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Peter Landesman
Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Ron Livingston, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden
Writing Credits:
Peter Landesman

A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas' Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/5/2013

• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Landesman
• Six Deleted Scenes
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Parkland (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2016)

Oliver Stone’s 1991 epic JFK remains easily the best-known feature film to look at the assassination of President John Kennedy, though the mini-series 11/22/63 may give it a minor run for its money. While JFK firmly endorsed the notion that the president died as part of a conspiracy, 2013’s Parkland goes in the other direction.

After a brief prologue, Parkland shows JFK’s assassination, and the rest of the movie follows the aftermath of this event through the subsequent four days. We see local businessman Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) as he films the murder and then works with others such as Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) to deal with the film.

We also spend a lot of time at Parkland Hospital, the location where Kennedy goes after the shooting. We meet physicians such as Dr. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and Dr. Malcolm Perry (Colin Hanks) as they work on the president, and we see conflicts that emerge between medical officials and Kennedy’s staff. We also view Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline (Kat Steffens) as she deals with events.

Finally, we observe the investigation into the murder and the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). This includes time spent with Oswald’s brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver). We also meet James Hosty (Ron Livingston), the FBI agent who knew of Lee Oswald before the assassination.

Woof, that’s a lot of threads for one feature film – especially one that runs a mere 94 minutes. Parkland can’t hope to detail all of them, and it barely tries.

Parkland takes its material from Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi’s massive 1600-plus-page examination of the assassination and conspiracy theories. Parkland completely avoids the latter subject, as it concentrates solely on the actions of that tragic weekend in Dallas.

The film takes its inspiration/material from the first few hundred pages of Reclaiming History, as Bugliosi used that space to detail the four days from JFK’s assassination on Friday through his burial on Monday. Bugliosi’s portrayal of events proved so effective that this section of Reclaiming History received an individual release under the title Four Days in November.

That makes sense, as Reclaiming History would be unfilmable. It devotes a great deal of space to biographies of Lee Oswald and his murderer Jack Ruby as well as evidence of Oswald’s guilt and all the conspiracy theories that have cropped up over the last 50 years.

This means those behind Parkland made the right choice when they opted to focus solely on those “four days in November”, but they went the wrong way when they decided to turn it into a feature film. If I recall correctly, Bugliosi’s book originally was supposed to form a mini-series, and that would’ve been a lot more logical, as the movie tries to pack in way more than it can handle.

Had Parkland focused on a single aspect of the weekend with one or two main characters, perhaps it would’ve been more satisfying. That form would’ve allowed for more detail.

As it stands, however, the movie rushes through so many characters that it all becomes a blur. We get virtually zero depth, as we visit each situation/personality for a moment or two and then zip to the next one. It becomes a dizzying parade that leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

I recently re-read Reclaiming History, so the subject matter remains fresh in my mind. I think that allowed me to fill in material left out of Parkland - and even then, the film seemed superficial. I can’t imagine how confusing and disjointed it would be for anyone new to the subject.

Parkland also seems oddly bloodless and unemotional. The weekend depicted was a crazy one, but we don’t get much sense of that. Again, this comes back to its rushed narrative – because the movie fails to elaborate on anything, we’re left without the substance necessary to elicit any kind of connection or response.

I respect the film’s desire to focus on facts and not go off into conspiracy theory La-La Land, but Parkland remains a boring movie. It feels too much like a 94-minute trailer and not enough like an actual narrative project. As insane as its content may be, at least JFK entertains - Parkland turns into a superficial snoozer.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Parkland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a good visual presentation, though stylistic choices impacted the image.

Due to the filmmaking techniques, sharpness lacked consistency. The movie used a faux documentary style, so focus occasionally came on the fly. That side of things affected definition, but those weren’t the only shots that failed to deliver great delineation.

Most of the film appeared accurate, but occasional elements came across as somewhat soft. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. The movie featured stylized grain, but I saw no “unintentional” print flaws.

The film opted for a fairly blue/teal orientation, with some orange on occasion as well. This was a bland choice, but within those constraints, the disc exhibited good color reproduction. Blacks tended to be dark and tight, but shadows were somewhat heavy. Overall, the transfer suited the film reasonably well.

More consistency came from the film’s Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundrack, though the mix didn’t come with great ambition. For the most part, the audio focused on music – which used all five channels – as well as general ambience. Some more dynamic moments came to life well, such as the echo of the gunshots or the panic afterwards – but for the most part, this remained a fairly restricted soundscape.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was natural and concise, while music sounded rich and full. Effects offered good clarity and accuracy, and the whole mix boasted strong low-end response. The track suited the movie well.

A few extras fill out the disc. An audio commentary with director Peter Landesman. He offers a running, screen-specific look at his approach to the project, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, camerawork, production design, and related topics.

Overall, I think Landesman offers a pretty good chat. He touches on a mix of useful domains – and makes it clear he thinks conspiracy theories are nonsense. Landesman mostly focuses on moviemaking issues, though, and he does so in a satisfying manner.

Six Deleted Scenes run a total of six minutes, 29 seconds. These show Oswald with Agent Hosty as well as a little more about various other characters. Some mildly interesting moments emerge but nothing especially valuable appears here.

The disc opens with ads for The Iceman, 1, As I Lay Dying, Plush and Killing Season. We also find the trailer for Parkland.

At its heart, Parkland goes over a fascinating tale. However, it does so in such a rushed, superficial way that it fails to provide a satisfying exploration. The Blu-ray comes with generally good picture and audio as well as an informative commentary. If the subject interests you, read Vincent Bugliosi’s Four Days in November and skip this over-reaching movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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