[img]http://www.covercity.net/dcovers/0cbfeb840e57b24a68936179e5da0554[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Millennium Entertainment
Disc/Transfer Information: Region 1; Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Peter Landesman
Starring Cast: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thorton, Marcia Gay Harden, Matt Barr, Mallory Moye, Paul Giamatti, Bitsie Tulloch, Ron Livingston, Jason Douglas, David Harbour, James Badge Dale
ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY WAS ASSASINATED.
THIS IS THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.
I’ve always been a big fan of Oliver Stone’s seminal JFK, which is often thought to be the defacto standard that documents the endless conspiracy theories surrounding John F. Kennedy’s murder – but Stone took a different angle with his classic (of which I own the Two-Disc Special Edition Director’s Cut DVD that puts the film at well over three hours) in that he explored the events surrounding the reopening of the case via New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner looked nothing and sounded nothing like the real Garrison incidentally) when Garrison smelled something funky lurking around his own New Orleans haunts. The film indeed delves into the plot to kill Kennedy using a boatload of Hollywood talent – Gary Oldman as Oswald, Joe Pesci as the off-the-wall associate of Clay Shaw, played by Tommy Lee Jones, etc. – but at the heart of it all was Garrison’s never-dying passion to bring the perpetrators to trial and ultimately justice. In the end, Garrison got just one man on the stand – Clay Shaw – as all the other witnesses were either killed off or refused to testify, but his trial didn’t achieve anything as Shaw was acquitted of any charges involving him and the assassination of the president. Stone's film became one of the most controversial motion pictures ever, as he spun a tapestry of conspiracy possibilities large and small, male and female. The case fell into the annals of mysterious American history, the conspiracy theorists having their field day for decades after the shooting regarding what happened. I have always been of the opinion, if you delve into more of what was at stake here – Kennedy’s policies in Vietnam and Russia and his whole angle on being “soft” on Communism as he was accused of – that this was definitely a government cover up and murder from the get-go, with Lyndon Johnson indeed waiting in the wings to reverse many, if not all, of Kennedy’s aforementioned policies. Be that as it may, the Kennedy assassination has fascinated like perhaps no other case in history, and as we come upon the 50th anniversary of the infamous killing in Dallas, that unfortunate day has been again explored by director Paul Landesman in his Parkland, so named for the hospital which Kennedy was rushed to after the shooting in Dallas that fateful November morning.
In a refreshing twist, though, Landesman, working from the novel Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi, tells the story from the perspective of the events following the shooting when the president was rushed to the hospital and all the chaos that surrounded the next few days. Interestingly, the film delves further and deeper into characters just mentioned in Stone’s JFK such as Abraham Zapruder (played here by Paul Giamatti), the man who got the only eight millimeter film of the president’s head being blown off that day; James P. Hosty (played here by Office Space’s Ron Livingston), the FBI agent who supposedly had inside information about what Lee Harvey Oswald was “going to do” to Kennedy via interviews; First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played here, not convincingly unfortunately by Kat Steffens) whom we get a better feel for in this film in terms of how she “handled” her husband’s death plus some other key figures. Indeed, Parkland isn’t the first major film to explore the Kennedy mystique since Stone’s JFK; we also had the almost forgettable Thirteen Days which didn’t explore the events surrounding Kennedy’s death but rather how he handled the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as the recently released film based on Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy, which starred Rob Lowe as the president and wasn’t released as a major motion picture. Yet what Parkland does most brilliantly and differently is explore the way in which the aftermath of this tragedy went down, with the chaos ensuing between Dallas police, the FBI, the Secret Service and the Oswalds and their family; much of the film concentrates on Abraham Zapruder, the man who obtained the now famous film of Kennedy being shot in real time, and this was an eye-opener for much of the public because prior to Stone’s JFK and even after it, most people didn’t know much about this individual and how vital his possession was. Paul Giamatti plays Zapruder with a passionate desperatism that’s really effective here, wondering who he can trust and who he can’t and struggling with the notion that he captured a piece of history that will haunt him and the world for decades to come…perhaps forever.
