The Disaster Artist

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: M

Directed by: James FrancoThe Disaster Artist

Screenplay by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Based on the book: “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Produced by: James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, James Weaver

Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer and Sugar Lyn Beard.

James Franco: “For this movie to play in cities around the world means there is something more going on than just an espically bad movie that’s fun to laugh at with a group of people. ‘The Room’ is unique because of Tommy Wiseau, who put his whole heart into his project. ‘The Room’ has what other bad movies don’t have, which is pure passion.”

Based on the true story and book written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is about the making of, The Room, AKA the, Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.

Director and star, James Franco embraces the role of Tommy Wiseau – a man who embodies the saying, that Truth (or here, a man) really is stranger than fiction.

Beginning in San Francisco, two aspiring actors, Tommy (not Tom) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meet in acting class: Greg, shy and nervous and Tommy, filled with unrelenting self-confidence… And no talent.  Together, they make an odd yet perfect team.The Disaster Artist

Making a pact to become movie stars (just like James Dean), they move to LA to make the big time.

Tommy, has an apartment in LA and a seemingly endless pit of money where to this day, no one knows the source, nor where he really comes from.  Tommy claims he’s from New Orleans but sporting a Slavic accent he can’t disguise, it’s hard to believe.  He’s a mystery.

What can be believed is his passion.

After being constantly rejected by Hollywood, Tommy decides to create his own film, starring himself as the hero while also writing and directing the disaster that becomes, The Room.

Acting, writing, anything creative, really – it’s just so hard to become successful yet so many people try.  As producer J.J. Abrams says to Tommy, Just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.

It’s heart breaking because we’ve all been there at some point – seeing the want turn into a caricature of ourselves.  Most give up.  Not Tommy.

It’s funny.  Tommy’s funny because he wants it so bad.  And the beauty of the film is the ability to be able to laugh at what the weight of the obsession turns people into: ‘It’s human behaviour’.  That’s what Tommy wants to show the world.  His own unique view of what it is to be human.

James’ performance as Tommy gives that perfect balance of a unique strangeness with insight into a demanding yet warm heart.

Not that the script writers had to go far for material.  It’s all there, even down to the side-by-side shots of the original movie versus the remake of the same scenes just to show how incredibly bad, The Room really is.

I had a great time watching this film – the story hilarious and full of heart and well-cast with James and brother Dave showing the bromance between the two unlikely friends of Tommy and Greg.  And the clever way the film was put together, blending the original with the remake, just added to the fun (make sure to stay until after the credits!).

Only in Hollywood could you find a guy like Tommy – although he’s from New Orleans, right?!

Wonder

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGWonder

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Produced by: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman

Screenplay by: Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad and Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin.

How would you feel if your appearance caused strangers to gawp, freeze in horror or avert their eyes, so they could pretend they couldn’t see you?

This is Augie Pullman’s world, a 10-year-old boy born with severe facial deformities, about to enter school for the first time. At the school gates with his fiercely loving family, Mum, Isabella (Julia Roberts), Dad, Nate (Owen Wilson) and his teenage sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), Augie hesitates to remove his final shield of anonymity, a space helmet, his final buffer between him, and a schoolyard full of staring children.

Augie accepts that he is different, he just wishes everybody else didn’t have such a hard time with the way he looks.

Based on a New York Times bestseller, Wonder addresses today’s appearance driven culture where one is quick to judge another without making time to look beneath the surface.Wonder

Director Stephen Chbosky refuses to demonize the surface appearance of his characters by using film to shoot Augie and all those in his orbit through multiple viewpoints.

With multiple viewpoints Chbosky chooses not to minimize the severity of Augie’s facial differences, or the value society places on physical appearance.

One stand out scene is in Chbosky’s multiple viewpoint rendering of the bully, Julian, (Bryce Gheisar).

When Julian is called into the Headmaster, Mr Tushman’s (Mandy Patinkin) office to account for allegedly photo shopping Augie as deformed out of their class photo, we are stunned and moved to compassion as Julian’s mother interrupts and presents an unexpected layer to this scene. Julian’s mother unapologetically declares that she photo shopped Augie out as she was sick of her visitors concentrating on the deformed kid in the photo and not seeing her son.Wonder

As Julian’s parent storm out of Mr Tushman’s office, Julian turns back to apologise. As a child with an innocent heart he knows he has done wrong and is genuinely sorry. Without recrimination only heartfelt sadness Mr Tush says, ‘I know you are son’.

