Movie review: The Disaster Artist

Movie reviews

Hello!

I just saw a great movie about an awful movie. This is The Disaster Artist.

IMDb summary: When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

Disclaimer: prior to seeing The Disaster Artist, I wanted to watch The Room – the film whose behind-the-scenes story is the subject of this movie. However, then I thought that I already have a never-ending list of past quality pictures that I need to watch but don’t have time for. So, The Room fell off the list without even making on it. But, maybe if I truly love The Disaster Artist, I’ll give The Room a chance too.

Writing

The Disaster Artist was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the duo has previously adapted two John Green’s book to the big screen – TFIOS and Paper Towns, they are also writing the New Mutants film for the Marvel Fox division), based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero (Dave Franco played him in the movie) and a journalist and a critic Tom Bissell. I enjoyed the writing for this picture very much. First of all, as a cinephile, I love all things related to movies, so a film about a different film is right up my alley. Moreover, I adore movies that celebrate other films and The Disaster Artist did just that. It wasn’t making fun of The Room or Wiseau but showed a certain kind of appreciation of and respect to it and him. Also, the fact that the movie didn’t go for the easy jokes, made The Disaster Artist so much better and funnier in its own kind of way.

The writing for Tommy Wiseau as a character for this movie was intriguing. I don’t know how accurate it was but it certainly worked for the film. The fact that Wiseau was trying really hard to make something he believed in and loved came across very clearly. His personal quirks (that have now become infamous) were present in the film too. However, the movie did not single them out more than necessary. What The Disaster Artist seemed to be more focused on were Wiseau’s insecurities and feelings behind the quirks. I drew a conclusion that he was somebody who wanted approval of others but on his own terms (basically, he wanted a friend who would understand him and it’s a good thing that he found one in Sestero. It’s cute that they still talk every day, if the text at the end of The Disaster Artist is to be believed).

Lastly, Wiseau, The Room, and now The Disaster Artist also expressed some neat ideas about cinema and human behavior (how one is the expression of the other). My main takeaway from the 2017’s biopic was the idea that the making of The Room was therapy for Wiseau. In addition, the watching of The Room seems to bring a feeling of catharsis for the viewers too (otherwise, why would they be watching it?).

Directing

James Franco directed The Disaster Artist and did an impeccable job (this film was actually my first introduction to him as a director). Not only did he recreate the scenes from The Room spot on (as evident in the credits side-by-side comparison) but he managed to balance out the film – keep it respectful but also funny. The opening interview montage, full of celebrity cameos, added a slight documentary feel to the movie, while the handled cinematography made it undeniably indie. The late 1990s/early 2000s soundtrack was fun (especially for somebody who grew up on that bad pop music). The funniest sequences of the feature, in my opinion, were the audition montage and the nude scene shoot. Lastly, the shots of the audience laughing while watching The Room felt very meta, as the actions of those moviegoers were mirrored by the audience of The Disaster Artist.

Acting

The Disaster Artist had a display of some bad acting from some great actors. James Franco not only directed the film but played the lead Tommy Wiseau (real Wiseau cameos during the end credits scene that nobody waits to see). I have enjoyed a lot of Franco’s dramatic roles before (like the one in 127 Hours) and I have liked some of his comedic work (he was hilarious in both Sausage Party and This is the End). I feel like, in this film, he combined all of his talents and delivered a brilliant dramatic and comedic performance. He nailed Tommy’s laugh and the vaguely Eastern European accent (though I’m not sure that Wiseau’s own accent is truly Eastern European – this comes from somebody who has spent years trying to lose her accent from the same region, so I think I’d recognize that particular accent in another person).

Dave Franco (Nerve, Now You See Me, The Lego Ninjago, Jump Street) played Greg Sestero and was really good too. He brought innocence and excitement to the role of the young Sestero (he was barely 20 or in his early twenties when shooting The Room). The Disaster Artist marked the first time that both Franco brothers appeared on screen together. Would love to see them collaborate on future projects!

Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs), in addition to producing the film, also had a role as Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor on the production of The Room. He was delightful to watch on screen: his scene about the check going through received a lot of laughs from the audience in my screening. Alison Brie starred as Amber, Sesteros’ girlfriend, while Ari Graynor played the actress who portrayed Lisa (yup, the same one that’s tearing Wiseau apart) in The RoomJosh Hutcherson (Mockingjay) and Zac Efron (BaywatchMike and Dave, We Are Your Friends) also both appeared as the members of The Room’s cast. They got a chance to recreate an incredible scene from The Room (that literally does not connect to anything else in that film) in The Disaster Artist.

In short, The Disaster Artist was an amazing movie that should be highly appreciated by any cinephile out there. Though it still did not fully convince me to watch The Room.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Disaster Artist trailer

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Movie review: The Lego Ninjango Movie

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of the 3rd Lego movie and the 2nd one this year. This is The Lego Ninjago Movie!

