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

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Spotlight (2016)

Ⓒ Anonymous Content
Ⓒ Anonymous Content

Director: Tom McCarthy Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci

A group of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe spend a year following the trail of the Catholic Church’s abuse of children. They uncover years of institutionalised cover-ups from within the Church as well as its supporters, eventually leading to the revelation of abuse all over the world. A true story.

Nominated for 6 Oscars, I thought Spotlight would be worth a go. While it was interesting, I wouldn’t say it’s an Oscar-worthy film. I enjoyed it, and I didn’t know all the details of the investigation before so I definitely came away having learnt something- however the filmmakers can’t get credit for the plot since they didn’t come up with it, so no points for that. Mark Ruffalo is really good in this- I think he’s often quite underrated as an actor, he can do a wide variety of different kinds of roles or genres but he never seems to be the star. Michael Keaton’s renaissance following last year’s Birdman also continues.

However, it’s a good film and I’m glad I saw it, but it’s wasn’t a showstopper. It’s pretty slow, although I suppose it would have been hard to cut out certain details otherwise it simply wouldn’t make sense. Now I’ve seen it, I don’t think I need to see it again- I’ve got all I can from it (mainly the story) from the first viewing.

It’s definitely a thinking film and you need to be awake to be able to sit through it and understand everything that’s going on. Obviously the subject matter isn’t by any means lightweight, and I think to enjoy it you’d have to be in the right mood- don’t just pick it because you want something to watch, pick it because you want to know that specific story.

3 stars

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Ⓒ Amblin Entertainment
Ⓒ Amblin Entertainment

Director: Steven Spielberg Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda

During the Cold War, a moral and just American lawyer (Hanks) represents a man accused of being a Russian spy. Later, he is recruited by the CIA to act as a negotiator when the Russians capture an American pilot and want to trade him for the alleged spy that the lawyer was representing. Based on a true story.

There was quite a big build up to this film, as there often is with Spielberg. As a run-of-the-mill political/historical drama, it’s a good one, but nothing special. The story is interesting, but since it’s based on real events you can’t really give the film itself credit for that. It’s paced nicely, slow enough so that layers of the plot can build up but also lightweight enough to not be too wordy and legalistic.

The main thing that bothered me was that it was typically pro-American. To be quite honest, I found this so annoying to the point that I kind of was hoping that the Russians would screw the Americans over. There’s a scene in the movie (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler) when Tom Hanks is on the Eastern side of the Berlin Wall and sees Germans trying to climb over it to the West, and they get shot. Then the final scene of the film is Hanks travelling on a train back in the good ol’ US of A, and he sees kids jumping over fences carefree, at which point we’re supposed to think what a wonderful place America must have been to allow people to so freely jump over walls into private property without consequence (which is certainly not the case in reality). I didn’t really appreciate the blatant false representation of America, and I guess I would hope that most audience members wouldn’t buy into it.

So all in all it’s an interesting yarn, I like Tom Hanks as per usual, and for those interested in history it’s worth a watch. However I wouldn’t say it’s a classic, and take it with a pinch of salt.

2.5 stars