Quick Hit: Perfectly capturing the awkward balance of love, the courting of a significant other’s parents, and how life is full of side plots.
There is a moment in the center of The Big Sick, that our main character Kumail Nanjiani (played by Kumail Nanjiani) sits inside a car and listens to the voicemails of his girlfriend. The voicemails range from “quick, call me back” to explanations of her attempts to cook Pakistani food. It’s one of the most real moments in what is probably the most real movie that I’ve watched this year.
Part of that may be because it’s the true story of Kumail and wife Emily V. Gordon’s meet cute and subsequent love story. As previously stated, Kumail plays himself, but Emily is played by Zoe Kazan. Both of the actors are tremendous here. They excel in the moments that get brushed over in romantic comedies that made classics like When Harry Met Sally – rarely is love something that doesn’t happen conversationally. It’s something that is done exquisitely in the Before Trilogy, which I’ve stated is a near perfect set of films. Here, the little moments that are covered – late night hidden trips to the bathroom, attempts to get your significant other to watch something that they have no interest in watching (this particularly rings true for me – they are watching the great Vincent Price after all) – they are full of second glances and quick looks at each other. That’s love in a way that is rarely captured on screen.
Orbiting around all of this is Kumail’s family friction that comes from being the son of Pakistani immigrants. We get an intense family drama that is often played for laughs, but the laughs never undercut the seriousness of the situation. Kumail is rebelling against what his family states is the only way of life. This friction eventually causes what is one of the meanest, nastiest, but most heartfelt movie break-ups that I've ever seen. The scene causes your own heart to break as well as the characters.
Halfway through, the movie turns into something that is nearly different all together – the story of meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Everyone knows that you have to impress them, while still somehow maintaining yourself. When you have a particularly strong relationship, this can be tenuous at best – when your relationship is stretched to the limit, or even broken, the prospect of meeting someone’s parents is even worse. Here we get Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, that excel in the roles they are given. Romano is rarely as successful as he is here – playing the fatherly, not funny humor for laughs in a way that he made an entire show out of. Hunter allows her rougher edges to shine through, and the two mirror the problems of real relationships for the new couple.
All of this is wrapped in a package that illustrates how love can take over your life, while still allowing life to go on. While this is occurring with Emily, Kumail is still trying to make it as a comedian. He’s still having dinner with his family, having to drive people in his Uber. It’s wonderful that a movie takes the time to show that time hasn’t stopped. There are still moments where you have to get things done, even if your mind isn’t in it at all. Despite a runtime of over two hours, there isn’t a moment in this film that I would cut.
Overall, this movie ranks among some of my favorite romance comedies of the last few years – Before Midnight, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and 500 Days of Summer. Is it any wonder that I’m giving it an A+”?
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
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Quick Hit: One of the best Spiderman movies out there.
The line was full of anticipated fans. Several of people weren’t going to get into the theater, some were, but all would end up seeing the movie eventually. One of the biggest tent pole movies of the summer: Spiderman Homecoming. The Marvel/Sony experiment that is guaranteed to make money. But will it hold up to the standard that the MCU has set for itself?
Actually my friends, it’s better than the vast majority of them.
Spiderman: Homecoming manages to survive as a “Breakfast Club-esque teenager finding himself movie” at times, while providing one of the best Spiderman interpretations on screen. Peter here is presented as an actual teenager with superpowers. Not the Tobey Macguire masquerading as a teenager. And that is frequently the most realistic part of a movie about a teenager with the powers of a spider. This interpretation of Spiderman is still learning about his powers. In fact, the high tech suit that mentor Tony Stark has given him is even under the “Training Wheels Protocol”.
That makes the intense presentation of Michael Keaton’s Vulture that much better. Keaton is by far one of the most fleshed out villains in the MCU. His villain has motivation for his actions instead of just being evil. Keaton shows that he has no trouble owning the screen and delivering monologue after monologue. Most of them are simply working man’s jargon, but there are some moments of absolutely chilling dialogue between him and other characters. The danger is palpable to Peter’s life, and the scenes with the Vulture are not the ones where you fear for Peter’s life. Spiderman/Peter frequently endangers not just his own life, but others as well.
Keaton isn’t the only stand out. Tom Holland is also full of the same charm and life that his Spiderman was in Civil War. You want him to succeed so badly. From the opening minutes of the film (sneakily tying us into the rest of the MCU), the excitement of having a teenager as the protagonist of the film is right there, and Tom Holland is the perfect example. You can tell how much fun he is having in the role, and it spills out to the other characters. Ned (expertly played by Jacob Batalon) is an amazing foil for Peter. Providing an instantly projectable character for every audience member, Ned continues to exhibit the excitement that you feel about seeing your best friend be a famous superhero.
