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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Adeel Akhtar

The Big Sick (2017)

Disease can kill. But also heal. Right? Not sure.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani comic living in the windy city of Chicago and, along with his fellow comics, is just trying to get by and hopefully, hit the big-time. But his whole life begins to change when he meets an American graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) at one of his stand-up shows and immediately, the two hit it off. The only issue standing in the way of their relationship is that Kumail’s parents want him to get married within his religion. If he doesn’t comply, then guess? He’s practically kicked out of the family and never allowed to contact them ever again. It’s a shame, but it’s something that Kumail, despite his family’s best wishes, has sort of been trying to live against. Which is why Emily doesn’t know how to react to all of this. As a result, they break-up and Kumail is left back to dating women within his religion. But then, suddenly, Emily is in a coma and even worse, her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter), travel all the way up up from North Carolina to see what’s happening with their daughter. It puts Kumail in an awkward situation, but it also makes him want to not just give this family a shot, but possibly even the relationship a shot. When she wakes up, that is.

Is this love? Or just a stand-in?

And here’s the real kicker: It’s all true. Yup. Co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon are, get this, a real life married-couple who met exactly like this and because of that, we’re allowed to sit back, watch and enjoy their dark, twisted, sometimes funny, but always sweet romance blossom (?). Which is odd because the Big Sick takes on so many different plot-threads and tones, that it’s a true wonder how any of it comes together in a cohesive manner, or at all.

Director Michael Showlater knows what he’s doing with this kind of material, in that he knows how to play-up the laughs, but also the sadness and sometimes weightiness of it, too. It’s a slippery-slope that Showlater balances around and while he doesn’t always make it work perfectly, the balancing act is way more skillful, the more you think about it and realize that he’s taking somebody’s else’s own material/life, and doing it all justice. It’s nothing flashy, it’s nothing spectacular, and it sure as hell isn’t anything surprising – it’s just sweet and rather good-natured.

Basically like nothing else the guy has ever done before, which is all the more surprising.

But still, it deserves to be noted that another famous figure had a hand in this pie, and it was Judd Apatow. And yes, you feel every bit of it. See, the Big Sick is one of those comedies that deals with a blog plot, but also likes to get side-tracked every so often by random subplots, characters, and jokes that, sometimes work, and other times, don’t. In this movie’s case, it’s hard not to imagine this movie slicing out at least ten-to-15-minutes worth of footage, because after the two-hour mark, it can feel a bit straining.

That look when you can’t decide whether to head for the hills or not.

And it’s not as if the material isn’t funny, or interesting enough – it’s just that it’s all so predictable that, after awhile, you just want it to get over with. We know that Emily survives, we know that she wakes up to smell the cauliflower (or in this case, Kumail), and we know that the two eventually fall in love and get married. So, honestly, why is it taking so long to get there? And better yet, where’s the rest of the story in the film? We get all of this talk about arraigned-marriages and the sort of controversy surrounding Kumail’s companionship to a white woman, but when it comes time to tell that part of the story, the movie sort of lingers over it.

It’s as if, oh no, it wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Either way, I’m clearly taking away a lot from the Big Sick and I shouldn’t; it’s a funny, heartfelt, and well-acted movie that doesn’t live up to all of the insane praise it’s been getting from every person and their grand-mother, but it’s still a nice, small, and sweet diversion from all of the loudness of the summer blockbusters. It’s the kind of movie that people can go into, expecting a romantic-comedy, getting one, but also being a little happy that there was a little more going on than just two attractive and talented people finding one another, falling in love, and yeah, getting married. It’s also a movie about culture, about family, and no matter how insane they both may all drive us, they are, after all, what makes us, us.

So it’s best to just appreciate it all for what it is and shut the hell up!

Consensus: Despite being overly long and uneven, the Big Sick still works because it’s funny, heartfelt, and an interesting rom-com that goes beyond the usual conventions of the formula.

7 / 10

See? They’re all fine!

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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Pan (2015)

I’ve always felt like Peter Pan needed a little more Nirvana.

