11.22.63: Happy Birthday Lee Harvey Oswald – The Past Pushing Hard (Recap/Review)

In 11.22.63: Happy Birthday Lee Harvey Oswald the past pushes hard against Jake’s plans. Bill finally allows his infatuation to turn into a full-blown pursuit at romance. Turcotte also befriends Lee, obviously so he can be close to Marina and the young man’s actions jeopardize everything.

11/22/63 Marina

In 11.22.63: Happy Birthday Lee Harvey Oswald the past pushes hard against Jake’s plans. Bill finally allows his infatuation to turn into full-blown romance. Turcotte also befriends Lee, obviously so he can be close to Marina and the young man’s actions jeopardize everything.

Jake shows how far he is prepared to go and Epping almost loses Sadie again.  The English teacher time traveller puts Bill away and then is beaten because his helper made bets on the same fight. The bookie owns all the outlets and he uses Jake as a lesson to others as he believes the two men have cheated him.

At the start of the episode the act of  spying on Oswald had become less exciting and more of a boring chore to Jake’s assistant. A combination of boredom, loneliness and booze turns Bill into a liability and not the helpful partner he once was.  Turcotte complains that it would be nice if Jake came by more than once a week.

Lee has started his job at the book repository and as Oswald leaves the building he is met by an FBI agent who seems to know all about him. The future assassin of JKF is furious that the man spoke to Marina.

Epping/Amberson is unaware of Bill’s trips upstairs and his interaction with Oswald and his wife.  Sadie’s new game is to ask Jake about the future.  He is not keen to play and she asks playfully if pantyhose get any more comfortable in the future.  Sadie gets her plastic surgery moved up and Deke (Nick Searcy) urges Jake to marry his girl. After calling him an idiot, Simmons goes to leave and tells Epping to see Mz Mimi.

The principal’s lover tells Jake that she has cancer and that Deke wants to take her to Mexico for some new alternative treatment. She urges Epping not to wait (in terms of marrying Sadie). Mimi and Deke both love each other dearly and even though she is dying, the school secretary thinks of Simmons being alone afterward. She asks Epping to be a friend to Deke.

Jake goes to the Dallas apartment and cannot find Bill. He hears sounds of celebration upstairs and puts on the headphones. Lee is having a birthday party and Bill is attending.  Jake goes to retrieve his brother and Bill reacts badly. A drunken and resentful Turcotte struggles with Epping and knocks over a lamp.

Lee goes to pick it up and discovers one of the bugs that Bill and Jake planted in the Oswald apartment. Jake leaves alone as Turcotte insists on staying and helping Lee clean up.  Later the two fight and Bill pulls a gun on Jake and orders him to leave and not come back. The lovestruck young man tells Jake to go back to the girl “it’s okay for you to have.”  Clearly jealousy of Jake’s relationship with Sadie is also a factor Turcotte’s behavior.

At the hospital Sadie goes into the operation while Deke and Jake wait in the hospital corridor. The two men enter a “restricted access” hallway and Epping spies a man (Kevin J. O’Connorwearing a fedora with a yellow card stuck in it. Alarmed, Jake decides that Sadie is in danger and he tries to exit the restricted halls double doors only to find them locked.

A sure sign that the past is pushing occurs when Jake pounds on the doors and no-one appears to hear or notice. Epping grabs the fire alarm switch and pulls it, once again the past proves it is fighting back when nothing happens.  Deke tries to calm Amberson down but he grabs a fire extinguisher and bashes the door’s glass panel out.

While this desperate escape attempt goes on, Sadie is put under for her surgery. As the anesthesiologist puts the mask on her face and tells the young women to count backward, the nitrous oxide gas outflow increases what the oxygen decreases. Jake bursts in to stop the operation and the technician discovers that Sadie almost died from the gas he was giving her.

Later, Jake finds Bill sitting on the stoop with Oswald and the two are looking at a rifle. Jake murmurs about a second shooter and leaves quickly.  Oswald goes to a gun range and shows his proficiency with the rifle and Jake tricks Bill and commits him into the mental wing at the hospital.

Turcotte makes matters worse for himself when he shouts that Jake is from the future, amongst other things, and that he has killed two people. The admitting psychiatrist is convinced that Bill is not competent.

Epping tortures  George de Mohrenschildt  (Jonny Coyne)for information by choking him from behind as he sits in the back seat of George’s car. Jake  learns that the man’s handlers have no real interest in Oswald. Neither, apparently does de Mohrenschildt, who pays Lee (“a semiliterate hillbilly’) to water his grass so he can give money to Marina.

