Film Review: The Disaster Artist (2017)

Release Date: March 12th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: James Franco
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero, Tom Bissell
Music by: Dave Porter
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, Megan Mullally, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Judd Apatow, Zach Braff, J. J. Abrams, Lizzy Caplan, Kristen Bell, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Scott, Danny McBride, Kate Upton, Kevin Smith, Ike Barinholtz

New Line Cinema, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Good Universe, Point Grey Pictures, Rabbit Bandini Productions, Ramona Films, A24, 103 Minutes

Review:

“No, no! Very necessary. I need to show my ass to sell this picture.” – Tommy Wiseau

This was one of the most anticipated film sf 2017. It wasn’t just anticipated by me, though. Anyone who had seen Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult classic The Room was probably in line on opening night. Plus, it was directed by and stars James Franco, a guy with a deep personal connection to Wiseau who probably still doesn’t get enough credit for his talents.

The film also stars little brother, Dave Franco, as Greg Sestero, Tommy’s best friend and the author of the book this is based on, also titled The Disaster Artist. The book is a pretty exceptional look into The Room and into Wiseau’s life and if you haven’t read it yet, you should. Because even though I did like this film, the book has so much more that Franco couldn’t fit into a two hour movie.

In fact, there are a lot of things in the book that I wish had made it into the movie but I understand why time wouldn’t permit it. I really would have liked to have seen Sestero’s experience working on a Puppet Master film or all the stuff in the book surrounding The Talented Mr. Ripley and how Mark in The Room was named after Matt Damon but Wiseau mistakenly called him “Mark”. But the fact that we got the James Dean bits, was pretty cool.

Both Franco brothers did a great job of bringing Wiseau and Sestero to life. While James will get most of the acting props in this film for his portrayal of Wiseau and how he mastered his accent and mannerisms, I want to be the one person to actually put the focus on Dave. You see, Dave was the actual glue that held this picture together and made it work. He is the real eyes and ears of the audience and we really take this journey with him, as we did in the book. Dave Franco put in a better performance here than he has in his entire acting career. That isn’t a knock against his other work, it’s just great to see him evolve as an actor and display that he has the skills his older brother does. Hopefully, this leads to bigger and better things for the younger Franco and I assume it will.

This film is littered with a ton of celebrity cameos. Bryan Cranston even plays himself back when he was still working on Malcolm In the Middle, before his big breakout on Breaking Bad. The one cameo I loved and had actually hoped to see more of, as the character was more prominent in the book, was Sharon Stone’s portrayal of Iris Burton, Sestero’s agent. I also loved Megan Mullally as Sestero’s mother but who doesn’t love Mullally in everything?

You also get a lot of other celeb cameos, as they introduce the movie. Having known about it and having read the book, I didn’t need the intro but it serves to educate people going into this film blindly and it was still nice hearing some famous people talk about their love of The Room and its significance.

The Disaster Artist serves the story of the book well and the film was a delight. It didn’t surprise me in any way and it was pretty much exactly the film I anticipated. That’s neither good or bad, as Hollywood biopics are usually very straightforward.

Even though there weren’t surprises in the film, this is a fantastic story, that at its core, is about a man not giving up on his dream and forging his own path against those that held him back and told him “no”. The real story behind it all, is that Wiseau’s tale is an underdog tale and it’s a true story, not a Hollywood fabrication. Wiseau did something incredible and although the reception he got might not have been what he initially wanted, he did rise above all the adversity and became a star in an arena where he wasn’t welcome.

The lasting power of The Room isn’t just about how incredibly bad it is, it is that once people know its story, it is hard not to feel an intimate connection to Tommy Wiseau, a guy that should serve as an inspiration in spite of his bizarre personality and tactics.

TV Review: The Punisher (2017- )

Original Run: November 17th, 2017 – current
Created by: Steve Lightfoot
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Punisher by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., Ross Andru
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Michael Nathanson, Daniel Webber, Jaime Ray Newman, Deborah Ann Woll, C. Thomas Howell, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Clancy Brown, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

ABC Studios, Marvel, Bohemian Risk Productions, Netflix, 13 Episodes (so far), 49-58 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This was the first of Marvel’s television series for Netflix that just didn’t resonate with me. Luke Cage wasn’t on the level of Daredevil or Jessica JonesIron Fist was a big step down and The Defenders was a pretty huge disappointment. Plus, Daredevil season two was nowhere near as good as season one. The Punisher, however, is the worst of the bunch.

