The Big Sick

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Director: Michael Showalter

Producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel

Writers: Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V Gordon

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Anupam Kher

I’m a sucker for romantic comedies, and one of my most vivid memories is leaving the cinema after seeing When Harry Met Sally (1989), with a silly grin plastered on my face, knowing I had seen something really special. Critical praise has been similarly heaped on a new romantic comedy, The Big Sick, and I had high hopes I would experience that earlier euphoria again. I really wanted to like this movie a lot, but perhaps being older, or the film being set in a grittier, grungier, dimly lit world, The Big Sick didn’t give me a similar case of the warm and fuzzies.  It’s still worth watching, however, because it is generally entertaining, thoughtful, and with a positive message.

Based loosely on the real-life romance of an interracial couple, The Big Sick’s rom-com vibe is set within a broader comedic setting. It has some laugh out loud moments, combined with revealing insights into what it is to be part of a family, whether that family hails from North Carolina or Pakistan. The pacing seemed to drag at times, however, with some scenes drawn out or not really necessary to the plot (which reflects the number of rewrites the script underwent).

Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, Fist Fight) plays a likable variation of himself, while his romantic partner Emily is played with raw honesty by actress Zoe Kazan, who is also a playwright (unlike the real Emily who is a therapist). Neither character wants to get into a relationship, with Kumail living by a rule not to see someone longer than for two days. Despite this, he and Emily cannot help themselves and start keeping company. He spends most of his free time at a comedy club where he has a stand-up routine that isn’t very good, surrounded by three buddies who just happen to be his real life fellow comics and friends.

Set against this aimless lifestyle of friends, alcohol, sex and Uber driving, Kumail has another, separate life that involves his Pakistani family who keep trying to find him “a nice Pakistani girl” to marry. Not surprisingly, Kumail isn’t a fan of entering into an arranged marriage, having taken to the American way of life whole-heartedly.

Some of the most amusing scenes in this other life include Kumail’s family dinners, with young Pakistani women who just happen to drop in as they were “in the neighbourhood” (despite the family living in a cul-de-sac). Kumail keeps these women’s photos in a cigar box for no particular reason, and many of them try to attract his interest by watching things he likes, such as The X-Files.

The first part of the movie focuses on Kumail and Emily’s budding relationship, and their sudden break-up because Kumail admits he cannot see a future with her due to his parents’ opposition. It’s only when Emily becomes gravely ill that Kumail realises what is important, and that he must choose his own future rather than one dictated by his family.

We also meet Emily’s parents, Beth (Holly Hunter with an almost impenetrable accent) and Terry (Ray Romano), who provide a sharp contrast with their prickly tension and over-protectiveness. Both parents’ growing fondness towards the young man who broke their daughter’s heart is depicted convincingly.

While not as hilarious as the trailer promises, The Big Sick still has a big heart and, like Kumail’s courtship of Emily, may slowly insinuate its way under your skin. Worth seeing at least once, if only for Kumail’s often artless reactions to other people’s conversations.

A Ghost Story

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Written and Directed by: David Lowery

Producers: Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey

Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo

Starring: Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

A Ghost Story invites us into the tender space of young love shared by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and the tragic aftermath of grief as a fatal car crash leaves C dead and transformed as a ghost throughout the movie.

Landlocked by love in one state of being and one place, C remains beneath a sad and forlorn sheet with cut out holes for eyes, to witness time and his lover change without him.

Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Aint Them Bodies Saints) had been wanting to tell a ghost story for years with the classic iconography of the bed-sheet ghost and with Affleck as no ordinary ghost he achieves that.

Lowery sets the visual tone that this is not a traditional motion picture by shooting the film in the 1:33 aspect ratio, meaning the image width is only slightly greater than its height.  This film technique enabled Lowery to create a towering presence of the shrouded ghost, a still and dominating presence within each scene.

The cinematography is pared back with the glare and grit of everyday realism and it is in the familiar and the known that Lowery captures us.
Through doorframes – a fascination of Lowery’s – both dark and functional, they frame Affleck and Mara in ordinary rooms of no import, but it is in their lack of adornment where the intimate confrontations and revelatory keypoints are revealed without massive movement or violence.

There is something to a movie with long stretches bereft of dialogue, we remain in the stillness as the ghost does and without distraction we sink further into the tragedy of love lost without goodbye and time moving forward where the loved one occupies no space only in memory.

In an unforgettable scene, Mara’s luminous distinctive features convey all the profound grief you thought you’d need dialogue for. In isolation, she stuffs an entire family size chocolate pie in a single four-minute take. The body of food is ill equipped to replace her loss of C.

In a later scene, we witness the profound pathos of love and of lost hearts craving connection through the ghost’s presence.

