the moment I saw my teacher through the window of the classroom door – I was watching her instead of doing my math problem – put her hand to her mouth, and then turning and pulling down the shade of the window, blocking my view.

Teachers never did that when called out into the hallway, they wanted to be able to keep an eye on us. I sensed immediately that something was, well, off, and I got scared. A few moments later, she came back into the room and told us to close our books. “Now, very quietly, I want you to go to the closet and get your things. Everyone is to go straight home today, okay? No playing in the schoolyard or the gym. Will you promise?” We all hummed yes. I don’t know if the other kids felt anything, but my fear was now in the pit of my stomach. The teacher led us outside. A lot of cars were already out there, parents waiting for their children.

I found my brother, then Sandra and Chrissie and Tommy and Patty – we all lived on the same block – and started walking home. Oh, and also, Chrissie and Tommy and Patty all went to St. Theresa’s, the parochial school across the street from P.S. 29, and they had been let out early, too. I was so scared; I kept my eyes on the sidewalk all the way because I was convinced that the Russians were coming and about to drop a nuclear bomb on us, and I didn’t want my eyeballs to melt or go blind or see the sky light up on fire; this was not the result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a year earlier, but from my parents in their wisdom taking me and Glenn to see Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb instead of getting a babysitter. Good job, Mom and Dad! – although, in their defense, those were also the days of air raid sirens and drills, during which us li’l boomers were marched into the hallway of the school and told to turn and face the wall. I don’t remember if Glenn was scared, but Sandra and Chrissie and Patty were happy to have gotten out of school early. Tommy, who was 11, told them to quit fooling around and walk.

Yeah, that was the beginning of a fun weekend, no doubt ‘bout it.

I’ve always thought that the “60s” really began on November 22, 1963 with the three bullets that killed Kennedy also killing the “pretend” United States; domestic and sexual abuse, homophobia, racism and political unrest are all there, just hidden under the red-white-and-blue patina of American nostalgia. And the success of 11.22.63 (the mini-series, nor the book) partly lies in its ability to capture the general population’s innocence of what was coming; the generation that had stopped Hitler and saved the world 15 years earlier was, at worst, complacent about America’s problems and, at best, willfully ignorant.

The other part is the cast, especially James Franco as the man out of time and on a mission – to stop Kennedy’s assassination. The tension rises slowly, cresting in the last three episodes, as Bobby G. said in his review, so that I didn’t even want to pause it to get up and answer the door for the pizza I had ordered for dinner.  In fact, I had to resist jumping to the last episode to see what happened (would it be true to the book? Thee were enough – really good! – differences so I wasn’t sure), so great was my anticipation.

Check it out.


Box Office Democracy: “The Interview”

The Interview is a movie doomed to collapse under the weight of all the external nonsense forced upon it. It is not a movie worth being called an act of war. It is not a movie worthy of being the standard bearer for free speech against real or imagined tyranny. It’s not a movie worth the total public embarrassment of Sony Pictures. It’s just a stupid comedy. I don’t even mean “stupid” pejoratively here, it is in the same grand tradition of stupid comedies that has brought us movies like There’s Something About Mary and Caddyshack. Both movies I like a great deal, neither of them worth an international incident.

When it’s on, The Interview is quite funny. The bit with Eminem that I saw all over Facebook this weekend is my favorite so it’s a shame that that’s in the first ten minutes of the film. Otherwise the film hits on more joke attempts than it misses. Seth Rogen and James Franco have an undeniable comedic chemistry and it’s just fun to watch them bounce of each other. Randall Park is outstanding playing Kim Jong-Un, as is his Veep co-star Timothy Simons in a terribly small part. It’s also important to recognize Diana Bang who is fantastically funny as the leading lady in this film, a part that often doesn’t get a ton of space under the Apatow-Rogen film umbrella but Bang is electric and hopefully gets to do bigger and better things in comedy going forward.

The entire movie is dragged down to mediocre by a poor second act. After the first round of North Korean hijinks, the movie grinds to a halt as the characters slowly get in to their positions or the finale. This leads to a seemingly endless number of scenes of conversations that move the plot along at a glacial pace while not being particularly funny. It’s inexcusable. Add this to the frequent book-report-esque need to put in North Korea facts and statistics and there’s a lot of drag pulling down what might have been a better movie set in a fictional country.

I appreciate that Rogen, along with his directing partner Evan Goldberg, are continuing to be ambitious with their visuals. It would be very easy (and probably profoundly more profitable) for them to continue making Superbad knockoffs until they all died when their houses collapsed from carrying too much money, but much like This is the End there’s a lot going on here. Sure, they’re taking advantage of the fact that no one has any idea if North Korea looks like the outskirts of Vancouver but there are some real sets here and an honest-to-goodness war at the end. When you compare it to the costless dreck that you get from Adam Sandler or the Twilight movies and it’s just so nice to see people take a simple guaranteed paycheck and make a movie that’s actually interesting to look at on a screen. This sounds like an incredibly backhanded compliment but it’s becoming less and less common.

Dennis O’Neil: The Big Christmas Movie

So here we are again, doing our annual dance with me on one side of the time gap and you on the other. For me, Christmas, 2014, is yet to occur – heck, I haven’t even seen Christmas eve yet – and you’re reading this on Christmas morning, at the earliest. Maybe you’ve gotten the big feast and the accompanying burps out of the way and you’re in the family room with the relatives watching the game (there’s always a game) or sulking in your room because you didn’t get the loot you were hoping for and you did get something you won’t take out of the box… Cripes, you haven’t worn spats in years. Or maybe you’re alone in a motel room wondering what skewed the universe.

What you probably arent doing is sitting in a theater watching one of the holiday offerings titled The Interview, starring those laughmeisters James Franco and Seth Rogen. By now, you know the story: someone did a monstermother of a computer hack on the Sony cyber equipment, saw the film, threatened unspecified acts of terror if it gets shown, anywhere, anytime.

It all seems to make cinema’s new best friends, the superheroes, as obsolete as Santa’s sleigh. It’s likely that you’ve seen a superhero flick or two, if you watch movies at all, because there are a lot of them out there. And there are a lot more to come – 30 in various stages of production for release over the next five years.

They’re kind of quaint. A villain menaces the common good, the hero responds, has problems, and then does some major league supering and the malefactor is vanquished and tranquility is restored, at least until the sequel. That, or some iteration of that, is usually the plot. Not always: for example, The Dark Knight was an exception. But usually.

Visible menace. Understandable problem. And victory by application of superior force. Satisfying entertainment because it absorbs us without straining our mental resources and pushes some emotional buttons. And the super feats are fun to watch. Good way to hide from your personal woes for an afternoon. I’ve seen most of these movies and I’ll see more and I’ll probably be satisfied when I do.

But with each passing year, they have less and less relation to real life, even metaphorically.. Who knows what’s in Kim Jung Un’s mind? Whatever it is, he isn’t trumpeting it in the media. Who knows who’s even a member of ISIS? Who could have guessed that persons unknown would attack the U.S. economy through an amusement owned by a Japanese corporation? The lines are rapidly blurring and the modern brand of treachery can’t be overcome by punches. Or bombs.

I wish our noble politicians would learn that, or at least be aware that there might be something to learn.

Meanwhile, we have the superheroes and, by golly, they are entertaining and at the end of the day, that’s all they have to be.

I wish you light and warmth.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Since Denny submitted this column, Sony Pictures has changed their mind and allowed showings in some 200 theaters – possibly one near you. It’s also rentable and purchaseable through You Tube and other online streaming services. For the record, we will note that the major theater chains which refused to show The Interview continue to hold to that position.)