Tag Archives: James Franco

The Vault (2017) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

The Vault Review, Two estranged sisters are forced to rob a bank in order to save their brother. But this is no ordinary bank.

Director: Dan Bush
Writers: Dan Bush, Conal Byrne
Starring Francesca Eastwood, Taryn Manning, Scott Haze, Q’Orianka Kilcher, Clifton Collins Jr, Keith Loneker, James Franco.

Aside from its setting, this heist/horror hybrid doesn’t really break any new ground, but for most of its running time, The Vault is pretty entertaining, even creepy at times. If only it knew when to quit.

Bickering sisters Leah (Francesca Eastwood, Clint’s kid) and Vee (Taryn Manning) lead a heavily-armed crew attempting to rob a downtown bank, which turns into a hostage situation after the police are tipped-off by a mysterious caller. Worse yet, their take isn’t nearly as much as they need to pay off brother Michael’s (Scott Haze) mob debts. However, the bank’s assistant manager (James Franco) informs them of an old vault in the basement, which holds $6 million.

But the bank has a dark past. There was a similar situation in 1982 where a masked robber executed all of his hostages. Their disembodied spirits have been lurking around ever since. As they try and crack-open the vault, the crew starts meeting violent ends at the hands of the undead. None of this comes as a surprise to the assistant manager, who seems to have known this would happen all along.

After an inauspicious start, The Vault gets more interesting as the story unfolds, revealing nifty narrative surprises along the way. The film is never particularly scary, but does manage to build some tension and dread, particularly in the long, dark corridors leading to the vault itself. The performances are merely perfunctory, but regarding the three siblings, at-least there’s some attempt at character development so we have a small stake in who lives and dies.

And had the film ended just one scene earlier, it could have been something special.

Granted, a single scene doesn’t necessarily wreck an entire film, but in a genre where the tone is often more important than the plot itself, one wonky moment can seriously undermine things. Without getting into specifics that would spoil the party, nearly the end of the film, there’s a plot-twist that’s creative, clever and makes complete sense within the context of the story. The scene immediately cuts to black, and had the credits rolled right there, the movie would have ended on a haunting, ominous note. Instead, we get a ridiculous coda that feels tacked-on for the sole purpose of providing a gratuitous jump-scare.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say The Vault is ruined by this scene. However, in addition to being completely unnecessary, it doesn’t really jibe with the story’s basic premise. Until then, the film is interesting enough to make it worth checking out. Just shut it off right before that final scene (you’ll know the moment when it comes).

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin 

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Review,

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 
Stars: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson, Clancy Brown, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Brendan Gleeson

The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs is six individual tales of life and violence in the Old West, following a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters. None of these short tales are connected in anyway and there is no Tarantinoesque intertwining themes here. 

Surprisingly The Ballad of Buster Scruggs segment also headlines the film and begins light hearted, with comedic tone and a catchy sing song it the local saloon. Tim Blake Nelson plays the singing cowboy who likes to be known as “The San Saba Songbird” and breaks the forth wall every now and then to talk to the viewer. It’s abrupt finale will surprise you but also prepare you for an unexpected piece of storytelling throughout its duration. As the film moves forward it’s tone shifts and reaches some really dark places. Keeping this review as spoiler free is important for anyone experiencing the film for the first time. It’s the little shifts that take place in the storytelling that keep you captivated and wanting to know what is coming next.

In the second segment named “Near Algodones”, a cowboy played by James Franco attempts to rob a bank, but what looked like a simple robbery goes completely wrong and the cowboy wakes up in an awful predicament. For a Coen Brothers film this segment barely has much dialogue and relies on the story and the landscape. If I’ve to take anything from the shortest segment is how quickly things can go downhill for a character in the old west through bad choices.

I’d probably say that the Meal Ticket (The films third segment) is my joint favourite story. Liam Neeson plays an an Impresario who arrives in a town and advertises a show by “Harrison: ‘The Wingless Thrush’ – Celebrated Thespian, Orator, and Entertainer.” The performance is a one-man show by the Artist played by Harry Melling, an actor with no arms or legs. The Artist recites famous segments of Shakespeare and the first showing we see is well received but as the two travel from town to town the numbers are dwindling and Neeson’s character must rethink his strategy to survive. Again I’m not going to reveal any spoilers but what I will say is some of the decisions in this segment are brutal. What I got out of this story was how ruthless some people are to succeed in show business. Ironically, the Impresario also realises how lowbrow he can go to succeed.

All Gold Canyon is my favourite story and is essentially a one-man show by Tom Waits for the most part. It looks like the most invested segment of the film by the Coen Brothers with its stunning scenery and amazing score. Waits performance is excellent as a lone prospector working around the clock to unearth gold from the river. There is moments in this segment that although the prospector is “a ruthless gold digger” show the character has respect for his surroundings and the wildlife around. I nearly hated what I thought was the ending (steady now, no reveals) but thankfully there is a moment that redeems the situation and leaves you satisfied.

