Tag Archives: James Franco

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is actually 6 distinct stories. The first one opens in spectacular fashion, Buster(Tim Blake Nelson) mounted on his horse, strumming his guitar, his pleasing singing voice echoing off the mountains around him. When he rides into town, he lives up to the second part of his illustrious reputation: he’s the best gun slinger in town. And indeed. no matter how jaded a western, shoot em up, action hero connoisseur you are, Buster has some moves that will impress you. This opening vignette sets such a strong tone, and an enjoyable one, that its abrupt shift left me confused and grief-stricken, and maybe even bored.

We turned the movie off halfway through. But that opening part really stayed with me. It did such a good job establishing the movie as one to watch that  I succumbed to the MV5BMjQwNDI4MTA3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTQ1OTEzNjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,960_AL_pressure and made attempt #2 the next night. I rewound to the beginning and what I found was: yes, the switch between the first and second chapter is brusque, and because for me unexpected, I had lost interest when I failed to keep up. In this second portion, James Franco is a bank robber who gets the ultimate sentence for his crime. Our first extended look at his face is perhaps one of the most striking portraits of a man I’ve ever seen on film. The editing is astonishingly economical: the story is told not so much quickly as efficiently. But during my second watch, with all guns firing, not only was I less confused, I was incredibly impressed.

Joel and Ethan Cohen know what the hell they’re doing. If their movie isn’t speaking to me, I should damn well know that it isn’t their failing as writer-directors, but mine as a viewer. Subsequent chapters star the likes of Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, and Zoe Kazan. They all tell their own stories about brutal and unforgiving life in the Old West.

The Coen Brothers have been at this a long time yet they’ve still got the ability to surprise. Their brevity inspires them to experiment in yet more ways, crafting stories that are compelling exhibitions of their dark humour and signature style. Did I like this movie? No. I fecking loved it. It took me two tries to get there mind you, but it was fecking worth it.

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Your Highness

Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride), who smells like sheep scrotum, is his brother’s lesser in every way. Prince Fabious (James Franco) is more handsome and more accomplished, kinder and a better brother. He’s even brought home Belladonna (Zoey Deschanel), the most beautiful woman in all the land, to be his bride. But his wedding day is interrupted by a Leezar (Justin Theroux), a powerful warlock upset about his dead cyclops and stolen virgin. He comes to seek revenge and fulfill an ancient prophecy, leaving with Belladonna and thus, Fabious’s heart.

Their father, the king, orders the inept Thadeous to accompany Fabious on his quest, god knows why. And so begins an adventure. Had Fabious gone alone it no doubt MV5BMTUxNzMwODc5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ4MTA4NA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_would have been a five minute drive up the road, wit both he and his bride making it back in time to cut the cake at their reception. Throw Thadeous into the mix and all you’ve got is a stoner period piece that’s a vehicle for Danny McBride. I mean, Your Highness looks pretty great, truth be told. It’s got a big enough budget to go through the motions. But McBride’s humour is stunted. It’s like he’s always writing for 12 year olds. And, sure, the first time you hear milady say the f-word it makes the tips of your ears blush, but you can’t build a whole movie on just out of place rude humour. Well, okay, point taken – apparently you can, and apparently Universal will pay you 50 million dollars to do it – but there isn’t a mammal on Earth who shouldn’t have seen this flop coming a mile away.

How, then, does such a movie garner such a high-profile cast? Natalie Portman has been adamant about distancing herself from it. She says she only did it because she wasn’t sure Black Swan would be green-lit by a studio and she felt she could use this paycheque to self-finance the film herself, if need be. However (and perhaps, for her, unfortunately), Black Swan got green-lit fairly easily, but the contract was already signed and she had to go through with Your Highness anyway, and stumble over great lines like “burning in my beaver.” James Franco has been less circumspect, saying the film “sucked,” which is still a kinder review than the one I’m writing, but then, if I had earned $2.5M for it, I might be a little more defensive too. As it is, I have zero sympathy for a movie that can’t have even sounded good on paper, not even on RAW, unrefined rolling papers, the kind you light on fire and allow to go up in smoke.

 

The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards

Seven stories. Self-contained, based on short stories from Robert Boswell’s collection. They have some commonalities, I suppose: toeing the line between fantasy and reality, or the gray area between memory and what really happened. Inventing shit when we’re young and have no experience. Blurring reality when we’re old and looking back. Life is bittersweet. We’re all bastards sometimes. It just depends on the day.

Conrad (James Franco) identifies his father’s dead body and is comforted by his death, comforted by the fact that he wasn’t the only one his father wanted to kill.

