Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

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Wow, I really wouldn’t mind a sequel for this silly flick.

B+

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Hereditary

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Honoring your father and your mother is the first commandment with a promise, reads Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. It has to be, since family can be the most brutal thing that can ever happen to anybody. No dynamic on this earth can better nurture grief, resentment and rage like a family one; tragedy keeps unfolding from one generation to the next, every child inheriting their parents demons.

Hereditary is an uncommonly unsettling picture. It’s monsters are the ones we are familiar with if we’ve been foolish enough to inflict pain on a loved one, or have been on the receiving end. By and large this is a family drama, whose characters carry their resentments on their skin. A broken marriage, a fragile parent-child relationship, an indifferent sibling connection; the film forces the viewer to witness the tragedy of a family in shambles. It is terrifying to behold.

By the time the supernatural elements manifest themselves in full to terrorize the Grahams, one can’t help but wonder if it was always meant to happen. When does a family go wrong? What decisions did the members take at one point that has led everybody down such bleak a path? Or were they condemned from the start, the sins of their forebears too heavy a burden?

When six years ago I made the decision to walk with Christ, one of the realizations I had was that I was becoming my father. I hated the old man, and in my sinful determination to get rid of all the influence he’d had on me, I was turning out to be just like him. I have long since forgiven him, although I continue to struggle with, as this movie would call it, his inheritance. Hereditary made me keenly aware of how grateful I should be that the chains of the past are being broken, and that I will not be suffocated by them.

A

Tag

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Tag proves that Hollywood is not suffering from creative bankruptcy, but from a failure to tell creative stories well. With a premise as ridiculous as this one-adults playing tag for 30 years-, the movie captures the audience’s attention before it’s even begun. So why did it prove so hard for it to keep it?

The issue lies in that Tag is less a movie than it is a series of comedic sketches stretched to the breaking point. It proves hilarious at first, seeing comedy actors chase each other around only to fail in various ways. But then they do it again, and again, the only variant being their whereabouts. Because it seems so self contained, the movie lacks stakes of any kind. It attempts to infuse romance and lived in wisdom, but they seem like afterthoughts, as if halfway through the script the writer realized he was not working for SNL so he should add some depth to his piece.

A particularly egregious example of this occurs near the end of the movie, when a character makes a confession so out of left field in order to tie things up, that it threatens to destroy the credibility of everything that came before it. This level of lazy writing is not worthy of my attention. Fortunately, the cast seems to be having such great a time that they infect us with some of it. Their efforts almost succeed in making the movie do.

C+

Adrift

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It was slightly amusing to see so many teenage girls packing the Monday night showing of Adrift. The previous Shailene Woodley wide release drama was The Fault in Our Stars, the massively successful adaption of a novel that fetishizes death as the ultimate form of romance. Adrift, directed by the guy behind the sometimes boring, sometimes moving Everesthas nothing in common with it but the star. I liked it, but I really want to know what they all thought of it.

B

The Big Sick

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It’s been a most difficult year, with no signs of abating. Six months into 2018 and the general uneasiness that consumes my bones is as present as ever. I continue to pray, although my conversations with God have turned to full on pleas for deliverance. I am exhausted.

Besides intervention from the divine, the only thing that can lift my spirits is the pictures. But even in this arena it has been a lousy year, the outliers of Phantom Thread and I, Tonya a distant but cherished memory. Enter The Big Sick. As a comedy, it is more gentle laughter than riotous, the oft present vulgarity of American comedies replaced by something tender, more observant.

As a drama it is surprisingly intelligent and insightful, its plot machinations revealing thoughts and behaviors that are keenly human. There is no gross manipulation here, nor tacked on sentimentality. Almost every line delivered carries purpose and weight, as if the writers know that cinema is most effective when the audience is one with the characters. And we can only do that when the world they inhabit operates under the rules of our own, when our regrets and fears mirror theirs, and our loves and aspirations are the ones they share.

As a romance it is infectiously charming, not only for the interaction of its two leads, a superb Kumail Nanjiani and the millennial queen of the rom-com Zoe Kazan, but also by that of Holly Hunter and Ray Romano, who play Emily’s parents. For an hour and 59 minutes I was immersed in their relationship navigating all the ups, downs, and in betweens that drive the story, any story, of love. I followed Kumail and Emily all the way to that breathtaking, final shot. Dear reader, what a shot it is. I’ve returned to it three times already, and it makes me gasp for air each time.

At this stage in my life the highest praise I can bestow on anything is that it made me absolutely forget about my troubles. As a character says at one point, “I’m just really tired. Do you ever just want to be in a relationship so you can just finally relax?” The Big Sick made my afflictions cease for a while, and my thoughts at peace.

A+

Shot Caller

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Providing nothing particularly new or insightful to the prison yard piece, Shot Caller coasts by on the strength of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s performance, who gives it his all to infuse his character with the appropriate gravitas to get you invested. It would work just fine if the cliches-who needs another wife and son that appear more by name than face?-did not get in the way.

C+