Film Review: ZEROVILLE (USA 2018)

Zeroville Poster

A young actor arrives in Hollywood in 1969 during a transitional time in the Industry.


James Franco


Steve Erickson (novel), Paul Felten | 1 more credit »

James Franco has made a name for himself in pictures primarily as an actor.  He received an Oscar nomination for 127 HOURS and acted in hits like PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and FREAKS AND GEEKS.  Though credited with 39 directorial credits, the films he has directed have been mediocre at best.

In ZEROVILLE, made a few years back and only just released, James Franco stars and directs himself as Vikar a wannabe Hollywood celebrity.  He more than meets his match in the form of outrageous characters such as Seth Rogen’s APOLCALYPSE-type director, Will Farrell’s producer, Megan Fox’s starlet and Jacki Weaver’s editor.  But it is though Dotty, the editor that Vikar learns the game.  “Fuck continuity.  It is the passion that is the editing.” is what Vikar believes after watching how the kissing scene between Elizabeth Tylor and Montgomery Clift was edited in A PLACE IN THE SUN.

ZEROVILLE requires one to have sufficient knowledge of old movies to fully appreciate what director James Franco intends.  One such movie is the 1951 George Steven’s film A PLACE IN THE SUN that starred Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor.  Vikar (Vikar with a K is what he called himself) has a shaved head and ridiculous moustache.  He loves Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor so much that he has both Taylor and Clift tattooed on his shaved head.

Franco must totally believe the spill on continuity as his film does not pay much attention to continuity.  One scene had him break a car widow.  No blood shown, nothing and another has his hand in a bandage.  Though his film aims high, it is a mess without much direction with the characters shouting all over the place a lot of the time.  The Vikar character in contrast just broods along with a sullen look.  But the film contains isolated hilarious bits.

The film funniest segment has what is supposed to be the filming of the Arthur Hiller 1970 film LOVE STORY based on the Erich Segal novel.  Ali McGraw cannot distinguish between the lines “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and “Love means never ever having  to say you’re sorry” which requires so many takes that she storms out in frustration.  Another one that matches is the one where Vikar is interrogated by the cops, being a suspect in the Sharon Tate murders.  The film has shades of ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD.  Both films are set in 1969, Hollywood.

Of the classics, these must be Franco’s favourites, as their names keeping popping up. They are A PLACE IN THE SUN, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, SUNSET BOULEVARD, CASABLANCA, JOAN OF ARC and THE SEARCHERS, even though Vikar considers John Wayne as a hontytonk racist pig.  The film has clips from John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, JOAN OF ARC and a 3 Stooges clip.

ZEROVILLE ends up a pretty bad movie.  It just wanders around just as its protagonist Vikar with a little aim but loses purpose on its way.  At least it is good for a few laughs.


Film Review: GOING IN STYLE (USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

going_in_style.jpgDirector: Zach Braff
Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Edward Cannon (based on the 1979 story by)
Stars: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret

Review by Gilbert Seah

GOING IN STYLE is an updated remake of the 1979 caper movie of the same name that starred Oscar winners George Burns, Art Carney and Acting Coach Lee Strasberg . The main difference is that in the 1979 original, two of the three old cronies actually die in the film, making the title more appropriate. No one dies in the remake.

The three seniors in director Zach Braff’s 2017 version, are Joe (Michael Caine), Albert (Alan Arkin) and Willie (Morgan Freeman). The story is told primarily from Joe’s point of view. When the company they had worked for is bought out, their pensions become a casualty of the restructuring. When Joe meets up with the bank manager regarding the foreclosure on his house, he is inspired by a bank robbery that takes place during his visit. The three seniors decide to take back what is rightfully owed to them by the bank holding the company’s pension funds.

The script by Theodore Melfi gives each character their place in the story, Willie needs the money to visit his family more than once a year. Albert develops a love interest with Annie (Ann-Margaret). Joe has his separated daughter and granddaughter , Brooklyn (Joey King) live with him, so he cannot lose his house to the bank. FBI agent Hamer (Matt Dillon) pursues the trio with the clues he gets from the CCT. The three get caught in the original GOING IN STYLE, but the three here might just get away (no spoiler in this review.) They wear Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davies J. (sorry, Peter Lawford) masks as compared to the Groucho Brother masks in the original during the heist.

The film works better in the first third with a looser plot. Director Braff, who has more acting than directing in his resume (he was the main actor in GARDEN STATE; GOING IN STYLE is his directorial debut) proves himself more apt at comedy and getting the most out of his cast. The robbery scene is done more for comedy that suspense, which is clearly lacking during a typical robbery scene. Good thing too, is that sentimentality is kept to a minimum.

