A beautifully unorthodox love story
The Shape of Water (2017): In a 1960s research facility, a mute janitor forms a relationship with an aquatic creature.
Oscar season is (finally) in full swing. I have a lot of movies I have yet to see, but if the early awards season is any indication.....The Shape of Water will be making some serious waves (tehe) this year. After seeing it, I can understand why. The brainchild of the great Guillermo del Toro, (and almost certainly his best work to date) The Shape of Water shows us an imaginative love story between a mute and an amphibious creature. That's really all you need to know about the story going in. The greatness of this film is with the relationship of its lead characters, its spectacular visual effects, and its wonderful production design. So, without further ado, let's dive in and discuss The Shape of Water! (Don't worry I'll be here all night with these water puns)
Sally freaking Hawkins. I must admit I am not very familiar with this talented actress. Heck since starting this blog I've only seen her in Godzilla and Blue Jasmine, and she didn't really stand out in either of them. So I feel like I can't say this is "the performance of her career," but I will say I can see why many other people (people whom are more familiar with her work) are saying that. She gives Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer a serious run for his money in terms of the best performance I've seen in 2017. Hawkins plays a mute, and the fact that she couldn't speak didn't slow her down at all. She conveys so much emotion throughout this film with just her face it's incredible. Like, Nicole Kidman in Lion kind of incredible. There's one scene in particular where she's yelling at Richard Jenkins's character, and even though she can't talk.....you really feel like she's yelling at him! It's one of many fantastic scenes throughout the film. Doug Jones plays the mysterious amphibious creature, and he does an outstanding job too. The freaking visual effects, man. Dunkirk has some company for the best effects of the year. You get almost as much emotion out of the creature as you do Sally Hawkins, and the scenes where it's just the two of them are simply terrific. Del Toro and company did an incredible job here showing off what you can do in 2017. Man have we come a loooooooong way. Additionally, the supporting cast is not only strong, but they have some great character arcs as well. Richard Jenkins leads the way. He plays Hawkins's neighbor, and has a wonderful story arc himself as a man struggling to cope with his homosexuality in the 1960s. He may make some waves this awards season with this performance, as it's certainly one of the best of his distinguished career. Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg are great as well. Honestly this film may make some waves for the ensemble award as the SAG Awards, because all of these actors are great and each have (mostly) good character arcs on top of it.
Finally, this film also features terrific production design, as well as one of my favorite scores of the year. Alexandre Desplat (who's been a busy man recently with a whooping six film scores) adds another fantastic score to his portfolio, which certainly adds to the ambiance of the film. It also reminded me a lot of the opening of Up, and anything that makes me think of one of the best sequences ever made is certainly a good thing. While there have been some other great scores this year, The Shape of Water will almost certainly be a tidal wave this awards season in this department. As for the production design.....the freaking colors, man. The film looks very grimy and worn down, and every choice of color adds to this. I think there's a good essay somewhere about del Toro's color palette, and why certain colors were used in this film. (Looks at every college student studying film)
THAT SAID. There are some imperfections here. Most notably in Michael Shannon's character. I get that this is a fairy tale, but his character has some cartoon villain-esque traits that make him not feel like a real person. Shannon plays the villain spectacularly well, and his character is written with a LOT of ties to modern America, which I appreciated, but still. It just felt a little too over-the-top for me. (Though I expect many will disagree.) Michael Stuhlbarg was also a little underdeveloped for how prominently he's featured in this film, and his character's arc ended in a really disappointing fashion. He became a plot device after starting out as a major supporting character, and that irked me a tad. Also. (Warning: I'm going to throw a spoiler in here, but it occurs within the first ten minutes of the film and doesn't impact it at all later on so it's minor) I appreciated the ties to modern America, (of which, there are many) but......did we really have to get full frontal nudity (in rather excruciating detail, I might add) of Sally Hawkins within the first five minutes of the film? That sequence felt awkward and out-of-place. It doesn't last too long, but to me it felt like nudity for the sake of objectification. Ugh! Fortunately, this sequence doesn't last very long and I was able to move past it.
All of those complaints, though, are relatively minor in scale. This film is one of the great movies of the year, and deserves all of the awards hype it is receiving. Guillermo del Toro has crafted his best work to date in the style that only Toro himself knows best, and is well worth your time. Check it out!
The Critique: Buoyed by fantastic visual effects and a spectacular performance from Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water is a charming and unorthodox love story that will keep you engrossed from start to finish.
The Recommendation: If you like a good love story.....what are you waiting for? Check this one out!
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
UPDATE: So I originally gave this film an 8/10, but then I saw The Greatest Showman and saw how poorly it handled some of the ties to 2017 and realized that The Shape of Water did this part so much better that it's borderline hilarious. So I had to up my score a bit for my own sanity.
What does Mr. Grinch Want for Christmas? To Return some videotapes?
American Psycho (2000): A wealthy New York investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.
