Saturday, August 19, 2017

Logan Lucky [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review

Logan Lucky [2017] (directed by Steven Soderbergh [wikip] [IMDb], screenplay by Rebecca Blunt) is the second (and certainly happier of the two) West Virginia "redneck" / "hillbilly" movie to come out in the last two weeks (the other being the far more serious drama The Glass Castle [2017]).  If nothing else, Trump's recent election win has brought new attention to this often overlooked and certainly / _unfairly_ disparaged part of our country. 

The story is about the Logan family, two brothers and a sister -- Jimmy, Clyde and Mellie (played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Riley Keough) -- sibblings, none of whom look much like any of the other two :-) -- legendary for their terrible luck, so much so that one-armed Clyde (he lost it in Iraq because -- "He stepped up while everybody else (around him) stepped back...") of a family curse, who come up with an insanely complicated plan to knock-off the vault at the Charlotte Motor Speedway "across the border in North Carolina" during its biggest NASCAR race of the year.  Among the complexities is that they need the help of "Joe Bang" (played insanely well and in completely straight fashion by Daniel Craig) the only "local" with any experience in "blowing bank vaults."  There's but one problem: "Bang" is IN-CAR-CE-RATE-ED (as he reminds them).  NO PROBLEM ;-) ... they'll "just get him out" (and _bring him back_...) from/to jail ;-).  Indeed, could one possibly think of a more "rock solid alibi?" ;-).

Anyway, much ensues in this "incredibly complicated operation" performed by _on the surface_ "incredibly simple people" -- even the star-studded cast colloquially called the film "Ocean's 7/11" [1960] [2001] ;-).  It's just a joyful film where one does root for the characters who had so self-evidently been _down on their luck_ for so long ;-).  Adam Driver's performance as Jimmy's brother Clyde working as a sad / still shell-shocked "one-armed bartender" at a local road-side dive named "Duck Tape" ;-) is simply priceless ;-) ;-).   And at the end of Channing Tatum's Jimmy Logan's "10 point plan" to knock off the vault is point 10: "Don't get greedy, know when to walk away."  One just wants to cry.

A special bonus to the film is that Viewers are reminded of the absolutely lovely (and now perhaps even haunting) John Denver song "Country Roads" that Jimmy Logan tells his precocious 8-10 y/o daughter Sadie (played by Farrah McKenzie) "You don't even have to have been here (to West Virginia...) to love."

Great job folks, simply a great job!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power [2017]

MPAA (PG) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (S. Tafoya) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power [2017] (directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk) is a film that deserves, indeed needed to be made, is more nuanced than most of its detractors who'll probably never see it would admit and probably caused me more trepidation than the vast majority of films that I've viewed and reviewed in the nearly seven years that I've written my blog.  Consider simply that I saw this film 2 1/2 weeks ago and am only now sitting down to write about it.  Why?  Well... Dear Readers, guess...

I think here of my 85 year old dad, a Czech born life-long outdoorsman - camper, hiker, backpacker, cross-country skier (I grew-up doing ALL THESE THINGS with him as a kid).  Since he grew-up first under Nazi Occupation and then Communist domination, he never owned a gun and so never equated "outdoorsmanship" with gun ownership.  Yes, obviously under Nazi occupation / Communist domination he didn't exactly have a right to have a gun, but also understood that under such regimes going after a gun meant certain and needless trouble and probably jail and/or death.  And yet even under Nazi / Communist domination he (and my whole family) grew-up appreciating THE NATURAL BEAUTY of this world (beyond the reach of any Dictator / Regime) especially when one gets out of the cities into the countryside.

Today ANYONE who hikes / backpacks _knows_ that the world's glaciers are melting.  My dad now lives largely in Colorado where former U.S. vice president Al Gore's example in his first movie on the subject (An Inconvenient Truth [2006]) of the "beetles eating the trees" in Colorado due to warming temperatures is again OBVIOUS TO ALL.

So why is Climate Change even "debated" anymore today?  Obviously because there are HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars invested in Oil.  There are scholars on the American Civil War who also say the obvious: Prior to the American Civil War white southern slave owners had BILLIONS of dollars sunk in their slaves, giving them up was NOT going to happen without a fight.

So former U.S. vice-president Al Gore continues to make the obvious case, even trying to educate American Viewers that countries like India have their own reasons for being angry at limits on carbon emissions: In the film a government minister from India sarcastically tells Al Gore and his group meeting with him: "You and your people (Europeans) had FOUR HUNDRED YEARS of UNFETTERED OPPORTUNITY TO POLLUTE THIS EARTH OF OURS FOR YOUR ECONOMIC BENEFIT, GIVE _US_ AT LEAST A HUNDRED AND FIFTY TO DO THE SAME.  THEN we'll talk ..."

But EVERYBODY (including the U.S. and India) _did_ step-up in Paris in 2016 to come to an agreement to try to save this planet by reducing our global carbon emissions.

'Course, now that agreement is threatened by, well, WE ALL KNOW ...

So folks, go up into the mountains, enjoy the fresh air and the trees, TAKE PICTURES ... and at least try to do your parts to reduce your own carbon footprints.  We can all do our parts ourselves.

Dictators do die (either with a bullet in their heads like Hitler, or by natural death in the case of Stalin).  The Earth will outlast them, and even most of us will outlast them as well.

In the meantime, let us enjoy and bear witness to the natural beauty of the world today, and then seek to live _humbly enough_ to bequeath what we can of this beautiful planet of ours to future generations.

An excellent if poignant / sad film and one DOES wonder "what difference will it make?"  But difference it will ...

