5 items from 2017
In today’s movie-watching culture, festival buzz can be a killer. Look at The Witch. Early hype lauded Robert Eggers’ thriller as one of the year’s “scariest” films, which led mainstream audiences to expect something far less unconventional. In many ways, I was worried that the Judd Apatow-produced, Michael Showalter-directed The Big Sick would be slighted by similar “hilarious and heartfelt” proclamations. Could it truly be as funny and emotional as Sundance/SXSW attendees proclaimed? Short answer: 100%. Kumail Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon bare their souls in this romantic-coma-dramedy, plucking all the appropriate heartstrings. So pure. So sweet. So tender. Hype can’t derail this rollercoaster of love.
Nanjiani stars as a struggling Chicago comedian/part-time Uber driver, Kumail (hmmm). Zoe Kazan stars as a blonde therapist-in-training named Emily (double hmmm), who takes a shining to the Pakistani funnyman. What starts as a one-time fling blossoms into relationship bliss, »
- Matt Donato
The pomp and circumstance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “War March of the Priests,” as played on a grand pipe organ by a hooded figure seated in an opulent ballroom during the opening credits of The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), perfectly sets the tone and timbre of director Robert Fuest’s film, both with playful irreverence and an eloquently ominous aural shroud of dread. The events we’re about to see play out in the film will hardly be a righteous procession of missionary or military zeal, as Mendelssohn’s music was originally intended to evoke. Instead, as it rings and bellows forth from the ornate instrument in this eerie chamber, one which feels at once haunted and strangely festive, Mendelssohn’s fervor is immediately cast with the unmistakable sense of having been drawn forth from someplace much darker than one of heavenly inspiration.
The organ itself rises from the bowels of »
- Dennis Cozzalio
Director Gore Verbinski has crafted quite an interesting career. After striking genre gold with the remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu, orchestrating one of Disney’s most successful franchises with Pirates of the Caribbean, and continuing his collaboration with Johnny Depp on the animated film Rango and the reboot of The Lone Ranger, Verbinski was poised to do whatever he wanted to do with his next film, and it doesn’t take long to realize this quality in the director’s new film, A Cure for Wellness.
For nearly two and a half hours, Verbinski compiles a beautiful, confounding, and chaotic medley of his favorite and most influential film scenes recreated. One moment you are whisked away on a train ride through the Swiss Alps in a moment of stunning scenery, the next you are offered images of unnerving and repulsive situations. It’s undeniable that Verbinski and director »
- Monte Yazzie
Everybody’s sick with something in “A Cure for Wellness,” be it vanity or avarice or envy, though it’s clear that whatever regimen the mysterious Dr. Volmer has devised isn’t helping one bit with their recovery. As played by Jason Isaacs, who hovers about the movie’s ominous Swiss sanitarium, Dr. Volmer comes across like a character straight out of a classic American International Pictures horror show, and that’s precisely the vibe director Gore Verbinksi appears to be going for in a movie that, while creepy, won’t do much to dig him out of the hole he made for himself with “The Lone Ranger.”
Unfortunately, it feels as if Verbinski has failed to grasp the most important lessons of that misstep, delivering once again an extravagant B-movie homage that is longer, darker, and more unwieldy than the genre demands, while failing to produce a character that »
- Peter Debruge
Every year filmmakers flock to Sundance with deeply personal movies inspired by their lives and experiences. But rarely do those films also fire on all cylinders as fully fleshed-out pieces of entertainment. Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon mine their personal history for laughs, heartache, and hard-earned insight in “The Big Sick,” a film that’s by turns romantic, rueful, and hilarious. It’s a no-brainer to connect with art-house crowds who like their comedies smart and funny, but this one deserves a shot at the multiplex, too.
Well known in standup circles and a reliable scene stealer in both film and television (perhaps most notably on HBO’s sterling “Silicon Valley”), Nanjiani is overdue for a lead role — and if it takes playing a character loosely based on himself in a movie co-written with his wife, so be it. Nanjiani and Gordon manage the tricky »
- Geoff Berkshire
5 items from 2017