Screening Room: ‘The Big Sick’

For The Big Sick, comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon turned the story of their on-off romance and the intensive-care crisis that brought them back together, into probably the best romantic comedy of the summer.

The Big Sick is playing now in limited release and expanding soon around the country. My review is at PopMatters:

At the story’s beginning, Kumail is a typical sort for a Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy. A standup comic who spends most of his time in career anxiety with his comic buddies, Kumail is hoping for the big break and making ends meet as an Uber driver. This is all highly upsetting to his parents. For them, as one of Kumail’s better gags in the movie goes, the hierarchy of employment for a good Pakistani son runs in descending order: doctor, engineer, lawyer, “hundreds of jobs, ISIS”, and then comedian…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Square’

Khalid Abdalla (star of 'The Kite Runner') and Ahmad Hassan, two of the Tahrir Square activists profiled in 'The Square'
Khalid Abdalla (star of ‘The Kite Runner’) and Ahmad Hassan, two of the Tahrir Square activists profiled in ‘The Square’

thesquare-poster1Jehane Noujaim’s incandescent documentary about the Tahrir Square revolution first played Sundance back in January; she went back to Egypt to shoot later developments. The version of The Square that just opened in limited release now has a dramatic arc, from the 2011 resignation of Mubarak to this summer’s coup that toppled Morsi. It’s an elegantly put-together and passionate story of the tragedy of revolutions and the resilience of ideas.

My review is at Film Journal International:

The film is thick with dense collages of tear gas, gunfire, and seas of people leaping and shouting in unison. But it also cuts away to zoom in on a few of these people who would otherwise just be specks in a pointillist portrait. What Noujami has captured is not just a protest, but a diagnostic of the different emotional and political struggles which protesters like Khalid, Ahmed and Magdy are having in the street or on the phone because they don’t live in a country where those arguments can yet be honestly had at the ballot box. 

The trailer is here:

 

Now Playing: ‘Fruitvale Station’

Ariana Neal and Michael B. Jordan in 'Fruitvale Station'
Ariana Neal and Michael B. Jordan in ‘Fruitvale Station’

fruitvalestation-posterNearly every year there’s a scrappy indie flick that comes into the Sundance Film Festival and blows everyone away. All too often, though, once the film itself comes down from the high mountain air, it seems markedly less unique. Fortunately, with Ryan Coogler’s devastating Fruitvale Station, that is not the case. It plays just as well in a multiplex alongside The Wolverine as it does in the rarefied festival air.

My full review is at Film Racket; here’s part:

Nothing about the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant makes sense. For his keen, impassioned debut, writer/director Ryan Coogler avoids one of the most common mistakes seen in based-on-a-true-story movies, he doesn’t try to make it make sense. It shouldn’t, because one version of what actually happened is the first thing shown in the film. A grainy cellphone video taken from the open door of a BART train car paused at an Oakland station shows a few young black men being held down by a few white transit police; there’s a minor-looking scuffle and then a shot goes off. The momentum of those shaky images,  is stuttering and randomized. When the tragic moment happens, it doesn’t feel right to happen like that. Not yet…

You can watch the trailer here: