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.

Rating: 8/10

Documentary Review: VHS Massacre: Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media (2016)

Release Date: June 20th, 2016
Directed by: Kenneth Powell, Thomas Edward Seymour
Music by: Tim Kulig

New York Cine Productions, 72 Minutes

Review:

Any documentary that features an interview with Joe Bob Briggs is obviously a film made by people that know what the hell they are doing. This thing also gets some insight from Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment), Greg Sestero (The Room), Debbie Rochon (Return to Nuke ‘Em High), Deborah Reed (Troll 2), Mark Frazer (Samurai Cop), James Nguyen (Birdemic) and many others. Needless to say, this documentary has a friggin’ all-star cast.

The movie itself analyzes the history and appreciation for the VHS format. It also goes on to talk about cult films and how they were helped by VHS and mom and pop video stores. It looks at modern times, where physical media is dying and how that will effect the art of independent filmmaking.

VHS Massacre is a cool documentary, especially for those of us who were really into spending hours walking the aisles of every mom and pop video store, looking for diamonds in the rough and then just settling on every piece of cinematic schlock we could watch within the 24-to-48 hour rental window.

If you want to remember what it was like, back in the day, before Blockbuster killed everything and then Netflix killed Blockbuster, then this is a documentary that is worth your time.

In the end, I just miss walking the aisles and staring at video cassette box art for hours on end while my mum was getting her nails done by the Koreans next door.

Book Review: ‘The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made’ by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

the_disaster_artistAfter watching the cult classic masterpiece of awfulness The Room, I had to read the book about its creation.

Written by Greg Sestero, the actor who played Mark in the film, The Disaster Artist was a first-hand account of everything that went on behind the scenes. It also covers the friendship between Sestero and the enigmatic and mysterious architect of The Room, Tommy Wiseau.

Sestero wasn’t just an actor in the film, though. He was the movie’s “line producer” and a friend of Wiseau’s for a few years before The Room was even a reality. It is actually the only account of who Tommy Wiseau is as a person. It is very personal and really endearing. In fact, this isn’t really a book about The Room, as much as it is a tale about the two men’s lives once they came into contact with one another.

The book is brutally honest and pulls no punches. It is very critical of Wiseau, at times, but it is also respectful and there is a beautiful truth to Sestero’s ability to be this honest and candid. Ultimately, despite the harsh criticism, Sestero still portrays Wiseau respectfully and his love and appreciation for the man is more than apparent.

I figured that this would be a good and interesting read. It was much more than that.

The Disaster Artist is inspiring. Despite the flaws that Wiseau seems to have as an artist, there is something pure and true about his ability to make his dreams a reality, on his own terms. While it is clear that the process was sometimes painful, Wiseau’s unrelenting belief in himself and his dream is fucking incredible. It is hard not to appreciate the man and his madness after reading this book.

It is hard to not find inspiration in this story and I credit Sestero and Bissell for giving this personal tale literary life.

Film Review: The Room (2003)

Release Date: June 27th, 2003
Directed by: Tommy Wiseau
Written by: Tommy Wiseau
Music by: Mladen Milicevic
Cast: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnot

Wiseau-Films, Chloe Productions, TPW Films, 99 Minutes

theroommovieReview:

I’ve had friends talk about this for years. I finally got around to watching it.

I guess my biggest hangup about seeing this, is I thought it would be a giant bore. Despite how bad it is, or how bad I was told it was, it would quickly run its course and I’d be stuck in a 99 minute soul-sucking vacuum. Man, was I wrong.

The Room is terrible in every way. At the same time, it was wonderful in every way. There is that phrase “It was so bad, that it was good.” Sure, even I have said it multiple times describing the experience of certain movies I have reviewed. Never has it been truer, than with The Room.

This film is a literal trip into the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau’s head. I feel like it is the true story of something he went through and had to get out artistically. Sure, the real life version has a different ending but despite this movie’s badness, it felt like it was an artistic expression of real pain.

This film was originally developed as a play, then a 500 page novel that Wiseau couldn’t get published. He grew frustrated and was somehow able to raise the $6 million dollars it took to fund this picture. He was certainly driven and extremely ambitious and no one can fault him for that.

It is almost sad how this film turned out. By comparison, the acting makes an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers look like a top notch Shakespearean play. The dialogue is laughably bad, to the point where I can’t believe the actors weren’t insisting on ad-libbing anything better. Seriously, there are films with deplorable dialogue, then there is The Room.

The plot is mostly disjointed. There are side characters and side plots introduced at every corner but none of them ever develop into anything. Then there are scenes that serve absolutely no purpose, at all. There are scenes that are just repetitive, like every time sociopath Lisa has chats with her awful mother. Or how Johnny (played by Wiseau) is made to look like everyone in San Francisco loves him.

You also have a ton of scenes on the apartment roof, where it is obvious that they are standing in front of a green screen. Were there no rooftops in all of San Francisco that they could have used? Wouldn’t that have been cheaper than studio time with a green screen and then having to plug in the special effects?

You have male characters that all act creepy. You have awkward sex scenes with incredibly crappy slow jams. You have a football that gets more screen time than most of the main characters. You have Johnny dry humping a dress because he’s heartbroken. You have absolute nonsensical madness.

Maybe you could argue that other films have more flaws… like everything Coleman Francis directed. But The Room‘s flaws just hit you over the head like a hammer every time you blink.

But here’s the thing – despite everything that that is wrong with this movie, there is something engaging about it. It weirdly has heart and I have to admit, I did care about Johnny and his well-being and how the mess of the plot was going to play out. And I think that is because it is a story that hit close to home for Wiseau and it was somehow still able to come through.

I always post a trailer at the end of every review. However, I feel like this video will much better entertain and is a better representation of what this film is.