Masters of Sex: Season Three of the Sexual Revolution (Review)

Isabelle Fuhrman and Lizzy Caplan in Masters of Sex
Not having been on the boat for the first two seasons of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, coming into season three of the sexual revolution it is more about who is in the show thus far and less about the recreation of Masters and Johnson with their edification about coitus and orgasm. The three main characters are William Masters (portrayed by Welsh actor Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzie Caplan) and Masters’ wife Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald).

Upon tuning into episode two, titled Three’s a Crowd, it is not any of this trio that captures the eye though. It is Isabelle Fuhrman who demands attention, the sight of the Orphan star playing Virginia’s daughter pleases and excites. The 18 year-old actress blew everyone else off the screen as Esther in the 2009 horror film, where she portrayed a grown woman trapped in a child’s body who murders each family that adopts her, and it will be no surprise if she does the same in this series.

Leaving the cast alone for the moment, it is interesting to note that the time period being portrayed feels like a spin-off or, at the very least, influenced by Mad Men. The gloriously successful AMC series set in a similar time frame, late 50s to mid 60s, seems to have prompted a number of shows during what could be seen as a turning point in many areas, not just that of culture, business and sex.

Showtime’s series is set around the research of Masters and Johnson and their subsequent book. Masters of Sex follows the interaction of the characters and their family members along with the public and its reaction to the revelations about sexuality and their clarification of female responses to sex.

Rather interestingly, Virginia Johnson, is pregnant; an single incident with her ex has lead to the rabbit dying. After initially deciding to get rid of the fetus, she changes her mind “on the table.” When William castigates her for the decision, she explains that her ex got her existing children and that she was not going to lose this one. Masters’ wife Libby is not pleased at Johnson’s pregnancy as she feels it puts her husband in the category of potential sire.

Tess, Virginia’s daughter (played by Fuhrman) is also not impressed with her mother’s decision to keep the baby. William’s discomfort is based upon the book facing charges of being responsible for increasing female promiscuity, ergo the issue with Johnson’s single mother to be status.

In real life, the team of Masters and Johnson married, around 1971, so it is fascinating to see the interaction between Libby Masters and Virginia. One could assume, from this episode alone, that it was Mrs. Masters who facilitated the move from matrimony that enabled Virginia and Bill to become a couple until 1992.

In this second episode, Virginia has been forced to take a leave of absence and a Dr. Wesh has been drafted in to take her place till the baby is born and it is time to publicize the book. The Shah of Iran and his wife are undergoing fertility treatments and Tess is trying to get tickets to a Bob Dylan concert.

Plot points aside, it is odd to see Michael Sheen, (Underworld, The Dammed United) playing the role of Johnson. Sheen is a consummate actor who fills the shoes of Masters quite well although this is a variation of his usual role. Lizzy Caplan looks completely different from her role inThe Interview unfortunately though that is the first thing that springs to mind whenever she is on screen.

Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby has no “legacy” to shadow her performance and she fills the role capably and the scene where William is working on the television while she angrily smokes and says nothing is priceless.

Sadly, Masters of Sex is one of those programs that requires the viewer to sit down and binge back from season one. The story of the people “responsible for the sexual revolution” as the tagline says, is one that needs to be watched from episode one to “get it.” By this time in the series, all the actors have gelled and characters are now more fully realized. The addition of Isabelle Fuhrman opens up a number of possibilities in the show but only time, and the writers, will allow her character to become a “regular” cast member.

Masters of Sex airs Sundays on Showtime. Entertaining but all the more so if one binges to catch up on events.

The Interview Movie: Giving the Finger to Kim Jong-un

kim-jong-un-the-interviewI will be very honest here, I adore Seth Rogen and James Franco as a team and in The Interview movie, where they give the finger, or more accurately a tank round, to Kim Jong-un these two prove yet again, just how good they are together. Long introductory sentences aside, the point about the film is this, a feature does not have to be high art to be popular, period. Yet we have a score of “film critics” who are now pontificating about the merits, and lack thereof, of the film and its plot, characters, etc, etc, etc…

Does anyone really care? I know that for the last year (Its not really that long but I’m too lazy to work out the exact time period.) I’ve been an illustrious member of the Nevada Film Critics Society. I can hear you in the back, “Well look at you!” It is not that impressive, to explain let’s just say that the average cinema goer dislikes the fact that the press get their own roped off section in the theatre and leave it at that. Still it is a great, non paying gig, and I’ve met some great folks who have opinions about films.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to speak to any of them about the film so let us talk, for a very, very short time, about the movie The Interview, which does indeed give Kim Jong-un the metaphorical finger, or two fingers if you are British. First of all, it should be pointed out that Sony and Rogen have hit ironic gold with this film. Secondly, it should be pointed out that even with out the North Korean threats and cyber terrorism, the film would have run “mad crazy” at the box office.

Seth Rogen and James Franco in The Interview

It is a great film. (I’ve watched it no less than four times since purchasing it.) I adore it. It is a brilliant combination of clunky humor intermixed with black comedy merged with all the signature references that people have come to expect from a Rogen film. Think Pineapple Express and This is the End here.

Even parts of the film not related to North Korea are funny. The scene where Eminem declares, no less than four times, that he is gay is hysterically funny. The dead pan delivery sells the humor here and it leaves the viewer wondering just how many takes that one took to “get it in the can.”