Everything about Parkland in terms of scope and set was dead on perfect – the costuming, the language, the look of the characters for early 1960s culture. What was a bit off-putting was the way in which the film switches from real footage to staged characterizations of certain actors playing certain parts – the most disturbing of this was the footage featuring the actress playing First Lady Jacqueline, Kat Steffens. While the filmmakers got her costuming perfect – the watermelon pink suit Jackie wore on that day looked like an exact replica – Steffens looked nothing like the real Jacqueline in the up close shots. I couldn’t help but think that what the filmmakers should have done was simply use the shots of the actors from the neck down when showing these key figures like Jacqueline and even Kennedy himself lying on the hospital gurney (the dead Kennedy is portrayed by Brett Stimely but it looks an awful lot like real, actual footage of Kennedy in Parkland Memorial). The “staged” footage of the doctors working on Kennedy after the shooting and all the Secret Service men and military officers in the operating room was effective enough, but when the sequences flashed between those and actual historical imagery it sometimes got a bit jarring.
I’m a bit ahead of myself here – Parkland, as I said named for Parkland Memorial Hospital where Kennedy was taken after he was shot in the head in that fateful plaza, starts off depicting everyone in Dallas getting ready for the president’s arrival, including Secret Service guys, FBI agents and even Mr. Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti) who, with his wife and kids, picks a spot along the motorcade route and begins filming in eight millimeter format. We meet some key players here that were never really fleshed out in Stone’s JFK such as Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thorton), heading the Secret Service detail that day; James Gordon Shanklin (David Harbour); FBI agent James Hosty (Ron Livingston) and a host of doctors that became famous for attempting to revive the president once he arrived at Parkland. This included Dr. Charles James “Jim” Carrico (Zac Efron), Dr. Malcolm O. Perry (Colin Hanks) and nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden). The real footage of Kennedy’s head being blown apart while Jackie attempts to crawl onto the back of the presidential limo is displayed as Zapruder films it, eventually causing him to break down and become hysterical once he realizes what he has captured. As chaos breaks out in Dallas, Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels locates Zapruder and requests his film be given over to the U.S. government so they can see exactly what happened. Once word begins to spread to the media that Zapruder has this film, a wave of frenzied chaos descends upon the man and his wife, with reporters from all over the world demanding interviews, sale of the film and more; watching this, we get a sense that none of us would have wanted to be in Zapruder’s shoes at that time.
Meanwhile, Kennedy is rushed to Parkland Memorial where, to the shock and amazement of the staff there, he’s rolled into a trauma room from the horrific gunshot wound to the brain he suffered. What Parkland opened my eyes to in this regard was the way in which saving the president’s life was so haphazardly handled, perhaps leading to the reasons I feel strongly about a government inside job in this case – from bumbling, inefficient rookie doctors to the lack of immediate attention they seemingly give the president who’s bleeding out like a piece of raw meat on the operating table, the whole mess was a real eye-opener for me. By the time the military liaisons and such arrive, the chaos gets even thicker with way too many people stuffed in that small room while Kennedy’s blood drenches everyone in his immediate vicinity. As a somewhat inexperienced trauma doctor pounds and pounds on the president’s chest in an attempt to revive him and blood is sucked into a massive tube from the wound area, you really get a feel for what must have happened in the hospital that day, with even Jackie standing off in the corner, her now famous pink suit drenched in her husband’s blood.
Finally, a government official calls it and Kennedy is pronounced dead at Parkland; the now famous TV broadcast by Walter Cronkite plays on black and white screens throughout the country as people react to the news. From there, Parkland explores the events that occurred after his shooting amongst his cabinet people, the Secret Service and even what happened with the whole Lee Harvey Oswald fiasco in a way Oliver Stone didn’t in his JFK (or at least in a different way). As Lyndon Johnson is sworn in on Air Force One as the new president, Kennedy’s body is taken from the hospital against local police threats and placed in a coffin and brought aboard the aircraft after Secret Service agents have to rip out several seats of the plane in order to accommodate the coffin (they didn’t want the president to be transported in the belly of Air Force One “as if he was luggage”). The way in which a group of Secret Service agents get together and struggle to carry the coffin, sloppily, up the rampway stairs to Air Force One, nearly dropping it several times, seemed a bit silly to me, and I’m unsure if this is exactly the way it went down in real life – but from there we are exposed to the Lee Harvey Oswald angle in the story and of course the way in which he himself was shot days later by Jack Ruby on live national TV.
