Archive for January, 2015

The Interview

Posted in Action, Comedy on January 6, 2015 by Mark Hobin

The Interview photo starrating-1star.jpgBy now we’ve heard the story. Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked on November 24, 2014.   The hackers called themselves the “Guardians of Peace” A lot of sensitive data pertaining to studio employees and their families was released. But what got the most attention was the demanded cancellation of the release of this film The Interview, a political “comedy” regarding a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Although North Korea has denied any responsibility, the FBI has claimed otherwise, Meanwhile independent cybersecurity experts have cast credible doubt on North Korea’s involvement. They contend rather that the hack was an inside job by disgruntled fired SONY employees.

Now I’m certainly not qualified to weigh in on who’s responsible. However I will submit as evidence the actual movie. It’s a sloppily directed, misguided mess. The picture has as much trenchant political satire as The Three Stooges but without the sophisticated urbane wit that characterizes one of their flicks. The scattershot script is just a succession of jokes pitched at the lowest form of toilet humor. In other words The Interview is more of an attack on the fabric of good taste than a threat to the North Korean regime.

Sample dialogue:

Dave Skylark: Do you pee and poo?
Kim Jong-un: You’ve heard the stories, huh? Yes, I pee and poo.
Dave Skylark: So you have a butt—-.
Kim Jong-un: I’ve got a butt—- and it’s working overtime.

The Interview is nothing more than a hodgepodge of random gags loosely strung together. The story concerns Dave Skylark (James Franco) a bumbling idiot that hosts a TV talk show. With the help of his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) he lands a meeting with the dictator of North Korea. It starts off promisingly enough. A rosy cheeked schoolgirl with a beatific face lovingly sings a little ditty. Her Korean is translated in subtitled lyrics that pleads “Die America, die! Oh please won’t you die? It would fill my tiny heart with joy!“ The lyrics express extremist attitudes, but the sweetly sung delivery from the face of innocence does induce laughter. After that, it’s all downhill with a tiresome preoccupation with potty-mouth humor. The script is staggeringly bad. Forget a send-up of the political situation. The writing is mainly dumbed-down raunch about body parts. Other lines are so stupid they barely register as jokes. Case in point: An argument between buddies Dave and Aaron has Dave repeating the phrase “They hate us ’cause they ain’t us” so many times I thought the projector was broken. It also doesn’t help that the actor playing Kim Jong-un looks absolutely nothing like him. He’s male and Asian, but that’s it. Actor Randall Park affects an accent so awful it borders on a racist stereotype. The character also bangs lots of women, drinks margaritas and listens to Katy Perry music.

I should think North Korea would champion this movie because it wallows in the offensiveness to which America’s critics accuse us. If The Interview is a threat to anything, it’s to the definition of cinema as an art form.

Selma

Posted in Biography, Drama, History with tags on January 2, 2015 by Mark Hobin

Selma photo starrating-4stars.jpgSelma begins with a bang – literally – showing the horrific 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. That terrorist act by white supremacists became a catalyst in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement – a spiritual wake up call. The quiet solitude of pretty little girls in their Sunday best, interrupted by the deafening blast is a frightening crime that hangs in the viewer’s mind. It’s an inflammatory start that incites anger over the attack on innocent life. Selma recounts the three protest marches that traveled the 54 mile highway from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery. These were to challenge segregationist policies designed to keep black people from exercising their right to vote.

David Oyelowo is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He is impassioned yet understated and utterly believable as the heartfelt orator. His addresses to the masses have all the influence you’d expect from an individual responsible for one of the most famous speeches we still quote. Yet his “I Have a Dream” speech never appears here. No Selma concerns the movement King spearheaded that contributed to passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. A big part of the film is the relationship between President Lyndon B. Johnson (a memorable Tom Wilkinson) and Dr. King. The reverend exhorts Johnson to sign the proposed legislation into law. The provisions of which abolished the poll tax and other means of keeping blacks and poor people from voting. The Civil Rights Act of 1960 was already in place but King argued it didn’t go far enough. Their back and forth negotiations in the political halls are an interesting and sometimes depressing window into the deal making of the political process. His backroom sparring of words with the President are captivating.

Dr. King is aware that Alabama, under the leadership of Governor George Wallace, had a poor reputation when it came to civil rights. If Johnson comes across as more of a troublesome stumbling block that King needs to convince, George Wallace is the unrepentant racist devil that with whom King cannot reason. The pro-segregationist policies of the governor largely credited by his critics for creating an atmosphere of intolerance. King courts the cruelest nature of man with his civil disobedience. He understands that gentle protests confronted with the expected violent response will show the American populace the need for change. Indeed the first march ends with 600 peaceful citizens attacked by state and local police with batons and tear gas. It’s a galvanizing scene of epic proportions. The result has the desired effect. The horrific sight resounds as a call to action to every God-fearing churchgoer watching TV in the comfort of their own home. The demographics of the next march joining Dr. King is now a mixture of both black and white Americans from near and far.

David Oyelowo is mesmerizing at Martin Luther King, Jr. However it is important to note that the title of director Ava DuVernay’s movie is Selma and not King. For this is not a biography of the man but a chronicle of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. The narrow focus affords the story the consideration needed to handle the detailed issues involved. The account does justice to a very specific moment. The narrative even details the various infighting amongst fellow protestors that don’t always agree with King’s methods. These are enthusiastic people and their passions frequently engage the audience. The drama judiciously extracts raw anger at the trampling of freedoms we take for granted. It’s hard not to get caught up in the blatant disregard for human rights. The police brutality on display resonates even more strongly today. It’s almost impossible to ignore how perfectly this tale corresponds with recent events. The story couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. It makes Selma an even more powerful film.

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