The Disaster Artist

ratings4

In 2003, Tommy Wiseau released his film The Room, which in wrote, directed, produced, and starred in — and today it is widely considered to be the worst movie ever made. If you’ve seen The Room and want to learn about the disastrous making of it and how Wiseau made it to Hollywood, or if you haven’t seen or heard of The Room but want a hilarious but inspiring comedy about dreams, this is the movie for you. James Franco directs and stars as Wiseau, the odd and mysterious man behind this “so bad it’s good” movie, whose age, birthplace, and source of his “bottomless pit” of money he used to fund the film himself, are unknown. Wiseau was rejected and laughed at a lot by everyone he worked with or tried to work with, and Franco blends in to the role so well, and we can’t even see him, we only focus on the weird personality he portrays so accurately and wonderfully. Wiseau is a terrible filmmaker and made a widely hated movie, but he was able to succeed (not in the way he intended) with the film’s awfulness which it’s so well known for and laughed at even today. The movie doesn’t just see Wiseau as a bad person, but as a person with a dream and a passion, and uses his story as a message that even the biggest failures can be successful. Dave Franco plays Greg Sestero, Tommy’s best friend and costar of The Room, and the fact that they are real brothers makes their onscreen chemistry even more fun to watch. We feel for Sestero has he is dragged into Wiseau’s mess of a dream and his career is affected by it. Seth Rogen is also awesome in his role as Sandy Schklair, the script supervisor of the film, who’s always pointing out Wiseau’s behavior and antics.

The cast, especially Franco as Wiseau, help make the movie as hilarious and entertaining as it is, but Franco as a director was aiming for a little more than just entertainment. Franco was passionate about making a project on this film, which did so badly it’s become a cult film, and of course he wanted us to laugh at the project and how horrible and nonsensical it all was, but maybe he was aiming for a little more. Franco wanted us to still feel for these characters, including Wiseau, as real people, and understand that you have to aspire for success, even though you may end up failing hugely. There’s definitely plenty to enjoy, however. Franco as Wiseau is almost life-like and made me, and the entire sold-out audience of the film, crack up about every 5 seconds, whether its a humorous line or just laughing at the stupidity of it all, which was part of Franco’s goal. The whole audience went wild at the outrageous humor and fun you’ll have with the nonsense going on with Wiseau, but Franco was also able to make these characters connect to the audience as real people. This film was definitely a true story about failure, but it’s a reminder that everyone has dreams, and no matter how far you go to achieve them, you should always reach out for them. Franco definitely achieved his goal with The Disaster Artist — making a fantastic movie about a terrible movie.

The Disaster Artist is an absolute blast to watch, from the constant, non-stop humor to the excellent writing and cast, and it’s a small but inspiring film, and don’t worry, you don’t have to see The Room in order to enjoy it. It’s one of Franco’s best roles and films, and I recommend you see this in theaters with an audience to simply have an awesome time with a very entertaining and hilarious yet heartfelt true story.

A group of people in tuxedos in a theatre watching a film.

Advertisements

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

ratings5

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri follows Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), who puts up three billboards to raise awareness about the brutal murder of her daughter after the police have failed to catch the killer after many months. I’ve seen previous films from the director, Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, so I was aware of the talent he has with directing and writing. Both his films, In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, were not only directed well but were extremely entertaining and hilarious. I’m happy to say that this film is the best out of his three, because not only does he keep his terrific comedic style, but he blends it with some powerful emotion and relevant themes to make one of the year’s finest films. McDormand is mesmerizing in the lead, because despite lots of her lines being mostly for humorous effect, her delivery of the lines is as great as it can be, and we feel her character’s rage and anger at the world after her loss and at the police for not finding her daughter’s killer. The Ebbing police is led by Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, who is singled out by the billboards and is angered by this yet feels sympathetic for Mildred’s cause. His role isn’t as large as McDormand’s but Harrelson still brings the best out of his character for another memorable performance among his impressive resume. Another highlight of the superb cast is Sam Rockwell, who has worked before with McDonagh, and here he brings lots of fun to his character but also plenty of feeling for the audience to connect with. Also worth mentioning is Lucas Hedges as Mildred’s son, and this is definitely Hedges’ best work since his brilliant turn in Manchester by the Sea, as we feel a grieving brother who is looking out for his mother while also under her wing. The cast is definitely one of the best of the year, but that’s not the only part that makes this movie a must-watch.