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Glass Castle [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

Los Angeles Times (J. Walls) author's review of the process of making this film based on her memoir

CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (C. Rife) review

The Glass Castle [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Destin Daniel Cretton [wikip] [IMDb] as well as Andrew Lanham based on the memoir [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Jeannette Walls [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a film that will challenge many of its American Viewers (to say nothing of Viewers overseas, who'd struggle even more than American viewers for a sense of context).

After all, this is a film about a woman, Jeannette Walls (played in the film as a child by Ella Anderson, and later as a teen / adult quite excellently by Brie Larsen) who eventually became a successful GOSSIP COLUMNIST FOR THE NEW YORKER (!) who grew-up in a more or less OBVIOUSLY ABUSIVE non-Conformist yet also Catholic household IN APPALACHIA.

OMG non-Conformist, Catholic, Appalachia ... to many / most American Readers TODAY those three words would seem to be at the far extremes of some bizarre contemporary American ideological triangle.  Yet, all is not what it would rigidly seem in today's American straight-jacketed cultural climate: 

To begin with, while to many today Appalachia would seem to be exclusively the province of bearded and bonnet-wearing, moon-shine swilling still Evolution-denying Evangelical Protestant snake-charming descendants of the Catholic-hating Scots-Irish settlers (read Northern Irish Protestants) who crossed the Appalachian mountains -- eventually kicking out the Cherokees... -- to settle there in the early days of the Republic, many of those West Virginia miners whose jobs Hillary Clinton infamously and perhaps still prematurely foreclosed-upon are actually Catholics of Slavic -- Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belorussian (back in the day called Ruthenian) -- descent.  So there _are_ Catholics in them-thar-hills (and for some it'd be interesting perhaps to research the "contributions" of  these vodka / slivovice drinking peoples to the moonshine culture of the region ;-).

Then while to many, especially non-Catholic, Americans today, the terms "non-Conformist" and "Catholic" would seem like complete / unfathomably polar opposites, that was NOT the case until at least the mid-late-1980s.

[Readers note here that in the mid-1980s, much to truly everybody's surprise, the Reagan Administration reversed two centuries of U.S. foreign policy to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican (something that the Holy See desired for most of those 200 years).  IN RETURN however, up until recently (changing back to the previous norm with the election of Pope Francis), the appointments of Catholic bishops in the United States (which _are_ made by the Vatican), have been ever more conservative ... So was there an informal deal made between the Reagan Administration and the Holy See at that time to change the composition of the US Catholic bishops in a more GOP / right-wing / Conservative friendly direction?  After all, since the late-1980s and up until the election of Pope Francis, pretty much all that the Catholic Bishops in the U.S. have been known to talk about has been about abortion and homosexuality.  In contrast, prior to that, in the early-mid 1980s, the U.S. Catholic Bishops made two very prominent statements one on Peace and the other on Economic Justice.  So a case could be made that such an ever informal and always _deniable_ deal (in return for diplomatic recognition) was made ...].

However, be those "diplomatic / bishops appointment intrigues" as they may, one need only mention the names of people like Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and even Jack Kerouac (who, growing up in a Quebecois household in New York in the 1930s-40s was obviously influenced by the other two, as well as, of course, others like the more conventionally, non-Catholic / classically American writer John Steinbeck) and the "free-spiritness" of Jeannette's parents even as they came from Catholic upbringings no longer seems strange.   A faint if persistent echo of that "radically free-ing" past in 20th century Catholic writing can still be found in the works of people like Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM [wikip] [GR].

However, "non-Conformity" especially when it comes to raising a family has its problems: Rules / social norms _often_ (not always, but _often_) have their basis in the practical experience of a culture (my point being here that rules should be neither blindly accepted nor out-of-hand rejected without serious critical reflection.  Simply rejecting "old rules" out-of-hand negates the accumulated wisdom of a people and needlessly forces descendants to "reinvent the wheel" / "start from scratch"):

Yes, it _would have been_ "nice" from the perspective of Jeanette's parents Rex (played in this film to Oscar nomination worthy heights by Woody Harrelson) and Rose Mary (also played excellently by Naomi Watts) to simply live quite the "carefree lives" of beatnik Jack Kerouac or artist Georgia O'Keeffe, but THEY HAD KIDS that they were responsible for, and there are REPEATED instances in this story when VIEWERS are left simply stunned and wondering WHY their kids were not simply taken away from them.

And yet, they weren't (taken away), and that is probably _for the best_.  Rex (and Rose Mary, for that matter) _were_ TERRIBLE PARENTS, but they were -- like all of us -- also _more_ than their (often clear enough) sins / failings.

I live and work very much in this world of complex _real people_.  As such I applaud the honesty and complexity of the presentation.  Otherwise, we'd be forced to watch / read simply sanitized versions of Pleasantville [1998] of one sort or another with the "good people" (idealized according to one or another au currant ideology) and "horned / tailed villains" clearly defined.

So then, this is a simply excellent if, often enough, _difficult to watch_ film and PARENTS NOTE thematically deserving of an R-rating rather than the silly PG-13 that it apparently received.  This film would require an adult, at least in their mid to late 20s, in order to really understand it.  Again, some of the situations, though I suppose _technically_ meeting "PG-13" criteria (technically no blood, nudity or gore), are very difficult to watch.  EXCELLENT though it is, it is not for the squeamish.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Japan Times (M. Schilling) review
South China Morning Post (B. Shin) review (J. Fae) review (I. Navarro) review*

Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
Slant Magazine (C. Bowen) review

In this Corner of the World (orig.Kono sekai no katasumi ni) [2016][IMDb] [wikip] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Sunau Katabuchi [IMDb] along with Chie Uratani [IMDb] based on the manga [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Fumiyo Kouno [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a truly poignant/lovely if often very sad Japanese animated film about a simple young woman named Suzu (voiced in the Eng. version by Laura Post), with an endearing talent for drawing, who grew-up in a small fishing village on the outskirts of Hiroshima in the years before WW II and then married into a similarly humble family living "on the other side of the mountain" on the outskirts of Kure whose harbor had been a major Japanese Naval Base during WW II.

