Detroit

Detroit (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: C
Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time: 143 minutes

I reached the theater 10 minutes before the movie start-time and assumed that the theater would be packed. There were people, just a handful, mostly who munched on the popcorn through the quiet scenes and put their shoes on the seats in front of them.

I had decent expectations for the movie directed by my fav – Kathryn Bigelow whose Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty were impressive cinema. This powerful story of racism, which no one wants to voluntarily think or talk about, went mostly downhill for me after the initial impressive animated montage lesson of the history of blacks moving to the north for factory jobs.

The shaky camera is impressive in small doses but it just took away from the story in a major way for me. It was relentless just like the pain inflicted on fellow humans in the movie. The tone of the film color does take one back to the late 60s, but that also made it guilty of pushing an unwelcome caricature of complex themes and human nature.

Depicting racism through a white-colored prism is a painful balance and it simply failed here. I would have settled for neutrality.

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The Big Sick

Big Sick (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rating: R
Running Time: 121 minutes

If you are in for a rom-com that is built with laughs but navigates fearlessly in parallel with the serious, you will love the Big Sick. Based on a true love story of a comedian of Pakistani origin with a “white” girl, it binds and contrasts through culture, honesty and just plain life. There are no stereotypes here, even for laughs, but just everyone is trying to find their place and purpose.

I have not laughed this much since I saw the Hindi movie called Gol Maal in 1979. For others, Knocked Up might be the last movie since you may have laughed this much.

It will certainly get a nod for original screenplay Oscar but it may fall short in getting acting (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and best movie nominations as Oscar judges have short memories.

The 2-hour length does feel stretched at the end – the optimum for any rom-com comedy is around 90 minutes. And that is the only reason for not giving it an A+, but the points do not matter.

Gifted

Gifted (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 101 minutes

Gifted is a movie about an uncle raising an academically gifted orphaned niece in a regular environment to let her be a kid as long as she can.  However, her rich maternal grandmother has other plans – take the custody of the niece away from her son of low means by using the family court, and then use the prodigy to solve the millennium problem of the existence and smoothness of the Navier-Stokes equation (My wife asked me if I know how to solve Navier-Stokes equation.  I answered affirmatively that I used it in undergraduate and graduate fluids mechanics courses – I simply assume the parts that I cannot calculate to be zero, and the solution then falls into place very nicely).

Gifted is just a Hallmark movie on steroids and the presence of Chris Evans makes the lasses swoon, while Octavia Spencer gives her best as the concerned neighbor but has a limited on-screen time.   It is not a bad movie – you will laugh one moment and cry the next, but you will know where it is going next.

PS. I do not know how many of you will recognize the above integral – it is the normal distribution function.  It can be solved exactly only if the upper limit of integration is infinity.  To find the exact solution, one has to write it as a double integral and transform the coordinates to polar.

Get Out

Get out (2017)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: A
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Rating: R
Running Time: 103 minutes

If you have already gotten out, you have been treated to a modern classic. If not, get out this weekend to see “Get Out”.
 
What seems to be a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” remake is a well-done horror movie with many doses of comic relief. Daniel Kaluya plays the black boyfriend of a white woman played by Allison Williams. They are both going to meet her parents for the weekend. But the turn for horror takes place soon after they reach her secluded home.

 
 
The beauty of the movie is how the scares are put in real and believable context, while you are simply thrust into rooting for the central good guy and other players start showing their bad side to the audience.
This is a gem of a debut from the director Jordan Peele and would like to see more from him. I hope he does not follow M. Night Shyamalan’s path, although I will publicly confess that I liked most of the movies MNS made after Sixth Sense.
 
Some believe that the movie had racial tones and references to recent incidents, but Peele has little intention of pointing out the obvious as he never gets sentimental, and instead lets the audience squirm in deciding what to do – snicker, laugh or contemplate.

Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo  (2011)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: R
Running Time: 158 minutes

Well, I wish I could say better things about the English version of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.   If you have seen the Swedish version like I have, I give the movie a C+, else it is a B.  The reason for the above conditional (if-then-else) grading is that there is no suspense left after you have seen the foreign version.

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Anders Linden/Columbia Pictures

The movie does not soften the Swedish version in any way, and that may be disturbing to the puritanical lives we portray to the outside world.  David Fincher’s uncompromising style is present throughout the film, although it gets drably in the middle of the almost 3-hour saga (160 minutes).    The sound quality and the fake accents with constant mumbling make you play annoyingly-close attention to the words – I am waiting for “Mission Impossible 4” where I will cover my ears.  I was hoping that somewhere I could push a button for subtitles. Or, do I need to get my ears checked because of my old age.  But the clear diction of Christopher Plummer and Joely Richardson convinced me otherwise.

Now the good stuff – the cinematography and the music are well done.   In that respect, I have not seen a wintery movie like this since Fargo (1996).  Rooney Mara is a transformed actress and she may be an Oscar contender.  She gives the character of Lisbeth credence in some ways Noomi Rapace could not or did not.  Mara’s portrayal of compartmentalization of life’s needs was even scarier than that of real-life Bill Clinton’s.  Pay close attention to her compartmentalized focus in the scene where she retrieves her stolen bag.  I am hoping that Mara does not follow Marisa Tomei where she has to get naked in every other movie to prove her acting chops or to pay her rent.

Daniel Craig is his expected usual self and I cannot wait for the next five Bond movies (the introductory credits in the movie seemed to be an homage to the Bond movies) he plans to make (but he will be forced to go on a diet/exercise regimen as they refused to show his paunch for more than a second in the film).

Bottom line – go see it if you have not seen the original; if you have seen the original, you can wait for the DVD; if you have Netflix, it may be time to see the Swedish version again.

Based on my review, my daughter made a comment – why did they have to do Swedish accents and base it in Sweden – they could have changed locations and had American accents like they did in the well-done English version of “Let the Right One In”.

Rogue One

Rogue One (2016)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 133 minutes

It was good to go and see Rogue One during the preview showing as fellow nerds, young and old, were there and laughing at jokes which only we could get.  Rogue One is the “filler movie” before the eighth episode shows up in all its glory in 2017.

The movie is not a Star Wars extravaganza as it is a spin-off, but without saying too much, it fits very well in the series puzzle in the beginning and at the end of the movie.  It took a while to figure out what was going on at the beginning of the movie but it compensates for with its climactic war that seems to go on forever.  The war is filmed in daylight and hence the attention to detail does not go unnoticed.

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You will be pleased with a few cameos from the franchise, some so short that you will have to forego blinking, while others are main characters in the film.  The droid has the best lines and he will make you chuckle at your own responses.

I am hoping that Disney will not treat the franchise like the “goose who lays the golden egg” but I am not sure as every year in the near future we will see a spin-off or an episode. I do not blame Disney as a $4 billion deal is quite a sum to recoup.

 

SULLY

Sully (2016)
ReviewerAutar Kaw
Grade: B
Genre: Biography, Drama
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 95 minutes

Well, Sully is another low-key semi-masterpiece by Clint Eastwood.

Tom Hanks with gray hair and a paunch carries the weight that a reluctant hero does. We all know the ending but the story has had many other players (passengers, coast guard, air traffic controllers, union, NTSB, transit) and they have been knitted well in the movie.

Why a grade of B – because it is straight forward and the nonlinearity of the presentation does not compensate for it, and also because Sully in his sarcasm points out, “Engineers are not pilots”.

Laura Linney as Sully’s wife was a waste of talent – but might have been just a paycheck role for her. On the other hand, Aaron Eckhart as the first flight officer gives an analytical performance.

Read the real critics reviews.