The Disaster Artist (Full Review)

If you’ve never seen Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film The Room, then you should really treat yourself. It is a masterpiece of poor acting, terrible writing, inept editing, and lousy production value. Oddly enough, those same qualities are what make it one of the most rewatchable movies of all time and has helped it gain a cult following since its release. The Disaster Artist is the bizarre but heartfelt story of the making of the famous “best bad movie ever made”.

TheDisastorArtistTeaserPosterDave Franco plays struggling actor Greg Sestero, the man who also wrote the book that this film is based on. While attending acting classes in San Francisco, Sestero meets and befriends the eccentric Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) who convinces him to move to Los Angeles so they can both pursue their acting dreams. When they continue to struggle to become major Hollywood stars, Wiseau decides to write, direct, and star in The Room despite not knowing the first thing about filmmaking. With Sestero uncomfortably along for the ride as his co-star, Wiseau sets out on a disastrous production path that threatens to damage his friendship with Sestero.

The film is bursting with charm thanks in large part to the two leads. It’s no surprise that James and Dave Franco have great chemistry (they are brothers after all), but the two actors fall beautifully into their roles. James Franco is easily the most notable, with a transcendent performance that  completely embodies both Wiseau’s odd mannerisms and personality.

Budding with marquee actors in supporting roles (Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie, Paul Scheer) and some hilarious cameos from a few A-listers like Zac Efron and Bryan Cranston, The Disaster Artist moves at a steady comedic pace that drives home the sense of uncanny humor and heart that both Wiseau and his terrible film possess. The end product is a hilarious tale of friendship that illustrates the beauty and danger of never giving up on a dream. And everyone involved, including the real life Tommy Wiseau, deserves a standing ovation.

FINAL GRADE: A

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The Lego Ninjago Movie (Full Review)

Like most, I was skeptical when a movie franchise based off of LEGOs was announced. Then I saw the Lego Movie. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough to be seen as something more than a soulless cash grab. Lego Batman came along in 2016 and set the bar even higher with a witty and fun film for all ages. Now comes Lego Ninjago, a big screen version of the popular line of toys that also happens to be a TV show.

The_Lego_Ninjago_MovieTaking place on the island of Ninjago, this story revolves around six “ninjas” who use giant robots called Mechs to defend the city from the Evil Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux). Under the tutelage of ninja master Woo (Jackie Chan), the team consists of macho earth ninja Kai (Michael Pena), humanoid ice wielding robot Zane (Zach Woods), panicky lightning ninja Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), feisty water ninja Nya (Abbi Jacobson) and her obnoxious fire ninja brother Cole (Fred Armison). Leading the team is Lloyd (Dave Franco), a teenage outcast who lives with his mother (Olivia Munn) and just happens to be the son of their arch nemesis.

In many ways, this movie is the epitome of my fears when I first heard about the LEGO movie franchise. Kids who play with LEGOs have a ton of imagination, but that imagination can concoct a ton of random, scatter brained adventures that just don’t translate to a cohesive story. The father/son dynamic between Garmadon and Lloyd that dominates most of the narrative is fine, but all of the sequences that surround them are noisily uncoordinated. From the goofy start, the action in the movie moves like it’s being made up as it goes along. And that may be fine for children, but it’s just annoying to anyone who stopped playing with LEGOs years ago.

There’s no point in most of the characters even being ninjas, as they’re more like members of Voltron or Captain Planet’s Planateers than Power Rangers. Many of the jokes are forced too, with the few comedic moments coming from the villain. By the end, if you haven’t gotten bored, you’ll just be hoping that the creators of this mess can scale it back a bit for the next installment.

FINAL GRADE: D

Now You See Me 2 (Full Review)

Now You See Me was one of Summer 2013’s most pleasant surprises. Charismatic characters and originality turned this heist film involving magicians into a unique film that was exciting from start to finish. But as I’ve always shouted from the mountaintops (my laptop)… EVERY GOOD MOVIE DOES NOT NEED A SEQUEL!

Now_You_See_Me_2_posterThe first film followed FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) as he led an investigation into Robin Hood-esque crimes done by four magicians known as The Four Horsemen. The twist (SPOLIER ALERT for the first movie) was that Rhodes was actually the ringleader of the Horsemen and the whole thing was a plot to get magician snitch Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) behind bars and expose a greedy businessman (Michael Caine) who failed to pay out insurance after the untimely death of Rhodes’ magician father.

Fast forward a year later, the horseman are all in hiding and Rhodes’ cover is still standing with the FBI, now helmed by Sanaa Lathan’s forgettable character. But a new heist is in the works, causing Rhodes to reassemble illusionist Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), hypnotist McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and pick pocket Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Lizzy Caplain replaces Isla Fisher as the team’s fourth member.  Unfortunately for the Horsemen, before they can even pull of their first trick, they and Rhodes are exposed by an anonymous adversary and are forced on the run from the police, leading them to a billionaire tech mogul (Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe) who offers them freedom if they can pull off a heist for him.

The first film had the perfect amount of twists and turns to make the movie seem as viable as possible despite many of the tricks being virtually impossible even after they’re explained. Because this is a sequel, it seems as if the filmmakers feel as if they have to up the ante on almost every front. Sometimes this works (a scene involving some clever card tricks is the best in the movie), but the overall product seems head scratchingly confusing and overblown. The tricks seem more impossible and the twists seem way too convenient. There just  isn’t enough set up to justify the hordes of plot twists and the movie suffers under its own weight to try and make it bigger and better.

Lizzy Caplain is a bright spot as quirky newcomer Lula, but every other new character is insufferable.  Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of his character’s flamboyant twin brother is the biggest example of this. The character is annoying every second he’s on camera and is never inherently necessary. The climax is decent enough, as it restores the film to the illusionist elements that made the first film so captivating, but the ends hardly justifies the long, convoluted means. I’m all for sequels that live up to their predecessors or even manage to feel genuine, but Now You See Me 2 just seems like an exercise in Hollywood giving us something we think we want, but don’t actually need.

FINAL GRADE: C-

NEIGHBORS 2/ANGRY BIRDS REVIEWS

Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-

 

The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.

FINAL GRADE: D