So the film, which won this year's Japanese Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, tells the story of World War II (or the experience of it) from the perspective of a quite ordinary young Japanese woman:

Of course she's patriotic: How could she not be?  Her husband Shusaku (voiced in the Eng. version by Todd Haberkorn) was a clerk for the Imperial Navy at the Navel base in Kure, her father-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Kirk Thornton) was an engineer at the base as well.  She had a childhood friend who's stationed on a Japanese cruiser.

YET, she also sees hints of problems: When as the War progresses / rationing tightens and she accidently breaks the family's only sugar jar, Suzu's mother-in-law (voiced in the Eng. version by Barbara Goodson) gives her extra money that she had kept in a shoe-box and tells her to go down a seedy part of Kure where she could probably buy replacement sugar on the black market.  Suzu is shocked to see that "if one had the money, war or no war, one could buy basically anything."  Walking home from shady part of town with a bag of black market sugar that she bought for 8x the official price, she gets lost ... winding-up in the seedy part of town's red-light district, where she is helped to get-out by a (foreign?) geisha-girl.  The geisha quite kindly/discreetly tells Suzu that it'd probably "not be a good idea" for Suzu "stay long" in that part of town.

Later, of course, the bombs start falling.  The irony, of course, is that Kure with its Naval base is bombed repeatedly / devastatingly while Hiroshima remains largely untouched and its residents including Suzu's own family repeatedly give assistance to "the poor residents of Kure, across the mountain," until ...

It's a film that does make you want to cry EVEN THOUGH, OF COURSE, the Japanese did terrible things in Korea ("comfort women"), all across China (the Rape of Nanjing ...), the Philippines (Bataan Death March), and across South East Asia (Burma Railway).  But, of course, Suzu wouldn't know any of that ... just that slowly but surely her childhood friends were "not coming back" from the War: Her brother's urn comes back with _only a small rock in it_ ... his ship was sunk somewhere in the Pacific and so, of course, there were no remains to "send back..." but apparently the Imperial Navy felt the need to send the bereaved family "something" to "honor."  And of course the bombing near the end of the War just gets worse and worse.

Yes, I know why the war was fought.  Yes, Imperial Japan did all kinds of terrible things all across their side of the Pacific.  Still ... one can not but feel for this simple Japanese woman and her family living through a war that they certainly didn't start and only really supported because ... they were told to ... by the same kind of authorities (their national leaders at the time) that we ourselves are taught to as-a-matter-of-course ... trust.

A truly fascinating and poignant film, worthy of being seen / reflected upon.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Kidnap [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (1/2 Star)  AVClub (D+)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Kidnap [2017] (directed by Luis Prieto, screenplay by Knate Lee), perhaps in line with the recent commercially successful / far more _critically acclaimed_ "inverted" (and African American-centered) horror dramedy Get Out [2017], could be considered to be a similarly "inverted" version of the Liam Neeson-starring Taken [2010-2014] films, with the (pale / ever deathly serious) ex-CIA assassin Neeson's role played by Halle Berry, playing a humble (and at times quite emotional) New Orleans residing African-American diner waitress in the process of a divorce, whose cute-as-a-button six-year-old African-American boy (rather than "white naive suburban teenage daughter") gets kidnapped, here _not_ by crazed / bearded malevolent terrorist mafia types from the Balkans / Middle East ("expected" to naturally "hate America...") but rather by similarly crazed / bearded malevolent here emphatically _white redneck_ types who could have been extras in Hell's version of Swamp People (and "expected" then to "naturally" hate people of color ...).

I think the critical reactions to the current film need to be taken in light of who the heroes were in this film and who were its villains because as crazy as the car chases were ... they were IMHO _no crazier_ than those in Taken 3 [2014].

I confess, I didn't particularly mind the current film, and kinda enjoyed it.  But I would suggest that Hollywood try to learn a thing or two from the Italians for instance who have made it an art of making compelling (and often very funny) films in which there are no discernable villains at all...

Again, I think I totally get this film, and am happy that it was made (as a fascinating counter-point to such films as the Taken series).  But I do agree the critics above that after making this point, there wasn't much there ... course there wasn't much in the Taken series either 'cept the message of "Be afraid, be very, very afraid ..."

So Two Stars, as I gave the last Taken film.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Detroit [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L) (2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (A.J. Bastien) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Detroit [2017] (directed by Katheryn Bigelow, screenplay by Mark Boal) is a searing movie that has it's place:

The next time President Donald Trump places himself in front a backdrop of police officers PLEASE COUNT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE OFFICERS OF COLOR PRESENT.  Last week, as he was instructing Police Officers to "not be so nice" to the people that they arrest THERE WERE EXACTLY _ZERO_ POLICE OFFICERS OFFICERS OF COLOR standing behind him (out of at least 100) and only TWO WOMEN (and he gave that speech in Suffolk County on Long Island -- the same county that has "the Hamptons" among its city ... not even remotely resembling America's cities today).

Dear Readers, I asked you to count the number of police officers of color at Trump's police photo-ops because regardless of the current several-years-long wave of shootings of unarmed black men by still generally white police officers, IT COULD STILL HONESTLY BE WORSE:

Today ALL THE MAJOR CITIES OF THE UNITED STATES have thoroughly integrated Police Forces.  I know this first hand because I served in a Parish on the South East Side of Chicago for 12 years, a parish _heavily_ populated by Chicago Police Officers (over 100 families had members of of their families in law enforcement) and 1/2 of those Police Officers were WHITE and 1/2 were HISPANIC, the neighborhood itself being a mix of Hispanic / White.  Statistically, about 40% of Chicago's police force is White, 30% is African American and 30% is Hispanic.

What good is that when unarmed black men still are shot by white police officers?  Well ... again, it could be A LOT WORSE ... FOR ALL CONCERNED.


And Catholic Readers here remember THIS IS EXACTLY (!!) WHAT BELFAST LOOKED LIKE DURING "THE TROUBLES" IN NORTHERN IRELAND ... only there it was THE OVERWHELMINGLY PROTESTANT "Royal Ulster Constabulary" tasked with "policing" OVERWHELMINGLY CATHOLIC neighborhoods in Belfast / Derry , etc with _similar results_.

There is simply no way to credibly "police" a city when its police come so _obviously_ from only one faction.

Yes, one can demonize the residents of (generally poorer) neighborhoods.  But even the Police themselves (!) are _not safe_ if their membership does not _clearly_ come from a credible cross-section of the city.  (That it itself clearly won't solve a city's crime problems but the situation could only be worse (again, even for the police themselves) if the vast majority of the police force's members come form only one group).

So the current film follows the beginning of the riots / rebellion in Detroit in 1967 and then proceeds to focus on a particularly awful murder of three unarmed black men in a hotel (the police / national came there initially in search of a possible sniper) and the brutalizing of many others, including two white women staying there.

Viewers will easily recognize tragic / unfortunate similarities between our time and then -- most notably that NONE OF THE POLICE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THOSE MURDERS WERE CONVICTED OF ANY CRIMES -- but HOPEFULLY Viewers will note the differences (that the cities' Police Forces are FAR MORE INTEGRATED and hence CREDIBLE in our cities than in the 1960s).


Because if you don't do that, President Trump, you're dousing still brush-fires (!) with gasoline.

A simply _unforgettable_ film, this current one, and certainly important for our policy makers to see.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

The Dark Tower [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (1 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

The Dark Tower [2017] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Nicolaj Arcel along with Akiva Goldman, Jeff Pinker and Anders Thomas Jensen, based on the series of books [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Stephen King [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]), given its tortured production history -- the project began in 2007 (!) -- can perhaps be forgiven for feeling exactly as it does ... a tired survivor of a Hollywood meat-grinder.

Yet given both the truly legendary successes of previous adaptations of Stephen King's commercial "magical realist" works to the silver screen (oh my, where does one start? -- Carrie [1976] [2013], The Shining [1980], The Shawshank Redemption [1994], complete / continuing (!) lists are maintained on both IMDb and Wikipedia) as well as the specific success of the Dark Tower series of books [wikip], a fertile vein of King's cross-genre (Fantasy, SciFi, Western and Horror) speculative fiction that grew into an OCTOLOGY (!), it was inevitable that _eventually_ A FILM (of some sort...) would be made.  And perhaps the best news for Stephen King fans and then fans of the Dark Tower series in particular is that a parallel television series starring a fair number of the actors in the current film is scheduled for release in 2018.

SOOO ... the final and yet (coming full circle) now _primary_ purpose of the current film comes to be to simply introduce Viewers who haven't have the time (or interest...) to read the whole eight volume series (+ the graphic novels [GR] that apparently the series inspired) to the "world" in which the Dark Tower series plays out.

So then ... said "world" in which the Dark Tower series plays out is actually a MultiVerse (a series of discrete universes that can be passed through, from one to another, through various portals.  At the center of this MultiVerse is a beacon / "tent pole"-like Dark Tower, which (for reasons / by means unclear) keeps the forces of Evil (Entropy?) "outside" the MultiVerse structure allowing it to exist.

The grand conflict in the current story is between an Evil / Nihilistic "wizard" named ... there are SOME who call him "Walter" and others who call him "The Man in Black" played actually quite well by Matthew McConoughey ... who wants to knockdown said tent-pole-like Dark Tower, AND Roland Deschain (played by Idris Elba), the sole surviving Western-style (yet "Knight-like") "Gunslinger" of his world, entrusted to protect his world (and hence, though he does not completely realize this yet, ALL THE OTHER WORLDS of this MultiVerse, including those of Earth AND of that the Dark Tower) from the forces of Evil.

Now why would "Walter" (aka "The Man in Black") want to knock down The Dark Tower?  Well, given his Nihilism, "because it's there" (to be knocked down) and at least in part because he sees this as "inevitable" (and if it's going to be knocked down _eventually_, why not be the one to do so).

The problem is that to knock "The Dark Tower" down, one needs to shell it with _the minds of innocent children_.  So the now Evil and always Nihilistic wizard "Walter" (and his minions) hop (through portals) from one universe to another TO ABDUCT CHILDREN who they then strap to a monstrous machine that would hurl their innocent minds (in SciFi-like catapult fashion...) against this Dark Tower at the Center of "All that Is" (that Tent-like MultiVerse).

And so then this brings the story "down to earth" specifically into the world of random 14-year old New York residing Jake Chambers (played by Tom Taylor) who's being tormented by dreams of a "Dark Tower," a "Man in Black" and a "Gunslinger" and "does not know why," causing him, unsurprisingly, trouble both at home and at school ...

Of course poor-troubled/confused Jake becomes a key figure in "saving the MultiVerse" (even BIGGER than our Universe ;-) from a Fate that most of us, let alone Jake's parents / teachers could POSSIBLY UNDERSTAND ... ;-)

Much, much, much naturally must ensue ... ;-)

Introduced like this, in the fashion above, it does make for one heck of a story ;-) ... but after 10 years of studio-infighting, one just hopes that the ensuing television series does it justice.    

Good job, sort of ;-)

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Atomic Blonde [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (S. Abrams) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Atomic Blonde [2017] (directed by David Leitch, screenplay by Kurt Johnstad based on the graphic novel The Coldest City [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Antony Johnston [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] and Sam Hart [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) can perhaps be understood as a true contemporary successor to hard-boiled Hollywood detective stories of the past.

