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Does ‘Interview’ mess set or follow a precedence?

December 31, 2014
By Tony Rutherford (letters@graffitiwv.com) , Graffiti

Regardless of if you were in awe over the length of the fight scenes in "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies" or identified with the inner leadership struggles of Moses (Christian Bale) in "Exodus: Gods & Kings," a satiric comedy about the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un titled "The Interview" received wall-to-wall press. After targeting Sony studios, alleged North Korean hackers threatened 9/11-style attacks on venues showing the production, resulting in withdrawal of the movie by the company.

With Sony having already capitulated to the North Koreans- despite criticism from the likes of George Clooney and President Obama - the hackers now have sent threats to blow up the White House (already done by filmmakers in "Olympus Has Fallen") and the Pentagon. The absurdity continues to be out of control, particularly since the comedy satire stars Seth Rogen and James Franco as hack journalists "hired" to assassinate Kim Jong-un.

News surrounding "The Interview" has peppered media outlets 'round the clock. Precedent would have dictated (no pun intended)?that, even a scrapped national release would allow a few select exhibitors to take a stand against cyberterrorism. Ironically, the early reviews had been lackluster, so the curiosity factor would have broadened the audience, bringing more viewers than projected. But, sadly, just one mentally-impaired lone wolf attempt would spark wide-scale excessive reactions.

Although three cinemas attempted to revive "Team America: World Police," a laugh-a-minute puppet comedy about another North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, it seems like audiences are out of luck with "The Interview" and will have to settle for "The Imitation Game" which tells of breaking the German's World War II encryption code. You can see "Imitation Game" in select cities.

Unfortunately, offers of political intervention for "The Interview" came - purposefully? - too late. Protecting the venues for a wide release would have been nearly impossible. A one-shot showing in sunny Florida where swimsuit clad (underwater bomber vigilance) patrons surrounded by the National Guard comfortably walking through detectors might have been a temporary demonstration of not giving in.

Over the years, films have stirred passion - often strong dissent against the status quo. James Bond's "Die Another Day" survived the North Korean regime's condemnation as "curse burlesque aimed at slander."

Orson Welles "Citizen Kane," an unauthorized "biography" of publisher William Randolph Hearst, resulted in that newspaper chain not carrying ads for the flick. Some writers speak of German and Russian "insiders" manipulating "green lights" at the script phase during World War II and the Cold War. Of course, the release "code" (ex. good must ultimately triumph over evil) restricted free expression on screen. Following the war years, some Hollywood insiders were branded Communists by the F.B.I.'s J. Edgar Hoover and failed to prevail in defending themselves before the House Unamerican Activities Commission. Many credits disappeared from the big screen in America.

Following those dictates, most censorship demands have pertained to explicit nudity or graphic violence, not political viewpoints. (Although "intimate" European-made character studies had broad philosophies, the scissors excuse aimed at the portion of that continent's so-called "art films" with nudity.) Some newspaper chains reject advertising and some theater chains automatically decline to play NC-17/X-rated features, which are equated with pornography. Indies dodge that bullet by releasing films with no rating.

Philosophies have spurned flaming buzz (Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" or Dinesh D'Souza's "2016: Obama's America), yet "The Interview" gained free word of mouth publicity (more than the coincidental timing of "The China Syndrome" and the Three Mile Island near-meltdown.) .

While Sony ponders its next decision (re-editing Kim Jong-un references from "Austin Powers"? LOL.), here's what's showing on screens:

HOBBIT: Battle of the Five Armies - Crisp, CGI choreography and exhaustive epic hand-to-hand combat demands experiencing the finale on the big screen. The elaborate inner mountain and exterior terrain mesmerize. Collapsing rock bridges, the flight of a fiery dragon, swashbuckling swordsmanship and martial arts maneuvers stir awesome-sauce.

THE WILD: Cheryl Strayed, a troubled grieving woman (Reese Witherspoon), determines to hike the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail alone and thereby "walk herself back to the woman she once was" before damaged by drug use, indiscriminate sexual encounters, divorce, and her mom's (Laura Dern) untimely death. Remarkably redeeming and inspirational, the novice climber depends on book read survival skills, random strangers and her own tenacity. Encounters with a rattlesnake, predatory men, scorching heat, unseasonable snow, and flashbacks fortify her astounding growth. Still, did I miss something, why did she choose this trail to represent the demons to overcome? I only saw a glimpse of a guide book. Was that her only reason for arriving in the Mojave, as opposed to another trail or solo challenge?

INTO THE WOODS: Stephen Sondheim's tuneful and enchanting, patchy and episodic skewed look at fairy tales and happy endings places Meryl Streep in prosthetic makeup, an unwieldy costume and visual effects. One critic calls it "the Brothers Grimm's Greatest Hits on laughing gas with a fizzy fairy dust energy".

BIG EYES: Tim Burton provides eccentric appeal while painting a "troubling picture of male dominance and female submissiveness" observed Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter). Set in the 60s, it stars Amy Adams as an painter known for kitschy "big eye" portraits of children and kittens. One critic praised it as Burton's "high water mark" in a career that includes "Big Fish" and "Frankenweenie."

UNBROKEN: Angelina Jolie's gorgeously shot war drama, which is really an extraordinary survival story that resists sentiment while stressing the suffering you take to make it. Jack O'Connell delivers a "raw, brave and agonizing (count the bamboo strikes)" performance. War hero/Olympian Lou Zamperini: "If I can take it, I can make it."

GAMBLER: A remake from the 70s Mark Wahlberg is said to be no Kevin Spacey but we identify with the anti-hero who is depressed, trapped and suffering from a gambling addiction. At least to critics believe this version "stands on its own two merits"

AMERICAN SNIPER: Clint Eastwood's account of the most accomplished marksman in American military annals is a harrowing and intimate character study of the physical and psychological toll extracted on the front lines. David Denby of The New Yorker writes, "Both a devastating war movie and a devastating anti-war movie, a subdued celebration of a warrior's skill [as it] laments his alienation and misery."

SELMA: Classified by some critics as one of the best American movies of the year, they have praised director Ava DuVernay for providing a "necessary reminder" of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy - both what he accomplished and what is left to be done.

THE?IMITATION GAME: Mathematician, cryptanalyst and war hero Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), a pioneer of modern computing, leads a motley group of scholars, chess champs, linguists and intelligence officials in cracking the German's unbreakable encryption code. However, after the war the complex man will be arrested in England for criminal homosexuality. The biopic mixes drama from the Nazi threat and laughs from the egghead hero's arch egotism and social ineptitude. It has been called "near perfect," "one of the year's best," "juicy" and power that knocks your socks off.

COMING FOR JANUARY.....

THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 ANGEL OF DEATH: A group of children arrive to awaken the Eel Marsh House's darkest "spirit" after their evacuation from London during the Second World War. Others for January include "Taken III", where an ex-government operative (Liam Neeson) faces a murder accusation ; "Blackhat," Michael Mann's latest in which a man released from prison assists American and Chinese authorities to catch a cyber criminal (Sony could have used him!); and "Wedding Ringer," a shy groom hires a best man to impress his in-laws to be.

 
 

 

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