The problem, is that I anticipated the Punisher doing what he is most known for, shooting the shit out of everyone and everything. The bigger the guns, the better.

Instead, we get a Punisher that just talks and talks and talks and talks and occasionally finds himself in a firefight. We also have to wait like ten episodes to see him wear the iconic skull logo again. Most of the time, he’s a depressed and brooding, angry brute trying to woo the wife of his partner.

Jigsaw is in this, which I was excited about, but I shouldn’t have been. I mean, he’s in just about every episode but he’s Jigsaw before Jigsaw and his origin isn’t even close to what its supposed to be. In The Punisher, we get Ben Barnes looking all pretty and shit. The show should have followed suit with the Punisher: War Zone movie, which featured Jigsaw and did a fine job with the character, even if they botched his real name.

The first season of this is also capped off with a shootout on a carousel. Wasn’t there a carousel scene with the Punisher in Daredevil already? Also, Bernthal had a massive shootout with the mob in Mob City. If you’ve seen that show, which luckily for Netflix, no one else really has, then this feels like familiar territory. Why wasn’t Bernthal on set going, “Guys, I’ve already done this scene before and it was a lot better!”… why?

The only thing I really liked about the show was Ebon Moss-Bachrach, who played Microchip. He was, by far, the best actor in this thing and his work made his character more interesting than it otherwise would have been. In fact, he was more interesting than the Punisher, who just mumbled and grunted through thirteen boring episodes.

I’ll watch the eventual second season but only if Marvel’s Netflix stuff starts getting back to basics and getting as good as it was in the beginning. Besides, I’m pretty close to cancelling Netflix anyway, as the shows I like are ending or falling off, other content is dwindling away and their price keeps getting higher.

Film Review: T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2017 (Edinburgh premiere)
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: John Hodge
Based on: Porno and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Music by: various
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Anjela Nedyalkova, Kelly Macdonald, Shirley Henderson

Film4, Creative Scotland, Cloud Eight Films, DNA Films, Decibel Films, TriStar Pictures, 117 Minutes

Review:

“Nostalgia! That’s why you’re here. You’re a tourist in your own youth. Just ’cause you had a near-death experience and now you’re feeling all fuzzy and warm. What other moments will you be revisiting?” – Simon

It is hard to come back and make a sequel to anything twenty years later but Danny Boyle did just that. He had talked about a Trainspotting sequel almost as long as it has been since the first one in 1996. Originally, he talked about it picking up with these characters nine years later. Well, it actually took just over twenty before we got to see where these guys ended up.

T2 Trainspotting is a much more sober picture than its predecessor but it still matches that original film in style and tone. Granted, it is hard to match the level of darkness that the first film had and really, these characters aren’t in that same sort of chemically induced rut. They still have problems but they’re different problems, even if their old lifestyle still hovers over their heads like a black cloud, always ready to rain down and remind them of where they’ve been and the pain they shared.

The story catches up with Renton and his return to Edinburgh, two decades after he pulled a heist with his friends and double crossed them, taking the money for himself. He has no choice but to return home and in the process, has to try and repair the damage he did. He tries to help Spud and goes into business with Sick Boy, who now just uses his real name: Simon. The real x-factor is Begbie, who may be even more insane than he was twenty years earlier, before spending years in prison.

There are a lot of twists and turns with this film and I might almost call it a neo-noir. There is crime, betrayal and a sort of femme fatale in the mix. Plus, it deals with some pretty dark subject matter and has a pretty impressive visual style.

I like this on the same level that I like the first film but I like them for very different reasons, because even though they deal with he same people, the same place and the same sort of scheming, they are both very different pictures. Danny Boyle did a superb job in resurrecting this world and giving it new life that wasn’t just derivative of the first. Like life, it showed how people evolve and change but are ultimately who they are at their core.

Also, like the first, the film is propelled by the pop music selections of the director. There isn’t a traditional score but there is a real energy running through the film due to the great music Boyle has sewn together from scene to scene.

