Conspiracy

February 16, 2016

Simplistic TV: 11/22/63

PROMISE
11/22/63 – Promise

Not many reviews of any kind grace the pages of the site much anymore, mainly because we either get around to talking about it on the podcast, log them on Letterboxd (on occasion), and the fact that every other site on the Internet talks about the same stuff over and over ad nausea, so what’s the point? However, since the Grammys are on, and who really gives a crap about seeing 1,000 cut-aways to Taylor Swift being “happy” for every single artist that has ever stepped in front of a microphone, I thought I’d dust off the old writin’ fingers and give a few thoughts on the surprise Hulu Original, the James Franco-led “11/22/63.”

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this eight-part series features a time-traveling portal that takes the user back to 1960. Al (Chris Cooper), the proprietor of the diner in which the portal resides, convinces Jake (Franco), a schoolteacher, to travel back into time and stop the assassination of John F Kennedy. With hesitation, Jake enters the portal and is transported back to 1960 and travels to Dallas, Texas.

Most of the time, when King’s works are put to TV or celluloid, the results are mixed. Most of the miniseries’ that aired on network TV back in the 1990s and early 2000s had solid starts, and quickly fizzled out (I’m looking at you “Storm of the Century”). And of course for every “Stephen King’s It” you have duds like “Dreamcatcher,” but being that this is the golden age of TV is almost seems time to see more of King’s work on platforms like Hulu; they can take chances, there are no limits, and with audiences moving to cutting the cord and watching shows on their own time, this might be one of the biggest success stories for any of King’s works and could lead to a revival of “The Stand” or any other work of his that at one time was seen as unfilmable and too big for TV. If anything, at this point in time, in order to tell the story completely, his stories are too small for the silver screen, and perfect for the small screen.

In the first episode, you really get a taste of things to come in this short series. The world seems fully realized in recreating the 1960s with a combination of small town rural and big city Dallas. The creepiness factor moves in with Kevin J O’Connor as the so-called “Yellow Card Man” and the reoccurring comment to Jake; “You shouldn’t be here.”

The early comments are me are as follow; How are they going to show how time travel affects the present, and will eight episodes be enough to tell this story? To the first comment, that is a resounding, “we’ll see” it was partially explained within the first 20 minutes or so, but I’m interesting to see how the bigger implications come into play. As far as the eight episodes, the novel was 800+ pages, so if you figure 100 pages an episode, hopefully it should work, take into account that I’ve never read the novel, so hopefully people loyal to the book will agree on that.

Lastly, you can’t talk a Franco-led show or film without some pretty funny Francoism, and this episode has two whoppers. Early in the show, when Jake first enters the portal, he mentions that there better not be any spiders, and later on, while in 1960, he’s eating pie and mentions how the pie is. Of course this could all be coincidence, but I like to think that Franco is making a concerted effort to relive/make fun of his days in the “Spider-Man” series. Speculation of course, but I like to think that’s what Franco was trying to do.

Overall, from a production, acting, and story standpoint, “11/22/63” is almost unsurpassed. I love the look, I love the tone, and I simply think this is a well crafted and well made adaption of a novel (of course, like I said, I haven’t read the novel, but it looks good) that might have eagles eyes on it from die-hard fans, and TV people alike. Hell, if this works out, we might be looking at more King work going to a studio that knows exactly what to do with it. Don’t mess this up Hulu!     

January 16, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone – Break

We all know Jennifer Lawrence is Hollywood’s new sweetheart, and rightfully so.  She is young, talented, attractive, and someone you would want to hang out with.  She is Julia Roberts without the toothy grin.  She is the girl that all the other girls want to be and all the guys want to be with.  She’s a revelation if you will. When I first got a glimpse of her on the red carpet of the Oscars about two years ago, I really didn’t know what to make of her. She was this young new face with a smart mouth.  Sorry, but I kind of took her for a bitch, like she was too good for the Oscars.  I look at her now, and she is down right adorable and so self-deprecating, it’s irresistible.  I also appreciate the fact that she takes chances, and makes the role her own.  For a perfect example of what made her a star before she became a star was her first major role in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.”

You can call “Bone” a “White Trash Noir.”  Lawrence plays Ree, a 17-year old girl taking care of her two younger siblings without the help of her drug-affected absentee mother and meth-dealing father.  After her father skips town, she finds out that he put their house up for bond and the whole family could be homeless within a week.  Ree takes it upon herself to track down her father and navigate a neighborhood full of drug dealers, murderers, and crooked cops.

The story is simple, but the themes of innocence lost, family responsibility, and loyalty run deep in this film.  In Lawrence’s portrayal of Ree you can see the reason why she was chosen to be the lead in “The Hunger Games” as Katniss Everdeen.  She is a strong female protagonist, probably the strongest female character I’ve seen in years who isn’t a superhero, but she still has a vulnerability to her as she navigates her dangerous world with two younger siblings in tow.  You want to grab her and tell her to stop in her quest for her father, especially when you see some of the people that she has to deal with in trying to find the answers.

While Lawrence is great, I also have to tip my cap to John Hawkes, who plays crystal meth dealer, and Ree’s uncle, Teardrop.  Think Walter White if he was from rural Arkansas, only scarier.  He’s the last guy that you want to ask help from, and the last guy you want looking for you if a deal went south.  Hawkes is one of those guys that’s in a lot of stuff but he never reallygets credit.  I remember seeing him for the first time as the Liquor Store Clerk in “From Dusk Till Dawn,” and he pops into movies every now and than and leaves an impressions every time.  I like to think of him as the poor man’s Walton Goggins.  Hawkes was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal in “Bone,” and rightfully so.

If you haven’t already, there’s no reason to not check out “Winter’s Bone.” It’s the genesis of Jennifer Lawrence; where she got her break if you will.  She commands every scene she is in, is a natural, and strikes the perfect balance between tough and fragile.  You never get the sense that she is doing anything for herself, mother or father, she knows that they are all beyond redemption.  Her only care is the welfare of her brother and sister, which in a time where everyone is so wrapped up in their own world, is a welcome relief in film.

Fun Fact:  In the year that “Winter’s Bone” was nominated for Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards, it had the smallest production budget at only $2 Million, compared to the budget of “Toy Story 3” which was $200 Million, the most expensive film nominated that year.

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