IMDb summary: Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

To begin with, I really loved the 2014’s original The Lego Movie and adored the 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie as both a continuation of the Lego franchise and as a parody of the comic book movie/the superhero genre. The Lego Ninjago Movie seemed like a cool expansion of the Lego cinematic series though I didn’t know anything about the Lego ninja sub-brand. Also, I had no idea why they chose to release it this year, so close to The Lego Batman.

Writing

The Lego Ninjago Movie was written by a bunch of screenwriters, way more than it should have had. The two directors Bob Logan and Paul Fisher, and the writers William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, and John Whittington. Additionally, the story credits went to Hilary Winston, Dan Hageman, and Kevin Hageman. This just seems excessive: why would not that original children’s movie need 10 writers????

Speaking about that lack of originality: The Lego Ninjago Movie was super similar to The Lego Movie. And while we applauded its originality in 2014, 3 years later and a second-time around, the same ideas just don’t seem that fresh. This film had the same type of a framing device – real-world/live-action set-up which enveloped the lego story. The message – one about encouraging the imagination, play, and the storytelling during childhood – also stayed the same but I can’t really fault it because of how positive even if repetitive it is.

Speaking about the Lego part of the narrative: it was fine but nothing new. The plot focused on the child of a villain (Disney’s Descendants?) and dealt with his experiences as a high schooler (any teen movie ever?) who has a secret superhero life (Big Hero 6?). The ninja characters, in general, seemed to have been inspired by Transformers, Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, and Ironman. I’m guessing that a lot of Japanese/samurai movies were also consulted (and their clips included in the actual film). The elemental powers were cute but old. Lastly, the whole father-son thing was very Star Wars.

The humor of the film wasn’t bad but, at times, it did feel like the movie was trying too hard to be hip and cool (and the kids are cynical these days). That ultimate weapon reveal was super dumb but still hilarious, though.

Directing

The Lego Ninjago Movie had three directors: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan – all long time animators but new to directing.  Speaking about that part of the film which they were best at – the animation was spectacular. This animation style still amazes me and I applaud all the animators for achieving the visuals that I haven’t thought possible just a few years back. The pacing was good too, stuff was always happening for the most part and the movie’s runtime wasn’t stretched out for no reason. Also, this quick pace kinda gave a movie a video game-esque feeling, which was good. There were a lot of dances and songs included too, similarly to the other two Lego films. However, The Lego Ninjago Movie differed from its predecessors in one aspect: it actually did feel like a commercial for the Lego toys way much more than the others did. I know that both The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie were ads for Lego too but at least they were not as obvious about it and had something extra (like the originality or the references) to embellish the ad. The Lego Ninjago Movie lacked that extra.

Voice work

The Lego Ninjago Movie assembled quite a stellar voice cast. Of course, one cannot make a ninja movie without Jackie Chan, so he both voiced a character and appeared on screen (I kinda think that he is still appealing to kids, while the adults don’t care much for him anymore). Dave Franco (Nerve, Now You See Me) and Justin Theroux (The Girl on The Train) voiced the son and the father and were fun to listen to. Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Zach Woods played the child-friendly version of their characters from the HBO show. Michael Peña (Ant-Man, The Martian, Collateral Beauty), Abbi JacobsonFred Armisen, and Olivia Munn (X-Men) rounded out the cast and delivered good aural performances too.

In short, The Lego Ninjago Movie was an okay addition to the Lego movie franchise. It mostly just rehashed the same stuff and didn’t add anything new but was still entertaining and enjoyable.

Rate: 3.2/5

Trailer: The Lego Ninjago Movie trailer

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Movie review: Nerve

Movie reviews

Hello!

Nerve – an original thriller in a sea of reboots, remakes and sequels – has finally hit theaters, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

Writing

Nerve’s screenplay was written by Jessica Sharzer, who has mostly worked on TV until now. The script was based on Jeanne Ryan’s book with the same name, so it is not a totally original story, but at least it hasn’t been done on the big screen before. I absolutely loved the narrative of Nerve. I thought that it was probably the most contemporary thriller I’ve ever seen. Its topics were extremely relatable to all teenagers and young adults out there.

The cool update on the Truth or Dare game reminded me of YouTube Challenge videos and I think that the majority of the audiences of this film do watch YouTube and will understand where I’m coming from. On top of being extremely entertaining, the film also had some nice messages and things to say. It explored a modern friendship, full of jealousy and social stigmas. It showed the scary side of the Internet – the total loss of privacy – and cautioned its viewers to be careful. It also showed that computer skills and even hacking are useful traits to know in the modern world. Finally, the most important idea that Nerve spread was that one can be brave in the crowd or when he/she is protected by their username, however, the anonymous actions online have dire consequences in the real world to actual people and even oneself. This message should hang above everyone’s computer.