Paul (Jim Parrack) goes home to visit his father, whom he barely recognizes. Dementia has taken him further and further away from the man he used to be. All that seems to be left is his meanness, and even knowing it’s the product of disease doesn’t quite mitigate it. It cuts particularly close to home when it involves Paul’s ex wife (Natalie Portman) and the kid who looks disturbingly just like him.

Monica (Kristen Wiig) is a single mother who works as a maid. She gets through the day by fantasizing about using her wealthy clients’ lives as inspiration for the writing that will make her rich and famous one day.

A huge cast, including Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Thomas Mann, Matthew Modine, Rico Rodriguez, Tony Cox, Jimmy Kimmel, and Keir Gilchrist assembles to pull this thing together, along with more than 7 writers and more than 7 directors. The stories are not uniformly good, or uniformly  memorable, and though I enjoyed some, I don’t think they really mean much as a whole.

 

 

The Vault

Two sisters (Taryn Manning, Francesca Eastwood) agree to pull a bank heist in order to save their brother. The siblings are split up, some guarding the hostages while others go in search of money. The bank manager (James Franco) sends them downstairs to a creepy subterranean bank vault that’s haunted as shit.  The stuff happening down there makes the bank robbery seem like a cakewalk. Those hostages don’t know how good they’ve got it! And the bank robbers don’t know what they’ve gotten themselves into.

MV5BNTUyMjlmZmEtNjIzMC00NmI5LWE1YTEtNjc5YTg1ZGFjOWMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODU3NTQxMw@@._V1_The criminals are surprised how south this has gone, and how quickly. How are the cops already here? The tellers reluctantly tell them: the bank is haunted. The ghosts are the victims of another bank heist, an extraordinarily bloody and cruel one, and they’re not about to let another one go down if they can help it. Of course, you can warn the people in a horror movie all you want; they never listen. They never listen!

A known and admitted chicken shit, I can attest that some of this got to me. But some of the horror also struck me as downright silly, and I do not believe this was remotely intended as a horror-comedy. Horror-heist, perhaps, but it clearly fails at both of these at the same damn time. I started this movie two months ago (before James Franco was even on the #MeToo hit list) and abandoned it, too freaked out to keep going. The quick editing is the most effective – flashes of evil do more to prey on my imagination. I only took it up again in broad daylight, with 4 dogs cuddling me, and Sean wall-papering nearby (dogs pick up on tone – do you think the score of a horror movie is as disturbing to them as it is to me?).

The truth is, this movie wasn’t worth the extraordinary measures I’m forced to undertake just to survive it. I tend to stay away from scary movies because I know my limitations and I’m generally not good for anything worse than say Shaun of the Dead, but preferably ParaNorman. However, some exceptions must be made. Last year I knew that Get Out was one of the ages, a movie that transcends its genre. I saw it in theatres and kept myself from hyperventilating to death. Before that, I somehow managed to sit through The Witch at the New Hampshire Film Festival. It didn’t kill me but it sure as hell tried; its eerie atmosphere made for an incredible film but for me, it was just too much. My panic was so intense that for most of the movie I was simply eyeing the exits and praying for escape.

Now I’m on my way to SXSW where the opening film is a horror called A Quiet Place, directed and co-written by John Krasinski, whom I cannot believe would do me like this. The movie stars both himself and his lovely with Emily Blunt and they play the parents of a family forced to live in utter and complete silence, or else some unknown but terrifying thing will hunt and kill them. The trailer made me pee a bit. So how, dear readers, am I going to get through this one? Please, send your tips and tricks for surviving this movie. The gore doesn’t bother me. It’s the anticipation, the quiet moments, which this film will be filled to the brim with, fuck you very much John Krasinksi. I’ll be the one doing lamaze-type breathing, with or without a paper bag over my head. But don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll write a totally objective review!

TIFF’s Famous Dates

George-Amal-Clooney-Venice-Film-Festival-2017George and Amal Clooney welcomed their twins Ella and Alexander in June (at the same hospital where Kate and William’s royal children were born), so people were ecstatic to see them looking terribly in love at the Venice Film Festival in early September. George was there promoting his directorial effort, Suburbicon, starring pal Matt Damon. Clooney has a home on Lake Como (in Italy) where he retreats from the world every summer. It’s where he brought his newborn twins home this summer, and where a paparazzo snuck in to take surreptitious pictures of the babies at their most vulnerable. He started coming to Lake Como 16 years ago, when he and his friend Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) stumbled on the Villa Oleandra while george-clooney-villa-oleandracrisscrossing Italy on their motorbikes. After one of the bikes broke down outside its gates, the owners ushered them in and proceeded to sell Clooney their house for $7.5 million. And it was in Italy where George first met Amal and it was in beautiful Venice itself where they later wed. After the Venice Film Festival, Clooney and family flew to his hometown of Kentucky to show off the twins to his father, who’d been 1297989661099_ORIGINALtoo ill to travel to meet them overseas. Then, sadly, George had to put down his beloved dog Einstein (who co-starred with him in an ad campaign for Omega watches in 2015) in L.A., before dashing back up to Toronto for TIFF, without wife Amal or darling babies.

