Film Review: Stealing Harvard (2002)

Also known as: Say Uncle, Stealing Stanford, The Promise, Uncle, You Promised (working titles)
Release Date: September 13th, 2002
Directed by: Bruce McCulloch
Written by: Martin Hayes, Peter Tolan
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cast: Jason Lee, Tom Green, Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, Richard Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Chris Penn, Tammy Blanchard, Megan Mullally, Seymour Cassel, Martin Starr, Bruce McCulloch

Imagine Entertainment, Revolution Studios, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Elaine… I like her. I like her a lot, John. But she’s a bitch! She’s a dirty, dumb bitch.” – Duff

Almost everyone I know hated this movie. Well, I knew two people that liked it but like me, they’re also long-time Tom Green fans and appreciate his absurd humor and outlandish antics.

But I get it, Green’s style of comedy isn’t for most people even if he once had a “novelty” song that conquered TRL until MTV pulled it, as well as one of the most watched late night talk shows of the era, even though MTV pulled that too.

Green’s movies are typically met with disdain from the critics but then, the critics’ consensus is typically met with disdain from myself and others who now see them as just corporate movie shills that want their early screening passes, swanky party invites and swag to keep coming in.

Anyway, that being said, I can’t say that this is a particularly good film. However, it’s still enjoyable if you like Green, as well as Jason Lee. It also features a ton of good talent from Leslie Mann, Dennis Farina, John C. McGinley, Megan Mullally, Richard Jenkins, Seymour Cassel, Chris Penn and Martin Starr. Also, it’s directed by Bruce McCulloch of Kids In the Hall. So there’s a good mix of people who are both charming, skilled and commit to the bit that is this picture.

This is a dumb, stoner, buddy comedy and that’s fine. Sometimes you want to escape and laugh at stupid shit and this movie provides a lot of good, solid, stupid shit.

The plot is about a young guy (Jason Lee), on the verge of getting married and buying a house. He is reminded, however, that he promised his niece that he’d pay for her college. Well, she’s going to Harvard and even though she has some financial assistance, the guy has to come up with the remaining 30 grand. So he goes to his friend (Tom Green) for some ideas on how to come up with the money. One thing leads to another and they decide to commit a few crimes, which all go very, very poorly.

While Lee and Green are the two featured in most of the scenes, this is still an ensemble piece and everyone gets their moment to shine. That being said, I thought that this was really well cast and I’ve got to be honest, Dennis Farina and John C. McGinley steal the scenes they’re in because they’re so good and convincing.

Out of all the movies that feature Tom Green in a prominent role, this one is probably the best. Granted, I haven’t watched any of them for a really long time. So I may start revisiting them and seeing how they’ve held up since his heyday in the early ’00s.

Rating: 6/10

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, Randall Park

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