Movie Review ~ The Disaster Artist


The Facts
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Synopsis: When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

Stars: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Kate Upton, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Andrew Santino, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone

Director: James Franco

Rated: R

Running Length: 104 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  There’s a classic movie theater in my town that used to show the best Midnight Movies.  Before they went digital, they often featured classic movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s in all their celluloid glory.  It was at this theater I saw a print of Adventures in Babysitting, Friday the 13th, The Breakfast Club, and introduced several horrified friends to Showgirls.  Then the financial realities of shipping film stock and the public need for crystal clear projections led the theater to remodel and slowly eliminate these wonderfully nostalgic screenings.  While The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Serenity remained bewildering stalwarts on the roster, another movie started to be featured that I’d never heard of and didn’t have any interest in seeing.  This movie was The Room.

Released in 2003 and now regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, I didn’t experience The Room until about a month ago at a screening organized in anticipation of the release of The Disaster Artist.  If you’ve never seen the movie, I highly encourage you to take it in at a theater with an audience of like-minded adults.  The crowd I saw it with were experienced in the jaw-dropping insanity of writer/director Tommy Wiseau’s crazy drama and their reactions pushed the overall viewing of the movie into one of my favorite nights in a theater of 2017.  Yes, the movie is terrible but it’s so joyful in its awfulness that its impossible not to be hypnotized by it.  I can’t imagine watching it at home with friends or, worse, alone.  It’s meant to be seen in the theater.

Working with a script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, adapted from a book written by The Room’s original co-star Greg Sestero (played here by Dave Franco, Now You See Me), director James Franco has turned in a loony albeit quite entertaining film that feels like his most sophisticated exercise to date.  Franco (Sausage Party) not only excels behind the scenes, but it’s been years since he’s been as good in front of the camera as he is playing Wiseu, nailing the mysterious man’s personal tics and hard to place accent.

Charting the development of the film from Sestero’s point of view through its troubled creation to opening night, James Franco has surrounded himself with some of the best and brightest up and coming stars of today as well as featuring cameos from a treasure trove of Hollywood royalty.  One minute Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman) is turning up in a brief role as a hysterically memorable character from The Room and then Sharon Stone (Lovelace) appears as Sestero’s man-eating agent.  Keep your eyes out for Melanie Griffith and Bryan Cranston, too!  It’s so chock full of famous faces I’ll likely need to see it a second time to catch everyone that floats by onscreen.

This is a film aimed squarely at fans of The Room so better do your homework before trekking to the theater to see it.  Scenes, performances, and situations are painstakingly recreated as evidenced in the credits which put the original film and this tribute side by side to show how close Franco got to shot for shot perfection.  Going in with no working knowledge of the film that inspired it will likely cause most of the jokes to go whizzing past, robbing you of the plethora of fun to be had.  Some theaters are doing a double-feature and I’d suggest seeking those out and making a crazy night of it!

I don’t think anyone that heard Franco was making The Disaster Artist ever could have predicted it would come off so well, much less be in the running for several major Oscar nominations in mid-January.  When you think about it, though, making a film about the making of the world’s worst movie is something that seems right up Franco’s alley.  The eccentric actor seems like he’d be a kindred spirit of Wiseau and Franco never seems to shy away from challenging material…the more meta the betta, er, better.

Movie Review ~ The Other Woman

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The Facts:

Synopsis: After discovering her boyfriend is married, Carly soon meets the wife he’s been cheating on. And when yet another affair is discovered, all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on the three-timing SOB.

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Kate Upton, Taylor Kinney, Nicki Minaj

Director: Nick Cassavetes

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 109 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: In my review of the trailer for The Other Woman, I remarked that I felt the movie looked “like a mash-up of Outrageous Fortune and The First Wives Club” and that wasn’t too far off the mark. Actually, I’d add a few other girl power movies to that stew as well…titles like 9 to 5 and The Witches of Eastwick popped into my mind occasionally as this pretty flimsy but modestly entertaining film breezed by.

