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When shots rang out on a November morning, the whole world was changed forever. The assassination of John F. Kennedy sent shockwaves throughout the entire country, but the new film Parkland focuses on the select few men and women who saw it happen. The film seems not to be so much about President Kennedy or his life, but more specifically on the unsung men and women who sprung to action after his death.
Parkland showcases, from multiple perspectives, the race to save the President's life, the events of the investigation, and the life of the family of Lee Harvey Oswald. In a cast littered with Hollywood talent, Paul Giamatti plays the man who mistakenly captures the assassination on tape, Tom Welling and Billy Bob Thornton play secret service agents attempting to catch the shooter, and a scruffy Zac Efron plays a doctor tasked with saving the Commander-in-Chief's life.
Open Road Films
The cast also includes Marcia Gay Harden, Jackie Earl Haley, James Badge Dale, and Jacki Weaver. If the trailer is any indication, Parkland looks like the type of meaty historical drama that will have Oscar voters buzzing early next year. At the very least, the film looks to have the 1960's aesthetics nailed right down to the skinny ties and classic cars.
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Tuesday night marked the NBC premiere of the network's new sitcom Go On, which really meant the second episode of the show, since the pilot debuted on Hulu over the summer, and on television several times since its mid-Olympics debut. As such, any member of the technophobic masses who caught the advertised premiere without having already seen the pilot on Hulu, or any of the feebly advertised TV airings, would have been sorely confused by the lack of establishment in terms of plot, character, or setting. But then again, all of those computer-haters and people with schedules too busy to constantly survey the TV listings for Matthew Perry regenerations are probably not reading this article anyhow — so who cares about 'em?!
Confusing TV prereqs aside, there is something very interesting about Go On. The series introduces radio sportscaster Ryan King (Perry), a workaholic and recent widower who is having an understandably difficult time moving on after the death of his wife Jane; Ryan's strategy for overcoming this sorrow is to bury himself in his work, much to the chagrin of his colleagues. His boss (John Cho, who seems like he should have taken this role at the beginning of his career rather than at the height of it) insists that Ryan undergo counseling before coming back to work; his doting assistant (Allison Miller) agrees. So, a begrudging Ryan engages in ten mandatory sessions of group therapy, expecting to breeze through it with his sarcasm and play-to-win attitude, without any intention of really gaining anything from the ordeal.
Obviously, this isn't what happens. Ryan inadvertently winds up connecting with his effectively severe therapist (Laura Benanti), and, more importantly, the mass of eccentrics that make up the support group. Among them are a mother of two whose grief over the death of her wife has turned into uncontrollable anger (Julie White), a socially inept young lady mourning the death of her cat (Sarah Baker), an aging blind man with more medical problems than he can count (Bill Cobbs), and several others, most notably a teenager (Tyler James Williams) who, prior to Ryan's intervention, has refused to open up about an accident that rendered his brother brain-damaged.
It'd be easy to deliver these character and their problems without any deep examination. It's understood that the loss of spouses, siblings, pets, and one's own faculties are taxing hardships — Go On wouldn't really need to paint so vivid a picture of each group member's grief in order for us to accept that they are all going through pain. This strategy would also leave more room for the sort of straight comedy you'd expect from a Matthew Perry sitcom. Simply, there'd be more time to chuck in the laughs. And beyond that, the mood wouldn't be weighted down by genuinely tear-jerking depictions of Ryan struggling to fall asleep in an empty bed, Anna (White) lashing out at her late wife's grave, and Fausta (Tonita Castro) welling up looking at a picture of her husband and son, who we assume have died. It'll shock you how powerful these illustrations actually are; the idea of Go On shifts terrifically once the pilot moves from Perry shucking out goofy sports metaphors and jokes about Internet memes to scenes of people crying over the losses of their loved ones.
