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Review: ‘The Disaster Artist’ is a Genius and Silly Story of Bad Filmmaking

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If the midnight screenings at the local arthouse theaters are anything to go by, The Room is the 21st century’s Rocky Horror Picture Show. A week before the press screening for The Disaster Artist, there was a special theatrical showing of The Room that came with the note “Party Atmosphere.” If you’ve ever been to the screening of a cult movie, you know the type of movie-going experience I’m talking about. Audiences dressed up in costumes from the film cheerfully quoted nearly every hilariously-delivered line of bad dialogue and hooted and hollered with every scene of unintentional comedy. It’s a film so audaciously bad that it’s somewhat charming for its earnest and placed director Tommy Wiseau on the map, though not at the exact destination he wanted.

the disaster artistBased on a biography of the film’s production, The Disaster Artist follows the relationship of amateur actors Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), an average all-American guy, and Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a lanky, long-haired guy with a European accent of indeterminate origin. They first meet at an acting workshop, proving they’re both terrible in front of the class. Greg, however, admires Tommy for his fearlessness to get up on stage, scream “Stella!” repeatedly and nearly destroy the set in his rage. There is an undeniable tenacity and ease to Tommy’s acting, despite the accent and his inability to read jokes or references. It doesn’t matter to Greg; he wants to learn that fearlessness. Tommy teaches Greg promptly by making him perform a reading aloud in a diner, weirding out the patrons. The two actors are still awful, but they’re awful together.

Tommy lets Greg into his life as they become partners in acting, but only to a certain degree. He gives Greg strict instructions not to ask too much about him, including how old he is, where he was born and where his money comes from. His stock answers: Greg’s age, Louisiana and none of your business. Greg doesn’t question it much considering how ambitious and wealthy Tommy is about his lifestyle. They become inspired by James Dean to visit the location of his death and Tommy offers to drive there at that very moment. The two of them aspire to be great actors in Los Angeles, and Tommy already has a downtown apartment paid for. Nobody will hire them for a movie and Tommy decides to write, direct and finance his own film, The Room.

Tommy has all the makings of a classic bad movie director for his lacking moviemaking knowledge, ambitious spirit, and bottomless bank account. Nobody is entirely devoted to Tommy’s vision. Script supervisor Sandy (Seth Rogen) tries as hard as he can to pull back from exploding on Tommy’s inefficient and crude tactics for shooting his film, but others do not fair better. Tommy is a mercilessly egotistical and cruel man on the set. He complains about his beautiful actress having a pimple, refuses to turn on the air conditioning and sets up his own personal toilet in the studio.

What’s most shocking is his awareness of what he is doing from learning by the examples of others in Hollywood. Greg pulls Tommy aside to tell him that he’s been treating his staff like garbage. Tommy retorts that some of the best directors would mistreat their actors, referencing how Alfred Hitchcock would throw real birds at his actors to get them in character. Greg stresses that Hitchcock was a jerk for doing so, but it’s hard to deny Tommy’s logic considering how prolific The Birds became. It’s this rocky road to fame that leads Tommy to believe he is doing the right thing when everyone seems to be against him for all the right reasons.

James Franco melts into this role almost seamlessly putting on the act of the aloof Wiseau. He embodies the voice and mannerisms so well that there’s a natural grace to his comedy as opposed to punching up the portrayal for laughs. Tommy can make audiences crack up with little more than his accent passively making jabs, and James hits all the right beats to make every with Tommy a real treat. Dave Franco is also in top form as Tommy’s right-hand man with an awkward eyebrow raising higher as he squirms in the passenger seat of this wild ride. He encourages and pushes Tommy to keep at it, but will still find himself being betrayed out of the director’s jealousy and ego. We feel for Greg as he starts to see the real monster his roommate indeed is when it comes to snatching those dreams they always talked about.

The Disaster Artist is a great comedy not merely for laughing at Wiseau’s failure of a film, but also his appreciation of what he has truly made. At the premiere screening for The Room, he’s dismayed to see so many people laughing at what he considered drama until Greg points out how happy it made others. It’s a remarkable legacy for a filmmaker who bought his way into being a movie star and came out as something he never expected. He would attend sold-out screenings where he’d sign autographs, toss around a football and embrace the comedic fame made possible by lovers of bad movies. James Franco’s direction and portrayal of Wiseau is stellar not so much because we pity the man but that we celebrate his insane vision and the wild ride it took for him to become an icon. Wiseau doesn’t need our sympathy; he already has our attention from his presence, our money from his sold-out shows and our laughs from his timing and acting. What more could an egotistical filmmaker with dreams of stardom want?

