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That’s Why They Call It Love

3 Jul

Like so many single people of a certain age, Kumail Nanjiani is getting pressured by his family to get married. But there’s a “twist”: In traditional Pakistani Muslim culture, you don’t choose your spouse, it’s all arranged for you. And so, at every family dinner, a potential wife just happens to be in the neighborhood, and shows up right before dessert.

But Kumail wants nothing to do with that custom. Since moving to Chicago at a young age, he’s stopped praying and has been assimilating into American culture. Instead of becoming a doctor, he’s chosen a career as a stand-up comedian. (Fine. He’s also an Uber driver.) And, as the new movie The Big Sick begins, he meets an American woman named Emily (Zoe Kazan, writer and star of the excellent Ruby Sparks), and the two start dating. Continue reading

Young Mozart with a Go-Kart

2 Jul

Baby Driver is a movie for anyone who lives life with a constant soundtrack of music playing. Those who sing along with the radio, change the way they walk or drive depending on the song they’re listening to, and can’t sit still when they go to concerts.

This one’s for all of us.

Nowhere is this more true than in its opening credits sequence, where our title character (played by Ansel Elgort, from The Fault in Our Stars) doesn’t so much walk through the city as he grooves, while listening to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle.” Eagle-eyed viewers will spot song lyrics appearing as graffiti on the walls.

Nice touch. Continue reading

The 2017 Happiness Project

3 Jan

HappinessSomething I’ve learned over the years is that happiness is not something you can seek or plan. You just have to allow yourself to feel it. To notice and appreciate the good things in life — no matter how small — that make you smile. Hopefully on a regular basis.

With so much negativity in the world, that can sometimes be hard. And this year, it may prove extra challenging.

So, to proactively prevent another sucky year like 2016 was, I want to do whatever I can to focus on my own happiness — and hopefully, in the process, share that happiness with others. Continue reading

Everybody Wanted Some Good Movies in 2016!!

27 Dec

everybody-wants-someEvery year around this time, movie watchers put on end-of-the-year goggles and delight in the riches that come with awards season movie releases.

Funny thing is, it wasn’t so long ago that many of those same people (myself included) were bemoaning the lack of quality releases this year. For example, in September, in a column on the sorry state of movies, Boston Globe critic Ty Burr actually wrote, “Someday we may look back on 2016 as the year the movies died.” Ouch. (And this was less than a year after Spotlight, a fantastic movie about a group of dogged Boston Globe reporters, won all kinds of awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture.)

There was also a great video by a YouTuber who calls himself the Nerdwriter about the epidemic of “passable” movies.

To be sure, neither Ty or the Nerdwriter — or the multiple other critics who wrote similar columns — was wrong. Much of 2016 did feel seriously lacking in great cinematic pleasure.

And yet, here we are. Continue reading

Heroes and Villains

4 Aug

On the surface, the two new movies Suicide Squad and Gleason would seem to have very little, if anything, in common.

One is a big, loud comic-book movie about a group of meta-human villains, and the other is a true-life documentary about the devastating effects of ALS on a former NFL football player. One is about some very bad characters acting sort of heroically and the other is about an actual hero acting even more heroically.

But at their cores, both movies are about flawed heroes. Heroes overcoming their own challenges.

And here they both are in theaters, presenting discriminating moviegoers with a choice. Which one should you see? Here are my reviews. Continue reading

Tickled Is So Much More Than a Laughing Matter

27 Jun

tickled-posterIf it’s true that truth is stranger than fiction, then what are we to make of the new documentary Tickled?

Ostensibly the story of a New Zealand reporter who wants to know more about the world of Competitive Endurance Tickling (yes, that’s really a thing), this documentary takes viewers on an unforgettable journey down a rabbit hole so twisty they’ll never see the bottom coming.

Without spoiling anything, here’s the gist: David Farrier is one of those lighter-side TV personalities who is always reporting on the weird and wacky side of life. So when he comes across videos featuring the sport of “competitive endurance tickling,” he figures he’s found his next great story. In the world of CET, a young jock is held down — shackled, actually — and, yes, tickled by one, two, or three other men. Why do they do this, other than, apparently, for significant financial gain? Who wants to watch this? And who is behind it all? Continue reading

Blake Lively vs a Shark, and Other Summer Movie Thrills

24 Jun

blake-lively-the-shallowsWhat’s with movie producers putting Blake Lively in danger? First, Ben Affleck turned her into a drugged-up townie in The Town. Then, she got kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel in Oliver Stone’s Savages. Now, the erstwhile Serena van der Woodsen is being hunted by a hungry shark in The Shallows.

My girl just can’t catch a break!

Unfortunately, the same can be said for moviegoers. Based on the films I’ve seen in the past few weeks, there’s not a breakout that screams “must-see.” So, with that spoiler aside, I figured I’d share a bunch of recent reviews, starting with a review of Blake Lively’s latest. Continue reading