Dislike Archives - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
13Apr/180

The Disaster Artist (2017)

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Before The Room became a midnight sensation, Greg Sestero was one of many in an acting class dreaming of "making it".  Not all paths to the top are filled with inspired success, and Greg's journey meets its maker in the form of the perpetually greasy, eternally enthusiastic, and ethnically questionable Tommy Wiseau.  James Franco directs The Disaster Artist, with the screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, and stars Dave Franco and James Franco.

The first oddity of James Franco's The Disaster Artist comes right at the end.  In split-screen, we watch how James' recreation stacks up against the bizarre-to-the-point-of-untouchable moments in Tommy Wiseau's The Room.  The weirdness comes from James' technically accurate reflections, not perfectly accurate as the odd cadence of Wiseau's film can't be intentionally recreated.  What few synapses that had the urge to fire moved my fingers to write, "Why is this?" in my notes before realizing I had spent the better part of an hour and a half writing only one other note "Dave Franco's getting into this."

My lack of notes in preparation for writing this review of The Disaster Artist might strike some of you as inattention from my part but - let me assure you - aside from that one burst of passion from Dave there was not a single moment of note in The Disaster Artist.  I might be the perfectly wrong person for this film as I've seen The Room more than once (once was enough but friends gotta introduce it to friends and there I was) and read Greg Sestero's entertaining account of The Room's making.  The trick to enduring The Room more than once is not watching it and occupying yourself during the many go-nowhere moments until the staggeringly terrible bits come up.  Those moments ("You're tearing me apart", complimenting a dog, etc.) expose Wiseau's psyche so nakedly that we tend to gloss over how boring the rest of The Room is.

25Feb/180

Mute (2018)

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Leo silently wanders around Berlin, working his bartender position and stealing moments with his girlfriend.  After she disappears, Leo begins an investigation that will lead him into a conspiracy so complicated the participants barely understand their roles.  Duncan Jones wrote the screenplay for and directs Mute, and stars Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux.

Upfront - Mute is terrible.  Duncan Jones' return to science-fiction is arguably legendary in how bad it is.  There are so many threads of interest muddled because of poor acting, borderline incomprehensible dialogue, or pacing so glacial I could watch it to cool down in the summer.  That's before the homoerotic maybe murderers, maybe not, played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux manage to strike two entirely different nervy tones that are at odds with each other and the plodding pace of the rest of Mute.

...and yet.  It's not often a science-fiction film comes along that makes me think of John Cassavetes' infamously difficult 1976 film The Killing of a Chinese BookieMute shares that film's daring approach, practically betting that I wouldn't stay awake for the entirety of its length or stay engaged in this futuristic Amish noir-tinged science-fiction investigation.  Jones misfired with Mute but the extent of that misfire and what bits remain fascinating up until the end will fuel conversation for months to come.

4Feb/180

Little Red Lie (2017)

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If this is your first time reading Pixels in Praxis or are averse to spoilers, check out our FAQ before proceeding.

What was the last lie you told?  Mine was, "I'm okay."  Combination of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and codependence made it difficult to discuss the chronic kidney stones, bleeding hemorrhoids, ulcer, and bizarre issue where ear wax coated my sinuses (don't ask for an elaboration, my doctor sure as heck didn't have any suggestions.)  I was clearly not okay, hence the lie, but is there a sincerity in my commitment to make sure no one was burdened by my problems that made it true?

These are the kinds of questions I asked about myself, and the characters, of Will O'Neill's Little Red Lie.  It's the first videogame I've touched that gave me a cognitive headache trying to piece together what each of the characters lies about.  These aren't simple lies, like when my mom used to tell me, "Don't sit so close to the television or you'll go blind."  The two main characters, Arthur Fox and Sarah Stone, lie about themselves, their surroundings, the people in their lives - just about everything there is to lie about, they will at some point.

30Jan/180

The Post (2018)

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The United States government has kept its people in the dark about the long-term disaster of the Vietnam War.  Because of one conscientious citizen, The Washington Post is in a unique position to expose the years of deception if the paper's leaders can work through the road blocks of government officials and financiers alike.  Steven Spielberg directs The Post, with the screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, and stars Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Bob Odenkirk.

One peril of historical dramas is how the storytellers choose to ignore, or incorporate, perspective on the events portrayed.  Our relationship with media - newspapers in particular - has shifted dramatically since the events of The Post took place.  The power of one story no longer (if it ever did) has the effect of making or breaking someone's career.  We need only go back to the 2016 election to see our confirmation bias in action, or look at the current "Me Too" wave of women bringing down men who were able to keep their victims silent for too long.

I am suspicious bordering on hostile toward the rosy, arguably old-fashioned, approach to media Steven Spielberg takes with The Post.  His direction is completely sincere, which is part of the problem.  There's no winking at or hinting toward how the moneyed interests that prove to be stumbling blocks in The Washington Post's plan to publish the Pentagon Papers are the same forces that helped Donald Trump limp over the electoral finish line.  Instead, Spielberg presents the power behind the money as an annoyance, with the true enemy the boorish man in the White House who will go on to win a second term in a historic landslide.

23Jan/180

I, Tonya (2017)

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Tonya Harding - misunderstood and unlikely heroine of figure skating, or psychopathic abuser with delusions of grandeur?  The wildly contradictory stories don't paint a consistent image, but that won't stop this film from trying.  Craig Gillespie directs I, Tonya, with the screenplay written by Steven Rogers, and stars Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Sebastian Stan.

I don't like I, Tonya, but I do respect that director Craig Gillespie decides on a trashy aesthetic early on and proceeds with no pretensions of taste.  This is the sort of film that is self-aware enough to start in tight pseudo documentary frames taking up barely half the screen, and when the delusional loser Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) talks about his role in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) the camera cuts to a separate television playing Shawn's interview.  Shawn is such a dangerous loser that he can't be allowed to share the same interview frame as Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) or Tonya's mother LaVona (Allison Janney).  He's isolated to his own little world in a manner suitable to his delusions and Hauser smacks the air at the end of each sentence like he's tasting an imaginary buffet of his own lies.

Where I, Tonya goes from here is just as trashy as the opening interviews and lands on a presentation of lower-class America I can't endorse.  The big problem with I, Tonya is that Gillespie and screenwriter Steven Rogers aren't interested in the why behind Tonya so much as the setting.  They take every opportunity to saddle Tonya with symbols of white trash while breaking the fourth wall often enough that it becomes a cruel joke.