Set nominally (_very_ nominally) in Berlin during the week just before The Wall came down, an early credit "assures" Viewers that this film is not going to tell "that story."  Instead, it would tell a classic (and formulaic) hard-boiled tale of corruption and mayhem, set this time among the neon lit clubs, short skirts, mohawks and platinum hair of 1980s-era West Berlin and the crew-cuts, drab concrete-based architecture and Trabants (those ridiculous 2-stroke lawn-mower-engine-driven cars of the since thankfully gone and buried DDR) of East Berlin.

And this of course bothers someone like me, of Czech decent, my Czech name Zdenek given to me in honor of my uncle who had been jailed by the Communists because _there was_ A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE between the East (under the yoke an arrogant and totalitarian ideology) and the West (where ideologies no matter the loudness / arrogance and self-certainty of their proponents still had to _and still have to_ compete for their citizenry's votes).

Perhaps in the midst of the intrigues of "the spy game" the concepts of Right and Wrong "get lost." However, there's no doubt in my mind that the World's a better place that The Wall came down and that hundreds of millions of people of Central and Eastern Europe are now _free-er_ than they ever were under the Communists.

But rather than focus on the Freedom won by common people, the film _chooses_ to focus back on the "Power comes from the Barrel of a Gun" intrigues of the spy-vs-spy world of the Cold War Era where fundamental concepts like Freedom apparently become "blurred" or even "quaint."

But then, the makers of "hard-boiled spy / detective fiction" -- one thinks here of the Humphrey Bogart "Sam Spade" [wikip] [IMDb] movies of the 1930s-40s or the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" [wikip] [IMDb] movies of the 1970s-80s -- don't exactly seek to compete for "human rights awards."  Indeed, the film here spins a quite classic Noir tale with its big "unspeakable secret" being that at least among the Cold War's spy-game warriors there really wasn't much difference between the "Good Folks" and "Bad ones."

Still, it irritates me that _this tale_ was set during the Berlin Wall's final week (when to everybody the story ought to be, the Wall's coming down) rather than setting it a few years before hand, when the argument that "Evil exists on Both Sides" would seem more palatable.

Incidently, a FASCINATING COUNTERPOINT TO THE CURRENT FILM (whose point seemed still so clearly to be that "in many ways both sides were the same") is the CZECH Noir classic Alois Nebel [2011] [Amzn-Video] which ALSO originated first as a graphic novel and was set ALSO in the final months of Communism BUT with that story's "unspeakable secret" being the still largely not dealt-with sins of the Communist Era notably that (1) the Communist Regime's opponents were often _thrown into_ Psychiatric Institutions ("Electric Shock Treatments" and all...) for being unable to "appreciate" the "wonderfulness" of the Communist Regime and that (2) all kinds of people had been expelled / jailed / deported (including three million ethnic Germans out of Czechoslovakia) for all kinds of still never openly admitted-to reasons.  Alois Nebel [2011] [Amzn-Video] indeed spins truly ONE HELL OF A TALE.

All this taken into account, Charlize Theron's role in the current film as MI-6 superspy Lorraine Broughton DOES MAKE for an _utterly unforgettable_ "no nonsense" indeed _ice cold_ (she literally takes a bath in ice water ;-) "hard boiled" character WORTHY of entering into the world's collective subconscious archetype ensemble along side Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade / Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and Ian Fleming's MI-6 superspy James Bond.  Indeed, that Ms Broughton is portrayed as a Lesbian or at minimum "Bi" seems to fit the icy/piercing character -- this woman is _clearly_ "her own boss" and (as we've allowed James Bond to do similarly) "for King and Country" she's willing "to go to bed with anybody."

And so when she arrives in Berlin during those fateful days in November, 1989 to "retrieve a master list of spies" feared to be in the hands of the Soviets, while ALSO looking out for the "Mole" who may have facilitated the capture of said list by said Soviets, much mayhem has to ensue.  And yes, many / most Viewers will watch mesmerized (and probably smiling, internally, "from ear to ear") as we watch this superspy WOMAN "take-out" (usually male Agents) with her RED STILETTO HEALED SHOE, or BASH THEIR FACES IN WITH FIRST _THE DOOR OF A MICROWAVE_ AND THEN TO FINISH HIM OFF WITH THE MICROWAVE ITSELF  ;-)

Indeed, for what this film is, it is a wildly entertaining one, well shot, paced and choreographed,   I just wish that it was set in November 1985 rather than November 1989.

 So more or less good to GREAT job ;-)


Another film that would be fascinating to watch in conjunction to the current one is the recent CUBAN film (financed by crowd-sourcing, hence largely with WESTERN (Spanish) and even _some_ CUBAN EXILE money ;-) named Dark Glasses (orig. Espejuelos Oscuros) [2015].  Directed by a young female Cuban director named Jessica Rodriguez, it tells in classic "1001 Nights" fashion the stories of a variety of Cuban women over the course of Cuba's history (including during the most recent Communist Era) who cleverly outwitted the men they encountered oppressing them.  Presently unavailable _anywhere_ the film's official YouTube website can be found here (and it'd be worth pressing the film's owners to find a way to make it available on any number of streaming services, including, of course, YouTube).  It's truly _an excellent film_ and again wonderfully fits some of the thematics of the current one here.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (4 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (P. Sobczynski) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets [2017] (screenplay and directed by Luc Besson [wikip] [IMDb], based on the comic book series Valérian and Laureline [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Pierre Christin [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] and Jean-Claude Mézières [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) should, if nothing else, become a _must see_ for Sci-Fi fans.

