Tag Archives: Kumail Nanjiani

The Lovebirds

Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) are lingering in her doorway as they say goodbye after a one night stand. Neither is ready to part so they go to breakfast, and then the park, and then they don’t even notice where they are because they’re too busy confessing mutual crushes and making ooey gooey eyes at each other and generally just agreeing that this is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Rae and Nanjiani are charming enough that this fills you with joy rather than loathing.

Cut to: four years later. Leilani and Jibran are together, and having one of those fights that couples have, the little thing that turns into a bigger thing, angry words exchanged as they hurry each other out the door, late to a dinner party. The fight continues in the car, and things unravel to the point of breakup. We’re just starting to feel like this is going to be one mother of an awkward dinner party when WHAM, the cyclist that Jibrani just hit rolls up the hood of their car, smashes his skull into their windshield, and then flops back down to the pavement.

It’s funny how killing someone can really put a crimp in your plans. Now they’ll have to put dinner AND their breakup on hold to run from the cops – at least until they can clear their names. You might guess that this does not go well; The Lovebirds is in fact a comedy. The murder aspect is deadly serious but the escalating circumstances in which they find themselves are pretty funny.

“Things going increasingly badly for good people” is one of the most tired tropes in the comedy genre, and The Lovebirds is pretty much exactly what you expect. Happily, Nanjiani and Rae are talented enough and compatible enough that their chemistry saves this thing from mediocrity. It’s too bad the movie really leans on them to carry this thing, but it’s a relief that they can, and they do. The movie’s uneven, there are funny parts, draggy parts, parts that don’t work, and parts that really do. But on the whole I found it fun and enjoyable – light fare from talented actors who deserve to use this film as a vault to better roles and bigger spotlights. And since you may be cooped up with your own partner for the tenth weekend in a row, it’s not a bad idea to pour yourself some sangria and wonder how YOU’D react under similar circumstances.

Stuber

Stu is an uber driver and a retail schlep who’s madly and secretly in love with his best friend, a woman totally oblivious as she dates asshole after asshole. Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is spending yet another night driving in order to make extra money to fund his best friend’s dreams and get her to notice him, once and for all. Unfortunately, it’s officer Vic who notices him, and his night’s about to get a whole lot worse.

Vic (Dave Bautista) is a police officer with a weird back story: 1. his partner was killed on a drug bust and he’s been obsessed with getting revenge ever since 2. he recently had lasik eye surgery. So, thanks to that convenient little plot detail, Vic is practically blind when the biggest drug deal of the year is about to go down, and for some reason he MUST act on it, independently of the police force of course, and he commandeers poor Stu and his silent but deadly electric car for a whole night’s worth of mayhem. Even tougher to digest: Stu is so obsessed with 5-star ratings that he goes along with it. So preoccupied with his uber rating that he’ll risk life and livelihood to follow Vic into situations where even Vic should not be. And Vic is the kind of prick who continually threatens a poor rating to coerce an unarmed civilian to provide back-up on an unsanctioned mission.

I’m not the biggest Dave Bautista fan, or indeed a fan of anyone coming out of the Dwayne Johnson School of Acting, though I’ll take Bautista over Cena any day (but ideally neither, ever). Bautista does little to make the material work but I’m not even sure I can blame him for the movie’s many problems. He and Nanjiani actually have some pretty decent chemistry, in the old buddy tradition of opposites attract. Nanjiani is, of course, the reason to see this movie. All the movie’s laughs, and there are a surprising number, are because of him. He works even harder than his overworked character Stu to deliver us a pleasant film-going experience, and while I’m glad I didn’t pay to see this in theatres, I think it’s a decent at-home watch if you’re in the mood for a mindless comedy. And I do insist on the mindless part because no, that plot don’t make no sense. But if you’re in the mood for a violent, R-rated comedy that makes John Woo AND and Johnny Cash references (and really, who’s not?), then boy have I got a film to fill that very narrow niche.

