‘Succession,’Sorkin and survival

It’s entertaining enough and may play better on the small screen than at the movies.

Silver television remote control being pressed by thumb with out of focus screen background (Illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Silver television remote control being pressed by thumb with out of focus screen background (Illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Rupert Murdoch and his children, as well as the Trumps, may have been on the minds of the creators of Succession, a new HBO drama that’s running on Mondays on HOT HBO at 9 p.m. and on HOT VOD, and on YES Oh on Mondays at 5 a.m. and 10:50 p.m.
The show, which is a cross between Billions and Dynasty, stars Brian Cox as Logan Roy, the patriarch who runs a media empire and referees among his feuding offspring, who are wary now that he is almost 80 and has been behaving erratically. Cox is always entertaining, and there is some good dialogue in the show, although it’s hard at times to really care which of his scheming children is ascendant. The plot is at times less interesting than the real-life skirmishes of the Murdochs, and the characters are certainly more reserved than the Trumps. Israeli actress Hiam Abbass plays Roy’s mysterious third wife, Marcia.
Do you sometimes find yourself pining for the days of the Jed Bartlet White House, in other words, wishing Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, with its witty, rapid-fire dialogue, were still on the air? After the short-lived series The Newsroom, Sorkin has moved on to the big screen, and his latest film, Molly’s Game, his first as director, is currently available on YES VOD.
It’s based on the real-life story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), who opened a high-stakes poker empire when she was in her twenties, after she failed to make the US Olympic ski team. Eventually, she got busted – this is no spoiler; it happens right at the beginning – and much of the movie plays out as she tries to explain to her attorney (Idris Elba, who played Stringer Bell on The Wire) what went wrong and why she would rather go to prison and go bankrupt than pen a tell-all or give prosecutors the names of her players.
It’s entertaining enough and may play better on the small screen than at the movies, but in spite of its cleverness, it is never truly compelling, even though Chastain looks great in her minidresses and the supporting cast features Chris O’Dowd, Michael Cera and Justin Kirk.
Maybe it’s because watching people play poker is not all that cinematic, or because Sorkin tries to transform this real-life character into his ideal heroine, one who has the same daddy issues that plague virtually all of his protagonists.
Her actual daddy, a psychology professor, is played by Kevin Costner, not the first name that would come to mind when casting a Jewish shrink, but if you can put that notion out of your mind, he’s fine in the role.
At one point, he says he will give her “three years of therapy in three minutes,” and then, after he manages that feat, he adds the classic Sorkin line, “It’s funny how much faster you can go when you’re not charging by the hour.” Another movie that may be easier viewing on the small screen – but for very different reasons – is Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which will begin screening on HOT VOD and YES VOD on June 21.
This drama is based on the memoir of Israeli backpacker Yossi Ghinsberg – who is now a popular motivational speaker – about his experience getting lost while hiking in the Bolivian jungle. After a few days, he got separated from all his companions and survived on his own for weeks, until he was rescued by a party led by Kevin Gale, the only other survivor among the group.
The scenes of Ghinsberg on his own in the jungle are extremely harrowing, and may be a bit less relentless on TV. It’s a gripping story, and Radcliffe holds his own as an Israeli. The film has an international cast and crew, but Ghinsberg credits Israeli producer Dana Lustig for her persistence in bringing