Truth is stranger than fiction in the new film True Story, a cinematic blend of the journalistic morality tale Shattered Glass and a John Grisham legal thriller from the ‘90s. It has a basic structure, and while its execution may also seem familiar, the film as a whole still manages to entertain.
James Franco and Jonah Hill lead the cast of True Story, and it should be stated upfront that the film is a drama based on the real life cat-and-mouse game between a disgraced reporter and a detained prisoner. Some audiences may find it hard to get past the duo’s comedic baggage to take them seriously in a drama such as this, but the transition is easier to accept than you’d think. For starters, both men have Academy Award nominations to prove their worth in dramas, but if that’s not enough, the film makes it very clear from its first scene that the tone will be anything but comedic. Franco and Hill have come to stretch their dramatic muscles in True Story and despite the film’s shortcomings, the pair’s acting chops is not one of them.
True Story is based on ex-New York Times reporter Michael Finkel’s memoir of the same name. In the film, we are introduced to Finkel (Hill) just as he’s getting the boot at the prestigious paper for falsifying the details of his latest cover story. Expecting a Pulitzer instead of a pink slip, Finkel retreats to the countryside with his tail between his legs and the support of his girlfriend (Felicity Jones, in an underwritten role). After some time in seclusion, he’s contacted by Christian Longo (Franco), a fan of his work who also happens to be on trial for murder. With nothing else to do and a nagging curiosity tempting him at every turn, the two men meet in Longo’s detention cell and actually hit it off. But the more the two men talk, the more the hidden agendas start to reveal themselves, building to a climax most will see coming a mile away.
The film is the directorial debut of Rupert Goold and while it’s competent enough and knows how to get the job done, there isn’t any extra layer of pop or tension to bring it to life. It stagnantly goes through the motions and never comes alive. Franco and Hill do a great job of anchoring the story with the limited tools they’ve been given, but Felicity Jones is the one in the core trio to get the shaft story-wise. When the screenplay decides to beef up her character and actually get her involved in the main story, it’s way too late. By then she’s already been written-off as a one-note character, and to make matters worse, the task her character is given is the most laughable and out of left field in the movie.
True Story is entertaining in parts, but way too by-the-numbers to merit any genuine surprise or recommendation. Franco and Hill are continuing to put in solid dramatic work and I wish them well as they continue their struggle to break out of comedy jail.
True Story premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and opens nationwide April 10.
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|review • Sundance • True Story
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|I Am Michael • Sundance
They play lovers in their latest movie and James Franco and Zachary Quinto gave a sneak peek of their on-screen chemistry last week.
The two actors were caught on camera passionately kissing as they tried out the New York Times’ slow motion video booth.
James and Zachary can be seen gazing intensely into each other’s eyes before locking lips
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On the final day of Slamdance 2015, the festival presented a Special Screening of Yosemite. The film was produced by James Franco, who also acts in a supporting role because he literally can not stop arting all over the place. Franco’s prolific artistic output was the primary topic of discussion when Franco sat down with Variety’s Scott Foundas prior the screening as part of Slamdance’s “Coffee with…” series. Franco spoke eloquently for almost 40 minutes with only a few questions posed by Foundas. It’s easy to imagine him as one of those longwinded professors who never finishes his lectures in time for the bell. We were fortunate enough to get a great vantage point and capture the entire talk.
After listing off some impressive numbers pulled from Franco’s imdb page, Foundas asked Franco to describe his journey from actor to content creator. Franco starts by saying that it’s long answer that he will give as “fast as possible”, which for him meant just under twelve informative yet entertaining minutes.
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|Gallery Update: photoshoots • Sundance • True Story
I have add photos of Rupert Goold, James Franco – Victoria Will ‘True Story’ 2015 Sundance Film Festival to the gallery
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|I Am Michael • Sundance
James Franco and Zachary Quinto ribbed and praised their I Am Michael director, newcomer Justin Kelly, during an interview about the ambitious new film, which just premiered at Sundance. Speaking with Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers, the trio talked about the film’s roots, the experience making it and the reaction it garnered from the real Michael Glatze, a former gay rights activist turned evangelical Christian pastor.