The mostly American born critics above complain about the (lack of a) plot (they have a point, there isn't much of one...).  But honestly I say: FORGET ABOUT THE PLOT AND JUST _GLORY_ IN THE WORLD(S) PORTRAYED.  This film is like the entering the audience hooking / utterly unforgettable "Space Bar" scene in the original Star Wars [1977] movie (upon which the Valerian and Laureline [wikip] comic books apparently had an influence), passing through a Harry Potter-like portal into a distant / presently utterly unfamiliar part of the universe and ... gleefully _staying there_ for the rest of the experience, err ... film ;-).

Honestly, if a video-game comes out based on this film, especially one that allowed one to just "travel its universe" I'D BUY IT.  (Similarly I'd also be willing TO PAY for the experience of spending a night of "bar hopping" on the circa-1920s Parisian street of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris [2011] chatting it up with actors playing the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali ;-)).

Indeed, my main criticism of the recent Star Wars based film Rogue One [2016] was that it still adhered too slavishly to the Star Wars story arc.  Here was an entire galaxy in which the film-makers could have gloried in, and they chose to focus yet again on "the Empire's" "Death Star."

So I didn't mind that the current film didn't have much of a plot.  Indeed, I would have preferred even _less_ plot and just be allowed to explore the world(s) portrayed -- the tranquil, white-sanded / baby blue ocean "beach planet" of "Müt," a virtual bazaar (located in a dimension only perceived when one put-on a special pair of glasses) on a seemingly a (Casablanca [1942]-evoking) French Colonial desert planet, and then a shape-shifting / pole-dancing curvy-to-blobby blue alien that could be characterized as a smurf crossed with a Na'vi from Avatar [2010] named Booble (and played in show-stopping fashion by Rhianna)! 

In any case, in my dream Sci-Fi film festival, I would include George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope [1977], late Russian director Aleskey German's ponderous Hard to be a God [2015] and now the current film.  All portray unforgettable worlds "far far away" but with strikingly different concerns and priorities.

Weakness of plot in the current film aside (and again, is plot necessarily all-important in a visual medium?) this film remains a stunning visual feast.  HENCE, AN AWESOME JOB!

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dunkirk [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Dunkirk [2017] (written and directed by Christopher Nolan [wikip] [IMDb]) I came to with some trepidation as well as some biases:

As a person of Czech descent who remembers that Britain essentially gave my parents' country of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis _on a platter_ two years before the desperate battle portrayed in the current film, I came to this story with some anger because this battle need not have happened _at all_ if then Prime Minister Chamberlain had done the right thing and stood with Czechoslovakia (the only remaining democracy in Central Europe at the time) in the 1938 Sudeten Crisis.  Instead he handed my parents' country over to a Dictator, Hitler, again, _on a platter_, who, of course then only wanted more ...

But that said, and after the British / French endured some crazy "Rules of Engagement" restrictions (imposed by the Belgians -- who didn't let the Brits / French even come into their country until Germany actually invaded them ...) helping to precipitate Brits / French armies' encirclement at Dunkirk ... this becomes a GREAT STORY OF NATIONAL SURVIVAL:

No matter what the circumstances were that got the Brits (and the French) into this horrific mess, this was now WAR and a War with the stakes as high as they could possibly be ... Honestly, it's hard to imagine what the world would be like today if Britain had been unable to successfully evacuate 400,000 of its soldiers encircled around Dunkirk.  Yes, the British army lost the greater portion of its heavy and mobile weaponry there in the Dunkirk pocket.  HOWEVER, it was able to save a good portion of the soldiers, and thus be able to continue to defend Britain from invasion.  Had those 400,000 soldiers been captured, Britain would not have had a credible army to defend itself with.  And if Britain had fallen in 1940, THE WORLD WOULD BE UTTERLY DIFFERENT THAN IT IS TODAY.

So writer-director Nolan portrays in this film THE TRUE DRAMA of the TRUE HEROICS that it took to get those 400,000 British (and hundreds of thousands of French) soldiers, ever under enemy fire, from Dunkirk and back to Britain.

Stylistically Nolan does so by telling three intertwining (and at times admittedly confusing) stories (because the timeline of each of the three stories was different) -- (1) "from the mole" (from the perspective of the soldiers _on the ground_, and more specifically _on the beaches_ in and around Dunkirk, (2) "on the sea" (presenting the story of the civilian (!!) boat owners who were called by the British Navy to cross the English Channel to get to Dunkirk in whatever boats that they had -- from yachts to sailboats to fishing trawlers -- to evacuate the soldiers trapped there), and (3) "in the air" (telling the story of the RAF pilots at the time who risked and sacrificed their own lives for the soldiers and sailors _below them_ by scattering / fending off Nazi Luftwaffe attacks during the height of the evacuation).

Again, it all makes for a great and compelling story, reminding us of the heroism of these men, and ALSO of the ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY RALLYING / _CHEERLEADING_ of the great Winston Churchill who succeeded the disastrously naive / incompetent Neville Chamberlain as Britain's Prime Minister and who really did _step up_ when the country and even THE WORLD needed him.

As a War movie (and then made, again, in a somewhat confusing intertwining style) this film is not necessarily for everybody.  However, if one wants to see a movie about STEPPING-UP / bravery when the stakes truly are high, this is it.  GREAT, GREAT JOB!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (A-III)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

War for the Planet of the Apes [2017] (directed and cowritten by Mark Reeves along with Mark Bomback based on the characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver), block-bustery though it is, is not exactly (the recent) "Spider-Man" ;-), neither is it intended to be.  So Dear Readers, if you think that you can "put aside your mind" as you watch this film, smiling from ear-to-ear with a big tub of popcorn in your lap, that's probably not going to happen.  That will probably disappoint / anger some, while others will make the best of it, saying to themselves "Okay, this is not a pure entertainment flick, let me then try to reflect on what the film-makers are trying to say."

