Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Disaster Artist review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist

            Oh, hai Moviewatchin’ Psychopath blog, anyway James Franco (Spider-Man trilogy, 127 Hours, This is the End) stars and directs The Disaster Artist based on the memoir of the same name written by actor, Greg Sestero who co-starred as Mark with infamous filmmaker, Tommy Wiseau as Johnny in the 2003 cult classic, The Room. Ever since I saw the movie for the first time as well as the Nostalgia Critic review I’ve been a proud supporter of The Room and will introduce the film to as many people as I can, in fact I even went to the Rifftrax Live showing of it a couple years ago.
            Naturally I was hyped for this movie when they first announced it and was completely onboard for it when I first saw the trailers. And I can gladly say that The Disaster Artist is exactly the same amount of energy and passion that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp put in to Ed Wood done for Tommy Wiseau.
            Not only is it a fascinating biopic on the production of The Room, but it’s also a very funny and inspiring tribute to Wiseau’s and Sestero’s work that doesn’t shy away from the behind-the-scenes drama and shows that success can come in unexpected ways. All thanks to a performance by James Franco as Wiseau that’s on par with Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln, the likable charm of its two leads, and very passionate direction by Franco who brilliantly recaptures Wiseau’s vision on film.
19-year-old aspiring actor, Greg Sestero (David Franco-Superbad, Neighbors, Sausage Party) meets a mysterious man named Tommy Wiseau (Franco) in an acting class in San Francisco 1998 and is inspired by Wiseau’s fearlessness onstage after an awkward attempt at performing a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Over the coming months Sestero and Wiseau form a strong yet bizarre friendship.
Eventually Tommy suggests that he and Greg move to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams of becoming Hollywood actors. The downside is Wiseau’s not very good and faces several rejections from agencies, casting directors, and Hollywood insiders.
So, one day Tommy gets a brilliant idea, let’s make our own movie and show Hollywood what we got. And thus, the development of The Room begins, a movie that would go down in history as one of the best bad movies of all time.
Over the next three years Tommy writes the film’s script and presents it to Greg and despite recognizing its incoherence he insists that the script is great. Unfortunately, the film undergoes several setbacks such as production delays, falling outs with the production crew, and bad decisions from Wiseau as he attempts to bring his masterpiece to life.
The film also stars Seth Rogen (Superbad, This is the End, Sausage Party) as script supervisor, Sandy Schklair, Alison Brie (Community, Scream 4, The Lego Movie) as Greg Sestero’s girlfriend, Amber, Ari Graynor (Mystic River, The Guilt Trip, I’m Dying Up Here) as Juliette Danielle who portrayed Lisa, Josh Hutcherson (Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, The Hunger Games franchise) as Phillip Haldiman who portrayed Denny, Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement, Silver Linings Playbook) as Carolyn Minnott who portrayed Claudette, Zac Efron (High School Musical trilogy, Hairspray, Neighbors) as Dan Janjigian who portrayed Chris-R, Hannibal Buress (Neighbors, The Nice Guys, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Birns and Sawyer production house owner, Bill Meurer, Andrew Santino (Sin City Saints, Henry Poole is Here, This Is Us) as Scott Holmes who portrayed Mike, June Diane Raphael (Zodiac, Burning Love, New Girl) as Robyn Paris who portrayed Michelle, Nathan Fielder (Bob’s Burgers, Nathan for You, The Night Before) as Kyle Vogt who portrayed Peter, Brian Huskey (Children’s Hospital, Bob’s Burgers, Neighbors) as Teller who portrayed James, Sharon Stone (Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Casino) as Sestero’s agent, Iris Burton, Melanie Griffith (Working Girl, RKO 281, Stuart Little 2) as acting class teacher, Jean Shelton, Paul Scheer (Human Giant, The League, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping) as first DP, Raphael Smadja, Jason Mantzoukas (The Dictator, Neighbors, The Lego Batman Movie) as Birns and Sawyer rep, Peter Anway, and Megan Mullally (Risky Business, Will & Grace, Ernest & Celestine) as Mrs. Sestero.
Overall, The Disaster Artist is a fascinating journey into the production of The Room as well as a loving tribute to both Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. You can tell that James Franco admires Wiseau as a person and the movie he directed to the point where he transforms into the real Tommy Wiseau with his performance and recreates famous scenes from The Room to a tease, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t his best performance since 127 Hours.
The chemistry between James and Dave Franco in this movie is amazing and they both represent Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero perfectly. I really like how even after the difficult production process, concerns, and disagreements that occurred Greg and Tommy remain supportive of each other and continue to stay in touch today.
What I appreciate about this movie is that even if you’re not familiar with The Room you can still watch this movie and be just as invested as everyone else. Though it is a lot better if you’ve seen the movie and/or the Nostalgia Critic review prior because you’ll understand the references and laugh as they’re being recreated.
Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood this is one of those movies that should be mandatory for film study classes and for film enthusiasts in general. It’s a movie about the making of a movie that may have gained recognition as one of the best bad movies of all time but it shows that Tommy Wiseau never lost faith in himself or Greg and was acting, writing, and directing the movie with passion and from his heart.

