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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Michael Showalter

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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Hello, My Name is Doris (2016)

Oh, how far we’ve come since the days of the Flying Nun.

With the recent passing of her mother, Doris (Sally Field) is left to, basically, fend for herself. No worries, as it’s something that she’s been doing for quite some time, but now that she’s nearly 70, the time has come and gone for hoarding, taking the ferry to-and-from work, and not having any particular motivation in life. Though, after a attending a seminar by a motivational speaker (Peter Gallagher), Doris realizes that she has plenty of life to live and it’s her opportunity to grab it while she still can – even if that means, well, pining after her much younger co-worker John (Max Greenfield). And because Doris is so infatuated with John, she can’t keep herself away from stalking him on Facebook, at the office, or trying her hardest to hang out with him, every opportunity she gets. Eventually, she starts to win over John and believes that her dream may just come true. However, it’s also at the expense of her best friends, as well as her own mental-health.

At least it isn't Nicholas Sparks!

At least it isn’t Nicholas Sparks!

It’s great to see such a seasoned vet of the silver screen like Sally Field get roles like Doris. While it’s nowhere near the kind of role that would make us think, “Oh, well they could have given it to anyone,” it’s still also the kind of role that reminds us why she’s just so lovable and cute in the first place. Even at nearly 70, Sally Field can still make wonders with what she can do with a character.

Even in something as fine and okay as Hello, My Name is Doris.

And the only reason why I say that the movie is “fine and okay”, is solely due to the fact that it deals with two different tones and ideas, yet, doesn’t always have the right idea of how to balance them. For one, it’s a movie about an elderly lady getting with the times and finding her new spirit with the younger, much hipper generation, but on the other hand, it’s a movie an elderly lady who is slowly, but surely, coming to terms with her mortality and how, in some ways, she’s only got a few good years left and she might as well make the best of them, even if that does mean putting herself in a very troubling situation. Because of these two different movies colliding, Hello, My Name is Doris doesn’t always feel like the tragic-comedy it wants to clearly be, but co-writer/director Michael Showalter clearly treads the fine line between both.

In ways, too, the movie is very funny, as well as very sad, with one clear attention to the former, and not so less on the later. What’s perhaps actually hilarious about the movie is that there’s a lot of jokes made at the expense of this hipster culture, their weird, electronic music they listen, the odd, seemingly old-timey hobbies they take up (like knitting), and how their lives seem to be so run with technology, that it’s almost too difficult for them to embrace the real world around them. While the movie never tries to make this its prerogative, there’s still plenty of moments where you get the idea that someone like Doris, an older, but seemingly fun and vibrant lady, could actually throw herself into this world and into this life, and nobody would really push back.

The movie could have easily been about how out-of-place and fish-out-of-water Doris is in this younger, much faster world, but really, the movie doesn’t make itself about that. If anything, a lot of the characters want to hang out with Doris more than she actually knows and they treat her just like they would any co-worker; they may not be the best of friends, but their still easygoing enough that they don’t seem like snobs. This extra attention to detail makes the movie feel like so much more than just your average comedy, and make it seem more sweet.

Then again, there is that tragedy-aspect of the movie that comes in, but doesn’t always work.

That Doris has some sort of a mental illness (what with all the hoarding and all), makes it seem like the movie will make some sort of point about it, or better yet, try to have us understand it better. But it sort of doesn’t. This is a problem because the movie does show many of scenes where Doris is clearly having some sort of mental breakdown and doesn’t always understand what’s going on around her, but then not know what to do with them. It’s as if Showlater wants to develop this idea more, but doesn’t want to get too down in the dumps and take us away from the more charming, funny bits that the movie has to offer.

Oh, Sally!

Oh, silly Sally!

At the same time though, this is why Sally Field is such an important factor to a movie like this, where she’s able to blend both sadness and happiness, without ever making too clear of a distinction of what she’s exactly feeling. Because Doris is such a cutesy, lovely little old lady, she can sometimes be seen as the comedic-relief among those around her, but as the movie goes on and on, we see certain shades to her that, yes, may be darker, but may also give us a great understanding of who this woman was and why she is, the way she is now. We never get a clear answer, but because Field is so great at making us think more and more, it doesn’t matter – she’s great as is, creating a funny character, who also has a heart and soul, and isn’t just made to be a joke.

The same can’t really be said for the other characters, however, Showlater still gives them enough to work with.

Though Max Greenfield’s John may be a bit bland, there’s still some sort of idea of him that may actually fall for a woman like Doris. Whether it’s because he has mommy issues, girlfriend issues, or is just lonely and in need of a hug, we don’t know. What we do know is that he and Field have a solid chemistry that transcends being just an infatuated possibility, and more of a nice and tender friendship, where both people give a little something more than the other.

Consensus: Hello, My Name is Doris may have issues with its tone, it still features a solid performance from the always great Sally Field, while also offering a sweet, sometimes, very funny story about aging and embracing the reality that life may have passed you by, but it hasn’t gone away just yet.

7 / 10

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Take your lamp and move on, girl!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, We Got This Covered, Tumblr

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

As of right now, it’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s summer, so why not?