The current film, the third of a series of "prequels" [1] [2] to the famed 1960s-70s era Planet of the Apes [wikip] [IMDb] film-franchise inspired by the novel (1963) [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by French author Pierre Boulle [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb], explores the Rise of a new Civilization of the Apes (as well as the simultaneous / corresponding collapse of the Human one): It would have had to have been an "Apocalypse" -- or as a graffiti in the current film declares it to have been an "Ape-ocalypse" ;-).  Postulated in this series of prequels is a human Mass Extinction Event brought about by a viral "simian flu" which simultaneously killed the vast majority of humans while greatly increasing the capacities of Apes (allowing them to walk erect as well as develop true language -- some Apes in the current film were able to speak while most others could communicate by means of a by now well-developed sign language).

The current film is set in that transitional period when the numbers of both remaining humans and (rising) intelligent apes were small.  The resulting _lack of noise_ (because of a _lack of a lot of people_ (and still a relatively small number of intelligent, but mostly sign-language communicating, apes) is probably the _most memorable aspect_ of this film.  (It will also be the aspect of the film that will probably most frustrate casual Viewers...).

That much of the film takes place _in winter_ in and around a human citadel based up in California's (High) Sierras adds to THE COLDNESS / DREARINESS of the Time -- one Civilization was Dying and another completely different one was Rising.

The Human Citadel in question had apparently been intended to be a "quarantine facility" for first "infected humans" but had been converted instead into "a safe zone" for those (few) humans who were not.  The few crazed but highly armed humans who lived there were making their "last stand" and ... in as much out of weakness / dread as out of their (remaining) strength (the humans were still heavily armed while the apes were not), the crazed humans there, led by a head-shaven former "Special Forces" Colonel (played quite realistically by Woody Harrelson in a manner clearly intended to evoke Marlon Brando's portrayal of the crazed Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now [1979]) ran the Citadel as a "Gulag-like" "Ape Concentration Camp" (as a last gasp effort to "keep the (rising) Apes down").

I don't think that it's much of a Spoiler to tell Readers here that this "last gasp effort" (to keep the Apes down) did not succeed ... And a fascinating final "Act of God" (or at least Act of Nature...)  finally settles the Story.

It's all very remarkable, if DEFINITELY NOT simple "Blockbuster Fare" ;-).

Striking to me, though I _don't_ think it was directly intended, is that the "Ape-ocalypse" presented in this recent series of films plays out in quite similar fashion to the European Conquest of the Americas:

After all, it's becoming increasingly clear (as per a remarkable book called 1491 by Charles C. Mann) that what happened to most of the Native Peoples in the Americas (and did not happen the same way in Africa or Asia) was that the Native Peoples of the Americas were, above all, _decimated_ (reduced to 1/10 their strength) by the _inadvertant_ arrival of European-brought DISEASE (mostly small-pox) and that, only _afterward_, the remaining Aztecs or Incas were not capable of putting up an effective resistance to encroaching Europeans. (In contrast, the Native Peoples / Civilizations of Africa to say nothing of South / East Asia were not destroyed in the same way.  Yes, many were conquered and endured decades or even (a few) centuries of Colonial rule, BUT ... the native peoples of Africa / Asia didn't disappear completely as they largely did in large parts of the Americas).

In the current series of films, the successful Rise of the Apes comes about only after the decimation of Humanity by a (similar) plague ...

Again, fascinating, thought-provoking, but ... not exactly what one would expect to contemplate after a "light" summer movie ;-).  Good job, I think ;-)

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Spider-man: Homecoming [2017]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

I came to Spider-man: Homecoming [2017] (directed and screenplay co-written by Jon Watts along with Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, screen story by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley based on Marvel comics' Spider-Man [Wiki] created by Stan Lee [IMDb] and Steve Ditko [IMDb]) wondering WHY there'd be a need for a full reboot of this superhero (sub)franchise for the third time in fifteen-years (!) and left once again _in awe_ of Marvel Comics' (since 2009 a Disney Company) vision / humor and wisdom.  They pulled it off: This film both "moved the ball" in the MC's Avenger story / Universe and, even on its own, "deserved to be made."

What do I mean?  After last year's Captain America: Civil War [2016], I complained ("mildly" I recall ;-) to my friend of 40+ years from high school and my go to expert on "all things Comics" that I was getting tired of the ridiculous amount of destruction left behind by the various battles in the Superhero films, and he replied that _already decades ago_ Marvel Comics had an answer to this problem -- a line of comic books about a company called "Damage Control" [MC] [wikip] which specialized in "fixing things" after a bout between superheroes / supervillains ;-).

SO ... this film BEGINS (it would seem) in the aftermath of the first full Avengers [2012] movie after a thwarted Loki (brother of Thor...) led alien invasion of New York.  A quite sympathetic (and quite  _local_ contractor) named Adrian Toomes [MC] [IMDb] (played wonderfully by Michael Keaton) had run-around and gotten the contracts _from the city_ to start "cleaning-up the mess" when "the Feds" (with troops) roll-in, tell him and his people "to step away from the rubble" (which, of course, included _alien technology_) and tell them "not to worry about the damage" to the city anymore as a company called DAMAGE CONTROL [MC] [wikip] had been contracted "to fix things."  Adrian Toomes pleaded with the commanding officer in charge, telling her "I sank everything I've ever had into getting this contract from the city."  But to no avail, "the Feds" have decided.

