Review: The Disaster Artist

Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and directed by James Franco, “The Disaster Artist” is the true story of the making of the now infamous cult classic/midnight movie extraordinaire, “The Room”. At the center of this hurricane of a film production is the friendship between Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). The film begins with Greg taking an acting class in San Francisco where he timidly makes an attempt at the scene he’s been given before quietly sitting back down. Immediately after that the acting teacher asks if anyone else would like to make an attempt at the material. One lone voice responds to that call. Tommy Wiseau meanders down the stairs and proceeds to throw everything at his scene, quite literally. He grumbles and screeches, climbs the set structures to jump off and dramatically lay out on the floor- all while wailing without shame. This is Wiseau in a nutshell, confident and shameless-even when his instincts betray his intentions. Greg, meanwhile, is mesmerized by this display of fearlessness and seeks out Tommy after class to seek an attempt at capturing what Wiseau has in spades, confidence beyond measure and consideration. The long-haired and heavily accented force of nature accepts and after a scene in a diner where he pushes Greg to recite some lines loudly while ignoring the onlooking of everyone in the restaurant, they agree to go to Los Angeles to break into acting. These small moments are the foundation upon which the rest of the film rests, two weird nobodies sharing a dream and conspiring to beat the odds and secure that dream.


This movie could have easily been a joke where the audience laughs at the ridiculous nature and choices of Tommy Wiseau and crew (and admittedly we do), but the film makes a serious effort to never make Wiseau the butt of the joke in a malevolent or mean-spirited fashion. It’s more along the lines of the audience rooting for Wiseau and Sestero, but then laughing when they fail in spectacular fashion. There’s an admirable stab at infusing humanity into the mysterious Wiseau so that we don’t feel as though we’re kicking him when he’s down. Instead the laughter is complimented by a hand offering assistance and encouragement at another go at it.


After living and striving in Los Angeles for several months with next to nothing to show for their acting efforts, Sestero and Wiseau ultimately decide to try and make their own film instead. With Tommy’s seemingly endless funds and ambition the two scrape together a production crew, and cast the film with much bluster and blundering involved. If you know anything about the basics of filmmaking you’ll find a lot to laugh about. For example, Tommy and Greg go to a film rental shop to get some gear and instead of renting the expensive cameras, lenses, and filmstock, Wiseau opts to simply buy it all, both the film and the video cameras- everything. The budget details for “The Room” must have been staggering and quite amusing. Like choosing to build an alleyway set that looks exactly like the one just outside the studio, or the questionable choice to green-screen the Los Angeles skyline- of which they also have access to. That’s just the tip of the myriad of oddball and expensive creative choices that led to the creation of this very specific movie.


“The Disaster Artist” is an oddball of entertainment. The Franco brothers did a lot to portray the two midnight movie makers with heart and ambition, and that’s why the film succeeds at the end of the day. Sure, the weirdly acute creative decisions of “The Room” provide hearty laughter with it’s most infamous scenes recreated, “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!” and “Oh Hai Mark” among many others, but with the grounded focus on friendship and creative ambition against all odds (and then some), “The Disaster Artist” repurposes that same love for the cinema that got so many people involved in filmmaking to begin with. Perhaps the strangest product to come from Hollywood in years, this film was a joy to watch, and laugh with.


Final Score: 158 takes of “Oh Hai Mark”

*Oh and for a more in depth look into the horde of celebrity and comedian cameos in the film, check this out:

P.S. The next pairing of these two titans of B-movie mania is actually right around the corner. “Best F(r)iends”, written by Sestero and starring both Wiseau and Sestero, has been described as ‘like a Hitchcock noir- but with Tommy Wiseau‘ So that should be quite the unique piece. I say check it out, (I actually will be seeing this one) you probably won’t see anything like it- their track record indicates as much.

P.P.S. It’s also being released in two volumes, a la “Kill Bill”, Vol. 1 will play in 600 select theaters nationwide on March 30 and April 2, followed by Vol. 2 on June 1 and June 4.


Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons and directed by Roar Uthaug, “Tomb Raider” is the third film adaption of the popular video game series of the same name- whilst also being a reboot that in itself is an adaption of the series’ most recent reboot to the video game series that was released in 2013 (whew, that was a lot). Alicia Vikander stars as Lara Croft this time around in a much more grounded take on the action adventure series than the prior Angelina Jolie films (which, I have to say are quite a lot of fun in their own right). In this origin of the character Lara’s father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), became obsessed with ancient myths and artifacts after the death of her mother and had absconded off to a mysterious island in the pacific near Japan seven years prior to search for the tomb of Himiko, the cursed first empress of Japan. Myth and legend shrouded her legacy, but all cite a supposed apocalyptic scenario that would be unleashed upon the world if her tomb were to be disturbed. Lord Croft had pursued the legend with The Trinity at his coattails, an evil organization looking to weaponize the myth. He sought to keep the tomb hidden and out of the hands of the Syndicate… err, the Nazis… I mean… Trinity– yes them, that’s the one.


