Tagged: The Interview

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: Good Guys and Bad Guys

breyfogle_4Just because it’s that time of year – and you know what I’m talking about and don’t pretend you don’t – don’t for one second think that I’ve become some sentimental goo brain and if you do think that come over here and I’ll make you a damp spot on the rug. Or at least give you a stern look. (Or at least consider giving you a stern look at some future date, maybe in an alternate universe.)

But despite my loud and proud misanthropy, there are a few things, as we creep past the solstice, that make me believe that there’s really no reason to be ashamed of my species. Leading the list this week, if there were a list, would be the comic book community’s response to Norm Breyfogle’s misfortune. Norm, who I’ve long considered a storytelling artist, suffered what seems to have been a bad stroke that left his drawing hand disabled. I wondered how his colleagues would respond. Splendidly, is how. Within 24 hours, the comics folk had raised over $20,000 and flooded the emails with offers of help and messages of support. Norm has a long way to go – months of therapy and sundry other problems to be solved – but at least his fellow storytellers have given him a start.

Then there was the movie brouhaha. As most of you surely know, cyberterrorists threatened nine-eleven type action against any exhibitor who showed The Interview, a comedy about an assassination plot directed at North Korea’s national big cheese, Kim Jung Un. At first, all parties caved, including the flick’s producer, Sony. Ah, but now the happy ending. At virtually the last minute, over 200 smallish, independent theaters got exhibition rights and showed the picture over the weekend. And it was made available for streaming on three Internet venues.

This has very little to do with The Interview. Might be a good flick, might not, might be somewhere in between. But what’s important here is that those who championed the movie refused to be bullied. Anyone who’s had extensive dealings with bullies – teachers, let’s have a show of hands – will probably testify that bullies can’t be appeased. You can’t get rid of them by simply meeting their demands. They don’t really what they’re asking for, they want the power that got it for them. Give it to them and they’ll just want more. Under the threats, they’re probably scared and that’s sad and pitiable, but irrelevant. You can feel sorry for a rabid dog, but you still have to stop his attack.

A final note and then I’m gone for the rest of the year: Norm Breyfogle still needs help. There’s a link on the ComicMix home page. Please give him some. Oh, and if any of you even dare to accuse me of being a nice guy…


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.)