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Posts Tagged ‘James Franco’

the-interview-posterThe interview started out as the type of film that I would watch if there was nothing better to see, and not one I would rush to see on the day it came out.  For those who live under a stone, here is the synopsis from IMDB:

Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

The funny thing, the population of North Korea are probably unaware of the film or the fuss it is causing .  A brief overview, also courtesy of IMDB

On June 25, 2014, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency condemned the film (without naming it), promising a “merciless” retaliation if the film is released. “Making and releasing a film on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated,” KCNA said, citing a government spokesman.”

Then last month, the computer systems at Sony Pictures was hacked and information regarding The Interview and other films were made available online.  Soon after this a rumour started that the North Korean government was responsible for the hack in response to the films plot to kill Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.  Then earlier this week, a group calling themselves GOP (Guardians of Peace) claimed responsibility and threatened attacks against theatres/cinemas who show the film.  As various cinema chains pulled the film, Sony announced that the Christmas day release had been cancelled.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As things all unfolded on Friday some people were quick to suggest that Sony had used the attack as a convenient excuse to pull the film and claim on the insurance.  The suggestion being that the insurance payout would be greeter than the films likely box-office return.  I am cynical enough to believe this is a possibility but don’t even know if the studio is in fact insured against such eventualities.  Another theory that is just as likely is that they plan to release the film at a later date using the publicity to drum up some interest in a film that I am led to believe has not been well received by test audiences. One person who has made it clear that Sony “made a mistake” in cancelling the film is US President Barack Obama, he was quick to speak out against the decision, stating

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States”. 

In a interview with CNN Sony’s CEO Michael Lynton seems now to have made something of a U-turn, suggesting they only pulled the release because no one would show the film, and that they would show it somehow in future.  At the same time North Korea’s foreign ministry accused the US of “spreading groundless allegations”, and has suggested joint inquiry to refute them.ap_obama_presser_01_lb_141219_16x9_992

So where does all this leave us?  The first thing that comes to mind is where all this started.  A comedy film about the assassination of a real life world leader is in bad taste at best, but then comedy is often about pushing to the limit of what is acceptable.  Having not seen the film, I don’t know what the outcome or tone of it is.  Sorry for spoiling a 40 year old plot, but if I can refer to The Day of the Jackal (1973).  Had the plot to kill Charles de Gaulle been successful, it would have been a very different story.  The context of the interview is important, if the trailer and plot synopsis are to be believed The CIA are the antagonists of the plot.  As viewed by a country who fiercely entertainment output it would be easy for a North Korean to see the film as coming from the American government and not a film studio.  The voice of reason in all this seems to have come from George Clooney in an interview with Deadline,

“The South Park guys did it. They blew up his father’s head. The truth of the matter is, of course you should be able to make any movie you want. And, you should take the ramifications for it. Meaning, people can boycott the movie and not go see your film. They can say they’ll never see a Sony movie again. That’s all fine. That’s the risk you take for the decision you make. But to say we’re going to make you pull it. We’re going to censor you. That’s a whole other game. That is playing in some serious waters and it’s a very dangerous pool.” 

Clooney had previously attempted without much success to start a petition to get the film screened.  Putting all this aside, the response whether perpetrated by the North Korean or a twelve year old in his bedroom is terrorism.  While not as devastating as real world terrorism, cyber terrorism is equally as unacceptable, and as we become ever more reliant on the internet, the line between terrorism and cyber terrorism may disappear very soon.  And that is where I believe Barack Obama’s fears lie, have Sony opened the doors and encouraged other cyber attacks?

To return to the title of this article, can free speech survive cyber terrorism?  As I alluded to above attack has come from a country that has no freedom of speech and whose population is probably unaware of both the film and the fuss it is causing.  The irony doesn’t stop there, the internet is probably the greatest advance in freedom of speech since the Caxton Press over 500 years ago, and yet in this instance it is the weapon used to prevent freedom of speech.  The fact that people like Obama are beginning to speak out and Sony don’t have to stand alone in this situation is a glimmer of hope for freedom.  You then have the old adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, I am now more interested in seeing the film based on fuss that it has caused than for artistic reasons.  This, as well as the millions of smaller voices that populate the internet is why I believe free speech can survive cyber terrorism.

