'The Interview' filmmakers get their wish: It's being seen, even by me

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

I was personally offended by the movie I saw on Christmas Eve. It took aim at broadcast journalists who are depicted as either being stuck in ivory towers or idiots.

Nah, not really. I'm not easily offended.

2014JamesFranco1225For my $5.99 at and the twinge of nervousness spending it, I got the gross, irreverent "The Interview," which like other movies by Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg (they directed and are credited with the concept; the screenplay is by Dan Sterling) is designed to get as many laughs as possible out of sex or bodily-function jokes with a maximum of obscenities and pop-culture references (I enjoyed the latter, by the way). As parodies go, the much-ballyhooed plot to assassinate the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and how the country is depicted falls somewhere between a Quentin Tarantino historical fantasy and a bumbling Austin Powers' caper. 

"The Interview" is as much centered on the Rogen-Franco bromance as what a few comedians have to say about North Korea and how our government deals with scary dictators. It's ridiculous, it has some heart; your expectations are likely spot-on. The threats against and digital invasion of Sony by, well, someone, have had the opposite of the intended reaction: They have made "The Interview" a must-see for USA first-amendment patriots, if you believe the Twitter-verse. I would likely have waited for the movie to hit a cable channel if not for my curiosity giving in to all the fuss. "Into the Woods" is more my speed.

There is a high-concept plot -- Rogen plays Aaron, the producer of a popular talk show that has hit its 1,000th episode and seems to be soaring. The host, Dave Skylark, is played by James Franco, a supposedly charismatic talking head who makes lots of goofy faces and is fed questions by Rogen as guests share their secrets. It opens with perhaps my favorite bit: a renowned rapper (playing himself) revealing he is gay on camera. Franco mugs beyond belief (beyond belief being the key here).

At the after party, a "60 Minutes" producer and Aaron's J-school classmate looks down his nose at his talk-show counterpart. He may as well have  "You call that journalism?" tattooed on his forehead. The confrontation sends Aaron into a contemplative mood when suddenly Dave rushes in to say they have been invited to North Korea for the biggest get in talkshowdom. Soon Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) arrives and pops the question: Since you are going to North Korea and have access to its leader, how about you guys kill Kim for us?

All I'll say about the rest of it is that I now have a new word in my vocabulary: honey-potting, a synonym for seducing. I like it, guys, even in the context of:

Aaron: "You are being honey-potted." Dave: "No. Women are smart in 2014." (That's from memory, but you get the idea.)

Geek that I am, I also enjoyed it every time Dave tells Aaron that he's Samwise Gamgee to Dave's Frodo. Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is portrayed as a fan of Skylark's (sitting in for Dennis Rodman?) who is a caring and conniving one minute and psychotic and petulant the next. Although events play out on a grand scale, here he is seen mostly as a threat to the Aaron-Dave bromance. If you've seen the Rogen-Franco just-because "Bound" video, it's more of the same. Interesting that the note on the front end of the YouTube video for "Bound" says they were inspired to make it on the set of "The Interview."

I got on Twitter for a little while during the movie, just to see if anyone was watching before the movie opened in movie theaters today. Of course they were. As I write, at 8 a.m. on Christmas Day, it's the third highest trending topic, behind Merry Xmas and Santa and ahead of Happy Christmas. The tweets were heavily on the thumb's up side, although at the Rotten Tomatoes website, it has a 50 percent rating among critics and 73 percent among the audience. 

I should add that there were many reports and tweets about the site to download "The Interview" being "slow and glitchy." I had no problems at all paying and getting the film immediately.

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Jitters in Shadyside v Central City Jitters in 'The Flash'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

Has anyone seen a red streak in Shadyside? Compare Jitters coffee shops ...

2014JittersFlashShadyside1222Shadyside Jitters/Josh Axelrod

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Pittsburgh's Chris Jamison finishes third on 'The Voice,' but what's the deal with that Craig Wayne Boyd interview?

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

Well, that was super-awkward.

It's not unusual for media types to get tangled up in the post-show interview area at big events. But when WPXI hired Los Angeles -based Stephanie Stanton to get a quote or two from Chris Jamison, a Ross man who'd just finished third on NBC's 'The Voice,' it got more than it bargained for.

jessiejInstead of Jamison, she was approached by coach Blake Shelton and the show's host, Carson Daly. Next came winner Craig Wayne Boyd, who gave her a little hug.

In an understandably good mood, the three men settled in around Stanton for an interview. Clearly taken aback, she let them say a few words before cutting in to say, to the effect, "uh guys, we only really care about the Pittsburgh singer, and look, here's a video of him from last night."

No surprise, when the live cameras returned to the red carpet, the three men had hightailed it out of frame.

Still, it was a big night for Jamison. He sang a couple of numbers, including "Masterpiece," with Jessie J, it was revealed he'd been given a new Nissan automobile, and given the connections he's made through the show, appears to be light years ahead in his career than this time six months ago.

As coach Pharrell Williams noted on Tuesday night's show, "The Voice" is a platform to go out and "conquer the world."


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Winter 2014 Steel City Con: 'Star Trek's' Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell, Henry Winkler, John Wesley Shipp and more

Written by Sharon Eberson on .


Took an early run around the Steel City Con this afternoon, where folks were lined up for well in advance for the anticipated 2 p.m. arrival of celebrity guests such as "Star Trek's" Michael Dorn (Worf) and Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax), Henry "The Fonz" Winkler, Power Ranger Austin St. John, John Wesley Shipp of TV's "The Flash" then and now, stars of "A Christmas Story" ... 