It’s quite surprising when movies are able to make you laugh throughout but also make you get very emotional and attached to the plot and characters at the same time. We saw this with Manchester by the Sea last year, which had many humorous moments throughout and was even marketed as a comedy, but turned out to be an extremely depressing drama and last year’s most emotionally gripping film. This is a similar situation, but there’s so much humor that McDonagh carries down from his style in his other films that you can even call it a dark comedy of sorts as well. It’s shocking that McDonagh was able to fit so much comedy in this kind of movie, even though the trailer made it look only comedic. Whenever the humor is there, it’s absolutely hilarious, and every joke hit its mark. The trailer gives you a good taste of some of the best humorous moments but a lot of it is for you to see. However, McDonagh understands when we need to feel for these characters, and through this humorous style we get a great taste of who they are and some parts are definitely sad for these people. The themes about anger and hate elevate the story, and there are relevant storylines about the police today, and how the victims of crimes such as the one that triggers the plot of this film react to such loss. It’s almost satirical about the relationship between people and authority, or even just people and other people. When the plot first unravels, you are never told anything too quickly and we get we need to hear bit by bit. The script uses the show, not tell method very well to the story’s advantage, with great directing and scenery used to bring forward the plot and character arcs too. The characters written here have such personality and are so noteworthy that they even reach the heights of what the Coen brothers have been able to do with their characters. You’ll be guaranteed to laugh at the outrageous and brilliant humor but also reflect on what these people are going through and the realistic messages we get. It’s not a film about investigating the crime but rather about how people react to such a crime. The ending may be unsatisfactory to some, but I really liked the meaning behind it that McDonagh was going for. This film will make you laugh, smile, or even cry, but one thing is for sure — you’ll definitely be affected by this film but still enjoy the hell out of it at the same time.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of the year’s most genius films about grief, loss, crime, hate and anger. The over-the-top humor makes this possibly the funniest movie I’ve seen all year but the strong emotion and messages make it the most emotional film to come out in a long time, and also one of the most thoughtful. The cast bring their characters to life wonderfully, and I’m glad to say that Martin McDonagh has found his masterpiece. My definitive pick to win the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and hopefully it will get nominated for the other awards too, or even win. The lengthy title may make some people stay away from it, but don’t be fooled, it’s a powerful and applaudable must-watch for all that you can also enjoy and laugh with throughout.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.png

Coco

ratings4

In Pixar’s latest film, Miguel, a young boy who loves music despite his family’s ban on it, accidentally arrives at the Land of the Dead and must seek the blessing a family member in order to return home. The plot is a lot more complicated but that’s the easiest way to describe it without getting into any spoilers. The cast includes well-known Latino actors such as Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt, who are both fantastic in their roles, but I was also very impressed by the voice work of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez, who plays the lead role of Miguel with lots of charm. Coco may seem to some like a rip-off The Book of Life, a great animated film released a few years ago which also focuses on a young man with a love for music despite his family’s ban on it, who ends up in the Land of the Dead on a  journey of self-discovery, but that is the only comparison the two movies share. Coco is much more beautifully animated, vivid with story and characters, and sure to make you shed a few tears by the end, a profession in which Pixar excels at.

When this movie first started, I was enjoying the nice animation and sweet heart its characters and writing had to offer, but I felt like I could tell where the plot was going to go and how everything would end up. However, the movie twists in a direction I did not expect, and becomes an even more complex family film with its themes about family, dreams, and legacy. The songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband-wife duo who won Oscars for writing the songs for Frozen, are very good and entertaining as well. What I liked is that the songs don’t serve a huge part in the film but they are still there and blend well with the Mexican culture of the film. By the end of the film, many young ones will likely cry as they did in previous films of Pixar, because the poignant themes are both happy and sad in this film, and work effectively in both ways. Pixar’s movies always looks magnificent in terms of the animation, and often millions of people work hours to months to get even a single frame (and that’s one per 24 in a second) to look nice. As I was told when I visited their studio 7 years ago, each film of theirs takes 5 years to make, and the effort each member of the studio gives in always pays off, and not only are the visuals majestic, but the storylines are unexpected, sweet, funny, and tear-jerking as well. Pixar has been in the filmmaking business for over 20 years now, and they even started the computer-animation movie-making genre with Toy Story. I grew up watching many of their films over and over again, and lots of their films shaped they way I watch and appreciate movies today. Without them, my love of movies and reviewing them may have not been the same. Some may believe Pixar has lost some of their steam and that their golden age is behind them, but I think they are still on their feet and are making stories as wonderful, family-friendly, and touching as they were when I was first introduced to their films many years ago.

