The Big Sick

After the craptastic double bill of Valerian and The Emoji Movie last week, finally I see something amazing (although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t exactly expect Emoji Movie to be anything other than bad): The Big Sick This film was as great as the combined awfulness of those two films. Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film.

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Probably because it’s based on his real relationship with his wife (pictured here)

I’ve seen a lot of films at the cinema this year (45 to be precise), and this has had the best instantaneous audience feedback I’ve seen. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that.

It’s not a perfect film though. As much as he nails the performance 95% of the time, there are a few heavily emotional moments where Kumail Nanjiani looks like he’s desperately hiding a smirk, robbing the scene of some of the emotion. It’s not helped by how great the rest of the cast are; Holly Hunter is superb, Ray Romano is perfect in this, and I really want to see Zoe Kazan in more stuff now.

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Also random appearance of Vella Lovell which made me happy. New eps of Crazy Ex Girlfriend soon 😀

This is definitely the best rom-com I’ve seen at the cinema all year. Not too difficult though, as it’s the only rom-com I’ve seen this year. There’s actually not been that much romance in cinema this year, the only films where the main focus of the film has been romance have been:

  1. This.
  2. La La Land (musical drama)
  3. The Space Between Us (science fiction)

That’s a shame though as despite being deeply cynical and incapable of love or any positive emotion towards others, I do have a soft spot for the genre. Definitely Maybe is the film that fully cemented my Ryan Reynolds obsession, and Chasing Amy did the same for Ben Affleck. I think it’s because they’re usually very people-based. Action films are about the set-pieces, horror films are about the effects, but for a rom-com to work you need two things:

  1. Believable characters.
  2. Great dialogue.

They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, it’s probably why I seem to be the only person who liked Table 19 (actually I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, genuinely one of my favourite films of the year). It’s also a genre that doesn’t really get affected too badly by the quality of the way you’re viewing it. Some genres are really badly affected by what you watch them on. Horror, for example, is not exactly something you can appreciate watching on a small television screen on an airplane. So many films are “you have to see this in the cinema!”. Think of Avatar, that film is the biggest grossing film of all time. When was the last time you watched it? Do you know anybody who has watched it at home?  As Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes almost 4 years ago

“Kids don’t play ‘Avatar’ on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any ‘Avatar’-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it … ‘Avatar’ didn’t inspire a legion of would-be ‘Avatar’ rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney’s disastrous ‘John Carter.’ It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas”

With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, spectacle fades, good writing doesn’t. The best rom-com’s; When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall etc, all have one thing in common; fantastic writing. You can watch them again and again and still love them. They also have a wide audience. As much as I do love odd films like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a box), Bogowie (a Polish film about heart transplant) and Four Lions (a comedy about suicide bombers), I’m not stupid enough to think they have mass appeal. They’re too weird. Rom-coms are for everyone though. They have universal themes that almost everybody can identify with.

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So where does this film stand compared to the greats of the genre? It’s a little difficult to tell at the moment, but I have a feeling that if I was to sit down in a years time and watch this, I’ll still love it. It also has the best 9/11 joke you’ll likely to hear all year.

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Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Ok, I’ll open this with the good: the opening for this is superb. It starts off with a (very) brief history of space travel in the past, then continues on to the future. This sets up the universe brilliantly. We see humans develop anti-gravity, set up a colony, then meet other species from the universe, all whilst Space Oddity plays. This scene is the highlight of the film, and the quality of it is never matched again.

I went into this with low expectations, and it couldn’t even meet those. I expected it to be the best looking film I’ve seen all year, but kind of bland in terms of story. Let’s start with the visuals; yes, I know it’s all very impressive what it looks like, it’s all very colourful and majestic, but you know what else it is? Sterile and cold. There’s no warmth to the visuals, nothing looks lived in. Everything in it looks like a computer generated movie setting, even the “seedy” areas of the spaceship don’t look quite dirty enough, they just have more neon than the other parts. As such nothing seems real, you can’t imagine anybody living in this world. They spent so much time making it look impressive, they forgot to make it look real.

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Okay it’s not quite THAT bad

Not just the visuals that let you down though. Their’s numerous devices and technologies which are used once then never mentioned again despite how useful they would be. For example; there’s a gun which when you fire it at someone, it means you can control them via remote control. This is used exactly once in the over two hours of the film. There are also two moments where someone’s mind gets read, both times by different things, which are never ever mentioned again.

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I don’t mind bad films, they can be amusing to watch, and can at least sometimes be fun. But a dull movie? That I can’t forgive. And this is dull. It’s not so much that “nothing happens”, more “nothing of consequence” happens. There are entire 20-30 minute sequences which could be cut completely from the film and it wouldn’t affect the story. You know how when you’re playing a video game, you get one door away from the final boss, then suddenly you get “now go collect all these scattered artefacts from around the world”, and you realise that was only done to increase the playing time so they can advertise it as being better than it actually is? That’s what watching this film is like. It’s a shame as it could have been good, maybe if it was released in the 80’s, so it would have had different lead actors. I like Dane DaHaan, a lot, I thought he was fantastic in Life After Beth, and near perfect in A Cure For Wellness. But he is woefully miscast in this. It doesn’t help that his character is kind of a dick; and not a redeemable loveable one. One where when you see him in danger you don’t think “oh no, save him Super Jesus”, you just think “meh”. It doesn’t help that the characters’ introduction consists of him in a weird “I think this is supposed to be sexual chemistry but just looks like sexual harassment” scene.

So, in closing; a film with potential, that is too long, too pointless, and just, well, just not good enough for the budget.