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BOOK REVIEW: ‘Walt Disney’ Shows in Great Detail Influence of Mickey’s Creator on American Culture; Author Neal Gabler First to Have Full Access to Disney Archives

Posted by kinchendavid on December 24, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV  – First off, Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966) was not cryogenically frozen, Neal Gabler tells us, upon his death from lung cancer at age 65: He was cremated and his ashes are at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA, — not far from the Disney corporate headquarters in Burbank.

Gabler (“An Empire of Their Own,” “Winchell”) spent seven years researching and writing “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” (Knopf, 880 pages, $35, 32 pages of photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index) and it shows: The details and insights and revelations provide the most complete picture of Disney and his genius that we’re likely to see. Gabler shows himself in this magnificent biography to be a perfectionist worthy of his subject. “Walt Disney” is on my short list of prize winners; it’s the best biography I’ve read all year.

As Gabler points out, Disney was not a great cartoonist, writer or animator, but he had the vision and imagination – and perseverance – to create immortal characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and create groundbreaking feature-length movies like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) and (my favorite) “Fantasia” (1940) – to mention just two of his dozens of features. “Snow White” was not the first feature-length animated movie, but it was the first in the new Technicolor process and set the pattern for those today that are produced with computer technology but owe their spirit to “Snow White.”

This biography is important if only because we shouldn’t take a talent like the Chicago-born Walt Disney for granted (one of these days I’m going to do an appreciation of the great cinematic talent from the Windy City, including such directing immortals as Preston Sturges and Don Siegel, as well as actors, writers and others as varied as David Mamet, William Petersen and Harrison Ford).

Gabler, himself a Chicago native, demolishes several myths and misconceptions about Disney. One of them is that his studio turned out nothing but box office and critical successes. It’s true that the cartoon shorts enabled Disney to hire the best talent in the business from the late 1920 on, starting in earnest with “Steamboat Willie,” the first talking short cartoon, and continuing to “Snow White” and beyond.

The fact is that Disney was always on the edge of financial disaster because his shorts cost twice as much as competing ones from Warner’s, the Fleischer brothers and other studios and his feature-length animated movies were stupendously expensive and often didn’t return the investment on the first release. Walt Disney in his early years was a perfectionist and perfection costs a lot of money for an animation studio – or any other enterprise. Gabler shows how this perfection withered away to a large degree as Disney concentrated on his theme parks, his work with the New York World’s Fair of 1964-5 and his live action features to the detriment of animated ones.

Another myth that Gabler – famous for writing about Jews in the movie industry – “An Empire of Their Own” – and Jews in show business and journalism – “Winchell” – at least partially demolishes is that Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. Gabler says he sometimes expressed the casual anti-Semitism of the time and was a member of a “restricted” club, Smoke Tree Ranch, in Palm Springs, but Disney was also honored as “Man of the Year” by the Beverly Hills Lodge of the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith in 1955 — the same chapter that less than a decade before had attacked him for the alleged racism of his retelling of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus in “Song of the South” (1946).

After a bitter 1941 union organizing strike at his newly occupied Burbank studios, Disney became a red-hunter who maintained his own blacklist, Gabler tells us. Jews in Hollywood were fully represented in union organizing efforts and were well represented in left-wing, anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi causes before Pearl Harbor. Some of the biggest Jewish moguls were also on far right of the political spectrum with Disney, including the Warner Brothers and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer, Gabler notes.

But Disney had many Jewish animators and executives, such as Dave Swift and Harry Tytle (shortened from Teitelbaum) and one of his most enduring friendships was with a Jew, Herman “Kay” Kamen, who brilliantly marketed Disney products beginning in the early 1930s, keeping the quality at the highest levels and creating yet another facet of the entertainment business that is with us today. Kamen and his wife died in an Air France plane crash returning from Europe in 1949 and Walt and Roy Disney began marketing the products themselves.

Speaking of Roy Oliver Disney (1893-1971), he’s a relatively minor figure in Gabler’s book — where the focus, naturally, is on Walt. Gabler does credit Roy, co-founder of Disney Productions and its CEO from 1929 to 1971, as the financial anchor to his creative brother. Roy was almost always the one who went hat in hand looking for money from the Bank of America and elsewhere and wasn’t the naysayer to the creation of Disneyland that I always thought he was.

Roy and Walt came up with the idea of WED Enterprises, a private company within the publicly traded Walt Disney Productions — with the view to protecting the studio from Walt and Walt from the studio, Gabler says — and was instrumental in bringing ABC and Disney together that led to the wildly successful, for both ABC and Disney, “Disneyland” television show. Today, of course, Disney owns ABC.

Roy made sure that his younger brother was immortalized by renaming the Florida theme park from “Disney World” to “Walt Disney World” and oversaw its completion, retiring in the fall of 1971 when the park opened and dying two months later at 78. Bob Thomas published a biography of Roy Disney in 1998, but maybe it’s time for an update, with full access to the archives. Financial geniuses are creative, too.

The idea for a Disney theme park, which was realized with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. in 1955, germinated for a long time in Disney’s head. He incorporated parts of his beloved Marceline, Mo., where the family lived during much of young Walt’s childhood, as well as bits and pieces of the 1933 Century of Progress fair in Chicago, Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., European amusement parks like Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark and American amusement parks like Chicago’s now defunct Riverview and Cincinnati’s Coney Island.