Coco isn’t just a gorgeously looking animated film and tribute to Mexican culture, but it’s also Pixar’s most original and moving film since Inside Out. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and best of all, people of all ages can enjoy it. Parents will definitely want watch it over and over again with their families, and kids will want to watch it again through their childhood and eventually show it to future generations of their family. In a world where animated movies is a genre that is dying out, it’s a miracle Pixar is there to save it, and have their movies inspire families and become classics for the family genre instantly. Bottomline — go watch Coco with your family and have a blast!

Now I’m going to talk about the one problem I had about the movie, and it’s not even about the movie itself, yet it’s the worst decision Pixar has ever made by far. Before the movie, an awful, and I mean awful short film titled Olaf’s Frozen Adventure screens, and although I like the actual Frozen movie, this short film (which is a long 20 minutes as opposed to the usual 7 minutes of Pixar short films) is unbearable to sit through, with an absolutely terrible storyline and soundtrack, and even the cast’s singing is off this time for some weird reason. Disney decided to cram 6 songs in 20 minutes and pay Pixar to screen such an awful waste of time in front of a fantastic movie, which is a shame. So if you’re late to the movie, don’t worry too much about it because you won’t miss anything amazing. Otherwise, Coco is still a wonderful experience to watch with your family and nonetheless a great film that I had a blast with, regardless of the terrible short film that comes before.

Coco (2017 film) poster.jpg

Lady Bird

ratings4

Saoirse Ronan stars in actress Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut exploring the senior high school year of a girl living in Sacramento. Lady Bird is without a doubt a sweet and very entertaining coming-of-age film that’s especially impressive for a debut. I’ve always considered Greta Gerwig a great actress, with her touching and quirky performances in Frances Ha and 20th Century Women demonstrating her rare and impressive talent, and here she proves she can create a great story behind the camera as well. Ronan brings out her best performance since Brooklyn as an interesting lead role with a lovable personality. Her character is often self-centered and foolish but her emotion, charisma, aspirations, and love for her family makes her a unique protagonist. The way her relationship with her mother is depicted is very heartwarming and definitely the core of the film, offering another great performance from Laurie Metcalf. The supporting cast including Manchester by the Sea’s Lucas Hedges as one of the protagonist’s boyfriends and Tracy Letts as her father also give it their all and they bring a nice approach that make their characters feel like people involved in this world built around Ronan’s character. The plot and emotions from each character feel very human and aren’t exaggerated too often, and although there are some plenty of hilarious moments, it also known when to be more serious and the comedy and drama elements are balanced really well. Every scene flows from one to the other as if it was real life, and the realistic character personalities, emotions, and actions are reminiscent of films Gerwig has starred in herself. Although it doesn’t have any surprises in the story as it is another coming-of-age film, and some of the events at the end feel a little familiar, but Gerwig brings lots of humor and heart to create an affecting and human story about family, adolescence, and life.

Lady Bird is a great debut from Greta Gerwig with a fantastic performance from the talented Saiorse Ronan. Its mature content makes it one to be viewed by teens and older viewers, but its touching emotion, cast, and writing make it a recommended watch for those who are interested in a grounded and human story that will not fail to entertain you.

Lady Bird poster.jpeg

Justice League

ratings3

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

The DC Extended Universe has been on a bumpy road lately, because even though I liked Man of Steel, the films that followed, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, placed this franchise in a dark state. This year, Wonder Woman helped many regain some faith in the franchise, and although I did enjoy that movie, I was very skeptical about this one. Zack Snyder returns from the previous films to direct his third film in the franchise. However, he was replaced by Joss Whedon after leaving the post-production process to cope with the tragic death of his daughter. Although I was sad for Snyder and curious about a new style that could improve on what we’ve seen before, I was afraid the end result would be extremely inconsistent. Although as a movie, the director changes aren’t too noticeable, at times this feels like the slo-mo infested Zack Snyder movies he originally shot, and other times it’s trying to be a funny and light-hearted Marvel movie. Batman v Superman was dark and slow, and although Snyder’s directing is clealry shown here, the tone is definitely tweaked and improved for the future of DC. He should have understood we don’t need a gloomy, boring, overly dramtic/metaphorical film with no emotional payoff, when you can spend more time focusing on the great superhero characters you have. Justice League feels different from the rest of the DCEU in tone and mood, but also from the new boundaries Wonder Woman set, which is unfortunate, but I was still able to have a fun time, despite a $300 million budget that still couldn’t make good CGI and a rushed, formulaic, and uneven script.

Ben Affleck once again leads the cast as the charismatic Batman, and Gal Gadot is once again fantastic and steals the screen, although the script is too reliant on the events of her solo movie to have her character arc work, and emotionally she isn’t given anything new to work with. Ezra Miller is hilarious and perfectly cast as The Flash, with a well-established backstory and great writing and humor. However, the other two new characters, Aquaman and Cyborg, are underdeveloped and given no reason for us to care about them. The writing for their characters is occasionally humorous and effective, but we can’t get invested into them too much besides Wonder Woman, even Batman fell flat from a character development stance at most times. We should have gotten standalone movies for these three characters before they all teamed up, this culmination was too rushed and hardly set up. The reason The Avengers and Marvel’s new Netflix miniseries The Defenders felt so anticipated and great were because we had already met these characters individually, and the studio took their time to get us excited when they finally interacted and had great chemistry. Here, the characters we’ve already been introduced to have already all fought together and the rest are new to the game. If DC had waited to set up great universes and backstories for all six of the League members instead of only three, we would have gotten something even more exciting and satisfying. The chemistry between the entire team was also something I hope a lot more from, the had no time to make the team feel like a real team and interact with fun banter like the Marvel teams I mentioned, instead the team’s chemistry feels absent and rushed past.cDC has done a terrible job with their villains, such as Doomsday, Enchantress, and most recently, the dull and horrible Ares, but Steppenwolf is on a whole new level of awful. His CGI is video-game quality and his motive and posing of a threat are nonexistent. There are also some underused characters (I was excited to see J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, only for him to appear in two brief scenes), and lots of plots that are set up and go nowhere or only feel around for a short while.

The DC Extended Universe has been a huge mess, and although Justice League is a step in the right direction, it’s not as impressive as many would hope. I didn’t expect much form the movie, but the changes in tone are mostly for the better. The shorter 120-minute runtime is justified and the story feels rushed, as a plot conflict is introduced then immediately dealt with in the next scene, and although there are fun action scenes, including one taking place at Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira, the stakes never feel there, and the overly used slow motion from Snyder and the moral dialogue from writer Chris Terio don’t blend in well with the lighter style Joss Whedon was hoping to bring. Although I was even able to enjoy some uses of Snyder’s signature style, this feels the least like a Snyder movie like all of his films which relieved me since his style in Batman v Superman wasn’t used very well. There are scenes in which characters discuss conflicts and the ideals behind the events of the previous films, and then the comedic moments come by and that’s when it starts to not blend in. I liked the lighter, more Marvel-esque tone it was going for and it should have stuck with that. Also, a certain character’s return makes for a fun scene but definitely weakens the plot later on. When all the action ends, nothing felt emotionally satisfying or triumphant, as most of it is predictable and formulaic, and I couldn’t have cared less about the post-credits setup for who knows how many sequels. Although Wonder Woman brought this new DC universe in a much smarter direction, Justice League blends in the directing and writing styles from previous films with the positive humor and fun that fans like us were hoping for, and although this makes for an uneven and predictable plot with some fun moments and a better tone and direction than previous DC films, it ultimately isn’t a must watch unless you absolutely love these characters and the comics.

Justice League film poster.jpg

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

ratings4

Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable decision after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.

I’ve seen many movies over the years that dare to do something different, that have an unconventional style or method of storytelling and challenge the mainstream audience in some way, but nothing has compared to the pure insanity that I witnessed watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer. There is no film that you can call similar to this movie, because everything going on in this film is so unprecedented and different than what we’re used to seeing in film. The opening shot alone convinced me how messed up and different this movie would be, and this film is effective in its thrills and scares like no other horror/thriller movie could. There are no jump scares or supernatural threats, most of what is going on would have seemed completely normal if Yorgos Lanthimos had not directed it. He directed probably the most bizarre film I had seen before this one with The Lobster (which got him a screenplay Oscar nomination, and I hope he gets another for this), and his style is notably dark, unsettling, and uncompromising about the worst of humanity. His cinematography is gorgeously in unexpected places and he breaks the rules of how every other director chooses to place their shots. No filmmaker has been quite this daring since Stanley Kubrick, and you can even draw similarities to his work The Shining, with the symmetry and tracking shots that are used. The music is also beautiful and loud and promotes the tension and uncomfortably even further. With The Lobster, Lanthimos was able to create a dark and painful yet funny and satirical dystopian indie, and here he takes all those elements and kick them up a notch to create one of the most horrifying, tragic, and powerful horror movies I’ve ever seen. If you go in expecting a typical horror, thriller, or even an art movie that is slightly challenging, you will be unprepared for the unimaginably gruesome imagery, terrible decisions made by the characters, and the dilemma the main character, portrayed brilliantly by Collin Farrell in a career-best performance, is facing, which is a shocking journey Lanthimos invites you to take.