Playing Oswald here is Jeremy Strong, who, if you compare to real pictures of Oswald, looks a bit more like him than Gary Oldman did, who portrayed him in JFK; while Oldman’s performance of Oswald was much more exaggerated and dramatic, Strong’s portrayal suggests a calm yet unstable individual that has come completely off the rails for the “love” of his country. We don’t know if Oswald did the shooting or not, or if he had accomplices, but he’s portrayed in a rather frighteningly cool, calm way here as compared to Stone’s approach of the man. We even meet Oswald’s brother Robert Edward Lee (played by James Badge Dale), who becomes a key player in the latter half of the film and a character not explored at all by Stone in JFK; again, I’m not quite sure how big of a role Oswald’s real brother played in the midst of Kennedy’s assassination, but his connection is explored here in a rather big way. Oswald is arrested, of course, for shooting the Dallas police officer and found hiding in the theater blocks away from the crime and immediately booked for killing Kennedy as well – all this is still, all these decades later, shrouded in a cloud of mystery and questionable motive in terms of how the government put Oswald together with Kennedy’s death so quickly. His brother comes to see him at the jail and then we’re introduced, also for the first time in motion picture renditions of this case, to the Oswalds’ mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver) who proves to be just as off-the-wall as her son Lee Harvey. Citing her son’s devotion to the U.S. intelligence community, Marguerite acts like a raving loon in defense of Lee Harvey and what he has been accused of doing to President Kennedy while brother Robert Edward feels shame and sorrow for it all. He realizes what his brother has done, forever, to the Oswald name by supposedly killing the President of the United States, and James Badge Dale plays this emotion with conviction in the film. He’s eventually quasi-threatened by law enforcement who pretty much tell him he needs to pack up and get out of town, never to return, if he knows what’s good for him; of course, the Oswald family now has an entire country looking for their blood.
As four days since the president’s shooting transpire, Oswald is eventually marched out of the Dallas Police Department headquarters through an underground parking exit where he’s shot point blank by one Jack Ruby, supposedly with connections to the Dallas mob. Once again, Parkland Memorial is the hospital of choice for the aftermath of the shooting, and we get a sense of just how creepily ironic this whole mess was, with first Kennedy coming to that seemingly quiet medical facility and now the man who shot him, Oswald. Indeed, doctors don’t appear too keen to save Oswald’s life and while an attempt is made, Oswald is declared deceased just as Kennedy was in that emergency room. The film then explores the parallels between Kennedy’s burial ceremony – which was shared by millions whether in person or on television – and Lee Harvey Oswald’s, as Oswald is brought to a random gravesite by his brother and mother, nobody but some lone enforcement agents and media entities in attendance. We get the distinct feel for just how unliked Lee Harvey Oswald was after all this as brother Robert must ask the assistance of the media reporters snapping pictures to help carry the coffin and load it into the pre-dug hole; while a bit melancholy and exasperating, we still are left to wonder whether Oswald was a set up patsy for the real people behind Kennedy’s assassination or if he played a major role in the planning of it. Much of this is explored in Stone’s film as well, but for the most part it’s always been suggested Lee Harvey Oswald was some kind of pawn, doing the dirty work for the people behind the assassination, whether this was the mob, the government or a rogue element connected to Cuba and Castro.
