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Deadpool 2 (2018)
8/10
Meta over-the-top with a heart of curdled gold.
25 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
DEADPOOL 2 (2018) *** Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Stefan Kapicic (voice), Rob Delaney, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgard, Brad Pitt, Alan Tudyk, Matt Damon; (Cameos: Nicholas Hout, James McAvoy, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee) Super-sized sequel to the blockbuster Marvel Comics hit with Reynolds back in full comedic form as the wise-cracking, skull-splitting, fourth wall demolishing Merc With A Mouth who loses his way after suffering a tragic loss and seeks redemption via 'family matters' - namely saving a young mutant (Dennison) from extermination - namely time-traveling cyborg baddie Cable (totally buffed and beefed up Brolin) hellbent on killing him. Director David Leitch keeps the body count high, the envelope pushed R rating to the hilt with graphic violence, amazing action/fight sequences and tongue-thru-cheek(y) humor (thanks again to Reynolds re-collaborating with scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick). Newcomers to the franchise Beetz as the super lucky (that's her super power too) Domino and Delaney as regular guy Peter shine with ass-kicking and belly laughs (respectively). Meta over-the-top with a heart of curdled gold.
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Tully (2018)
8/10
Funny and well-conceived dramedy with Theron in top form
5 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
TULLY (2018) *** Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, Maddie Dixon-Poirer, Asher Miles Fallica. Funny and well-conceived dramedy with Theron in top form as a frazzled mother who's third birth results in having her well-meaning brother Duplass hiring a 'night nanny' (Davis in a skillful turn) to help her decompress. Diablo Cody's spot-on dialogue driven screenplay is a corker and reuniting with director Jason Reitman continues to blend the mired miserable with the life-affirming joy. While the final act is kind of a let-down it ultimately is solid in portraying the constant juggle/struggle of adulthood and parenting.
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Bad Samaritan (2018)
7/10
Decent suspense thriller with one box of crazy turn by Tennant
5 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
BAD SAMARITAN (2018) **1/2 David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Jacqueline Byers, Lisa Brenner, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Rob Nagle, Hannah Barefoot. Decent suspense thriller with Sheehan's petty thief stumbling upon a victim-to-be of a serial killer when he attempts to rob the home and winds up in the crosshairs of an ultimate grudge match/cat-and-mouse with a few good jolts delivered and one box of crazy turn Tennant as the seriously f'd up creepazoid. Director Dean Devlin and Brandon Boyce's clever script combine for enough popcorn pleasing moments of meta-scream-at-the-screen scenes and even a few canny self-asides to aforementioned sequences.
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9/10
Game changer for the MCU
1 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
AVENGERS : INFINITY WAR (2018) *** 1/2 Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Chris Pratt, Pom Kiementieff, Dave Bautista, Zoe Sladana, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Carrie Coon, Ross Marquand, (Voices of Josh Brolin, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Kerry Condon ) Cameos: Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders) More of the same (and then some) from the Marvel Universe in this 19th film of the accumulated series (and tenth anniversary of Marvel Studios inception) features the assembled superheroes re-aligning for the ultimate battle royale against alien Thano (Brolin) hell-bent on destroying half of all the living beings in the universe for a colossal 'reboot' of Life As We Know It. Directed with brio by the Russo Brothers (Anthony & Joe) and well- cobbled screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely manages to juggle the astronomically large cast of regulars mixing the right peppering of humor with drama, and proves to be a big game changer for its inevitable follow-up. See it on a big screen - IMAX for full effect.
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Ghost Stories (I) (2017)
8/10
Nifty and spooky British anthology thriller
23 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
GHOST STORIES (2018) *** Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther. Nifty and spooky British anthology thriller with Nyman (who co-wrote and directed with Jeremy Dsyon) as a professorial debunker of the supernatural finds himself enlisted to investigate three unexplained (and unsolved) cases where he delves deeper and deeper into the sordid and scary. A few solid jolts and twists that work for the most part with each chapter well done after the other.
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The Endless (I) (2017)
7/10
Not even Mulder and Scully would want to continue this investigation.
23 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
THE ENDLESS (2018) ** Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Lew Temple, James Jordan, Tate Ellington, Emily Montague, Kira Powell, Vinny Curran, David Lawson, Jr., Peter Cilella. Hit-and-miss indie thriller about two brothers (Benson and Moorhead who collaborated on the script co-directed) who decide to return to the cult they fled years ago in an attempt to make sense of their lives from 'civilization' with some 'be careful what you wished for' consequences. Deadpan humor and a distinct feeling of dread with some fairly impressive visuals can't make up for the plot holes (um, no federal investigation occurred in all that time of their very public escape?!) and its final act of 'let's see if this works/kitchen sink' work method. Not even Mulder and Scully would want to continue this investigation.
