This coming-of-age story based on the bestseller by the same name starts fun but veers towards darker territory. It's about a high-schooler who makes two older friends, played perfectly by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson. But as he gets closer to one of them, his anxieties and past trauma come to the surface. The impressive depth to which the makers of The Perks of Being a Wallflower were able to take it is what elevates it to greatness. It's the perfect mix between easy and challenging. If there is ever such a thing, it's this movie.
In Move to Heaven, a man and his son clean up after the dead—specifically, the dead who have no one else to look out for them. Believing that no one should be robbed of a respectable farewell, they piece together the deceased’s possessions and celebrate them postmortem. It’s a noble job, but its existence is threatened when the father passes away. It’s now up to the ruffian uncle with a heart of gold to continue the business and bond with his nephew, who himself struggles with Asperger's.
It’s easy for Move to Heaven to feel weighed down by all the important stories it tries to tackle; represented here are disabled people, depressed people, queer people, overworked people. But it breathes so much life into these stories that they hardly feel like the drag other shows and movies make them out to be. Tragedy here is expertly blended with humanity, and the result is a moving and compassionate series that stands out even in the saturated content space that is Netflix.
See, low budget films do work! Like Crazy schools other romantic films on what they should all be: cute and sweet but also frustrating and nerve-wracking. Felicity Jones is absolutely fantastic here, she stars as a British girl who falls in love with an American, Jacob, while in college. On a whim, she overstays her visa to be with him, and then return to England to face the consequences. The intimacy this film explores really distinguishes it from others and makes for an authentic experience, as it is based on its writer/director's own 8-year long-distance relationship. A great option if you're in the mood for the type of suspense that pulls at your heartstrings.
Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise.
The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.
Narrated by the familiar voice of Jack Black, Apollo 10 ½ is a throwback story told with admirable specificity and imagination. Black plays a grown-up Stan, who looks back on his younger years with a mix of fondness and wonder: how did they get away with the things they did then? American suburbia in the 1960s was both loose and conservative, caught between a generation holding on to the reins of the earlier century and one eager to launch into the next.
Stan, as the youngest child of a big, rowdy family, gives us a charming look into the times, as well as a projection of his own fascination: Apollo 11 and the space age. He inserts himself in this monumental narrative and generously brings us along in his fantasy. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Stan’s recruitment by NASA is actually fact or fiction, but that’s part of the fun, especially since Stan himself doesn’t seem to mind at all.
Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
An innocent-fun movie, Always Be My Maybe is a lovely thing to turn your brain off to. Sasha and Marcus are high-school best friends who dated briefly and went their separate ways. 16 years later, they meet again - Sasha is a famous chef, and Marcus is still living with his dad.
What really makes this movie is the writing from Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also play the two leads. The dialogue is sharp, believable and smart - going as far as covering themes of gender and parenting. But also, because a rom-com about two Asians from San Francisco is not exactly a common occurrence, the characters are fresh, the jokes are fresh - everything is fresh.
Watch out for the character who plays Marcus' dad, he plays the character of an overly honest Korean dad perfectly. And also watch out for Keanu Reeves, he plays a crazy version of himself!