Tag Archives: James Franco

No good options for Sony Pictures with ‘The Interview’

This photo provided by Columbia Pictures - Sony shows, from left, Diana Bang, as Sook, Seth Rogen, as Aaron, and James Franco, as Dave, in Columbia Pictures' "The Interview." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Ed Araquel)

Associated Press image

Seth Rogen and James Franco are shown in a still from “The Interview,” a movie that Sony Pictures Entertainment has put on indefinite hold because of threats made by apparently-North-Korean hackers to retaliate should Sony release the movie not only in movie theaters, but in any other form.

I don’t recall that at any time in my life was a movie not released because of terrorist threats.

Sony Pictures Entertainment has taken criticism from many for deciding not to release “The Interview,” starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as a team who ultimately assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Sony’s decision not to release the movie as planned on Christmas Day wasn’t enough; hackers who have been identified as probably North Korean apparently demanded in an e-mail to Sony that “anything related to the movie, including trailers” be removed from the Internet and that Sony “never let the movie [be] released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy,” as though it were possible for Sony to police the entire Internet and prevent all leaks or acts of piracy.

The Associated Press reports that “Sony Pictures has been removing all signs of ‘The Interview’ from its websites and taken its trailers off YouTube. On Wednesday, the studio canceled its Dec. 25 release after the hackers made threats of violence against theaters showing the film. Sony has said it now has no plans to release ‘The Interview.’”

While I doubt that any actual terrorist attack at a movie theater would have been committed had “The Interview” been released as planned — North Korea has no operatives within the United States, to my knowledge, and as North Korea doesn’t want its inhabitants to leave the Asian nation at all, I don’t really see the United States ever crawling with North Korean operatives  — I imagine that Sony would like to avoid any lawsuits or negative publicity (or both) should any such terrorist attack actually happen, even though such an event is fairly highly unlikely.

While I would like to see Sony at least release “The Interview” on DVD and streaming, as it would any other theatrical release, I imagine that Sony doesn’t want to have to worry about further problems with North Korean criminals in the future. Sony Pictures Entertainment is, after all, first and foremost a business. Its No. 1 reason for existing is not to enlighten us or even to entertain us, but to profit from us, and if Sony perceives that releasing a film would or could cost it more than if it withheld the film, Sony’s probably going to withhold the film.

“Team America: World Police” (which was distributed by Paramount Pictures) went off without a hitch in 2004 (I saw it at a movie theater and I’ve seen it on DVD), but maybe that’s because the late Korean dictator Kim Jong Il was portrayed by a puppet (and was not assassinated technically; at the end of “Team America” his human body is destroyed, but from his body a cockroach emerges – Kim Jong Il actually is [or was…] an alien in the form of a cockroach, you see – and flies off in a miniature spaceship, promising to return). And maybe it’s that Kim Jong Un is a lot more sensitive than was his daddy.

Just as “Team America,” had it never been released, probably wouldn’t have been a great loss to American culture, the pulling of “The Interview” (as much as I’ve liked some of the work of Franco and Rogen in the past) also probably isn’t a huge loss to American culture. We can take some comfort in that, I think.

We can assert that Sony Pictures Entertainment shouldn’t cave in to terrorist threats, but at the same time, should any terrorist attack actually occur at any movie theater showing “The Interview,” we then would lambast Sony’s greed that put dirty profits above precious human lives (and, as I noted, I would expect at least one lawsuit to ensue).

As much as I’m not into sticking up for corporations, I don’t see that Sony really could win in this case (except that if I were in charge at Sony, “The Interview” probably would, minimally, get an online and/or DVD release…).

Still, one day I’d like to see “The Interview” at last, in one format or another, and we have the apparently-North-Korean hackers, with their terrorist threats, to thank for that. It’s a movie that I probably would have skipped otherwise, at least in its theatrical release.