A devoted family man, Walt took his daughters Diane and Sharon to Southern California amusement parks in the 1940s on Sundays. He wanted what he called a “clean” amusement park, in contrast to the often raffish parks like The Pike in Long Beach and others in the Southland, as Californians are wont to call the greater Los Angeles area.

Although Gabler was granted full access to the Disney archives, this is definitely not an “authorized” biography. Gabler deals fully with the often stormy relationship between the eccentric Walt and his feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground wife Lillian. She was opposed to Disneyland, not to mention “Snow White,” Gabler points out, resulting in a wry comment from her husband that if he had listened to her, his career would have been a shadow of what it became. Disney’s temper and ego are dealt with, as is his 1931 nervous breakdown and continuing bouts with depression.

The deal with ABC secured financing for the park and businesses scrambled to be represented in the Orange County facility. Oil companies, chemical companies, automobile manufacturers – even the often skeptical Bank of America which had a long relationship with Disney – were enthusiastic about the park and contributed financially for discreet naming rights – another Disney innovation. We learn that one who didn’t make the cut was a Chicago fast-food entrepreneur named Ray Kroc, who trained to be a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War I with Walt (Walt saw action, Kroc, a year younger, didn’t go overseas). Walt Disney turned over Kroc’s request to the park’s construction manager, C.V. Wood, who brushed off the man behind McDonald’s!

The park originally was to have been built in Burbank, in the San Fernando Valley, not far from the Disney Studios, but the city’s staid officials objected to an amusement park in the city that was home to Disney and Warner Bros., among other studios. Professional market research, Gabler writes, went into the choice of an orange grove in Anaheim, convenient to the freeways which were being built to replace the extensive network of interurban trains that linked the communities of the sprawling Southland. (It’s ironic that today, the L.A. area is engaged in replicating the rail system which it destroyed after World War II. Rail fanatic Walt Disney would appreciate the irony.).

Forty years after his death on Dec. 15, 1966, Walt Disney is a powerful American icon, polarizing critics and other intellectuals, but remaining popular with mass audiences who grasped that the vast majority of his cartoon features and live action features are not the simple-minded stereotypes that some critics have called them. Gabler has succeeded in showing how Walt Disney was the ultimate “Imagineer.” This is a must-read book for anyone interested in American culture and the movie industry.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.aaknopf.com


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TV REVIEW: ‘Sleeper Cell’ Showing 2nd Season on Showtime Cable Network

Posted by kinchendavid on December 12, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  — Exactly one year ago today, I reviewed a Showtime series called “Sleeper Cell” that knocked me – a diehard “24” fan – out of my chair. The second season began Sunday, Dec. 10, 2006 and continues through the end of this week. Don’t miss it.

Back in the second season are Michael Ealy as Darwyn, an undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated a radical Islamic terror cell in Los Angeles. Farik, the head of the cell, was captured at the end of last season as the Federal agents – with the help of Darwyn – foiled a plot to blow up Dodger Stadium. Darwyn’s love interest from the first season returns; she’s Gayle Bishop, a single mom played by the very attractive and talented University of Virginia graduate Melissa Sagemiller.

Farik, played by the Israeli actor Oded Fehr, is being held in a CIA prison, where he is being interrogated to find out more information about the surviving members of the cell – information that Darwyn doesn’t have access to. Below are the episodes of this outstanding miniseries, which will probably be repeated on Showtime. The episodes air at 9 p.m. eastern time, with a repeat at 11 p.m.

Caution, this series contains scenes of violence and torture, along with brief nudity. It’s an outstanding television event.

10 Dec 06 Al-Baqara
11 Dec 06 Salesman
12 Dec 06 Torture
13 Dec 06 Faith
14 Dec 06 Home
15 Dec 06 School
16 Dec 06 Fitna
17 Dec 06 Reunion

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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Happy Feet’: This Penguin Can’t Sing, But He Can Dance up a Storm in George Miller’s Animated Feature

Posted by kinchendavid on November 19, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV — I knew that “Happy Feet” was directed by noted Australian director George Miller (“Mad Max,” “The Aviator,” “Babe,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” “The Road Warrior,” “The Twilight Zone,” etc., etc.). Miller is as versatile as another of my favorite directors, Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down,” “The Lost Boys,” “Phone Booth,” “Batman & Robin,” “The Phantom of the Opera”).

There are several Aussie actors voicing the penguins and other characters in the flick: Nicole Kidman (Norma Jean, the mother of Mumble, voiced by “Lord of the Rings” star Elijah Wood); Hugh Jackman (Memphis, Mumble’s dad); Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia (voicing the boss skua, an Antarctic bird of prey) and the late “crocodile hunter” Steve Irwin. One of the stars of the flick is of course Robin Williams, who voices – among other penguins – Lovelace, a master evangelist.

Written by Warren Coleman, John Collee, George Miller and Judy Morris, the animated 87-minute feature tells the story of odd-penguin-out Mumble, who can’t sing, but he can tap dance like no other penguin. Emperor penguins in this movie are conformists to a fault, so Mumble’s skills aren’t appreciated by the elders.