Another thing that impressed me that I referred to was the scenes of Holland as Peter Parker didn’t seem like throwaway scenes, or scenes that revolved only around a love interest. Here the scenes fully paint Parker as a teenager with a life outside of Spiderman: he’s in band, on the Decathalon team, math club, etc. etc. This is one of the Peter Parker’s that fanboys like myself have been waiting for. I really enjoyed the continued pace of the movie. We get a near 50/50 split between Spiderman and Parker, and that’s the way it should be with a hero and his alter ego.
My last bit of praise will fall on the action scenes and the comedy that comes with them. Spiderman is a hero that is always having fun, and that’s exactly what is presented. One of the funniest scenes involves Spiderman in a suburb. It’s these moments contrasted with the frantic, manic action. Rarely is our hero not flipping or spinning when presented with something that needs to be done. It’s impressive and fun, and the visuals sell the action. I happened to see it in IMAX, and would recommend it as such. There is also a streak of comedy that runs through the film. It’s broad and allows the actors a range of humor, from slapstick to deep.
One of the things that is a bit of a red herring in the trailers is Iron Man. You would almost think that he was the second most important character in the film if seen only on the trailer. However, after a slow start to the movie that seems like it will trend in that direction, the movie is allowed to exist on its own plane. Sure, it is heavily within the MCU, but it stands on its own feet and is better for it. That slow start happens to be the only thing that wrong with a very good film.
That’s why I’m giving what I consider the second best Spiderman movie ever an “A”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
P.S. Enjoy both after credits scenes. I know I did.
Quick Hit: Heavy handed at times, and hilariously relevant at others, this film presents us with a satire of great proportions.
If you don’t know the name Bong Joon Ho, you should really start looking out. He’s been the director of same great movies that seem to find critical favor and are yet unbeknownst to many a cinephile. There’s the terrific monster movie The Host, and the wonderful Chris Evans movie Snowpiercer. His latest film is Okja, which premiers on Netfix in two days.
Okja is a superpig, bred by the Mirando corporation to provide enough food for the masses of earth. Seo-Hyun Ahn plays Mija, a young Korean girl that is raised by her grandfather. Okja is more than an animal to her, it’s her best friend and seemingly only companion. The relationship between them is a wonderful surprise throughout the movie – Seo-Hyun consistently gives a deep performance that rivals some of her more talented co-stars.
These range from Tilda Swinton, who plays a set of twins at the top of corporate giant Mirando, to Jake Gyllenhaal as Johnny Wilcox, the “face of Mirando” as a really odd nature zoologist. There’s also Giancarlo Esposito as a waffling lackey for the Mirando sisters, and Paul Dano as the leader of ALF (Animal Liberation Front). There is so much talent and it’s evident in a number of scenes. If there is one thing that Joon-ho Bong seems to handle really well, it’s the jumbling of genres and the handling of a talented eclectic cast.
However, what was wonderfully underplayed in Snowpiercer, a film about climate change, becomes a repeated trend in Okja. There’s no way that you can misunderstand the director/writer’s intentions here – he thinks we treat animals poorly (we do) and that corporations are greedy (they are). Some of the scenes in Okja are clearly there for shock value (one in particular has Okja suffering poor treatment at the hands of Dr. Johnny (Gyllenhaal) after essentially being force bred. I thought that the tonal shift here was too deliberately abrupt and therefore it turned away some of the eyes from the screen.
When Okja really works, it’s when it is playing into some of the stereotypes that we’ve seen before. When one of the activists refuses to eat even a tomato because it was ripened by chemical means, we see the sly tongue in cheek humor that make Okja a treat. There’s also an office scene that allows Gyllenhaal to play off his other actors in one of the hardest times I’ve laughed in a theater. When you combine that with Paul Dano’s consistently earnest and painfully honest ALF leader, you get some scenes that are truly fantastic. I would have enjoyed to see the movie continue to roll around at Okja and Mija’s point of view.
A long story short is this – Okja has some of the greatest scenes I’ve seen in a long time as far as the humor of laughing at ourselves as a human race. While I can’t say it is the greatest movie I’ve seen in a while, the performances and creature effects are well worth it. The plot is solid, and despite the shortfalls, it’s very entertaining despite coming off a bit preachy. I’m going to give it a “B”.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"