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Truth or Dare (I) (2018)
1/10
Lame variation on 'FINAL DESTINATION'
17 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
TRUTH OR DARE (2018) *1/2 Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sam Lerner, Morgan Lindholm. Dull and predictable variation of 'FINAL DESTINATION' with six vapid college co-ed buds getting caught up in a supernatural vortex of the titular game with deadly and outrageously stupid consequences. Director Jeff Wadlow shows very little imagination (i.e. let's boost the sound for no reason) and the screenplay he co-wrote with Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz and Christopher Roach doesn't even have one scene of say a funeral for one of these 'close friends' once they're killed off. Lame.
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7/10
Derivative kissing cousin of 'TAXI DRIVER'
17 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2018) **1/2 Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, John Doman, Alex Manette, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Novola. Derivative kissing cousin of 'TAXI DRIVER' with Phoenix (who excels) as a veteran who finds employment in saving exploited young girls for a living ultimately meets his match when an assignment goes awry leading to a dark downward spiral of his inner demons at play. While filmmaker Lynne Ramsay - who adapted the screenplay based on Jonathan Ames - displays a keen visual and sonic sense of character and plot - such as it is - there is very little to go on outside the threadbare schematics at hand (haunted vet plagued by a violent past unleashes hell at any cost). Somewhat disappointing in the long run but worth watching its star go from implosive to explosive.
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7/10
Clarke acquits himself as Kennedy
7 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
CHAPPAQUIDDICK (2018) **1/2 Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Clancy Brown, Olivia Thirlby, Jim Gaffigan, Taylor Nichols. Historical drama about Senator Ted Kennedy (decently portrayed by Clarke) and his scandal involving the fatal car accident in the titular waters of Martha's Vineyard in 1969 where one of his young campaign aides, Mary Jo Kopechne wound up dead. While a strong cast ensemble keeps things somewhat lively and the story by Talyor Allen and Andrew Logan portrays the politician warts and all (rightfully so) the direction by John Curran is somewhat wooden and listless. Clarke shows the many layers of the troubled politician and the demons he had while also the pain in attempting to do the right thing but for perhaps the wrong reasons.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
7/10
Silence is golden in this nifty yet somewhat gimmicky thriller
7 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A QUIET PLACE (2018) *** Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom, Doris McCarthy. Silence is golden in this nifty yet somewhat gimmicky thriller with a young family facing survival in a post-apocalyptic world ruined by alien creatures that attack when provoked by any loud noise or sound leading to an ultimate showdown. Krasinski - who co-scripted with Bryan Woods & Scott Beck - directs with aplomb in this nearly completely silent endeavor of wits and determination and has solid foundation with real-life wife Blunt as his partner-in-crime in batting down the hatches. Child actors Simmonds (deaf in real life adding to the mix of pure reality terror) and Russom both are excellent with their facial expressions as well and some shrewd sound design by Brandon Jones keep the jolts well-timed. The scary monsters created will haunt your dreams for days. Well-constructed but in a sense somewhat formulaic.
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Unsane (2018)
7/10
Creepy.As.F
29 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
UNSANE (2018) **1/2 Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Amy Irving, Juno Temple. Steven Soderbergh's unnerving, creepy-as-fuck psychological horror mind-f of a movie has brittle, but clever Foy (excellent in an almost unlikeable performance; no mean feat) as a young career woman whose recent past involving a stalker has her unknowingly committing herself to a clinic where she is more or less held prisoner with possibly her lurker in the midst. Shot on an iPhone (!) the nasty feeling of being too close washed over you like a film of filth and the wicked screenplay by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer keeps one on edge even though it veers from terror to black comedy at a moment's notice (and it doesn't help that Leonard looks like every known pedophile circa the late 1970s).
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Isle of Dogs (2018)
9/10
Filmmaker Wes Anderson continues to dazzle
29 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
ISLE OF DOGS (2018) *** 1/2 (Voices of: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, f. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Ken Watanabe, Fisher Stevens, Live Schreiber, Anjelica Huston(Narrator: Courtney B. Vance) Filmmaker Wes Anderson continues to dazzle in his perfect diorama like worlds in this fictitious take on Japan in the near-future where an outbreak of a dog virus plagues the nation to the point they are outlawed to a penal colony whereby the tyrannical mayor's young charge/nephew Akita (Rankin) journeys to find his beloved guard dog, where he is befriended by a quintet of pooches for the journey. Fantastic animation and set designs and a helluva voice cast make the most of this fun, smart and surprisingly emotional dramedy. One of the year's best.
