The Big Sick Review

Movie Rundown is a take on upcoming movies, recent releases and film news. It’s about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth a miss.

Quirky, funny, relevant. This is an accurate description of both Kumail Nanjiani and his true-story-romcom-drama. The film is touching, the characters are believable yet funny and it’s worth seeing. That said, those 124 minutes felt as though they dragged on for far longer, and as with any dramedy, the pacing was a little off. Yet Kumail’s comedy always feels this way, the awkwardness, the strange pace, the poor timing, it only adds to his character and the inevitable laughs. So perhaps that’s only a personal criticism.

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself, a struggling comic whose Pakistani family is desperate for him to enter an arranged marriage. Instead, Kumail falls in love with Emily, who is equally awkward and adorable. Their relationship is believable, probably because it’s based on Kumail’s real life. They have some very cute ups and a traumatic down. Emily falls ill, ending up in a medically-induced coma. Kumail must befriend her parents, deal with his parents’ reaction to their relationship, and handle his own feelings about Emily’s health. The best part? There’s no rush to the airport. There’s no screaming at the sky. There’s no kissing in the rain. Their emotions are raw, but real and understated, which makes it all the more poignant.

The Big Sick has a broader appeal than it may seem. It’s not niche. The laughs across the cinema were plentiful, to the point where I missed a handful of dialogue. Though it may come across as a millennial-hipster movie – he’s an uber driver who likes old horror movies – it’s pretty relatable. Kumail struggles pursuing a passion that his family don’t suport, he falls in love with a girl his parents disapprove of, and he really really loves The X Files. The tensions of interracial relationships feel very real in this film, it alerts us that even in 2017, this is still a controversial topic, one which is not nearly explored enough in films. There are so little people of colour on our screens, and even less interracial couples, this was honestly a breath of fresh air.

However, I do have criticisms for this near-perfect film. I feel that the ‘sick partner’ plotline is a little tired at this point, but it’s excusable since it’s a true-story. Not only did it actually happen, it was believable and necessary to the plot unlike many films who simply use the ‘ailing lover’ trope. Though it didn’t feel like an empty use of the trope, I’m upset we didn’t see more of Emily and Kumail interacting, who are one of the best movie couples in recent years. The film’s big problem was its run time. Though it wasn’t a long film, I felt as though I was watching the extended edition. There were many points where I thought the film would end and it didn’t. Though most scenes are interesting, emotional or funny, a few could’ve been cut to help balance the tone.

The movie was an Odeon Screen Unseen, and it was a perfect choice. It was unconventional, something most of us wouldn’t choose to see. In my case, my local cinema usually doesn’t get anything other than the blockbusters (we didn’t even get Carol). As I don’t think it would have been shown, it’s something I’m very glad I got the chance to see, and I’m thrilled I could see it early! I would always recommend Odeon Screen Unseen as it costs £5, which is far less than any cinema ticket, and it’s always a great surprise. This film is not a must-see, but a you-should-probably-try-to-see-it. It’s offbeat and funny and takes on racism in a way that should happen far more often. Romantic comedies need more people of colour as love interests, The Big Sick is a shining example.

Movies like What If wish they were this movie.

ICYMI Review: S-Town

In case you missed this podcast from March of 2017, here’s a review of it to urge you not to forget to watch it.

We love conspiracy theories. The rise of YouTube conspiracy theory videos is upon us, and it’s created a thirst for mystery, which may be quenched by Brian Reed’s gripping and grim account of life in the rural American South. In 2012, the staff of podcast This American Life were alerted to an alleged cover up of a young boy’s murder in Woodstock, Alabama. It is not a surprise that such a premise was taken on to be produced as a podcast – a new genre of true crime documentary has emerged since Netflix’s Making A Murderer. We want a mystery where we have to work out the answer. S-Town could have quite easily taken this approach, but it didn’t. It’s not about the distrustful establishment or a gruesome murder mystery, but about the man who contacted This American Life’s staff: John B. McLemore.

 

McLemore initially appears unlikable, rude and hysterical. He raves about every potential disaster currently facing the humanity, depressing himself with hopeless statistics. Throughout the first episode, one question looms over the audience: is he a conspiracy theorist desperately seeking attention? As Reed investigates the alleged murder of Dylan Nicols, he quickly discovers that not only is there no cover up, but Nicols is alive and well. The podcast could have ended then and there on episode two with no apparent mystery, but even after this deception, McLemore keeps in touch with Reed. They email for three years. Reed’s connection to McLemore grows, as does the audience’s. The mystery returns when a very real tragedy faces Woodstock: McLemore’s suicide. Reed’s reaction is harrowing and raw, shown in the audio of the moment he is told of McLemore’s fate. It’s difficult not to catch the lump in his throat.

