Tag Archives: james franco

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS (2018) – My rating: 8/10

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a western anthology written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers.  When you hear Coen Brothers, you know you’re in for a wild ride.  The Ballad of Buster Scruggs lives up to the legend of these brothers, as it tells the tale of six short stories that appear to have no rhyme or reason. I liked some of the stories, some were just too pointless and crazy for me.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), is a cheerful singing cowboy who arrives at an isolated cantina full of outlaws where he exchanges insults with another patron before effortlessly shooting everyone as they reach for their guns. This first story is as bizarre as they come. The series of events will have you laughing and may leave you somewhat confused, however, I like this title the best.

“Near Algodones” – A young cowboy (James Franco) robs an isolated bank on the prairie. As he is fleeing, the jabbering bank teller (Stephen Root) shoots at him, forcing him to take cover behind a well. He returns fire, but the teller charges at him while wearing a washboard and several pots and pans as armor, which deflect all the cowboy’s bullets as the teller repeatedly cackles “Pan shot!” The teller knocks the cowboy out with his rifle butt, and when the cowboy regains consciousness, he is sitting upon his horse under a tree with his hands tied and a noose around his neck.  This story is particularly confusing, as it ends badly after a series of simultaneous events that will surely have you scratching your head.

“Meal Ticket” – An aging impresario (Liam Neeson) and his artist Harrison (Harry Melling), a young man with no arms or legs, travel from town to town in a wagon that converts into a small stage where Harrison theatrically recites classics such as Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias”; the biblical story of Cain and Abel; works by Shakespeare, in particular Sonnet 29; and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  The impresario collects money from the audience at the end of each performance, with profits dwindling as they visit increasingly remote mountain towns with smaller and more indifferent audiences. This story is one of the most bazaar to me, as I have no suggestion for the moral of the story nor do I understand the point.  This doesn’t mean someone else cannot figure it out or enjoy it, it just means I didn’t care for Meal Ticket.

“All Gold Canyon” – A grizzled prospector (Tom Waits) arrives in a pristine mountain valley and decides to dig for gold in a grassy meadow beside a river. Over the course of several days, he pans through shovelfuls of dirt to count the gold specks, and then begins digging a deeper hole once he has identified their likely source. After his first night camping at the site, he spots a great horned owl tending its treetop nest at the edge of the valley. When he climbs up and reaches the nest, the mother owl’s watchful gaze from a nearby tree causes him to replace three of the four eggs he has taken for his meal.  On his third day, he digs out gold nuggets of increasing size before finally reaching “Mr. Pocket”, a large gold vein running through the quartz he has uncovered.  This story was quite entertaining with a moral I think everyone could understand.

“The Gal Who Got Rattled”Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan) and her older brother Gilbert (Jefferson Mays), an inept businessman, are journeying in a wagon train across the prairie towards Oregon, where Gilbert claims a new business partner will marry his sister. Gilbert dies of cholera shortly after they embark, and the wagon train’s leaders, Mr. Billy Knapp (Bill Heck) and Mr. Arthur (Grainger Hines), help Alice bury her brother. Though she has no definite prospects in Oregon, Alice decides to continue the trip rather than return east. This story was sad, bizarre and while it has a point, I’m not sure the message served a purpose.

“The Mortal Remains” – At sunset, five people, an Englishman (Thigpen – Jonjo O’Neill), an Irishman (Clarence – Brendan Gleeson), a Frenchman (René – Saul Rubinek), a lady (Mrs. Betjeman – Tyne Daly), and a fur trapper (Chelcie Ross) ride to Fort Morgan, Colorado in a stagecoach. Thigpen says that he and Clarence often travel this route “ferrying cargo”, alluding to a corpse on the roof, but he does not specify the nature of their business. The Trapper rambles about his past relationship with a Native woman in which neither knew the other’s language, but communicating through understanding each other’s emotions led him to conclude that people are all alike in their basic needs, just like the animals he traps. This story had the most bizarre ending of all despite much valuable information being exchanged. Maybe that’s all we were suppose to get out of The Mortal Remains since I don’t think the final scenes attributed anything more to the story. It definitely left you wanting more.

Overall, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs may have been the most bizarre of all the Coen Brothers movies I’ve seen.  I’m not sure why the title is Buster Scruggs when only one story included that character but I’m sure someone can explain it.  I tried to find good in all the stories.  Some are funny, most are bizarre and some delivered a strong message.  I enjoyed The Ballad of Buster Scruggs anyway, which can be seen on Netflix.  Check It Out!

[The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is Oscar nominated for Best:  Adapted Screenplay, Original Song and Costume Design]

 

THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) – My rating: 8.5/10

The Disaster Artist is a biographical comedy-drama film produced and directed by James Franco. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the film is based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s non-fiction book of the same name and chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 cult film “The Room”, which was considered by many, one of the worst movies ever made.  In my opinion, The Disaster Artist is one of the most bizarrely good films I’ve seen in a long, long time.  While it was entertaining, it was strange and if you’ve never heard of “The Room” your curiosity will be peaked to the nth degree.

In 1998 while living in San Francisco, 19-year old aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets a mysterious man named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in his acting classes with instructor Jean Shelton (Melanie Griffith).  After Wiseau attempts to perform a scene from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the performance is ripped apart by Shelton. Greg becomes infatuated by Wiseau’s fearlessness on stage and wants to learn from Wiseau. Over the coming months, Greg and Wiseau form a strong, bizarre-like friendship. Eventually, on Wiseau’s suggestion and dime, Greg uproots from his mother, Mrs. Sestero’s (Megan Mullally) home to Wiseau’s apartment in Los Angeles to give their acting careers more of a chance.