Everybody knows the story, but you know what? Imma tell it anyway! When he was just a baby, Peter (Levi Miller) was left on the front-stoop of an orphanage by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) who obviously couldn’t take care of him. Fast forward 12 or so years later, and Peter has grown-up a little bit, trying to make ends meet in England during WWII. One fateful night, however, he’s kidnapped by a mysterious group of pirates and taken away to this strange fantasy world known as Neverland. Here, Peter finds out that he can fly and has all sorts of mystical powers, but is currently on the run from Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who, for one reason or another, just wants to get ahold of Peter because he has some sort of magic powers and is, for lack of a better term, “the chosen one”. Along with a newfound friend named Hook (Garret Hedlund), Peter will venture all across Neverland to escape Blackbeard and, hopefully, be able to find his mom, whom he believes to still be alive and setting up shop somewhere in this magical world of Neverland, where practically anything is possible. So long as you put your mind to it.

I guess "Polly" was off the table?

I guess Polly was off the table?

There’s a line early on in Pan that perfectly summarizes what it is that this movie thinks of itself. Garrett Hedlund’s Hook character says something, in his awfully mouthy and odd Southern accent, along the lines of, “You came here in a floating ship, I think the idea of what’s real has all but flown out the window.” Once again, I highly doubt that those are the actual words he said, but you get the point; this is basically a case of the writers and director getting together and saying, “Hey, guys. Let’s make a fun movie here. No bull. No crap. No nothing. Just fun”. And that’s what Pan actually is.

For awhile, that is.

Eventually, what happens to Pan, is that it forgets about its cheekiness and instead, delves way too deep into its own mythology where mermaids, pirates, floating boys, and white women playing Native Americans. Which, on paper, sounds so incredibly fun, and it is for a good amount of the film, but once it loses its silly edge, it gets extremely dull and boring. All of a sudden, we’re being told the story of Peter Pan once again, which is fine and all for new viewers who may have not previously known about this story already, but to the countless others who already know each and everything about it, it’ll prove to be a bit of a bore.

Which is a shame because I like what Joe Wright seems to be doing here. He knows that because the tale of Peter Pan is, essentially, a fairy tale, that he should approach it as such. There’s a whole lot of self-aware jokes here that are winking so much at the audience, that it practically breaks a bone or two in doing so. Which, honestly, is fine with me; some of the best kids movies, are those that work as well for the parents, just as they do for the kids. Sure, some of the jokes may go over the little kiddies’ heads, but honestly, they’ll be fine anyway!

After all, it’s a Joe Wright film, which means that everything’s pretty, gaudy, over-the-top, and as colorful as a Gay Pride parade, which means that for the kids, they’ll have plenty more to focus on than just the subtlety within the jokes, or the fact that the pirates in this movie endlessly chant Blitzkrieg Bop and Smells Like Teen Spirit together. Is it all weird? Kind of. But I’ll take that in my kids movies, rather than watching some same old, recycled story that just caters to the younglings and not give a single hoot about who else may be coming out to watch this movie.

Because, without us older-people, how would these kids be able to get to the movies in the first place?

But, like I said, this all begins to go down the tubes once the second-half of the movie comes into play. In fact, if I was to be even more specific as to when the movie begins to turn the other cheek, get all mega-serious and lose its sense of wacky fun, is when we’re introduced to Rooney Mara’s whitewashed Tiger Lily. That’s not to say that the casting of her to begin with is more than enough to take you out of the film (although it is quite ridiculous), but it’s the part where I realized that the movie didn’t really have anywhere else to go, or anything else fun to do. It was just going through the same old motions. Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

Yep. Totally not white or anything.

While I’m at it, though, I guess I should point out that I’m not just pissed at the movie for casting a white actress in the role of an obvious and rather iconic Native American character, but because they cast Rooney Mara in the role, a talented actress who deserves a whole lot more than just this. Yes, it’s ridiculously cynical that the studios felt like they couldn’t have cast a Native American in a role that was most definitely made for one, but it’s also a waste of a supreme talent that deserves to be elsewhere and more often than not, actually shows it. Most shots of Mara here are of her just sleep-walking through her lines, occasionally letting something resembling a smile or a chuckle crack through and it just makes you want to hope that she got a solid paycheck here, so that she doesn’t have to bother with these kinds of big-budget, mainstream pieces again.

