Beautiful Disaster (Film Thoughts: The Disaster Artist)

Disaster-Artist-600x889Truth be told, I only saw ‘The Room’ very recently. I knew I wanted to see James Franco’s ‘The Disaster Artist’ and I read that watching the so-called best bad film of all time will help in appreciating the latter film. Of course, I have heard about the film, but I really have never been interested in seeing it, deeming it very ‘straight people’ interest more than anything else. My verdict for the room: sure it’s bad, but also more boring than interesting. If you wanna talk bad movies, my taste run towards ‘Showgirls.’

So, I wasn’t sure at first if I would like ‘The Disaster Artist,’ but I thought it funny and even touching. It really is a story of friendship between Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Estero (Dave Franco)  Perhaps because the Francos are brothers that we sense a real connections between the two characters. Critics are lauding James’ performance, and he does do a great ‘imitation’ interpretation of Wiseau, but I thought Dave was just, if more, effective – his character is written better, and had more depth. Dave essays the nuances between incredulity, disappointment and friendly affection amidst James’ more showy performance.

But really, the film excels most when it tackled how ‘The Room’ was made. The laughs effortlessly came, all they needed to do was tell the story. I wish they delved more into the why there was a story, but it seems Wiseau’s realitieds are impenetrable. To this day, no one really knows where in Europe he originally came from, and where and how he got the money to finance ‘The Room.’

I enjoyed the film, still. It’s an interesting story, and I have always liked films about films, even if, or maybe because this is about the best worst film. Ans I did really like James’ fearless performance as Wiseau, and do like that he is getting a lot of recognition for this film. I just wish they also mention Dave, who excels just as well here.

It Takes Two (Television Thoughts: The Deuce, HBO)

deuI just finished watching the whole first season of ‘The Deuce,’ and I must say I really liked it as a whole, and honestly, after watching the first pilot, I thought I wouldn’t, and almost gave up on it. I think what works best for me is that I need to watch these episodes right after each other, especially in a show like this where the plot is mostly slow burn, and is more character-centric. I know this comes from David Simon, who is very renowned for both ‘The Wire,’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ two shows that I tried very hard to get into, but realized just not for my tastes.

The subject matter in ‘The Deuce’ was more interesting for me: prostitution and porn in New York City circa late 70s. This is a period in time I ‘romanticize’ in my mind. I got to New York in the mid 80s and only got the tail end of the sleaze and trash period of the city. I did see some, mind you, and compared to the Disneyfied New York of nowadays, I think that period of time definitely had more character.

James Franco, of whom I am very fond of as an actor, lured me in as well. And here he plays twin brothers caught in the maelstrom of the times. Although, honestly, did we really need twin characters – I guess it would be more in line with the ‘deuce’ idea – dual life of people’s paths crossing, intersecting, and passing by. Maggie Gylenhaal plays the emotional heart of piece, playing one of those prostitutes with a heart of gold kind of role, but also a tough cookie, and destined for both good and bad times. I think she is tremendous here, her big beautiful blue eyes doing a lot of the work: wariness, vulnerability, hope.

The series is supposes to be about the foundations of how about porn came to be, and I was waiting for it to happen, and that story only starts on the last third of the episodes. It spends a lot of the ear;y parts building on all the characters, and by the time the storyline came along, we find that we are already invested in these people.  As I said before, I enjoyed getting to know these characters, and look forward for a promised second season.

Why Me? (Movie Thoughts: Why Him?) 

‘Why Him?,  is a raunchy rehash of ‘Meet The Parents’ and feels like a movie you have seen before. Starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston, one wonders how talent like them were persuaded to do this movie. And you realize it’s money that made them do it. This film opened Christmas Day, and had the gall to go against a movie like ‘Fences.’  But I guess not everyone wants to see Oscar bait movies. There’s a huge part of me that has total disdain for this film, but I gotta admit this made me chuckle a couple of times. Franco is nice to look at, and both he and Cranston are pretty game. The gags feel all recycled, and the jokes familiar, but the actors kind of made it work, to be honest. This is definitely a Saturday night kind of Movie when you cannot find anything else to watch, and cannot be bothered to think and want to just relax.

Who Am I? (Movie Thoughts: I Am Michael)

large_w6xcv8qhkian7w13ossa2hpvz8gCan you be an ex-gay? There seems to be no answer to that question that everyone will agree on. But, in this day and age, ex-gays do exist. Justin Kelly’s ‘I Am Michael’ is partly based on a 2011 New York Times Magazine article about Michael Glatze. he was a very visible gay figure in the early aughts while writing for XY Magazine. He was what one would call a ‘professional gay,’ even being invited on panels discussing gay issues. But in 2007, he did a major turnaround, announcing that he is no longer gay (he wrote ‘I Am Straight’ on his computer screen and never looked back) At first, this seemed to be a reaction from what he perceived to be a life threatening illness, which was disputed by doctor after doctor. Or maybe he is just plain crazy?

