Tag Archives: James Franco

Family Recipe


by Hope Madden

I’m no cook. If it’s not on Chipotle’s menu, I’m not eating it. And yet, I feel like I understand certain things that don’t go together, say Captain Crunch cereal and goat cheese, meatball subs and tuna, ice cream and hair.

That’s kind of the experience to be had when watching Kin.

Advertised as an adolescent SciFi adventure where a ‘tween finds an intergalactic gun and all his problems are solved (nothing tone deaf about that storyline), the film is much more than that. And also much less.

Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt) is an adolescent outsider, missing his mom and trudging through his dad’s chores and disappointment. His older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor, or as I like to call him, Handsome Seth Rogan) comes home from a 6-year prison stretch, and things go quickly to hell in a handbasket thanks to his old associate, Taylor (James Franco).

Filmmaking brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker start off with traditional angsty teen drama. They quickly warp it into a gritty, mid-budget crime thriller, with a little charm thanks to Franco’s characteristic weirdness: badly cut mullet, unexplained puffy coat, women’s shoes.

But then it turns into a road picture with antics and a sort of tragic take on the cycle of poverty, crime and bad decisions. By this time, we realize that Truitt doesn’t have much hope of establishing a character, as he may, indeed, have no idea what film he’s in.

Reynor fairs slightly better. He’s likable and vulnerable. To pull the role off, he’d also have to be believably corrupted, which is where Reynor falters.

Zoe Kravitz is Milly, the stripper they befriend. Let’s not even get into it.

The strength and honest conflict in the film is really the relationship between the two brothers and the inevitable, depressing conclusion their lives together will lead to.

But, wait. Don’t settle into that just yet, because there’s an over-the-top, high-octane climax headed inexplicably and irreversibly toward you. And remember the whole SciFi nonsense they threw at us in the trailer? Well, it finally finds its resolution in the last five minutes of the film—a plot twist that is so mismatched with the tone of the film leading up to it, it truly feels like a whole other movie just came knocking on the door because it was lost.

Dude, all we wanted was beans and rice.

The Screening Room: Master of Disaster

We have one full week to wait until the new Star Wars. What will we do? Well, there are a couple of great movies you can see in the meantime. We talk through The Disaster Artist and Thelma, plus hip you to what’s new in home entertainment.

Listen to the full podcast HERE.

Hi Doggie!

The Disaster Artist

by Hope Madden

There is genuine affection in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, a behind-the-scenes biopic that gets inside the making of the best bad movie of all time.

Yes, The Room is the best—better than Plan 9 from Outer Space and Trolls 2. They’re in the same league because The Room is what these “classics” are – a simply god-awful movie made with such unpredictable creative vision that you cannot help but be amazed. It’s just that The Room has it in greater abundance.

It’s also a story of Hollywood dreams coming true, as well as a lovely tale of friendship. And, of course, a glimpse at one of the most unusual men in film, Tommy Wiseau.

In 2003, Wiseau released The Room, a film he wrote, produced, directed, financed and starred in. Not particularly well.

Almost fifteen years later, The Room has seen cult adoration the likes few besides Rocky Horror would ever see. Because it is awful. So, so gloriously awful.

Directing his 19th feature (!!), Franco seems to have finally found a subject that suits his sensibilities, filling the screen not with vicious mockery as much as awe.

Jacki Weaver is magnificent as a baffled actor trying to do quality work. Zac Efron also turns in a startlingly solid performance – not because Efron is not usually solid, he is – but because this film doesn’t call for that kind of commitment. And Josh Hutcherson is a hoot in a bad, bad wig.

Franco’s performance as Wiseau is uncanny, and mercifully, his film doesn’t attempt to uncover the mystery behind this genuinely unusual creature. As future bestie (and author of the book on which the film is based) Greg, Dave Franco sets the mood almost immediately.

Recently embarrassed by his own stage fright during an acting class performance, Greg sits mesmerized by Wiseau’s writhing, prop-climbing onstage “Stella!” Where the rest of the class looks away in embarrassment, Greg soaks it in.

