At the beginning of Christmas week, controversial comedy “The Interview” looked like a film doomed to obscurity, after threats made by the anonymous hackers behind the increasingly embarrassing Sony leaks.
But on Thursday night, following similar moves by independent cinemas across the United States, the Arlington Theatre screened a special 10:45 p.m. showing of the film, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen.
In choosing the right kind of actor to play Richard Kuklinski, the notorious hitman of the ’60s and ’70s known as “The Iceman,” the producers couldn’t picked a better man than Michael Shannon. Long though his resume is, it’s only recently that Mr. Shannon has received the kind of attention he deserves, from his stirring lead in “Take Shelter” to his turn on Boardwalk Empire.
Ten years ago the role might have gone to Ray Liotta, who turns up here as Roy Demeo, a mob middleman who threatens Kuklinski in the face with a gun, then hires him on the spot because of his unflinching “iceman” qualities. Demeo has hired well, and he doesn’t really know it. We know that Kuklinski is the sort of man who will kill another man over a pool game. He’ll kill because he is told and paid to do so; he doesn’t enjoy it so much as he respects his own skills.
What a spectacular creation is Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s docu-drama “Howl,” and what a gorgeous mess. That’s quite befitting for the classic Whitman-esque sprawl of a poem, delivered first to a group of eager beatniks in a smoky coffeehouse one night in 1955. This electric evening is brought to life by an amazing performance by James Franco, who portrays author Allen Ginsberg.
Franco has played interesting characters in “Milk,” “Spider-Man 3” and “Pineapple Express,” but his Ginsberg is something else entirely, a creation from the inside out. He portrays the poet at several stages of his artistic genesis, most notably in conversation with an unseen interviewer during the obscenity trial at which the poem “Howl” and City Lights owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti were the center.