CGB Review of The Disaster Artist (2017)

Oh hai Mark!

Guys and gals, after a two-month absence, I’m back!

This is my review of The Disaster Artist!

the-disaster-artist-james-franco-movieBased on the book “The Disaster Artist,” the making of “The Room” is chronicled through the tumultuous friendship between Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) as they meet in an acting class, form a bond and travel to LA together to prove all the naysayers wrong.  The end result is “The Room,” a film both infamously terrible and an instant classic.  Before I go on, yes, I have seen The Room and will be reviewing it soon.

The Hits
The heart of the story is the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero, mostly shown through Sestero’s perspective.  Experiencing Wiseau’s strange nature through Sestero’s eyes was a smart choice since it balances out the weirdness of the story.  Speaking of Tommy Wiseau, James Franco’s performance is amazing!  The accuracy and attention to detail is noteworthy.  Everything from the off-putting accent to the hair, his mannerisms; James Franco transforms into Tommy Wiseau.  I appreciate how the film never makes Wiseau into a joke, rather it humanizes him and works around his eccentricities, preventing him from coming off as a caricature.  As for Dave Franco, while his performance isn’t anything remarkable, he is the grounded and sensible friend who keeps Wiseau’s oddities in check.  The fact that brothers James and Dave Franco star as Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero heightens the chemistry between the protagonists, making their relationship believable and natural.
Having never read “The Disaster Artist” book, I didn’t realize until halfway through the film how one-sided and toxic Wiseau and Sestero’s relationship is.  He doesn’t try to break up Sestero and his new girlfriend, but his disapproval of the romance is loud and clear.  His mistreatment of the cast and crew of “The Room” is not sugarcoated at all; we see him humiliate Juliette Danielle during the awkward sex scene by pointing out a zit on her shoulder, he refuses to turn on the air conditioning, causing a cast member to faint and getting into shouting matches with the cameraman and producer.  Wiseau himself could range between codependent and emotionally abusive, but both James Franco’s performance and the film make it very clear that he only has the propensity for being difficult and not abusive by intent.  Due to minimal emotional intelligence and a lack of social skills, Wiseau is portrayed as a man who does have a good heart, but chooses self over others more often than not.
The big question with this movie is does it work on its own in spite of “The Room” being the backdrop?  As someone who has seen the original “The Room,” but is not a mega-fan, I say YES!  The first hour is an underdog story that humanizes the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero, while the second hour continues to develop their troubled friendship all while successfully recreating iconic scenes from “The Room.”  The underdog aspect of the story remains front and center even as the making-of comes into play.

The Misses
Honestly my only complaint would be that the third act feels somewhat rushed.  SPOILER: So Sestero and Wiseau have a big confrontation and then Sestero walks off the set of “The Room.”  One fade to black later, Sestero looks up while driving and sees a movie poster for “The Room.”  Sestero and Wiseau meet again (after an unspecified amount of time) and they make up pretty quickly.  Given how much Wiseau has taken advantage of him, I kind of wish we had see Sestero resist forgiving Wiseau, even just a brief look of consternation on his face before realizing what brought him and Wiseau together in the first place.  Granted, having never read the book, I don’t know if this is how it happens in the novel, but it felt very rushed to me.

Guys and gals, The Disaster Artist is anything but a disaster.  This is a fantastic biopic of how the best-worst movie of all time came to be.  A well-crafted script, an endearing love for “The Room” permeating from every actor involve, and the chemistry between James and Dave Franco bring Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero to life, enabling we the audience to empathize with their wild journey towards turning a crazy dream into a cult classic reality.

Saint John Bosco, pray for us.

CGB Review of The Interview (2014)

Before the climactic interview, Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) gives Dave Skylark (James Franco) the most ADORABLE Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a gift and Skylark almost caves in to the dictator’s charms.
To be fair, if a crazed dictator handed me a sweet puppy with a melting expression, I’d probably cave, too.
Why do I bring this up?  Because honest to God, I just wanted an excuse to show a picture of the dog from the movie.
You may now commence your “oohs” and “awwws.”