After the painful Q&A with the Minsk native, Jake is visited by the bookie who has his men beat the teacher and then angry man  pistol whips Amberson. Once again, Turcotte’s actions have negatively affected the mission.

Jake is now in the hospital with severe head injuries and in his delirium believes that his former wife is in the room. Sadie is there but she is upset that he has not recognized her.  It appears that the past has pushed hard, so hard that Jake may not recover in time to save JFK from being shot.

This episode of 11.22.63 proved that Turcotte has always been the weakest link and that Epping chose to ignore the fact while he pursued Sadie. Getting caught up in the madness of Johnny Clayton just made him more reliant on the lovesick and lonely young man.

It goes without saying that Tonya Pinkins is both adorable and tragic as “Mz” Mimi and Searcy is brilliant as Deke.  The pairing of these two was “casting magic.” 

Franco and Sarah Gadon are equally well matched. These two do not even have to be onscreen together for their chemistry to flare.  The scene where Amberson proposes over the phone is delightfully done by both actors and Gadon’s delivery is spot on when she calls her proposer  an idiot.

Six entire episodes have now gone by without Jake Epping returning once to the diner.  With only two episodes left it seems highly doubtful that he will.  It will be interesting to see what Bridget Carpenter has up her sleeve.

(On a sidenote, it was great to see Kevin J.O’Connor as the yellow tag man. He has been a personal favorite since his portrayal of Beni in The Mummy.)

11.22.63. Happy Birthday Lee Harvey Oswald ended on a bit of a cliffhanger.  Will Jake awaken in time to save the president or will he have to start over? With only two episodes left and with the show being a mini-series, i.e. no chance for a second season (unlike Under the Dome),  it seems that Jake will save JFK while suffering from a concussion.

11.22.63 airs Mondays on Hulu.

11.22.63: The Eyes of Texas (and Johnny Clayton) are Upon You (Recap/Review)

In 11.22.63: The Eyes of Texas, it appears that Sadie’s husband, Johnny Clayton is watching over his wife and Jake, and it is his eyes that are upon the couple in the bungalow and not the CIA’s.

Jake and Billy listening in on Oswald

In 11.22.63: The Eyes of Texas, it appears that Sadie’s husband, Johnny Clayton is watching over his wife and Jake, and it is his eyes that are upon the couple in the bungalow and not the CIA’s. Things look to be unravelling fast as the past pushes back against Epping as he gets closer to learning about Oswald’s plans.

Bill becomes infatuated with Marina, Miss Mimi reveals to Jake that she knows his secret (that he is really Jake Epping), Deke offers some advice and Sadie gets a visit from her husband at the school.  Jake tells “Miz” Mimi about being in the Witness Protection program as he tells of Michael killing Fredo in The Godfather Part II.

Along with Jake’s singing part of an old Beatles tune, “I Saw Her Standing There” to Sadie (just before Deke catches the two teachers sharing a kiss in the music room) this was another nod to Epping’s feeling like an outsider and quoting things from  the future. Although it does beg the question, what if someone liked the lyrics from his invisible friends, Paul, George, John and Ringo?

Leaving aside quotes from future bands, although not too far in the future as the group got their first number one hit in 1964 with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, it is interesting to note that Johnny Clayton could be a close relative, or at the very least a spiritual twin of Castle Rock killer Frank Dodd from The Dead Zone.

The thing both men have in common is a clothespin placed on their penises. Dodd as a small boy,who later grew to murder “dirty women” and it appears that Clayton still wears his, all the better to be prepared for that “dirty wormy” hole…  Both men have  obviously been  damaged by their mothers and the two evoke feelings of pity and revulsion.

In this episode, The Eyes of Texas do not feel as though they are looking upon events as must as the past is.  One thing is certain, the eyes of Johnny Clayton are also upon Epping and Sadie, as the odd man takes pictures of the two lovers.

The push, that has been getting more apparent since the fire, has manifested in Billy’s increased attraction to Marina and his sexual frustration.

The scene at the local “cat” house where he has to sit downstairs as Epping goes upstairs to spy on Lee and George and Turcotte’s  inadvertent voyeurism of Lee and Marina having some pretty verbal sex both show how close the younger man is to become stressed out.

Marina and Lee’s taped sex session pops up later on after Johnny sets up his wife to hear the recording in Jake’s basement.

