How do you escape from the crawl space under a Florida house during a hurricane after the discovery of a series of very large alligators have headed to the same space? With only eighty-seven minutes running time this film spends most of its time in action scenes as Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father Dave (Barry Pepper) […]
Rhymes with MacGruber. Might be less enervating than that almost decade old action fiasco (a spin-off of an SNL sketch whose domestic returns couldn’t equal its budget) which starred Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, and Val Kilmer (as the heavy) because of what its game headliners bring to the mix. Stuber finds solace in uniting crudity to its mayhem and wit that for older cineastes may hearken back to stuff like Midnight Run and 48 Hrs. It’s the buddy comedy template in our ‘Uber’ age that could be considered as a modern lurid and snarky spin on Collateral. Though it isn’t fair to Martin Brest and Michael Mann to mention Michael Dowse’s film with theirs. But, perhaps the set-up is inviting enough for those into the pairing of Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani and beefy Filipino descendant Dave Bautista as the former looks for an opportunity to receive the coveted five-star rating for the semi-eponymous ride-share app. Nanjiani’s Stu will have to take Bautista’s unhinged, driven Vic all over (with at least a couple of eye-catching set pieces) to apprehend a brutal drug baron (a one dimensional, if volatile Iko Uwais of The Raid). This odd couple are together because Vic is just a recipient of Lasik surgery and plenty of banter ensues with Nanjiani (given plenty of pungent verbiage) doing his stand-up routine behind the wheel and other weird predicaments. The narrative just doesn’t spark more than being an advertisement for what has potential for a gratuitous drollery – more humdrum than outrageous fun if one considers the likes of the recent Baby Driver. Natalie Morales, Karen Gillian, and Betty Gilpin are the notable distaff elements, mostly devices for the reluctant duo to lift each other to a better place, so to speak. You see Nanjiani had more ideal material in The Big Sick where he toiled in the same occupation (he co-wrote it, too) and Bautista more doltish appeal as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. A self-help exchange is par for the course between Stu and Vic in between the kind of interludes that could sate John Wick Chapter 3 Parabellum applauders. Nonetheless, Stuber mostly stubs itself from the generic approach which extends to a mostly shallow delivery of course with an edge that is misjudged by Dowse (who excelled in a gritty ice-hockey milieu in “Goon” awhile back). Here, the raging and risible […]
Understanding and empathy somehow materialize in this often harrowing depiction of squalor on the outskirts of Birmingham, England, as well as the margins of society during the Thatcher era. Richard Billingham takes us into public housing in Britain’s Black Country using his acclaimed still photography background to noticeable dysfunctional effect in Ray & Liz adapted from his ‘Ray a Laugh’ project. The council flat in the West Midlands could seem a mite embellished as the older Ray (Patrick Romer) wastes away as a hermitic sot. Billingham’s primary focus in two extended recollections (from the framing device) has his younger brother Jason and himself dealing with dereliction (from the impermissible way with acceptable standards) soaked in alcohol and miasmic cigarette smoke. If the dramatic aspect of Billingham’s early years may be lacking the imagery reflects an honest impressionism into stark helplessness, despair and depravity, a youthful innocence, along with durability and curiosity is wrenchingly evident. 16 millimeter yellow-tinged lensing (with plenty of icky close-ups) boxed into a smaller aspect ratio gives the proceedings an intimacy that recalls the spirited aplomb of a Terence Davies, specifically his Distant Voices, Still Lives which had the late Pete Postlethwaite in a pivotal supporting role. No matter what kind of distinctive stylings are presented the clear vitriolic, vituperative kitchen-sink type realism will be difficult to endure. Yet, Ray & Liz can still drop a penny amid the filth with odd poignancy as the cast’s fealty can’t be ignored. Justin Salinger and, notably, Ella Smith make their ill-prepared parental presence known as the ‘younger’ titular characters. Also, Tony Way’s ‘soft’ Lol is the unfortunate feckless relative, while one of the most prominent ‘earlier’ episodes include an insolent Joshua Millard-Lloyd as Jason and the wheedling, boorish (friend?) lodger Sam Gittins as Will back when cassette recorders were still popular.
A sweet naturalism is brought to China in a deeply felt family dramedy, comparable in its emotional output to Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club. Or in some respects to a low-budgeted darling like Little Miss Sunshine. Writer and director Lulu Wang endows much grace and humanity to The Farewell (often in Mandarin though multi-lingual with subtitles) from her own experiences using a conflict over one’s heritage to noticeable effect. With hardly extra polish from the production end and a story and ensemble very much in-sync in what exudes universality, the Western (read: candid) sensibilities of struggling New Yorker Billi (rising actress and hip-hop artist Awkwafina – sounds like a Pepsi-produced bottled water) are compromised when returning home to her native Asian land. When learning of a terminal pulmonary illness of her grandmother “Nai Nai” Billi’s sullen, unassured, and inward demeanor is more pronounced. The tension that arises comes from Nai Nai’s clan not letting her in on her grave diagnosis, permissible by law in their Eastern culture as a way to promote a continued quality of life for whatever period may remain (to enjoy a ‘last time’ with her). The palliative ruse is accentuated by a faux wedding between Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Han Chen) and his three-month girlfriend (Aoi Mizuhara). So, the adroit Wang has much in the offing to instill much wit and spirit. The fact of the matter is Billi doesn’t like how gung-ho her family is in their fastidious means (much more than strategizing a surprise birthday party) for the nuptials, and she’s dying to clue her beloved Nai Nai (a zesty Zhao Shuzhen) in on the goings-on. Because Wang delivers it all with much respect to her estimable cast and their situation what is so well told becomes all the more telling. A surprising Awkwafina does a turnabout from smaller, if showy roles in last year’s late summer hit Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8 to etch much nuance into Billi as nostalgia also emerges in her sensitively wrought portrait. It works in part because of efficiently involving discourse with her parents – Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin). Chen is a big plus on the levity side. It’s hard not to find the developments in The Farewell to be less than arresting especially through the able presence of trying to cope with moral relativism.
A strangely pungent provocation on ‘toxic masculinity’ dangerously straddles the line between light quirkiness and psychological drama. The Art of Self-Defense is directed by Riley Stearns and stars Jesse Eisenberg who embraces what can be irritating from a plotting and pacing standpoint working from his usual twitchy bundle of neuroses. He’s been in a couple […]