The Disaster Artist (2017): “The Room” Behind the Scenes Tribute (Review)

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The Disaster Artist is one part homage to a director who has more than a little in common  with Ed Wood, one part celebration of someone whose dream reaches a surprising fruition and one part celebration of “The Room.” This behind the scenes tribute to one of the world’s worst films captures the innate weirdness of Tommy Wiesau as auteur.

The film is based on Greg Sestero’s retelling of everything that went into the making of the 2003 cult favorite; a film so bad that audiences took it to their collective bosom and began to worship the atrocity as a delicious comedy.

Directed by James Franco from a screenplay penned by Scott NeustadterMichael H. Weber, Sestero and Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is as funny as it is difficult to watch, in places.  The story of how a complete novice, to whom English is a shaky second language, manages to make a movie and pour enough money into the venture to ensure Oscar qualification is entertaining.

“The Room” (the film made by Wiesau) was so monumentally bad that it became a cult favorite and the start of Franco’s “behind the scenes” film has a few celebs from the business explain their fascination with the movie. Even if one has not seen the original, which Franco manages to match shot for shot – several times, The Disaster Artist is funny.

Seth Rogen plays the only character who appears to have any experience making movies and Dave, brother of James, plays Sestero, Wiesau’s object of devotion and the other star of “The Room.” Zac Efron has a cameo as the gun toting thug and the delicious Alison Brie is Amber, Sestero’s girlfriend.

(Ari Graynor, Megan MullallyJosh Hutcherson, Bob Odenkirk, Randall Park and veteran Aussie actress Jacki Weaver round out the cast in a most satisfactory and fun “spot the face” way. These familiar faces really make the film seem like a labour of love.)

It is Amber’s entrance that clarifies Tommy’s “obsession” with Greg and causes the first of many cracks to show in the two men’s relationship.  There are a number of cameos in the film.  Melanie Griffith plays Jean Shelton and  Sharon Stone plays Hollywood agent Iris Burton. The delightful Lauren Ash plays the florist.

Cameo appearances aside, The Disaster Artist can be seen as much more than a biopic about a Polish mystery figure who wants to make and star in movies. It is about tenacity winning out over lack of experience and, somewhat ironically, seems to prove that any moron with enough money can indeed make a movie.

The one thing that shines through is that Tommy knows nothing about making films. He manages to write a screenplay but has to rely upon his hired “experts” to make the film happen. Rogen’s character and the DP both run the two cameras, one of which is a high definition video camera, and try to instill a little realism into the 2003 film.

The Disaster Artist is more like “The Little Train That Could.” The end of the film shows Wiesau, Sestero and the rest of the cast and crew attending the film’s premiere. At the end of the viewing the audience stand spontaneously and give the auteur a standing ovation. The message being that despite the film being funny for all the wrong reasons, Wiesau has managed to entertain his targeted audience. As a result, his little film makes a new kind of history.

Franco does a brilliant job as director and with his portrayal of the rather odd Tommy Wiesau shows that he can really wear multiple hats successfully. (His character Tommy, the real one,  actually makes an appearance toward the end of the post film credits and interacts with “himself” – Franco’s version of Wiesau.)

The Disaster Artist may not be Oscar material but it is funny and hits those parts that many films fail to reach. A real 4.5 star effort that tickles that funny bone while simultaneously pulling off some brilliant cringeworthy moments. It is in cinemas now and well worth the price of admission.

Dr Ken: Ken’s Big Audition – Cameo Cornucopia for Season End (Review)

DAN HARMON

The season finale of Dr. Ken “Ken’s Big Audition” offers up some great cameos, some life changing events and a lot of laughs. As we said in our preview of this episode (which was a tad secretive, we admit) there “is a positive cornucopia of performers from Ken Jeong’s career and there are a few surprise cameo’s thrown in for good measure.” At the time of publication, there was a slight problem with revealing too much of who would be appearing on the last episode of season two.

Now, however, we can gleefully point out the blink and you’ll miss him cameos of not just Seth Rogen but his producing partner Evan Goldburg. We can also sing the praises of the oh so beautiful (and wildly talented) Alison Brie, Nia Vardalos – who pops up at the very end as Pat’s wife who suddenly wants to reunite with her ex.

“Ken’s Big Audition” spells change and leaves the audience with a bit of a cliffhanger. (Will John Cho take the call?) Ken’s life changes when he gets a call from Dan Harmon. Harmon wants Ken to audition for a new television pilot and the wannabe performer is over the moon.

Before that bit of excitement, Molly reveals that she has gotten into Stanford.  (This was a brilliant bit of comedy. The eldest Park child bursts into the kitchen announcing that “I got in!” D.K. responds “Congratulations! You can use a swinging door.”)

Dana Lee
Congratulations…

Dana Lee managed, once again, to bring some brilliant bits to this packed episode. His short, and loudly delivered, line about not using stereotypical accents was perfectly timed and very funny. Kudos to the actor and the writers for that one.

While Allison has to deal with her first born moving away from home, Dave and D.K. both vying for Molly’s room and Ken’s new change of fortune, Pat and Damona almost take their new relationship to the next level; matrimony. Clark talks Pat into possibly popping the question and he seriously considers it.