When M finally leaves their home, she embeds a lover’s note into a door frame. The repetitious scratching by a ghost without hands is both tragic and beautiful and as he seeks to unearth the note oblivious to the passage of time without him, we are reminded his sense of identity is derived from his attachment as the beloved.

As I left the cinema I was unsure how I felt about the movie and had to sit with it for a while – in fact a few days – as I stepped out into the noise and the bustle of my ordinary world.

I felt haunted by the film’s imagery of tender grieving and the paradox of grieving a love torn apart by unforeseen tragedy and the living with love separated from the adored one.

Through the art of film Lowery poses the aesthetic as a response of grief and catastrophe.

A Ghost Story penetrates as a poignant reminder that the blessing of our good luck is to sit in witness to an event that is possible to each of us.

Our shared humanity wants to vouch safe the journey of love and for it not to leave us ill-prepared for the space that remains in the absence of the loved one.

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Kedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Kedi

Directed by: Ceyda Torun

Produced by: Ceyda Torun, Charlie Wuppermann

Starring: Bülent Üstün

Music by: Kira Fontana

Cinematography: Alp Korfali, Charlie Wuppermann.

Dedicated to the street cats and the people of Istanbul who look after them, Kedi is a surprisingly philosophical film.

I’m a cat lover, always have been.  From catching wild kittens out on the farm to forever walking around with cat fluff on my clothes, no matter how much time I spend de-fluffing, there’s always my cat, Cloud’s (AKA Ching, Chong, Chunk’s) signature silver fluff adorning my outfit.

So, I went into Kedi thinking I was walking into a documentary about the culture of Istanbul and the history/relationship of the people with the wild cats who have roamed the streets for over 1000 years: Kedi is so much more and runs far deeper than a history lesson.

What really absorbed me into this film was not the cats but the people who have a relationship with one or many of them.

These are street cats who roam freely around the city but for some reason, they decide to adopt a particular human for food, affection and love.  To then become part of the family.  It’s not the people who are helping the cats, it’s the cats who are helping the people.

One man shared he had a nervous breakdown where no medication could help.  But when he started feeding the street cats he began to talk and laugh again.

There’s a real depth to the relationships between the people and these wild cats.  Leading to discussion about the personality of the cat to statements about the meaning of life.

And how cats are so different to us that they’re like aliens or even superheros with amazing powers, to climb and jump up seemingly impossible places and to always land on their feet.  Yet, we are still able to build a relationship with these bizarre creatures.

The cinematography allows the audience to get up close to the cats, to show the wild nature of their eyes, to follow them around to see their independence and freedom while lounging on the edge of a terrace five stories up, to the street level to see the demand for attention, for love or food or a passer-by wanting to touch their fur and giving them a pat.

It’s fascinating to see this indulgence and to see how tame the street cats really are, which leads to the contemplation of the people and how they reflect about their own lives when relating to their adopted pets.

I always thought of cats particularly when travelling overseas solo, as friends, and finding comfort when one decides to hang out on a chair next to me, keeping me company on my journey.

Kedi opens another layer, allowing the people of Istanbul to talk about their world view and the impact these roaming cats have had on their lives.  I could see the warmth of the people and their indulgence, the cats allowing their sense of adventure and humour to shine through, because these cats wouldn’t be adopting them otherwise.

A beautiful film about humanity and a realistic portrait of the day-to-day lives of the residents of Istanbul.  All captured with some crafty camera work.

A surprisingly thought-provoking film.

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Dunkirk

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MDunkirk

Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.

I’m still trying to figure out the feeling, that swell in the chest I felt while watching Dunkirk.  Whether it was pride or love of humanity or patriotism, Dunkirk was an emotive intersection of timelines during Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of troops from, Dunkirk, France, during World War II.

The film focuses on three different Fronts from:

1. The mole: Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) the soldier who’s been on the ground for a week;

2. To the steadfast Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) for a day;

3. To Farrier (Tom Hardy) the pilot of a Spitfire in the air for an hour.

All of these men are fighting the same war and all of these men are either trying to escape or save the men surrounded by the Sickle Cut (war strategy) the German forces have maneuvered on French soil; the Allied forces stranded on the beach where they desperately wait for ships to take them back to Britain, just across the channel:

Commander Bolton: You can practically see it from here. 
Captain Winnant: What? 
Commander Bolton: Home.

With leaflets falling from the sky depicting the hopelessness of their effort to escape – an arrow pointing: ‘You are here’, surrounded by the enemy and literally being pushed into the sea only to be picked off by fighter pilots dropping bombs, the soldiers watch battleships sink, one after the other to then watch the tide bring in the dead.

But this film isn’t about blood and guts, Dunkirk is about celebrating the small victories and how all those victories eventually add up.