Happy holidays everyone! Hope you're getting to spend some quality time with your friends and family during this wonderful season. As is tradition at Enter the Movies, I'm here to provide you with a review of a classic film that has hardly anything to do with Christmas. Last year I provided my jolly take on L.A. Confidential, and this year it's time to talk about one of the craziest films ever made: American Psycho. Now, I'll admit..... there's only one passing scene in this film that has to do with Christmas. But I have always wanted to talk about this controversial film, so I'll use my Holiday Special to do it. If you don't like it.....well, don't make me go get my raincoat! (Deep breath) Anyway, let's talk about American Psycho, shall we?
The name of this movie is fitting, because it is absolutely ridiculous. But, for the first half of the movie, it is ridiculous in an unforgettable sort of way. (I'll get to the second half in a bit) The film stars Christian Bale as the antihero Patrick Bateman in what is easily the best performance of his distinguished career. Not only that, but this performance would likely find a spot in my top 5 Best Performances of all time! His portrayal of Bateman is darkly hilarious. He's haunting. He's menacing. He's superficial. Yet he makes you laugh so much you actually feel uncomfortable. Bateman commits horrific atrocities in front of you, and at the end of the film you feel awful for not hating him with every fiber of your being. This is a phenomenon that I have experienced in only a handful of movies over the years. (Another one that comes to mind? Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street) But that is exactly what an antihero should be. Bateman is also held up by some incredible writing. His personal story arc is terrific! There's also this fantastic theme of materialism that is still shockingly relevant over 15 years later. The amount of relevance this still has as a social satire 15 years later is pretty uncanny. One of the more famous scenes of materialism in the movie (there are many) has been turned into a meme now, but even when I see it in meme form it still works! How often does that happen? It's pretty freaking incredible.
However, as the second half rolls on and we get into the third act, the theme of the film shifts to being more about Bateman's struggle to stay integrated with society and, well, sane and away the social satire. As these sequences progress, and as Bateman's antics become more over-the-top, the lines between reality and fantasy are blurred, which lead to some very confusing moments. The satire turns into a psychological drama, and this transition is rather ugly, to say the least. It's so rough that you'll probably just give up on trying to understand what's going on. This is such a shame, because the first half of this movie is the definition of perfection. Bateman's first kill while describing the career of Huey Lewis and the News is, to this day, one of the best scenes I've ever seen in a film. (Warning: There's some GRAPHIC content in that previous link) But the second half is an absolute dumpster fire. Look. I get what they were going for here, and it's certainly provocative from start to finish. But when the film starts out as strong as it does and turns into a borderline indecipherable mess, I can't help but be disappointed. It's controversial as well, with the film famously having to cut 18 seconds of film to avoid the dreaded NC-17 rating. (The overall making of this movie is nuts....at one point none other than Leonardo DiCaprio was going to take on the role of Patrick Bateman) That said, this is still a good film as it is carried by the career-defining performance of Christian Bale, and its dark humor is on point as well as its statement on materialism. If you want to see a mind-provoking social satire this holiday season, and really get into the materialism that comes with this festive time, you've come to the right place! Everyone else though? Just go and watch White Christmas again. That's prooooobably a safer choice.
Happy holidays everyone! Now excuse me while I go and listen to some Genesis. (Personally, I think "Invisible Touch" is the group's undisputed masterpiece.)
The Critique: A provocative and dark social satire, American Psycho is buoyed by one of the greatest performances in the history of film, despite a rather incomprehensible final act.
The Recommendation: If you like dark comedies and antiheroes and have never seen American Psycho, move this to the top of your list right away. Everyone else? Well......maybe look for something else to watch.
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Happy holidays everyone!
A wealthy New York investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.
The Greatest Showman (2017): Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.
Merry Christmas Eve everyone! The train keeps on rolling here at Enter the Movies. Today we're taking a look at The Greatest Showman a film that definitely should be good, but fails miserably. Perfect film to discuss during the holiday season, right? Let's just get this over with.....
What happened here? I wanted to like this movie so much. A musical centered around the life of the great P.T. Barnum? Featuring the lyricists for La La Land? Sign me up! But.....what we got was a superficial biopic musical that does everything it can to skip past the more interesting/controversial aspects of Barnum's life. If you're just looking for a feel-good family flick this holiday season, or are a big fan of Hugh Jackman, there may be enough here for you to have fun. But, if you're looking for anything more than that you're gonna have to keep on looking. It's not here. Which is a real shame.