Men in Black: International

When did aliens become so boring? In Men in Black: International, everyone is trying to out-deadpan Tommy Lee Jones, and succeeding. There is no excitement, no awe, just a bunch of bored white men joined by a bored diversity hire, all bumbling around England, Paris, and Morocco trying to save the world from an unseen alien menace after an alien prince is killed but not before delivering a MacGuffin to MiB’s newest agent (Tessa Thompson).

As the first three MiB films showed, it can be fun to have one disinterested agent in our lead duo. But those films worked because Will Smith’s junior agent brought enough energy and wonder for the two of them. They worked because Smith’s Agent J was the audience’s stand in, who marvelled and freaked out at the marvelous and freaky stuff onscreen. And also, they worked because for all his surface gruffness, Agent K was actually quite an interesting character, and Jones let us see that just enough to make us invest in him. Unfortunately, MiB:I’s H (Chris Hemsworth) and M (Thompson) both have seen it all before, and even worse, so has the audience. So everyone ends up being disinterested, including the viewer.

The aliens and events in MiB:I simply don’t measure up to what the franchise has previously offered us. The aliens are bland and the stakes are surprisingly low consindering our heroes keep telling us their job is to save the world. Basically, it’s the opposite of what is expected from a summer blockbuster. The only joy in the film comes from Kumail Nanjiani’s pint-sized sidekick, who has all the best lines and whose hilarity highlights the disappointing blandness of everything else.

MiB:I simply has nothing to offer and no reason to be. That’s a particularly damning critique when this franchise’s defining trait has been ridiculousness. MiB:I didn’t need to be a good movie, but it did need to be silly, loud, and campy. Instead, it’s forgettable and unoriginal to the point that I’d have been better off rewatching any of its predecessors. I’m sure they’d have offered more surprises on a rewatch than MiB:I did on my first (and undoubtedly only) viewing.

Duck Butter

Naima is having a bad day: she’s not fitting in on the set on an indie Duplass Brothers movie and her roommate is a bit of a wet blanket. So she’s in the right kind of mood to fall in love with the beautiful and exotic lead singer at the club that night, and she does. Naima and Sergio go home together and have an amazing time but when Sergio proposes that they should spend the next 24 hours together in an intense, sex-forward, date-skipping, get to really REALLY know you kind of thing.

Naima (Alia Shawkat) cuts and runs of course, as any sane person should. But when the Duplasses fire her she kind of has a change of heart and begs Sergio (Laia Costa) to forgive her reluctance and cowardice and soon enough, their little love experiment is in full swing. And how. These two ladies are not afraid to let shit get REAL. And it’s shot in nullsuch a way that things feel authentic and raw, and the intimacy translates so that we too are made uncomfortable by the too much, too fast. I totally get the wanting to fast forward past the awkward part of dating, the artifice of it,the hiding of one’s true self, but if there’s a way past it, all this movie does is prove that this isn’t it.

But it pretty compelling to watch. I mean: Alia Shawkat. She is a gift to the indie movie scene. She’s versatile and has a pure and brave energy. Her chemistry with Costa is terrific, as it absolutely must be to make this movie work. Shawkat and Costa are impressively willing to go there. It must have been emotionally draining to be so present and in the moment, but they give the movie a bold and brazen but fleeting vibe that’s unique to this 90 minute capsule.

The film is imperfect just like the characters, just like their romance. And if you can imagine spending 24 hours with a stranger who is also your lover and new best friend, it flags a bit in the middle, just like you’d do in real life. But there’s something just so refreshing and weird about this film, about the collision between two people in a certain time and place, that I couldn’t look away.

Now, if you need any more convincing that representation matters, here’s an interesting tidbit. On Rotten Tomatoes, Duck Butter is rated Fresh by nearly every single female critic, and it is rated Rotten by all the men save one. Movies mean different things to different people, and that’s okay. Just don’t let half of those people convince you theirs is the only opinion that matters.

