Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Big Sick

I'm just going to put something out there.  I am not a big fan of romantic comedies (and I despise it when people refer to them as rom-coms).  I rarely see them and I am almost always underwhelmed by the ones I do see.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back.  Blah, blah, blah.  However, I decided to see The Big Sick on Friday night because it generated a lot of buzz at Sundance this year (and receieved one of the biggest distribution deals from the festival) and I saw a preview last week which made me laugh out loud.  It is a true story which adds a bit of a twist to the standard formula: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl is put into a coma, and boy gets girl back.  Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani playing a fictionalized version of himself) is a Pakistani comic who gets heckled one night by a graduate student named Emily (Zoe Kazan).  They immediately hit it off but eventually break up because Kumail's traditional parents want an arranged marriage for him.  Emily ends up in the emergency room one night and a friend asks Kumail to check up on her.  Her condition worsens so it is decided that she should be put in a medically induced coma and Kumail must inform her parents, Beth and Terry (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano).  As the days go by, he bonds with her parents and realizes how much he loves Emily.  It is so funny!  I laughed out loud through the whole thing!  I almost couldn't breathe in the scene where Terry and Kumail talk about 9/11 because I was laughing so hard.  All of the scenes with Kumail's potential brides, who just happen to drop by, are also hilarious ("The truth is out there!")  There are also some very heartwarming scenes, especially when Kumail tells his parents that they can't kick him out of the family.  Kumail is so endearing and both he and Kazan have great chemistry.  Both Hunter and Romano are also great together and Kumail's fellow comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler) are a lot of fun.  I should mention that there is quite a bit of profanity but I absolutely loved this hilarious movie and I highly recommend it.

Note:  I saw this at the Broadway Theater and there was not an empty seat in sight.  That has only happened for two other movies that I've seen there:  The Grand Budapest Hotel and La La Land.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

On Thursday night I saw an early screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming and I absolutely loved it!  What made it so much fun is that Peter Parker is finally portrayed by an age-appropriate actor as a wisecracking and nerdy high school student dealing with both his superpowers and the everyday problems of a 15-year-old, like who to take to the Homecoming dance.  Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) owns a salvage company tasked with cleaning up after the Battle of New York until Stark Industries and the federal government create the Department of Damage Control and take over.  Bitter about losing so much revenue, Toomes keeps pieces of the Chitauri technology to create weapons to sell on the black market.  Eight years later, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is still on a high after his experiences with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and is finding it hard to settle down to real life in high school.  He wants to be an Avenger but Stark wants him to start slow as a friendly neighborhood superhero (in some really amusing scenes).  Meanwhile, Toomes has become the Vulture with a crew who rob the D.O.D.C. for more alien technology to keep up their supply and Spider-Man attempts to stop him, often needing to be rescued by Iron Man (with some fun action sequences involving Peter's Decathlon team in Washington, D.C. and a fight with the Vulture on the Staten Island ferry).  Tony Stark takes away his Stark Industries-enhanced suit so Spider-Man must go it alone in an epic confrontation with the Vulture.  I thought Michael Keaton's Vulture was a very ordinary villain but I absolutely loved Holland's performance because of his impetuosity and awkwardness.  His interactions with his friends Ned (Jacob Batalon), Flash (Tony Revolori), Michelle (Zendaya), and Liz (Laura Harrier) are incredibly amusing.  I laughed out loud when Peter and Ned talked about building the Death Star out of legos!  I also think the mentor relationships with Tony and Happy (Jon Favreau), who is his minder, are great.  The action sequences are fine (although I wish the final confrontation hadn't been at night because it was so dark that I sometimes had a hard time seeing what was going on) but I had a lot more fun with the character development and dialogue.  It is such a fun and lighthearted movie and I highly recommend it.

