Victoria & Abdul

OH yeah, I definitely heard about Victoria & Abdul.

I heard about it, and knew I definitely didn´t want to see it, ever.

What a generic sounding, feel good, Hallmark looking film. Actor names meant nothing, it looked so low effort.

But whoever is pulling the strings behind these things campaigned their dicks off. And it got nominated for Two Oscars. Will it win them? Doubtful. But it is nominated, and I am here to review it.

Boat
Yep, there is Victoria & Abdul!

In the late 1800´s, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) was off, being the Queen of England, doing Queen things. Namely getting awards from sovereign nations, eating lots of food, and taking naps. She was old. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) was just a clerk in a prison in India. A regular, who gives a shit job. But Abdul was tall. And they needed tall people.

Why? Because the Queen was to receive a mohur, a special gold coin from India, which they totally owned and were kind of dicks about. And they needed real Indians to go, they wanted tall ones, and he fit the bill. Him and Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) were sent to not look her in the eye, bow, walk backwards. Make a huge bit of fuss over a tiny coin and then head back to India with no change in their lives.

But Abdul looked her in the eyes. She might have thought he was cute. She made them stay, to present more things as servants. Then eventually her private footmen. And then, eventually, he became her teacher on all things Indian culture. A strange, unprecedented turn of events, one that surely was going to piss off a lot of old, rich, white people.

Also starring some white people: Eddie Izzard, Tim Pigott-Smith, Michael Gambon, Paul Higgins, Fenella Woolgar, and Olivia Williams.

Servants
Oh, what is this? Victoria & Abdul & Some Other Guy!

As expected, Victoria & Abdul is a very okay movie. Maybe even one of the okayiest films out there.

Dench does perfectly fine as an old queen, bored with her life, looking for something to fill her hole. Fazal, however, is a fresh change. He has a nice smile, a good laugh and just a really spunky look about him. Without him in this role, giving me something to smile about, it would have easily have been a 1 movie.

This whole thing could be a made up story and it would not change anything. Just because it is real does not mean it is worthy of being a film. The story is about a small part of two people´s lives, and one of them is super royal. A strange pairing, a cute history factoid, and that is about it.

This film will leave our collective conscious in a few years, and that is not really a shame. Just a forgettable, okay film.

2 out of 4.

The Big Sick

Earlier this summer, if you have friends in the 20’s, you probably know of someone who was talking about The Big Sick. They would have recommended that you see it RIGHT AWAY in theaters, because hey, it is an indie movie and they need to make their money back to produce more good films!

I know I was hounded, but that is because people know I watch movies and made sure I went out and saw this one.

And then I decided to wait a few months before dropping this review, just to see how many more times would people tell me to watch and review The Big Sick. The total count was 7, quite a large number, larger than any other film that has ever been requested. You know, because most of the times I just go and review the movie and not wait on it.

I just think it is interesting that basically everyone who saw it, made sure other people would go and see it too. It is like it was a guerrilla marketing ad campaign or something.

Store
“Oh you are buying pasta? Will you eat it after you go see The Big Sick?”

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, yes playing himself), is a stand up comic living in the Windy City and generally he is poor and happy. His best friends are all stand up comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant), and he lives with another one (Kurt Braunohler), but he isn’t as funny. Kumail is also an Uber driver! Good times for mad cash.

At some point after a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the bar. He tries to flirt with her, it goes okay, and they have a one night fling. But it is nothing serious. Won’t continue. Until it does! It keeps happening, despite her busy graduate school schedule, they just cannot stop doing the sexy and the dating.

Kumail has commitment issues though. You see, his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) are traditional, and want to set him up with a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. He doesn’t want it, but he plays along, because he loves his family, and if he dates a white woman he will be ostracized. So he is afraid of getting too close to Emily. So he doesn’t want to even meet her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) when they are in town!

This leads to issues. This leads to fights! But most importantly is the title of this movie. The Big Sick. Because throughout all of this, Emily gets sick. Really sick. A sickness that no one understands and is life threatening. The type of thing that can really bring people closer together. Well, not the sick person, but everyone around the sick person.

Also starring Adeel Akhtar!

Table
If I had to have celebrities play my parents, this would be an ideal pairing.

This is a very personal story for Nanjiani, which shows. He clearly has passion in this movie and he wants people to know about the struggles that his wife went through and what began their relationship. After all, the best comedians drawn upon their own lives to help relate their work to other people, building a connection and having a good old laugh about it all. Even though it can be scary, even though it can be intense.

Romano and Hunter were FANTASTIC as the parents of Emily. They, too, felt wonderfully real and open about everything. I imagined them as a real couple quite easily, wearing the fear of concern on their face, while dealing with the awkward situation of a pseudo-boyfriend. It was great acting from those three.