Let’s hope that she just stays in the beloved indie world, like she always has.

Aside from Mara, everybody else seems to be having fun, although nobody’s ever given that one, big push they needed to make them stand-out from the rest of the film. Hugh Jackman is clearly enjoying his time playing Blackbeard, but doesn’t get enough opportunities to seem sinister and instead, just comes off like a running-joke. I know this is a kids movie and we don’t necessarily want our villain beheading innocents to prove his menace, but at the same time, we don’t want him to just become a gag that the movie can point and laugh at, especially when we know he’s going to have to have that final showdown at the end. Garrett Hedlund is also having fun too as Hook, even though he’s merely just a sidekick that falls down, gets beaten up, and looks silly.

And Amanda Seyfried is hardly even here. Poor girl.

Consensus: Joe Wright is throwing everything at the wall with Pan and seeing what sticks, which can sometimes be fun and exciting, but at other times, can get a bit tiring and odd, even when it seems like the cast are having the times of their lives.

6 / 10

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won't any longer.

See Amanda Seyfried? Good, cause after this, you won’t any longer.

The Dictator (2012)

“Scripts suck!” Or at least that’s what Sacha used to think.

The story centers on General Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), the deposed Repubic of Wadiya dictator who makes his first trip to the United States. Here he finds love in a very strange place and even stranger person (Anna Faris).

I guess a scripted Cohen film was pretty much inevitable, as his star has gone up in recent years and no matter how hard he tries to hide it all with a beard or funny accents, people were bound to recognize him. Still, it’s mostly the same thing this time around except for the fact that everybody knows what he’s going to say next.

Regardless of what the trailers, posters, or shocking appearances by Cohen himself may have you thinkinh, this is nowhere near as funny as Borat or even Bruno for that matter (I know I’m in the minority with the latter), but it’s not all that bad either. I was definitely a little shaky about this flick at first, but after awhile, I realized all of the comedy sticks to the usual raunchy, offensive, and mean type of humor that we always get with Cohen flicks and it still works even though all of the jokes aren’t improvised. Still, the film had me laughing a lot more than I expected just because it’s able to get lean and mean without ever saying sorry and that’s what you gotta do. Do I think they maybe pushed it to the edge a couple of times here? Of course, but then again, when doesn’t Cohen do that?  No race, gender, social class, or political figure is left unscathed and that’s pretty much all in a day’s good work when it comes to what Cohen does.

However, as funny as most of the jokes may be, the film does hit the occasional dry-spot where it feels like it’s time to build up character some more. The whole love story between Aladeen and Anna Faris is pretty lame but then again, I guess you have to have to have this sort of thing in a comedy, just to give it something. They also had this same element in Cohen’s other flicks; however, they were played with more of a joking, sarcastic way rather than being so straight-up and serious. It also disappointed me that Farris wasn’t anything special or funny even as she’s some type of Vegan-type chick that Aladeen falls in love with.  This role could have definitely been played by any other actress.

Also, as much as I may say that this flick is mean and lean, sometimes it’s just too safe. There was a huge opportunity for Cohen to dive into some real, splitting political satire here but he more or less, just plays it safe with an abundance of extra raunchy jokes to show that he really has a knack for grossing people the hell out. Worked, but also seemed like Cohen was getting a tad soft on us.

Regardless of how soft his comedy may have gotten here this time around, Sacha Baron Cohen still delivers the goods when it comes to his brand of shock comedy. Cohen is  known for playing these strange, politically incorrect characters; and the despotic dictator, General Aladeen, is no different. This guy is an ass, doesn’t know what’s right in the world, and shows no signs of ever changing his ways; but hey, it’s all good as long as Cohen is able to make us laugh, and make us laugh is what he does. Can’t really say anything else that hasn’t already been said about him and his character here is definitely no different than any other he has ever played, but Cohen is still the selling-point of this flick and with good reason.

Consensus: At a swift 82 minutes (including credits), The Dictator doesn’t over-stay its welcome and shows that Cohen is still able to make his raunchy, mean, and offensive brand of comedy work despite pulling out of some very key comedy moments that would have really taken this to be more of a satire, and not just another ordinary, Hollywood comedy.

6.5/10=Rental!!