So there's a surprisingly good allegory at the start of this film between "what you're hoping for" and "what you get" in this movie. Right off the bat, we're greeted with the classic 20th Century Fox title card. Like the one that preceded their films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It's accompanied by the classic theme as well, but as soon as that's done we're thrust into the "modern" 21st Century Fox title card with a very "current" and "hip" pop beat underneath it that leads into a tease of one of the big musical numbers. That ends up being the perfect summary of this film: you want a (at least) somewhat in-depth investigation of the life of Barnum that really gets your nostalgia going, but all you get is a flat and generic musical that makes Barnum out to be a hero and vilifies all who found what he was doing to be.....less-than-commendable. As for the music, (you know, the most important part of a musical) it's..... ok. The big single, "This Is Me," hits all the right notes, says all the right things, swells at the right moments, and will inevitably be nominated for an Oscar, (this year has been a somewhat weak year for original songs, but that may be because there's no La La Land this year) but the rest of the music is really lacking in my book. It's just generic pop music, which feels very out-of-place here. Oh hey! There's another good allegory here between what the music should've been and what we got! All the allegories. Rebecca Ferguson (GAH c'mon Ferguson! You can find better work than this!) plays the great opera singer Jenny Lind. She has a big solo number in the middle of the film, because of course in a musical someone playing a singer would get a solo number. What kind of song do you think that's going to be? If you thought "Celine Dion rip-off," then this film may be perfect for you! I almost burst into laughter when Jenny Lind started singing this song that is nothing like anything an opera singer would sing. I mean, I get that we may not get an opera song here, but really? This is what you're going to give us??? Sure, guys. Sure.
There are a few good things to like about this film. Hugh Jackman is great as P.T. Barnum. This role is right in his wheelhouse, and he is as charming and charismatic as ever. Zac Efron and Zendaya are pretty good too, and their duet has easily the best choreography of the entire film. (It may even be the only worthwhile choreography in the film) The editing is really good too, featuring some enjoyable transitions and good cuts in the dance numbers. But even within the editing there's some negatives. The final big dance number is a clusterbomb of visuals. We get this big long take where the camera is flying everywhere and people are dancing and animals are jumping around and it's just.....bad. It's such a visual overload that you just don't care about what's going on. Speaking of animals, though, hey! Remember when they were introduced to the circus? If you watch this movie then neither will you, because they will just randomly be introduced in the final scene with no real rhyme or explanation! Guess one day P.T. Barnum woke up and said, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" And then they were a thing. But that sudden introduction of animals is just an example of a larger problem with this film: it bites off way more than it can chew. Not only that, it chews on the wrong parts of Barnum's life. I mentioned that before, but it really irks me! This film turns Barnum into an undisputed hero, and vilifies everyone who took issue with what he was doing. Barnum was a lot more complicated than that, but this film doesn't have any time to investigate it. The protesters are all just people who hate the fact that Barnum was employing unique individuals, and the critic, played by Paul Sparks, (WHAT ARE YOU DOING MAN? GET IT TOGETHER YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS) is just a whiny old man who hates fun. Oh! The unique individuals! They are nothing more than a sideshow in this film, despite being the focal point of "This Is Me." The film speeds past these individuals coming to grips with making money to have people laugh at them. That is a really interesting dynamic that should be at the center of this film, but no! We cannot move past it fast enough. Also! The film HORRIFICALLY botches Barnum's adventures with Jenny Lind, doing everything it can to vilify her and glorify him. (It made me extremely uncomfortable, especially now with the prominence of #MeToo) But it botched this section all while trying to make this movie all about following your dreams and being yourself, no matter who you may be. You can't have it both ways, guys. Oh and of COURSE Michelle Williams is wasted as "the wife." But at this point with all the other errors of this film, does that really surprise you? At least we can all laugh at how in the opening scene of this film she and Barnum are the same age, but later on they grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. They're only twelve years apart so you almost got it! And what's with the romance between Efron and Zendaya? Why is it a thing? Why should we care about it? Why is it "controversial"? Beats me. UGHHHHHHH HOW DO YOU SCREW THIS SOURCE MATERIAL UP THIS BADLY. This is the directorial debut of Michael Gracey, and boy do I hope he can recover from it.
There's really not much else to say about this thing. There are better films to see in theaters right now. I love me a good musical, and will make a point to see as many of them as I can when they hit theaters, but I have no intention of watching this one again any time soon. Go and give The Shape of Water some love, or just see Star Wars again. You'll thank me later. Now hallelujah I can stop thinking about this film!
The Critique: Despite the charisma of its leads, The Greatest Showman falls flat on its face in spectacular fashion thanks to the very poor handling of its subject matter.
The Recommendation: If you're a die-hard fan of Hugh Jackman, there may be enough to get you through this. Everyone else, though? Find something better.
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad
Boldly original for a film of this stature
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017): Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
The biggest movie of the year is finally here. And boy is it a decisive one. First off, to everyone who isn't a hardcore Star Wars fan, let me say this: you will enjoy this movie. Even if you're a somewhat big fan, (which is probably where I would categorize myself) I think you'll still (at least) like it. The mega-fans, though, are where the division lies. There are some things that happen in this episode that have upset a lot of people. Here's my take: in modern Hollywood, a film like The Last Jedi doesn't get made. Look at Justice League. (My official punching bag for 2017 in case you didn't know already.) That film had obvious corporate mandates written all over it, which takes away from its authenticity. Director (and writer) Rian Johnson was given an unprecedented level of freedom to make whatever he wanted with what will undoubtedly be the highest grossing film of the year. I can REALLY respect Disney/Lucasfilm for doing that. I also think that people got way too into The Force Awakens. I've watched a few videos of people listing their complaints about The Last Jedi, and when they get to their "missing Episode VII" story-lines complaint, they start rattling off things that even I have no memory of. Really? You're upset that they didn't include the 45th subplot in TFA? Look. This is not a perfect movie. Heck, it's not even a great movie, in my opinion. But the good (and great) moments of this film still far outweigh the bad. Episode VII was far from perfect and played things really safe. That's J.J. Abrams style. He's a crowd-pleasing director. Episode VIII isn't perfect, either, but it took risks. Rian Johnson played fast and loose with the Star Wars lore, and I can't help but respect his vision for the universe far more than I did for J.J. Abrmas. And Disney! I really cannot believe they green lighted this, but geez am I glad that they did.