Penguins find their mates by singing, so tone-deaf Mumble appears to be out of luck in that department – until he meets Gloria (Brittany Murphy) who falls for the bird who wants to broaden the horizons of his fellow penguins with a little – hey, even a lot – of dancing.

“Happy Feet” features music by John Powell and Jama-Ski, along with a number of pop hits covered by the voicing actors.

Telling too much of the plot would spoil the movie for potential viewers. Suffice it to say, I recommend this nuanced, often dark look at penguins and the “aliens” (humans) who are endangering their habitat. There’s a strong environmental message in the movie, but the exuberance of Mumble, Gloria, Lovelace and all the rest make this PG-rated film suitable for the entire family as pure entertainment. An vital subtext in the movie, of course, is the importance of recognizing and welcoming different abilities.

Coming  in the wake of last year’s surprise hit, “The March of the Penguins,” “Happy Feet” answers the question: Another penguin movie? With a “yes, but, this is not just another penguin movie.” It’s a George Miller penguin movie!

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Fox News to Broadcast ‘Obsession’ Documentary This Weekend

Posted by kinchendavid on November 3, 2006

By Staff

This weekend Fox News will broadcast at five different times over Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 4 and 5, 2006 an extraordinary documentary – Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.

The documentary airs Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on Fox News Channel.

The film describes the nature, objectives and ideological roots of the totalitarian movement that currently poses the most immediate and a potentially catastrophic threat to America and the rest of the Free World: Islamofascism. It does so in a way that not only informs its viewers of the menace we face but compels them to reflect upon the risks associated with inaction — or, worse yet, appeasement of the sort being advocated by many partisans in the current election cycle.

The filmmakers combine three elements to make Obsession exceptionally compelling. First, an array of profoundly knowledgeable and articulate experts provide historical and strategic context to the phenomenon of this violent theo-ideology. They include: the Center for Security Policy’s Senior Mideast Fellow, Caroline Glick; historian Sir Martin Gilbert; former Hitler Youth Group Leader Alfons Heck; columnist and researcher Daniel Pipes; investigator Steven Emerson; former federal prosecutor John Loftus; journalist Brigitte Gabriel; and Professor Robert Wistrich.

Second, anti-Islamist Muslims and former Muslims provide powerful first-hand testimonials about the nature of Islamofascism as seen through the eyes of those most immediately at risk from its violence and repression: the Islamists’ peaceable, tolerant co-religionists. Among the incredibly powerful contributions from this group were comments by: Canadian professor and columnist Salim Mansur (a featured participant in the Center’s Muslim Speak Out program); Nonie Darwish, the daughter of an Egyptian army officer killed by the Israelis; Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist; Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh; Pakistani expat and editor Tashbiy Sayyed; and California-based Professor Khaleel Mohammed.

Perhaps the most evocative material of all, however, is provided by the Islamofascists themselves, in the form of footage taken directly from various television broadcasts from around the Muslim world. These scenes have been compiled by two formidable organizations, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and Palestinian Media Watch, and feature various imams, talking heads and political figures exhorting their audiences to bring “Death to America” and legitimizing the destruction of Christians and Jews and their societies. The point is unmistakable: This sort of virulent propaganda is being broadcast incessantly on myriad official outlets such as Saudi, Iranian, Qatari and Palestinian television and Hezbollah’s TV network, al Manar. In the process, millions of viewers, particularly young audiences, are being inculcated with the most extreme sorts of jihadist sentiment – including the desirability of murderous self-sacrifice for Allah.

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KINCHEN AT THE MOVIES: ‘Beowulf & Grendel’ Brings New Twist to Ancient Epic Poem; Grendel’s Rage Explained in Limited-Release Canadian-Icelandic Flick

Posted by kinchendavid on August 28, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – The distribution of independent movies will always remain a mystery to me. Why, for example, has the outstanding Canadian-Icelandic film “Beowulf & Grendel” had such a limited release?

I saw the 103-minute, R-rated movie in mid-July in Chicago; according to all the sources I’ve checked, the 2005 film, directed by Icelandic born Canadian Sturla Gunnarsson and written by Andrew Rai Berzins – based on the Epic Old English poem dated anywhere from 700 to 1000 C.E.—has been in “limited” release in the U.S. since mid-June 2006. “Limited” usually means L.A.-Chicago-NYC. According to Amazon.com, the DVD will be available for sale Sept. 26, 2006.

If you liked the “Lord of the Rings” movies, the various adaptations of the King Arthur Legend and “Harry Potter,” you’ll probably enjoy this movie, starring Gerard Butler (“The Phantom of the Opera”) as Beowulf, Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson as Grendel, Stellan Skarsgard as King Hrothgar and Sarah Polley as Selma the witch. Hringur Ingvarsson is Young Grendel and Spencer Wilding is Grendel’s father.