Poop Talk

Poop. Everybody does it; polite people don’t talk about it. Poop Talk features very few polite people. Make no mistake, Poop Talk is a documentary but it will not enlighten you or educate you. Instead it assembles dozens of your favourite comedians and asks them to relate their best bits about poop. Whether or not this documentary will entertain you depends entirely on your tolerance for scatological humour.

Personally, I have likely never laughed at a poop joke. I believe there’s a reason that we build sacred rooms in our homes devoted to just one thing: pooping. Bodily functions are private. Why bother doing them behind closed doors if we then fling the door open and MV5BMTA5ODIxN2ItMTE0My00NjZkLWEyNjEtZTcxNzVhMzQwMzQwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjMyOTQ5OTA@._V1_proudly boast about our most disgusting feats? Having recently spent quite a lot of time with nephews aged 3,4, and 6, the phrase “no toilet talk” has left my lips more times than I can count. And now I realize I’m happy to do my part in teaching the future generation what’s appropriate to talk about in public and what’s not if it means no one has to sit through such a “frank” documentary every again.

Nicole Byer, Eric Stonestreet, Rob Coddry, Pete Holmes, Aisha Tyler, the Sklar Brothers, Nick Swardson, Paul Scheer, and Kumail Nanjiani are among the film’s culprits. Each brings a poop story to the table: airplane poops, public restrooms, bidets, sullied pants, ruined Passovers. Nothing is off-limits for this documentary, though it exists in a world where poop is still probably our favourite taboo. We may all be responsible for approximately 365 pounds of it per year, but most of us prefer to do it behind closed doors. Comedians, however, are not normal people. Emancipated from shame, they lay bare their most intimate poop details, and you can choose whether or not to laugh and commiserate. Eric Stonestreet is a notable exception: his list of places he won’t poop is extensive, and almost as long as mine. Thank you, sir, for being the single voice of reason.

Using almost exclusively talking head interviews, director Aaron Feldman keeps things simple and straight-forward, and never in my life have I been more grateful for a lack of illustrative graphics. I was one cutesy animation away from losing my shit. If we truly¬† must do this, then let’s get in and get out as quickly as possible. A tight 75 minute running time is a blessing. The film’s philosophy is elemental: the more we share openly about these things, the more united we’ll be in our human experience. Around the globe and across all cultures, everybody poops. And some rare specimens have learned to turn shit into comedy gold.

 

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Sean has a video game called LEGO Dimensions. You buy character packs, build them out of LEGO, and then you can play them in the game. The character packs come in all sorts of cool recognizable shapes and sizes: Sean has the Simpsons, and Back to the Future, and Ghostbusters, for example. He builds a Marty McFly, and a Delorean, and then he can go through the plot of the movie using those characters. It’s pretty cool. But as a completionist, he’s also bought character packs that we have no experience with at all, like Harry Potter, Adventure Time, Portal 2, and Ninjago. And while we knew that Harry Potter were popular books, and a franchise of films, we didn’t know Ninjago at all. In fact, we didn’t even know how to pronounce it correctly until Sean called it Ninja-go in front of his 4 year old nephew, who looked at him like he was a complete sack of shit. It’s pronounced Nin-jaw-go, for your information. And apparently it’s a TV show used to sell LEGO sets. But whereas Bill Murray was a real flesh and blood person rendered into a cartoon version of a LEGO mini figure, the Ninjagos were always LEGO. LEGO has sold over 100 different sets of LEGOs based on that show, so you can see how it’s a big money maker for them. The movie is a cog in their money making machine.

