The Disaster Artist Review: It Big Hollywood Movie!

In the same vain as Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist documents the making of what is widely considered one of the worst films of all time, The Room. Written and directed by Hollywood outsider Tommy Wiseau, The Room is an absurd and perplexing piece of cinema full of unintentionally humorous scenes, bizarre writing, and atrocious acting. Despite the film’s irrationality, The Room maintains a massive cult following, with frequent midnight showings across the U.S. still a popular occasion. And with so much mystery and fascination surrounding The Room, it was only a matter of time before we got a feature film about the topic.

It becomes evident within the first few minutes that The Disaster Artist was a passion project for Franco, and that he (like many of us) loved The Room with the same level of comedic fervor.

Franco as Tommy Wiseau is as hilarious as it is uncanny. His performance as the eccentric actor/director is hard to get a grasp on, as his character remains quite idiosyncratic and secretive throughout the entire film. Wiseau, for example, speaks with a slurred but strong Eastern European accent, yet adamantly asserts he’s from Louisiana. Wiseau also miraculously funded The Room entirely on his own, spending more than five million dollars to produce it. Only, nobody ever understood where and how he got the money to do so.

And from interviews I’ve seen with the real Wiseau, Franco captured this awkward demeanor incredibly well; pulling off what I consider to be my favorite role of his yet.

The rest of the cast, featuring such talent as Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and Josh Hutcherson, all give wonderful performances as well, elevating The Disaster Artist in numerous ways. Seth Rogen as Sandy Schklair (the script supervisor) acts as the main form of comic relief, as film continuity proves to be less than useful in Wiseau’s production. Dave Franco as Greg Sestero (an actor who befriends Tommy and stars in The Room) allows the audience to see a more sensitive side to the usually unpleasant Tommy Wiseau.

The Disaster Artist documents the mysterious and baffling nature behind the making of The Room, however it sadly doesn’t say much about it. The one key feature that this film desperately lacks is a central point of focus. More specifically, The Disaster Artist needed more of a purpose. Sure, the film details the making of The Room with a brilliantly keen sense of self -awarenessbut what does have to say about Wiseau and his big Hollywood movie? What does the mere existence of The Room mean for filmmaking and aspiring filmmakers? Is it possible that any blindly passionate individual with enough conceit can rise to infamous Hollywood stardom?

Those with a vehement love of The Room will have the most to gain from watching The Disaster Artist, while others with no frame of reference will likely find themselves bored. Already having extensive knowledge on the subject allowed me to enjoy watching The Disaster Artist with a heightened sense of awareness and understanding for the strange events that unfolded. I more than enjoyed watching it, and I hope that others will respect the enthusiasm and love Franco put into his tribute to one of the most bizarre films ever made.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the underwhelming introduction to the recently rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise.

The film stars James Franco as Will, a San Francisco scientist working on a drug that he hopes will cure Alzheimer’s, a disease his father (John Lithgow) suffers from. When Will’s experiments (which are conducted using apes as test subjects) are deemed a failure by his colleagues, Will is entrusted as the secret caretaker of a young ape named Caesar (Andy Serkis). Being previously exposed to Will’s drug tests, Caesar displays an unusual level of intelligence, far greater than other apes. And as his intelligence continues to grow over time, Caesar creates an insurrection among apes that threatens the existence of the human race.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes takes an intriguing look at the typical “don’t control nature” plot. It fuses a whole host of ethical issues and questions into the storyline for the viewer to ponder, many of which reflect on real world problems we as the human race struggle with.

The CGI effects on Caesar, as well as the rest of the apes, were pretty spectacular. This blended well with the performance of Andy Serkis (the man that brought Gollum to life in the Lord of the Rings trilogy), whose talent really shined through with the help of modern-day motion capture. Every little facial expression is finely detailed on the face of Caesar, and by the end of the film his character transcends from animated animal to more human-like than the actual humans.

The majority of the flick takes its time building up to the climax, but perhaps too much time. There are plenty of moments where I felt the film would start to drag, and not even Franco or Serkis could keep the story immersive. However, when the film picks up in the third act, it really picks up. The climactic showdown atop the Golden Gate Bridge is both fast-paced and exciting, the kind of material I was hoping to have seen throughout the entire picture.

On an emotional level, this film really didn’t do much for me. While I thought there was a great dynamic between Franco and Caesar, I never felt as invested as i should’ve been. There were numerous occasions where characters would share heartfelt or poignant scenes that I found hard to even pay attention to. Perhaps this was due to the poor performance of James Franco, who looked rather tired and passionless throughout the entire film, as if he might fall asleep at any given moment.

Best describable as average, Rise of the Planet of the Apes answers for us the obvious question of, “did we really need a Planet of the Apes prequel/origin story”? It has some good CGI effects, a great motion captured performance by Andy Serkis, and a third act that I found to be quite exciting. Yet the film lacked any emotional investment from its leading stars (minus Andy Serkis), creating a boring and uneventful atmosphere for most of the runtime.

The Verdict: C

 

-Zachary Flint