‘The Big Sick’: The feel good laugh out comedy event of 2017

The realistic version of While You Were Sleeping, but with more edge and humor.

It’s a rare occurrence for a film to come out of nowhere and blow me away. The Big Sick, featuring a magnetic performance from Kumail Nanjiani, did just that when I screened it last month.

Here is a film that will make you laugh out loud at its raunchy yet inspired humor and then make you feel emotion that you weren’t expecting. The best parts of this film are the ones you won’t see coming, because this may be the only time you hear me put “feel good” and “raunchy comedy” in the same sentence, but The Big Sick fits that bill to a tee. This is the best movie I’ve seen this year, and to think, I almost skipped it to do laundry at home.

Nanjiani (who also co-wrote the screenplay) is the star of this flick that is marketed as “an awkward love story”, and he is resonates unexpectedly as an aspiring comic in Chicago trying to make it to the next level. Kumail (yes, he keeps the same name in the film) goes on a stage for five minutes in a small nightclub with his fellow comics(played by real comedian Bo Burnham and SNL star, Aidy Bryant), and they are all vying for spots in a Montreal comedy festival. Continue reading “‘The Big Sick’: The feel good laugh out comedy event of 2017”

‘The Hero’ is an easy riding swan song for Sam Elliott

At long last, the actor gets a juicy lead role to work with.

How many chances do we get to experience a rebirth? When death finally does stare you down, do you look in the mirror and ask: Am I ready to go or do I have unfinished business? Brett Haley’s soulful ode to legacy-The Hero-places one of the most iconic voices of film center stage at long last.

Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) has a lot of unfinished business. An aging actor known for one legendary performance, Hayden yearns for the days where he was walking across the desert with a cowboy hat on, dispensing justice. These days, all Lee dispenses is the smoke from the weed he smokes with former co-star and friend, Jeremy (Nick Offerman), and advertising words for barbecue sauce through a microphone in a recording studio.

What Lee wants to do is get one last role, or anything with substance. When he is given a fatal diagnosis, Lee attempts to reconnect with his daughter (Krysten Ritter, making a lot out of a little), but finds a new wave of energy when he meets Charlotte (Laura Prepon, the beauty from Orange Is The New Black). In a way, Charlotte puts the flame back in Lee’s pilot light, and the film rides a comfortable wave as Lee confronts his mortality, his legacy, and what he will leave behind. Continue reading “‘The Hero’ is an easy riding swan song for Sam Elliott”

‘Megan Leavey’ review: Arbitrary biopic lacks power

Kate Mara’s fine performance doesn’t elevate the film enough

In the Iraq War, military dogs and their handlers were targeted for obvious reasons. If you are a terrorist looking to hurt American soldiers with your explosives, it doesn’t help to have an animal track your bomb’s location before you can make it go boom. Female handlers like Corporal Megan Leavey were specifically targeted, and this new film documents her story from lost cause in upstate New York to the recipient of a Purple Heart for bravery in war.

Unfortunately, the movie and its subject simply aren’t interesting enough to stay with you after the lights come up. Everything here feels arbitrary and not powerful enough to resonate. Continue reading “‘Megan Leavey’ review: Arbitrary biopic lacks power”

Moviegoers can pass on Diane Lane’s ‘Paris Can Wait’

Cook a big meal and turn on the Food Network instead.

Eleanor Coppola waited until she was 80 years old to give us her first Hollywood feature. Perhaps all those years of being married to the legendary Francis Ford Coppola finally required a filmmaking journey of her own. Coppola’s written and directorial debut, Paris Can Wait, has its charms and makes you very hungry for fine French cuisine, but what does it amount to in the end? The answer is a lighthearted romance that never quite finds its footing during a 92 minute running time that doesn’t feel brisk enough.

Diane Lane almost makes it worth it as Anne Lockwood-the wife of Hollywood producer Michael (Alec Baldwin, dropping in for a two scene cameo)-a woman in dire need of a real vacation. Her husband is more married to his career than he is to her, and with their daughter in college, the simmer in their life has disappeared.

As the couple prepares to leave Cannes for Budapest, a sudden ill-feeling Anne opts out of the plane, and just wants to get to Paris. Michael’s business partner, Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive her to the city of lights. What transpires is the unfolding of Anne’s soul across a two day trip full of detours, mini-adventures, and a few budding signs of unexpected romance. Continue reading “Moviegoers can pass on Diane Lane’s ‘Paris Can Wait’”

‘Wonder Woman’ is the home run that the DCU needed

Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins have created a fucking franchise here.