The Disaster Artist is a loving tribute to two people who deserve all the recognition they received over the years. If you have a passion for movies and filmmaking, this should be a priority (You can wait on Star Wars, go see this first, otherwise you will betray me).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Coco review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
Miguel and his family in Disney/Pixar’s Coco

            One day some executives from Pixar Animation Studios saw The Book of Life and thought “Not only can we do that but we’re going to make it even better!”. That’s where their latest animated feature, Coco comes in based around the Day of the Dead and focuses on a person with a music passion and a guitar, been there done that.
            While I thought Book of Life was a solid animated film, Coco pretty much knocked it to the ground. This movie is incredible with gorgeous animation, imaginative artistry dead or alive, a colorful cast of characters, and a story that shows the importance of family, culture, life, and death in a family-friendly yet very mature and effective way.
            The film follows a young boy in Mexico named Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez-The Bridge, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) who is aspiring to become a musician and follow in the footsteps of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt-Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs, Despicable Me 2, Doctor Strange). Unfortunately, his family has a generations-old ban on music and forbids Miguel to pursue that dream and would rather have him work as a shoemaker.
            Determined to prove himself, Miguel finds Ernesto’s guitar, plays it, and magically ends up in the Land of the Dead. Along the way he meets a charming trickster named Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal-Bad Education, The Motorcycle Diaries, Babel) and together they embark on an incredible journey to unlock the truth about his family’s history.
            The film also features the voices of Alanna Ubach (The Brady Bunch Movie, Legally Blonde, Rango) as Mamá Imelda, Renée Victor (Weeds, ER, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) as Abuelita Elena, Alfonso Arau (Run Cougar Run, Romancing the Stone, Three Amigos) as Papá Julio, Selene Luna (The Cho Show, My Bloody Valentine 3D, Star-ving) as Tia Rosita, Jaime Camil (Zapata, Jane the Virgin, The Secret Life of Pets) as Papá Enrique, Sofía Espinosa (Capadocia, Gloria, Hasta Que Te Conoci) as Mamá Luisa, Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner, Stand & Deliver, 2 Guns) as Chicharrón, Carla Medina (Zapping Zone, Toy Story 3) as Tia Gloria, sprinter, Roberto Donati as Papá Franco, Luis Valdez (Which Way Is Up?, La Bamba, The Cisco Kid) as Tio Berto, Natalia Cordova-Buckley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., McFarland, USA, Bates Motel) as Frida Kahlo, and John Ratzenberger (Superman I and II, Toy Story trilogy, Cars trilogy) as Juan Ortodoncia.
            Overall, Coco is a visually dazzling and emotional journey that takes a concept we’ve seen before in movies and manages to make something completely original out of it. I was hardly thinking about The Book of Life while I was watching this movie aside from a few comments, I was too busy being entranced in this eye-candy world that Pixar created and I was laughing and crying along for the ride.
            The animation is absolutely beautiful and the designs of the worlds are filled to the brim with imagination, and I’m not just talking about the Land of the Dead here. Despite the film taking place in a fictional village in Mexico the design of it seems extremely legit through its colors and lightings and depictions of Mexican culture, definitely looks like Pixar was doing its homework.
            The Land of the Dead is ironically very lively and overflowing with color and seeing all this imagination and magic on the big-screen makes you feel like you’re really there. It’s also very reminiscent of other Disney and Pixar fictional worlds from films like Monsters Inc. or Zootopia.
            What truly steals the show is the story and how it tackles themes of family, culture, life, and death in a poignant and intelligent way. This could easily be dumbed-down and clichéd fluff morals just for kids but through clever writing, strong characters, and unexpected twists and turns, you get an inspiring animated film that can touch the hearts of even the biggest sourpusses.
            Coco is up there with the Toy Story trilogy, Finding Nemo, Up, and Inside Out as one of the best Pixar films I’ve ever seen. Don’t be fooled by its cutesy marketing, there is something for everyone here and a worthy film to watch with your entire family after a big Thanksgiving meal.

            This is my go-to family film of the year after some underwhelming and even terrible duds in the family animation genre. I tolerated Cars 3 and Despicable Me 3 as serviceable family films and despised The Emoji Movie and The Nut Job 2, but unlike any of those movies Coco offers beautiful animation, engaging characters, and a powerful story that shows that Pixar respects children and they respect adults as well.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
(From left to right) The Flash, Superman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Aquaman in DC’s Justice League

            After a series of blunders and the unexpected critical success of Wonder Woman earlier on this year, we finally reach the movie the DC Extended Universe was building up to, Justice League. Marvel has already proved that superhero team-ups can be done well with their Avengers movies so it makes sense for DC to try and do the same since they own some of the most beloved and iconic superhero characters of all time.
            Now I really, REALLY wanted to give this movie a chance because I love most of these characters. I may not have read all their comics but through other movies, cartoons, and even live-action TV shows every member of the Justice League have their own special places in my heart.
            Wonder Woman gave me a glimmer of hope that the DC Extended Universe was starting to get on the right track and I was open to see the Justice League movie despite Cyborg, Aquaman, and Flash movies not yet existing. Unfortunately, director, Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead (2004), 300, Watchmen) didn’t take notes while watching Wonder Woman and we have yet another disjointed and awkward installment of the franchise.
            I understand Snyder was having rough times with this film due to family issues that interfered and hopefully this doesn’t stop him from making movies. Fortunately, this movie is better than most of the other DC films in the franchise, has a much lighter tone compared to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, and there are attempts at being silly and funny which makes sense because they brought in Avengers director, Joss Whedon to finish the movie while Snyder was out (What a friend?) but because they both have different directing styles it feels cluttered in its execution.
            After the “Death of Superman” we find Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck-The Town, Argo, Gone Girl) enlisting the help of his new friend and ally, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot-Fast & Furious franchise, Date Night, Triple 9) to face an even greater enemy. An alien military officer known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds-Excalibur, Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood) has been unleashed and plots to conquer and rebuild the world with the combined powers of the Mother Boxes (Think of them as 3 Tesseracts or Allsparks) for his lord and master, Darkseid.
            Bruce and Diana recruit a team of heroes consisting of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller-Royal Pains, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa-Baywatch: Hawaii, Game of Thrones, Wolves), and Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher-The Astronaut Wives Club) to combat Steppenwolf’s wrath, however they might need to resurrect their fallen hero, Clark Kent/Superman (Henry Cavill-The Tudors, Stardust, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) to even stand a chance in this battle (PS that’s not a spoiler because they already ruined it in the marketing and in Batman v. Superman).
            The film also stars Amy Adams (Enchanted, The Fighter, American Hustle) as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons (The Lion King, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Margin Call) as Alfred Pennywise, Diane Lane (Chaplin, Inside Out, Trumbo) as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen (Rushmore, Gladiator, The Good Wife) as Hippolyta, and J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man trilogy, Whiplash, Zootopia) as Commissioner James Gordon.
            Overall, Justice League is a mixed-bag of a superhero movie, while it has plenty of good things in it like the cast, a good chunk of the humor, much more color compared to Snyder’s other work, and plenty of chaotic action, the pacing and different directing styles of Snyder and Whedon really make the film go downhill. Don’t worry this isn’t even close to being one of the worst comic book films of all time, trust me this is Christopher Nolan Dark Knight compared to Batman & Robin or Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.
            However as much as I enjoyed a good chunk of this film there was a lot that left me disappointed. For starters, the character development sucks hard with the exceptions of Batman and Wonder Woman because they already had a movie that established their characters (or in Wonder Woman’s case two) and since we haven’t seen a Flash, Aquaman, or Cyborg movie yet, that leaves two hurdles the film needs to jump over, establish the new characters so the audience can grow attached to them and give all the heroes screen-time, and because of the awkward set-up of the DC Extended Universe and mediocre directing, I don’t think Justice League does that very well.
            Also, the villain is extremely forgettable which adds more to the problems with the DC Extended Universe timeline, Steppenwolf has never appeared in an earlier DC film and it feels like he just got shoehorned into the movie with very little explanation outside of a backstory told by Wonder Woman at the beginning of the film. The villain in the first Avengers movie was Loki who was already established in the Marvel franchise and unlike DC’s franchise they gave the characters and worlds time to develop before their big team-up film, I’ll remember Loki far more than Steppenwolf, Hell, I’ll go on record and say I’ll probably forget about Steppenwolf in a few days he left so little impact, never thought I’d say this but Jesse Eisenberg Lex Luthor actually would have been an improvement here because at least he was already established in the universe.

            Do I regret seeing it? No, I’m glad I saw it, Justice League isn’t a terrible movie or even that bad of a movie but there is something about it that gets on my nerves. This was supposed to be DC’s big Avengers-like team-up movie which should have been amazing and if you can’t get it right the first time and the finished product comes off as “Meh!” then clearly something is wrong.