The drama continues into the second episode, which shifts away from Ryan dwelling on the death of his wife to Ryan looking for someone to fill the void. His attention sets naturally upon his twentysomething assistant, whom he begins following everywhere, explaining that he has always considered her to be his "vice Jane." And this is not at all in a lecherous way. Their relationship and his desperate need for her to care about him are sincerely sweet and sad. Ryan's misplaced journey to become the most important aspect of Carrie's (Miller) life is extremely honest and relatable; although a good source of comedy throughout the episode, it is treated earnestly in the end and not played for laughs. Nor are the personal traumas of any of Ryan's peers, who he will slowly welcome into his life and connect to throughout the series. We've already seen it happen with Owen (Williams), George (Cobbs), and Sonia (Baker). There are still a handful of lovable, unfortunate shnooks yet to conquer.
There are plenty of emotionally terse comedies on television, several of which air on NBC. Parks and Recreation is no stranger to sentiment and warmth. Community has delivered many notably heartrending stories. But these guys didn't come flying out the gate with tearjerker episodes. Over time, we came to care about Leslie Knope and Abed Nadir, and from that, organically invested ourselves into their hardships to the point where a good cry or two were inevitable. Moreover, Parks and Community are comedies capable of digging deeper. But Go On doesn't seem to be interested in this formula; it seems to be pioneering the title of sitdram.
Although we've only been granted two episodes so far, it is pretty easy to see that Go On isn't going to deliver any installments built just on the jokes. A piece of evidence that backs this up is one of the final moments of Tuesday night's episode, "He Got Game, She Got Cats." After revealing to George that his prized basketball has been stolen, Ryan (using his clout as an esteemed sportscaster) decides to treat his new friend to floor seats at an NBA game. In an effort to help the blind George enjoy the game, Ryan rattles off a rapid-fire play by play, prompting George to eventually ask him to shut up, close his eyes, and just listen to the sound of the crowd and the players. The screen fades black as Ryan closes his eyes and allows himself to calmly escape his own head for a minute. An avid sitcom watcher would expect, at this point, the sounsd of a loud "Clunk!" and for Ryan to awaken in the hospital with a mild head injury, or something. But that is not the case. That's the end of the scene. The show cuts to a commercial, comes back with an amusing tag, and rolls credits. There is no punchline — Go On doesn't need one, because it's not all about the comedy.
The show wants to make us laugh and cry every week, and has given us a cast and crew of writers capable of earning this. Sure, some aspects of the pilot and its followup ep are a bit goofy, but they're effective. Perry and co are really selling the heartbreak; his onscreen chemistry with Miller stands out as a winning element of the series. The characters feel full; we know we're going to get more out of Anna, Owen, Fausta, hapless divorcee Danny (Seth Morris), high strung adult child Yolanda (Suzy Nakamura), and the oddball of the bunch, Mr. K (Brett Gelman). And we know it's not all going to be funny. It's going to be sad and painful, possibly to the point where laughs are foregone entirely. But that seems to be okay. If we're connected to this show enough to get wrapped up in these peoples' lives from the first two episodes, then they'll warrant some overarching dramatic stories in the future.
