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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]

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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