And on a side not, The interview seems to have gone around 5/10 to 10/10 on the IMDB rating.  Hacking, IMDB having fun with us or users showing their support for the film? the interview imdb

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Desperate for “a break from reality” four young college students (Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine) hold up a diner to fund their spring break trip to Florida. Once there, they party with other like minded kids until they hook up with Alien (James Franco), a drug dealer, rapper and wanabee “Gang-stA”. From there, things descend from hedonism to nihilism.spring-breakers-posters-slice

There is technique used by DJ‘s (I know nothing about the subject other than hearing it, I don’t know if there is a name for the practice) where they play the hook of a song during another song. When done well it is both subtle and obvious at the same time. This gives the audience a idea of what is coming next or later, but a DJ may play with the audience playing just a snippet of a song that never comes. There is a similar practice in film editing where a part of a future scene is cut in. There is nothing unique or original about its use in Spring Breakers, however I can’t remember it ever being used so much or so well in a movie.spring-breakers

The film has achieved a certain notoriety due to the casting of former Disney starlets Hudgens and Gomez, when put into context of the actions of former Disney starlets real life in recent years, this is little more than a marketing gimmick. That said as I watched the movie I was never sure if I was watching something exploitative or something profoundly satirical.spring-breakers-640x426

Despite the attractive young bodies on display and the often stunning photography there is something unattractive and almost dirty about the movie. This is a reflection of the characters and their actions, despite their assurances that they are having fun, there is little evidence that they are actually happy or having any fun. Following their arrival in Florida I can’t think of any scenes where the girls have a conversation with anyone other than each other and Alien. Their existence is empty and banal, I did question a few times if it was real. The film exists in a sort of a dream-state that never feels quite real, we keep hearing the repeated phrase “a break from reality”, are we watching reality or the delusions and dreams of a group of board teenagers?Still from spring breakers

The plot is paper thin and overly simplistic, the dialogue is often incoherent but it gets away with it largely because these things appear to be intentional. Despite reports to the contrary, it is actually a well made film mating it an easy watch and as such it can be forgiven a lot. The pace works well with each act ending before it outstays its welcome. The film is at its best when James Franco is in it, although the female quartet are given top billing, it is Franco that makes it work. The directors wife, Rachel Korine is given the least to do, Selena Gomez is given what looks like it is going to be the most interesting character but it is ultimately underused and under developed. The characters played by Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson are largely interchangeable. Ultimately the characters are little more than caricatures, this again appears intentional and is possibly essential for the feel of the movie. And that is where the movie exists, it is a feeling, a dream like poem, a dream without narrative whose finer details fade as you wake, “a break from reality”.SPRING-BREAKERS

Not as hollow and meaningless as some would have you believe but not as edgy or subversive as the filmmakers would like you to think. It may be one of those films where viewers will take out of it what they bring to it. Those who want to be shocked or outraged will find plenty to be shocked and outraged about; those who want to be titillated will certainly find what they are looking for; and those wanting a deeper meaning or subtext will find even if it isn’t there. Not a film that is easy to recommend but one where it is worth seeing to form your own opinion and see what all the fuss is about.

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After a slow start to the month thanks to a hangover from the blockbuster season exacerbated by a small group of idiots it actually turned out to be a decent month. There is a notable absence from the list; Conan the Barbarian. I went to see the movie last night only to find the late screening had been pulled in favour of a more popular Bollywood movie. 

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2

A fitting conclusion to the Harry Potter franchise.

Super 8

A throwback to the Spielberg (who produced it) movies of the 70’s and 80’s. Extremely well made and well acted by the young cast.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

An enjoyable but seriously flawed reboot of the franchise. On a posative note, it looks like James Franco has learnt to act, Freida Pinto provides some eye candy, John Lithgow is good but Brian Cox is wasted. Despite all this the best performance comes from Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit.

Cowboys and Aliens

The name tells you everything you need to know. Its good fun but not as much fun as it really should have been.

The Guard

Perfectly cast and painfully funny. I know it won’t happen but Brendan Gleeson should be nominated for an Oscar for this, he really is that good!

The Inbetweeners Movie

The cast of the channel four TV show go on holiday but don’t worry its not: Kevin & Perry Go Large, Are You Being Served? Holiday on the Buses….. It sags a little in the middle but at its best it is just as funny as the TV show.

The Skin I Live In

Beautifully shot, perfectly cast and brilliantly acted but most importantly Pedro Almodóvar back to his weird, bizarre best. Antonio Banderas is also back to his best and Elena Anaya deserves more roles like this.

One Day

A romantic drama based on a popular book has chick-flick written all over it. Its actually surprisingly good thanks to great performances Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

Although I actually enjoyed all the movies I have seen this month, there is one that stands out and will almost certainly make my top ten of the year, the movie of the month is:

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