The film is full of such short punchy comedy. James Franco, waking from an epic ecstasy and booze filled party, shouting about his “stink-d*ck” while the CIA listen in for example. Even the longer bits are funny, the scene with the tiger had me in stitches, not to mention reaching for the rewind button the second it finished. The entire scene with the rocket is worth the price of admission, or not admission if you watch it online.

This was, quite possibly, the best Christmas gift ever. Brilliantly funny, not intellectually so, but, repeat after me children, “film does not have be high art to be entertaining.” The Interview movie is not just giving the metaphorical finger to Kim Jong-un, it is telling the world that Rogen and Franco as a team are unbeatable. The film can be rented or purchased online from a few outlets, do not look for it on Amazon or iTunes however as they lacked the cojones to stream this film.

At around $6 to rent, or $16.99 to purchase, The Interview is worth a look. If you are fans of Rogen to begin with and even if you are not, take a look to see what got Kim Jong-un’s knickers in a twist. This is a real 5 out of 5 star film here, it pretty much hits all the cylinders square on.

Kim Jong-un in The Interview

Michael Smith

The Interview: Taken Out of Terrorist Oblivion…And It Is Funny

Still of Rogen and Franco in The Interview

The Interview has been taken out of terrorist oblivion and is now streaming for your viewing enjoyment. Sony decided to take the extra step of having the film available on Xbox, Google Play, YouTube and the Sony website. Apple declined to show the film via iTunes, presumably still smarting from the “iCloud” hack earlier this year. Amazon also decided to keep the film off their site, obviously wary of any cyber terrorist activity that could cost the company in terms of non cinematic sales.

President Obama is, according to reports, very happy that Seth Rogen and “James Flacco” are able to show off their darkly comic assassination of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un at last. Fortunately for both Sony, Columbia, Rogen, and the rest, the film is brilliantly funny.

The feature is a blend of slapstick, almost, and silly comedy.  Think Pineapple Express mixed with Neighbors with a touch of This is the End and you will get close to the type of humor on offer. Of course the film does veer off and go beyond blackly comic, wait till the scene with the helicopter and the tank comes on, or even Rogen’s character providing the filling for some finger sandwiches.

For fans of these two actors, there was never any real doubt that the combination of the script and the two performers would not deliver comic ganja dude! How can viewers not find the Matthew McConaughey “f***ing a goat” scene  hysterically funny? That entire sequence was stupidly comic and then the film heads into the sublime when Rogen’s character, Rapaport meets the North Korean representative “Sook” and after arranging the interview and the chopper takes off,  Rogen begs for some water.  “I did not plan well for this trip ,” he screams before a tiny bottle of water is tossed from the helicopter to land at his feet.

The movie, deals with the entertainment industry and its red headed step children, talk shows. Rogen’s character is the “serious journo”  and the producer of Dave Skylark’s (Franco) show. The two men set up the interview with Kim Jong-un and part of the magic of this film is the sneering reaction from other “serious” television journalists.  Played by the real people, like Bill Maher, for instance.

While The Interview is delightfully funny, its humor has been overshadowed somewhat by the cyber terrorists who threatened so much violence toward cinemas and their customers that AMC, Regal and Cinemark, amongst others, cancelled their showings and Sony initially panicked with the result that they shelved the picture, “indefinitely.”

After getting the old “tsk, tsk” from the president of the USA, and a generous and brave offer from the art house cinemas of America, Sony changed their mind. So some lucky people will see the movie in the theatre and others, like myself, will watch it via the Internet (in this case from Google Play).

Perhaps the only complaint is that the music feels a little close, in some instances, to the soundtrack used by Kim Jee-woon’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird.  Even the shootout sequence later in the movie has music that feels like it was lifted from that 2008 film. Perhaps it was and Goldberg and Rogen meant it as a sort of homage. This little complaint does not spoil the film, as the music does fit very well.

How good is the film? Well let’s just say that I loved it so much that after paying out a hard earned $5.99 (repeatedly watching it till my laptop crashed – Is that you Kim?) that I then turned around and bought the film for $16.99, without special features that I am so addicted to. That’s how good it is. But don’t take my word for it, watch it and see what you think.

By Michael Smith

 

 

‘The Interview’ Coming to a Theatre Near You…Maybe

‘The Interview’ Coming to a Theatre Near You…Maybe

The latest news in the world of cyber terrorism is that Sony, with the aid of a few non chain type theatres, are thumbing their noses at North Korea and airing The Interview, which should be coming to a cinema near you…maybe. It should not be forgotten that Sony Entertainment held out till the very last moment to cave under the terror attack against their company. Foolishly allowing theatre chains the option of not showing the Seth Rogen and James Franco political comedy after the threats of 9/11 type violence were made against film lovers who attended the Christmas Day open. Now, the corporation are allow the art house theatres to show the film, unlike their initial reaction to the terrorist’s promise of destruction.

Sony Only Fell After Cinema Chains Chickened Out

Sony Only Fell After Cinema Chains Chickened Out

Sony Entertainment have gone through the wringer recently with the “North Korean” hack and the corporation only fell after cinema chains chickened out leaving them no real avenue of showing The Interview except in the odd theater. AMC, Regal, Cinemark and others all pulled out after Sony rather rashly allowed them the option to do so. The corporation was already softened up by the cyberterrorists with a series of hacks that left the company reeling. Confidential and damning emails, which consisted of insulting revelations about the stars who make up the money making roster of talent that the higher ups apparently do not like, were splashed across the Internet. This on top of films being leaked and other disturbing details being made public, Sony could not take much more and the last threat of 9/11 type destruction at theatres who showed The Interview was that last straw.