Let's start with the good. Before we get to a brief (to keep it spoiler-free) discussion of the story, let's talk about other elements of this film. The acting. The "new school" class of in The Last Jedi are awesome once again. Even better than they were in TFA honestly. Poe is still my personal favorite. Oscar Isaac is so charming and charismatic it freaking hurts! He continues to be one of my favorite actors in show-business, and I hope he ends up with a career as distinguished as someone like Harrison Ford. Domhnall Gleeson, one of my complaints from TFA, fills out his shoes far better here as General Hux. I actually kind of like Hux in this movie. He's not as awkward as he was the first time around, and the fact that he doesn't have to deliver that really forced Hitler-like speech helps. (Let's be honest-the entire concept of Starkiller base was silly from TFA.) The other stars (Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega) are just as good as they were in TFA. I really like these actors, and I hope they all manage to have good careers in Hollywood after this Star Wars trilogy is over. The big newcomers, though? Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, and Kelly Marie Tran? All great in their roles, but none of them have very fleshed-out character arcs. Del Toro and Dern are basically just plot devices, so you're not going to get good arcs for them, but the real loser here is Kelly Marie Tran. She plays Rose and has a story-line with Finn that's.....well.....we'll get into that later. Moving on. Let's talk about one of my favorite parts of Episode VIII: the score. (Cues the trailer for the music) John Williams knocks this one out of the park! I was somewhat disappointed with his score of TFA because I felt (and still do) that it failed to capture the magic of previous Star Wars scores. (The music of Star Wars is my favorite music of any film, so I hold these to a far higher standard than I should) Fortunately, Episode VIII knocks it out of the freaking park in this regard. The score here is awesome, combining some of the best themes from the original (IV-VI) trilogy with some of the better themes of Episode VII. There's one sequence in particular involving the Millennium Falcon that uses a classic theme from Episode IV that made me grin from ear to ear. It was one of my favorite moments of the film. Speaking of! The cinematography is also fantastic. And if that sequence with the Falcon isn't my favorite moment of the film, then another that has this absolutely beautiful shot combined with a stunning moment of silence right in the middle of the climax of the film is. Yes, silence! I LOVE that Rian Johnson wasn't afraid to have the (objectively) best moment of this film be accompanied by total silence. I've seen this film twice, and both times you could hear a pin drop in the theater in this moment, despite it being a full room both times. It's a haunting and beautiful sequence. Finally, the set piece on the mineral planet was amazing. Thanks to the red salt against the white ground, we get some absolutely gorgeous shots throughout this. I mean, look at the picture below! It's so byotiful!
But now let's talk about the story. I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you absolutely don't want to know anything, then skip this paragraph. There's a lot of good in this story, but there are some misfires here as well. First off, the good. Personally, I love Kylo Ren's arc. I wasn't entirely on board with him in TFA, but I am now. He has some awesome moments in this film, and his character goes in a direction that (at least) I wasn't fully expecting, and I love it. Give me more Kylo Ren, please! Additionally, (and this is one of the more polarizing arcs in this film) I like Luke's arc tremendously. Mark Hamill plays Luke exceptionally well, and I really appreciated what his character goes through and where he ends up. Luke's final scene in this film is, in my opinion, perfect, and I can't wait to see what part he plays in Episode IX. Also, I like Snoke in this film. I won't say anything more, but I thought he was kind of dumb in TFA, and I really appreciated where he goes in The Last Jedi. The people complaining about him are silly. After all did The Emperor get any real screen time in any of V and VI? No. HOWEVER, there are some real misfires. Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) is a mere plot device, and Rian Johnson does make her have this kind of silly little subplot with Poe that doesn't add too much to the film. But this makes me upset more so because I love Laura Dern than anything else. There are two rather big misfires here in my opinion. The first (and lesser of the two) is with a rather large subplot involving Finn and Rose. I wasn't on board for much of any of this admittedly long sequence, (so it does throw the pacing off in the middle of the film) but I will say it had some good CGI and cinematography, and it had a good score to back it up. It also did lead to a cool (but otherwise meaningless) post-epilogue scene, so at least there's that. The worst misfire, though, is with Leia. Her entire story arc feels wrong and out-of-place given what happened to the late, great Carrie Fisher. (RIP) Fisher herself is great. This is probably Leia's best film in the Star Wars universe. But....I wish it had been changed. She also has not just the dumbest moment of this movie, but quite possibly the dumbest moment of the entire Star Wars saga. (A saga which has also produced Jar Jar Binks and the casting of Hayden Christensen so that is a fairly impressive feat.) Ugh! Why did you treat Leia like this, Rian Johnson? I want to like it, but I just can't.