Another new mum TIFF goers were eager to carey-mulligan-3e906d22-ef3a-484c-9e91-b0398151d67aspot was Carey Mulligan. She made her first public appearance since having her second child in August. Her husband, Marcus Mumford (frontman for Mumford & Sons), stayed home with the kids while she graced TIFF with her presence; she was there for her new film, Mudbound.

 

 

Image_uploaded_from_iOS__2__0006_2017-09-12_09.53.14_2Annette Bening, who was the jury president in Venice, was at TIFF to promote her new film, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool in which she plays a Hollywood leading lady who catches the interest of a much younger actor, played by Jamie Bell. Both stars brought their famous counterparts: Warren Beatty and Bening have been married since 1992, whilst Jamie Bell and wife Kate Mara have been married all of 2 months. Incidentally, Bell walked the red 2017-09-10_05.07.09_2carpet in kind at the premiere of Mara’s TIFF offering, Chappaquiddick.

2017-09-09_07_0002_Background.jpgAmelia Warner walked the TIFF red carpet. She’s the composer for the new Mary Shelley reincarnation starring Elle Fanning. Her famous date: husband Jamie Dornan. Married for 4 years, they have 2 kids together, who were evidently being babysat elsewhere while Mom and Dad enjoy a glamourous night out.

The Mother! premiere was full of famous dates: star Penelope-Cruz-Javier-Bardem-Venice-Film-Festival-2017Jennifer Lawrence is currently dating her director, Darren Aronofsky (they are usually careful to sneak one or more costars between themselves when taking group photos).  Her co-star Javier Bardem is married to the lovely Penelope Cruz (7 years and counting). Bardem and Cruz star together in a film on offer at the Venice Film Festival, Loving Pablo. And let’s not forget Michelle Pfeiffer and her longtime 843077622partner, David E. Kelley, who accompanied his wife to her photo call in Venice and then she in turn went to the Emmys with him, where the show he was writing for, Big Little Lies, scored some major gold.

Nicole Kidman always has some heavy weight nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-10arm candy. Her husband, Keith Urban, was on hand for the TIFF premiere of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and was also by her side at said Emmys (she was nominated and won for her work on the very same Big Little Lies – it’s very good, you should watch).

nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-09.jpg

2017-09-11_01_0013_2017-09-11_08.25.40_1Alicia Vikander attended the TIFF premiere of Euphoria solo (she was also there with Submergence), but last year she and her boyfriend Michael Fassbender were all over TIFF red carpets since they starred together in The Light Between Oceans.

Also flying solo this year: Jason Sudeikis, who stars in Kodachrome with Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris, and appears in Downsizing alongside Matt Damon as well. His better (and prettier) half, Olivia Wilde, stayed home with the kids.rachel-rachel-tiff-11sept17-01

No word on where Daniel Craig was hiding this year but he wasn’t on the arm of his lovely wife Rachel Weisz, who was there for Disobedience, her new film costarring next to Rachel McAdams, even though Craig himself appeared in another TIFF selection, Kings.

I did get to spot Sam Rockwell on the TIFF red carpet for Three Billboards Outside woodshock_050917_03-777x560Ebbing, Missouri and of course in Venice, where he posed with his wife Leslie Bibb, even though I didn’t know until I saw them together that they were together. I know her from all the way back on Popular (and on The League, where she plays Mark Duplass’s nasty ex-wife), but you may have seen her more recently in To The Bone. In this photo, Rockwell’s Three Billboards costar Woody Harrelson poses with his wife, Laura Louie.

I spied Dave Franco on the red carpet for The Disaster Artist, a real family affair. His James+Franco+Dave+Franco+Day+Three+IMDb+Studio+-tqDqQZ9XDFlbrother James directs and co-stars, and their other brother Tom Franco also appears (briefly!). So does Dave’s very new wife, Alison Brie – she plays his sometime girlfriend.

Greta Gerwig debuted her first solo directorial effort at TIFF this year and her partner let her lap up all the attention on her own, but in other years she and beau Noah Baumbach have 2017 Toronto International Film Festival - "Lady Bird" Premiereattended together – particularly when they’ve done a movie together, like Mistress America. This year, Greta posed alongside some of her Lady Bird leading ladies: Lois Smith, Odeya Rush, and Beanie Feldstein (left) who has a famous sibling rather than a famous date – Jonah Hill is her big brother.

 

We’ve had a very crazy month, having attended 3 festivals in as many weeks, and we’re about to do it again in October, so stay tuned. For now, here are a few snaps from Sean and Jay’s big adventure in Venice.

 

 

 

 

I Am Michael

Based on a true story, Michael Glatze (James Franco) is a gay activist, a writer for a popular queer men’s magazine, and one half of a couple passionately in love. Yet in ten years’ time, Michael will have publicly denounced the LGBTQ community, “turned” straight, and married a woman. How on earth did this happen?

Zachary Quinto is just as baffled as you are. Well, okay, Quinto plays Bennett, 201507682_1_IMG_FIX_700x700Franco’s other half in this film. And Bennett gets left for another man, who happens to be God. Michael starts out curious about religion because some of the queer youth he advocates for have been spurned by parents and schools in the name of religious belief. But the more he studies, the more susceptible he becomes to some very old, out of date, uncompassionate teachings. And things twist around in his mind so much that he makes the decision to “stop” being gay. He becomes a pastor himself, the kind who will sit down in front of a vulnerable kid and tell him “gay doesn’t exist” and he’ll have to “choose heterosexuality in order to be with God.”

I Am Michael attempts to tackle this surprise conversion with as much fairness and balance as possible, but it’s still stifling and sad to watch a man learn to loathe himself. Franco slides from determined advocacy, to, well, madness. He convinces himself that the voice he hears is God giving directions, but I sure as hell wasn’t convinced. I thought he was clearly troubled and had mounts of unresolved grief, both parents having died when he was quite young. And while it’s natural to want to be reunited with one’s mother, the lengths he goes to in order to guarantee his ascension into heaven is really tragic. And it made me angry all over again, this presumption of the church to tell people that they are mistakes, and those mistakes are bad and sinful and that God can’t possibly love them or accept them as they are (as He Himself made them???).

But the truth is, the fire that I feel for this subject wasn’t enough to sustain me through this movie. I thought it blandly and boringly told. It felt more like a powerpoint presentation than a movie. Michael’s struggle is largely internal, so the drama just doesn’t manifest. And because we don’t see or understand what must be a torturous process, the film feels slight, inconsequential.

I Am Michael is a fascinating premise that didn’t really work for me as a film. The director works so hard at being fair that the movie never really has a point of view. For all the talk of spirituality, there’s no real fire. It’s an interesting story uninterestingly told.

Why Him?

Ned is a sweet, hard-working family man who loves to bowl. His wife, Barb, is a supportive and involved mother of two, an art professor and photographer on the side. They have a 15 year old son who makes loving slide shows and a daughter at college who is dearly missed. Imagine their surprise when a Face Time with her reveals the unadorned ass of her secret lover.

Rendywhy-him-01-trlr-9204Cut to: Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mullally) fly to California to meet their daughter’s new boyfriend, Laird (James Franco). He’s a “free spirit” which is code for guy who makes worst possible impression on parents so they immediately hate him, which is unfortunate because he’s terribly in love with their daughter. It’s always awkward when someone tries too hard to be liked. It’s a thousand times more awkward when that someone is a tech millionaire who has unlimited means to make all his awkward dreams come true.

I was pretty sure I could write this review without even seeing the movie, and I was half right: this movie has very little to add to the overprotective dad vs odd duck fiance trope. We get it, dads: you hate your daughter’s boyfriends. But I have to admit that a charming cast goes a long way with this movie. Franco continues to endear himself to me. Cranston makes the implausible feel plausible. And Mullally has space to shine. The truth is, this dumb movie did make me laugh.

If you’ve seen Why Him? then you know that Bryan Cranston plays a not-very-hip dad who doesn’t relate to new technology in any meaningful way, which has already alienated him from his kids, but opens a wide chasm between himself and his daughter’s Silicon Valley boyfriend. Laird’s mansion is “paperless” and Ned learns the hard way that WhyHim_.0this includes toilet paper. Laird has the latest in toilet innovation but since its instruction manual has not yet been translated from Japanese, his weird assistant (Keegan-Michael Key) gets to show Ned live and in person how to properly “wipe” his ass. In order to celebrate the release of this movie, Why Him? brought a suitably fancy porta potty to SXSW. This, ladies and gentlemen, is officially the weirdest way I’ve ever seen a movie promoted and it worked. How could I not find out what’s up with that? I did, however, resist the temptation to stick my arm through a hole that would apparently provide me with a James-Franco-inspired temporary tattoo.