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Tomb Raider (2018)
7/10
Vikander adds some smart juice to the fledgling franchise
29 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
TOMB RAIDER (2018) *** Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walter Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost. Vikander does a remarkable job as virtual video vixen Lara Croft in this reboot, origin story of the action franchise launched originally by Angelina Jolie and acquits herself physically so involving an Indiana Jones-worthy tale searching for her believed-to-be-dead dear ol' dad (West) after crash landing on the island he was searching for a mysterious lethal force that villain Goggins is hellbent on unleashing. Nowegian director Roar Uthaug makes some exciting, heart-in-throat set pieces (a roaring water fall and a precarious rusted out plane is one for the film vaults) while instilling his heroine to use her brain over her brawn for the most part. Smartly so.
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Gemini (II) (2017)
6/10
Disjointed neo-noir lite drama
28 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
GEMINI (2018) ** Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz, John Cho, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Ricki Lake. Disjointed neo-noir lite drama about the fragile relationship between friends - one a celebrity (Kravitz) and the other her assistant/BFF (Kirke) - that comes to the ultimate display of friendship involving a violent crime and the aftermath it incurs. While filmmaker Aaron Katz utilized the locales of LA to the nth degree with some truly gorgeous set-ups (thanks to clear-eyed cinematographer Andrew Reed) and sequences the film overall is tedious, predictable and weighs far too heavily on the thin shoulders of one-note Kirke (not a good thing).
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6/10
Hit-and-miss sequel to the would-be slasher franchise
10 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
THE STRANGERS : PREY AT NIGHT (2018) ** Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison, Martin Henderson, Lewis Pullman, Emma Bellomy, Lea Enslin, Damian Maffei. Hit-and-miss sequel to the would-be slasher franchise with home invasion redux - this time with a dysfunctional family set in an isolated trailer camp in the dead of night with a trio of masked killers hellbent on offing them one by one. While filmmaker Johannes Roberts relies on stand-by genre thrills (i.e. the sudden reveal of a shadowy figure) he also has a wicked sense of atmosphere (to wit: you'll never be able to hear Lite FM staples like "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" and "Making Love (Out of Nothing At All") again ) while the screenplay by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai meanders into old school 'shout-at-the-screen'-isms such as the trope of not killing someone when you obviously should or dropping a weapon when you shouldn't.
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Death Wish (2018)
5/10
Pointless remake
5 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
DEATH WISH (2018) ** Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, Len Cariou, Wendy Crewson. Pointless remake of the '70s Charles Bronson classic this time with Willis as a surgeon turned vigilante after a home invasion claims his wife's life. The lackadaisical screenplay by Joe Carnahan (who is usually solid) is as disappointing as Eli Roth's barely-there-direction in spite of a few kills with some imagination. Why bother?
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Early Man (2018)
6/10
. Very few moments of pure joy or just plain silliness but diverting none-the-less.
5 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
EARLY MAN (2018) ** (Voices of : Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall. Animated fare from Nick Park about a group of cavemen facing odds against losing their homeland to Bronze Age hooligans and square off in a game of football (soccer). Very few moments of pure joy or just plain silliness but diverting none-the-less.
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Red Sparrow (2018)
5/10
Lukewarm Neo Cold War Thriller
5 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
RED SPARROW (2018) ** Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciaran Hinds, Joely Richardson, Jeremy Irons, Bill Camp, Thekla Reuten. Dull neo-Cold War mystery with Lawrence (in a miss-than-hit Moose'n'Squirrel accent) as a Russian forced into an intelligence agency to usurp an international covert plot regarding the US and USSR and a mole threatening both nations' securities. Pretty much a yawnfest with zero chemistry between the leads, by-the-numbers adaptation of Jason Matthews' book by Justin Haythe and leaden direction by Francis Lawrence.
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Annihilation (2018)
9/10
One of the year's best and the best sci-fi film since 2016's Arrival
23 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
ANNIHILATION (2018) ***1/2 Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson. Smart and spooky sci-fi thriller with Portman as a biologist who enlists on a mysterious, secretive military involved project in the aftermath of her soldier husband (Isaac) returning only to go into a vegetative state from exposure to the alien 'shimmer' he encounters and apparently the sole survivor. Filmmaker Alex Garland shrewdly adapts Jeff VanderMeer's novel with élan and inventiveness (i.e. the platoon sent are all female and barely a scoff or comment on the fact) while employing some practical and impressively cosmic acid trippy visual CGI f/x to boot (sparing no gore either so the squeamish you've been warned). Scanned elements of past genre classics like John Carpenter's The Thing, Aliens, and even dare I say A Sound Of Thunder whereby nature takes a turn for the worst...or does it. One of the year's best and the best sci-fi film since 2016's Arrival (come to think of it a kissing cousin).