In the summer of ’81, a liberal, Jewish camp finally comes onto their last day where everybody’s emotions are running high, low, or every which way but loose. However, not everybody’s aspirations they had for the summer got fulfilled, so for one last night, everybody decides to go crazy and as if they have nothing else in the world to worry about rather than having a good time with beer, sex, drugs, and friends. You know, the little things in life that matter. Screw all that other serious crap!

Summer camp, from what I have seen in other movies, or heard of from other people who have been to one, seems like it’s a pretty awesome place. I know, it’s probably weird for some of you out there to take in the fact that I have never been to a summer camp ever in my life, so therefore, I depend on movies like these to give me a good time as if I was right there. And from what I read, apparently writer/director David Wain has been to many summer camps but for some reason, seems like he never has been to an actual fun one with a film like this that is apparently based of his experiences.

I do have to give credit where credit’s due with this flick and say that for the most part, it can be pretty funny. There’s a lot of crazy gags going on here, zany characters flying in-and-out of the story, and random acts that are sometimes explained, and sometimes aren’t. But you know what? With comedy, you sometimes don’t need to explain what’s going on, just as long as it makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. There were many moments in this flick where I found myself laughing and enjoying myself because I could tell Wain definitely doesn’t take this material too seriously and gives us plenty of random moments that either work, or don’t. As simple as that.

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

Also, have always been a huge sucker for movies that take place during one full-day where almost anything and everything is possible. Always like to live life like that myself, which is even better when I see it transition-well onto the big-screen.

However, the film isn’t as funny as it should be and I think that’s because too much of this just feels like a really long, over-blown pilot to a new TV show, one that would probably be featured on the old days of MTV before Snooki and all of those other d-bags took over. 12-year old type of humor doesn’t bother me all that much, except for when it’s done right, but this film just seemed like it was trying too hard to go for that type of comedy and then would all of a sudden change itself into being a parody of a movie, that either nobody saw, nobody understood, and/or even cared about in the first place. It’s a weird mixture between potty humor and a parody, and the problem is that they never really come together to make this flick a full-feature and make it feel like it was chopped up into little, itty-bitty pieces that Wain and Co. thought would be funny. Little did they know that they were the only ones who actually got the joke.

Another big problem this film seems to have is that with a premise and idea like this film has, you would expect it to be a total wild ride of everything you would expect from a camp movie, but instead, you just get something that’s actually a little boring at times. The title sequence of this flick had me feeling like I was about to see something total insane, starting off with a bunch of camp counselors, hanging out around a camp-fire, smoking reefer, drinking some brews, making-out, and eventually, getting it on, all played to the tunes of Foreigner mind you. So basically, I was expecting something like that or the rest of the hour 30 minutes but I didn’t get that and even when there did seem to be a lot of energy in this flick, it happens and shows in certain spots. After seeing Wain’s recent flicks, (Role Models and Wanderlust), I can tell this guy has definitely upped his game on providing fun and wild moments in a film and keeping that going throughout, but it’s sort of obvious that this was his first flick as you can never tell if this guy knew what exactly he was doing behind-the-camera, other than just making a film he thought was really cool and funny. With his friends as well, which isn’t so bad, just as long as you and your buddies aren’t the only ones having fun.

Sadly, that’s what happens and it’s one of those cases where the high-faves stay on that side of the screen, and that side alone.

Never since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

Not since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

You would also expect a lot more from a star-studded cast like this, but somehow, they all get squandered with the exception of a few. Janeane Garofalo is alright as the head camp counselor, Beth, and she really seems to be in-tune with her comedic timing, even if this material doesn’t seem to suit her so perfectly; David Hyde Pierce essentially plays his usual role from Frasier, and is still entertaining to watch, but that stuck-up, nerdy-type doesn’t work so well here as it does with that quality show; Paul Rudd is funny as a lady-killing camp counselor known as Andy, and plays up that whole dick-head act about him very well but even he’s not as funny as he should be; Michael Showalter is here as the innocent, hopeless romantic, Coop, that seems like he should be a lot funnier and usually is, the problem is that his material just isn’t strong enough to have us care too much about him; and surprisingly, Christopher Meloni ends up being probably the funniest out of this whole gang, playing a traumatized, Vietnam-vet that talks and does more wild shit than anybody does in this whole flick. You know you’re movie is in some trouble when the dude from CSI is the funniest thing in it, then again, though Meloni’s the man and it’s about time that the dude got not just more quality-roles, but ones that showed how well he can make us laugh, because that’s a greatly-unappreciated talent of his.

Oh, and Bradley Cooper is in this movie doing something you will never, ever believe he does. It gets crazy, almost to the point of where you’re wondering whether or not your eyes are deceiving you or not. Because trust me, right here and right now: they aren’t. Bradley Cooper is in this movie, and he’s doing the most wild shit I’ve ever seen him do. Give him the Oscar now!

Consensus: Though it shines in some bright spots, Wet Hot American Summer should be a whole lot funnier, crazier, and smarter with what it jokes around about and even tries to parody. Not a terrible comedy by any means, just not as funny as it seems like it promises.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We caught you, Bradley! Can't run from this one!

We caught you, Bradley! Can’t run from this one!