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‘Apes’ rises to the occasion

Film review

In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis is shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ." (AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

In this image released by Twentieth Century Fox, Caesar the chimp, a CG animal portrayed by Andy Serkis, and James Franco are shown in a scene from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes ."  The prequel "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," opening in U.S. theaters Friday, features chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans crafted through performance-capture. It is the same technology used for the giant gorilla in Peter Jackson's 2005 "King Kong," with the same actor who did Kong, Andy Serkis, playing the lead chimp in the prequel.(AP Photo/Twentieth Century Fox)

Genetically enhanced chimpanzee Caesar (created by Andy Serkis and computer-generated imagery) shares emotional moments with his human family members (John Lithgow and James Franco) in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a worthwhile movie.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” comes at an interesting time. It comes at a time when it certainly seems that the apes could do a better job of running the planet than we human beings are able to do, and it uncannily comes at about the same time as the release of the documentary “Project Nim,” which is about a chimp named Nim Chimpsky (named after linguist and leftist Noam Chomsky) that (who?) in the 1970s was raised as human being and was taught sign language — just like the protagonist chimp Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is good summer fare. It stretches believability a bit too often, but it’s great entertainment and it has some interesting ideas and touches on some important subjects, such as the ethical treatment of animals and the ethics of meddling with genetics (which the much lesser film “Splice” also explored). And besides, it’s about apes that take on human traits and eventually supplant human beings, so I suppose that it’s kind of pointless to insist upon strict believability throughout the film anyway.

Salon.com’s review of “Rise” slams star James Franco for not having been a stronger presence in the film, but hey, the movie isn’t titled “Rise of the Planet of James Franco.” We go to see a “Planet of the Apes” movie to see the apes. The human beings that appear in these films are secondary, just as they are portrayed as being in the films themselves.

Franco does a decent job as the scientist who is responsible for the genetic tweaking that inadvertently creates a virus that will wipe out most of mankind and that creates Caesar, the intellectually advanced chimpanzee who goes on to become the founding father, so to speak, of the apes that/who we first saw in the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes,” to which “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” pays homage by making numerous, mostly funny references.

Freida Pinto (of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame) does a fine job as Franco’s girlfriend, and thankfully, the theme of the level-headed girlfriend of the (mad?) scientist admonishing him about the potential dangers of his experiments (like in 1986’s “The Fly” or in 2009’s “Splice,” in which the dynamic is reversed and the mad scientist is the girlfriend and it’s boyfriend who is admonishing her) isn’t beaten into the ground.

John Lithgow plays Franco’s father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which Franco’s character is trying to cure. Lithgow’s character is cared for by Franco at home, and Lithgow’s, Franco’s and Pinto’s characters become a four-member family along with the character of Caesar, who was created by actor Andy Serkis of “Lord of the Rings'” Gollum fame and by computer-generated imagery.

The CGI in “Rise” is masterful, although some of it, such as the portrayal of the infant Caesar, could have used some improvement to look more life-like and less cartoon-like. Still, the CGI that was done well was done stunningly well.

“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” isn’t only about CGI and action. The emotional difficulty of being separated from a pet or a loved one — Caesar finds himself impounded with other “dangerous” apes that have not been genetically altered as he has been — is portrayed fairly well, as is the question of what the lines are between a pet and a family member and an animal and a human being.

That said, it seems that Franco’s character would be more distraught by Caesar’s long incarceration than he is portrayed to be — for a while in the movie it seems as though Franco’s character has forgotten about the incarcerated Caesar altogether — and it seems that when Franco’s character and Caesar must finally part for good, Franco’s character isn’t all that torn up about it, when I sure the hell would be were I in his shoes.

Two more criticisms: The mishap in the board room in front of investors, in addition to being highly unlikely in the way that it unfolds, seems to have been ripped off from the mishap-in-the-board-room scene that we already saw in “Splice.” And we already saw a climactic showdown on the Golden Gate Bridge in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” so I don’t think that we needed another one this soon. Still, some cheesiness aside, the climactic action sequence on the bridge is done fairly well. 