I don’t think that all Trainspotting fans will enjoy the sequel, as much as I did. It really depends on what you’re looking for in it. But for me, I’m someone that isn’t too far off from the age of these characters. I understand the place they were in twenty years ago and I see how I have evolved in that time and how these characters can and should be different than who they were in their youth.

This film brings Boyle’s original picture full circle and it does leave you with hope for most of these characters. Also, after this second chapter, you feel much more connected and emotionally invested in Renton, Simon and Spud.

Film Review: Gremlins Recall (2017)

Release Date: December 5th, 2017
Directed by: Ryan Patrick
Written by: Ryan Patrick
Based on: the Gremlins films series by Chris Columbus
Music by: Russ Howard, Grand Soleil
Cast: Katherine Rodriguez, Randy Irwin, Sarah Lilly, Robert Wood

10 Minutes

Review:

I don’t often times talk about fan films here. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed one, actually. However, I like to give recognition to fan films that are really well done. And this one is pretty friggin’ cool. Mainly, because I love the Gremlins films and we haven’t had one in nearly three decades.

This little ten minute short was written and directed by a guy named Ryan Patrick, who did a superb job with this and really captured the tone of holiday dread like the original film did.

The story picks up thirty or so years after the events of the original 1984 film and sees Mogwai being sold as domesticated pets. How is that safe? Well, Mogwai need to be given an injection that keeps them from having the negative effects that turn them into terrors. With the injection, the rules for owning a Mogwai no longer apply. However, there is obviously a curveball waiting to be thrown.

The film is well shot, decently acted and the Mogwai and Gremlin puppets are really well constructed. They were made by Eric Fox, who was, at one point, a competitor on the special effects Syfy reality show Face Off. The film was also shot in just three days and all of it takes place at a diner, which works well for this just being a ten minute picture. But, it does leave things open for a sequel.

And like the original film, this takes place around Christmas, which was a nice added bonus. I have also always loved Gremlins 2: The New Batch but I wished that it took place around the holidays like its predecessor.

For a fan film, this is stupendously done. Kudos to Patrick, Fox and everyone else that put this together.

Film Review: Life (2017)

Release Date: March 18th, 2017 (SXSW)
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Music by: Jon Ekstrand
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Skydance Media, Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Control, if you’re listening, and you probably are ’cause you’re creepy that way, can I just rant for a second about the micromanagement? We’re not blood-filled meat puppets. I come from a long line of plumbers that can fix a shower, but I can’t. Well, Hugh doesn’t shower anyway – he’s British. It’s not being critical, you’re just a very under-bathed nation; everybody knows it.” – Rory Adams

Man, oh man… where to begin with this thing?

First, this is one of about a zillion ripoffs of Alien. While I don’t have a problem with that, as some films have done great versions of the smart people trapped in space (or underwater, or in Antarctica, or wherever) with a killer monster, this one follows the majority of the clones and is a derivative piece of shit with selfish stupid scientists and a story that offers up nothing new to this overused subgenre of horror/sci-fi/thrillers.

I will say that this did effectively build some suspense in some areas but even then, you pretty much knew where this was going: everyone is fucked.

The only other real positive was the alien creature itself. It was cool looking in an era where alien species just aren’t memorable in film. It was also fairly unique in how it came to be and how it operated and moved but a visually cool alien doesn’t save a giant pile of dreck. Because as cool and different as the alien was, the picture, as a whole, was the exact opposite. It was a rehash of every bad cliche that’s awfulness was only enhanced by the sheer and utter stupidity of its “smart” characters.

Despite all the apparent flaws, I still tried my damnedest to enjoy this thing. For some reason, I love these “trapped in space with a killer” movies. To some degree, I was even playing this up in my head as better than it really was but all that washed away when I got to the ending, which was incredibly fucking predictable and executed so poorly that I actually audibly LOL’d. And quite boisterously, I might add.

Maybe it’s just my problem, but I’m so damn sick of movies with scientists and smart professionals that make incredibly poor decisions and are so worried about saving their own skin that they’ll put the entire human race in harm’s way. You signed up for the danger; you took on the responsibility of that danger when you brought an alien life form on board your space station. Now it wants to kill you. So fucking deal with it and don’t, in any way, allow it to get to Earth. Are there no heroes in movie science, anymore? You got a killer alien? Cool. Now you have to Ripley the fuck out of it! Or die. But you kill that son of a bitch in the process.