2014SCCStarTrek1205This was the first day, a rainy Friday, and lines were very manageable, but I imagine when the kids are out of school tomorrow, things might get a little crowded around toy collectible tables. Among the fun sights were  an R2-D2 roaming the floor (powered by remote) and later a C-3P0 joined him, and I fell in love with the look on the little girl's face (above) when pictures were being taken.

John Wesley Shipp arrived wearing a "Teen Wolf" TV series hoodie (he played the nasty Mr. Lahey on the series). I asked TV's original Flash -- now the father of Grant Gustin's Flash on the hit CW series -- about the call to rejoin the DC team. He said he heard from DC's Geoff Johns and when asked about making an appearance, the only character he was interested in was Henry Allen, Barry Allen's father.

"They asked to see some current work and I had just done two independent films," he said of as yet unreleased  "The Sector" and "Sensory Perception." "They fired the out to them and they made the offer the next day. I'm having a blast. Andrew Kriesberg [exec producer of The CW's 'The Flash' and 'Arrow'] and those guys were all fans of the first effort and he was an assistant on the backlot of Warner Bros. when I was doing 'The Flash' so we'd already met. He said, 'When we were doing 'Flash' I totally fan-boyed out on you.' This is my boss! 'I said, 'Was I nice?' I must have been."

When I asked him if I could take a picture of him with the Steel City Con sign, he asked if I had flash on may cell phone because of the bad lighting -- to which my son said, "He asked if you had flash?" And I hadn't realized it until that moment. I didn't think The Flash, Sr., did either.

The CW, by the way, was at Steel City Con with a separate booth that you had a "spin the wheel" component to win a prize. I won a Flash T-shirt.

I said, "Hi," to Henry Winkler, very gracious, but he had a long line waiting for him when he arrived so my son Josh told him how much he enjoyed him on "Parks & Rec" and "Arrested Development" and we took off. 

At an signing table beside Winkler sat Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell. A fan gave him a picture taken 25 years ago that he is showing his former co-star in the picture at right.

Oh, and we did some shopping, of course. Steel City Con is a toys and collectibles show after all. If there's a geek on your Christmas gift who loves "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" or comic books or vintage toys, you'll find plenty to look at here, plus work by current illustrators such as Chris Yamber

While I was perusing a booth that sold replica weapons and accessories of sci-fi shows (a "Farscape" pulse pistol, for example), I ran into Tom Savini, our own local special effects make-up expert. 

"Are you checking out how well this stuff is made?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I'm shopping."

The Steel City Con runs through Sunday at the Monroeville Convention Center. 

Follow me on Twitter: SEberson_pg.


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The curious incident of theater with a side of shopping in NYC

Written by Sharon Eberson on .



I spent four days in New York last week seeing four shows during arguable one of the biggest weeks in Pittsburgh theater, so I have a ton of catching up to do, including "Smart Blonde" at City Theatre tonight, with the Public's "L'Hotel" and barebones' "Streetcar" still to come.

My colleague Maria Sciullo and my son Josh Axelrod spread out our viewing a bit, so here are just a few of the impressions of the week before Thanksgiving in New York.


2014SideShowMarqueeMaria and I opened with with the hauntingly beautiful revival of "Side Show," a retooled version of the original that had a relatively short first run in 1997-98. Reviews have been justifiably positive for this story of the real-life conjoined twins and vaudeville stars Daisy and Violet Hilton, but ticket sales slipped this past week, possibly as holiday tourism ratcheted up the family-friendly shows.

While we were at "Side Show" on Nov. 20, Josh and a friend took in "Cabaret" with Emma Stone making her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles. Here's what he had to say about the movie star onstage with Alan Cumming in his reprise of his career-defining role as the emcee.

On a New York trip that was to include four plays and a Jimmy Fallon taping, I knew going in that the highlight would be seeing "Cabaret" at Studio 54.

It wasn't because of the musical itself or the glowing reviews surrounding this revival. It was because Emma Stone was playing the promiscuous role of Sally Bowles. The prospect of seeing Stone clad in Kit Kat Klub-appropriate attire was exciting enough, but I also wanted to see if she could sing as well as she can act. My verdict: There seems to be nothing she can't do.

Anyone who has seen "Birdman" knows that Ms. Stone is more than just a comedienne now. She's a versatile actress who may be nominated for an Oscar this year for her supporting role as Michael Keaton's addict daughter. We all know she can be bring the comedy in broad fare like "Easy A" and "Superbad" or the emotional chemistry as Gwen Stacy in the "Spider-Man" movies. But the lady also happens to have a serious set of pipes.

She doesn't bring the roof down like I'm sure Liza Minnelli did in her time as Sally Bowles, but she destroyed "Cabaret," which required her to show her emotional range while also belting out the musical's showstopper. When she wasn't singing, she was as sultry as Nicole Kidman in "Moulin Rouge." It's no wonder Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Heck) fell in love with her so easily.

Okay, enough gushing about Emma Stone. She lived up to expectations beautifully, but the rest of the show was just as riveting. I didn't know that much about the music or story of "Cabaret," but it's a fascinating show. It reminded me of "Pippin" in its structure, with an Emcee (Alan Cumming) holding the show together while the characters struggle to maintain normalcy during the rise of the Nazis in Berlin. It's funny, sexy and incredibly dark at times.

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