The Interview (2014)
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The Interview (2014)

I have been a movie buff. For most of my life when I was entering my teens was only natural that my selection criteria would be somewhat altered. As it turned out, that was the same time that the MPAA announced a movie rating system that they devised associating letters certain levels of content acceptability; G, M, R and X. Over the years they did change adding layers and changing the criteria for others. For some of us there was another rating system that we were obliged to religiously here to. Each week the Roman Catholic Church published a little newsletter called ‘The Tablet’. Towards the back was a summary of current movies with a different set of letters indicating what the diocese felt about the appropriateness of the movie for good Catholic. The worst rating available was ‘C’, condemned. For many teenage boys, including most of the older boys in the neighborhood, this became the ‘must see’ listing for our weekend trip to Manhattan to watch movies. A condemned movie did not need to be rated R for X the MPAA, some with a rating of M was so categorized. Besides, even if it was an R for many cases with X rating, with the only ID needed at the box office was a piece of paper with Abraham Lincoln’s face on it.

The point here that is directly germane to the film being considered is that frequently the biggest box office draw is to make something forbidden. In 2006, when filmmaker Ron Howard Stern the best-selling novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ the Religious Leaders of Christendom were in it, an uproar. There was even talk that just viewing the movie would be a sin some of the more ultraconservative factions calling for excommunication. I always imagined that the thought that went through Mr. Howard’s mind as he read these reports was "Cha-Chin". People would indubitably run straight to the next showing of the film, pushing their hard-earned money through the slot in the window in exchange for a ticket. At least that’s film possessed qualities that made it worth watching. The most recent example of this phenomenon surrounded the political satire by Sony pictures, ‘The Interview’. The movie had somewhat of an ridiculous premise that due to the nature of the major theme the controversy surrounding the movie literally grew to international proportions, complete with threats of acts of terrorism against any theater that at the audacity to show the movie.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) was the host of the popular television show. Not so humbly titled ‘Skylark Tonight’. It was one of those types of shows that purported to be news was closer to entertainment. In fact, it was little more than a televised gossip tabloid featuring stories about those considered celebrities in popular culture. They were coming up to their 1000 show and the producers wanted to have something that will go in exceptional ratings in order to celebrate this milestone. It almost seemed like a sign from above, when they heard that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a fan of the show. This gives an idea to the producer of the show, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). If he could somehow, arrange for Dave to interview Kim it would be a ratings coup that would certainly place their viewership above anything Barbara Walters Oprah Winfrey could muster. In order to initiate the process, Aaron journeys to a remote area in China where he meets with a North Korean propaganda minister, Sook Yung Park (Diana Bang), a deal for the interview is brokered.

Shortly after Aaron returns stateside, he and Dave all approached by Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) of the CIA. She comes with a proposal for a mission for the tabloid journalists. The Agency wants Dave to assassinate the North Korean leader. In typical spy flick protocol, the method is high-tech and fraught with an inordinate amount of potential to go terribly wrong. Special transdermal patch similar to those that help stop smoking will prevent seasickness; will be infused with solution containing Ricin. Of course, the side facing the wearer will be impervious to the deadly solution. However, the outward side will transmit the deadly toxin to Kim as soon as they shake hands. The aforementioned potential for things to go wrong doesn’t take long to manifest. During a routine search one of the Supreme Leader’s bodyguards inadvertently mistakes the strip for piece of chewing gum and pops it in his mouth. This necessitates Lacey having to airdrop replacements, by means of a drone.

During a pre-interview period of getting to know each other, Dave finds himself unexpectedly bonding with Kim. They spend time partying together playing basketball and can gives Dave an opportunity to drive a tank. The pop journalist discovers that Kim, one of the most feared men on the global political arena, loves the song "Firework" by Katy Perry. Later, before the infected God dies of the poisoning, he managed to infect a fellow guard. Dave has second thoughts and discards his second strip setting out to prevent Aaron from using his. It turns out that Kim confided in Dave that is whole public persona is nothing more than the façade. Aaron and Sook become romantically involved plotting to bring down the regime by making him cry on the air, crumbling his regime.

At least the movies and our youth that are categorized with preventing ratings were in many cases great films. ‘Midnight Cowboy’ was the first movie originally rated X to an Academy Award for Best Picture. For movie to cause such international uproar it would have been preferable for the film to at least have a degree of cinematic excellence. As a political spoof the movie doesn’t work to some extent, mostly because the cast for professional to make the most out of the material. Some of the disappointment over the film is undoubtedly due to a form of buyer’s remorse; the film failed to deliver anything close enough to warrant the seriousness of the threats of retaliation that overwhelmed it. The Sony file servers were hacked making available a number of not yet released films. When some threats were made that terrorist attacks would be leveled against any theaters showing the film, Sony announced that they would not be releasing it. This poll President Obama into the fray, who made a statement that while he understood the desire to protect employees, he felt that Sony’s decision was a mistake to make us into a society where a dictator from a foreign country can impose their censorship on our free speech. Eventually, the movie was made available through streaming video sources, including; iTunes, Vudu and You Tube. Of course, at the above link to Amazon indicates, Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film are now available. As an added bonus, this ‘Freedom Edition’ contain some 90 minutes of deleted scenes. You come a long way from when kids used a Catholic newspaper to determine what movie we were going to sneak into that weekend, but over all those decades, one thing has not changed; if you want something to sell at an incredible level, have condemned. After all, United States government found out that prohibition worked, right?

Filmmaker Commentary
Naked and Afraid: See the stars of "The Interview" exposed in the wild

Posted 02/15/2015

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