So now that we're talking about the bad, story aside, let me bring up two other negatives. First, the CGI. Most of it is pretty good, (definitely better than TFA out-of-place CGI) but there is one sequence where it is TERRIBLE. It doesn't help that this is a bigger moment for the film, but unfortunately it comes off as kind of corny because the CGI is hilariously bad. The other complaint I have is with the humor. Most of the time, I laughed so it wasn't all bad. But! There were a few sequences where the humor felt forced, especially surrounding Finn. He has a lot of (unfortunately) forced gags in this film. This is the M.O. of Rian Johnson, though, so it shouldn't be too surprising. However, other than that, I really don't have any complaints. The silly and dumb do detract from the film overall, but not to the point of it being "worse than the prequels" or anything like that.
In conclusion, I do believe The Last Jedi surpasses its predecessor overall. There were a lot of silly J.J. Abrams story-lines that Johnson wasn't afraid to do away with, and I respect him for shaking things up as much as he did. I wish Rian Johnson was directing Episode IX instead of Disney handing the reins back to Abrams, because I fear he may try and undo a lot of what Johnson did in VIII. It could lead to a tonal mess between the three films. I know this movie has received mixed reviews from the audience, but I actually kind of like that. That was the risk Disney took when they gave Johnson total control of this movie. He got to make the movie he wanted to make, and that just doesn't happen nowadays. Abrams knows how to make a crowd pleasing film. "Hey, you don't like the prequels? Well let me just rehash Episode IV for you." But for as many movies as I see, and how cynical I can be with corporate mandated filmmaking, (cough cough Justice League cough cough) I really prefer the balls-to-the-wall creative style of Johnson over the crowd-pleasing style of Abrams. I will admit that nostalgia got the better of me when I was reviewing TFA, and I ended up giving it too high a score. I gave it an 8 when I should've given it a 6. That won't happen here. The Last Jedi is a good film, with some faults, but it does manage to surpass its predecessor because it doesn't play things safe, and it isn't just a simple rehash of Episode IV or V. It's its own thang, and I love and respect the risk Disney took with Rian Johnson to make it so. See it with confidence, just maaaaybe temper your expectations a tad.
The Critique: A crazy and original film, The Last Jedi manages to surpass its predecessor in nearly every way, despite some faults of its own.
The Recommendation: As if everyone in the world isn't going to go see this film. It did just open to over $220 million domestically. Maybe make it a double feature and show better films like The Disaster Artist some love while you're at it though, ya? Sorry. Couldn't keep my cynical side at bay forever.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMjk2MjI1MzgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzczMjIyMzI@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_.jpg (Rey + Luke)
Quick Reviews, Winter 2017: Battle of the Sexes, My Friend Dahmer, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Hitman's Bodyguard, The Killing of a Sacred DeerRead Now
Battle of The Sexes
My Friend Dahmer
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
The Hitman's Bodyguard
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
This is why I love Cinema
The Disaster Artist (2017): When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.
Wow. What a film. I think I'm going to be higher on The Disaster Artist than some because I, for one, am hopelessly in love with the movies. If you're anything like me then this film will definitely tug on your heartstrings. (And you'll know it, too) But either way..... I had very high expectations for The Disaster Artist, and man oh man did James Franco and company hit this one out of the park. Yes, it's a film about the making of the best worst movie of all time, (check out my review of The Room here!) but it's still approachable for everyone. Because honestly, this is the story about two best friends trying to pursue their dreams together. Even if they aren't particularly good at said dreams. Who can't appreciate that, right?
Let's start out with the good, which is most of this film. The movie features an all-star cast behind Dave and James Franco, and you can tell that all of them put a lot of care and love into their roles, no matter how small. Ari Graynor's performance as The Room's 'Lisa' was so on point it was kind of freaky. She captured the mannerisms of Juliette extremely well. Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron are freaking great together, both on-screen and off. Jacki Weaver is wonderful as The Room's 'Claudette.' And of course, we have James Franco with what is undoubtedly his best performance since (at least) 2012's Spring Breakers. His Tommy Wiseau is incredible, and is one of the best performances I've seen all year. His accent, mannerisms, and overall attention-to-detail is fantastic. His friendship with Greg (played by brother Dave Franco in what is their first co-lead performance together) is at the forefront of this movie. Their chemistry is awesome, (as it should be with two brothers) but you find yourself really feeling for them as the movie goes on. Their story arc together is extremely engaging, to the point that the actual "making of" The Room is just something of a sideshow. Additionally, the shroud of mystery that surrounds Tommy Wiseau is still intact here, which I really appreciate. The fact that it was an actual plot point in the movie (at one point Greg is mad at Tommy and asks him where he's from in front of cameras to upset him) is awesome, and further solidifies my point about the mystery of Wiseau being a major reason as to why The Room still garners sold-out midnight screenings to this day.