There is a lot of heart and transformation within this film and a lot of unbridled joy.

I was captivated by the effervescent joy and connection between Augie and his family.

This is a family everyone would want to be part of. A family whose joy is not metered or seeking approval from anything external to themselves. A family who celebrate each other and their unique differences.

Via says to Augie, ‘Why blend in when you were born to stand out’.

And it is Augie’s self-acceptance that transforms the lives of everyone in this story and everyone watching.

Wonder penetrates as a film about the self-acceptance of our differences and how the choices we make define and expose our truest character.

When we don’t accept ourselves it is easy to judge and put down those who are different from us. Our judgements never define those we judge, they define us.

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Murder on the Orient Express

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Directed by: Kenneth BranaghMurder On The Orient Express

Written by:  Agatha Christie (novel), Michael Green (screenplay)

Produced by: Kenneth Branagh, Winston Azzopardi

Starring:  Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp.

‘My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world’.

So simple and yet so effective, the line introducing the mastermind detective, takes the audience on a journey back in time. When travelling was still rough and dangerous, and the Orient Express became a showcase of luxury and comfort.

Regarded as one of Agatha Christie’s greatest achievements, the famous tale has been told many times before so you could say spoiler time has elapsed.Murder On The Orient Express

The most renowned adaptation may have been Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film in 1974, but there was also a TV series in the early 2000’s starring Alfred Molina.

The novel, readily available since first published  in 1934, is one of my all-time favourites. So, not only did I know what I was getting myself into but how it ended. Literally. And there is a high chance you are in the same position I was. But you know what? Don’t let that stop you.

The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners: Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz; and four Oscar nominees: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp. I could not turn down the opportunity to see such an incredible cast coming together and I was not disappointed as they delivered such intricate characters effortlessly.Murder On The Orient Express

When you have a great story and a great team of actors, there is only one thing that may make or break a project: the director. But not many people can handle directing, producing and acting like Kenneth Branagh.

The audience can feel how, just like at the Orient Express, every detail has been accounted for. There is no room for error and the result is a visually-appealing adaption that is a joy to the senses.

This is Kenneth Branagh’s second movie to be shot on 65mm film. The first was Hamlet (1996). After 21 years, Branagh decided to use this film format once again because, according to his own words, he felt inspired by some independent movies he had been watching. Mostly, films by Michael Haneke.

I love train journeys and I did some research about the Orient Express as I was writing this review. Apparently, there was one actual murder on The Orient Express. Maria Farcasanu was robbed and murdered by Karl Strasser, who pushed her out of the moving train, one year after Agatha Christie’s book was published.

The original Orient Express route (from October 4, 1883) was from Paris to Giurgiu (Romania) but shortened as the years went by. The real Orient Express disappeared from European timetables in 2009, a ‘victim of high-speed trains and cut-rate airlines’.

Loving Vincent

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: PG-13Loving Vincent

Directors: Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Producers: Claudia Bluemhuber, Sean Bobbitt

Written By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Jacek Dehnel

Starring: Douglas Booth, Josh Burdett, Holly Earl, Chris O’Dowd.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first oil painted feature film. It fascinated me from the moment I watched the trailer months ago.

Armand, the postman’s son, a man with little to no aspirations, arrives at the last hometown of the painter to deliver his last letter. The audience dives into the story through his eyes, the eyes of a stranger, providing a fresh perspective as the character’s curiosity, and our own, unravels an unexpected mystery.

Visually stunning, the creators of this piece of art in animated form set out to achieve the impossible, to tell the story of the last days of Vincent Van Gogh’s life through sixty-five thousand paintings.Loving Vincent

The art form of film is different from painting. Painting is one particular moment in time, frozen. Film is fluid, seeming to move through space and time. So, prior to and during the live action shoot the painting design team spent a year re-imagining Vincent’s painting into the medium of film.

Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, as well as the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

In an experience like no other, Loving Vincent takes the audience on a journey through his life and death, allowing us to step right into his artwork where we wonder about the meaning behind the scenes unveiling before our eyes.Loving Vincent

Armand sets off in search of the truth and finds that sometimes, a man’s fame is not made of what he set out to achieve during his lifetime but of the legacy that he leaves behind.

Dorota Kobiela had planned to combine her passion for painting and film, for her sixth animated short, and to paint the entire film herself. However, once she expanded Loving Vincent into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the [124] painters. Although, Dorota managed to set some time aside to paint a few shots herself.

After falling in love with Polish painter and director, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman also fell in love with her film project, Loving Vincent.  He has been working with her ever since.