On a personal note, I loved the film Nerve because I could relate to it. I’m a kind of person who rarely takes risks or leaves her comfort zone, so I understood the character of Vee. In addition, being somebody who is usually in the shadow of her friends, I understood how the feeling of validation or acceptance can be intoxicating and addicting.

Directing

Nerve was directed  by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who did the documentary Catfish and 3rd and 4th of the Paranormal Activity films. I really enjoyed the things they did with the project. The pace was always fast, so the story was unfolding non-stop. A small pause was taken before the big finale, but it didn’t seem like the movie slowed down – that break really built tension. When the actual finale of the film was happening, it did seem a bit over-the-top, but when everything was done and over, it somehow all worked. The actual visuals of the program, the various POV shots of the characters as well the POV of the game (webcam, front camera) were really cool and appropriate for the film. The end credits in the style of social media posts also rounded up the feature nicely. Nerve also had an amazing soundtrack, I was Shazam-ing all of the songs. It general, it reminded me a lot of a different film with a good soundtrack, which I saw at the end of last summer – We Are Your Friends.

Both WAYR and Nerve were obviously aimed at younger audiences because they explored the topics that actually interest teenagers – EDM and Social Media. The two films also had similar soundtracks, as I’ve mentioned. I also predict that both pictures will be similarly successful – they will either bomb at the box office or do okay, but then will dominate the streaming.

Nerve and WAYR also share similarities behind the scenes – they both were made by related people. Nerve was directed by H. Joost and A. Schulman, who did the Catfish documentary. This documental feature later had a spin-off TV show on MTV, created by Nev Schulman (brother of A. Schulman) and his business partner Max Joseph. Joseph had a feature film debut last year, directing none other but We Are Your Friends. So that’s some interesting behind the scenes trivia for you.

Acting

The film had a cast of up-and-coming actors who never really stuck with audiences.

Emma Roberts, who has been around forever, played the lead Vee and did a great job. Her chemistry with Dave Franco – another actor, trying to create a career for himself without the help of his family – as Ian was amazing as well. I first encountered Roberts in the early 2000s, in a Nancy Drew film. Lately, I’ve also seen her in Palo Alto and We’re the Millers. Later this year, she will also be in Billionaire Boys Club with a bunch of other young actors. Franco popped up on my radar in 2013’s Now You See Me and 2014’s Neighbors. He also starred in both films’ sequels. Dave Franco will now go back to working in the family and will star in his brother’s films Zeroville and The Masterpiece. Afterward, he has a comedy The Little Hours coming up.

The supporting roles of a film were kinda cliche but served their purpose. Juliette Lewis played the over-protective mother. Emily Meade starred as the outgoing friend of Vee’s – Sydney, while Miles Heizer was Tommy, Vee’s friend who secretly had a crush on her. The rapper Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker starred as Ty, a fellow player of Nerve and was quite an interesting character. A bit cartoonish, but entertaining nonetheless.

The film also had a cameo, which I, as a fan of Youtube, really appreciated. The filmmaker and daily vlogger Casey Neistat made a small appearance in the movie and his presence actually made sense.

All in all, Nerve was an entertaining picture, that had a surprisingly serious cautionary message. It had a great cast, interesting visuals, and a perfect pop soundtrack. I wouldn’t be surprised if the app like Nerve will be created in a near future. For now, we at least have Pokemon Go.

Rate: 4,25/5

Trailer: Nerve trailer

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Movie review: Now You See Me 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of this summer. This time, it’s another sequel – Now You See Me 2 also known as Now You See Me: The Second Act.

IMDb summary: The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

2013’s NYSM was a surprising and vastly entertaining film, but if Hollywood would not be so focused on franchises, the movie would not have gotten a sequel. Before going to see the sequel, I actually rewatched the first film, because I’ve heard that NYSM 2 relied heavily on the plot of the first picture and, now having seen the movie, I can confirm that. If you want to really enjoy The Second Act you have to have The First One on your mind. Usually, Hollywood tends to make more of  standalone sequels that do not require homework or any preparation, so I don’t understand why they made an exception this time.

SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS

Writing

NYSM 2 was written by the same screenwriter as the first film – Ed Solomon. While I really enjoyed the story that he crafted in 2013, I had quite a few problems with its 2016 continuation.

