Locally Filmed ‘Fences’ in Area Movie Houses; Bryan Cranston and James Franco Star in ‘Why Him?’ (Christmas Day 12/25/16)

1) The new movie Fences is here, and those who catch it for a holiday treat will see history made on two counts. Fences is—somewhat incredibly—the first August Wilson play to be adapted for the big screen. (His play The Piano Lesson was made into a 1995 TV special.) And, as one of the entries in Wilson’s famous “Pittsburgh Cycle”—a cavalcade of fictional sagas spanning the entire 20th century— Fences depicts a slice of life from the history of the city. The action unfolds in the Hill District during the 1950s. Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson, a former Negro Leagues baseball star who didn’t get a shot at the major leagues since his prime years came before the color line was broken. Maxson currently drives a garbage truck but remains the star of his own realm: a high-wired, dominating character who both fascinates and torments the people he loves. Viola Davis plays his wife Rose. Fences, like all Wilson stories, mixes outrageous humor with insidious personal drama. On stage it won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play. The movie comes to bat just in time for Oscar consideration. For screens and times check Fandango. (MV)

2) In his memoir, A Life in Parts, Bryan Cranston writes that after “Malcolm in the Middle” signed off, he received offers for two comedy pilots. Both parts “were for goofy dads,” similar to his role as Hal on “Malcolm.” Too soon, he thought. Better something else, something different, something like … Walter White on “Breaking Bad.” The acclaimed drama series ended in 2013, and with “Malcolm” long in the rear view, it appears enough time has passed for Cranston to play the goofy dad again—sort of. As Ned in the 20th Century Fox romantic comedy Why Him?, Cranston is a little more reserved than Hal. It’s James Franco as Laird, a Silicon Valley billionaire with no filter, who’s bringing the real goofy. Laird is dating Ned’s daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). When Laird asks Ned for Stephanie’s hand in marriage, Ned refuses. Laird is undeterred and promises, after a few days of winning Ned over, Ned will be calling Laird “son” by Christmas morning. John Hamburg (I Love You, Man), who directs, co-wrote the screenplay with actor Ian Helfer. For screens and times check Fandango. (CM)

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Rick Handler

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