The episode itself, however, belongs to Ken Jeong and his cast of many cameos. (See what we did there?) Some of the highlights included Ken enlisting Damona and Clark to help him learn his lines for the audition. Later, when he meets with Alison Brie to read with her, she apes Clark’s “baby voiced” deliver of “I have a tummy ache.”

Dr. Ken reacts just as badly to Brie’s interpretation of the line as he did when Clark did it. Ken’s over the top audition leaves him feeling very uncertain and ready to turn his back on the whole thing. As he calls Allison to complain about Hollywood and to grumble about the business, Rogen and Goldberg appear just long enough to Seth to insult the depressed doctor.

Ken’s distress is uncalled for though as Harmon actually casts the doctor as a Spanish teacher with an attitude (a riff on a character Jeong played in Community.) and it looks like Dr. Ken’s new career is off and running.

KRISTA MARIE YU, SUZY NAKAMURA
Molly and Allison share a touching moment.

At the end of the episode Ken looks to be dangerously close to being replaced by John Cho because he cannot stop laughing at Alison Brie and spoiling take after take.  Molly and Alison become even closer with their upcoming separation and Pat gets the surprise of his life when Tiffany turns up to ask for another chance.

There are a number of obvious funny moments in the show. There are also  some bits that one has to look at closely to find the humor. For instance: Just before Ken bumps into Seth and Evan, he is on a stereotypical Hollywood “lot.”

There are actors, makeup artists and so on scattered throughout the scene. What almost slips past the viewer are the external sets themselves. Each building facade is “Ken” sized. Just as funny is Ken’s “mark” (where the actor must stand in order to be in the shot). It is clearly visible and it is a big yellow square; a clear indication that Ken Park is afraid that he has blown his big chance.

KEN JEONG
Ken Jeong

Ken’s concerns are groundless though as Harmon, who apparently likes to punish his fans, hires Ken even though the audition was horrendous. Ken gets the part and then spends his first shooting day blowing the scene because he cannot stop corpsing at Brie’s character.

The kicker of the episode though is Tiffany returning to get Pat back into her life. This leaves things hanging with his new relationship with Damona and we wonder if he loves her enough to turn Tiffany down.

A lot of things could be different in a third season of Dr. Ken. Molly could well be absent (and we would be heartbroken if this were the case as Krista Marie Yu is a personal favorite) Pat and Damona could break up and last but not least, Ken could leave Welltopia all together.

While there would still be room for the delightful brand of comedy that Dr. Ken brings to the table each Friday night, it would be…different.

Questions and musings about season three aside, this was a brilliant end to the season. Dave getting one up on D.K. and Pat’s dilemma were all part and parcel of the overall storyline and that familiar feel of comedy done just right.

If you have not seen the season two finale, catch it later via Hulu or On Demand. Tune in and see why this is a topnotch comedy offering from Ken Jeong and his brilliant ensemble cast. Or stop by to catch the always watchable Alison Brie…

DAN HARMON, ALISON BRIE

Cast:

Ken Jeong – Ken
Albert Tsai – Dave
Suzy Nakamura – Allison Park
Krista Marie Yu – Molly
Tisha Campbell-Martin – Damona
Jonathan Slavin – Clark
Dave Foley – Pat
Dana Lee – D.K.
Justin Chon – Jae
Stephen Guarino – Connor

Guest starring Dan Harmon, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Alison Brie and Nia Vardalos

 

The Interview Movie: Giving the Finger to Kim Jong-un

kim-jong-un-the-interviewI will be very honest here, I adore Seth Rogen and James Franco as a team and in The Interview movie, where they give the finger, or more accurately a tank round, to Kim Jong-un these two prove yet again, just how good they are together. Long introductory sentences aside, the point about the film is this, a feature does not have to be high art to be popular, period. Yet we have a score of “film critics” who are now pontificating about the merits, and lack thereof, of the film and its plot, characters, etc, etc, etc…

Does anyone really care? I know that for the last year (Its not really that long but I’m too lazy to work out the exact time period.) I’ve been an illustrious member of the Nevada Film Critics Society. I can hear you in the back, “Well look at you!” It is not that impressive, to explain let’s just say that the average cinema goer dislikes the fact that the press get their own roped off section in the theatre and leave it at that. Still it is a great, non paying gig, and I’ve met some great folks who have opinions about films.

Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to speak to any of them about the film so let us talk, for a very, very short time, about the movie The Interview, which does indeed give Kim Jong-un the metaphorical finger, or two fingers if you are British. First of all, it should be pointed out that Sony and Rogen have hit ironic gold with this film. Secondly, it should be pointed out that even with out the North Korean threats and cyber terrorism, the film would have run “mad crazy” at the box office.

Seth Rogen and James Franco in The Interview

It is a great film. (I’ve watched it no less than four times since purchasing it.) I adore it. It is a brilliant combination of clunky humor intermixed with black comedy merged with all the signature references that people have come to expect from a Rogen film. Think Pineapple Express and This is the End here.