Firstly, as I have already mentioned, the film’s big reveals relied too heavily on the plot developments of the first film:

  1. The movie made the big deal out of the fact that Dave Franco’s character was alive, but we, as the viewers, find that out at the end of the first film.
  2. The reveal that Morgan Freeman was behind all of the events of the sequel (at least, it looked like it) was meaningless if you did not know what role he played in the first film.
  3.  Ruffalo’s character motivation, as well as his father’s story, were given even more screen time but, once again, the crucial info was only told in the first film.
  4. Michael Caine’s character’s involvement in this film can also only be explained by the events of the first movie.
  5. The EYE was once again present in the film and didn’t do anything useful. The big reveals – who was the EYE’s members and that ending involving the EYE – were also kinda underwhelming.
  6. The 2nd film mentioned why Isla Fisher’s character left (in truth, the actress got pregnant and couldn’t participate in the filming), so I appreciate the fact they at least addressed this development in an appropriate to the story way.
  7. The first film had a quick pace and a straight forward plot, but this one had a really slow setup and a really convoluted yet predictable plot.
  8. The sequel kinda recapped the events of the first film and set up the revenge plot in that opening montage with the voiceover by Freeman, but I don’t really think that that was enough.

A few things that I did enjoy where the pairing-ups of the characters. I liked that Dave Franco’s character was the one with the love interest this time, instead of Jesse Eisenberg. Caplan and Franco had great chemistry, although I did not appreciate the fact that they emphasized a few times that Caplan was the only female horseman.In the first film,  Isla Fisher  was just one of the members of the group, not THE ONLY female member. The other pairs were the Prison Break with Mark Ruffalo’s character and Morgan Freeman’s character as well as the competition for the leadership between Ruffalo and Eisenberg. I also liked the mentor/student relationship between Woody Harrelson’s characters and Dave Franco’s character.

The overarching theme of the two films was the revenge of the sons, so I wonder who will be avenging who in the 3rd film, as they will probably make it.

Directing

The film was directed by Step Up’s Jon M. Chu, whose latest film- Jem and the Holograms was one of the biggest financial and critical flops recent years. He did an okay-ish job this time. I didn’t see the need to set half of the movie in Macau, except to please the Chinese audiences and get their money. Also, if you have to set-up a film Macau, why not use it? We only saw Macau in a few shots of the lights and billboards  and those shots were only used tot transition between the scenes.

Also, this film lacked magic. NYSM had 3 big and somewhat realistic magic shows, while NYSM 2 had a few small performances/moments and a few big-ish ones that were completely unbelievable. To begin with, this time, hypnosis seemed like an easy thing that really everybody could do. The passing of the card/chip trick was cool to look at but completely over-the-top. The water/rain trick was also nice and pleasing visually, but, once again, unbelievable and unrealistic. The final act was pretty cool though and did wrap up the story nicely, so I can at least give the director that. However, the finale did leave a lot of questions unanswered and even the horseman realized that. I wonder if they will address any of the questions in the sequel if they make one.

Acting

Firs of all, let me just say that this film had way too many characters, a few of whom were really unnecessary.

  • Jesse Eisenberg as Danny Atlas – was okay and I finally liked his hair in the film, after suffering through his bad hairstyles in BvS and American Ultra. He was believable as an egoistic illusionist and I did like him in the role. Now, I just hope that I can learn to like him as Lex in Justice League.
  • Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes was also fine. I enjoyed the fact that we finally got to see him doing a few tricks and I also liked the fact that he took up his right place as the 5th horseman in the end. I don’t think that I’ve ever watched a movie with Ruffalo that I did not enjoy, so any film of his is a good bet, but if you don’t know where to start, just check out his most recent work  with Marvel and in Spotlight.
  • Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney/Chase McKinney was good and annoying. I liked the character of Merritt but could not understand the need to include Chase as his twin brother, especially when he was this annoying. I sill haven’t finished watching Harrelson on True Detective, although, I’ve really liked him on THG films. He will also be in War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dave Franco as Jack Wilder was also good. He is really charming and has a great screen presence. He has mostly done comedic work, in 21/22 Jump Street and Neighbors films. He will also be in Nerve later this year.
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry was good but slightly creepy. I’m happy to see Radcliffe getting some mainstream work in this film as well as in Victor Frankenstein, but none of his post-Harry Potter films were able to reach the level of HP success. I wonder if that is even possible
  • Lizzy Caplan as Lula May was a great addition to the cast. I liked her awkward humour and the line ‘He’s cute, let’s kill him’. I don’t know why Caplan does not get more roles in bigger films, as she is so good. My favorite film from Caplan’s filmography is Bachelorette, in which she starts alongside the former NYSM female lead – Isla Fisher.
  • Jay Chou as Li was only there to add ‘diversity’ and appeal to the Asian audiences.
  • Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley were both fine but I am getting angry with both of them. They used to be respectable actors and now they are just doing all the films, the majority of which are paycheck gigs. I would love to see them in more serious films and in more challenging roles.

All in all, Now You See Me 2 was an okay film. It was worse than the seqeul, had an uninspired and messy plot and really unrealistic ‘magic’. Defintely not a must watch, but if you do choose to see it, make sure to re-watch NYSM 1 or at least read its plot online.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Now You See Me 2 trailer

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