The Gal Who Got Rattled (The films fifth segment) is probably the one story that frustrated me the most in its ending. I get this is what the filmmakers where going for and there is a sense of a Romeo and Juliet ending to this one without the love of the  two characters in their predicament. Siblings Gilbert and Alice are on route to Oregon but when Gilbert dies of cholera his sister is left with nothing and a $400 debt to a character who runs their wagon named Matt. A kindly cowboy named Billy Knapp in charge if the train becomes friendly with Alice and asks her to Marry him which in turn assumes her debt. As the story develops the trail continue to travel across the landscape and somewhere down the line Alice has wandered off and Billy’s partner Mr. Arthur finds Alice and both are in a situation with Comanche. The Gal Who Got Rattled is the most personal story of the six. The characters are more connected in this segment than the others based on the situation and ruthlessness of the previous stories I understand that. There is a more loving human element to this story that ends in sadness.

The final instalment of the film is titles The Mortal Remains. The story is about Death and ironically no one dies (is that really a spoiler? I’m only telling you something that didn’t happen so not really) The Mortal Remains resembles Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” opening in its setting and dialogue heavy scenes. Appearing in the story is Tyne Daly, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubenik, Brendan Gleeson and Jojo O’Neill. Although not my favourite segment The Mortal Remains reveals itself as an interesting tale and in places a surreal experience ending to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Overall an expected enthralling film by the Coen Brothers who utilise the Netflix platform to its maximum capabilities. The service attracts the best filmmakers and actors and the filmmakers have complete control over their work with very little studio interference. A win-win situation for all to be had. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs works for me and I enjoyed all the sections and the characters. What we are presented with is a film by the Coen Brothers who capture the essence of the old west beautifully with stunning visuals capturing the different seasons and settings perfectly, which made me think that each six short film could easily have been made into six feature films. Enjoyable and Highly Recommended.

The Vault (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

The Vault Review

Director: Dan Bush
Writers: Dan Bush, Conal Byrne
Stars: James Franco, Scott Haze, Taryn Manning

Plot:  Two estranged sisters are forced to rob a bank in order to save their brother. But this is no ordinary bank.
Running Time: 91 Minutes
IMDB Score: 4.8

Why I Watched It: The trailer looked weird and the cast seemed interesting.

Random Thoughts: This is an odd movie and it’s odd in a few ways, first off it’s a genre mash up and it’s kind of hard to review without giving things away and also the best actors are in it the least.  Say what you want about James Franco but you have to give it to him you never know what he’s going to do next.

What I liked: I’ll try to trend lightly with spoilers here but it’s tricky the thing I like the best about The Vault is that it goes into different directions and there is one major twist that kind of changes the genre.  I think that part of the story is handled really well and mashing up the two genres worked very well.

The story starts off with a bank heist and we think we know where it’s going but we don’t cause another element gets added in and that element is a slow burn and if you come in cold you won’t see it coming cause it jumps genres hard.  The atmosphere and tone is very good in this part and it does make the story seem off, like we’re not sure whats going on.  I was glad they did something different with the bank heist that turns into a hostage thriller formula.

The third act is well done and when the crap really hits the fan the gore is also picked up a notch.  This films has two twists and I think the second one is really well thought out.

The acting is a mixed bag here so let’s stay positive for awhile longer, James Franco isn’t in it a lot and really he’s a secondary character but he’s good and he’s very understated.  Scott Haze is also very good and I wished he was in it more, he does some good character work here with very little to work with.

What I Didn’t Like: The two performances by Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood almost ruined the movie for me.  Manning is so over the top and she just grated on my nerves, she yells most of her lines and she truly gives a one note performance and Eastwood is just badly miscast. She’s is not convincing as a tough as nails bank robber and when she does yell or act tough it’s almost funny and it hurts even more when she’s playing off either Franco or Haze cause they have such a handle on their characters and for the most part being quiet.

The hostage part doesn’t work well for me and it’s because of the two actors named the other part of the film works more cause the people involved sell it well.  I will say I have no idea why Clifton Collins Jr is in this film, he’s a good actor and he’s fine here but he has nothing to do.
This is another film that doesn’t know where to end, they should have ended it with the last twist but they do a tacked on ending that just doesn’t fit the rest of the tone.

Final Thoughts: If you recast the two leads I might have really liked this film, there’s parts I liked and I do think that director Dan Bush should get credit for doing something different with a boring cliched genre.