Here’s a plot synopsis, written by Roundstound Communications, found on IMDb.com: “Beowulf & Grendel” is a medieval adventure that tells the blood-soaked tale of a Norse warrior’s battle against the great and murderous troll, Grendel. Heads will roll in this provocative take on the first major work of English literature. Out of allegiance to the King Hrothgar, the much respected Lord of the Danes, Beowulf leads a troop of warriors across the sea to rid a village of the marauding monster. The monster, Grendel, is not a creature of mythic powers, but one of flesh and blood – immense flesh and raging blood, driven by a vengeance from being wronged, while Beowulf, a victorious soldier in his own right, has become increasingly troubled by the hero-myth rising up around his exploits. Beowulf’s willingness to kill on behalf of Hrothgar wavers when it becomes clear that the King is more responsible for the troll’s rampages than was first apparent. As a soldier, Beowulf is unaccustomed to hesitating. His relationship with the mesmerizing witch, Selma, creates deeper confusion. Swinging his sword at a great, stinking beast is no longer such a simple act. The story is set in barbarous Northern Europe where the reign of the many-gods is giving way to one – the southern invader, Christ. Beowulf is a man caught between sides in this great shift, his simple code transforming and falling apart before his eyes. Building toward an inevitable and terrible battle, this is a tale where vengeance, loyalty and mercy powerfully entwine.”

Old English — “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien was one its all-time greatest authorities – needs translation to modern English. Although it’s one of the foundations of modern English, it’s a foreign language, unlike the Middle English of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” which can be deciphered by modern readers with a little assistance (OK, a lot of assistance!).

Here’s a sample from “Beowulf,” along with a modern English translation: “Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.” In modern English: “Lo! We the Spear-Danes, in days of yore, have heard of the glory of the people’s kings how the noble ones did deeds of valor.” Don’t worry, this is no Mel Gibson production; the language in “Beowulf & Grendel” is modern English.

The movie opens with a flashback explaining why Grendel is so obsessed with Hrothgar and his entourage. Spoiler alert: I’m not going to give it away! This is a perfect DVD movie, because you’ll have to see it several times to nail the details of the plot.

When I entered the theatre on North Clark Street in Chicago not far from Wrigley Field, I noticed a group of middle-aged women in the auditorium. In my inimitable manner, I called out “You’re either English majors or Gerry Butler fans.” In the ensuing laughter I could tell that the answer was the latter. Scottish-born Butler, who played the hunky Phantom in the 2004 movie, has attracted female fans of all ages. With his beard and Viking getup, you’ll be hard-pressed to recognize Butler as the mad genius of the Opera Populaire but he more than holds his own with the other veteran actors of the cast.

You don’t have to be an English major (like the reviewer) to enjoy “Beowulf & Grendel.” I still can’t understand why the movie wasn’t released widely in the States. It hasn’t even been released in Europe, as far as I can determine.

If you’re interested in seeing it, the DVD is probably your best choice.

Here’s the web site for “Beowulf & Grendel”:

For more about “Beowulf”:

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RUTHERFORD ON FILM: Oh My, Oh My! There Are Snakes on a Plane in ….You Guessed it: ‘Snakes on a Plane’

Posted by kinchendavid on August 19, 2006

By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Critic

Huntington, WV  — Grab your rattlers (the kind that babies play with), some mechanical windup toys to turn loose in the aisle, and practice screaming an expression that cannot be printed here. Judging by the audience reaction to the advance showing of “Snakes on a Plane,” this may be the most interactive film since the time warping “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

One viewer took a popcorn break and returned asking, “Any snakes yet?”

Boasting catchy tunes and a combination of “Airplane” with “Airport,” these “Snakes” are everywhere, from the cockpit to the bathroom. They’re mean, they’re of all colors, and they may have been given a little crack before take off. In any event, the serpents claim their first victims in a bathroom where a caressing couple suddenly discover vipers squeezing them.

How do the snakes get on the plane? When a Hawaii vacationer witnesses the murder of a district attorney by a mob thug, he blasts away from the scene on a motorbike as bullets fly towards him. Hours later, as assassins work to enter his hotel room, an FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) rescues him and then twists his arms to testify in Los Angeles against the kingpin. Although the agent attempts a diversion as to which plane contains the witness, a baggage handler gives the word and the plane is loaded with a collection of the world’s most poisonous reptiles.

An explosive triggers a small blast that opens the containers allowing the serpents to start slithering in the underbelly. Before long, they’ve crawled into all the air flow crevices of the jet on their way to begin their attack in ‘coach.’

As these vipers run amuck, director David (“Cellular,” “Final Destination II) Ellis, a former stuntman, shows the slithering monsters targeting victims through a greenish night vision perspective. Did I say monsters? Yea, these nasty serpents have often been enhanced by the gift of computer CGI animation, allowing a gulping snake to open wide and begin downing a victim head first!

Behaving more like mice on the loose, the snakes first crawl over a few toes (WARNING: If you’re afraid of spiders, snakes or rodents, wear closed toe shoes at this one!) before they’re everywhere, like crawling up a woman’s leg while sleeping who judging by her face has a smiling, orgasmic dream before succumbing to the critter’s invasion of her body.

Obviously, you’ve gotten the idea that this suggestive and fun R-rated absurdity delivers so many hysterics that you hate to see the dude with 2,000 hours flying time bring the craft to a halt. Meantime, Boeing has a cool commercial for decompression survival which whisks out objects, yet allows the female flight attendants to retain their apparently glued on pumps!

Did I just write a spoiler? No, it’s not just the movie, it’s the audience participation. Get out there and join them.

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RUTHERFORD ON FILM: ‘The Night Listener’: When Truth and Fiction Merge, How Do You Learn What’s Real?