Even parts of the film not related to North Korea are funny. The scene where Eminem declares, no less than four times, that he is gay is hysterically funny. The dead pan delivery sells the humor here and it leaves the viewer wondering just how many takes that one took to “get it in the can.”

The film is full of such short punchy comedy. James Franco, waking from an epic ecstasy and booze filled party, shouting about his “stink-d*ck” while the CIA listen in for example. Even the longer bits are funny, the scene with the tiger had me in stitches, not to mention reaching for the rewind button the second it finished. The entire scene with the rocket is worth the price of admission, or not admission if you watch it online.

This was, quite possibly, the best Christmas gift ever. Brilliantly funny, not intellectually so, but, repeat after me children, “film does not have be high art to be entertaining.” The Interview movie is not just giving the metaphorical finger to Kim Jong-un, it is telling the world that Rogen and Franco as a team are unbeatable. The film can be rented or purchased online from a few outlets, do not look for it on Amazon or iTunes however as they lacked the cojones to stream this film.

At around $6 to rent, or $16.99 to purchase, The Interview is worth a look. If you are fans of Rogen to begin with and even if you are not, take a look to see what got Kim Jong-un’s knickers in a twist. This is a real 5 out of 5 star film here, it pretty much hits all the cylinders square on.

Kim Jong-un in The Interview

Michael Smith

The Interview: Taken Out of Terrorist Oblivion…And It Is Funny

Still of Rogen and Franco in The Interview

The Interview has been taken out of terrorist oblivion and is now streaming for your viewing enjoyment. Sony decided to take the extra step of having the film available on Xbox, Google Play, YouTube and the Sony website. Apple declined to show the film via iTunes, presumably still smarting from the “iCloud” hack earlier this year. Amazon also decided to keep the film off their site, obviously wary of any cyber terrorist activity that could cost the company in terms of non cinematic sales.

President Obama is, according to reports, very happy that Seth Rogen and “James Flacco” are able to show off their darkly comic assassination of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un at last. Fortunately for both Sony, Columbia, Rogen, and the rest, the film is brilliantly funny.

The feature is a blend of slapstick, almost, and silly comedy.  Think Pineapple Express mixed with Neighbors with a touch of This is the End and you will get close to the type of humor on offer. Of course the film does veer off and go beyond blackly comic, wait till the scene with the helicopter and the tank comes on, or even Rogen’s character providing the filling for some finger sandwiches.

For fans of these two actors, there was never any real doubt that the combination of the script and the two performers would not deliver comic ganja dude! How can viewers not find the Matthew McConaughey “f***ing a goat” scene  hysterically funny? That entire sequence was stupidly comic and then the film heads into the sublime when Rogen’s character, Rapaport meets the North Korean representative “Sook” and after arranging the interview and the chopper takes off,  Rogen begs for some water.  “I did not plan well for this trip ,” he screams before a tiny bottle of water is tossed from the helicopter to land at his feet.

The movie, deals with the entertainment industry and its red headed step children, talk shows. Rogen’s character is the “serious journo”  and the producer of Dave Skylark’s (Franco) show. The two men set up the interview with Kim Jong-un and part of the magic of this film is the sneering reaction from other “serious” television journalists.  Played by the real people, like Bill Maher, for instance.

While The Interview is delightfully funny, its humor has been overshadowed somewhat by the cyber terrorists who threatened so much violence toward cinemas and their customers that AMC, Regal and Cinemark, amongst others, cancelled their showings and Sony initially panicked with the result that they shelved the picture, “indefinitely.”

After getting the old “tsk, tsk” from the president of the USA, and a generous and brave offer from the art house cinemas of America, Sony changed their mind. So some lucky people will see the movie in the theatre and others, like myself, will watch it via the Internet (in this case from Google Play).

Perhaps the only complaint is that the music feels a little close, in some instances, to the soundtrack used by Kim Jee-woon’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird.  Even the shootout sequence later in the movie has music that feels like it was lifted from that 2008 film. Perhaps it was and Goldberg and Rogen meant it as a sort of homage. This little complaint does not spoil the film, as the music does fit very well.

How good is the film? Well let’s just say that I loved it so much that after paying out a hard earned $5.99 (repeatedly watching it till my laptop crashed – Is that you Kim?) that I then turned around and bought the film for $16.99, without special features that I am so addicted to. That’s how good it is. But don’t take my word for it, watch it and see what you think.

By Michael Smith

 

 

‘The Interview’ Coming to a Theatre Near You…Maybe

‘The Interview’ Coming to a Theatre Near You…Maybe

The latest news in the world of cyber terrorism is that Sony, with the aid of a few non chain type theatres, are thumbing their noses at North Korea and airing The Interview, which should be coming to a cinema near you…maybe. It should not be forgotten that Sony Entertainment held out till the very last moment to cave under the terror attack against their company. Foolishly allowing theatre chains the option of not showing the Seth Rogen and James Franco political comedy after the threats of 9/11 type violence were made against film lovers who attended the Christmas Day open. Now, the corporation are allow the art house theatres to show the film, unlike their initial reaction to the terrorist’s promise of destruction.