Posts Tagged ‘review’

The Big Sick is your typical boy-meets-girl, girl-breaks-up-with-boy, girl-gets-very-sick, boy-meets-girl’s-parents rom com. OK, that was a bit cheeky, but not entirely incorrect.

The one-night stand that became a romance between stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) is the starting off point of the film. Yet it was Kumail dealing with her mother Beth (Holly Hunter) and father Terry (Ray Romano) which drives much of the middle of the film.

Also intriguing is Kumail dealing with his own parents, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and and Azmat (Anupam Kher), the former of whom is especially busy trying to fix him up with a nice Muslim girl.
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The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kamail and Emily V. Gordon, and written by them. I saw Kamail on The Daily Show recently talking about the writing process. On some of their real dates, they had radically different recollections of how a certain date played out, and they used that conflict in the script.

The movie showed real insights into the culture clash, the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart, without being pedantic. It manages to be quite funny while at the same time dealing with the emotions surrounding Emily’s …well, see the title.

I was really fond of this movie, and if anything, my wife more so, which we saw, naturally, at the Spectrum Theater in Albany. “They” say write what you know, and in plagiarizing their own experiences, Nanjiani and Gordon have avoid hitting any false notes. And in the current political atmosphere, it even seems especially timely.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Some believe that, like some other Apatow works, it was too long, but at at a tick under two hours, I thought it was just right

Here’s the trailer. See the movie!


Random Final JEOPARDY! answer: Later an Oscar winner, she appeared as the child baptized towards the end of “The Godfather”. Question at the end.

I could have waited to watch the new movie Paris Can Wait. But it was something my wife wanted to see. And it had Diane Lane, who I think is the bee’s knees. So off we went to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany while the Daughter was out of town.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“When her director husband is occupied with work in Paris, an American woman takes a jaunt with his business associate, a charming Gallic rogue who is happy to squire her on a tour of some of the finest meals in Provence. The first feature directed by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis and director of the “Apocalypse Now” documentary ‘Hearts of Darkness’.”

Alec Baldwin is playing pretty much the same role I’ve seen him in another movie, Michael, the distracted husband, who is too busy to see that his wife Anne (Lane) is not particularly engaged in life.

This film looked REALLY nice, with the sights and sounds across France. The food looked particularly great. Yet for much of the time, I just did not care about the heavy-duty flirtation by Jacques (Arnaud Viard).

In fact, in some ways I felt that that Anne had left the controlling neediness of Michael, to the controlling side tripping of Jacques, and I found this actually irritating.

It wasn’t until fairly late in the film that the audience realizes a particular linkage between Anne and Jacques, by which point I did not much care.

Some reviewer suggested that it was that Viard is not classically handsome, but I don’t think that was the problem.

my spouse enjoyed Paris Can Wait far more than I.

Random Final JEOPARDY! question: Who is Sofia Coppola, the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola and Eleanor Coppola. So as Trebek noted, “She had an in in getting the role.”


The three of us saw Beauty and the Beast on the marquee of the Madison Theatre, not too far from our house. I’d seen the 1991 animated film when it was released, though not since.

Still, I was ambivalent about seeing the live-action adaptation. I feared that it would be, in the words of one critic, “a straightforward retelling of the original, with a few cosmetic changes tacked on to make it look like something else.”

Not so, IMO. Some old songs were in, including one of my favorite Disney villain songs ever, “Gaston,” – Josh Gad’s sycophant is used well here – but other tunes were switched out, making it aurally satisfying.

Maybe it was getting to hear six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald sing very early on, but I bought into the magic almost instantly. Then I got to enjoy Emma Watson in a role other than that of Hermione Granger. There was a dinner scene between the principals which reminded me of some Esther Williams film.

Somehow, I was more intrigued by her rejection of Gaston (Luke Evans) here than in the animated version. This Belle was more clever, with her back story better explained, including her relationship with her father (Kevin Kline) and late mother.

Now, an article in Sojourner points to a fundamental flaw in Beauty and the Beast, and worse in its predecessor: “[It] still ends with the heroine finding her prince charming, the titular Beast, in a way that isn’t entirely healthy. Their relationship starts out with her being held captive in his castle…

“It would take a monster overhaul to fix what’s always been the central problem of this story — a smart, independent woman sticking with a partner who’s prone to unpredictable bouts of violence… That uncomfortable aspect [is] a problem that added musical numbers won’t solve.”

The piece isn’t wrong. Yet I choose to appreciate what joys the film provided. Hearing Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, and Ewan MacGregor, then seeing them at the end. The one thing I will note is that, in seeing [spoiler?] the Beast (Dan Stevens) transformed to human form, I’d gotten so intrigued by the look of his alter ego that the prince appeared pretty bland.

The Wife wanted to see a movie that the three of us could all watch, and Gifted seemed to fit the bill. From the IMDB: “Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.”

This is a subgenre where its success is dependent on certain factors. In this case, one is the mutual love that Frank (Chris Evans, Marvel’s Captain America) and Mary (Mckenna Grace, from the TV show Designated Survivor) have for each other, without the kid being so obnoxious that you can’t stand to see him or her on the screen. On that level, the film succeeds.

Of course, one Frank stops homeschooling Mary so she can have friends her own age – all she has besides Frank is his landlady Roberta (Octavia Spencer) – it becomes obvious to her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) that Mary has amazing skills.

Reading the Rotten Tomatoes reviews (64% positive), some critics think that Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) is “too vicious to be persuasive, and [writer Tom] Flynn undercuts her morally by stressing her lust for recognition.” That’s not my reading of the woman, as villain. She seems more wounded, estranged from her son, as she had been from her late daughter, and even from her current husband.

Fred, the one-eyed cat, also features prominently in the storyline. Yes, it’s all melodramatic, with a courtroom scene, and a Big Reveal, where Frank has to make a tradeoff to resolve the issue.

Gifted is a relatively simple, straightforward film, somewhat formulaic and almost certainly manipulative. But I laughed aloud more than once – to the irritation of the Daughter – and got sucked into the lives of the principals. It’s not a great film, but enjoyable enough on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

Heart of ChristianityIn trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”

Borg was a “world renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”

As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism Read the rest of this entry »

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