Note:  The Captain America (Chris Evans) PSAs used at the school are hilarious.  I also loved it when Peter's Decathlon teacher (Martin Starr) is interviewed after the events in Washington, D.C. and says, "I would hate to lose a student on a school trip.  Not again."  I think I was the only person in the theater who laughed at that.  I once left a student at Kingsbury Hall...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer Reading: Nutshell

I am a huge fan of Ian McEwan! I've read and enjoyed many of his books (Enduring Love and Atonement are my favorites) so I was quite eager to start Nutshell, the next selection on my summer reading list. This novel is a contemporary retelling of Hamlet which, of course, made me even more excited.  Rather unusually, the first-person narrator is the unborn fetus (a rather loquacious fetus) of a woman named Trudy who, with her lover Claude, is plotting the murder of her husband and Claude's brother, John. The fetus hears all of their discussions and tries, unsuccessfully, to foil their plan and save his father. The action builds and builds into an ingenious conclusion (half of the fun for me was trying to figure out how the fetus could affect the outcome and it didn't disappoint). I loved the fetus' description of being inside the womb and his account of what it was like for him when Trudy and Claude have sex is highly amusing. I also really enjoyed all of the fetus' philosophical musings about the state of the world, such as global warming, over population, religious extremism, and identity theft (Trudy listens to a lot of public radio when she can't sleep), and his worries about being born into such a world with an unreliable mother, a despicable uncle, and an absent father. All of the sly references to Hamlet, including the title, are such fun and I suspect that I will have to read this again to find all of them. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Trudy is absolutely complicit in the murder of John because I always go back and forth in how I feel about Gertrude's involvement in the death of King Hamlet. McEwan's prose is so beautiful and I found myself going back to reread certain passages. While I was sometimes exasperated with Cline's hyperbolic descriptions in The Girls, I think the removal of even a single word in this novel would result in diminishment. I highly recommend this clever and captivating novel.

Have you read Nutshell? What did you think?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Anne With An "E"

I love Anne of Green Gables!  As a Canadian girl myself, I have always considered Anne to be a kindred spirit.  I have read the entire series by L.M. Montgomery more times than I can count and I regularly watch my copy of the 1985 miniseries starring Megan Follows.  When I learned about a new adaptation on Netflix called Anne With An "E" I was intrigued but I heard some negative reviews so I didn't watch it immediately.  I decided to watch it this week and, while it is much darker in tone than the books and the miniseries, I really enjoyed it.  This new version has everything that die-hard fans would expect:  the dramatic apology to Mrs. Lynde, the missing brooch, the slate on Gilbert's head, the raspberry cordial mix-up, puffed sleeves, Minnie May's croup, and Aunt Josephine's guest room.  However, there are some changes to the source material which emphasize the subtext, most notably sending Anne back to the orphanage in Charlottetown,  Anne's negative reception in the town of Avonlea and at school, the death of Gilbert's father, and the financial problems of the Cuthberts.  These changes and the dark tone are what most people criticize about this version but I thought they made the story more realistic and they made me empathize more with the characters.  I especially appreciated the story line of Anne's comments about Prissy Andrews and Mr. Phillips, the Avonlea teacher.  Because of her rough background, Anne had been exposed to many things that girls her age would not have been and she didn't understand that talking about certain things would be considered inappropriate.  She was just commenting on something she observed with the Hammonds.  This really struck a chord with me because my niece, who spent time in foster care, was definitely wise beyond her years when she became a part of my family.  I also liked the relationship that was forged between Anne and Marilla as a result of Anne's struggles to fit in.  Through all of her trials, Anne still uses her incredible imagination to cope which is why I like the novels so much.  Next, Amybeth McNulty gives a bewitching performance as Anne and I also enjoyed Geraldine James as Marilla and R. H. Thomson as Matthew.  I will admit that I do prefer Jonathan Crombie (from the 1985 miniseries) as Gilbert Blythe but Lucas Jade Zumann eventually won me over  Finally, I loved the beautiful cinematography with sweeping shots of Prince Edward Island (it is on my bucket list to visit P.E.I.) and the atmospheric score.  I think people without any familiarity with the story will enjoy this series more than die-hard fans (but I do think it is possible for fans to appreciate it for what it is) and I definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

4th of July

To celebrate Independence Day I went back up to Hanna with Kristine to spend the day with Sean and Trent.  The campground where they are staying is so beautiful and it was incredibly relaxing to listen to the river while reading.  Every once in a while a lovely breeze would blow through the trees and I was perfectly content.  Trent made the best breakfast ever on the grill: bacon, eggs, sausage, and waffles.  It was so delicious.  I always make my famous flag cake every year and this time I had a little helper who served it to everyone with great solemnity.  Once again, we had a big fire and I laughed and laughed at Sean's antics!
On the drive home we had spectacular views of the fireworks in Park City and at Sugarhouse Park.  We saw both shows without having to deal with all of the hassle!
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