After a few weeks, Greg signs with Iris Burton (Sharon Stone), one of the top young talent agents at that time. Wiseau, on the other hand, faces rejection from agencies, casting directors, and Hollywood insiders. During this time, Greg develops a relationship with Amber (Alison Brie), whom he meets at a nightclub. Wiseau begins growing jealous and temperamental, feeling dejected and hopeless and ready to return to San Francisco. Greg’s auditions also dry up. He shares his frustrations with Wiseau, wishing that he could simply make a movie to supply himself with a role. Wiseau takes this suggestion literally.

Over the next three years, Wiseau writes The Room, and presents it to Greg. Despite recognizing its incoherence, Greg insists to Wiseau that the script is great. Wiseau offers him the role of Mark, along with an associate producer credit. Greg reluctantly accepts. They rent out Birns & Sawyer, a production house in North Hollywood. Wiseau insists on buying all of the production equipment himself, as well as insisting that the film be shot on 35mm film and HD Digital simultaneously. The employees of Birns & Sawyer introduce Wiseau to Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer) and Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen), who work as his cinematographer and script supervisor, respectively. Schklair, however, essentially performs all the director responsibilities for Wiseau. Production initially starts out smooth, but Wiseau grows increasingly narcissistic and demanding. He verbally lashes out at crew members, repeatedly forgets his lines, shows up late nearly every day, and refuses to supply his crew with basic needs such as drinking water. This culminates in Carolyn Minnott (Jacki Weaver), who also plays Claudette, fainting from exhaustion.

The crew grows more resentful of Wiseau, with many questioning his behavior despite an endless supply of money that nobody knows the source of. During prep for a sex scene, Wiseau humiliates Juliette Danielle, who plays Lisa, by pointing out how “disgusting” her body acne is in front of the entire crew. Smadja reaches his limit, and Wiseau briefly fires him. Having filmed near-constant behind-the-scenes footage, Wiseau reveals that he knows everybody hates him, and believes that nobody, including Greg, is interested in seeing his vision through. One afternoon, Greg and Amber happen upon Malcolm in the Middle star Bryan Cranston, who invites the bearded Greg to fill in for a small lumberjack part in a Malcolm episode currently shooting. Greg begs Wiseau to postpone shooting his beard-free scenes by a day to accommodate Cranston’s opportunity, but Wiseau refuses, disillusioning Greg even further and causing Amber to split up with him. On the last day of shooting, Greg finally calls Wiseau out for being entitled and selfish throughout the course of their relationship, and questioning his age, background, and source of income. They get into a brief fight and then do not see each other for eight months.

The Disaster Artist was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2017, as well as two received nominations from the 75th Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for James Franco.  The Bazaar thing about The Disaster Artist is it’s a really good movie about the relationship between two real people who’s lives were interesting enough to make Franco’s movie a hit. It was their actual life story that sold The disaster Artist not the actual story of The Room.  The mystery surrounding Wiseau is still what intrigues people — Franco does an excellent job of showing what a disaster The Room is both in it’s production and it’s story, which is why it still remains “one of the worst movies made”.  I was memorized from the very beginning.  I thought the ending was brilliant with just the right amount of information to keep me guessing.  No one knows the answers to Wiseau’s source of income or his age or where he’s from however he continues to make movies — all bad!  The Disaster Artist is brilliant.  Check it out!

[The Disaster Artist is Oscar nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay]

 

TRUE STORY (2015) – My rating: 8/10

TrueStoryTrue Story is actually a true story.  A very suspenseful movie that reminds me a little of “Primal Fear and a little of “Jagged Edge“.  These are 2 very different stories but similar in technicality and emotions.  Also, True Story is a real story about Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill), a Journalist for the NY Times, who partially fabricated a story to gain preferential support for African children receiving charity.  When discovered, Mike was disgraced and fired from the Times.  He then embarked on the case of Christian Longo (James Franco) who used Mike’s name (as in identity thief) for some unknown reason.  This lead to a phone call to Mike from a reporter for The Oregonian, which peaked Mike’s curiosity.  Christian is accused of killing his wife and 3 children, motive unknown.  Christian and Mike began to meet and decided to write a book, to be published after Christian’s trial was over.  A game of cat and mouse perused throughout their relationship.  Christian was a bit of an enigma as he pleaded not guilty to 2 of the murders and guilty to the other 2, after telling Mike he was not guilty.  This caused Mike to doubt Christian’s sanity and honor.    As of this review, Christian is still alive on death row and has published several of his writings on the murders in the NY Times.  Finkel has never again written for the Times, to date.  The movie was very well acted and very well directed (Rupert Goold).  True Story didn’t make big headlines but I think it’s worth seeing.

HOMEFRONT (2013) – My rating: 7/10

HomefrontThis was a quick Hollywood, holiday season throw-in.  Decent plot but nothing to get excited about.  A single dad and former, top DEA agent, played by Jason Statham, ends up having to clean up his new town by annihilating a current meth lab and teaching the locals a lesson or two.  There is lots of violence and action.  No surprise there — Jason is known for his fighting antics and no nonsense execution of lethal blows.  The big surprise for me was James Franco who played a drug warlord.  I’m not use to seeing James in this type of role.  He did a pretty good job for a guy who kind of zoned out on the academy awards presentation he was hosting.  Another surprise for me was that Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay.

If you’re looking for a nice family movie to take the kids, this is not the one.  Lots of profanity as well as the violence.  I wasn’t sorry I saw Homefront but it didn’t make me go WOW!