Film Review: STUBER (USA 2019) ***

Stuber Poster
Trailer

A detective recruits his Uber driver into an unexpected night of adventure.

Director:

Michael Dowse

STUBER is an action buddy comedy involving a blind cop and a Uber driver that the L.A. cop hijacked in order to take down some drug Kung-fu fighting villain.  It is not a high brow film project.  For the promo screening, I could not get anyone to come see the free movie because of its theme.  But if one goes with the lowest of expectations, STUBER will turn put to be surprisingly entertaining.

One would not think of filmmakers like Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorcese directing  STUBER.  But a good choice is London (London, Ontario that is) born Michael Dowse who made the Canadian cult-hit FUBAR and the impressive British feature about a DJ gone blind called IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG.  Coincidentally, the L.A. cop, Vic (Dave Bautista, THE AVENGERS movies) is also going blind.  The Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, THE BIG SICK) acts as his eyes.  If all this sounds pretty corny, it all is.  But the fact that this would pose a challenge to the scriptwriter, Tripper Clancy and director.  It would seem all to easy to dismiss the film as a wasted exercise, but given the fact, Dowse and his scriptwriter has risen above the dauntless task.

The film’s first 15 minutes is all edge of the seat excitement as Vic and his partner, Sara (Karen Gillan) attempt to take down an escaping Korean drug Lord, Oka Teijo (Indonesian Martial-Arts star, Iko Uwais, THE RAID, THE RAID 2, STAR WAR: THE FORCE AWAKENS)

On the negative side, the buddy buddy stuff has been seen before and done better in other buddy cop films.  The difference in characters – Stu is so mild mannered that he cannot express hi love towards his girlfriend while Vic is so stone-hearted cannot communicate with his artistic daughter.  The Ryan Gosling gay joke where Stu believes in brain over brawn is the typical homophobic shit that goes round in male chauvinistic films.  The film is also too male dominated, where females are given just a token nod.  Vic’s female partner is killed off in the film’s first 15 minute, the daughter has to struggle to become a sculptor while the chief villain turns out female.  Stu’s girlfriend is finally revealed as a real bitch who not only not now what she wants but a really floozy.

The buddy chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani works well.  Their fight in the warehouse looks so similar to the Jonathan Winters garage destruction scene in Stanley Kramer’s IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD that I could almost be certain Dowse took his inspiration there. 

The film ends in the Christmas season where the film delivers a few neat surprises.  But the film has so far obtained mixed reviews from critics.  And understandably why as the film is a mixed bag of tricks.  Go see STUBER with as little expectations as possible and you won’t get disappointed.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5l6a5RiR1E

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Film Review: MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (MIB: INTERNATIONAL) (USA 2019) ***

Men in Black: International Poster
Trailer

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Director:

F. Gary Gray

The fourth of the franchise and a spinoff rather than a sequel, loosely based on the Malibu/Marvel comics of the same name by Lowell Cunningham, the series sees the cool black guy persona replaced by a cool black young female (Will Smith replaced by Tessa Thompson), teaming up with a handsome white guy played by Chris Hemsworth.  The tactic works.  Thompson and Hemsworth pair very well together.

The film begins with a family scene as if to ensure that all sci-fi films now have a more personal and family touch.  The recent two super hero action films followed suit as in DARK PHONIX with the super hero first scene in a car as a little girl with her family and in the family picnic scene in AVENGERS ENDGAME.  Molly is a little girl who witnesses men in black in action from her bedroom window while helping an alien at the same time escape.  It takes Molly a lifetime before she finds the MIB organization.  Infiltrating into the headquarters, she convinces the head, Agent O (Emma Thompson reprising her role) into recruiting her.  She teams up with Agent H (Hemsworth) to save the world from the scum of the universe, MIB-style.

The film clearly aims at style.  When asked the reasons to wanting to join the MIB organization, Molly responds among other reasons that she looks good in black, the comment also echoed by Agent O.  The fights are also stylized, the most impressive of all being the one where Molly battles Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an intergalactic arms dealer who also has three arms. Gray’s (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS) film trudges along  too slowly for an action flick, which also seems derive too much off the KINGSMAN and other sci-fi movies.

The plot adds in a thinking element.  The MIB organization has a mole.  Though it is not difficult to guess who the mole is, the plot (this one) often runs too complicated and is too fast to follow.  

The film is shot in exotic locations like London, Marrakesh, New York City and Italy, as the titles proudly announce.  The coolness of the locations is reflected in several very cool scenes the best of which is the dance floor scene with the alien Twins (performed by Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, well renowned dancers from France aka Les Twins) a shape-shifting alien un-killable duo who appear a number of times in the story doing their moves.  All the MIB agents can do is look and stare.

Has the MEN IN BLACK franchise run out of steam?  Quite a few people think so from the well below 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the current wiring of this review.  But not for want of trying.  Despite the film containing the new MIB U.K. branch, more hilarious and imaginative alien creatures, politically correct updates and exotic location settings, MIB: INTERNATIONAL has regrettably only achieved minimal results.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOdWVqhDOj8

Film Review: THE BIG SICK (USA 2017) ***

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the big sickA couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows.

Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
When Kumail sees the girl he is dating, Emily in a coma in the hospital, he tells himself that if she ever gets out of this, he would marry her. It would be difficult for one not to feel for this romantic affair, especially when the incident is true. This is what differentiates THE BIG SICK from most romantic comedies. THE BIG SICK is based on the real-life courtship between Kumail Nanjiani and his now-wife, Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani plays himself using the same first name in the film while Emily is played by Zoe Kazan. Hi real wife co-wrote the screenplay with her husband for the film.
The film project began when producer Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP) met Nanjiani after he did his stand-up comic routine. So, there are a lot of stand-up routines in the film. In fact, a lot of the dialogue spoken during the film would be typical of what comes out of the mouths of a stand-up comic. This is here a good thing, as the film is pleasantly funny from start to end – dialogue-wise.

Despite the film based on true events and a real life Kumail, the romantic comedy falls into the same trap that most fall into. THE BIG STICK is a predictable Harlequin romance paperback type story complete with awkward first meeting, the necessary obstacles, in this case Emily finding out about Kumail’s other dates from the photographs in his box, not to mention her coma and his objecting parents. These obstacles are conveniently overcome for the couple to live happily ever after.

The film’s story is simple enough. While Kumail is performing stand-up comedy on stage, he is heckled (though she insists is a good heckle) by Emily, there as a spectator. An affair slowly develops. Meanwhile Kumail’s mother keeps setting him up for a Muslim bride. Kumail keeps this from Emily, though she finds out. Emily goes into a coma due to a rare decease and Kumail meets her parents forming a bond with them. It does not take a genius to figure out what happens in the end.

The film’s funniest parts come from Kumail’s Muslim parents. The mother is constantly trying to matchmake her son to marry a Muslim girl. The father is more tolerant but no less funny. Emil’s parents are funny too but they bring a more serious side to the film. The unexpected bonding between Emily’s parents and Kumail add a nice unexpected twist to the story.

The film’s humour is also heightened by having several other standup comics deliver their stand-up acts during throughout the film.

The film ends with shots of the real couple Kumail and the real Emily during the closing credits. THE BIG SICK is one of the better romantic comedies, credit to producer Apatow who seems to have the knack of discovering new comedy talent.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcD0Daqc3Yw
 

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