LBJ with Woody & Rob Reiner

 DATELINE: Sympathy for Lyndon

LBJ

Two of TV’s biggest personalities in the 1970s have managed to survive as two highly respected professionals today. These are Woody Harrelson who started out as a boy toy on Cheers, and Rob Reiner who was Archie Bunker’s son-in-law punching bag.

They team up as star and director of LBJ, an interesting and sympathetic portrait of a man who has fallen into disfavor among Kennedy fans and conspiracy theorists. It’s all the more interesting when you consider Woody Harrelson’s father was a CIA agent arrested as a person of suspicion in Dallas in 1963.

The ironies of history are not lost on this film in which Johnson is largely despised by Bobby Kennedy, almost with a pathological hatred, and mistrusted as a Judas figure by the Southern senators of which Johnson was often a key leader.

Under heavy (and impressive) makeup, Harrelson is an amazing likeness of LBJ. It’s matched by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird.

The movie jumps between re-enacted assassination scenes in Dallas and times before and after with the Kennedys. John Kennedy seems to laugh at the wit of Johnson, but nothing can save LBJ from Robert Kennedy’s disgust. This may be the most negative portrait of the Attorney General in movies. Bobby is played by Michael Stahl-David as a sourpuss.

LBJ quotes Shakespeare and one smarmy Kennedy aide notes that he is quoting Brutus. A little knowledge is dangerous.

The film dismisses Vietnam in one sentence in one scene, and though Johnson talks to J. Edgar Hoover in a one-sided phone call, there is nothing about the Warren Commission.

LBJ is devastated by the death of JFK and swears to bring forth Kennedy’s desire for a Civil Rights bill, even if it brings him into loggerheads with Sen. Russell of Georgia (Richard Jenkins). He calls his long-time friend a racist to his face.

Johnson’s crude humor and drawl contrasted badly with the debonair charm of JFK—but this film tries to go below the surface, and therein is the movie’s importance.

 

 

Advertisements

True Detective Recycles Holmes & Watson—Again!

DATELINE: Recycled Detectives

Image

Right out of the Time Machine: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson channel their youthful selves!

Why do all the new interesting TV series all have opening credits that are alike? True Blood, Justified, and now True Detective, use the same template for their show openings.

Of course, the latest is True Detective that is Justified with two cornpone cops with vocabularies that would make Jethro Bodine look like, well, a hillbilly.

The dialogue from True Detective includes philosophical musings you haven’t heard since you spent time at 3am in the dorm with a bunch of buddies studying for the philosophy final.

The best part of True Detective is Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. They play Lousiana’s version of Holmes and Watson at each other’s throats: the cold-blooded nihilist and the more human partner.

That alone would make the show worth watching, but the fact is that Woody and Matthew could have flipped a coin as to which would play whom.

More amusing yet, the show is divided into two segments: many scenes are flashbacks to the old days, fifteen years earlier. Well, Harrelson and McConaughey are done up like the Time Machine has just transported them here.

It is a hoot to see them young again, even if it is with computer generated genes and good lighting.

HBO has reached for another epical series with character, plot, and old-fashioned over-the-top writing. The villain is too much to bear and become overbearing, but the interest is the byplay of the stars whose lack of chemistry as characters shows great chemistry as actors.

We have moved into a new age of television drama, thanks to cable productions.

 

Be sure to read Ossurworld’s movie review books on Amazon.com:  ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED, MOVIE MASHUP, and MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE.

We Don’t See The Point of Now You See Me

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP!

Image

                                          Cute Trick: Dave Franco

We hate to review movies we hate. This big budget noisy film seemed to be an opiate for the masses. It’s purportedly about magicians too smart for their own good who take on the FBI with the motive of making them look bad and some unbelievable revenge served cold.

You would think the FBI could do that without any extra help.

A motley crew of actors and characterizations are thrown together by an unseen power to rob banks and give money to their poor Las Vegas audiences.

Each magician is unlikeable and capable of some unearthly feats that could never be accomplished by magic shows without budgets bigger than the Homeland Security has, but this is a movie. The magic is all special effects. The plot is a sieve.

Woody Harrelson usually has more interesting roles at his disposal, and Jesse Eisenberg plays a fast-talking charmer. They were better together fighting zombies last year. Dave Franco is cuter than ever.

Other familiar faces permeate the proceedings, raising this to the level of a movie demanding a sequel. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Mark Ruffalo, seem lately to be happy to be players in movies where roles are glorified cameos.

This movie is billed as a crime thriller, but it is an excuse to string together two hours of pointless overplotted activities, but all the stars made a hefty paycheck. Mission: Impossible on TV did it better. What’s the real magic and genuine robbery: taking the moviegoers’ hard earned money and giving them an empty experience?

Put aside any thoughts of a truly amusing bad movie like Houdini with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. This will sit like a bad meal in your stomach. We warned you we didn’t want to review this eye-rolling picture, but misdirection fools magic audiences.

Ossurworld presents several books of movie insights, including ALFRED HITCHCOCK FRESHLY SHOWERED and MOVIE MASHUP!  His movie reviews are collected and presented on Amazon.com for your e-book reader.

Psychopathia Sexualis as Comedy

DATELINE: Movie Psychos

You could call it a shaggy dog story, but the movie is not a dog at all. We found it one of the most strikingly original movies from a major studio that we have seen.

All your favorite movie bad guys have lined up to lend a bit of the psycho ear, eyes, and nose to this warped comedy.

Seven Psychopaths outdoes one Psycho with the humor Hitchcock intended for his first psycho. This tale centers around a film writer (Colin Farrell) whose best friend Billy Bickle of the Travis Bickle family (Sam Rockwell). Farrell is writing a movie titled Seven Psychopaths, and their collaborative insider tales make up some of the story.

Of course, the term appropriate to the killers is sociopathic, not psychopathic, but who’s slicing, dicing and parsing words in this movie?

The real lynchpin of the movie is an adorable shih tzu owned by a psycho mobster (Woody Harrelson, of course) who goes berserk when the little doggy is dognapped. Billy Bickle and his collaborator (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs of the rich and famous and return them several days later for large rewards.

This time the cute dog is the love of Harrelson’s life—and it’s mano-a-mano psychopath warfare when a real life serial killer of serial killers joins the mix to stir up the blood and guts.

The violence is clever and horrifyingly amusing with cameos by some notable actors as victims and perps.

We generally avoid movies about writers having writer’s block, but love movies about Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans. In this stew, director (Martin McDonagh) puts the ingredients into a large crockpot and lets simmer.