Posted by kinchendavid on August 14, 2006

By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Critic

Huntington, WV  — A bummed out story teller with a national radio show receives a manuscript from a friend that apparently tells a heart wrenching story of how a young teen handled severe abuse. According to the publisher the 14-year-old boy has AIDS, has a new mom, and still hides from his dad.

“He’s a fan, I gave him your number,” the publisher says.

Grappling with his own crumbling relationships, Gabriel (Robin Williams) has lost both his confidence and creativity. They are the first things to go when confronted by a major depressive event. The work of the young man writing about men and women ‘playing’ in the basement resonates with power.

He relents and begins speaking by phone with the young Wisconsin author.

After a cancelled invitation for a Christmas visit, Gabriel starts questioning the boy’s credibility. So do the publishers. They decide not to publish the book. Shortly thereafter, the Wisconsin phone number is disconnected.

Partly motivated by a journalistic sense to verify or discredit the manuscript, Gabriel sets off to the small Wisconsin city looking for Pete (Rory Culkin) and his mom, Donna Logand (Toni Collette ). On the other hand, he has connected emotionally with a voice on the opposite end of a telephone line, ironically, in much the same manner as listeners connect with celebrities like him.

Poised as a mysteriously haunting quest for a ‘missing person,’ “The Night Listener” spins a delicate yarn straight from oddities that instill reality television, which, incidentally, had its roots with the ordinary Americans spilling their guts and often throwing fists or shoes in front of ‘live’ audiences on therapeutic talk shows (i.e. “Sally,” “Geraldo,” “Jerry Springer”).

Williams, whose character is also battling family crises, falls cautiously into the quest to imprint credibility on the young author’s work. Only after he arrives in Wisconsin, do we see the degree to which he has bonded with the troubled boy. As door slam in his face, the tenacious Williams plods forward even as the personal stakes increase.

“The Night Listener” depicts how easily a sensitive, heart on sleeve person can succumb to emotive manipulation, where, ironically, those in the ‘artistic’ professions often lie. The film maintains an evasiveness favorably subjecting it to numerous interpretations which allow a seemingly nondescript interaction to reach borderlines separating obsession, objectiveness, and simply finding ‘the truth.’

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RUTHERFORD ON FILM: ‘World Trade Center’: Trapped Alive in Hell Awaiting Rescue by Those Good at Helping People

Posted by kinchendavid on August 11, 2006

By Tony Rutherford

Huntington, WV — Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” conveys two seemingly contradictory messages with ease: 9/11 released hell on the planet and concurrently forced people to remember that they must take care of each other.

The fateful Tuesday in New York City (and elsewhere) began with alarm clocks ringing, dogs taken for walks, the sun rising, and the commute to work. Police and fire answered roll calls and heard a traditional “be careful out there and watch your backs.” Slowly the impact of the events unfolds through the mouths of first responders, their families and ordinary people trapped in an extraordinary event.

“What schmuck would fly a plane into the World Trade Center,” a cop questions, “Maybe they ran out of gas.” His quandary reflects no disrespect, just disbelief. Shortly, another first responder would speculate, “The world’s coming to an end today.”

Two Port Authority police officers — John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno — played by Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena scurry with other volunteers to the lower shopping concourse between WTC I and II. As they prepare to enter the lower level of one of the skyscrapers, the first tower collapses, trapping them in a mass of rubble ranging from steel and pipes to concrete and pulverized dust.

For most of the film, they will remain excruciatingly positioned talking heads unable to move more than an arm or a neck. Their plight resembles two miners’ trapped awaiting (“Is anybody there?”) help from above. Glimpses of light and chattering between the two men keep them conscious despite intense pain and the fear that by going to sleep, you might not awaken in this world.

Structurally, Stone shifts perspectives throughout — the two men trapped in the rubble, the efforts of others to locate survivors, the family members huddled together glued to TV news that repeats the same items repeatedly, and seemingly random individuals caught in the unleash of evil.

The director intentionally avoids and shrouds the pre-mortally wounded Twin Towers from viewers. His cityscapes and skylines of New York City depict the Statue of Liberty, Midtown Manhattan, tunnels and bridges, before brief glimpses of the intact Towers standing in the foggy mist of sunrise. When the planes strike, he shows the damage from television reports. Only as the fire and police respond to the thousands of sheets of paper, does he depict the now immortal images of the gashes in the towers.

As the police approach to the towers from the lower concourse, the criticalness of the circumstances heightens. Now Stone shows walking, bloodied survivors moving away from the area. He avoids graphic atrocities. Intense yet strangely distant, Stone’s “World Trade Center” respectfully narrows the scope of America’s day of Hell as seen through the eyes of those who still have a trickle of hope. Although there are deaths, the story surges dynamically into the crypt 20 to 30 feet below the surface where the two men exchange conversations of endurance which assist in warding off the dreaded uncertainty of pain free sleep from which they might not reawaken.

Need I neglect the repeated clanking and falling of debris and the erupting of flash fires serves to maintain hyperventilation worries for the two trapped officers.

Certainly, there’s a feel good rush that two guys made it. And, the Marine drawn at church to go to Ground Zero and volunteer humbles us all about listening to a little voice down deep in the pit of our stomach.

