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Presidential Power Play

Woody Harrelson channels Johnson in 'LBJ'

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If today's political landscape isn't divisive enough for you, director Rob Reiner invites you to revisit the turbulence and grief inherited by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in the wake of JFK's 1963 assassination.

"LBJ," opening Friday, stars Woody Harrelson as the strapping Texan who stepped up when thrust into the presidency to help heal a racially divided country and pass landmark legislation, including the Civil Rights Act, only to be dragged down by the Vietnam War.

"Harrelson is consistently entertaining," says the Hollywood Reporter. "He and Reiner push non-P.C. freedom of speech a lot farther than 'All the Way,'" the LBJ biopic starring Bryan Cranston that aired last year on HBO.

The political drama is earning especially strong reviews for its all-star cast, including Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Jenkins as segregationist Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, and Bill Pullman as Sen. Ralph Yarborough of Texas, the only Southerner in the Senate to vote for every civil rights bill from 1957 to 1970.

Reiner "emphasizes Johnson's pathos as a brilliant power player who felt unloved by the electorate," notes the New Yorker, though "the film's portrait of conscience and courage is drawn with a very broad brush."

Photo: Castle Rock Entertainment

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