Kelly doesn’t take a stand, and goes out of his way to give an even handed account, mostly following Michael all throughout his story. James Franco is great as Michael, and like his character seems to be confused. Whether that is a directorial direction or Franco’s take, it worked. I feel like I knew the character well, but at the same time a lot of Michael seems a mystery. Is he really not gay? Is he suppressing his homosexuality?  After a while, I got frustrated, as the story went ’round and ’round with nowhere to go. When it arrived at the ending, I felt a little short changed. All in all, the movie is still worth a look. It will definitely make you think, about whether gay identity is important, or is it just one small part of one’s personality that doesn’t need emphasizing. But just like his other film “King Cobra,’ it’s lacking something to make the film truly great.

It Feels Good To Be King (Movie Thoughts: King Cobra)

9585251475581f498db3fbaf7cf4c0bdI have waited to see ‘King Cobra’ all this time. I don’t think there has been any other movie this year that has ‘excited’ me. I am a Brent Corrigan super fan, and I have been very curious about this story since the beginning – even though Corrigan himself has not been very appreciative of this film. Was the wait worth it? Yes and No.

Yes, because this film still got me from the first frame to the last – the story is interesting to me, and I have followed it. It’s about Sean Paul Lockhart, whose porn name is Brent Corrigan. It tells his story of how how he started with Cobra Films, how Bryan Kocis (in the movie, the character is named Steven) made him a star, and the turn of events that resulted to Kocis being killed. I found the story fascinating, and the story telling here just as – even if very much truncated in this version. Garret Clayton, who plays Sean/Brent is great – he gets Brent’s playfulness and charisma that endeared him to his fans. I also think he gave the character a lot more depth – it’s written too broadly and he helps fill in the blanks. I was very much impressed with Christian’s Slater’s Steven – he makes the mogul seem sympathetic, even as written he is a very much flawed and unlikable. I actually should say I was very much impressed with all the performances here – Keegan Allen as Harlow Cudrow is a revelation 9to me) and James Franco plays his Joe Kerekes with a little wink.

But there were a lot here that disappointed me as well. There were true moments of camp – like the murder scene and the brilliant final scene – but a lot more of it was played too, um, straight: it is not nearly as fun as it should have been. And the screenplay (by director Justin Kelly) doesn’t give a definite point of view, yet at the same time barely glosses over the surface of the material. The much talked abut sex scenes aren’t as graphic as described, perhaps because too me they were more mechanical, as I thought it felt like they were seen through the eyes of straight people.

If I were more objective, I would give it a marginal thumbs up – the performances alone are worth it, and Clayton is a star in the making, if not already. As a fan, though, I have to admit I was very satisfied in seeing this story on screen.

Frat Bastards (Movie Thoughts: Goat)

goat_ver2Every description I have read of ‘Goat’ describe it as heavy on violent and bloody hazing scenes, so I dragged my feet watching it a I feel really  squeamish about that sort of thing. Violence, blood – not my cup of tea. But Nick Jonas and James Franco in the cast tantalized me. It’s actually a very interesting watch – it show the horrors of fraternities and their pledge weeks. Some may even say that it is skewed against them, but since this movie is based on actual events, specifically Brad Land’s memoir, you know there is a lot of truth in the story.

Ben Shnezter plays Brad, a young man who pledged the fraternity after an unpleasant summer where he was beaten up by goons who tried to steal his vehicle. Nick Jonas plays his older brother, who is already a brother in Phi Siga Mu. They both deliver star-making performances. Shnetzer displays the pain and vulnerability of the main character who is suffering from PTSD of the earlier incident. You just know from the moment he pledged that the whole situation would end in tears. Jonas, to me, is a revelation – he displays nuanced sensitivity in a tough guy role – notice the kindness in his eyes displaying the conflict of good and evil in his psyche. As it turns out, he is not just your run-of-the-mill boyband singer turned actor – he manages to convey depth.

The film is far from easy viewing – the hazing sequences are extended, and at times feel claustrophobic. At times, I thought I would not be able to take the scenes, but I got caught in the story. I honestly thought I would not enjoy this film, and though I don’t know if I would use the word ‘enjoy,’ but I thought the film was thought provoking. Your mileage may vary.

Medication Needed (Movie Thoughts; The Adderall Diaries)

indexOne would need an Adderall to get through “The Adderall Diaries,” which is James Franco’s artistic masturbatory project. This is a film so self-indulgent, so trying hard to be artistisc, and so disjointed that I scratch my head how it got financed, filmed, and even attracted a more-than-decent cast. Perhaps it is because it is based on a revered book (Stephen’s Elliot’s tome of the same title, though I read he is disowning the film) But here it is, a mish mash of so many things and none of the elements hit.  Directed by Pamela Rowanowsky (I read she was a classmate of Franco’s in Film School ) this movie is part exploration of a tortured writer. He is tortured in so many ways: he had a difficult childhood with a volatile relationship with his father, and he is also tortured because his addiction to Adderall gives him writer’s block, and he cant express his brilliance. The book is also part cute meets BDSM love story between Stephen (Franco) and a New York Times reporter (Amber Heard)  though that development comes out of nowhere, and again, the BDSM scenes are laughable – you just don’t believe it. Then Stephen gets fascinated with a high profile murder case (He compares himself to Truman Capote – there’s that James Franco gay-baiting again) and again, you don’t believe it – you also wonder how can he can gain access to the suspect when this is such a celebrated case. I do think Franco is a good actor, and honestly, that i the only redeeming value of the movie.  He is still charming and has a magnetic screen presence here. But, there is only so much that can do. This movie is a hot mess.