Of course, “WTC” has an ironic undertow that sometimes occurs from tragedy i.e. the good that (pardon the pun) flows to the surface. Why do we wait until the worst of times to think about “taking care of each other?” It seems the desire for strong personal independence has smothered the principles of loving each other as thyself, getting to know the neighbors, and helping out during other than desperate times. In fact, the independence movement has made it a personal weakness to ask for help, rather than recognition that we all have different talents and together we made a better home, community, city and world.

As a couple of the heroes admit, “The only thing I’m good at is helping people.” Too bad, so many people feel they lessen themselves to rely on another, instead of randomly returning the favor by helping a stranger in need?

For all the pithy “where’d the buildings go?” or the lament that “I don’t remember the last thing I said to my wife this morning,” the valor rises from the brothers, friends, neighbors, and strangers who just wanted to help. All came to the chaos of utter hell to fight to save the lives of people they did not know simply because it was, in Stone’s words, “the right thing to do.”

Does it take a terrorist attack or the Christmas season to inspire us selfish humans to assist someone in need for the next day you may be the one needing a kind hand to help you?

Tony Rutherford covers the entertainment scene for Graffiti and Huntington News Network.

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TELEVISION REVIEW: ‘Psych’ Worthy Network Mate of ‘Monk’ – TV’s Best Hour-Long Show

Posted by kinchendavid on August 6, 2006

By David M. Kinchen

Hinton, WV (HNN) — From what I call the “Monastery” network — USA, home of “Monk” — comes a show created by Steve Franks that’s worthy of following “Monk” on Friday nights (9 p.m. Eastern for “Monk,” 10 p.m. for “Psych.” Thanks to creative programming at USA, the shows are repeated throughout the week. I watched both of them again at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively on Saturday, Aug. 5.

James Roday plays Shawn Spencer, a young man with a photographic memory who pretends to be a psychic to help the Santa Barbara Police Department solve crimes. Dule’ Hill, (Charlie Young, the presidential aide on “The West Wing”) plays Burton “Gus” Guster, his reluctant best friend and often unwilling sidekick, with a straight man flair that adds an extra dimension to this comic detective series. Gus is a pharmaceutical salesman, but he hardly ever visits a doctor’s office while the show is on.

On the latest episode, “9 Lives,” Roday is assisted in his crime solving by a long-haired multicolored cat, the pet of a middle-aged man who supposedly committed suicide. It’s one of a string of suicides in the seaside community, but Roday suspects that they’re really murders.

The requisite obtuse police detective, Carlton Lassiter, is played by Timothy Omundson. His beautiful young sidekick, Det. Maggie Lawson, is played by Juliet O’Hara. Corbin Bernsen (“LA Law”) plays Henry Spencer, Shawn’s retired police officer father, who – to borrow a phrase from “The Hustler” – taught Shawn everything Shawn knows, but not everything he knows.

The show’s tagline is “Fake Psychic. Real Detectives” and it’s a winner in my book. Franks was the screenwriter of “Big Daddy,” a 1999 Adam Sandler flick. He’s got a hit on his hand. Fortunately, USA is a network that will give “Psych” plenty of development time. USA is also home to “House”, “The Dead Zone,” “The 4400” and other intriguing shows.

Web site: http://www.usanetwork.com

Posted in Movies/TV | Leave a Comment »

ENTERTAINMENT: Weekly Movie Comings and Goings

Posted by kinchendavid on August 1, 2006

By Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Columnist

Huntington, WV — New Mainstreamers … Will Ferrell , the dude from SNL, “Anchorman” and “Bewitched,” grabs a helmet and jumps into a race car for “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

According to viewers at the annual Comic Con, “The Descent” will have astounding word of mouth as a caving expeditions by a group of women goes horribly wrong as they become trapped and pursued by a strange breed of predators.

When Robin Williams as radio talk show host Gabriel Noone reads a harrowing manuscript by Pete Logand (Rory Culkin), he starts questioning the validity of the story and travels from New York to Wisconsin to learn the truth behind “The Night Listener.”

When the farmer’s away, his animals break out into song and dance in “Barnyard: The Original Party Animals.”

Finally, although it opens Aug 9, I’m one of those who can not wait to see Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center.” I hope it lives up to expectations both as a memorial to those who died, those who survived, and offers insight into the efforts of the heroes working at the collapsed towers.

Continuing Art/Festival/Limited Releases …

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Although squirt guns, rice, lighters, and other projectiles are forbidden, you can brush up on your Time Warp dance and check out those character costumes. The long running and cult favorite returns for a multiple weekend run at the Cinema starting Aug. 4.

You’re welcome to act out the lines and have fun. A ‘shadow cast’ will be coming soon as well as a group of people to welcome first timers to the showing.

(Note: Times and Titles subject to change at discretion of film bookers. Double check websites to verify times or to purchase on line tickets.)