As the past increases its struggle to keep Epping from changing things, it is clear that while Sadie may also be part of this push, so too is her weird estranged husband. The man has turned up four times in the episode. Once, off-screen, while taking pictures, twice in person; at the high school and later when Jake has followed George to meet his powerful friends and the last time as a shadowy figure at Epping’s house.

11.22.63 could have the past push so hard that everything blows up.  Storm clouds are gathering as Deke’s disapproval of Jake’s arrest at a brothel mixes with the man’s concern over his lover Miss Mimi’s health, Billy’s testosterone and hormones are taking a battering every time he interacts with Marina and, of course, Clayton’s move against Jake.

Again, it is not necessary to refer to the source material as  showrunner Bridget Carpenter is attempting to cover all the bases. Granted Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) has had his part increased substantially in the mini-series, but it works.  Although there are times when the character appears more as an irritation than compatriot/sidekick as Carpenter has called him. 

Thus far, it looks to be a race as to who will cause things to fall apart first.  Bill with his intrusion into the Oswald’s life, “here Marina I found your daughter’s dolly,” or Clayton’s intrusion into Sadie’s. “Who are you,” she asks Jake after hearing the “sex tape” of Lee and Marina that Johnny so carefully set up.

11.22.63, while not on par with Stephen King’s book, is pretty damned close. It has the same feeling that the original does. That outsider feel, the idea that the whole thing is going to collapse even while Epping is managing to fit in well enough to fall in love with Sadie.

Kudos to Sarah Gadon for bringing Sadie Dunhill to life so effectively that at no time do we ever doubt that James Franco’s Epping could help falling in love with this woman  so “ahead of her time.” 

The mini-series airs Mondays on Hulu. Stop by and prepare to be mesmerized by the plot, the performers and the pacing. The three Ps are doing pretty well in the entertainment stakes.

11.22.63: Review – Other Voices, Other Rooms: Slowing Things Down

In episode 3 of 11.22.63; Other Voices, Other Rooms, the Hulu series slows things down, while simultaneously pushing the plot up a notch, in terms of Oswald, Jake’s new helper and the romance between Epping/Amberson and Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon).

Jake and Billy listening in on Oswald

In episode 3 of 11.22.63; Other Voices, Other Rooms, the Hulu series slows things down, while simultaneously pushing the plot up a notch, in terms of Oswald, Jake’s new helper and the romance between Epping/Amberson and Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon). In this installment Bill Turcotte (George MacKay), whose sister was the first woman that Frank Dunning murdered, buys a ticket on Jake’s “man from the future” ride. 

The two team up and head to Jodie, Texas where Jake gets a job and meets Dunhill yet again and the attraction between the two is instantaneous after they get past “From Here to Eternity.”  The two people have a lot in common, both divorced, although Jake’s took place in 2016, and the attractive pair “know where the noses go.”

Sadie’s acceptance of jake’s fumbling and increasingly desperate apology for leaving her with 200 students to chaperone is a brilliant moment of romance that brings back memories of “that perfect” match moment.  Her straight-forward “Don’t ever do that to me again,” signals a woman who will take no guff from a man and sets up Dunhill as a strong female character that is attractive to boot.

Once again, the serendipity of the two meeting in Jodie, Texas where she just happens to be the new librarian at the school where Jake has been taken on as the English teacher, is not a good thing, surely. Placing a love interest so close to the future arena of conflict is the past pushing back, although the series is approaching it rather obliquely at this point.

Oswald (Daniel Webber) is an enigma of almost epic proportions. Controlling, a mommy’s boy, a man desperate for attention and, it seems, one who has mental issues as well. Out of the  two stressful events seen by the viewer Oswald reacts  differently.  Take for example his reaction to hearing  Jake and Billy in his apartment. Lee might have been furious at this invasion to his privacy, but it was a lucid and perfectly spoken rage. No slurring of words and no outbursts of violence. 

At the General Walker speech later on, however,   Oswald is slurring his words, stumbling around and is, at times, almost incoherent. Was the would-be assassin drugged or does he have a mental condition (the real Oswald was said to be very mentally troubled); a hidden ailment, not unlike Jack Ruby (who died of cancer after shooting Oswald in the real world)  that the CIA agent is taking advantage of.

The use of Japanese electronic devices is cute and the reminder of what 1960s Texas, and indeed the entire South, was like in terms of racism evokes anger and sadness in equal measure.  The treatment of Miss Mimi (played by Tonya Pinkins who is on FOX’s Gotham as Ethel Peabody) give two instances where Jake as outsider is first surprised then enraged at the treatment of this lady.

