Total Pageviews

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Big Sick

best comedy of 2017

Real. Sick.

The story of The Big Sick centers on Kumail’s (Kumail Nanjian from Silicon Valley and Mike and Dave Need Dates) courtship of Emily (Zoe Kazan from It’s Complicated). When Emily suddenly comes down with an illness that leaves her in a coma, the relationship between the Pakistani comic and American graduate student is exposed to both of their families.

One other thing I should mention — it’s a romantic comedy. It’s a funny one with more depth than most rom-coms from this decade. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents add to the strong ensemble and Kumail’s family culture of arranged marriage is a refreshing subtext hardly seen in comedic film. Working against the film is a convenient resolution in the third act.

One other thing I should mention — that too-good-to-be true plot twist and this whole story is based on the true story of Nanjian’s real-life courtship of co-author Emily V. Gordon.

Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer, Hello, My Name Is Doris) directed this film, which is produced by Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, Girls, Knocked Up, 40-Year Old Virgin) who has a knack for introducing comic talent to bigger stages. This is one of his best.

Simply put: Although the final act goes on about a bit too long to be perfect, The Big Sick is this year’s crowd-pleasing comedy.

Award potential: Should do very well with Golden Globe nominations across all comedy catagories.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk

Just enough.

Before I walked into the theater, I had already heard the word “masterpiece” used by reviewers at Time magazine, The Atlantic and other sources that gave similar praise for Dunkirk. To me, using that word is somewhat accurate. 

As far as bringing the ground, sea and air of WWII to life, it is indeed a stunning masterpiece and the score, sound and FX should have those respective 2018 Oscars locked. However, despite being a grand spectacle, I did find that Dunkirk lacked something I needed from a full movie experience. 

The film’s famously sparse dialogue is likely the source. Likely some key actors as well. Despite the powerful story, I needed to connect to the central characters more. Newcomers Fionn Whitehead (land) and Jack Lowden (air) played characters so silent and soulless that I can’t even remember their character’s names. I’m sure director Christopher Nolan was going for realism versus scripted Hollywood fare, but I needed more.


That balance was perfectly executed by some seasoned pros. Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branaugh) and seaman Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) utilized their lines to sell and propel the story. They provided some heart to it as well.

The story, an important rescue mission, also lacks some of the resolution we’re used to seeing in a big WWII film but Nolan crafted a finale that ultimately sold me on Dunkirk.

This exchange, at one point during the story that I won't reveal, sums up my feelings for the full film:

Blind man: Well done.
Alex (Harry Styles): All we did was survive.
Blind man: That’s enough

Simply put: Well crafted. Well done. That’s enough to recommend this film. 


Award potential: A lock for nominations and likely wins in technical categories. There will be nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematographer and maybe Best Supporting Actor (Rylance) too, but by next February this film will not be on the radar for those top honors. Even Saving Private Ryan, another summer release, couldn’t take home a win. 

Ten buck review: Worth ten bucks. Worth IMAX and 70mm pricing too.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

This Spidey is so McFly.

The last two Amazing Spider-Man films were anything but. Each of those films, as well as the original trilogy, has retold the origin story in every single stinkin’ film, so I’m thrilled to tell you that Homecoming provides only this line, “So you got bit by a spider,” as an origin. Non-spoiler alert: you don’t have to watch Uncle Ben die again either.
   
Homecoming picks up after Spidey’s comedic appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016), with a teenage Tom Holland working his way through, well, John Hughs High. In a fresh move for Marvel, half of this movie feels like an 80’s high school comedy ­with winks and nods to Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Breakfast Club (1985). 

Mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and villain Vulture (Michael Keaton) turn in seasoned, adult performances to make sure we know this is a legit Marvel endeavor, but each threaten to clash with this fresh approach. 

Credit some restraint by Marvel and a zippy, awkward hero performance by Tom Holland that recalls Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly. High praise indeed. 

Spider Man's nemesis was not the Green Goblin; It was teen angst, melodrama and hyperbolic action sequences. This friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man flies by seat of his spandex pants and it’s a modern marvel. 

Simply put: My spider sense says we’ll be seeing more of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and I’m fine with that. 

Award potential: Not much Oscar-worthy here. 

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Beguiled

Like a Virginian.

In January, I listed my New Year’s Wishes for 2017 at the movies. I wished that Wonder Woman would be wonderful, Logan would be the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting for and that the clearly uninspired remakes and sequels, specifically Baywatch, Mummy, Alien and Fifty Shades, would tank at the box office. I wished that the Oscars would move beyond #oscarssowhite. And I wished that Sofia Coppola would make our day with The Beguiled. 

Most of my wishes have come true, but while The Beguiled entertained me for a bit, it certainly did not make my day, and it won’t make my Best of the Year list. 

Director Sofia Coppola took best director prize at Cannes for The Beguiled. I can understand some of that. It is craftfully created, and each visual drips with the mossy visuals of a Civil-war era Virginia holding on to what beauty is left — but it’s not the film I hoped for. 