Franco, who plays Glatze, explained the story first came to his attention when executive producer Gus Van Sant sent him a link to Benoit Denizet-Lewis’ 2011 New York Times Magazine article “My Ex-Gay Friend.” The article detailed Glatze’s rise within the gay rights movement, as well as his spiritual crisis, conversion and ultimate split from his lover and the gay community as a whole — a story Van Sant believed could make a great movie.
“At first I thought, ‘You think this would make a great movie, Gus? I don’t know,'” Franco remembered with a laugh. “But I just kind of went on faith. We kept going with it…Gus recommended Justin [to direct], who had been an assistant editor on Milk and saw all my nude scenes from Milk in detail — he still has them!”
I Am Michael marks Kelly’s full-length feature debut as a director, and Quinto praised him for establishing a collaborative spirit right from the beginning. “It permeated the whole journey that we took together,” he said. “He didn’t have to max out his credit cards, but it’s not like people were throwing money at him and giving him free rein; we were working under some pretty some serious constraints at the time.”
As for the real Michael Glatze’s reaction to the film, all three were pleased — if not somewhat surprised — to say that he thoroughly enjoyed it. “He came up to each of us and said, ‘Thank you,'” Franco said. “I guess we did the whole experience justice.”
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The Slamdance Film Festival has selected James Franco’s drama “Yosemite” as its closing-night film on Jan. 29.
Franco, who produced through his Rabbit Bandini company, will attend the world premiere screening as part of Slamdance’s “Coffee With” program.
Gabrielle Demeestere directed the film from her own script in an adaptation of three of Franco’s short stories. “Yosemite,” set in the fall of 1985, follows the intertwining tales of three 4th grade friends in the suburban paradise of Palo Alto as the threat of a killer mountain lion looms over the community.
Past “Coffee With” guests have included Chad Hurley and the Russo Brothers; Jonathan Demme and Neil Young; Ted Hope and Vilmos Zsigmond.
“We are thrilled to have such a talented and passionate supporter of independent film sit down and share his knowledge and experience with the Slamdance filmmakers,” said festival director Anna Germanidi.
Slamdance, launched in 1995 as an alternative to Sundance, will take place Jan. 23-29 in Park City, Utah, at the Treasure Mountain Inn. The Slamdance feature competition is limited to films from first-time directors and made with budgets under $1 million.
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|Sundance • True Story
Sundance Institute has added a pair of world premieres — Robert Redford’s “A Walk in the Woods,” and Jonah Hill and James Franco’s “True Story” — to the lineup of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
“A Walk in the Woods” stars Sundance founder Redford as a travel writer who sets out to hike the Appalachian Trail with a long-estranged friend, portrayed by Nick Nolte. Ken Kwapis directs the comedy-drama from a script by Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman. Emma Thompson, Mary Steenburgen, Nick Offerman and Kristen Schaal also star.
“True Story,” directed by Rupert Goold from a script he co-wrote with David Kajganich, centers on disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel (Hill) meeting accused killer Christian Longo (Franco) — who has taken on Finkel’s identity; his investigation morphs into a game of cat and mouse.
The Sundance Kids section added the U.S. premiere of “The Games Maker” from Juan Pablo Buscarini and starring David Mazouz, Joseph Fiennes, Ed Asner, Megan Charpentier, Tom Cavanagh and Valentina Lodovini.
The Kids section also added “Operation Arctic” from Grethe Bøe-Waal” in a modern-day Robinson Crusoe adventure set in the Arctic; and “Shaun the Sheep,” from Richard Starzak and Mark Burton.
The special events section added the world premiere of Romanian movie “Pioneers Palace B’92” from Bobby Paunescu, set in the wild days of post-Ceausescu Bucharest.
The new frontiers section added three live-action virtual reality experiences by artists Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël: Herders” and “Wild — the Experience” by Lajeunesse and Raphaël; and “Strangers” by Patrick Watson.
The Sundance Collection will present a digital restoration of “Paris Is Burning” by Jennie Livingston.