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Black Panther (2018)
9/10
Supremely entertaining
18 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
BLACK PANTHER (2018) *** 1/2 Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis. Marvel continues to be marvelous in their latest franchise addition with Boseman oozing charm and stoicism as the titular hero and African king of the fictitious Wakanda, who faces his new empire with the imposing threat by Jordan's menacing, vengeance seeking cousin hellbent on using their nation's natural resource - vibranium - to expose their country's secrecies to the world. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler - who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole - spreads his canvas with bold color, sharp designs and eye-popping visual effects and set pieces (the car chase is a humdinger) and wisely allows his supporting cast - namely the trifecta of actresses Nyong'o as the smart, sexy love interest Nakia; Gurira (bad ass all the way) as Okoye the lead warrior of T'Challa's kingdom and scene-stealer/secret weapon Wright (funny, bright and sharp as a tack) as his kid sister and Q to his Bond, genius tech inventor - to in many ways overshadow the lead yet steer him steadily into battle. Geeks will be all giddy as well to see an onscreen reunite of Gollum and Bilbo Baggins (Serkis and Freeman, respectively as a villain and FBI agent/comrade to the King). Kudos to Ludwig Goransson's royale score and Ruth E. Carter's majestic costumes. All hail!
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Winchester (2018)
1/10
Yawnfest
11 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
WINCHESTER (2018) * Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O'Prey, Emm Wiseman, Tyler Coppin, Angus Sampson, Eamon Farren. Yawnfest haunted house ghost story based on the allegedly true accounts of the estate of Sarah Winchester (sadly hammy Mirren; shameful) - widow to the inventor/magnate of the munitions device - and the hired doctor (Clarke) to give his assessment of her state of mind and body while baring witness to the infestation of spirits. While the co-directing sibling team, The Spierig Brothers have a keen visual eye it is all for naught in a boring as hell screenplay they have co-written with Tom Vaughan it is nearly unbearable to watch.
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7/10
Well produced true-life account of ordinary heroes
11 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
THE 15:17 TO PARIS (2018) **1/2 Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Thomas Lennon, Tony Hale, Jaleel White. Based on the true-life account of three childhood friends Ray Corasani, Alex Skarlatos & Anthony Sadler who became heroes when they stopped an attempted terrorist strike on the titular journey from Amsterdam to France, filmmaker Clint Eastwood gives backstory and intertwines the past with the contemporary event with deft aplomb and steady nerves. Based on the collaborative book by Sadler, Skarlatos and Spencer Stone & Jeffrey E. Stern, the adaptation by Dorothy Bylskal streamlines the parallel timelines evenly yet predictably too. Better than anticipated and with the gimmick of stunt casting the real-life trio (not actors) heightens the stakes of what is already knowledgeable with clarity.
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Mudbound (2017)
9/10
Solid filmmaking on a universal evil
5 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
MUDBOUND (2017) ***1/2 Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, Jonathan Banks, Rob Morgan, Kerry Cahill, Dylan Arnold, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucy Faust, Samantha Hoefer. Excellent adaptation of Hillary Jordan's novel about 2 families - one white, one black - sharing farm land and crops and lives together, for better and (sadly) worse during the WW II era. In the aftermath things radically change - namely the bond between Hedlund and Mitchell, veterans who have deep scars each attempt to balm. Filmmaker Dee Rees - who co-scripted the adaptation with Virgil Williams - has a keen eye and allows each of her characters moments to shine, especially Mulligan and Blige (well deserved Oscar nomination too) as women whose still waters run deep. Amazing cinematography by Rachel Morrison also richly garnered for her nomination and a chamber musical score by Tamar-kali underscores the underpinnings of racism and familial love.
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10/10
Wonderful coming of age romantic dramedy; One of the year's best
31 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) **** Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo. Wonderful coming of age romantic dramedy set in Northern Italy circa 1983 with teen Chalamet (a superb performance) bonding with and eventually falling for Hammer (equally good), his father's research assistant. Based on Andre Aciman's novel, James Ivory's adaptation is wistful, very funny and deeply poignant in the depiction of losing one's virginity, learning who they are and accepting the challenges ahead. One of the year's best with lovely cinematography by Syaombhu Mukdeprom, Simon and Garfunkelian songs by Sufjan Stevens and beguiling direction by Luca Guadagnino.
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8/10
A modern-day ED WOOD; the Franco Bros. shine
31 January 2018
THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) *** James Franco, Dave Franco, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Josh Hucherson, June Diane Raphael, Megan Mullally, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith. Inspired biopic about the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau's friendship with Greg Sestero (the Franco brothers, both excellent) whose unlikely relationship leads to the former's dream of making his own film despite the fact he is woefully untalented and resulting in one of Hollywood's worst films ever made 'The Room'. Based on Sestero's account with Tom Bissell, the screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, along with the elder Franco's stable direction, goes along the same trajectory of 'Ed Wood' and rightfully so, depicting a delusional yet energetic artist desperate to make his voice heard. Funny and surprisingly poignant but going in you will still know pretty much nothing about the real deal the film depicts.
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