NOTE: Since “World Trade Center” opens on WEDNESDAY, August 9, some of the times in this chart may be good only through Tuesday, August 8, as theatres will open WTC on Wednesday. At Press Time , We Do NOT know what films will be leaving to allow WTC screen(s)


Starts Friday

MARQUEE PULLMAN: Talladega Nights 11:30-12:15-2:00-2:45-4:30-5:15-7:00-7:45-9:30-10:15; Night Listener 12:10-2:40-5:00-7:25-9:50;The Descent 12:15-2:35-4:55-7:40-10:10’Barnyard 12:20-2:30-4:50-7:05-9:15; Opens Wednesday August 9: World Trade Center; Time Changes: Superman Returns 9:10; Ant Bully 12:05-2:25-4:40-7:00; Cars 12:30-3:15; Click 11:30-2:00-7:15; Devil Wears Prade 4:40-7:15; Pirates of the Caribbean: 11:40-2:55-6;10-6:40-9:25-9:40; Clerks II 5:00-10:15; My Super Ex Girl Friend 11:55-2:00-9:45; Ends Thursday: Lake House; FREE Kid’s Movie Aug. 8-9 @ 10:00 a.m. “Kicking and Screaming” and “Wizard of Oz”

DISCOUNT CINEMA 4: (all shows $3.00; Tuesday $2) Friday Midnight: “Rocky Horror Picture Show” come dressed in costume; Times Thru Thursday Aug 3: Nacho Libre 1:10-3:15-5:20-7:25-9:30; DaVinci Code 7:00-9:50; X Men Last Stand 1:00-3:10-5:20-7:30-9:40; RV 1:00-3:05-5:10-7:15-9:20; Over the Hedge 1:25-3:25-5:25;


Starts Friday

CINEMARK CINEMA 10: Talladega Nights 12:40-3:45-7:10-10:00; Barnyard 12:30-2:50-5:15-7:35-9:50; The Descent 12:00-2:30-4:55-7:40-10:05; Time Changes: Little Man 9:30 only; Monster House 12:10-2:35-5:00-7:15; Ends Thursday: My Super Ex Girlfriend; Cars, Clerks II, Click,

MIDTOWN CINEMA 3: ($2/$3): Click, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Devil Wears Prada, The Lake House; Ends Thursday: Nacho Libre, Fast and Furious III, Garfield II, Over the Hedge, The Break Up;


Starts Friday:

HUNTINGTON MALL CINEMAS: Talladega Nights 1:15-4:10-7:05-9:30; Barnyard: 1:00-3:10-5:20-7:30-9:40; Ends Thursday: My Super Ex Girl Friend, Lady in the Water, You Me and Dupree


Starts Friday:

CROSSROADS CINEMAS: Descent 10:00*-12:15-2:30-4:45-7:05-9:25; Move Overs From Showplace: You Me and Depree 9:45 a.m.*-12:05-2:30-4:55-7:20-9:45; Clerks 7:10-9:30; Little Man 9:45 a.m.*-12:00-2:20-4:35-7:00-9:25; ENDS THURSDAY: Superman Returns, My Super Ex Girl Friend,

SHOWPLACE CINEMAS: Talledega Nights 9:40 a.m.*-11:30-12:00-2:00-2:30-4:30-5:00-7:00-7:30-9:30-10:00; Barnyard 10:00 a.m. *- 12:25-2:40-4:50-7:15-9:25; Time Changes: Ant Bully 10:00 a.m.*-12:20-2:30-5:00; Lady in the Water 7:30-10:00; Pirates 11:30-2:45-6:00-9:15; Ends Thursday: My Super Ex Girl Friend, Clerks II, You Me and Dupree, Little Man

OPENS AUGUST 11: Marquee Galleria, 14 screens, 304 252-5565


Starts Friday:

MERCER MALL: Talladega Nights 1:15-4:10-7:05-9:30; Barnyard: 1:00-3:10-5:20-7:30-9:40; Ends Thursday: Clerks II, My Super EX Girl Friend

COMMONS 8 (Marquee Cinemas, Wytheville, Va.): Talledega Nights 12:00-2:25-4:50-7:20-9:55; Barnyard 12:20-2:40-4:45-7:05-9:15; Descent 11:55-2:20-4:55-7:15-10:00; Time Changes: Ant bully 12:15-2:30-4:40-7:00; You Me & Dupree 9:45 only; Lady in Water 9:50 only; Monster House 12:30-2:45-5:00-7:10; Ends Thursday: My Super Ex Girl Friend, Little Man, Clerks II


Starts Friday:

MARQUEE SOUTHRIDGE: 10:15 a.m.*- 12:30-2:45-5:00-7:30-9:45; Talladega Nights 10:00 a.m.*-11:30-12:15-2:00-2:45-4:30-5:15-7:00-7:45-9:30-10:15; Descent 10:10 a.m.*-12:20-2:50-5:10-7:40-10:00(* Early Morning Show Saturday ONLY); Opens Wed. Aug 9, World Trade Center

PARK PLACE STADIUM CINEMAS: Talladega Nights 12:00-12:30-2:15-2:45-4:30-5:00-7:00-7:30-9:15-9:45; Barnyard 12:45-2:50-4:50-7:00-9:05; Night Listener 12:30-2:35-4:45-7:15-9:20; Descent 1:05-3:15-5:20-7:25-9:30; Bargain Tuesday, All Seats $4.00 limited time ; Opens Wed. Aug 9, World Trade Center

Time Changes:

Marquee Southridge: Lady in the Water 9:40 only; Clerks II 8:00-10:15 only; Little Man 12:10-2:30-4:50 only; Pirates 12:00-3:15-6:30-9:40; Click 7:30-10:05; Cars 11:30-2:10-4:50 Park Place Stadium: Ant Bully 12:00-2:00-4:00; Lady in the Water 7:10-9:25


Marquee Southridge: Superman Returns, Devil Wears Prada, My Super Ex Girl Friend Park Place Stadium: Clerks II, Devil Wears Prada, My Super Ex Girl Friend


Marquee Southridge: “Madagascar” and “Robots”, Tues/Wed Aug 1 & 2 @ 10 a.m.


