- on Sunday, 14 August 2016 14:40
- by Loron Hays
It’s not often that I get the chance to say that there’s actually a mini-series or television show based on Stephen King’s writing that is actually worth your time. Hulu’s 11.22.63 is one such production that I can recommend. While it is an ongoing production, the release of 11.22.63 on blu-ray this week– especially if you are a fan of the book or the science fiction/horror genre – should be one of your top priorities. It does not suck.
Based on King’s excellent book 11/22/63 and produced by JJ Abrams, the eight-episodes that make up this limited series’ first season are as fantastical as they are fascinating. There’s no souped-up Delorean in this time-travelling show but, thanks to a clear set of rules about what you can and cannot do when attempting to change the past, we don’t need one. The concept of a man entering a closet and ending up in 1960 is enough to satisfy.
While filmed on a tiny budget, the ambitious show is engaging with its what-if premise as one English teacher is sent through a portal to try to stop the assignation of JFK. Starring a toned-down James Franco, this adaptation by Bridget Carpenter (Dead Like Me) is simple and straightforward. It is also a bit unfocused which allows for us to be distracted by the main objective of stopping the assignation and get involved in the new/old world (and it own rules) of America’s past. The show is actually quite moving as the format allows for some characters and connections to grow on us. Turns out that there really is no easy way back – especially when the past doesn’t want to change.
Co-starring Chris Cooper as Jake’s guide into the past (as he owns the diner where the portal is located), George MacKay, Sarah Gadon, and Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald, 11.22.63 is held together by a strong supporting cast. Jake is our lifeline, though. As much as this is a story about changing the past, it is also HIS story and provides enough moments for him to reclaim his own soul after a nasty divorce back in the real world he’s brushed off by embarking on this trek.
This limited series is not going to win any awards on its production values. It’s noticeably cheap and, you know what, that only adds to its overall appeal in my playbook. We aren’t distracted by the lack of engaging visuals but we do notice the starkness. Sure, Hulu is still living in the shadows of another giant in the industry of home entertainment but, come on, they’ve never attempted something this ambitious before so – while some of the shots are noticeably blurry and the sets without spunk – there’s an antiquated charm to it all that never once defies its time period.
The series is violent and often unsettling and, as it is a King adaptation, wildly profane. Hulu doesn’t shy away from the content and much of the occurences in 11.22.63 are quite shocking. You can expect such things when the past – that is, the actual past (which doesn’t want to change or be altered) is the main protagonist. You can’t see it but you know it is there and what it throws in Jake’s path is often raw and bloody and full of carnage.
If anything else, 11.22.63 proves that Franco can be likable. Don’t believe me? Check out the mystery in this fantasy thriller for yourself and get sucked down the rabbit hole. Maybe YOU can solve the mystery and stop JFK’s killer.
MPAA Rating: R for some language.
Runtime: 1 hour episodes (439 mins total)
Writer: Developed for television by Bridget Carpenter
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, George MacKay
Genre: Drama | TV | History
Tagline: When you fight the past, the past fights back.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm gonna tell you something that's going to seem crazy."
Official Site: http://www.hulu.com/112263
Release Date: February 15, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: August 9, 2016
Synopsis: Imagine having the power to change history. Would you journey down the "rabbit hole?" This eight –part event series follows Jake Epping (James Franco), an ordinary high school teacher, presented with the unthinkable mission of traveling back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Jake travels to the past in order to solve the most enduring mystery of the 20th century: who killed JFK, and could it have been stopped? But as Jake will learn, the past does not want to be changed. And trying to divert the course of history may prove fatal.
Available on Blu-ray - August 9, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.00:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (2 BD-50); UV digital copy; Digital copy
Region Encoding: A
Released on blu-ray by Warner Bros., the 1080p presentation is modest at best. There’s not a lot of crackle in the detail and the backgrounds are a bit blurry. Skin tones are warm enough but textures are a bit muted and so are the colors. Black levels are solid but you shouldn’t really expect too much eye-popping of much with this release. The plus is that the period itself is a fun one to explore on blu-ray and, with its soundtrack in DTS-MA 5.1, has some nice and breezy tunes.
There is only one and features interviews with King, Abrams, Carpenter and Franco; all talking about what went into adapting the novel. An Ultra-Violet download code is also provided.
When the Future Fights Back (20 min)