As this week will most likely have a negligible amount of film in it, I dare doing another split. I’ve kept traveling, so that’s my excuse, but there’s still been time for a couple of notches on the old cinematic belt.
Movie of the Week
The Big Sick (2017)
It was a Monday
- An (2015): On the lookout for my foodie movie of the month – not that I’d seen any such movie for a while now – I dug deep into Asian culture, just to find a fluffy piece of mainstream storytelling, with a twist. An, or Sweet Bean, tells the tale of a down-on-life kind of pancake vendor, Sentaro, upon whom an old lady stumbles, offering her skills to produce ‘home made’ sweet bean paste, as opposed to the generic, soulless stuff Sentaro used for his penekeku. The soft spoken, mushy film’s twist is that the nice old lady was a cured leper, which used to be a serious thing in Japan, leprosy, with an equally serious social stigma attached to it. Sure thing, you can watch this at your leisure and enjoy it, even if it doesn’t dig deep into anything at all – not even the food. 7/10
It was not a Monday
- American Made (2017): This one flew under my radar, i.e. as a big fan of Tom Cruise running, which is surprising given that, overall, it doesn’t suck. It doesn’t do much either, but enjoys itself in painting a messy picture of drugs, politics, diplomacy, war and absurd personal risk. At its best, it proves it can be bitingly ironic, in the style of Buffalo Soldiers (2001), maybe Lord of War (2005). At its not quite best, well, it just about doesn’t seem derivative, but can be easily ignored. For fans of Narcos, I’d guess this to be like a light-hearted thematic spin-off. 7/10
It was a Tuesday
- Everybody Loves Somebody (2017): In spite of its horrendous title, ELS (not even the symphony) takes a good swipe at the romcom genre and finds itself standing at the end. Starring Karla Souza and some other people, it’s one of those complex dichotomous analyses of the human psyche, wherein one female specimen picks out a random male specimen to fill in for a boyfriend at her parents’ wedding, then half an hour later said female specimen finds herself swaying between new love for random male specimen or old love for ex-male specimen who has proven unreliable. That was a long ass phrase, my English teacher would scold me. Aaaaanyway, in spite of my snide remarks, it’s an age-old recipe that still produces some results if all the pieces are in place and, in this case, they happen to be. 7/10
It was not a Tuesday
- The Big Sick (2017): One of the most praised movies of the summer, Kumail Nanjiani’s larger than life love story is wholesome, dedicated experience of little things that just about end up making the difference. It definitely brought to mind the more Indian version of this story, shot as a documentary, by Ravi Patel and his sister, Meet the Patels (2014), given that there are a few cultural similarities and definitely lookalike hurdles to be overcome within the United States. Where TBS scores awesome points is in its tactful and emotional portrayal of grief, as Kumail’s on screen persona gets to bond with the parents of his would-be-but-she’s-not-Pakistan girlfriend who is hit by a severe lung infection. Too high expectations risk leading you down the ‘is this it?’ path, because TBS is not posing as a never been seen story. Again, as I often like saying, it works really well because it comes together excellently, in spite of a low-caliber ending. 8/10
It was a Friday
- The Quiet American (2002): In what is arguably Phillip Noyce’s best picture, Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, the old reporter and the young doctor, find themselves sharing a love for the same woman in pre-war Vietnam. The spirit of films like The Painted Veil is present in this lush (urban) picture about the tacit American involvement in Vietnam, in days of ‘peaceful’ conflict, while the French were still “civilizing” the area. TQA is as taut and tense as any other Vietnam thriller, thanks also to the source material by Graham Greene, who also wrote the likes of The Third Man (1949) and The Fallen Idol (1948). 8/10
Hey, where did the rest of the week go?
- It (2017): The much admired remake (re-imagining, how will you) of Stephen King’s sewer-clown terror proves to be rightfully praised, as it manages to stand out and show considerable restraint in using its main protagonist to great effect. However, there isn’t a lot of depth to the thing, as the movie feels a lot like a slightly inferior Stand by Me (1986) with a less interesting cast and featuring a scary clown. I never too much to Stranger Things, which is perhaps why I also didn’t take to this child-driven Twilight Zone story, but for what it is, It works well and provides a robust handful of scares. 7/10