It strikes a sweet balance between embarrassment and affection that the film maintains throughout—one that not only allows us to embrace this freakish figure at the center of the film but mirrors the very emotion that has made The Room a lasting cult joy.

If you worry you won’t be able to follow The Disaster Artist without seeing The Room, two things: 1) Franco rolls scenes from both movies side by side to give you context and point out that this movie is no spoof. 2) Go see The Room!

God Save the Queen

Queen of the Desert

by Hope Madden

How many period romances set against the crumbling of the Ottoman empire must I endure in one month?

Current tally: 2, and Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert is the least endurable.

I had been cautiously optimistic about Herzog’s biopic on Gertrude Bell. Nicole Kidman (rarely a bad idea) stars as Bell, a British writer/traveler/scientist/spy who helped shape British policy on the Middle East.

Herzog + Kidman = reason for optimism.

Unfortunately, that math doesn’t really work out.

I’m not going to lie, I had no idea who Gertrude Bell was before I saw this film. Ten seconds on google and I found out that she was an absolutely fascinating human being. It’s crazy. She explored everywhere, climbed everything, learned new languages, informed culture and politics, wrote about all of it, had torrid affairs, never married, and determined the boundaries of modern day Iraq. All in the early 1900s.

That should have been a hell of a movie.

Unfortunately, director Herzog cannot tell this woman’s wildly unconventional story without framing her in the most conventional way possible. She exists exclusively in terms of her relationships – or the absence of a relationship – with men.

We’ll lay that at the foot of Herzog the director, but this God-awful dialog? That’s on Herzog the writer.

Kidman, almost tragic in her earnest commitment to this part, manages to wrestle Herzog’s humorless and hackneyed prose into submission. But Lord, James Franco cannot.

The plotting is no better than the concept or dialog.

Scene after needless scene shows Kidman in the office of one man or another, announcing her plans to do something they don’t need to know about, only to suffer their indignant rebuffs. She responds with obstinate will. Cut to Kidman doing whatever it was those men told her she couldn’t do.

Repeat ad nauseum.

This woman hand-drew the border between Iraq and Jordan – in a time when women couldn’t vote in England. That alone could be unpacked and considered from about 30 different perspectives. There are so many things worth knowing about Gertrude Bell, but all I really learned from Queen of the Desert is that she was, “a woman without her man.”

That’s a real line of dialog. Good God.



Yes, It’s a Weiner

Sausage Party

by Christie Robb

I was expecting to hate this movie. At worst I was anticipating a series of increasingly forced dick jokes and at best a munchie-induced fever dream. Instead, I gotta say, Sausage Party stands up with the South Park movie as a pretty offensively entertaining animated movie for adults.

The film is set in a Shopwell supermarket where every morning the products sing about their desire be chosen by “the gods”—those big things wheeling the carts—and travel to the Great Beyond (via a song composed by Alan Menken—the guy who co-created the songs from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin).

Little do the foodstuffs know what terrors await them on the other side of the pneumatic doors. It’s not nirvana. The Gods fucking eat you.

As the Fourth of July approaches, Frank—a hot dog voiced by Seth Rogan—eagerly anticipates hooking up with his honey bun (Kristen Wiig) in the Great Beyond. But after they are chosen, they and a bunch of other products are separated from their packaging and fall to the supermarket floor.

Forced to traverse the enormous grocery, the fellowship has to navigate the aisles to get back to their packages, interacting with their fellow foodstuffs in various ethnic-food aisles, partying in the liquor aisle, and generally trying to evade the villain—a vampiric and increasingly unhinged literal douche.

The movie certainly employs a fair amount of wiener-based humor and a variety of food-centric ethnic stereotypes (for example, the sauerkraut jars are a bunch of fascists bent on exterminating “the juice”, the bagel’s voice is a Woody Allen impression, and a Peter Pan “Indian”-style pipe-smoking bottle of firewater dispenses wisdom), but the movie turns to a surprising exploration of faith vs. skepticism and the extent to which religious belief fosters divisions, hostility, and repressed sexuality.

Although the movie manages to provide enough offense to go around, the majority of the jokes are actually quite funny. The cast is certainly strong. Rogan and Wiig are joined by Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Edward Norton, Craig Robinson, David Krumholtz, and Paul Rudd, and the sex-positive food porn scene exceeded my expectations of what was bound to happen once the wiener and the bun finally got together.

Seeing Sausage Party ain’t a bad way to pass the time. But, for the love of God, please don’t take your kids.



Dear Diary

The Adderall Diaries

by Hope Madden

James Franco is nothing if not prolific. The Adderall Diaries was his 8th completed feature slated for release in 2015. He is a frenzy of artistic ambition and he deserves credit for embracing independent filmmaking as well as bigger budget stuff, doling out comedies and dramas in between arty TV bits. But maybe if he slowed down a little, some of the material would be better.

In Adderall Diaries, Franco plays Stephen Elliott, the real-life writer who penned the nonfiction text on which the film is based. As Franco depicts him, Elliott is a self-destructive man-child wallowing in self-pity.

What caused his sour mood? An adolescence of abuse at the hands of a father he pretends is dead (in print and in public, no less). When Dad (Ed Harris) shows up in the flesh at a book reading, Elliott’s cushy world falls to pieces. Combine that with writer’s block and a misdirected interest in a high-profile murder trial, and what can Elliott do but snort, smoke, shoot, and pop every substance he comes into contact with?

There is something interesting buried here about how we use our own memories to justify our behavior, or about how writers are inherently liars, or a bit of both – hard to say because it’s never fleshed out or clearly articulated. But boy, the old ‘downward spiral of the artistic genius’ thing – that is hard to miss.

Though Harris turns in a characteristically strong performances, all other supporting turns are perfunctory at best, which leaves us with little but Franco’s whining protagonist to cling to.

Writer/director Pamela Romanowsky flails about with indie director clichés, creating an overly-filtered world of seediness and confused flashbacks, while her prose cannot deliver the introspection required to make an audience invest in what happens to Elliott.

Subplots go nowhere – the murder trial, in particular, feels as if it should mean something imperative but seems needless and tacked on. Relationships, the writer’s craft, self-examination and anything else the film attempts to tackle are too muddled to stand out. Even Franco’s damaged writer seeking redemption bit is so tired, and the character so unlikeable, that it’s just hard to care about the film’s outcome.


Spies Like Them

The Interview

by George Wolf

Forget the theories about this whole thing being a marketing ploy. If it is, it’s the worst marketing ploy ever, as The Interview is going to end up making millions less than it might have if the whole North Korea threatdown would have been handled differently.

But anyway…is it funny?

Yes it is., sometimes very funny. It also has some dry stretches, jokes that fall flat, and plenty of toilet humor, but Seth Rogen and James Franco do hit their targets fairly often. They get a big assist from Randall Park, who turns in a hilarious sendup of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and continually gives the film a boost at precisely the right moments .

On the Rogen/Franco scale, its no Pineapple Express, This Is the End or Neighbors, but The Interview is far from a national disgrace.

America! F&^% yeah!







Look What’s Cookin’ on the Homefront


by Hope Madden

Those of you heading to Homefront looking for your typical Jason Statham film are in for a shock. Statham never disrobes. Not at all. He never even strips down to a wife beater.

Otherwise, yeah – exactly what you expect. Statham’s a retired undercover cop looking to settle down somewhere quiet and rural to raise his daughter. But a local meth dealer stirs up trouble, and Statham’s Phil Broker has to set things straight…with his shirt on!

The film, penned by Statham’s buddy Sylvester Stallone from Chuck Logan’s novel, offers a comeuppance fantasy rooted in a very modern American problem – that our rural areas are now more likely to house meth dens than chicken coops. What can we do about it? I mean, besides create an excuse for a good, decent, law abiding dad to find the bastards responsible and beat them to death?

Statham is Statham – unrepentantly British, steely-eyed, quick with his wit and even quicker with an elbow to the face. Kudos to Kate Bosworth as a white trash tweaker and prize winning mom. Not only is Bosworth physically perfect for the role (eat a sandwich, please!), but she actually acts, giving some heft to her scenes.

Winona Ryder also inexplicably co-stars. Why are these two taking tiny parts in a disposable action flick? It’s sad, really, but where Bosworth digs in and performs, Ryder waffles and grimaces instead of acting. Too bad, because she shares most of her scenes with James Franco, and that seems like it could be a pretty nutty experience.

Franco plays Gator, town meth king. Unsurprisingly, he’s the most interesting thing the film has going for it. He’s a very natural presence – no false bravado, no stilted movie-actor-villain-toughness. His Gator is kind of a weirdo. Whether that’s why the role works for Franco, or whether that’s because Franco is in the role is hard to tell, but it’s certainly a big perk for this film.

Between Franco’s goofiness and Bosworth’s performance, Homefront does actually contain enough surprises to freshen the tired concept to a watchable degree. That’s not so much a recommendation as a consolation, but hey, at least it’s something.





For Your Queue: Princesses Gone Wild

We may be deep into summer vacation, but this week’s DVD releases include a great chance to revisit Spring Break!

With Spring Breakers, gonzo writer/director Harmony Korine gives us his most mainstream film to date.  Okay, it’s no Nicholas Sparks schmaltz-fest, but mainstream compared to Korine’s usual fare (Gummo, Trash Humpers). Four wild teenage girls (including former Disney princesses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) head south for Spring Break, and soon meet up with rapper/gangsta “Alien” (a terrifically unhinged James Franco). From there, there is little law-abiding.

Korine has something to say here, and he says it pretty well. Outrageous, courageous, and often very funny, Spring Breakers is worth your time.

When Wednesday Addams decided she was through with family fare, she wasn’t kidding. Christina Ricci followed That Darn Cat – the last of her Disney work – with a slew of riveting, gritty indies including 1998’s Buffalo ’66. She plays Layla, a small town teen willingly abducted by parolee Billy (creepy as ever Vincent Gallo). Another tale of road trips, questionable male influences and the corruption of youth, Buffalo ’66 is a gripping surprise overflowing with fantastic performances. Plus there’s bowling!


Dead Man’s Party



by George Wolf


You know what This Is the End made me think of? Dear, departed Father Art from my church.

Stay with me.

Father Art used to surprise the faithful by occasionally dropping Howard Stern’s name into the homily, citing Stern as someone who, underneath the raunch, had a positive message:  do what you’re supposed to do.

This Is The End also has a positive message, stressing selflessness as a key to salvation. Sure, this message is mixed with heapin’ helpings of sex, drugs and profanity, but it’s a combination that produces some pretty funny shit.

Your reaction will most likely depend on how much you enjoy the comedy stylings of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, seen at their peak in films such as Pineapple Express, Superbad and Knocked Up. Co-writing and directing This Is the End, they’ve expanded their 2007 short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse into the funniest film of the year.

Seth is Rogan, and Jay is his buddy Jay Baruchel, who comes to LA hoping for a low-key visit. Instead, Rogan takes him to a rockin’ party at James Franco‘s place where, amid plenty of famous faces, the rapture begins.

As the final battle rages outside, Franco, Rogan and Baruchel are joined by Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride for a star studded celebrity survivor sleepover!

Things get pretty crude (so much so that Rogan has said he expected an NC-17 rating instead of the R they received), but the result is far from dumb humor. Self-deprecation is always endearing, and the gang uses it well, lampooning their films, their images, and the self-absorbed nature of celebrity culture.

It’s a wild ride featuring great cameos (well done Channing Tatum and Michael Cera) and fine ensemble work from a bunch of funny guys who play themselves with undeniable comic chemistry and a sense of camaraderie that makes them fine company for the end of days.

Remember, they have a plan to be among the chosen, and you’ll most likely be laughing too hard to argue with it.