The Disaster Artist (2017)

The Disaster Artist

“What’s my line?” asks Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), yet again.

What an enigma is Tommy Wiseau.

Actually, enigma is putting it lightly.

Ever since he made headlines with his masterpiece of atrocity, The Room (not to be confused with 2015’s much more superior film, Room), he is still somewhat of a mystery. Very protective of his private life, he won’t even give out his exact age (though research has shown he is now somewhere in his early sixties). He says he is from New Orleans, but now says he came to America from Poland.

One thing is for sure: It is thanks to Mr. Wiseau that we have The Room (2003).

Upon entering The Disaster Artist, I have not seen the entirety of The Room, but enough scenes to get a flavor of how awful it is. In generations to come, it’s only rival in the movie category of “so bad it is good” would be the garbage dump that is 1959’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (which I have tried at least three times to watch and fall asleep at the same time).

The Disaster Artist is based on the book by actor Greg Sestero. In the film, he is played by Dave Franco (younger brother of James). Greg is an inspiring actor, but is far too shy on stage. In his acting class, he meets the bizarre Tommy (James Franco), who has no qualm with what others think of him. After a pinkie swear at the crash site of their idol James Dean, they move to LA, in search of stardom. When offers won’t come their way (including a memorable meeting with Judd Apatow), they decide to make their own movie.

If you are not as familiar with The Room, you may wonder where Tommy is getting all this money from. The thing is, so is all of his crew (including the script supervisor, played by Seth Rogen). As stated before, Tommy is very private about his personal life, and won’t share where he gets the dough. What is important to him is that this movie is made. After writing the script himself, production goes into play.

In short, it becomes a nightmare, as Tommy has everyone (even Greg) feeling queasy. Examples include a bathroom (actually just a toilet with a curtain cover) for Tommy only, he wants to shoot using both a film camera and a digital one, and shows one of the more comic sex scenes in film history (“Why is he having sex with her belly button?”)

James Franco is simply astounding as Wiseau (both of whom directed their respected films). He has the voice down to pin point accuracy, but the performance is more than just mockery. It is moving and subtle, let alone hilarious. Franco knows about flops (he, like me and everyone else, would hate to remember how he co hosted the Oscars), but also knows how to have fun at the same time as give us a character embodiment. At the end of the film, we see a side by side comparison of the real film and the one with Franco (to make the film almost all over again is serious dedication). The comparison alone is worth the price of admission.

Parents, the movie is not for kids. There is swearing, and some (minor) sex scenes (male rear nudity, as well has frontal, though the genitalia is covered). Mature High School and above.

After the movie ended, I found out that the real Wiseau (who I now strangely would love to meet) said he would only accept one of two actors to play him: James Franco and Johnny Depp. The fact that Franco knows this material and his subject inside and out (both in front of the camera and behind it) makes me a little nervous to say that Tommy Wiseau does have a little more movie knowledge than we give him credit for.

 

Overall: Three and a half Stars ***1/2

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Confession: I have always wanted a pet monkey. Ever since I was a kid, I thought having a pet monkey would make me the coolest kid in school. After finally catching up with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I am not changing my mind, but I am sensing I would need more caution.

I admit to not seeing any of the original films with Charlton Heston as of yet, but I did see the (sad) remake with Mark Walberg that was directed by Tim Burton. This film by Rupert Wyatt clearly is better, and breaths new air into the chimp franchise. Will Rodman (James Franco) is a scientist searching for a cure to ALS. The film begins with a pitch for the cure going wrong, and he loses any hope of getting funding for human testing after testing on monkeys has had some positive results. An female ape protecting her baby is killed, and rather than kill the baby, Rodman brings it home. It eventually serves as good company for Will’s father Charles (John Lithgow), who we learn is ailing from ALS.

Over the years, the ape grows up (named Caesar) and shows remarkable intelligence. The ape is played throughout the film by Andy Serkis. I remember when I first saw him as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (especially The Two Towers), thinking what a great performance he gave. He did the same in the remake (and highly underrated) King Kong, and out does himself here. We feel for all the emotions Caesar goes through, whether he is setting Will up with a female vet (Freida Piento), all the way up to his anger towards some unkind father and son animal handlers (Brian Cox and Tom Felton).

Parents, there is some swearing (very little though), but the PG-13 rating is really for the action sequences, which I am sure may frighten young children (no sexual material of any kind). Still, I would think any kid as young as ten would be ok seeing this (if they have seen any of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or Harry Potter films, they would be perfectly fine seeing this gem of a film.

Overall: 4 Stars ****