The coffee scene in the high school office where Epping (as Amberson) offers to pour Miss Mimi a cup of coffee is the first instance. The entire room stops in shocked silence at the lapse in 1960s protocol. Later, at the petrol station, the attendant flatly refuses to sell Mimi the fuel she needs, stating that she can go to the station in “N*****town.”

Jake reacts angrily and righteously by grabbing an empty gas can and fills it. He then lets Miss Mimi in his car after throwing money at the attendant.  Both of these incidents mark the time period perfectly for anyone who lived in the South, back in the day.

There is also an event triggered by a neighbor deciding that Billy and Jake are gay, something that comes back bite the duo later on. This incident is also evocative of the time period.

While this episode has slowed down the events, in order to bring things forward in terms of Oswald, it has the distinction of providing nail-biting suspense when the two men are trapped in the apartment while Marina (Lucy Fry) and Lee begin fooling around in the bedroom.  

As Billy and Jake become increasingly, desperate (Jake) and turned-on (Billy) the tension becomes almost unbearable. The moment they find their “way out” things do not diminish, as expected, but become more intense and damned hard to watch.

Jake has not yet realized that Sadie is yet another instance of the past pushing back as events move ahead to “that” day. Kudos on the excellent chemistry between Franco and Dunhill. Their romance feels spot-on, as it is meant to.

11.22.63 may not follow the book exactly (But then what adaption of King’s work has?) and thus far it does not really matter.  This version of King’s time travel tale entertains and keeps the viewer wanting more after each episode.  The series airs on Hulu Mondays, tune in and prepare to do a little white-knuckle viewing of this adaptation.

11.22.63: The Kill Floor (Recap/Review)

11.22.63: The Kill Floor takes up where The Rabbit Hole ended. Jake is in Holden and attempting to stop Harry’s family from being murdered by his father Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel).

Jake Epping, Frank Dunning enter the Kill Floor

11.22.63: The Kill Floor takes up where The Rabbit Hole ended.  Jake is in Holden and attempting to stop Harry’s family from being murdered by his father Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel).  The episode starts with young Harry Dunning being chased through the woods and getting caught by a creek. The quaint tradition of holding a victim down and spitting on his face and “de-pantsing” him is practiced on the boy. 

Jake sees him in town, at the soda fountain getting a pair of shorts from the druggist.

With a few days left till Halloween, the time when Frank kills his family and leaves his son Harry brain damaged, Jake must hurry to set his plans in motion. Checking with the druggist/soda jerk, he finds a local place to stay.

Directed to the Price’s house, “good Christians”  Jake rents a room for three days “at the weekly  rate.” Mrs. Price (Annette O’Toole) is suspicious of Jake and after accusing him of being a communist reluctantly rents him the room.

Epping runs the story that Harry wrote about his personal tragedy through his head while planning to intervene with Frank Dunning’s murderous act. Jake meets with Frank at the local bar, as he knows that the man is a drinker.

Harry Dunning: “When he was drunk  he was always mad.”

At the local bar, Jake runs into Frank with the story that a mutual friend told him to look the butcher up if he passed through Holden.  Frank and two cronies join Jake at his table. After a long period of drinking, the men all leave and head to the local slaughterhouse.

Once there, Frank and his pals set up a calf to be killed with a hammer blow to the head, and the unpleasant bully wants Jake to kill the animal. He refuses.  Frank picks up the sledgehammer and does it himself.

“Jakey” then tries to circumvent the murders  by giving Doris Dunning (Joanna Douglas) an all expenses paid trip to a Howard Johnson’s for Halloween.  After successfully getting Doris to accept the “prize” he returns to the Price household thinking that he has averted the killings.

Over dinner, he and Arliss Price (Michael O’Neill), who won a Bronze Star for bravery in WWII, talk about war. After asking Jake if he has served (Epping states that he was with MASH 4077 in the Korean War) Arliss tells of how he earned the star and how killing someone does not make them brave.

Frank Dunning arrives to collect Jake and the time traveler goes with him. At Frank’s butcher shop, he brings out Doris, whom he has beaten and throws the “prize” (of the Halloween party)  at Jake and punching him. Epping is then thrown out of the shop while Billy, from the bar, watches from across the road.

On Halloween night, the time when Frank is to murder his entire family, bar Harry, Billy shows up.