When we meet Lara in the first act she’s living in London on a shoestring budget, refusing to accept her father’s inheritance- signing that contract would be accepting his death. Instead she makes ends meet by training at a small gym and cycling through the crowded streets as a courier. Right off the bat the film sets the mood firmly in the momentum and thrill of Lara’s life. After overhearing the details of a lucrative courier race, in which a paint can is strapped to her bike leaking paint with a fox tail attached and only given a moments head start, she’s accepted the challenge and races through London closely followed by a league of cyclists. This scene was cleverly shot and a fun way to kickstart the film’s energetic sense of fun. Which is one of the film’s best attributes overall.


Once Lara makes her way to the Croft building to begrudgingly accept her inheritance, she’s given a puzzling cryptex that she solves as she’s being read the specifics of her father’s will, as if she were simply fidgeting. As she does so, a key pops out with a clue that leads her to her father’s own tomb- where she discovers the details of his globe-trotting adventures. She’s quickly off to follow his trail and discover the path he took to his death. She ends up in China before long to question the captain that chartered her father to the remote island. Instead she finds Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) the son of the captain she sought. After some squabbling she offers him a payday worth his while and they set sail, so to speak, for the island dead set in the middle of the devil’s sea.


Once she’s stepped upon the island she meets the villain of the film, Mathias Vogel, an employee of the shapeless Trinity organization played with serviceable cruelty by Walton Goggins. From there the film goes about the usual tropes of any action adventure movie or video game, i.e. solving puzzles, sneaking past unnamed and heinous henchmen, encountering dizzying thrills, all in service of seeking the eponymous tomb. So that’s all well and good, but is the film successful in its execution of these well-worn adventure themed devices? I would say that it does. While this film never reaches the heights of Indiana Jones, it does enough to separate itself as a story all it’s own while maintaining a solid sense of momentum and adequate adventure thrills. Alicia Vikander was an excellent casting choice for this reboot, while the script never reaches for the wise-cracking snark and personality of her video game peer in Nathan Drake, she does a lot with what she’s given. You can feel her struggle and her purpose in seeking answers to her father’s mysterious end.


This latest version of “Tomb Raider” gives a lot of potential for a solid string of sequels if the studio so chooses. There could be some polish done in the future, maybe learn what didn’t exactly work in this entry for example, and this could very well turn into quite an enjoyable series. Though the last five minutes of the film do go a bit over the top in their obvious hopes for another shot at the material. While the film lacks some magic in the writing and the plot points feel a bit familiar, it’s still good fun at the theater!



Final Score: three puzzles, one island, and a good deal of fun


Review: DeathWish (2018)

Written by Joe Carnahan and directed by Eli Roth, “Death Wish” is the 2018 remake of the Charles Bronson led 1974 crime/revenge movie. It’s also a heaping pile of poorly timed garbage. Have you ever seen a revenge movie? Generally speaking, the hero usually loses his family or loved ones-or is simply wronged in some form, and he then pursues vigilante justice after the legal system fails him. That’s this whole movie. Which, I could forgive if the film was either, A) comically over-the-top with it’s violence and tone, B) had something important to say- at all, or C) if the film wasn’t as rote, banal, and as bland as it turned out to be.


To be fair, going into this showing I had zero expectations. In fact the whole point of going to see this film with friends was to ‘go see a bad movie’ together. Whew, well by that metric, the film was a success. Which is a shame in all honesty, Bruce Willis used to be a Movie Star-with a capital M! Now he’s relegated to shoehorned and forced ‘action titles’ that rank among this film’s quality. The last ‘Die Hard’ was a travesty and the man’s been sleeping-walking through bad films ever since. The only hope I had going into this film was that Eli Roth, as a well known horror director, could bring a sort of tongue in cheek levity to the film’s untimely subject matter and make it comedically palatable. I was quite wrong with that hope.


If it had been tackled with any sort of imagination instead of the tired ‘been there, done that!’ filmmaking tactics that gave way to this film, there could have been something worthwhile there. In my opinion the most significant problem with the film was it’s lack of confidence. It felt as if there was a tug-of-war between wanting to craft a shoot ’em up gore fest grindhouse flick, and a serious gritty crime film with a glaze of nostalgia for those left wanting after the finale of ‘Breaking Bad’. Speaking of which, Dean Norris and Vincent D’Onofrio both make attempts within the margins of this script to elevate the films status- even if only for a moment- but they too fail in this effort. The material is weak, the direction was left wanting, the script was mind numbing, and Bruce Willis was dead-eyed from the opening scenes to the credits roll. Trust me, you can skip this one. In fact, if you’re looking for some so bad it’s good content I’ll leave a link below to an episode of ‘Best of the Worst’ from Red Letter Media on YouTube. In this particular episode they discuss the third ‘Death Wish’ with Charles Bronson, among other equally bad movies, which is far more entertaining than the current remake in theaters.

Final Score: 1 Wish… FOR DEATH(!)