Probably destined to be added to the selections to consider at a Friday night martini slumber party for best girlfriends, The Other Woman brings nothing new to the landscape of female driven comedies. This is thanks in no small part to a hackneyed script from first timer Melissa K. Stack and slack direction from Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook). Both screenwriter and director let the film get away from them, with jokes that go on to long and a bizarre final dénouement that feels too heavy to rest of the shoulders of what had up until that point been a feather light revenge comedy.

What keeps the film afloat is a performance from Cameron Diaz that finds the actress at her most fresh, focused, and funny. Diaz is an actress that I have a love-hate relationship with…her film roles have always frustratingly reflected an actress that doesn’t want to be pigeonholed (The Counselor, What to Expect When You’re Expecting), but her talent clearly lies in comedy and her new film reflects a return to form that I welcomed with open arms. Decked out in svelte clothes that show off her just-past 40 bod and residing in the kind of glam NYC apartment that seems appropriate for a high powered attorney, Diaz brings her A game to what is a B- picture.

Second billed Leslie Mann (Rio, Rio 2) had something to prove to me: could she thrive in a film not directed by her husband (Judd Apatow…responsible for directing Mann in the heinous This is 40) and for the most part Mann keeps things on the up and up. I was worried at first that her voice was going to grate my eardrums like a block of cheese (it’s actually the awful Nicki Minaj, barely in the movie as Diaz’s annoying assistant that will make your ears bleed) but thankfully a brief adjustment period brought forth a ribald side to Mann that shows she can be ballsy without being Apatow-like crude. Even so, every now and then when a comedic bit would go on too long I couldn’t help but wonder if Apatow was on set that day.

Mann and Diaz are the wife and mistress of a businessman (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mama, Headhunters) that discover each other by accident. Unable to confront her husband or talk to any of their mutual friends about the infidelity, she turns to Diaz for a toned shoulder to cry on. Initially hesitant to buddy up with the wife of her flame, Diaz is soon won over by milquetoast Mann and in short order the ladies raid Diaz’s closet, braid each other’s hair, have at least two drunk scenes, and then find out hubby is cheating on both of them with a Hamptons beach bunny, played by the buxom swimsuit model Kate Upton that’s been blessed with a fine figure yet not one scintilla of acting promise. Somehow, the three jiltees team up to take down Mr. Cheater but by then the movie is half over and there’s barely time to throw in some last minute shenanigans about embezzlement, an afterthought of a romance for Diaz (the genial Taylor Kinney), and an extended trip to the Bahamas which seemed like an expensive excuse for Diaz, Mann, and Upton to work on their tans.

Then there’s that ending. Comeuppance is always the payoff in these films yet what Stack worked up and how Cassavetes filmed it makes it feel like it came from a different, darker film. It doesn’t help matters that Coster-Waldau plays these final moments like he’s auditioning for a Scorsese film and overall isn’t very good as the philandering husband, never finding the balance between charm and smarm.

With several continuity errors, equipment visible (I saw Diaz’s wireless mic pack twice), and messy overdubbing to remove swear words that would have brought the film to an R rating, the film feels a little choppy though it does manage to find some smooth waters for Diaz and Mann to sail in. There are certain movie theaters that let you bring drinks to your seat with you and The Other Woman is one where a daiquiri, martini, or Long Island ice tea would enhance the experience quite nicely. Not terrible, not great…it’s sophisticated and funny enough to get a slight recommendation from me.

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The Silver Bullet ~ The Other Woman

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Synopsis: After realizing she is not her boyfriend’s primary lover, a woman teams up with his wife and plots mutual revenge.

Release Date: April 25, 2014

Thoughts: I blame only myself…just a few days ago I was talking with a friend and commenting how thankful I was that overrated rapper Nicki Minaj had yet to make the leap from video star to movie star.  Then I catch Minaj in the trailer for The Other Woman and realize that I probably cosmically jinxed myself.  It looks as though Minaj plays a supporting role in the revenge comedy, leaving the heavy lifting to Cameron Diaz (The Counselor, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) and Leslie Mann (This is 40).  Coming off like a mash-up of Outrageous Fortune and The First Wives Club, The Other Woman doesn’t appear to be more than a standard “girls rule, boys drool” kinda affair and though I find Diaz and Mann and costar Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Headhunters, Mama) to be intermittently enjoyable this isn’t one I’d put high on my list.