Not-So-Classic Review: The Room (2003)

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars: ☆☆☆☆ (That’s zero, folks)

Summary:  Ouch!  This movie is so bad it physically hurt me!

Review:  I recently attended a screening of ‘The Room’ at Indiana University, followed by a question and answer from its producer, director, writer, and star, Tommy Wiseau.  For those of you who don’t know, ‘The Room’ has been critically deplored as one of the worst films ever made, although this same notoriety has given it a massive cult following; a following that, unfortunately, I am contributing to by reviewing it.  Oh well, no choice now but to dive in and look over this pathetic excuse for a movie.

To understand ‘The Room’ you must first understand its creator.  That is, IF you can understand him, as Mr. Wiseau, who claims he’s American, speaks in a strange accent I’ve never heard before.  Watered down French perhaps?  It’s hard to tell, as coupled with his accent he also mumbles, slurs his words, and shows little more than a basic grasp of English in general.  In short, he is woefully inarticulate.  What business he had writing a movie in English, to say nothing of overseeing its complete production, is beyond me.

Even without viewing the screenplay, I could tell it was a joke.  Awful dialogue and plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.  Less than half of anybody’s lines in this movie are relevant; the rest is either ridiculous, filler, or contradictory. But it goes beyond just bad dialogue and inconsistency.  The film’s very premise, a dark romantic comedy, is filled with so many clichés that, even if everybody’s lines and the plot holes were fixed, this would still be a horribly generic movie.  It seems as though Mr. Wiseau pulled out every trope he could think of and just stuck them in here.  The tragic lead actor, the cheating girlfriend, the best friend of the lead who steals his woman, the kid caught up with a drug dealer, and so much more.  Oh, and have I mentioned the love scenes yet?  Yes, there’s gratuitous sex in this film too.  In fact there are seven (count ‘em seven!) different scenes; each of them way too long, going way too far, and being, frankly, mundane as they come.  I made fun of Mr. Wiseau’s speaking earlier, but this goes beyond a simple misunderstanding of English.  This man did not have an original thought in his head when he wrote this.  Granted, no one is ever truly original, but this is just flat-out pathetic and lazy.

Now you might think that this film is all Tommy Wiseau’s fault, but bad movies of this magnitude can only be the result of a collaborative effort.  ‘The Room’ stars the sorriest bunch of would-be actors I’ve ever seen.  Their paper-thin performances have to be seen to be believed.  Granted, I know the script was hardly deserving of good acting, but I have to believe that, with so many struggling performers in the world, those who get parts have to at least try.  But no, not here.  Blank expressions, monotonous delivery, and lack of any perceivable emotion run amok like a plague.  Amazingly though, even compared to the other actors, Tommy Wiseau is still under-qualified to act in this film.  His speech, which doesn’t improve when he acts, is just ridiculous and dismal, and there is no time when he seems convincing.  Supposedly he took drama classes before making this film.  He should’ve gotten his money back.

And then there’s the cinematography.  The cameraman was certainly apathetic and possibly inebriated when he shot this film.  Apart from nothing striking or interesting about the shots, there are way too many random pans of San Francisco, including several across the San Francisco Bridge.  Why?  Who knows?  For example, a scene will take place at the central house, the film will cut to a pan across the city, and then it will cut right back to the house.  Again, why?  What was the point?

Interestingly enough, the music in this film is the one thing that is passable.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s mediocre as mediocre can be, but its corny piano tracks and obscure hip-hop songs are tolerable, if only barely.  It’s sad that lukewarm music seems okay in this movie, but it certainly feels like a breath of fresh air.

So what is the final verdict on ‘The Room’?  It fails.  It fails so hard it almost seems impossible.  It is the one film that does nothing right, and I mean nothing.  There is not one aspect of this film that’s done well.  Even similarly derided films, like ‘Battlefield Earth’ or ‘Batman and Robin’ at least had premises and visuals that would hold you over for a bit, but ‘The Room’ doesn’t even have that going for it.  This film is boring at best and unbearable at worst.  Granted, many have found humor within the awfulness of ‘The Room’.  Tommy Wiseau, even, has rebranded it as a black comedy.  Certainly, some scenes and lines are funny, but that doesn’t save this film.  Some movies are legitimately so bad that they’re great, but this film is just so bad that it’s, well, bad.