Despite Farrell’s great acting in the lead role as a rather friendly family man whose past returns to haunt him, the film is stolen by Dunkirk‘s Barry Keoghan, who plays a psychotic teenager named Martin with terrible morals, who makes Colin Farrell’s characters life a living hell. Nicole Kidman is also great as Farrell’s wife, but all the film’s most awkward and horrific moments are thanks to Keoghan. There is a chance that you will dislike this movie, as some even walked out mid-film in disgust, because the humor is dark and odd and the story is so pessimistic yet so thrilling and inviting that I somehow was able to love it. The unorthodox filmmaking and techniques used in the film are used to elevate the feeling of distress, and the fascinating plot and dialogue feel so off yet so intriguing. Lanthimos knows that what makes a good horror movie isn’t showing the audience fantastical creatures such as zombies or ghosts, but by showing the audience the worst that could happen in real life — a character with a Sophie’s Choice-like dilemma, a teenager with a tragic past and a messed up mind , and characters with desires and sexual interests that are so uncomfortable to dive into, which is how it gets so deep under your skin. We feel like these characters could even be someone we could one day know, or these events could be real-life nightmares, and that’s what makes the grotesque content even more elevating in this hideous but poetic thriller. The plot takas es many dark turns that we are constantly invested in — unless you have been grossed out by the film’s disturbing moments and themes too much, that is — leading up to a gut-wrenching climax that had my heart pounding, which results tragically and leads to a magnificent final scene that will have you shocked beyond when the screen cuts to black and the title is shown. A24 is known for releasing films that are very odd and difficult for some audiences to love, but this is on a completely new level of weird and puzzling, and even beats the strongly allegorical, disturbing, and divisive mother! as the most unusual film to be released in a long time.  Many audiences will hate the macabre and sickening violence and the weird and dark humor, and that’s completely understandable, as it’s definitely not for everyone, but I have never been more invested and emotionally attached to a thriller movie in a very long time — a truly eccentric film that refuses to lighten up but I personally loved, with the powerful emotion and uncomfortable horrific feel adding so much to the suspense.

Yorgos Lanthimos has made a film for only the most patient and daring moviegoers, and although some viewers may believe that only a human as sick as the antagonist Martin could enjoy such a movie, but this thriller, that won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is simply groundbreaking and unforgettable — but only in the good way for some, so be cautious, because you may boo out of horror and disgust or cheer in awe and break into applause — both reactions were received by the film at its premiere. I can’t recommend this complex, bizarre, and shocking psychological thriller for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s a masterful film that has resonated with me and stunned me like hardly any other film out there, and hopefully there are many out there who believe the same.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer.png

 

Murder on the Orient Express

ratings3

In the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, Kenneth Branagh directs and plays Hercule Poirot, who must solve a murder on a train and bring the killer to justice. The large ensemble cast also includes Josh Gad, Michelle Pfieffer, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and Judi Dench as the other passengers on the train whose guilt or innocence must be discovered by Poirot. Although the classic murder mystery style is entertaining and the cast is great, there isn’t much to offer other than an interesting mystery that is only sometimes inviting. Some of the cinematography feels out of place and some of the green screen effects and CGI feel obvious, but what matters in this kind of movie is the story, which isn’t perfect either. The opening scene set in Jerusalem is very entertaining and sets up a light tone for the rest of the movie, but later some darker elements are kicked in and it feels unbalanced. The titular murder only takes place about 30 minutes into the movie, and there is too much that’s unnecessarily built up before the inciting incident, and this could have easily been shortened. Some of the supporting cast, including Pfieffer, Gad, Ridley, Depp, and Odom, get their moments to shine, and it works really well for them, but lots of the other cast members do nothing and don’t get much significance. However, Branagh is definitely the standout of the cast and the film with his charming and great performance as the famous detective who’s been loved by many generations for nearly a century. He is able to bring his character to life very well and his presence is always fun and exciting. However, he may have not been the best person to direct the film, and although the sets and costume design are outstanding, the pacing and writing are uneven, and while some of the mystery is intriguing, a lot of the runtime feels rather slow and the movie could have been easily been cut down to a shorter runtime of maybe 10 minutes less, which would make it feel more like a nonstop thrill ride mystery like it should have been. Although I liked the big reveal and the solution to the murder, the way the very end was handled was heavy-handed and betrayed the way the character of Poirot was being established throughout the film.

While Murder on the Orient Express is surely not a bad film, it’s a remake that doesn’t offer anything new if you already know the story other than a great cast and some nice production design. The execution is uneven and could have used more balanced runtime and pacing, and it’s somewhat forgettable but will interest those who like the classic murder mystery style.

Murder on the Orient Express teaser poster.jpg