Total Recall: James Franco's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Your Highness star.
He's a performance artist, published author, gala host, soap star, college student, and one of the most prolific film actors currently working in Hollywood. Is there anything James Franco hasn't done? Well, up until this week, he'd never been the subject of a Total Recall -- but once we found out he'd be starring in David Gordon Green's raunchy medieval comedy Your Highness, we knew the time had come. From indie flicks to blockbusters, Franco's been in just about every kind of picture -- and here, without further ado, are his ten best-reviewed films. How many have you seen?
James Franco appeared in five films in 2010, and between them, they covered a pretty admirable spectrum -- from his supporting role in Eat Pray Love and extended cameo in Date Night to his headlining turn in this arthouse-friendly biopic of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. A controversial figure whose work triggered an infamous obscenity trial, Ginsberg was a tricky choice for the biopic treatment -- and quite a few critics felt that the nonlinear approach taken by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman didn't really do him justice. For most, though, Franco's powerhouse performance was enough to carry the film; as David Edwards mused for the Daily Mail, "What the hell is going on with James Franco? The erstwhile Spider-Man star is rapidly turning into cinema's Renaissance man."
9. Spider-Man 3
Franco returned for the final installment of the original Spider-Man trilogy, alongside stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, as well as director Sam Raimi; alas, the third time wasn't exactly the charm, and Spider-Man 3 went down as the worst-reviewed of the bunch -- as well as one of the most bitterly contested blockbusters of the year. It's easy to understand why so many fans felt so let down -- the movie overflows with characters, plots, and subplots, among them the screen debut of fan favorite villain Venom -- but most critics were able to see through the spectacle, among them Salon's Stephanie Zacharek, who wrote, "Raimi at least manages to make it both huge and human."
Before they got medieval for Your Highness, Franco and director David Gordon Green worked together on Pineapple Express, the 2008 stoner comedy about a shiftless twentysomething (Seth Rogen) whose duties as a process server -- and whose careless disposal of a fateful roach -- make him the target of a ruthless drug lord (Gary Cole). Playing Rogen's perpetually baked dealer, Franco made the most of a rare opportunity to show off his comedic chops, enjoyed a Freaks and Geeks reunion with producer Judd Apatow, and won over critics like Jeanne Aufmuth of the Palo Alto Weekly, who wrote, "I'm typically not a fan of the wildly popular Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen collaborative efforts, but a pitch-perfect performance by James Franco temporarily sways me in the other direction."
7. The Company
Neve Campbell labored for years to get The Company made -- so great was her passion for this drama centering around members of the Joffrey Ballet, she ultimately ended up co-producing, co-writing, and toplining a cast that included Franco and Malcolm McDowell. They were guided by the legendary hand of director Robert Altman, who brought his traditionally broad approach to the material, making room for numerous characters without focusing too heavily on any one at the expense of the others. Though some critics felt this left The Company without enough of a plot, the Washington Post's Desson Thomson spoke for the majority when he wrote, "It's a joy to watch these colorful characters, and their exacting, physically demanding dances, from a leisured distance."
It wasn't seen by many people during its brief theatrical run, but this dark ensemble piece from writer/director Karen Moncrieff gave a strong stable of actors (including Franco, Brittany Murphy, Marcia Gay Harden, Josh Brolin, Toni Collette, and Kerry Washington) a chance to plumb the emotional depths of the mystery surrounding a woman's grisly death. While far from Franco's showiest role, his turn as a kind-hearted mortician helped anchor The Dead Girl's unrelenting grimness with a small ray of something like hope -- and helped move the Oregonian's Shawn Levy to write, "Moncrieff manages to get beneath the skin of several of these characters, a nifty trick considering what a crowded world she's created. In all, it's a grueling, emotionally taxing, discomfiting film."