It's tough for a movie to straddle the line of comedy and drama well, but The Disaster Artist does exactly that. There are some sequences here where I laughed harder than I have in any other movie this year, then suddenly the very next scene the film is tugging on my heartstrings for one reason or another. It does make the tone unpredictable which was a tad distracting, but geez is that a minute complaint. Then again most of my complaints with this film are relatively minute. On that note.... (I know, great segue, right?) It did bother me a tad when Wiseau and co. made the transition from drama to comedy with The Room so quickly, and how quickly Wiseau himself accepts this fact. That "Eight Months Later" intertitle was unfortunate, but this entire complaint can really be summed up as "I want more movie!" If anything, that's a good thing. The movie does only come in at 104 minutes, and I wish it had been 144 minutes, so we could have dived deeper into the "making of" portion a bit more. But, as I mentioned before, this film really isn't about that.
This is why I love The Disaster Artist so much. It's a work of love for all those out there trying to chase their dreams. Films like La La Land also have these themes, and (obviously) I appreciate those too, but I REALLY appreciate The Disaster Artist's interpretation of this because it's a tribute to everyone trying to chase their dreams, regardless of how good or bad you may be at it. Jacki Weaver's character, Carolyn, has the line that hits this point home in the film, and is my favorite moment of the year so far. She's eating lunch with other members of the cast on the set of The Room, and by this point they all know they're in a complete disaster of a motion picture. The mood is somber, but still surprisingly upbeat for a crew that already knows that what they're currently working on will likely be the worst thing they ever put their names too. While they're eating, someone asks Carolyn something to the effect of "Why are you here? Why do you drive 50 miles to work every day?" and her reply is "Because even the worst day on a movie set is better than every other day." If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will. This is one of the best movies of the year, (and my "favorite" so far) and it's well worth your time, regardless of whether you have seen The Room or not. James Franco has crafted a wonderful love letter to cinema and all "the fools who dream" (to quote La La Land) with his brother and best friends. It's a marvelous film and worth every second of your time. See it with confidence.
The Critique: A beautiful, inspirational film about chasing your dreams no matter what, The Disaster Artist is one of the best movies of the year thanks to its stellar performances and a spectacular story that successfully rides the fine line between drama and comedy.
The Recommendation: An absolute must-see for everyone! See it with great confidence!
The Verdict: 9.5/10 Almost Perfect
The Strongest 1/10 a Movie can ever Receive
The Room (2003): Johnny is a successful banker who lives happily in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. One day, inexplicably, she gets bored with him and decides to seduce his best friend, Mark. From there, nothing will be the same again.
Look at that IMDB description. LOOK AT IT. Doesn't that make you want to drop everything and see it? It's so engaging! I just love how they felt the need to add the word "inexplicably" in that description. It's completely unnecessary, but it's still.....mysteriously beautiful. Actually, that's a great way to describe The Room: completely unnecessary, yet mysteriously beautiful. This film is routinely referred to as "the best worst movie ever made," and I can see why. It's TERRIBLE, in every facet, but you will be rolling on the floor laughing at just how bad it is. I figured I would take a minute to talk about this film with The Disaster Artist going nationwide this week, because that's as good an excuse as any to talk about this cult classic. It's no wonder this film is a favorite among certain circles. This movie is a GREAT party watch, which has led to many theaters having sold-out midnight screenings of it to this day. If you've never done one of those and you like The Room......oh boy do you need to change that. I was lucky enough to see this film for the first time in a midnight screening, and it is honestly one of the best movie watching experiences I have ever had. You haven't seen The Room until you see it like this. No wonder people see it in the theater dozens of times. But how does one analyze it? How has this film lived on and garnered so much attention to the point that there's an Oscar-worthy making of film coming out about it right now? These are some really good questions that I don't know the answer to right now. Let me go out and toss a football to myself and get back to you beautiful people.
Ok I know that was a frisbee and not a football but just go with it, ok? Whatever. I don't care.
So now that I'm back from tossing my frisbee I MEAN FOOTBALL, let's talk about The Room! I have seen some pretty terrible movies in my life. Heck for my 10,000/100,000 view specials I reviewed Manos: The Hands of Fate and Night of the Lepus respectively. But those movies are so bad they're unwatchable. This film, however, is an absolute blast to watch. Why is that? It's hard to find a rational explanation for why The Room is a significantly better a viewing experience than something like Night of the Lepus. Why does The Room garner massive midnight screenings while Birdemic (to list another of the historically awful films out there) does not? I think it starts with the allure and (to this day) shroud of mystery that surrounds the director, writer, producer, financier, and lead actor of The Room, the legendary Tommy Wiseau.
So do me a solid and look at that picture real quick. That is Tommy Wiseau's official headshot on IMDB. You can spend hours and hours on IMDB and not find a more ugly picture of an actor anywhere. Even John Reynolds, the....uhhhh..... actor that was allegedly high on LSD during the entire filming of Manos: The Hands of Fate just doesn't have a picture of himself on IMDB! And yet there's Wiseau's horrifically disheveled face. Right there for the world to see. We know criminally little about Wiseau and where he came from, but legend has it that he spent five million dollars of his own money to self-finance The Room. How did he get that money? Why did he come to Hollywood and try and be an actor when he had enough money to finance his own movie? He has to be well off if he has five million dollars lying around to blow. How did he look at this and say, "Sure. This looks good. Let's release it to the world!" Who knows. We may never know. This man is so mysterious that his Wikipedia page has to quote a Howard Stern interview he did this year in which he says he can speak French and is Catholic for his "Personal Life" section. In an age where we know absolutely everything about every major star, and tabloid journalists follow actors around like hawks scouring for the latest scandal, the ability of Tommy Wiseau to still, to this day, remain a complete mystery is unprecedented. It tears me apart, man! I just want to know more about him!
It also helps, in building the allure of Wiseau, that for me personally, his performance in The Room is, simply put, the worst performance I have ever seen in a movie. Everything about this performance is awful. He switches tone with his character on a dime for no explicable reason! One second he's furious at Lisa, the next it's "Oh hi, Mark!" in a playful, excited tone. When a kid he's supposedly a mentor to tells him he's in love with his fiance, (did you know Lisa is soon to be his wife?) he responds with, "Go on." He yells at himself in a very unconvincing way, then suddenly says "Oh hi, Mark!" And his laugh. His laugh is so. Just so. Freaking. Bad. It is the best worst laugh in the history of Hollywood cinema. ALSO. He also has no control over his hands and other extremities. Also this. Ricky Bobby would be proud.
The other actors in this film aren't that great, but dear GOD they look like superstars next to Wiseau. And yet.....I still love this performance. There's just something so lovable about Tommy Wiseau. He's terrible, but he's still trying to live his dream in this movie, and that's something I can respect. Heck that's something a lot of people can't say. He's just really, REALLY bad at it in a great way.
Outside of Tommy Wiseau, there are just a lot of problems with this movie. Problems with the script, (what about Lisa's mom having breast cancer? Or that drug deal that goes south with Denny?) problems with the set, (throws spoons in the air) and problems with character actions, (and they enter and exit and play football and enter and exit.....) to name a few. But you already knew that. You wait for these moments and the famous moments of the script because even though they're terrible......they're still awesome in a mysteriously beautiful way. Miiiiiiiiinus the soft-core porn sections littered throughout the film. Those are just baaaaaaaaaaaad. This film comes in at 99 minutes long, but it really feels like at least 20 minutes of that is just soft porn. Oh ya! Also, also.... some of this film isn't even in focus! Oh! And the audio gets de-synced a few times! Wiseau and company failed in SPECTACULAR fashion in every facet of filmmaking with The Room. It's really quite amazing how thoroughly someone can fail at something, but you won't care. You'll be laughing along every step of the way. Despite its epic failure, Tommy Wiseau and his lovable cast of misfits managed to craft a movie that is a timeless classic. A movie that still brings people together almost 15 years later. I have to give this film a 1/10 because yes. It is terrible. But there's no doubt this is the strongest 1/10 I can ever hand out. Now I sure do hope that Lisa's mom is doing ok.....
The Critique: The best worst movie ever made, The Room is a lovable, timeless classic that still brings people together 15 years later to marvel at how much someone can so completely and utterly fail in every aspect of filmmaking.
The Recommendation: It gets a 1/10, but I will still call this movie an absolute must see for everyone. Because it is. Somehow.
The Verdict: 1/10 Lovably horrific
Still holds up 20 years later
Titanic (1997): A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
For those who don't know, I consider Titanic to be one of the films that made me realize my love for movies. It's a true modern Hollywood epic, coming in at a whooping 194 minutes, and features one of the most exhilarating hours of cinema (the sinking of the Titanic) I have ever seen. It's amazing that this film still holds up extremely well 20 years later, but that's thanks largely to the fact that director James Cameron and his crew basically rebuilt the Titanic from the ground up, then sunk it using practical effects. THAT SAID. Before you just assume I'm gonna gush about this film in this review and thus should be entirely discredited, this film is FAR from perfect. So no, as much as I may love this film, it is FAR from perfect.