This is my review of The Interview!

In Franco and Rogen we trust.
In Franco and Rogen we trust.

This is the movie that North Korea had a major freakout about last year.  The Interview tells the story of TV host Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapoport.  Together they run a tabloid show where they cover stories like Rob Lowe being bald or Eminem coming out as gay, etc.  When they learned that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a huge fan of Skylark’s work, the two men set out to interview him.  However things get complicated when the CIA gets involves and wants Skylark and Rapoport to assassinate Kim Jong-un and used the interview as a cover to do so.

Before I start this review, let’s talk about the controversy behind it.
In June of 2014, North Korea flipped out over the premise of this film; two journalists being sent to assassinate Kim Jong-un while using an interview as a cover.  North Korea was so furious that they threatened to take action against the United States if Sony Pictures released the flick.  To prevent a third world war, the film was delayed from its October release to a slot in December and it was re-edited so that North Korea wouldn’t nuke us.  Then the Sony hacking thing happened, and The Interview ended up online and in limited release.

So is this raunchy comedy worth almost getting nuked?
Hmm…sort of.
By the way, I want you to remember that this film was re-edited.  It’ll be important later.

The Hits
The opening scene is hilarious!  Dave Skylark is interviewing Eminem and, literally out of nowhere, Eminem comes out as gay.  The reveal itself lacks the build-up needed for this kind of scene, but what had me laughing was how Eminem keeps a stoic expression on his face the whole time while Dave Skylark overacts.  “I’ve been leaving a gay trail of breadcrumbs,” Eminem says in the most nonchalant way.   The hilarity of the scene stems from the fact that Eminem is robotically calm while everyone else in the studio freaks out.  Characters’ reactions or even lack of reaction can be funny when it’s set up correctly.
James Franco and Seth Rogen’s believable chemistry carries the film.  I like how Seth Rogen is the calm and collected straight-man to James Franco’s whacky egotistical arch.
[A BIT OF A SPOILER] So Franco’s character spends the day with Kim Jong-un, who turns out to be a nerd who likes Katy Perry and margaritas.  I gotta say that I admire the decision to dilute Kim Jong-un’s character.  Even though I have…a variety of issues with portraying a DICTATOR as a hapless puppy-dog of a man, I give credit to anyone who is willing to make a risky move.
Also, extra brownie points for that precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

The Misses
Why did I want you to remember that this film was re-edited?  Because when it shows, it REALLY shows.  It’s not so much in the scene transitions, but in plot points.   For one, they make it clear that James Franco’s character is successful beyond his wildest dreams, so why would he agree so readily and without much of a fight to switch from doing entertainment news to taking on the dangerous task of interviewing a dictator?  The brief argument between Rogen and Franco over taking on the task is so rushed and has no build-up to what’s at stake that it lacks emotional investment.  [ANOTHER SPOILER] When we do find out that Kim Jong-un is batshiz insane, the reveal is so abrupt that even though I knew it was coming, the gravity of the revelation just wasn’t there.  More time was put into making him look innocent than it was on giving the audience a sense of unease about his character.   I have a feeling that when they were re-editing, some key scenes that could have fixed these problems ended up on the chopping block.
Speaking of which, this movie has a major build-up problem.  When the CIA approaches our main protagonists and explains what they [CIA] want them [Franco and Rogen] to do, the weight of the situation is nonexistent because it’s treated too light-heartedly.  Even Horrible Bosses understood how to keep the seriousness of attempting to kill their bosses while remaining a comedy.

Overall I can sort of see why North Korea didn’t want this movie to be released, mainly because of the premise and the portrayal of their ruler.  However The Interview should’ve been written as a dark comedy instead of a slapstick comedy.  That way, it would’ve been a serious situation with comedic reactions instead of a film with a mishandled tone.