What I really didn’t connect with at all was Kazan as Emily. After the fact, I realized that I recognized Kazan from other films (like the wonderful Ruby Sparks!) but forgot about them all in this movie. I just naturally assumed that maybe she wasn’t an actress and was also playing herself, as the love interest of Nanjiani. That makes sense. If he casts himself, he would cast the other main character of the story.

But it wasn’t. And the only reason I assumed this is because I did not think she did a great job in the first half of the film at all. It seemed like someone uncomfortable with acting. It is hard to explain, but she just didn’t work for me at all.

The movie is charming, it feels realistic, and it is overall wonderful. But at times it really did just feel like a regular RomCom and not something that elevated the genre. It was definitely a good entry in the genre, just not one I loved a lot. Although the 9/11 joke had me rolling, which is why I was sad to see it as part of the main advertising after the fact.

3 out of 4.

Pan

Live action remakes are of course all the rage nowadays, but Pan is not necessarily just another film in that trend. The Peter Pan story is older than Disney, so anyone can do anything they want with it. In fact, Disney plans on eventually doing their own live action Peter Pan movie within the next decade already, so you might as get used to it.

But Pan on its own can be something different. After all, we had Hook in the early 90’s, a very diverse film, both in its cast and how people took to it. A modern Peter Pan story, with a grown up Peter Pan! How dare they! I personally loved it and thought the film had a lot of heart.

So we have Pan, which has a similar naming scheme to Hook, going the opposite way and making a Peter Pan prequel. Peter when he was just a regular boy who couldn’t fly. People love Origin stories right?!

Stun
Especially if they have thousands of costumes and beards and make up.

Peter (Levi Miller), like every good Orphan, is left as a wee little baby on the steps of an orphanage by his mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried). And he never sees from her again. Now he is about…I dunno, 11. World War II is of course happening, so London occassionally gets bombed. Peter’s life is spent defying the nun (Kathy Burke) with his friend Nibs (Lewis MacDougall).

Next thing Peter knows, he is on board a flying pirate ship. The ship goes to Neverland of course! And the ship has been stealing Orphan boys around the world for ages. They are to be free and to live their lives as awesome people, as long as they can work for it. Namely, Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) wants them to mine for Pixie Dust for some secret reason.

Yadda yadda, Peter meets James Hook (Garrett Hedlund), with both hands, they find out her can fly, and eventually they escape with one Sam Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar) to get back home. However, Peter thinks his mom might be out here, so he wants to stay and look for her. This gets them to meet the natives. There they meet the Chief and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and a great warrior Kwahu (Tae-joo Na) and find out that Pan is supposed to be some Chosen One Jesus figure to lead a revolt against the pirates and free Neverland.

Yay fun! Peter just wants to find his mom though, so…

Also featuring Nonso Anozie as Blackbeard’s muscle and Cara Delevingne as a mermaid, apparently.

Map
At some points this does feel like an Indian Jones clone though, so watch out for snakes.

I just remembered. Almost no one likes origin stories. That is the biggest complaint about modern super hero films. Every new person seems to need an origin story. Even if we have already seen it many times before in film. We get shit like Fantastic Four where over half the film they don’t have any powers.

Technically no one knows about the origins of Peter Pan, but that is because no one cares. Peter Pan before he was a pirate fighting flying bad ass, was what, none of those things? So we get a story about a regular boy? I am not saying that regular boy stories are boring, because there is a shit ton out there, but knowing he eventually becomes someone like Peter Pan kind of ruins it a bit.

Pan is a strange film that doesn’t seem to know what it is. It is all over the place in terms of story. Blackbeard as the main villain seems strange, but not as strange as Hook being Peter’s BFF older friend. Sure, you might be thinking a Peter Pan origin story means we get to see a Captain Cook origin as well. We get to see that crocodile bite his hand off, fear of clocks, all of that. That could be fun! Well we get about jack and shit of that. The movie ends with them taking some boys off to Neverland, all happy. They have a few references, but no, we don’t get any of it. They want to save that for some futuristic Pan 2 that now will never exist.

See, that would have been a good story. To see what happened to Hook to make him a bad guy. What ruined their friendship. But we get nothing from this story and it is a lot more wasted potential.

Speaking of none of that, there was a lot of hullabaloo about the song choices in Pan. For some reason, large crowds in Neverland (set in World War II) are singing Smell’s Like Teen Spirit and Blitzkrieg Bop. I didn’t mind how they sounded months ago, but the problem is they have NO CONTEXT at all in the movie. They don’t fit the events around them, the lyrics don’t match anything, they make absolutely no sense. They are terribly added to the film, so they should definitely be mocked endlessly.

Pan. Wasted potential. All spectacle. Not even Jackman was good in this one. I feel a bit bad for Mara. At least has Carol.

1 out of 4.