The true importance of ‘The Room’ is this: to show the world everything NOT to do when making a movie.  Never half-ass a script, never think that “generic” is okay, never hire bad actors, and never hire a bad crew.  Filmmakers, take those lessons to your grave.  Most importantly, never just assume anything when making a film.  ‘The Room’s greatest flaw is its creator’s arrogance, a man who managed to raise a whopping six-million for this film, had only minimal experience making movies, and just thought he could create a decent picture.  I hate to kick a feller when he’s down, but if you filmmakers out there take anything away from ‘The Room’, don’t repeat Wiseau’s mistake; please show some humility, and always, always, always give a damn.

Advertisements

Not-So-Classic Review: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars: ★☆☆☆

Summary: One of the worst films I have ever seen.

Review:  I wanted to like this film; I really did.  I wanted to be able to say that I enjoyed it and found it a great example of the horror genre.  Heck, it’s been on nearly every Top Horror Film list of the past few years.  But after watching ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and seeing it’s gory sub-mediocrity play out on-screen, I came to the painful realization that this, in truth, is an awful film, and the only reason it has any notoriety at all is because it was just so disturbing.  But it’s long worn out its welcome.

Where do I begin?  The story is an incomprehensible mess.  It has something to do with a group of teenagers or twenty something’s stumbling upon a band of deranged psychopaths.  But really, you don’t care, because the movie starts killing them off shamelessly before you really figure anything out.
Even by later “slasher” film standards, our cast goes quickly.  Three of these teenagers are gruesomely murdered in a period of about ten minutes, and I should mention that there’s only five in this group.  What other film kills over half of its “good guys” so quickly?  Of course, I didn’t really care about those three, seeing as how they were all bland, underwritten, and poorly acted.  Nor was I particularly affected by their murders.  The film irreverently executed them with no suspense or satisfying buildup, just lots and lots of gore.  And then there’s this guy in a wheel chair.  I couldn’t figure out if the actor was bad or he was intentionally written to be so annoying, but either way I detested him, and I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when he was finally butchered and killed, because it at least meant I wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore.  This leaves one girl left.  And literally (I’m not exaggerating in the least) her entire dialogue for the second half of the film is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, but incomprehensible screaming.

And about these psychopaths, they may just be four of the most deranged, destructive, and masochistic people on earth.  They pile up bones in their house, raid graveyards, and kill people in any way possible.  It’s certainly revolting.

But it’s all so pointless because there is no STORY here.  Only murder, gore, and horrendous, horrendous imagery comprises this short movie of 80 minutes. And for all that, it goes absolutely nowhere with it.  There’s no pacing, no narrative tying it all together.  There are no characters to care about.  There was nothing to hold me over except gore, and frankly I just couldn’t stand that after a while.
I hate this movie.  I hate the story.  I hate the one-dimensional characters.  I hate that a narrator at the beginning reads aloud the opening crawl that we could just as easily read ourselves.  I hate that the last teenager alive literally spends the second half of the movie screaming.  I hate the ending, which resolves nothing and seems to glorify one of the villains.  I hate the villains who are creepy but never fleshed out.  I hate the nearly non-existent score.  I hate the disorienting cinematography.  I hate every last, little audience-insulting aspect of this movie.

This film should be banned.  It’s an insult to horror films.  It’s an insult to independent films.  It’s an insult to film-making in general.  Heck, it’s an insult to Art itself.  It sets the bar so low on all sides that literally anyone with half a working brain could have made something better.  This is exploitation of the worst order.  It is one of the most hateful, disappointingly unsatisfying, confusing, and downright mean-spirited “classics” that has ever been my misfortune to watch.  And worst of all, this film took from me an hour and a half of my life that I’m never ever getting back.  This is an awful, awful film.

Not-So-Classic Review: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Stars:  ** out of Four

Summary:  A stunted, mediocre debacle, with entertaining moments, but without an overall sense of catharsis.

To keep people from leaving?

To keep people from leaving?

Review:  So this is going to be a short review.  It’s not a remarkable movie in either direction, good or bad.  It’s just stunningly mediocre.  It has its fun moments, and its bad moments, and its moments where you just can’t wait for the movie to end.   Despite my terrible comment on the original poster’s tagline — which was created early on in production, when the studio still had high hopes for the movie — it isn’t unwatchable. Unfortunately, it has earned such a bad rap all around that I feel like I have to keep it in the ‘Not-So-Classic’ category.   It’s not a classic.   It’s not an utter failure either.