I’ve used a lot of f-bombs in this review, which I typically try to refrain from but fuck this piece of shit. My score for it is only as high as it is because the alien was cool and I wanted it to succeed in murdering all these dumb people.

So does this get run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! The results read, “Type 1 Stool: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).” You bet your sore ass this was hard to pass.

Documentary Review: Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

Release Date: May 13th, 2011
Directed by: Craig McCall
Music by: Mark Sayer-Wade

Modus Operandi Films, UK Film Council, National Lottery, 86 Minutes

Review:

I was glad to find this documentary streaming on FilmStruck, a service which every film lover should already be subscribed to.

I have known of Jack Cardiff and his contributions to movies for years but never have I seen anything that talks about the man and really analyzes the great work he did behind the camera for decades.

He was a master of color, of style and became one of the most sought after cinematographers in motion picture history. He was an auteur in the same vein as the greatest directors who have their own distinct styles.

This documentary is done in a general biography style but it spends a lot of time focusing on all the important and trendsetting films that Cardiff was a part of. It also gave me some films that I had to add to my “must see” list.

The coolest thing about Cameraman is that it interviews Cardiff and lets him speak about his work and his experiences. It also showcases directors, actors and other artists who worked with or were influenced by Jack Cardiff.

For those truly interested in filmmaking, film history and film culture, this is a documentary that is definitely worth your time. It is well produced, finely presented and paints a glorious picture of the man’s contribution to the art that he loved.

Film Review: The Babysitter (2017)

Release Date: October 13th, 2017
Directed by: McG
Written by: Brian Duffield
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Samara Weaving, Judah Lewis, Hana Mae Lee, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino

Boies / Schiller Film Group Production, Wonderland Sound and Vision, Netflix, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Three out of four people got an STD; I got two people’s blood on me! You do the math! I got AIDS! I know I got AIDS!” – John

McG has never made a film that I have liked. Still, a lot of time has passed since I watched a McG movie and I like comedy horror films, so I gave this a fair shot. However, just as McG is a stupid douchebaggy name, The Babysitter is kind of a stupid douchebaggy movie.

The problem however isn’t the actors or even the script, it is solely the director and his creative decisions. With McG pictures in the past, it was the same thing. All the things he ultimately controls, are shit.

The quick music video style editing is annoying and sloppy. While he started as a music video director, there is a big difference in trying to convey a story over four minutes than there is when it’s a feature length film. McG seems to embrace the style that got him his earliest work, even though it isn’t beneficial to the medium he works in now. Nobody wants a ninety minute music video with fast cuts, overly stylized camera movement and funky graphics sprouting up on the screen. Well, some people do I guess, like those who gave this a “thumbs up” on Netflix.

I can’t fault the cast, though. In fact, most of the actors were really good.

I especially liked Samara Weaving, who has impressed me between her performance here and her small but sweet role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She was likable and hot and even when you realized that she was a psycho Satan worshiping serial killer, it only makes her presence in this film, that much cooler. And really, I mostly liked the story. It was the execution of it that was the problem.

Robbie Amell and Bella Thorne are also pretty good but their screen time was limited to just a few good scenes, as Weaving and the young Judah Lewis were really at the forefront.

Also, despite Weaving giving a good performance, her “too cool” character was presented a bit over the top and it just didn’t feel believable. Something felt off about her being the hot and cool babysitter that was really into nerdy shit with her BFF, a twelve year-old boy. I attribute this to a combination of the direction, the editing, the dialogue and the overall writing.

All the comedy elements tried really hard to generate laughs but the vast majority of it missed the point, came off as forced, seemed overly hokey and was really just derivative schlock. The character of John had some funny lines but I’ve heard just about the same shit from a dozen other characters that did it better.

At least this wasn’t a boring movie and it was over pretty quickly.

So the question is, does The Babysitter need to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer? Why, yes it does! And the results read, “Type 5 Stool: Soft blobs with clear cut edges (passed easily).” Seems about right, as it was shitty but it did pass pretty easily.