Let's start with the bad first, because otherwise you may not believe me when I say I have issues with this film. The biggest problem with Titanic, by FAR, is the love story. It's not great. When you have something as dramatic as the Titanic sinking on screen it's not an issue at all, but in the second act of this film (before the iceberg) there's not a whole lot for us to go on other than this story. As a result there's a lot of cringe-inducing dialogue in this second act. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the top actors in modern history, but even he struggles with some of these lines. The scene where he pulls Rose out from a tour of the ship and tries to blurt out a monologue of his love for her is......bad. It's just bad writing. Additionally, even though she was (somehow) nominated for an Oscar, there are several scenes in this film where Kate Winslet REALLY struggles. She's a great actress, no doubt, but this performance is not that good. Well, let me rephrase that. She's pretty good in the first and third acts, but in the second act she, like DiCaprio, really struggle with the material they are given. Her struggles are just a bit more obvious. The two of them really don't have any chemistry, either. But I think most of this can be traced back to Cameron's borderline awful dialogue. Fortunately there are a couple of sequences in the second act like the third class dance party that break up this monotony, but otherwise the second is bad to the point that it is nearly unwatchable. Also, Billy Zane's character Cal doesn't hold up very well now, as he definitely comes off as a bit of a cartoon-y 90s villain. But it's Billy Zane, and as we know Billy Zane does what he wants. Also, Jack's friends Fabrizio and Tommy really aren't given much to do here, which is saying something (especially for Fabrizio) when he literally runs on the ship with Jack and this movie is 3+ hours long. Probably would have been for the best had we gotten more scenes of the three of them versus scenes of Jack + Rose. Finally! There are some scenes here where Cameron just couldn't help himself and did his best Michael Bay impersonation. Most notably, when the first column of the ship falls on Fabrizio. (Don't cry spoiler this movie is 20 years old I can do what I want haha) Did we REALLY need to see that? Really? Did we really need to see people falling into the ship as it splits in two with a whole bunch of random explosions? These shots are a tad distracting in the otherwise exhilarating third act, but that still does not change the fact that the third act of this movie is one of the most exhilarating hours of cinema ever filmed.
Let's start there with the good, because that third act (the sinking) is the obvious centerpiece of this film. If you have no idea how this film was made, you really should change that, because it's incredible. This crew basically rebuilt the Titanic, inside and out, and then sunk it in a controlled environment. The fact that they really did recreate the sinking of the Titanic using practical effects makes this entire sequence that much more real. Heck, this film looks better than some other modern-day films because of it! (Looks at Justice League) This whole sequence is incredible, from the ship striking the iceberg to Titanic's final plunge into the ocean. And, despite how epic it feels, Cameron somehow manages takes the time to have some wonderfully intimate moments spread throughout it. I still rock the ugly cry every time we get to the "Nearer, My God to Thee" sequence. It's a beautiful moment in the middle of all this chaos, and it's easily my favorite sequence of the entire film. (And one of my favorite sequences ever, for that matter.) A director, Cameron included, being willing to risk adding a sequence like this into the climax of their big budget film has been lost in modern Hollywood, which makes me really sad. Additionally, there are really strong performances from Kathy Bates and Frances Fisher. These actresses play "the unsinkable" Molly Brown and Ruth Dewitt Bukater respectively, and man are they awesome. I was freaking stoked when I saw Kathy Bates in The Boss a few years back just because of her role here in Titanic. I don't think I've seen Fisher in hardly anything else which is unfortunate because her performance as Rose's mom is the best performance of the entire film! Also, every member of the White Star Line is awesome, even the extras that only have a few lines. There are a LOT of members of White Star Line, and I love all of them, even Mr. Fantastic. Finally, I have to hit on the technical departments, because there's no doubt Cameron's crew hit it out of the part on nearly all of these. The costumes are amazing. I cannot even begin to imagine how expensive the costume budget was for this film, because not only do Rose and her mom wear some exquisite costumes throughout the film, but all the extras in the background do as well! I can't imagine how expensive the costumes were in some of those first class party sequences. No wonder they won an Oscar. And no wonder they won an Oscar for the production design! Though when you rebuild an entire ship, inside and out, then sink it, that Oscar is kind of inevitable. But geez great job to the production crew for rebuilding the Titanic, then being totally ok with their lives as James Cameron destroyed it. FINALLY, we have to talk about the score. The late James Horner has a lot of great scores to his name, but his score for Titanic is undoubtedly his best. This film's score is in my top 10 favorite scores of all-time, with iconic theme after iconic theme. Yes, the Celine Dion's "My Heart will Go On" is VERY 90s, but the rest of this score is pretty timeless, with Horner's "Hymm to the Sea" being synonymous with both the film and the Titanic disaster itself. And the song in the third class party is easily the best moment of that otherwise monotonous second ac, and we only have Horner to thank for that.
So.....there you have it. Yes, I still gush over the third act of this film, (I didn't really touch on it but there's a lot to like in the first act, too. Most notably the fact that they got permission to film the actual Titanic sea disaster in the early sequences somehow) but this movie is still 3 hours long, and that middle hour has some borderline unwatchable moments thanks to a weak script. But the production value, practical effects, score, costumes, and "Nearer, My God to Thee" still make this a great film, and one that I know I will still be watching 50 years from now. (It will probably still hold up then, too) Happy 20th anniversary to one of the films that helped me fall in love with cinema!
The Critique: Despite a monotonous second act, Titanic features some of the most exhilarating and gut-wrenching sequences ever put to film that still manages to look better than many modern films thanks to its incredible production design and practical effects.
The Recommendation: If you've somehow never seen this film....well you already know you need to change that so don't mind me.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great
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