Overall, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is good entertainment, raises important issues, engages our empathic abilities (hopefully most of us still have those, to at least some extent) and is a fairly worthy prequel to “Planet of the Apes.”

My grade: B+

P.S. It seems kind of freaky to me that the original “Planet of the Apes” movie came out the same year that I was born, and I find it interesting that it came out in such a turbulent year. I’m going to have to watch that movie again, now that I’ve watched its prequel.

I’ve yet to see “Project Nim,” by the way, but I intend to when it comes here to Sacramento, which should be soon.

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Worst. Oscars. Ever?

Oscars Live Report

Melissa Leo accepts the Oscar for best actress ...

AFP and Associated Press photos

The writers of this year’s Oscars ceremony couldn’t even make Anne Hathaway and James Franco in drag funny, and Melissa Leo’s accidental use of the f-word while accepting her best supporting actress Oscar was the biggest surprise of the evening.

I like James Franco and Anne Hathaway, and I had thought that they might actually make pretty decent Oscar hosts. I was wrong.

Much of it wasn’t their fault. The writing of the Oscars ceremony was for shit. Franco was unusually wooden, and Hathaway wasn’t as bouncy as I’d thought she might be. If she isn’t careful, the role that she played in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — that of the rather empty-headed White Queen — might come to define her.

But again, most of it was the writing. There were too many self-referential (and unfunny) lines about trying to capture the youthful audience with this year’s show and too few funny lines, period.

That “The King’s Speech” would win the most number of awards was a given, so there were few surprises.

When the most talked-about element of the show is that the best supporting actress winner accidentally uttered the f-word on live television (which was bleeped out due to a few seconds’ time delay, apparently), you know that there’s a problem.

I like Colin Firth — he was great in “A Single Man” — but his performance in “The King’s Speech” wasn’t the best performance of the year. Javier Bardem did a much better job in “Biutiful.”

I like Natalie Portman enough, but her Oscar win for best actress for “Black Swan” wasn’t the best performance of the year. Jennifer Lawrence did a better job in “Winter’s Bone.”

“The King’s Speech,” to me, suffered mostly from weak subject matter. That a former king of England overcame a stutter isn’t very compelling material, which one of the film’s producers seemed to admit himself in his acceptance speech for the Oscar for best picture — he indicated that he’d been concerned that no one would find the material worthy enough to back its production and distribution, if memory serves.

“The King’s Speech” is well made — well directed, well written, well acted, well designed, etc. (indeed, virtually every moment of the film screams out “Give me an Oscar already!” [and this screaming worked]) — but do those things matter when the storyline itself is so ho-hum? Just as “truthiness” has replaced the truth, is “Oscariness” going to replace actual Oscar-worthiness?

Admittedly, I have yet to see “The Social Network” or “Toy Story 3,” but that these two highly commercial films, along with the highly commercial “Inception” (which I did see), won so many nominations, including for best picture (for all three), makes me wonder in what direction the Oscars are headed. That a film is a commercial success doesn’t automatically mean that it isn’t Oscar-worthy, but it seems as though the Oscars are becoming more like the People’s Choice Awards.

And the tech-emphasis-heavy Oscars, including not just so many nods to “The Social Network” and “Inception,” but even a mildly-funny-at-best Auto-tune segment, tried way too hard to be hip.  

And do we really need 10 films nominated for best picture when in the other major categories (actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress and director) there are only five nominees? I’d like to see it reduced to no more than seven or eight nominees for best picture.

Finally, while I have no problem with Brits and Australians, the Brits and Australians on this year’s Oscars seemed to have outnumbered the Americans. Are we Americans this devoid of filmmaking excellence?

If we are, then maybe we should move the Oscars from Los Angeles to London or Sydney.

Just sayin’.

I consider the Oscars to be the “Gay Super Bowl,” and this year’s Gay Super Bowl was dismal.