AmazeThe gist of the movie: Garmadon (Justin Theroux) is the bad guy threatening the world of Ninjago. But every time he tries to invade it for good, he’s thwarted by a band of teenage ninjas trained by his brother, Master Wu (Jackie Chan) and led by the son he abandoned 16 years ago, Lloyd (Dave Franco) though none bear any familial resemblance. Being the son of a noted bad guy is hard, and so is being the vaguely named “green ninja” in a crew of ninjas otherwise named for the elements – Cole\Earth (Fred Armisen), Jay\Lightning (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai\Fire (Michael Pena), Zane\Ice (Zach Woods), and Nya\Water (Abbi Jacobson). They get to ride around in really cool LEGO robots that can shoot things and fly, and I can totally see the toy appeal. Lloyd’s robot vehicle is a dragon that shoots missiles from every body part imaginable – what kid could resist? But the genius is that that they all have something different, so the potential for you to spend money is almost limitless.

Anyway, when Garmadon makes his most successful bid to capture the city (and a monster threatens to destroy it), Lloyd will have to learn now to harness his vague ninja powers, pull his team together, and also bond a little with his bad guy dad.

Yes, it’s all a big ploy to get into your wallet. But like the other LEGO movies that came before it, it’s also shamelessly fun. But this one is the weakest of the three, in part because it only appeals to the kids who know and watch the show. The other two movies preyed on adult nostalgia and reminded them of the toys they played with as kids. The only thing this movie might remind you of is the sharp little buggers that get lost in your carpet and hurt like hell when you step on them at night on your way to the bathroom. LEGO knows what it’s doing: the butt joke ratio is extremely high, and the kids laugh every damn time. So go ahead and take them to it, as long as you understand that it’s likely to cost you more than just the movie tickets.

The Big Sick

It’s hard to put a movie like The Big Sick into a box. If you heard romcom, you heard wrong. Not dead wrong, and not totally untrue, but you’ll have to shift your expectations. What you SHOULD and can expect from it: a very authentic and relatable experience, with lots of family drama, a little rom, and some definitely com.

It’s about how star Kumail Nanjiani met his (spoiler alert!) wife Emily, with whom he co-wrote the movie. So yes, they end up together. But you’d hardly guess it. In this only-slightly-fictionalized-account, they meet and fall in love rather quickly, but basically agree that there’s little chance of this being a long-term thing; she’s in grad school and The-Big-Sick-moviedoesn’t want a commitment, his fate involves an arranged marriage, sooner rather than later if his mother gets her way. They go their separate ways, and that might have been that had Emily (Zoe Kazan) not fallen ill with a life-threatening illness that left her in a coma. Her friends all busy with finals, they call him in to sit at her bedside while her parents fly across the country to be with her.

Kumail was a struggling stand-up comedian\Uber driver at the time, and he kept his relationship secret from his family, who expected him to marry within the culture, to a woman of his mother’s choosing. Emily’s parents, meanwhile, are not huge fans of Kumail’s, since he’s the guy who recently dumped their daughter after admitting that he’s gone a series of blind dates at his mother’s dining room table. Her parents, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, actually add a very interesting dynamic to the whole thing. But though the script doesn’t gloss over any of life’s bumps (at times, it’s nakedly, shockingly honest), it also doesn’t cast anyone as the villain. It’s just people coming at things from different angles. Love is hard, and if you’re lucky, long. It takes work and compromise. It’s even harder and compromisier when a couple comes from different backgrounds, and may have different expectations of love and dating and marriage.

Bottom line: I cannot recommend this enough. While not a laugh riot, it’s cheeky and authentic and well-written, like show-offily well-written. Real people populate this film, and all the players are its equal. Nanjiani is great, of course, but unexpectedly great performances from Hunter and Romano, in roles much meatier than you might anticipate, really make this thing come together. You care about these characters, together and separately, which is 107% more than I care about the soulless, sequel-heavy pieces of utter balogna that dominate movie theatres this day. The Big Sick isn’t just a great movie, it’s a shining beacon of hope in a bleak landscape of unimaginative belly button lint. Producers, take note: more like this, please. On the double.