 

The following five episodes focus on the life of John B. McLemore and those who are left to deal with his loss. More and more people come forward with their stories about McLemore, creating more mysteries. He was once a kind, funny man with many friends. He repaired antique clocks, making him one of America’s best horologists. His life was one simply weighed down by the bounds of an inescapable, intolerant small town. More than a mystery, McLemore becomes a protagonist. Though he is a real man who once lives, he seems to go through dramatic character development, once we learn others’ views of him. Reed contacts a list of people McLemore wanted contacted as soon as he died, and some of them seem as though they’re talking about a different man altogether. The podcast is a journey through his life, uncovering what led to his untimely demise.

 

The people of Woodstock are unforgettable: the troublemaker saved by McLemore, the ailing mother, the apparent money-grabbing relatives. They seem like characters, each serving a different role in McLemore’s story, with a different perspective on who this man was. Reed’s conversations with these people allow us to understand them and their intentions. By the end, no one is black and white. No one seems completely bad or completely good. However, this understanding solves no mysteries. The most intriguing, if not cliché of which, is the rumour of John B. McLemore’s gold. He owned a great deal of land, and many people in the town believe it is buried somewhere in those acres. Although the mysteries keep appearing, McLemore’s sad fate has an unexpected kind of resolution in the final episode, which is worth the time spent on the series.

 

The lack of visuals could be off-putting for some, especially as found footage is a staple of the documentary genre. Yet the podcast incorporates hours of audio from the others involved in the story. We hear exactly how McLemore and Woodstock sound and feel. It is a candid window into the town. The conversations included involve the audience even more, as though we are searching through hours of audio for clues; we are the detectives. Emotions are presented: despair, anger, deafening silence. All 7 episodes are around an hour a piece, and are perfect for binge-listening while you do anything else – cooking, cleaning or as background noise for that writing. Although, you might want to save yourself a day to listen to it. Once you turn on the first episode, you won’t be able to stop.

Four Thoughts Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Here is a review of Spider-Man: Homecoming in the form of four in-depth thoughts – a movie I would describe as the high school movie of the summer. Sure, it’s Marvel’s superheroes, but it’s such a teen movie! Come on, there’s even a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Zendaya’s Michelle

Michelle is a witty, makeup-free, socially-aware bookworm – but shockingly, this doesn’t mean she needs a Cinderella moment, she’s perfect already. This might be a statement, but I firmly believe she’s the new Hermione Granger that we, and little girls everywhere, need. Her appearance in the film is understated, but each is memorable; from poking deadpan fun at Peter Parker, to her casual outpourings of intelligence, to her desire to stage a protest while she visits Washington. She doesn’t fall into the category of a ‘love interest’ – she’s not some quirky, awkward, nerdy girl. Michelle is her own character, an independent, free-thinking, headstrong role model for viewers. By far, her most fantastic scene is her refusal to admire the Washington Monument, due to it being built by slaves – the matter-of-fact, understated way she presents this revelation leaves her teacher speechless. Zendaya’s socially-conscious attitude has absolutely been carried over to her character, and I could not think of a better person to present this character. If this hasn’t sold Michelle to you, still get excited, because Michelle reveals something in her final scene which will have fans begging for that sequel right this second.

 

The Lack of Tony Stark

Initially, I was worried that this film would be Iron Man 4 Featuring Spider-Man. Though Iron Man’s first film drew $585.2 million at the box office, setting the MCU up and giving us the absolute pleasure it is today, I want to call time on Tony. It’s an unpopular opinion, but Tony Stark is boring compared to most of the MCU’s new recruits, and Iron Man 3 was a careless money-grab with a very bare plot. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming feels grounded, it’s chocked-full of easter eggs and its characters are lovable. Tony Stark makes a few comical appearances in a mentor-like role. This was absolutely perfect. By keeping him a little more low-key, Peter Parker had more room to develop as a character, rather than feeding an already successful member of the franchise.