Hence that swell in the chest because there’s this overriding feeling of people doing the best they can and somehow the everyday civilian can make all the difference: Sometimes doing right, wins.

Take that notion and add the suspense of the desperation to escape, full credit going to Hans Zimmer and his soundtrack creating tension with music like a ticking time-bomb.  Director and writer, Christopher Nolan uses little dialogue, instead it’s about the words unspoken, just a nod here and the audience knowing the music is building.

There’s a simplicity to each scene combining the different threads of storyline in real time like a formula pulled together by sound: the low thud of bombs, the droning of jets, the running of boots on sand and bullets popping through the hull of a ship like copper coins hitting tin.  There’s much to be said about the soundtrack, but watching the film on IMAX with that big square screen?  Can I say it didn’t really need it?  But what am I saying, go see that expanse of beach and ocean on IMAX – why not?

Dunkirk

The effort to film the movie on 65mm film (transferred to 70mm for projection) brings the story to life all the more, leaving little room for error.  Dunkirk is such a solid film, with such beautifully orchestrated performances (was also a win to see Harry Styles finally get a haircut!) to see the views from air to the beach to under the water on such a large screen just added more to an already impressive project.

Lastly, I just want to say I usually struggle with war films.  The reality of the violence of war makes my blood boil. I love the fact that there’s no unnecessary violence here.  We all know what happens when a bomb goes off.  We don’t need to see or imagine our ancestors or grandparents getting blown apart.

Nolan has used his talent to bring the true story of Dunkirk to the screen without over-dramatising, allowing us to admire the courage and valour of the civilians of Britain who saved more than 330, 000 soldiers’ lives.

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Baby Driver

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+Baby Driver

Written and Directed by: Edgar Wright

Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

If you’re going to open a film with a car chase, there’s nothing better than synchronising the action to, The John Spencer Blues Explosion.

Now this band brings back some memories – not burn-outs or car chases but I did manage to maroon my VC Commodore on a boulder out on a backroad near Byron Bay.  What a road trip; the music in the tape deck including the, John Spencer.  So, I was already grinning when the opening of Baby Driver exploded onto the screen.

What I didn’t expect was the huge part the sound track played in this film.  Almost to the point of being a musical with the stylised drama and overacting that somehow fit because all the moves were in time to some cool track.  See sound track here…

Obviously the film’s about a driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort).  Who’s managed to get himself into the debt of a criminal mastermind, Doc (Kevin Spacey) who puts crews together to do jobs like rob banks – any Job that requires a driver, Baby gets called.  And like his name there’s something sweet about the guy.

Baby Driver is an interesting blend with this sweetness potentially turning the film into cheese.  But director and screenwriter Edgar Wright has replicated the same tone of comedy and romance and music as his previous films (think, Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013)) but then adding action, reining in all the elements so one didn’t take over from the other but instead complimented: the romance being the motivation; the action creating adrenaline; the comedy for that bit of relief…  Along with camera shots completely in tune with the soundtrack to make a very entertaining film that felt different because of that tone of sweet.

And the love story added a nice touch.  From an absolute kick arse driver opening up to the most amazing car chases I’ve seen on screen to the love Baby finds with the waitress, Debora who dreams of, ‘heading west on 20 in a car I can’t afford, with a plan I don’t have’.

It’s a match made in heaven.

And I really liked the cast here – the character, Baby, needing a strong, likable performance from Ansel Elgort to get away with those dance moves which he did when he could make cars dance the same way.  And Lily James as Debora (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)) reminded me of the late Brittany Murphy which made me a little sad.

I loved seeing Jon Hamm as the bad arse Buddy.  And Kevin Spacey as the master criminal, added a little grounding.

With initial concern about the title, Baby Driver (I mean, what the?!  Baby?!  How cheesy is that!), I get the tone after seeing the film: that 50s vibe coming through with the setting of the diner and Debora the waitress wearing those old-style outfits with a classic openness of character you’d expect from earlier times with no cynicism in sight.  I get it.

So, not the action/thriller I was expecting, instead, Baby Driver’s kinda cool, without being slick.

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The Beguiled

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MThe Beguiled

Written for the Screen and Directed by: Sofia Coppola

Based on the Novel by: Thomas Cullinan

and the Screenplay by: Albert Maltz and Grimes Grice

Produced by: Youree Henley, Sofia Coppola

Music by: Phoenix based on Moteverdi’s ‘Magnificat’

Director of Photography: Philippe Le Sourd, AFC

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.

The Beguiled is set in 1864, three years into the American Civil War.  Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), Alicia (Elle Fanning) and four younger girls remain cloistered like nuns behind imposing wrought iron fencing that encloses the Southern girls’ boarding house, where Miss Martha and Edwina used to teach.