The story, a remake of the Clint Eastwood film from 1971, is a slight one. Colin Farrell, who I really want to like in a movie one day, is no Clint Eastwood. 

What does work, other than the Southern gothic scenery, is Nicole Kidman. Her politely suppressed character, like the best British and Southern movies, is sublime. I can tell you now without a spoiler, one static look in the final act will make her career montage.

Kidman is having one heck of a year from Lion to Big Little Lies to this. I should have wished for more Nicole Kidman in 2017.

Simply put: Not the film I hoped for, but a fine and pleasantly short film as counterpoint to the lengthy summer blockbusters at the cinema now.


Award potential: Nicole Kidman has a shot at Best Supporting Actress nominations on this one, but summer films are famously ignored. Kirsten Dunst was fine, but forgettable.
 

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Baby Driver


Baby Driver
This summer’s joyride.
 

Sorry super friends, guardians, monsters and transformers, Baby Driver is the coolest movie of the summer. 

Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directs this baby with style and swagger and unlike anything he’s done before. Watching this film is as breezy as listening to the soundtrack that fuels it. 

The script gives us iPod-adorned Ansel Elgort (Baby) as the getaway driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) and an assortment of bank robbers (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eliza Gonzalez). It’s a cleverly written heist movie, but on speed. 

Get ready for brilliantly-shot car chases, stylish crime capers and a twee-rific love story featuring Lily James (Cinderella, Downton Abbey). Each scene rolls in seamlessly, like a perfect mix tape, until it all boils up to the final act. It’s a drive worth taking. 

Simply put: Rev up. It’s Fast and Furious for the cool kids.
 

Award potential: Not an Oscar-type film, but expect to see Baby Driver on plenty of 2017 top ten lists and perhaps on some short lists for Golden Globe nominations. I'll give it the "coolest pic' of the year" award right now.

The Ten Buck Review:
Worth ten bucks.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman

It's super.

I’ve heard a lot of people who are surprised at how long it took Wonder Woman to get to the big screen. After all, “What could go wrong?”

For starters, she’s an Amazon princess, who is related to the Greek god Zeus. She wears a red, white and blue bustier, and fights crime with a shield, sword, magic bracelets and a golden lasso that makes people tell the truth. To make things more difficult, she is lovingly remembered by her 70’s TV incarnation that had a theme song with the lyrics “In your satin tights, fighting for your rights, and the old red, white and blue.” She is all that and a feminist icon as well. One more thing; it’s a DC movie (Green Lantern, Batman V. Superman). Yikes! 


In other words, about a million things could have gone wrong — but didn’t. Wonder Woman is everything we want it to be, and it's here to save the summer. Gal Gadot has big-screen star power and you just can’t look away from her. 

You can’t look away from this film either. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) has set a new standard for balancing comedy, myth and action. She's Warner Brother's new hero.

Somehow Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg flipped all the things that could go wrong, such as her famous tights. By the time we see Diana Prince (Wonder Woman's secret identity) stretch a bit in restrictive 20th Century garments, any viewer can kinda understand why she pops into her skimpy, and otherwise absurd, attire to go to battle. The lasso of truth? It’s a beauty onscreen. The typical comic book final 20-minutes where the enemy gets big and the hero has to blow the big thing up amidst twirling VFX madness? Well, OK, they didn’t solve that. Next time. 

Like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, but unlike most superhero films, I want to see more stories about Gal Gadot’s blazzingly heroic Wonder Woman. It’s not just super, it’s superb.
 

Simply put: Wonder no more, Wonder Woman beaks the mold.
 

Award potential: In the mix for Best FX and Best Original Score and Best Sound and Sound Mixing Oscar categories. Look for Gal Gadot to be mentioned in early Golden Globe shortlists.

The Ten Buck Review:
Worth ten bucks.




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Snatched

Schumer’s next Trainwreck.

Amy Schumer’s infectious Trainwreck was one of the more laugh-filled theater gifts to

audiences in years. Goldie Hawn’s Private Benjamin and Overboard are comic staples. A pairing of these two blondes having fun should be at least half as funny as their best work, right?

The talents of Schumer and Hawn elevate this comedy for sure, but I’m sad to say that this project should have been cast overboard. The script is an ‘80s comedy throwback, complete with South American stereotypes, punched up with the expected gross out gags of modern rom-coms and bro-coms. I think they picked the two worst parts of those decades; it’s a long hour and a half.

Turns out, casting this duo, who we love individually as irreverent free spirits, means that someone has to play it straight. As a result, Hawn's uptight mom character doesn’t give her a chance to shine.

I did laugh a lot, but there was a lot of eye-rolling in between. Amy Schumer falling on her face gets some cheap laughs, but it’s not so funny for ticket buyers that this film also falls on its face.

Simply put: It should be one mother of a comedy. It isn’t.

Award potential: None.

The Ten Buck Review: Not worth ten bucks, but if you want to see these two together and need some cheap laughs on a Mother’s Day outing, I’ll understand.