 

Spider-Man As a Kind-Hearted Superhero

Tom Holland’s Peter Parker is not motivated by personal demons, a tragic lab accident or fame. He is motivated by his desire to help others. Whether it’s giving an elderly woman directions, or saving the life of someone who has tried to kill him, he always tries to do the right thing. This incarnation of Peter Parker is a great role model for young boys, as he goes against the toxic-masculinity which is so often expected of young men today. He isn’t afraid to be emotional. Peter also has a great relationship with his friends, and he’s a proud geek. Peter should be here to teach kids that working hard at school will get you somewhere, and no one should be afraid of their intelligence. Not only is he smart, Peter is a total geek. He gets excited over building a Lego Death Star, and wears some geeky t-shirts I could only wish to own. Peter also chooses to be grounded, he does not wish to be recognised for his good deeds and he eventually decides to continue being Queens’ resident superhero who helps out as best he can. First and foremost, Peter wants to protect those he loves, and everybody else in the world, apparently. He is a breath of fresh air, a new breed of superhero that we all needed.

 

Racial Diversity

The MCU has been overwhelmingly white for too long. A problem across the film industry is the lack of non-white characters. Marvel is attempting to correct their failures in this department, and whilst we still haven’t had a female led Marvel movie, this film makes strides in racial diversity. In an attempt to reflect Queens as New York’s most diverse area, many characters of different cultural backgrounds appear in both minor and major parts. Jacob Batalon’s Ned is of Filipino descent, but most importantly, he is hilarious. Yet, Ned is not mocked for his status as the geeky best friend: most of his jokes actually come from his relatability, so don’t be surprised when he gains fan-favourite status. Model Laura Harrier is Liz, she’s Molly Ringwald’s Princess, the love interest – but here’s the clincher, she’s smart! Instead of a blonde cheerleader, the popular girl gets to be a smart black woman. Harrier’s Liz and Zendaya’s Michelle are both very important characters for the film industry right now, as neither have been forced into stereotypically black roles. They are not hot-headed racist caricatures. Both girls get to be smart, funny and desirable in prominent roles. The film industry needs to take note – roles can’t be racially typecast today. Though there are leaps and bounds to be made, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good starting point.

Baby Driver Review

Movie Rundown is a take on upcoming movies, recent releases and film news. It’s about what’s worth seeing and what’s worth a miss.

Edgar Wright’s first venture into straight-up action is a treat for the eyes and the ears.

Wright is one of my favourite directors, his cornetto trilogy is classic, quotable, and perfectly British – whilst they are predominantly comedy films, they have their fair share of action sequences, never mind if it’s only fighting the blanks in the men’s. I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about with Wright making an action movie, something he had already achieved with his previous comedies, and Scott Pilgrim’s comic fight scenes. Why would Baby Driver be any different?

Baby Driver follows the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), the young getaway driver of bank-robbery boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). In terms of acting, this film is phenomenal. This is exactly the role Elgort has needed, since his horrific part in The Divergent Series (God rest its soul), he’s successfully broken away from teen heartthrob to a legitimate actor. Spacey is, as always, brilliant. He’s funny, lovable and hate-able. Lily James deserves props, if only for her occasional singing. CJ Jones, as Baby’s foster father, a silent voice of reason on account of being deaf, may be the best of the bunch. By the end, he will have you in tears.

However, acting isn’t the only success of Baby Driver, the music must be commented on. Wright’s previous experience with action-set-to-music comes in the form of Shaun of the Dead’s Don’t Stop Me Now scene. But seriously, this film is as good as that scene is funny. Baby’s need to play music works well with the character’s unique struggle (tinnitus in this case), and is an equally unique take on the post-Guardians of the Galaxy music/movie genre. The bank jobs set to music are extremely satisfying and exciting, if only from an artistic perspective as I may not be the world’s biggest action fan. The music, and the occasional lack of music, set the emotions and tone of every scene so well. This film can’t be missed – nor can its soundtrack!

The film is heartfelt. It may revolve around the exciting, glamorous world of choreographed movie crime, but it is not sugarcoated. Struggles emerge, people are lost. By the film’s third act, no one is safe, and you’re never sure what’s around the corner. Baby Driver was a totally different experience to what I expected, but Wright did not disappoint at all. It’s different to anything he’s done before, because while the film is still funny, it’s predominantly an action movie. Most of the pleasure in this film comes from its adrenaline rush, not its belly-laughs.

This movie was an Odeon Screen Unseen – £5 at your local Odeon to see a movie before general release, but here’s the catch, you don’t know what its going to be. I’ve only seen two bad films in the past two years of going, so I would highly recommend the experience!