Three Summers

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Ben EltonThree Summers

Writer: Ben Elton

Producers: Sue Taylor, Michael Wrenn

Starring: Rebecca Breeds, Robert Sheehan, Michael Caton, Magda Szubanski, Deborah Mailman, John Waters, Kelton Pell, Jacqueline McKenzie, Peter Rowsthorn.

One of the characters in the new Australian romantic comedy Three Summers says at one stage that the annual Western Australia festival “Westival” is “a camping holiday but with folk music – what’s not to love?” A lot, actually.

If Ben Elton’s name hadn’t been associated with Three Summers as both writer and director, my expectations about this film would have been far different. I’m a huge fan of Elton’s satirical British comedy TV shows Black Adder and Upstart Crow, both of which are memorable for their witty, biting dialogue and humour, their entertaining characters and absurd situations. Elton is also a novelist and playwright whose work is often labelled political, so I assumed this film would explore political issues but in a satirical way.

To be fair, setting this romantic comedy over three successive summers during a fictitious folk music festival (based on the real Fairbridge festival Three Summersin Pinjarra WA, which Elton and his Australian wife attend each year) seems like a good idea. The setting provides scope for diverse characters and situations to explore important national issues, including the refugee/asylum seeker debate and Aboriginal reconciliation. These issues are covered, but in such a heavy handed, pedestrian and preaching way that you feel like you’re being lectured.

The main storyline focuses on two young musicians (Rebecca Breeds as the spirited fiddler and Robert Sheehan as the tech-obsessed loner) who are attracted to each other but clash owing to differences in opinion and lifestyle, and who meet over three successive summers.

Supporting characters are portrayed with broad strokes for easy identification, being types rather than unique individuals as they work their way through predictable situations and misunderstandings that wouldn’t be out of place in 1970s Summer Bay or one of those dreadful 1950s British comedies. There is no sense of any of them, aside from the heroine, having a life beyond the annual festival. There is one genuinely amusing running gag involving the Theremin, and scenes with an intimidating female security guard played by Kate Box, which hint at the kind of absurdist humour lacking from the rest of this film.Three Summers

Michael Caton’s character, a grumpy widowed grandfather who likes Morris dancing, typifies the bigoted Aussie bloke who had it tough growing up and resents all those “foreigners” who are trying to muscle their way in. His eventual epiphany lacks conviction after a lifetime of having a different head set, but the film naively wants us to see how it’s possible for anyone with a blinkered view to change. The asylum seekers are portrayed as innocent victims lacking any individual character traits, while the indigenous dance troop of wise old fella (Kelton Pell) and rebellious young lads seems to rely mainly on types rather than real people.

It is an odd film, given Elton’s intention to explore what it is like to be Australian, and how we all apparently struggle with this. While trying to be a comedy with a serious underlying message, it comes across as a kind of episodic Love Boat on land, with different family group dynamics and couples either working through differences or being caught in a lifestyle/culture time loop.

The folk rock concert scenes featuring the heroine and her father (John Waters) with their band “The WArrikins” have an energy that is absent from the rest of the film. Three Summers isn’t a bad film, just mediocre and bereft of the satirical or absurdist edge that Elton could have brought to it.

 

Bad Moms 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Bad Moms 2Bad Moms 2 – aka A Bad Moms Christmas

Rated: MA 15+

Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Producers: Bill Block, Mark Kamine, Suzanne Todd

Stars: Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Wanda Sykes, Peter Gallagher.

Is any situation funny just because people are drinking so much they steal, assault and create mayhem? If it is, it has to be well written with characters we have become fond of, which this film was not.

With an opening scene showing wholesale tinsel and bauble carnage (reminiscent of the start of The Hangover which was also written by this film’s writers/directors), we meet one of the “Bad Moms”, Mila Kunis as Amy, looking beautifully coiffed and made up no matter the time of day or night, who confesses to having “ruined Christmas”.Bad Moms 2

The theme of this movie – conflict between mothers and daughters – appears to be best summed up by Amy’s mother Ruth (Christine Baranski) who says loftily, “You’re a mom. Moms don’t enjoy, they give joy,” (although joy is not an emotion you would normally associate with her). Amy’s response, after a series of passive-aggressive encounters that escalate to overt rebellion, is to declare to her two fellow moms, “Christmas is supposed to be fun. Let’s take Christmas back!”

Showing little originality or creativity, the movie revisits the days leading up to what caused Amy’s apparent destruction of Christmas, with scant attempt to provide background for those viewers who may not have seen the first Bad Moms movie. For example, it isn’t initially clear what her relationship is with the hottie Jessie (Jay Hernandez). I thought he was her husband until someone mentions this will be the first Christmas for the children without their father, implying he’s dead. It isn’t until later we learn Amy has in fact divorced her husband, but not why, obviously because we should already know.

The other “Bad Moms” are also re/introduced: sweet yet repressed Kiki (Kristen Bell), married with three or maybe four kids, with an overly possessive mother (Cheryl Hines) who isn’t coping well following the death of her husband and who sees her daughter as a replacement companion.Bad Moms 2

By far the crudest yet most convincing of the three is Carla (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother of more mature years with a teenage son and a largely absent rocker mother, Isis (Susan Sarandon) who only turns up once every few years when she needs to borrow money. Strangely I most enjoyed the scenes with Carla at her day spa job. Her waxing of a visiting fireman/stripper (the incredibly buff and toned Justin Hartley) produced the most laughs, mainly because of its silly yet sweet spin on two people meeting and falling for each other in ridiculous circumstances. Kiki’s visit to the psychologist Dr Karl (Wanda Sykes) also stood out as one of the better crafted comic scenes.

Most of the movie is devoted to a series of expletive-laden shouting matches between the various mothers and daughters that rely on swearing instead of wit, interspersed with slow-motion montages showing the three Bad Moms getting drunk, abusive and stealing other people’s property because hey, that’s fun, isn’t it? Then the pace gets slower and the mood more serious as the various characters implode, explode, break down, wallow in regret before they reflect and reunite in a typically Americanised sentimental way.

While the preview audience was well lubricated with strong cocktails so were probably in the mood to be easily pleased, watching this film sober meant the crudity and charm-free sit-com direction were undiluted and much harder to swallow. Having to celebrate Christmas with these people would be a punishment.

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The Only Living Boy in New York

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MThe Only Living Boy in New York

Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)

Written by: Allan Loeb (21, The Space Between Us, Just Go with It)

Producers: Albert Berger, Jeff Bridges, John Fogel, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Ron Yerxa

Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh

Starring: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges, Kiersey Clemons.

When Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) bemoans the fact he hasn’t done much in his twenty-something years, his new-found mentor, writer W F Gerald (Jeff Bridges) reminds him, ‘You’ve had sex with your father’s mistress. I’d say that’s something.’

And that’s sort of this film in a nutshell.

Fragile relationships, forbidden love and flawed characters.

Sadly, despite the stellar cast, this is also a flawed movie. Part The Graduate, part Barfly, The Only Living Boy in New York does not reach the heights of either of those films – but to be fair, not too many films do.

That’s not to say this film is to be avoided, there’s plenty to keep one interested for the duration.The Only Living Boy in New York

Jeff Bridges is clearly enjoying the chance to get down and grungy; the presence of Lou Reed (through music and references) adds to the New York feel; Cynthia Nixon as Thomas’ mother and Ethan’s (Pierce Brosnan) wife is nicely understated, and there is obviously other eye candy for most audience members (Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemons).

Thomas, a college graduate, discovers his father, Ethan, is having an affair with a beautiful colleague, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). He decides to follow her and, somehow, for some reason, and with little resistance from either of them, they too sleep together.

At the same time, Thomas’s best friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) announces she’s dropped her muso boyfriend, obviously in the hope of taking her platonic relationship with Thomas to the next stage.

Everyone has decisions to make: unfortunately it’s pretty much the same decision for all of them – who to choose?

The only other substantial revelation/surprise comes toward the end but most will see it coming from a long way away.The Only Living Boy in New York

One of the main reasons this film does not reach the heights it could have is that it’s hard to feel much for pretentious, cliched, wealthy publishing types.

Their actions are those of New York aristocrats bored with life but lacking the wherewithal to expand their interests outside their circle of influence. They could do anything: travel the world, climb Everest, skydive – anything they want; but they choose to wallow in their own dissatisfaction.

So while there is enough interest to follow their story, one does so with little sympathy for any of them. ‘Wake up guys and smell the flowers’, that’s if flowers grow in New York.

Interestingly, with the actors he had to work with, and the context of the story, Marc Webb fails to make the most of the sexual chemistry that should have oozed off the screen.

On balance, a film that, with more subtlety and nuances, could have been a ‘must see’ but that still has enough to provide for a pleasant ninety minutes to fill – so long as you’re not expecting the class, style and substance of The Graduate.