Parkland was an entertaining film especially from a historical standpoint, and explores the details of the Kennedy assassination in a new light, mainly the days that followed the shooting and the lives it affected. We get a first-hand look at Abraham Zapruder, the man who became famous for shooting the film that documented Kennedy’s head being blown apart, and the struggles he went through with dodging threats, media onslaughts and judgment by the public, and also get a better feel for the men who surrounded Kennedy and his cabinet in addition to seeing a different side of the Oswald angle. Much like the Amityville murders of the 1970s, I don’t think the John F. Kennedy assassination will ever be unraveled in terms of truth in my lifetime; it’s one of those events that meant so much to so many powerful people that there’s just too much at stake should some truth leak out (though at this point in history, you have to ask…would the public be in much of an uproar? I mean, it is 2013…would the truth about what happened to JFK rattle too many people?). Perhaps it’s the notion that the U.S. government would be so cold-hearted as to eliminate the nation’s leader for the sake of what an inside force feels is a “better move” that would frighten and shake us to the core the most; if the current presidency and cabinet is any indication that something like this is possible, well, it is indeed possible…
As for Parkland, it was a refreshing yet sometimes horrific and graphic (just watch those scenes in which they’re working on Kennedy in the emergency room and he looks like a lump of bleeding raw flesh) angle on one of the biggest mysteries in U.S. – and world – history in the midst of the anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Is it a buy? I don’t know; but I can recommend a DVD or Blu-ray rental.
[img]http://cdn.pastemagazine.com/www/articles/Parkland.jpg?1380834852[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Millennium Entertainment – the studio responsible for Olympus Has Fallen in conjunction with Sony Pictures on that release – presents Parkland on standard DVD with a pretty solid letterboxing-less 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While the image was stable and clean for the majority of the quick hour-and-a-half run time, a few major issues reared their ugly heads: The first was some nasty aliasing (jagged edges) on many elements in the transfer throughout, such as the rims of eyeglasses and the brims of hats. This was disappointing as most of the time my OPPO Blu-ray player does a fantastic job upconverting standard DVDs to 1080p without any scaling problems like this, indicating to me this was a problem in the encoding process of the disc. The bottom line is that if aliasing issues and related mastering errors are present in the encode, no player in the world is going to fix them – thus what is there is what you see. There was more than a few moments of aliasing on this disc, and I would go so far to say the whole transfer was pretty much riddled with them on sequences with hard, sharp edges.
There was also a problem with a strange “haloing” effect that appeared on certain characters’ clothing patterns in the film – most notably on the suit jacket worn by Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother character. Whenever this jacket was in a frame, an odd, swirling video noise surrounded the image and became unpleasant to look at; again, this must have been from a mastering error in the production house, but it was blatant and recurring.
Outside of those annoyances, Parkland looked clean and blemish-free for standard DVD, boasting smooth noiseless visuals and appropriate color timing for the time frame on display. The early 1960s looked appropriately coated in a somewhat olive-looking tint in most of the scenes, complemented by the bright white shirts of all the men wearing suits and ties (which everyone did back then, much to the dismay of the idiotic members of the culture we find ourselves living in now when people go to synagogue and church in shorts). Flesh tones appeared accurate without any oversaturation or undersaturation (paleness) and many sequences popped with nice rich contrast bloom.
Still, the aliasing on certain vertical and horizontal line elements and the swirling video noise with its annoying flashing and twitching really threw me off when watching this; if Parkland was a buy, I’d say look for the Blu-ray variant…
[img] http://madisonmovie.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/parkland-paul-giamatti.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
The standard accompanying Dolby Digital 5.1 English track on the Region 1 DVD of Parkland I sampled and reviewed was adequate and appropriate for the material on hand, I suppose, without standing out in any particular way; dialogue was clear and clean through the center channel while most of the track remained focused in the front three channels of the soundstage. Occasional surround bleed took place during crowd roaring sequences (during the real motorcade shots and such) or for environmental fill but the back channels were used sparingly via this mix. Bass was on the shallow-to-nonexistent side, but this didn’t detract from the experience because here, you’re really focused on the story not the special effects; all in all it was a decent, adequate effort in the audio department.
Just don’t go expecting Saving Private Ryan and its Omaha Beach sequence running at full bitrate…
Please – discuss Parkland, whether you’ve seen it or not!