Rating: 6/10

The Disaster Artist (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE DISASTER ARTIST

Director: James Franco
Writers: Scott Neustadter (screenplay by), Michael H. Weber (screenplay by)
Stars: James Franco, Dave Franco, Ari Graynor

When Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

When “The Disaster Artist” hit the cinema last month a few critics and fans alike said to get a lot of the references in this movie you would have to view Wiseau’s “The Room”. Set around the early 2000’s Sestero and Wiseau develop a relationship for their love of film and acting. Greg’s biggest problem is being comfortable performing his abilities in front of an audience. Having witnessed Tommy perform at an audition in what can only be described as “expressing” himself. Greg is in awe on how much Tommy is liberated on stage and shows no signs of fear. This is the basis of their adventure to Hollywood and the big time….or so they thought.

I haven’t watched “The Room” and to be honest it didn’t stop me enjoying this movie. I ranked this my third best film of 2017 in our Movie Burner Podcast (Episode Twelve) and over the course of this review I will explain why.

The basis for “The Disaster Artist” is working around what lead Tommy Wiseau to make what is arguably one of the worst movies ever made. I can’t comment on “The Room” but there is something magical about the experience of “The Disaster Artist” the blend of naivety, humour and characters is what entertained and intrigued me. Tommy Wiseau is such an interesting guy in the sense you don’t know what’s coming next with him.

There were a lot of questions about him in this film that have been also asked in real life. Where is that accent from? He claims it’s a New Orleans accent. Where did he find the cash to have another home in LA and finance a film that came in at $6 Million? Does it really matter? In fact no it doesn’t.

James Franco continues to surprise me with his acting abilities and some of his recent projects he has worked on. Taking the Directors chair for this movie as well as taking the lead role shows Franco’s commitment to the film and his ability to impersonate or should that be embody the essence of Wiseau is stunning. His mannerisms and timings is what keeps you focused on the character and the actor deserves a lot of praise for this and his ability to laugh at (or with) Wiseau but sympathise with him also.

Dave Franco is also terrific as Greg Sestero. I previously reviewed both “Now You See Me” films and the movie “Nerve” and if I’m totally honest, neither of these performances from Dave stood out for me. In “The Disaster Artist” it’s a different story. Although Wiseau dominates the screen it would be ignorant not to recognise Dave Franco’s presence throughout this story. There appears to be a bit of guilt put on Sestero’s shoulders by Wiseau in the final third of the film. Tommy brought Greg out of his shell, he also took him to LA to stay in his house and have a strong role in his movie that he was financing.

Dave Franco displays this well in frustration and disappointment as a chance to appear as a “lumberjack” in “Malcolm in the Middle” after a chance meeting with Bryan Cranston is thwarted by Wiseau not allowing Greg to keep his beard (job requirement for a lumberjack by all accounts) as his final scenes in “The Room” required a clean shaven Greg for his grand entrance. You could be forgiven for thinking that wasn’t the real reason Tommy put a block on this as he comes across jealous and petty at this point.

Overall “The Disaster Artist” is a terrific film, directed well by James Franco. Both brothers just slot right into their characters and although I haven’t seen “The Room” I don’t think has hindered my viewing pleasure in any way. Neither do I feel the urge to go and watch “The Room” out of curiosity as my viewing of “The Disaster Artist” was fulfilling and satisfactory. Highly Recommend.

Homefront (2013) Movie Retro Review by Darrin Gauthier

HOMEFRONT

Director: Gary Fleder
Writers: Sylvester Stallone (screenplay), Chuck Logan (based on the novel by)
Stars: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder

A former DEA agent moves his family to a quiet town, where he soon tangles with a local meth druglord.
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
IMDB Score: 6.5
Why I watched it: Jason Statham, I don’t know why but I watch all his movies.

Random thoughts: This film was notable for the fact that Sylvester Stallone wrote it but didn’t direct or star in it, word is he gave it to Jason Statham.  This is a very random cast, one would even say weird.

What I liked: I’ll admit one of the things I really liked was the random casting see actors in different roles, Winona Ryder was a druggie, girlfriend bad role, Kate Bosworth as white trash, James Franco as a drug dealer.  The film works I think cause it’s a bit different, sure it’s an action movie, where a former cop has to do battle with an evil drug lord who’s kidnapped his kid but it plays moodier and slower than most action films.

Statham is good here, you should never forget that he’s a good actor not just a good action guy.  This role is cliched but he brings his charm and physicality with him.  Always nice to see Clancy Brown, and Franco is good as the bad guy.  What I like about Franco he’s bad but he’s not twirl his mustache bad, when he brings in a higher force, or more evil you can tell he knows he’s over his head.  What I like about this film is that the main bad guy doesn’t really go looking for trouble but once it’s set in motion he tries to profit from it.

What I didn’t like: The film feels a bit choppy, he does feel like it was going to be longer, some sub plots and side characters get lost in the shuffle.  The very end is a tad silly.  My biggest beef is that the energy level was kind of low for this type of movie, it seems a bit at odds with itself, it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be an action thriller, or a drama character story with some action elements.

Final verdict: I’m seen a lot of Jason Statham films that were just plain bad and not very well thought out but this was a decent film, a good watch.