Superhero movies are predominantly led by men, with women backing them up, and helping when needed. Thankfully, director Patty Jenkins has another idea: let a female drive a heroic tale for a change, and perhaps some fun may be had in the process.

Wonder Woman, starring an absolutely perfect Gal Gadot, is the home run DC Comic movie adaptations needed. A no doubt summer movie season launch that should empower women of all ages and entertain movie fans as a whole.

Diana Prince (Gadot) grew up in a place called Themyscira, and became a princess of the Amazons, but her mother (Connie Nielson, picking up the Gladiator armor again) has protected Diana since birth from a powerful god called Ares. Eventually, Diana figures out that she has incredible powers, but needs to find a purpose for them. Continue reading “‘Wonder Woman’ is the home run that the DCU needed”

Doug Liman’s ‘The Wall’ is a thriller that is both unique and unpredictable

Aaron Taylor Johnson gives a standout performance.

It’s 2007 and the war in Iraq is coming to an end, but Issac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Matthews (John Cena) have a few jobs left to do, including surveying a site littered with dead bodies. When they come upon an expert sniper known to U.S. troops as Juba (voiced by Laith Nakli), a deadly game of psychological warfare is engaged between Issac and Juba.

Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Bourne Identity) knows how to stage an action sequence, but here he dials up the tension over a crisp running time of 81 minutes. Those minutes are packed with loads of suspense as Johnson’s Issac is stuck behind a crumbling wall with Juba’s scope bearing down on him. Liman takes basic ingredients, adds a few pinches of spice, and creates a thriller that is unique and unpredictable.

Who will break first? Issac or Juba? Can the American soldier, who is wounded, survive long enough without essentials like water and food? Without extending the time, Liman is able to stretch out the minutes of this duel to supreme cinematic effect while injecting realism into the battle. Continue reading “Doug Liman’s ‘The Wall’ is a thriller that is both unique and unpredictable”

‘The Lovers’ dares to be bold, but runs familiar course instead 

When we first meet Tracy Letts and Debra Winger in The Lovers, they are prisoners trapped in a thing called marriage. Deeply involved in their respective affairs (with Melora Walters and Aidan Gillen), they are finally setting sights on their escape when something crazy happens: the spark between them unexpectedly rekindles. The affair within the affair begins, with the weight of a decision levying a heavy burden on all four people. 

For about half of the 94 minute running time, I was in love with the structure of The Lovers. It creates a realistic portrayal of an older couple struggling with the “happily ever after” ideal, and you’ll find yourself reflecting on your own life and choices as the characters struggle with their own. At once unpredictable and bold, writer/director Azazel Jacobs’s tale will hit a nerve and make you laugh during the first hour. 

Then, like the title characters, I drifted apart from this setup as the follow-through occurred. The movie seemed to pick up a different dealer midway through the story. 

Once Letts and Winger return to each other, you start rooting while knowing that eventually, a hatchet will swing down and destroy everything. 

The hatchet comes in the form of the couple’s son, who arrives with his girlfriend disgusted at the way his parents have acted. To him, they have wasted what was once sacred and hates them for it. While initially noticing the warmth between them has returned, things eventually come to a head. 

While the climax is well played, I didn’t agree with the resolution. It simply didn’t sit well with me or follow the course that the story seemed to be taking. Either they couldn’t decide how to wrap it up, or just descended ahead on a sloppy path. 

It didn’t help that the pacing was snoozy, with a theater play type feel settling in. Jacobs is trying to say something about the endurance test marriage presents and how fresh love can sneak in, but the finale taught me little that I didn’t know before, so  the experience wasn’t worth the sit. 

The acting almost makes it worth the trip. 

Letts is a competent character actor when he’s not writing great scripts, and here he gets to stretch his legs as an older man stuck between an uncomfortable rock and a hard choice. Winger doesn’t work enough these days, but quickly imbues her heroine with a much needed edge.

Gillen may be known for seedy roles on The Wire and Game of Thrones, but he makes the most of a limited role while Walters (Magnolia) injects passion into her lover. They are younger souls sitting in the waiting room while their lovers figure out what they want to do. Tyler Ross doesn’t provide much depth with an important role, and that trips up the execution of the third act. His son’s rage and sorrow is predictably played. Jessica Sula is largely ineffective. 

While I respected the ambition of The Lovers, I didn’t like the indecision in the way it conveyed its message in the end. What started as honest ended up as a run of the mill course on old love. 

Save your hard earned money for something else-The Lovers can wait until Red Box.