When the previously mild-mannered if perhaps hustling Toomes sees that "Damage Control" is "a division of Stark Industries" (Tony Stark played by Robert Downey, Jr is Iron Man [MC] [IMDb], one of the Avengers [MC] [wikip]) he is disgusted and tells his colleagues: "PERFECT, first these people destroy our city and then _they_ hire themselves to rebuild it ..."  Toomes orders his people to keep hidden at least a truckload or two of alien debris that that they had collected... and ... he's soon on his way to become a scrappy if enterprising local super-villain who comes to be known as "TheVulture" [MC] [IMDb] building contraband super-weapons from the "scraps" of alien technology that he's able to get his hands on before Stark Industries' "Damage Control" does.

Enter the similarly quite local (and teenage) Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) [MC] [IMDb] (played by Tom Holland) who though still "a sophomore in high school" (in my recollection, the worst / most boring year of High School's four ;-) has "an internship" with Stark Industries.  Something of a "nerd" and certainly socially awkward, he notices some rather strange things happening in his neighborhood -- a local heist which utilized strangely sophisticated (out-of-this-world) tools / weaponry.  He reports this to Tony Stark [MC] [IMDb] / the good folks at Stark Industries, who, of course, ignore him (he's just a teenager, after all...).  Well, of course, much further ensues ...

But ... Peter, is of course, a teen.  So ... ;-) ... while spending his "off time" with "Saving the World" (or at least "Saving / Protecting his Neighborhood" ;-), he has a normal teenager's life with normal teenage concerns / pursuits.  Did I mention that he was "kinda a nerd"?   But add to that, since he had that "internship with Stark Industries," and then ON HIS OWN spent a good part of his remaining off time "Saving / Protecting his neighborhood" THAT'S A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE FOR A TEENAGER ... and hence ... still lacking _super human_ "time management skills" ... he's OFTEN LATE for the various functions that he's part of.  And in typical teenage fashion, he suffers for this: Those who already don't like him make fun of him for this, and those who do like him are consternated when he does not show-up on time (or doesn't show up at all...) for his commitments.  High School ;-).

But he's not totally alone.  He's being raised by A BRILLIANTLY RE-IMAGINED still mid-40 something May Parker [MC] [wikip] [IMDb] (played simply BRILLIANTLY by Marisa Tomei).  He also has a BEST FRIEND, Ned [wikip] (played wonderfully by Jason Batalon) presented here as vaguely Asian Pacific and he A DEEP CRUSH on Liz Allan [wikip] (played again wonderfully by Laura Harrier) a bright, beautiful, popular girl, here presented as African American and portrayed as having her own insecurities -- she's "a bit tall."

I LOVE WHAT MARVEL COMICS DOES WITH ITS CHARACTERS.  Every one of these characters, May, Ned and Liz, I KNOW.  Plus, I can not but APPLAUD Marvel Comics' decision here to widen the ethnic / racial mix.  The Spiderman story plays out in QUEENS, New York, one of the most diverse parts of the most diverse city in the country.  HOW WONDERFUL IT IS THAT MARVEL / DISNEY have _chosen_ to portray this diversity _RIGHT_ and give ALL CHILDREN, both in the United States AND BEYOND a chance to _see a bit of themselves_ in the story.

Much then plays out ... all WONDERFULLY APPROPRIATE _TEENAGE FARE_ often done with a smile (Captain America [MC] [IMDb], another "once local boy" played by Chris Evans, shows up _repeatedly_, appropriately and amusingly throughout ;-)

Again, I left the movie and finish writing my review ... in awe.  Simply a great, great job!

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Big Sick [2017]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB () (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

The Big Sick [2017] (directed by Michael Showalter, screenplay by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani) is a crowd-pleasing (and at times challenging) contemporary romantic dramedy that actually tells the story, okay somewhat fictionalized, of "When Kumail met Emily" ;-) -- the film tells the story of how the film's screenwriters met, fell in love and eventually married.

Kumail Nanjiani plays himself, Emily's role is played quite wonderfully by Zoe Kazan.  The challenge of the story to North American audiences is that Kumail is, of course, a Pakistani-American, while Emily is native born and white.  So viewers are reminded, repeatedly, of the quite literally pre-judices that Kumail faces in day-to-day life.  In one instance, when asked _yet again_ what he thinks of 9/11, exasperated, Kumail, a comedian both in the film and in real life, responds: "Yes, it was a tragedy.  We lost nineteen of our best people that day..." ;-) AND THEN HAS TO EXPLAIN (QUICKLY) THAT HE WAS JUST KIDDING, that OF COURSE the tragedy was that thousands of people, overwhelmingly Americans were senselessly murdered by those 19 terrorists.

But to its credit (on multiple levels, including simply a much needed _informative_ one) the film ALSO presents the expectations / prejudices that existed in Kumail's own home: Kumail's parents and especially _his mother_ (played wonderfully by Zenobia Shroff) simply expected him to marry the PAKISTANI WAY (by arranged marriage).  And since Kumail's family was quite wealthy ... the parade of eligible young Pakistani women that Kumail's mother was constantly inviting over to their home for Kumail to meet was _not_ exactly "bottom of the barrel."  These were attractive, educated, young women from similarly wealthy Pakistani-American families wanting their daughters to also marry well.  But there certainly was a prejudice in the culture against "marriage for love" which was quite clearly being dismissed as "marriage for lust."  Interesting.

Anyway, much takes place in the story of Kumail's and Emily's romance.  And it was actually Emily's parents (played wonderfully by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.  If the Academy chose to be brave this year, Holly Hunter honestly deserves a look for a Best Supporting Actress nomination) who, if initially wary / distrustful of Kumail's presence / intentions, come around to his defense.  Kumail's parents are the ones who seem to dismiss even the possibility that their son marrying outside their ethnicity / religion (as Pakistanis, they were, of course, Muslim) could be a good thing.

So honestly this is a contemporary dramedy, aimed at millennials and their parents, that seriously "moves the ball" in Western / Muslim dialogue.

Honestly a brave and good job!

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