As a bonus, the film’s pre-credit sequence features a side-by-side comparison of actual footage from The Room versus the scenes that were staged for The Disaster Artist. The timing and camera angles are unfathomably accurate, and these sequences serve as the most magnificent tribute for having the Franco brother star in a remake of Wiseau’s film. I don’t think ever laughed as hard at The Room before, viewed here in a weird stereo vision. And just in case you weren’t already rolling on the floor laughing, the post-credit scene features Wiseau himself as a different character who comments on Franco’s voice, making for one of the best cameos and laughs I’ve had all year.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


Box Office

“The Grinch” Steals Box Office, “Overlord” and “Spider” Left With Scraps

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The holiday Christmas movie season starts early as it usually does in November. Just one week after The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, along comes Dr. Suess’ The Grinch, the theatrical animated adaptation of the classic children’s novel, helmed by Illumination Studios of Despicable Me fame. The animated comedy raked in $66 million for its first weekend, well on its way to conquering its $75 million budget as the holidays roll on. Given Illumination’s track record with comedy among kids, expect the film to stick around for the next two months.

The rather high box office of Grinch stole the thunder of the other two films debuting this weekend. Overlord, a Nazi zombie action/horror romp, debuted at #3 with a domestic gross of $10.1 million, which is not exactly a strong opening for a film with a $38 million budget. But it could’ve been worse as The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story, the action sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, premiered at #5 with a box office take of only $8 million on a $43 million budget. Don’t be surprised if you see these darker, violent films take a tumble coming into the holiday season that seeks more PG-13 genre films for the families to venture out to the theater for.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic, is holding firm at #2 on its second weekend with a weekend gross of $30.8 million, bumping its domestic total up to $100 million. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, however, isn’t doing so well in its second weekend. The Disney fantasy adventure only made $9.5 million over the weekend, a 53% drop with a domestic total sitting at a meager $35 million. Not a very strong take for a Disney Christmas fantasy that cost $120 million.

It’s no surprise, however, that David Gordon Green’s Halloween took the biggest dip of the weekend at 64%. It’s surprising the horror film is even still here at #9 in the box office, the domestic total now sitting at a very pleasing $156 million. Also holding firm once again at #10 is The Hate U Give, having made $26 million for only being in 1,100 theaters.

View the full top 10 box office weekend results below.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($66,000,000)
Bohemian Rhapsody ($30,850,000)
Overlord ($10,100,000)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($9,565,000)
The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story ($8,015,000)
A Star is Born ($8,010,000)
Nobody’s Fool ($6,540,000)
Venom ($4,850,000)
Halloween ($3,840,000)
The Hate U Give ($2,070,000)

Next weekend will feature magical beasts versus dysfunctional families versus women robbers. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second film in the new Harry Potter spin-off series, will debut in 4,000 theaters. Instant Family, a family comedy starring Rose Byrne and Mark Wahlberg, will hit 3,000 theaters. Also debuting in 3,000 theaters will be Widows, the all-star heist picture directed by Steve McQueen and starring Viola Davis.


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Review: “Overlord” is a Gritty, Gory Genre Mash

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Overlord is one of those delicious genre blenders that delivers World War II action and viciously gruesome body horror into a beautifully bloody cocktail of entertainment. In the same way that From Dusk Till Dawn convinced you into watching one type of film before switching gears, so too does this war film that soon mutates into an equally as frightening tale of science experiments gone wrong. And although the subgenre of Nazi zombies is a fairly small one, this is by far one of the most fun.

Starting loud and explosive, making great use of IMAX, we’re quickly thrown into the action with an interesting ensemble of soldiers tasked with taking down a Nazi control tower in French territory. Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) is fearful of combat and reasonably so when everyone is shooting at you when making a rocky landing and losing more than half his comrades. His methods of choosing the least lethal options clashes greatly with the ruthless Captain Ford, played by a stellar Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell who has that same great level of grit in his performance. Meeting up with a handful of other soldiers, they secretly make their plans in a Nazi-occupied French village to assault the tower where the Nazis have established a base.

