The Disaster Artist (2017)

Director: James Franco Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson

The true story of what happened during the creation of cult favourite movie The Room by Tommy Wiseau. Tommy and Greg meet at an acting class in San Francisco, and quickly become friends after Tommy’s positive, can-do attitude to life spurs on Greg to pursue his dream of an acting career in LA. When they move to LA and neither of their careers really takes off, Tommy writes a screenplay and casts himself and Greg in the star roles. However, Tommy’s not a regular director and the film takes some strange turns.

After I sat through The Room late last year, for on reason or another I never made it to the cinema to watch The Disaster Artist, simply through my own general incompetence. It’s been a long wait but I’ve finally watched it- and as hoped I thought it was great. I thought it would just be a good laugh, finding out what happened behind the scenes, but actually the film has a strong plot of its own and it totally changed my perception of the characters. Yes, Tommy Wiseau is a massive weirdo and kind of a dick, but I actually really admired his outlook on life. He doesn’t care what other people think; he believes that if he works for his dream he can achieve it; he pushes Greg to be his best; and he works hard on a project he’s passionate about. Yes, the result was The Room, and although it’s not what Tommy had in mind, it’s a cult favourite that tonnes of people have seen, and the film mentions at the end that thanks to its cult status and appearance at midnight screenings for fans, the film has actually finally made a profit.

James Franco is a divisive actor and to be honest really has been in some crap films, but he’s perfect in this. He plays Tommy (ironically both directing and playing the lead role, just like Wiseau IRL), and his mannerisms and accent are so accurate that it’s hard to tell it’s not actually him. There’s a final scene after the credits in which the real Tommy Wiseau meets the character played by Franco, and you can hardly tell which is which. Dave Franco as Greg is fairly standard as Greg doesn’t really have any stand-out characteristics, but I thought Josh Hutcherson as Denny was hilarious and Zac Efron’s cameo also made me laugh just because he was so weird. James Franco won a Golden Globe for this, which I think is very fitting because I feel like Tommy has had the last laugh over the Hollywood that rejected him.

While there are a fair number of in-jokes shared by those who’ve seen The Room, I don’t think you necessarily have to have seen it to enjoy The Disaster Artist. As I’ve mentioned, the behind-the-scenes is a great story in itself that I think many would appreciate.

4 stars

Advertisements

I, Tonya (2017)

Director: Craig Gillespie Cast: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson

Based on real-life interviews with the main protagonists, I, Tonya charts the story of US figure skater Tonya Harding from her early days in the sport to the 1994 Winter Olympics and the controversy surrounding an incident with her main rival. The film explores the abusive relationships she has with both her mother and husband, and how she faces different treatment and judgment because if her “white trash” background.

I had wanted to see this movie because from the trailer it looked like a dark comedy, which is a type of movie I love. However, after watching it I wouldn’t define it as such and I’d say the comedy element is almost accidental, as the whole thing is based on real testimonies so nothing is supposed to be funny- that’s just how it was. There’s actually a disclaimer at the start of the film saying that it’s based on real interviews, totally “without irony”, which I think is important to bear in mind throughout the film as you watch the ridiculousness of the tragedy unfold. This is actually how the real-life people say that the events unfolded, which makes it even more surreal.

The whole story is really very sad, and I liked how the film doesn’t really try to portray the characters as good or bad, but they all have elements of both so that the audience can decide for themselves. I imagine most people will fall on the side of Tonya, but I found her husband Jeff and her mother to have some good qualities too, meaning they weren’t all bad.

I thought Margot Robbie was excellent in this, and while I agree that Frances McDormand was the right choice to win the Oscar for Best Actress, I think this was the best film I’ve seen Margot Robbie in. I was very convinced by her character and I thought she portrayed Tonya’s anguish and disappointment really well. Allison Janney did win Best Supporting Actress- she’s not in the films loads but she is good in it, and I think she had one of those “Oscar moments” when she explains to Tonya why she treats her like she does and compares it to the relationship she had with her own mother.

The film is quite sweary and the storyline most certainly is not family appropriate, but it’s a good drama so I think a lot of people wold enjoy it. As far as Oscar films go it’s not too heavy and pretentious, so definitely at the easier-to-view end of things. Plus, the soundtrack is really really good.