Baby Driver is this year’s alternative blockbuster – do yourself a favour and catch it fast.

Do Mulder and Scully Need Another Comeback?

Fox (the network, not the Mulder) have announced an eleventh season of the genre-defining ‘90s sci-fi show. This run will be four episodes longer than 2016’s revival, which will hopefully leave more room for a comprehensible plot. I expected a revival to bring closure to Mulder and Scully’s ever-complicated story, but the agonising cliff-hanger of 2016’s revival almost ensured that another series was on its way. No matter how agonising that cliff-hanger, no matter what we’re wondering about Scully’s alien DNA, no matter how much we really, really, really want our favourite agents to run off into the sunset together, we should consider whether The X Files should be reopened at all.

When The X Files’ second feature film was released in 2008, it was the ultimate disappointment. Sure, the episodes that focused on Scully’s religious beliefs were interesting given her scepticism. It was fun to see those roles reversed. But it wasn’t fun for The X Files to utilise the scandals of the Catholic church for some confusing mystery. It tried to be relevant, but honestly may have been a little offensive. As well as this, it was downright boring. I’ll admit, I didn’t have a completely terrible time watching it, because I’m a sucker for Mulder and Scully’s fanservice quiet life. But fanservice can’t fill a whole film. I Want To Believe needed aliens, mystery, monsters, especially if it was going to use Mulder’s iconic motto. This comeback appeared to be case closed for Mulder and Scully – they didn’t seem to be coming back, but our love for nostalgia prevailed, and we looked past this wobble.

The X Files’ six-episode revival hit our screens in January 2016. At the time, I had only just started the series’ original run. The old episodes were so brilliant, and I was so desperate to catch up before the final episode aired that I finished the whole thing in a little over a month. When I look back at it, season 10 had two good episodes. One was Home Again, which had a good monster of the week and that emotional attachment we all missed. The other, of course, Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster. If the title wasn’t enough to sell me, it was the writer and director. Although Darrin Morgan has written very few episodes of The X Files, his are undeniably the most memorable. Where the mythology may have aged, Morgan’s style has not. It was quirky, funny and packed with references. Though the nostalgia goggles may have contributed, they certainly did not carry the episode. The other four episodes? Underwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see Mulder and Scully again. Of course I’ll be watching season 11, and maybe I’ll even religiously rewatch the others in preparation, but that doesn’t mean it should keep returning. Above all else, The X Files needs closure, something season 7 tried to bring us. Season 8 and 9 are where The X Files lost its magic because something fundamental was missing: Mulder and Scully’s dynamic. The two agents have to be together, sceptic and believer, chasing the unknown. If we lose that, we lose The X Files. Doggett couldn’t replace them, nor could the actually-ok Reyes. I bring this up because I fear losing Mulder and Scully again, to Agents Miller and Einstein. They are names I had to google, because they’re only memorable as cardboard caricatures of an iconic duo. Einstein is annoying, something Scully never was. Miller is bland, an adjective I couldn’t imagine throwing at my favourite Fox. If these characters replace Mulder and Scully, we’ll only have a worse Doggett and Reyes situation on our hands.

However, there is hope. One man could save this series: Vince Gilligan. As a fan of the show, Gilligan submitted a script to the show, for the season 2 episode ‘Soft Light’. He went on to join the team and wrote some of the series’ best episodes. He wrote the fantastic season 5 comedy episode “Bad Blood”, which is Gillian Anderson’s favourite episode as she so loves to remind us. “Pusher” from season 3 was one of his earlier works, which will be remembered for its tense Russian Roulette scene, as well as putting us off the colour cerulean for the rest of our lives. Gilligan has since moved on to his own successes with the iconic Breaking Bad, and was unable to return for season 10 due to commitments to Breaking Bad’s spin off Better Call Saul. He expressed regret at this inability to take part in the revival, something with which we can all sympathise. If season 11 is to be a success, we need Gilligan back. Besides, he owes The X Files; not only did it give him his big break, but without the episode “Drive”, he would never have met Bryan Cranston, and there would be no Walter White.

When considering The X Files’ track record of an underwhelming return, perhaps we shouldn’t be so excited about season 11. But if the right changes are made, if we see Gilligan, more Morgan, and a lot of Mulder and Scully, it could be third time lucky. Besides, how could we deny the opportunity to watch David and Gillian on every chat show once again. Personally, I’m hoping for an SNL skit this time around.