P.S. Oprah Winfrey’s appearance on the Oscars was a little creepy — I once read someone refer to her as a corporation, and that’s fairly accurate — and ABC’s little corporate plug was offensive, but I do recommend that you see “Inside Job,” the winner for best documentary, the award that Winfrey announced.

“Inside Job,” about the Wall Street criminals who put our nation into economic collapse (um, yeah, it wasn’t the members of public-sector labor unions who did that), is a must-see, and I love the fact that the filmmaker, in his acceptance speech, pulled a mild Michael Moore and noted that not one of the Wall Street crooks has yet to see the inside of a jail cell for his or her crimes (which, in my book, amount to treason).

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Yeah, I’d Tickle That: Day Five (or, Frisky for Franco)

Actor James Franco receiving Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding recognition last year

Wikipedia notes that James Franco was elected by his high school senior class as possessing the “best smile.”

Oh, hell yeah. That’s a killer smile.

I haven’t seen Franco in much, unfortunately. The “Spider-Man” movies. “Milk,” of course, as Harvey Milk’s boyfriend Scott Smith, in which Franco is absolutely adorable. And I do believe that that’s it. But he makes my Top 10 list hands down.

Even when he’s made up to look rather scuzzy, as he was in “Pineapple Express” (which I haven’t seen), that smile is a slayer:

His entire face lights up when he smiles.

Who could resist?

Of course, Franco is reportedly straight… >Sigh.<

I need at least one hot gay celebrity for my Top 10…

P.S. I see now that Salon.com named Franco the “sexiest man living” for 2009 in November. He’s an excellent choice for that distinction. He certainly makes at least my top three.

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Yeah, I’d Tickle That: Day Four (or, Crazy for Crudup)

Billy Crudup

I fell in love with Billy Crudup when I saw 1999’s “Jesus’ Son” (which also stars Jack Black in one of his inimitable performances and the always good Samantha Morton).

Crudup never got the credit that he deserves. Unfortunately, he probably will be best remembered for his role in 2000’s commercially successful “Almost Famous” — and/or for his role as Dr. Manhattan in the disappointing “Watchmen” from last year — but he gave much stronger and much more substantial performances in 1998’s “Without Limits” (which I caught on DVD after I’d seen “Jesus’ Son”) and in 2004’s “Stage Beauty,” which is an interesting study of the genders and of sexual orientation (and of the craft of drama itself).

Crudup next is to appear in “Eat, Pray, Love,” based upon the best-selling memoir of the same title, with Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem and James Franco.

Billy Crudup and James Franco in the same filmoh, yeah, I’m probably there…

Anyway, I’m hoping that Crudup wins an Oscar before his film career is over. His overlooked talent deserves to be recognized, better late than never.

P.S. Like Gael Garcia Bernal, Crudup doesn’t make an unattractive woman, either. Here is a screen shot from “Stage Beauty”:

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Film review: “Milk”

Sean Penn (center) and Diego Luna (far right) in Gus Van Sant’s film about slain 1970s gay-rights icon Harvey Milk, which evil, liberal Hollywood is going to award some Oscars.

I remember when I used to see containers of homogenized milk labeled as “homo milk” and jokingly thinking: Gee! They make milk just for people like me!

OK, I got that out of the way, so now I can proceed to write about Gus Van Sant’s “Milk”:

Wow. What a film.

Usually when they hype a film I’m disappointed when I see it, but “Milk” — which I saw today with my closest female friend (and lately I’ve been dragging her to so many gay-related things that I’m thinking that she and I need to go to a monster truck rally very soon in order to balance it out) — exceeded my expectations.

There’s a little bit of sappiness in “Milk,” especially at the end, but in “Milk” gay-rights-movement icon Harvey Milk is portrayed as a hard-nosed politician who even manipulated — hell, who even more or less manufactured — events for political gain more than he is portrayed as a martyred saint.