4 stars

All Eyez on Me (2017)

Director: Benny Boom Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr, Danai Gurira, Dominic Santana, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh

Long time, no activity on ScreenSnap. Apologies for the hiatus- it’s been a hectic few months but what better way to ease back in than to review the biopic of one of my all time fave humans, Tupac Shakur. All Eyez on Me follows the story of the legendary rapper from his early childhood to his death in 1996, exploring the relationships and experiences that made him who he was.

As I’ve mentioned, I love 2pac and I was excited to see how his life would be represented on screen. On the whole, I was pretty pleased- people often underrate what a good writer and poet he actually was, (by tarring the whole hip-hop genre with one brush) and the movie did a good job of showing these aspects of his life, for example exploring his time at the Baltimore School of the Arts. For someone watching the film who didn’t know much about his life, I think this part would surprise them positively and I was glad they showed these more unknown bits.

Unfortunately though, the structure of the film made the whole thing a bit bitty and I felt like some scenes that could have gone somewhere were cut off, while other scenes lingered for too long. The first half of the film is structured mainly with flashbacks, with the present being an interview with Tupac while he’s in prison. Then once the flashbacks catch up with the present (prison), the rest of the film just follows a linear timeline. This felt a bit random- I felt it should have been one or the other, and it meant that the flashbacks were shorter and ended just as they were getting interesting, while the second half of the film felt like it went on and on. Consequently, some parts were missed and others were too over-the-top.

The stand-out character was Afeni, Tupac’s mother, and I was pleased that they did spend quite a bit of time exploring her story and their relationship, as this was essential to understanding the person that Tupac became. I was definitely most convinced by the performance of Danai Gurira (of The Walking Dead fame), who played Afeni. Following Straight Outta Compton, in which all the characters were cast superbly and the actors captured their characters almost flawlessly, All Eyez on Me wasn’t quite as good at this. The guy who played Tupac looked almost exactly like him and captured his mannerisms pretty well, but the others just weren’t quite as good. After watching Straight Outta Compton I came away amazed at how well they managed it, but this one didn’t have quite the same effect.

I would recommend this to people who already know a bit about Tupac and who are already fans, but generally if you’re not interested already it will probably be quite boring. As far as biopics go, I don’t think it would convince people to find out more about his life or music (whereas I thought the opposite about Straight Outta Compton). A solid effort but nothing outstanding. The soundtrack is pretty good though.

2.5 stars

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions
Ⓒ Film Four/Wildwood Enterprises/Tu Vas Voir Productions

Director: Walter Salles Cast: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna

In this movie adaptation of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s autobiographical work of the same name, we learn about the events that shaped one of the world’s most famous revolutionaries. Ernesto, known commonly as “Fuser” in this film, sets off on a road trip with a friend on a motorcycle across South America, with the aim of reaching Venezuela. On their way, they encounter number of fascinating people who live in poverty, under oppression, or in segregation, and who eventually influence the political views of the person we all think of when we think of Che Guevara.

I really enjoyed this film, far more than I thought I would. It had been on my list of things to watch for ages, since I’ve visited loads of the places featured in the film, and as a responsible Spanish graduate I thought it’s one of those films I should watch- but I’d been putting it off because I thought it would be slow and tedious. However, from the outset the film is compelling and it has a lot more depth to the storyline than I had expected. Rather than just the story of a road trip, it demonstrates the events that pushed this middle-class doctor to become a communist guerrilla fighter, through the people that he meets. Knowing what we know about Che Guevara, it’s interesting to see how he got to that point, and I think it portrays him in a positive light- you can clearly see how he was affected by circumstances.

The film is in Spanish, so this might put off some people as it requires subtitles, but I also think it shouldn’t be written off just because Che Guevara isn’t necessarily an interesting enough topic. For those who wouldn’t immediately choose this film, I would say don’t let any preconceptions of Che Guevara get in the way, because it can be approached from an angle that just tells the story of someone who is affected by the poverty he sees, rather than what we know happens later on in his life. There’s also some really good acting (a very convincing friendship between he two main characters), a few comic moments, and some beautiful scenic shots of South America. The film isn’t packed with action, but the storyline moves quickly enough to keep you on your toes. A great option for a more thoughtful film.

4 stars