GOING IN STYLE is the typical inoffensive comedy (except for a bit of swearing thrown in clearly for good measure) with old people for old people. It is also good to watch these 3 Oscar Winners (Freeman, Caine and Arkin) together for the first time. Ann-Margaret still looks as stunning as ever and BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Christopher Lloyd is sufficiently funny as a forgetful senior. John Ortiz deserves mention as the dodgy character who helps the trio plan the robbery.

Though Michael Caine almost succeeds in pulling the film off, the film suffers from a weak narrative with the story going into three directions resulting in too many distractions. The film succeeds in delivering a few laughs. Another good thing is that no one can remember the original which was only a mediocre movie, so the 2017 movie should not disappoint many, especially when the target audience are seniors. (If the last statement is offensive to any senior, it should be noted that this film reviewer will be a senior pretty soon. Maybe I should start planning my own bank robbery.)



Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out:

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:

Happy Birthday: Joey King

joeyking.jpgJoey King

Born: July 30, 1999 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Ramona and Beezus Movie PosterRamona and Beezus
dir. Elizabeth Allen
Joey King
Selena Gomez
dir. Christopher Nolan
See over 80 pages of photos and videos!
dir. Glenn Ficarra
John Requa
Steve Carell
Ryan Gosling
dir. Zach Braff
Zach Braff
Joey King
Battle: Los AngelesBATTLE: LOS ANGELES
dir. Jonathan Liebesman
Aaron Eckhart
Michelle Rodriguez
Horton Hears a Who!Horton Hears a Who!
Directed by Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
Voices by
ICE AGE 3 Movie PosterIce Age 3
dir. Carlos Saldanha
Mike Thurmeier
Voices by
Ray Romano
John Leguizamo
dir. Sam Raimi
James Franco
Mila Kunis
dir. Roland Emmerich
Channing Tatum
Jamie Foxx
dir. James Wan
Patrick Wilson
Vera Farmiga


BOREALIS, Movie Review. Starring: Joey King, Kevin Pollak

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

borealis.jpgBOREALIS (Canada 2015) ***
Directed by Sean Garrity

Starring: Joey King, Emily Hampshire, Kevin Pollak |

Review by Gilbert Seah

BOREALIS opens with two key scenes that establishes the mood and plot line of the film. The first shows the lead character, Jonah (Jonas Chernick) losing at blackjack and having to pay a massive debt or have his legs broken. His daughter, Aurora (Joey King) is about to lose her eyesight for good. In a Hollywood movie, the lead would have to get money to pay for the operation to regain the daughter’s sight, as in for example, Stanley Donen’s parody MOVIE, MOVIE, but this is a non-commercial Canadian film.

Garrity has already awed audiences with INERTIA, LUCID and MY AWKWARD SEXUAL ADVENTURE and actor Chernick has penned LUCID as well as co-written BOREALIS. So, BOREALIS is an anticipated film for those in the know.
The father keeps the bad news from her, taking her on a road trip for two purposes – to run away form his debtors and to show her the Aurora Borealis, a beautiful sight before she loses her sight.

One of the most interesting things about this film is that it features two very annoying leads. The father, the compulsive gambler is also a compulsive liar with hardly any redeeming qualities. He has squandered away all his money and lost his daughter’s possessions including her dog to his debtors. The daughter on the other hand is a 15-year old punk, who is as annoying as any teenager can be, not listening to her father (not that he is worth listening to), and partying half the time. As the film progresses, it becomes a question of who the audience dislikes less.

Garrity’s film is strangely an anti-message film. It tells the audience, for example than gambling is ok and it sorts itself out in the end. A more disturbing message is the one about the Good Samaritan getting almost killed (or maybe killed) for helping out the father and daughter in one scene.

But one thing about Garrity’s film is for sure. It is not the predictable fare one would expect. Things can turn for the better or worse, and good guys and bad guys can get it or win, depending on the mood of the director. But for unpredictable fare, the film accomplishes an unexpected climax that works well, all things considered. Camera work is not half bad, the climax done in the dead of night with just enough light to reveal the important details.

BOREALIS is also proudly Canadian. It could have easily opted for an American setting to delver to a larger audience but it does not. It celebrates Canadian from the road trip with Canadian places to the Canadian dollars flashed out at a diner. The film was shot largely in the Province of Manitoba.

One can always finds flaws in Garrity’s film, and there are quite a few. Still, one cannot complain that the director has accomplished a well executed, mostly compelling film within a small budget. The film looks good in terms of production values.

Borealis has a premiere at the Canadian Film Festival and opens its commercial run a week later – showing that it is one of the festival’s better films. Garrity also won the Best Director Award and Joey King the Best Actress Award at the Festival.

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out:

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: