The Room (2003)

Director: Tommy Wiseau Cast: Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Juliette Danielle and some other people who you’ve also never heard of

Johnny is engaged to be married to Lisa, but Lisa decides she’s bored of Johnny and starts an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark. Meanwhile, Lisa’s mum gets breast cancer, their neighbour Denny gets involved with drugs, plus a bunch of other tangents that don’t end up going anywhere.

You’ll probably be familiar with The Room (or the “Oh hi Mark” scene at the very least) via its cult following on the internet, which has developed as it’s frequently cited as the worst film ever made. While I’ve not actually seen every film ever made, it just wouldn’t be fair to vouch for that claim, but it is fair to say it’s probably a strong contender. With its lack of coherent and flowing storyline, its amateur acting, the plastic sets and the quite frankly creepy dark turn at the end of the film, it’s hard to find a positive. Despite that however, I did find myself strangely drawn in and I ended up watching the whole thing, beginning to end, without even a loo break.

The thing that sticks in my mind the most about The Room is just how bloody weird Tommy Wiseau is (the director and actor that plays Johnny). The new film The Disaster Artist is based on the book that Greg Sestero wrote from his experiences on the set of the film, and I’m really interested to see it to get a look behind the scenes. Wiseau has an unusual presence in every scene (not in a positive way, I might add), which I think is what gives the film its unique intrigue. Wiseau wrote the screenplay himself, and I just desperately want to know what on earth was going on in his head- did he seriously read it back and think it made sense? I read somewhere that nothing that happens between somewhere around the 20 minute mark and the final scene has any bearing on the outcome. Plus, why was Denny taking drugs? Does Lisa’ mum recover from cancer? Why is their friend Peter not at Johnny’s birthday party if they’re such good friends? Why did Mike injure himself so severely when he fell into the bin, and then be miraculous healed a couple of day later? Why did Lisa arrange a surprise party if she hates Johnny so much? NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE!

Like I say though, there is something about the film that pulls you in. It’s cult status is partly down to its comedic so-bad-it’s-good factor, but I did find myself really wanting to find out whether Johnny and Lisa could work things out or if she would end up with Mark. I’ve watched films that are technically better, but have enjoyed them less. I get the impression from what I’ve seen about The Disaster Artist that Wiseau was kind of rejected by Hollywood, but really the joke’s on them now because this has propelled Wiseau to an ironic stardom. There’s a strange charm about The Room, and I was gripped.

This is not suitable for children or watching with your parents (there are FOUR sex scenes) but I would recommend watching this with a group, so that you can all share and enjoy the rite of passage of watching possibly the worst movie ever. It’s hard to rate this one, as I suppose I did kind of like it, but if I’m being fair and rating all my films from a skill/talent/technical perspective, it can’t really do much better than a measly one star.

1 star

Advertisements

Pretty Woman (1990)

Director: Garry Marshall Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Ralph Bellamy

After a chance meeting when asking for directions, wealthy businessman Edward hires a prostitute, Vivian, for a week to attend events with him as his plus one. This being a Hollywood movie, they end up falling in love- but will it ever be able to work out between them?!

The answer to the above question is, of course, yes. Despite my cynicism though, Pretty Woman is an enjoyable and feel-good movie with a reliable formula to win over audiences. It’s definitely more rom than com and I could have done with a few more funny moments to improve it, but it’s not sickeningly romantic. Having a prostitute as the protagonist brings a different twist to the classic boy meets girl setup, and it’s refreshing to see her unashamedly flaunting her sexuality rather than the usual timid high-school nerd chasing the handsome sports star scenario. Plus, Vivian would have ended up fine on her own in the end if her and Edward hadn’t got together- she didn’t necessarily need the man to give the story a happy ending nor does she have to change herself to win him over (apart from buying some new clothes). Strong independent woman, amirite? Edward is also an appealing male protagonist: although he’s a successful businessman it’s no secret that he’s lonely and ultimately unfulfilled in his current lifestyle. It’s very easy to root for them as a couple.

Although the storyline is primarily about a man who hires a prostitute for a week it’s mostly a family friendly movie, and while it’s rated a 15 it would probably be suitable for kids slightly younger. In short, I would have no qualms with watching this with my parents so it can’t be that scandalous.

Easy plot, non-stressful storyline, classic 90s fashion, likeable characters- I’m going to hate myself for using this expression but it’s ideal for a “girls night in” (urgh). Plus there’s nothing like getting your own back on someone by buying a sassy new outfit- watch it just for the satisfaction of that classic shopping scene.

3.5 stars

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Brain Backer, Robert Romanus, Phoebe Cates (and also Nicholas Cage for all of 5 seconds)

We follow the escapades of a group of high school students over the course of a year, including romance, jobs, studies and general teenagery-ness.

Fast Times is a bit of a cult classic, lesser known than some of the other 1980s high school student flicks, but feels like one of the more authentic or realistic ones. Indeed, the story is based on the experiences of film-maker Cameron Crowe, who spent a year undercover as a high school student and wrote a book on his experiences. The events feel a lot more like stuff that would actually happen to regular teenagers, rather than far-fetched hijinks, and I think it definitely adds to the enjoyability of the film if you can look back and reminisce on some of your own high school experiences.

Not all the stories are totally connected and the links between the characters or individual plots can be a bit tenuous, so from a standard film-viewing perspective it might seem a little unstructured or random. However, this also adds to the realism, so we can mostly forgive that. I would also warn that not all the scenes would probably get past a film classification board today, so might be a little odd for modern audiences (mainly the underage sex). It’s not one I’d watch with my parents…

This is definitely a must-see for 80s fans, especially as it’s up there in the genre of “golden-age” classics such as The Breakfast ClubBack to the Future or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s certainly not appropriate for younger audiences (I think it’s rated 18 here in the UK), but is a good dose of nostalgia for adults.

3 stars

John Wick (2014)

Director: Chad Stahelski Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki

An ex-assassin is forced back into work when a gang rob him in his own home. Unfortunately for them, his wife has also just died so he’s on the rampage.

You know those days when you’re already in a bad mood, it’s raining, it’s Monday, and then a colleague that you don’t like anyway does something to set you off? We’ve all been there, John Wick, we’ve all been there. Aside from the clearly very relatable nature of the film, John Wick is a very slick and very cool movie with the perfect balance of action and storyline. I remember when I watched Top Gun way back I loved the action scenes but there just weren’t enough of them, while there was far too much romance and bleurgh that just was not interesting. John Wick however provides just enough characterisation for us to sympathise with John and to know who the baddies are, but most of the film is just super-cool fighting and shots of New York. Because of this, there is very little plot and it’s extremely easy to follow, but you don’t necessarily always want intricate storytelling which takes effort to follow- especially with such amazing cinematography and style to keep you entertained.

Now, mention Keanu Reeves and it’s fair to say many people will be put off. However, in this he’s perfect for the part. Keanu’s not known for his dramatism and ability to convey deep emotion, but that’s why he works so well in this. He’s great at the action sequences (not too different from the Far-Eastern style that inspired The Matrix), and his serious and unflappable nature befits an assassin well. Willem Dafoe makes almost a cameo appearance, because he’s in it so little. Not totally sure his character added much to plot and whether anything really would have changed if he was taken out, but still he was pretty cool so we’ll let him off.

I would absolutely recommend this as the perfect Saturday night at home movie. Easy to follow, beautifully shot, loads of action, no time wasted on romance and drama- and did I mention very cool?

4 stars