Once again this adaptation of King’s 11.22.63 keeps the viewer’s attention focussed on the Bridget Carpenter version of events; which are not too far from the novel’s. For instance, in a flashback sequence Al Templeton talks about the Lisbon girl crippled in the hunting accident from the book.

Director Fred Toye (Fringe, The Good Wife) manages to keep the tension cranked up.  The combination of Duhamel’s Dunning, who is not only a “died in the wool” SOB but also a psychotic madman along the lines of Texas Chainsaw Massacre lineage and Jake’s awkward attempt at stopping the slaughter,  makes this episode a white knuckle ride for the viewer.

It does help to put away all thoughts of specificity regarding events in the book. This version of King’s time travel tale moves well and grasps the imagination just fine. Franco’s desperation and his obvious “outsider” status allows us to get into the frame of mind necessary to make this trip an uneasy and sinister one.

Sidenote: It is interesting to note that on the night that Harry’s family is murdered, the television is airing Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker (who would have just returned to the show following a dispute. The character Cheyenne Bodie was a drifter who stepped in and fought for the underdog and each week held different jobs in different towns. Bodie also romanced a new girl each week and had gunfights with bad guys in each episode. Considering what happens when Jake Epping steps in, this seems a perfect touch for the event.

11.22.63 the mini-series airs Mondays on Hulu. Stop by and watch this latest Stephen King adaptation. Thus far, the series is world’s better than CBS and their “Under the Dome” mess. Just saying.

Parallels (2015) Failed Fox Pilot has Stephen King Overtones

Poster for Parallels
Despite the fact that Parallels is a failed Fox pilot with Stephen King overtones, the film released by Fox Digital Studio, is entertaining. It is an interesting look at the question of parallel worlds and the people who inhabit them. With such an open end plot device, it should have been a sure thing but apparently Fox, after their initial enthusiasm, got cold feet and released the pilot as a science fiction/mystery film.

There is good news for those who have seen the film and liked it, Netflix is apparently thinking of taking over this series that never was. Of course the last word on the show being picked up by the streaming service was back in March 2015 so it could still be that this film remains a one-off.

Directed, and co written, by Christopher Leone (Suit up, Wolfpack of Reseda) and starring a cast of relatively unknown upcoming actors, the pilot has a hook not too dissimilar from that of the Stephen King/Peter Straub novels The Talisman and its sequel Black House which told the story of Jack Sawyer whose own father is a traveler, much like the dad in Parallels, who was murdered by his business partner.

In the first book, Jack learns that he is a “oner;” a version of himself that has no equivalent in other worlds. This could be Ronan Carver (Mark Hapka) who learns that in at least one world he does not exist. Of course in the King/Straub books, except for the “oners” when one travelled to another parallel world they did not physically make the journey. Instead they inhabit the mind of their twinner.

Of course the biggest difference between the two tales is that The Talisman and its sequel are fantasy and Parallels is squarely in science fiction territory. Some of the plot seems very familiar, or as Polly (Constance Wu) puts it, has a sense of “deja vu,” is the introduction of a nuclear bomb which destroys one version of the world, or at least the town the Carvers and their little troop travel to.

The film follows Ronan, his sister Beatrix (Jessica Rothe), family friend Harold, aka Harry (Eric Jungmann) and, later, Polly; who comes from another world. At the start of the film, Ronan is getting beaten in a cage fighting bout and afterward gets a call from his elusive and estranged father telling him to go home immediately and then head to a building.

Once he arrives home, he finds Beatrix there having received the same message. They discover their father’s traveling bag in the trunk of his car and meeting up with Harold, who is desperate to get away from his mother, the three go to the building.

The story moves at a steady pace and there are enough twists and turns to keep the viewer’s interest piqued. The introduction of Polly, who reveals that the ball shaped item Ronan found in his dad’s bag comes from the “core” Earth, serves a dual purpose, she seems so be the fly in the ointment. She also explains that despite what must be an indefinite amount of parallel earths, there is one that is the original or “core.”

Leone does a great job on the pilot and he will hopefully get a chance to continue helming, and writing, this interesting science fiction tale of earth parallels with a nod to Stephen King. The news that Netflix may be producing the show after Fox apparently dropped it, is not so surprising. Other shows, that made it past the pilot stage, (like Longmire, for instance) have been picked up by the streaming service and will continue as per usual.

Regardless of whether the show will actually be picked up or not, the pilot as film, is entertaining and worth watching. This one is a 4.5 out of 5, half a point off for a little too much deja vu.

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