Ritz Theatre: Friday, 6 and 8:30 p.m. “Talladega Nights” Saturday, 3:30, 6 and 8:30 p.m. “Talladega Nights”; Sunday, 3:30 and 6 p.m. “Talladega Nights”


Starts Friday

TEAYS VALLEY CINEMA 10: Talladega Nights 10:30 a.m*.-11:00 a.m.*-1:15-1:45-4:15-4:45-7:15-7:45-9:45-10:15; Barnyard 10:25 a.m.*-12:40-2:50-5:00-7:10-9:30; The Descent 10:15 a.m.*-12:50-3:10-5:25-7:45-10:05; Time Changes: Ant Bully 10:35 a.m.*-12:45-3:00-5:10; Lady in the Water 7:20-9:50; Dupree 10:10 a.m.*-12:40-7:35-10:00; Little Man 3:00-5:20; Ends Thursday: Cars, My Super Ex Girl Friend, Click (* No Early Morning show on Sundays); FREE Kid’s Summer Movie Camp, Aug 8 & 10: “Hoodwinked” @ 9:30 a.m. Opens Wed. Aug 9: World Trade Center


Starts Friday:

SENECA SHOWPLACE: Lady in the Water 4:30-7:00-9:30, Sat/Sun 11:30-2:00; Pirates of the Caribbean 3:00-6:10-9:30, Sat/Sun Mat. 11:45; Ends Thursday: Lady in the Water


Starts Friday

FOUNTAIN PLACE CINEMA 8: FOUNTAIN PLACE CINEMA 8: Talladega Nights 12:15-2:40-5:00-7:30-9:45; Barnyard 12:30-2:30-4:30-7:05-9:15; Descent 12:45-2:50-5:05-8:00-10:00; Time Changes: Ant Bully 12:10-2:15-4:15; Lady in the Water 7:05-9:50; Ends Thursday: You Me and Dupree, Little Man, Clerks II


Great Escape Nitro 12: http://greatescapetheatres.com or 769-0405


Starts Friday

NICHOLAS SHOWPLACE: Talledega Nights 4:45-7:15-9:45, Sat/Sun Mat. 11:45-2:15; Barnyard 4:35-6:45-9:00, Sat/Sun Mat. 12:00-2:25; Miami Vice 3:10-6:10-9:25, Sat/Sun 12:15; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest 3:00-6:00-9:15, Sat/Sun Mat. 11:45; Ends Thursday: Lady in the Water, Monster House


Starts Friday:

McDOWELL 3: Talledega Nights 4:55-7:20-9:50, Sat/Sun Mat. 12:00-2:25; Barnyard 5:00-7:10-9:20, Sat/Sun Mat. 12:45-2:50; Miami Vice 3:30-6:30-9:30, Sat/Sun Mat. 12:30; Ends Thursday: Lady in the Water, Little Man


COMING AUGUST 9: World Trade Center

COMING AUG 11: Accepted, Zoom, Step Up, Pulse

COMING AUG 18: Snakes on a Plane, The Illusionist, Material Girls

COMING AUG 25: Invincible , Idlewild, Beerfest, DOA: Dead or Alive, The Protector, How to Eat Fried Worms

COMING SEPT 1: Idiocracy, Crank, The Wicker Man, Crossover

COMING SEPT 8: Pathfinder, I Could Never Be Your Woman, The Covenant, Hollywoodland, Lucky You

COMING SEPT 15: Gridiron Gang, The Last Kiss, Employee of the Month, Black Dahlia, Everyone’s a Hero

COMING SEPT 22: All the King’s Men, Jackass: Number Two, The Guardian, Confetti, Feast, The Fearless

COMING SEPT 29: Open Season, Children of Men, School for Scoundrels, Flyboys

COMING OCT 6: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, The Departed, Stormbreaker, Breaking and Entering

COMING OCT 13: The Grudge II, The Fountain, Sunshine

COMING OCT 20: Flags of Our Fathers, Killshot, Marie Antoinette, Fast Food Nation, Flicka

And COMING OCT. 27 (tentatively) WE ARE MARSHALL, Saw II, The Prestige, Catch a Fire

* Release dates subject to change; not all films will play in every market and/or every theatre.

On line ticket purchases for Marquee’s Huntington Pullman Square 16, Charleston Southridge, Welch Cinemas 3, Wytheville Cinemas 8 at http://www.marqueecinemas.com.

On line tickets available for Charleston theatres at: http://ourshowtimes.com (Park Place Stadium Cinemas) and http://www.marqueecinemas.com (for Southridge); for Teays Valley, http://allstarcimemas.com/Teays.asp , and for Ashland’s Midtown at : http://midtowncinemas3.com.



Posted in Movies/TV, West Virginia | 1 Comment »