Kicking the Tweets

The Big Sick (2017)

“Egotism” may be the wrong word to describe why The Big Sick doesn’t quite work, but it’s all that comes to mind. Husband-and-wife team Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon wrote a romantic comedy based on their relationship’s very unconventional early days (many of which she spent in a medically induced coma), and Nanjiani plays himself in the film. Big mistake—as was looking to executive producer Judd Apatow to help filter the couple’s real-life struggles through a clogged, narrow funnel of sitcom tropes and “Based on a True Story” beats. In both cases, the guys detract from an earnest story that encompasses not only multiple awkward family dynamics but also a grand cultural divide between Nanjiani and his Pakistani-Muslim parents. The gripping premise succumbs to a lead who seems constantly on the verge of smirking at his breakout role, and an EP whose faulty instincts tell everyone to go “big”.


Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #236 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie diagnose The Big Sick!


Baby Driver (2017)

People who don’t watch enough movies love to accuse us film critics of seeing too many. We know the beats. We’ve seen the tropes. We remain eternally hopeful, but mostly unimpressed. Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a spectacular (and spectacularly rare) left-brain/right-brain phenomenon: a classic action/comedy that’s also a pseudo musical and one of the year's most romantic films. A true film obsessive, Wright tweaks several formulas with near-scientific precision, resulting in something that feels at once comfortably familiar and utterly original. The sharp left turns in this Atlanta-set crime flick aren’t exclusive to its dash-gripping practical stunts: Wright shifts characters and moods from foreground to background and back as smoothly as the titular wheelman prodigy (Ansel Elgort) switches gears--creating complex, investment-worthy relationships that, miraculously, never feel out of step with the sardonic wit and formidable, metal-on-metal set pieces. Please, give me more films like this to get sick of.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #235 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie get revved up over Baby Driver!


Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

To better understand the art of filmmaking, Roger Ebert created what Howard Higman called “Cinema Interruptus”. He and some dedicated film lovers (sometimes students, sometimes festival audiences) dissected great movies scene by scene, studying how composition, lighting, and movement affect the viewing experience in ways both obvious and subliminal. These seminars could last as long as two hours per day for one week—per film. I would love to replicate that idea with Transformers: The Last Knight (though I’d have to find a substitute word for “Cinema”). In his fifth outing with the Hasbro toy franchise, Bay incorporates Arthurian legend into an already dense and contradictory history of robot-v-robot-v-mankind combat. Yet not even Merlin’s sword can summon a single, coherent sequence of events from the mercilessly weightless two-and-a-half-hour run time. With this film, Bay achieves art via transcendent incompetence. The Last Knight must be studied, so as not to be repeated.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #234 to hear Ian and Keeping it Reel's David Fowlie dismantle Transformers: The Last Knight!


The Bad Batch (2017)

The Bad Batch may look like a cookie-cutter, post-apocalypse movie. It's anything but. Let's start with the fact that there was never an apocalypse in its timeline. So what, you might ask, leads to the chaos, cannibalism, and collapse of human decency that writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour seers into her sophomore feature's every moment? I'll leave that for you to discover. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked, even as the studio logos pop up: Amirpour’s critique of the extremes to which so-called polite society will contort in order to protect itself from “the other” is rich, dense, and deadly serious. It's also a showcase for mushroom-gobbling visuals that almost match the twisted images the filmmaker’s ideas will tattoo on your brain. The Bad Batch could take place two sand dunes over from Fury Road’s fiery, metal-smashing Hell—were it not about an Armageddon already in progress.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #232 and #233 for a look at the movies of Ana Lily Amirpour--and an interview with the filmmaker herself!


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

During “vampire chic’s” brief pop resurgence a few years ago, there were a handful of alternatives to Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, if you knew where to look. At the movies, Daybreakers and Only Lovers Left Alive reminded us of the subgenre’s inherent blood and brains. On TV, True Blood gave the vapors to audiences whose idea of cinematic third base was watching Taylor Lautner go shirtless. Gnawing at the fringes was A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Ana Lily Amirpour’s black-and-white Farsi fantasy about the relationship between dreamy-eyed grifter Arash (Arash Marandi) and the sullen, nameless bloodsucker (Sheila Vand) who stalks his town. Alternately goofy, gruesome, loathsome, and lovely, Amirpour’s feature debut examines the prison of the moment through the prism of eternity—packing more visual and dramatic intrigue into two hours than an entire soap or saga, and offering a wild children-of-the-night story for people who aren’t children.

Listen to Kicking the Seat Podcast #232 and #233 for a look at the movies of Ana Lily Amirpour--and an interview with the filmmaker herself!