Three years is a long time for women to be hidden away, following a daily routine of sewing, lessons and the half-hearted attempt to control the Southern jungle threatening to overgrow the old plantation house and all those in it, like the wild vines, mosquitoes and mist represent the wild nature of the women, barely held in check by their day-to-day routine.

When Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier, is found injured amongst the old cyprus and oak trees, he’s brought back to the well-ordered school-house where he’s nursed back to health.  The presence of a man in the house after so many years changes the atmosphere, creating tension.

Canons explode in the distance and the heat continues but the insects don’t seem to be noticed as much when there’s a man in the house.  A charming man who’s able to relate to all the women, each of them special from the strong Miss Martha to the quiet yet beautiful Edwina, the bored and precocious Alicia, to the innocence of the younger girls.  Corporal McBurney charms them all.  The Irishman believing himself to be truly lucky to have such attention, not knowing the danger of a lonely woman’s heart.

And like good milk left out in the heat turns sour, the women’s hold on normal life slowly twists into something dark and cold.

 

Director Sofia Coppola knows how to show the danger of love turned bad.  She’s adapted the original film, staring Clint Eastwood as a man trapped by the women he conned into loving him, and turned the story to the point-of-view of the women.

The cast is so important in this story as the film is all about the behaviour and interaction between the women when a man enters their isolated world.  And Coppola has returned with an imposing cast with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning who worked with Sofia previously.  You can see the actors are comfortable here and insight into the character is given by each solid performance.  Nicole Kidman was made for her character, Miss Martha.

Did I like the film?

The Beguiled is a quiet film, kept simple with minimal dressing.  Needing a quiet audience, it took me a while to get absorbed into the story.

The southern climate and setting of the beautiful old plantation house were the highlight for me. All recorded on film (with the older aspect ratio of 1:66/I) to show rays of sunshine through mist and the romance of candle light glowing in this isolated house like a glass eye.  The setting enveloping the audience only to turn a blind eye to the happenings behind closed doors.

The backdrop needed to be simple to show the complicated nuances between the characters because the film is all about the subtle and not-so-subtle behaviour of women around a man – the instinct hard to deny and always simmering under the politeness of society.

But where is society during war?  What society is there for bored, isolated, Christian, red-blooded women?

Sofia Coppola says she made the film with, Misery (1990), based on the novel written by Stephen King, in mind and there is that element of the horror of being trapped because of love and obsession.

But, The Beguiled is more subtle, showing how a woman can turn when in competition for a man’s attention, that shift demonstrated well here with skilled performances from a cast well-handled by a careful director.

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It Comes At Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA15+It Comes At Night

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults

Cinematography: Drew Daniels

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Riley Keogh.

A post-apocalyptic, psychological survival film that digs at those paranoid fears of sickness and who’s going to die next.

It Comes At Night is a quiet film.

It’s all about the suspense, the weight given to silence, misunderstanding and fear.  In the end of days, you can only trust family.

When a stranger (feature film debut for Christopher Abbott) breaks into the isolated home of Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), the story of sickness that’s infested the population slowly unfolds.

Don’t expect a flashy, blood-soaked horror, this film’s about the suspense and fear of who to trust and if that trust is the best way to survive.

Clever devises are used by cinematographer, Drew Daniels who also worked with director Trey Edward Shults previously in the film, Krisha (2014).

The careful pacing and detail shown to the audience is testament to Shults not only writing the story but directing, taking complete control over the unfolding of a mystery so the film’s not about the plague but about the fear of contracting the sickness.

That’s what I liked about the film.  The desperation was held at bay by people you can relate to.  Not losing it.  Just trying to keep it together only to fall apart at a misunderstanding or a bad dream, and the undeniable knowledge of what desperation can breed.

Instead of sickness and madness, it’s the fear that becomes contagious shown by the wearing of gas masks and the feeling of isolation by depicting a stencilled jagged branch against an overcast sky.

And the story felt authentic.  The audience shown just enough to believe the reality of being isolated during an event unknown, but known enough to be feared.  Like we’re trapped in the forest with the family.  Wondering at the barking of a dog at persons unseen and a locked red door mysteriously opened.

Each character had their part to play and solid performances were given by the entire cast.  The tension between Travis and Kim, the young mother and wife of the invading stranger and only viable female for the teenager, shown brilliantly through a twitch of an eyebrow and the nervous clenching of a jaw all used to show what cannot be said.  Each subtle gesture used to tell the story.

It Comes at Night isn’t a thriller, Shults uses the psychology of fear instead of blood and guts for this unique horror, and I couldn’t help being absorbed by the suspense.