This was original ‘Trek’ star William Shatner’s only directed entry of the series.  He had a huge scope for the original story, and obviously inspired great confidence in the studio, as is evident by the early marketing campaign.  Judging from some of his novels, including some he had also intended to become ‘Trek’ films, the action-idea was probably too ambitious.  I’m trying to be fair, here, to counterbalance some of the anti-Shatner backlash that the film generated.  I think he, and the rest of the production team, really thought they were going to make a winner.  Unfortunately for Shatner and company, the scope proved to be too much.  The studio couldn’t afford to pay for the special effects needed.  So instead of inspiring ‘Star Wars’-like thrills, it inspired confusion and disappointment in Trekkies everywhere.

The story, though odd, does have a vein of potential.  The idea was to put the Enterprise crew on a spiritual quest, an encounter with God.  In the end, they only found a counterfeit, but I believe the intention — though vaguely captured, at best, in the final film — was to show that the true God was way beyond anything the Enterprise crew could fathom.  This strikes again at the philosophical richness of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’, which ironically also failed to communicate its original story in a fulfilling way.

The characters and the execution leave a lot to be desired.  The film is far too comedic, going into the realm of slapstick and not showing the restraint of the previous installment.  Things feel disrespected, dishonest, and pretentious.  Some of the moments — such as Uhura stripping naked and dancing to distract a couple bad guys — are completely out of place.  The “villain”, Sybock, is overwrought and unconvincing.  We never get the needed sense of pathos to sell his character right.

A disappointment, really, after an impressive trilogy preceding it.  Shatner feared he had killed the franchise.  In fact, he may have, had it not been for the studio supporting a sixth picture due to the then-upcoming 25th anniversary of ‘Star Trek’.  And that film fixed everything.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Note from James:  Yet another film I neglected to review, but this one was intentionally skipped.  Yeah, it’s so bad, I didn’t even want to talk about how bad it was.

Stars: *1/2 out of Four

Summary:  Almost a solid half of a terrible film, paired with half of a decent film.  Stupidity and adrenaline fueled conflict collide, and the result is very messy.

This poster, according to leading scientists, is 100% more awesome than the entire advertised film.

This poster, according to leading scientists, is 100% more awesome than the entire advertised film.

Review:  Okay, so Michael Bay’s first hit ‘Transformers’ wasn’t all that great either, but seriously?  That film at least had some good, fun moments.  Watching this film is like being hit over the head with a crowbar, while being tazered, while trying to snort mace, while playing with an Optimus Prime action figure.  With multiple elements involved, you would think that at least one would be enjoyable, but nooooo!  They all suck, except of course the Optimus Prime part of the equation, which would be awesome if you weren’t snorting mace, being tazered, etc.

But, Optimus Prime, voiced by original voice actor Peter Cullen, is awesome! Sadly, he isn’t the dominate element of the film, and is thus lost in a sea of failure.

The cinematography is awful.  It definitely didn’t help matters at all.  There are moments, individual shots (the longest shot was about, maybe, 8 seconds long) that are cool, but the hyperkinetic camera movement is both dizzying and forgettable.  The super-fast-hyper-handheld-cam really did work for the ‘Bourne’ movies, but it cannot possibly work for ‘Transformers’.  Ever.  Ever!

I didn’t give one “damn” for all the characters on screen, except for Bumblebee and Optimus Prime.  That’s 2 out of about 30 characters.  Everything about the story seems cheapened.  Last time I checked, ‘Transformers’ was a franchise beloved by children everywhere.  Why, then, did it enter the filmmaker’s minds to plug the film with unlikeable characters (and I do mean unlikeable) and stupid sexual jokes?  It not only alienates the family audience but makes the emotional core of the film — yes, there is one, just buried deep — worthless.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

The musical score, which impressed me in the first film, is lacking here.  Surprisingly, though, it is merely mediocre and not utterly atrocious.

The CGI was good, sure, and the action at times was cool (when I could see it!), but I didn’t give six pence to watch a movie that I didn’t care about.  Why did I see this movie?