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and final installment in director Peter Jackson's fantasy epic, continued its reign at the box office with a cork-popping take of $51.2 million* over the holiday weekend. What's more, The Return of the King posted the best Christmas day gross ever, taking in $14.5 million on Dec. 25 alone. The film also crossed the $200 million mark after only 11 days, beating The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which took 12 days. That's definitely good news for New Line, whose Rings trilogy was a $300 million-plus make-or-break investment for the studio. Combined with the spirited take of four new wide releases, The Return of the King's strong legs also helped make this weekend the biggest Christmas weekend in box office history.The comedy Cheaper by the Dozen triumphed over rival newcomers hitting theaters this weekend, opening in second place with a generous three-day take of $28.2 million. The family comedy was followed by Cold Mountain, which debuted in the No. 3 position with nippy $14.5 million. Aided by its eight Golden Globe nominations and inclusion on many critics' Top 10 lists, the American Civil War drama is on a likely track for key Oscar nominations. Something's Gotta Give, now in its third week of release, placed fourth with $14.2 million, while the new Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, rounded out the Top Five with a foreseeable opening take of $13.9 million. The family pic Peter Pan, the last of this week's wide releases, kicked off in seventh place with a not-so-magical take of $11.4 million.Although this week's four new releases produced a combined first-day box office tally of almost $22 million, Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking service Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press Sunday the industry's total yearend box office revenues would likely fall short of last year's $9.3 billion record, marking the first year-to-year decline since 1991."The end of the year is looking pretty good," Dergarabedian said. "But not enough to jump ahead of last year's revenues ... because 2002 was so amazing."Last year, Hollywood benefited from an abundance of blockbusters, such as Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $168.6 million, up 26.39 percent from last weekend's $133.4 million take and up 8.18 percent from last year's $155.8 million.THE TOP TENNew Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King kept its No. 1 stronghold in its second week of release with an ESTIMATED $51.2 million (-29%) at 3,703 theaters (unchanged; $13,833 per theater). Its cume is approximately $223.6 million. Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated comedy Cheaper by the Dozen debuted in second place with $28.2 million in 3,298 theaters, with an $8,558 per theater average. In the film, a contemporary remake of the 1950 Walter Lang comedy based on the novel by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, mayhem ensues as a couple moves their large family of 12 children from a small town to an affluent Chicago suburb.Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling. Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain opened in third place with $14.5 million in 2,167 theaters with a $6,691 per theater average. In the film, a Confederate soldier makes the arduous journey from the front lines of the Civil War to his home in Cold Mountain, N.C., where his ladylove has been fighting battles of her own.Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give dropped one spot to fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.4 million (+24%) at 2,709 theaters (+32 theaters; $5,242 per theater). Its cume is approximately $56.3 million. Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Paycheck kicked off in the No. 5 position with $13.9 million in 2,762 theaters with a $5,033 per theater average. In the film, a "reverse-engineer" who has had three years of his memory erased by a multimillion-dollar corporation, tries to piece together his past using a collection of random objects.Directed by John Woo, it stars Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Mona Lisa Smile fell from its runner-up position last week to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.5 million (unchanged) in 2,677 theaters (unchanged; $4,296 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.4 million.Directed by Mike Newell, it stars Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles.Universal Pictures' PG rated family pic Peter Pan opened in seventh place with $11.4 million at 2,813 theaters with a $4,053 per theater average. In the film, based on the classic J.M. Barrie novel, the Darling family children receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Neverland where an ongoing war with the evil pirate Captain Hook is taking place.Directed by P.J. Hogan, it stars Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs and Ludivine Sagnier. Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai, fell four spots to eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $8.3 million (+8%) in 2,557 theaters (-381; $3,273 per theater). Its cume is approximately $74.3 million.Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.Miramax Films' R rated dark comedy Bad Santa dropped two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-11%) at 1,710 theaters (-515 theaters; $2,644 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million. Directed by Terry Zwigoff, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox and John Ritter.New Line Cinema's PG rated holiday comedy Elf fell five places in its eighth week to round out the Top 10 with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-22%) at 2,015 theaters (-436 theaters; $2,122 per theater). Its cume is approximately $164.8 million. Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.OTHERSSony Picture Classics' PG-13 rated dance drama The Company debuted in 11 theaters with $96,939, with a $8,813 per theater average.The film centers on a Chicago ballet company--the difficult daily work, the intense pressures of performance and the richly textured behaviors of the dancers, whose professional and personal lives grow impossibly close.Directed by Robert Altman, it stars Neve Campbell, James Franco and Malcolm McDowell.New Market's R rated biopic Monster opened in four theaters with $84,156 with an impressive $21,039 per theater average. The dark tale is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, one of America's first female serial killers.Directed by Patty Jenkins, it stars Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci.WEEKEND COMPARISON Last year, New Line's PG-13 rated The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came in at No. 1 in its second week with $48.8 million in 3,622 theaters (unchanged; $13,494 per theater); DreamWorks' biopic Catch Me If You Can opened in second place with $30 million 3,156 theaters ($9,523 per theater); Warner Brothers' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice followed in third place in its second week of release with $15.5 million in 2,755 theaters (unchanged; $5,633 per theater).
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.