Though Boyce is prepared to take down the target, he’s not prepared for what he discovers underneath the base. The Nazis have a classic mad doctor hard at work on breeding the ultimate race of super soldiers. These monsters are not ready yet and Boyce, unfortunately, happens upon the stepping stones of mangled corpses, howling undead, and decapitated heads begging for death. Of course, this is all helmed by a nervous mad scientist, Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman), and a sneeringly sinister overseeing Nazi Officer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk).

While the Nazi experiments are in desperate need of improvement, Overlord shoots straight for the guts with gusto when it comes to the action and terror. The US soldiers are portrayed as a lot of colorful characters, including the nasally joking Tibbet (John Magaro) that provides vital comic support. The Nazis are seen as unhinged evil, never wasting an opportunity to shoot a civilian in the streets or rape a woman when she is cornered. And the monsters all feel like brilliant works of terrifying body horror, where necks snap open and chunks of flesh fall off the face. Consider how when the French civilian of Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) gets in on the action; she quickly goes from fearful sister looking after her ailing aunt to a flamethrower-touting badass.

But what’s most remarkable about all this is how it never feels the need to blatantly wink with its theatrics, shying away from trying too hard to seem badass. This movie is badass and it knows enough not to amp up the humor when setting undead zombies aflame or watching someone’s body contort in unnatural ways. The tongue is buried firmly in cheek, chewing on its meaty set pieces of blood and explosions to stand firm without a knowing nod to the audience. Such earnest seems almost rare in films that want to replicate that grindhouse flavor of filmmaking.

Overlord more than earns its brutal showdown of fierce fights and abundance of firey blasts, putting in all the grunt work of a capable war and horror film. With the relatively fresh direction of Julius Avery, it’s a film that is smart enough to have faith in its grit of the disturbing elements from both genres that it never feels the need to spice it up too high with self-consciousness. And in its own weird way, it’s serious and subtle enough that we can buy into the fantasy of a Nazi zombie story told straight with character and cunning. After all, we’ve already had the over-the-top angle with Dead Snow. The time has finally come for this subgenre to be taken seriously. Or about as seriously as it can be taken.


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Big “Bohemian Rhapsody” Opening While “Nutcracker” Trails

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In weekend box office battle, it’s Queen who is king. Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddy Mercury and Queen biopic, came in at #1 making $50 million domestic. With a $52 million budget, this is a very successful opening for the film, despite the mixed critic reaction. Falling just behind it with less than half the take is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Disney’s latest fantasy adventure debuting early for the Christmas season. The film did poorly with critics and even poorer at the box office, bringing in only $20 million which is not a good debut at all for such an expensive epic. Also just behind is Tyler Perry’s new romantic comedy, Nobody’s Fool, taking in $14 million, strangely low for a Tyler Perry movie, especially when you consider that higher budget of $19 million.

Since Halloween is over, it’s natural to see that David Gordon Green’s Halloween would dip in the box office and it certainly fell the lowest this week with a 64% drop. Falling sharply from #1 to #5, the film made $11 million for the weekend but it’s not a huge concern given the film has already made $150 million on a budget of $10 million. Almost tying with the picture is A Star Is Born, the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga musical drama that has proven to be a box office darling, earning $11.1 million over the weekend with a $165 million domestic gross. And still sticking like goo to the box office is Venom, Sony’s solo villain picture starring Tom Hardy, making another $7.8 million for a domestic total nearly at $200 million.

Aside from A Star is Born being the smallest drop of the weekend, it also tied for the lowest drop with Smallfoot, Warner Bros animated comedy that is proving to have modest legs to stick around. The animated film with the voices of Channing Tatum and James Cordon made $3.8 million for a $77 million domestic gross. And The Hate U Give, the racial drama, is still hanging in there at #10 with a domestic total now sitting at $23 million, rather strong for a drama that slowly rose up over the course of October.

Bohemian Rhapsody ($50,000,000)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ($20,000,000)
Nobody’s Fool ($14,000,000)
A Star is Born ($11,100,000)
Halloween ($11,015,000)
Venom ($7,850,000)
Smallfoot ($3,805,000)
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween ($3,700,000)
Hunter Killer ($3,525,000)
The Hate U Give ($3,400,000)

We hope you’re ready for Christmas because those movies are going to start early. Next weekend will see the 4,000 theater debut of The Grinch, the latest animated comedy from Illumination Studios based on the classic Dr. Seuss book. But it’ll have some adult competition with The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story opening in 3,000 theaters (the sequel to 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Overlord, a Nazi zombie action picture, opening in 2,500 theaters.


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