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Posts Tagged ‘Seth Rogan’

Seth Rogen…and Seth Rogen

“AN AMERICAN PICKLE” My rating: B- (Now available on HBO Max)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Before bogging down in a flabby middle section, HBO’s “An American Pickle” (aka “In A Pickle”) establishes itself as a gonzo comedy with more than a little soul.

The time-travel fantasy offers Seth Rogen in non-stoner mode as both a turn-of-the-last-century Eastern European Jew and as his modern great-great grandson.

Putting aside the complexities of filming this double performance (it was shot in two phases to give Rogen a time to grow a luxurious Tevye-type beard), “American Pickle” shows the slacker funny man has some serious acting chops.

In a beautifully filmed prologue (using a square-frame format and pastel palette that evokes the earliest color photography) we witness the early life of Herschel (Rogen), a Jewish ditch digger in some Eastern European backwater circa 1919.

In a sweetly comic passage Herschel woos and weds Sarah (Sara Snook of HBO’s “Succession”); they then hop a boat to America where Herschel gets a job killing rats in a pickle factory and looks forward to the birth of their first child.

He dies in an industrial accident, falling into a vat of brine. Before anybody notices that Herschel is gone, the factory is shuttered.  One hundred years later he awakens, perfectly preserved by the pickle juice.

What follows is both a fish-out-of-water yarn and a sort of dysfunctional family reunion. Herschel is united with his one living relation, great-grandson Ben (Rogen again), a dweeby app developer whose lack of success flies in the face of Herschel’s longheld belief that their family is destined for greatness.

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James Franco as Tommy Wiseau

“THE DISASTER ARTIST”  My rating: B+ 

103 minutes | MPAA rating: R

2003’s “The Room” has been widely heralded as one of the worst films ever made, a screen-splattered mess of bad writing, clumsy direction, incompetent acting and grandiose (and totally unfulfilled) ambitions.

All true. But here’s the thing: “The Room” is also wildly entertaining, an  extravaganza of unintentional comedy. Which is why over the last decade it has become a cult favorite, beloved by midnight audiences who know every inane line by heart.

“The Disaster Artist” is director/star James Franco’s retelling of how “The Room” came to be made, and unlike its source material, this film is intentionally hilarious.

Wha we’ve got here is a comic masterpiece inspired by a dramatic monstrosity.

“The Disaster Artist” is based on actor Greg Sistero’s memoir of making the film with friend and all-around bizarre human being Tommy Wiseau.

The two meet in a San Francisco acting class where Wiseau (James Franco) — a droopy eyed, long-haired wraith with an elusive slavic accent, a malapropism-heavy grasp of English and a borderline creepy personality — stuns his fellow students with a rendition of Marlon Brando’s “Stella!” scene from “A Streetcar Named Desire” that ends with him doing a passable imitation of a grand mal seizure.

Sistero (James Franco), whose desire to be an actor is undercut by his unassertive personality, is fascinated by Wiseau, a guy who marches to his own out-of-sync drumbeat — for example, doing high-volume scene readings over breakfast in a crowded restaurant. A sort of sensei/grasshopper relationship develops, and Wiseau invited Sistero to move with him to L.A. where he has an apartment he rarely uses.

(In fact, Wiseau has apartments in several cities and a seemingly inexhaustible checking account. The source of his wealth remains a mystery, as does his age, nationality and personal history. Did he strike a Faustian deal with the devil? Did he materialize on Earth fully formed?)

Neither man has any discernible acting talent, and after weeks of futile auditioning Wiseau decides to go pro-active. He’ll write a script for a movie that he will direct and finance. He and Sistero will star in it.

They hire real professionals (Seth Rogen, Paul Scher) for their crew and desperate actors (Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Josh Hutchinson) for their cast and get to work.

 

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