I haven’t read the late gay journalist Randy Shilts’ biography of Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, a copy of which I’ve had for years and years, but in “Milk,” Harvey is portrayed as having apparently betrayed his eventual assassin, fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, after they had agreed to help each other win what the other wanted on the city’s board of supervisors (which is the equivalent of a typical city council).

In “Milk” Harvey Milk is portrayed as having gotten at least a bit drunk on power (after he finally won an election), such as in the scene in which he threatens the late San Francisco Mayor George Moscone that if Moscone doesn’t do what Milk wants him to do, Moscone will lose the support of the gay community, spelling the end of Moscone’s political career. Harvey played hardball, if “Milk” is historically accurate.

Oh, hell, I’ll just come out (so to speak…) and say it: “Milk” isn’t too shy to portray the possibility that Milk contributed to his own murder by having antagonized, unnecessarily, his nemesis White.

Not that White had to resort to murder, but he was pushed, if “Milk” is historically accurate. Milk had gotten what he wanted — a gay-rights city ordinance passed — by an overwhelming vote of the board of supervisors, so there was no reason, that I can tell, that it would have harmed Milk, politically, to have stayed out of the issue of whether White should have been allowed to return to the board of supervisors after he had resigned, citing his too-low salary as the reason. 

I congratulate Van Sant’s “Milk” for portraying Harvey Milk as a flawed hero. Power corrupts even the best of us.

I found “Milk” inspiring — I probably finally will read Shilts’ biography of Milk, and I probably will volunteer at my local gay and lesbian community center on “Day Without a Gay” on Wednesday — and it moved me to tears more than once or twice during its two-hour run, and it’s not many movies that can induce me to shed a tear.

It’s too bad that “Milk,” with its rather extensive portrayal of the defeat of the odious anti-gay Proposition 6, was released after the narrow passage of the odious anti-gay Proposition 8 last month, but, I suppose, better late than never. “Milk” can only help the campaign to overturn Prop 8, and since the wingnuts, who are utterly lacking in talent and brains, can’t make a film that anyone would want to see, they have no answer. 

“Milk” is going to be to the gay community what “Brokeback Mountain” was, but while “Brokeback” only indirectly tackles the issue of gay rights, “Milk” tackles the subject head on, and does it with the star power of Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Josh Brolin as Dan White, and James Franco as Milk’s long-time love Scott Smith.

Poor Sean Penn probably will get a best-actor Oscar, and that all he had to do was kiss the gorgeous James Franco to get it. I hate Sean Penn! No, but seriously, Penn did a kick-ass job as Milk, and Franco did a great job, too; the actors’ intimate interactions are quite convincing as two men who love and who are in love with each other.

Josh Brolin turned in another of his usually reliable performances (I didn’t like “No Country for Old Men” overall, but I liked Brolin’s performance in it), playing a Dan White who seems, with his obsession over homosexuality, possibly to be a closet case and who is more of a sympathetic character in “Milk” than you would have expected him to be.

Diego Luna did a great job as Jack Lira, Milk’s spitfire Latino lover who came after Milk and Scott Smith split up. Just as the real-life Lira apparently got second billing to Smith, so, it seems, Luna’s great performance as Milk’s passionate and unstable lover Lira is getting second billing to Franco’s performance. (Just don’t do anything crazy, Diego!)

Emile Hirsch as young activist Cleve Jones is getting rave reviews, but I think that Luna worked harder. Hirsch is best in the scene in which he and Milk first meet, but Luna’s role, it seems to me, was more demanding.

Like “Brokeback Mountain” was nominated for several Oscars, expect “Milk” to be nominated for several Oscars, too — and expect the wingnut motherfuckers to bitch and moan once again about how liberal Hollywood loves to give Oscars to movies about fags.

I expect an Oscar win for Penn and for director Van Sant, whose departure from his often-eccentric cinematic style (“My Own Private Idaho,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” and “Elephant” come to mind) seems to have been done with a best-director Oscar in mind. “Milk” just might win best picture, too, which would nice after the passage of Proposition Hate — er, 8.

My grade: A

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