Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Big Sick and Spider-Man: Homecoming

                                     Successfully Sick and Sticky

                                                 Reviews by Ken Burke

 There’s not even an implied connection between these 2 cinematic expressions under review this time (except they both manage to transcend the formulaic-expectations of their respective superhero fantasy and romantic comedy genres), but they’re both worth watching, for the unique perspectives in the former, the large-scale-action with more intimate human realities of the latter.
                                    The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
A Pakistani-American stand-up comic in Chicago becomes attracted to a woman in his audience, they date, but he doesn’t tell her his traditional family’s still trying to fix him up in an arranged marriage with a Pakistani woman, which leads to a breakup with his new lover until she falls into a coma; this is all based on real events, presented mostly as an effective comedy.
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): We begin with Kumail, a struggling young Pakistani-American stand-up-comic in Chicago; one night he has some dialogue with a young woman, Emily, in his audience, continues talking to her after his set, takes her to his cramped apartment (complete with talkative roommate) where they have sex, but when she attempts to go home by calling an Uber driver it’s his phone that rings.  She attempts to not get involved, saying she needs to focus on her graduate school work in therapy-counseling to which he agrees, yet they keep seeing each other (with more sex of course) to the point they’re regularly dating as he continues to pursue his moderately-successful comedy career while also offering a 1-man-show, both of which are based on his observations about how different the U.S. is from Pakistan (his routine is somewhat funny—in a dry sort of way [maybe a lingering influence from British Empire days]), but the 1-man-show gets to be more of a lecture, although Emily and his comedian friends (who regularly lie to him about how well he’s doing) try to be encouraging.  His parents are encouraging too, but on a different quest, that of getting him into an arranged marriage with a willing Pakistani woman, as an endless line of them keep “dropping in” (complete with photos and contact info) when he visits his family for dinner; in a painful attempt to not alienate them, he doesn’t say anything about Emily (although he does come clean about her with his brother, Naveed).  This all goes wrong one day in his apt. when Emily comes upon the cigar box where he keeps the women’s photos, hurting her deeply such secrets have been kept from her so she breaks up with him, only to soon be rushed to a hospital with some strange condition requiring her to be put into a medically-induced-coma while the doctors try to find out what’s causing her infections.

 Soon her parents arrive from North Carolina, don’t understand while Kumail’s still sitting vigil at the hospital, ask him to leave (which he doesn’t), setting us up for where this plot goes in somewhat unexpected ways that can only be revealed in the spoiler-filled-review just below.  What I can say is this is a delightful story based on the actual situation of the lead actor, which manages to combine constant humor with insightful understandings of the human condition in a quirky story that defies the normal convention of silly rom-com plots; I highly encourage you to see it if it comes to your area (which I hope it does, although it’s now only in 326 domestic theaters after 3 weeks in release).

So, curious readers, if you can abide plot spoilers in order to learn much more about the particular cinematic offering under examination this week please feel free to read on for more of the traditional Two Guys in-depth-explorations in our brilliant (!)-but-lengthy review format.

What Happens: Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is trying to build a career in comedy with his regular gig at a club in Chicago, along with an in-progress-1-man-show in a small theatre, with all his material based on his experiences of the contrast between the Pakistan he was born in and the culture of the U.S. where his parents immigrated when he was a boy.  His humor is of the dry, think-about-it-for-a-second sort (with the play falling far too easily into lecture mode rather than useful comedy, except at how boring it’s coming across) so his career’s stalled—just like his fellow-comedians at the club—with few great prospects on the horizon, much to the frustration of his family who prefer he’d be in law school.  His parents, especially his mother, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff), also want him to marry a Pakistani woman so every time he visits them for dinner a prospective member of an attempted arranged marriage just happens to drop in, with her photo and contact information joining a growing collection in his cigar box, with no intention by Kumail in pursuing any of them—he’s not pursuing the Muslim religion either (out of disinterest, not outright rejection) so when he excuses himself to go to the basement to pray he’s actually just killing time playing video games—why no one else in this religious family’s not praying either isn’t explained.

 One night, though, his life takes a sudden happy turn when he strikes up a conversation with Emily (Zoe Kazan), a young woman in the audience (she’s not heckling, but as he explains after his set, it still throws his timing off); their timing for the night is right, though, as she goes back to his small apartment, takes his advice to avoid conversation with his talkative roommate, has sex with him after watching about a minute of Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)—how romantic can you get?—but then wants to leave only to find her call for an Uber driver is answered by him.  She tries to cut off any attempt at a relationship, wanting to put her energies into her grad school work (psychological therapy); he agrees but calls anyway, she responds, soon they’re a regular couple (“overwhelmed” with each other), with her North Carolina parents finding out all about him.

 His parents know nothing of her, however (although he finally tells the truth to his brother, Naveed [Adeel Akhtar] who’s not supportive of the idea at all), nor does Emily know anything yet about the onslaught of her lover's arranged-marriage-options until a fateful day when she stumbles onto his cigar box.  She’s terribly hurt at being kept a secret from his family and that in deference to them he might actually succumb to an arranged-marriage so she abruptly breaks off their relationship.  Soon, though, he gets a call from her close friend that Emily’s been taken to a local emergency room, so he rushes right over to the hospital where she is, then pretends to be her husband so he can give permission for her to be put into a necessary medically-induced-coma while the doctors try to figure out what’s causing her lung infection.  He also contacts her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano), who soon arrive but question why he’s there anymore as Mom especially is aware of how distraught Emily was to learn of the secrets surrounding their failed romance (although she had one of her own: she was previously—briefly—married, but she does tell him about it, with the argument her situation’s now in the past with no impact on their future but his is preventing a future from even occurring for them).  Despite the parents’ wishes he simply leave, he continues to hang around the ICU waiting room, finally getting them into conversation with him, although Emily’s situation's not clear days later even after what was supposed to be a healing operation as infection continues to spread to her kidneys.

 Eventually Beth and Terry stay at Emily’s apt., agree to watch Kumail’s act (Beth gets into a loud hassle with a racist-frat-boy-heckler so they have to leave), show hostility toward each other (Terry admits later to Kumail it's been festering ever since he had a 1-night-stand, then told his wife about it out of guilt), eventually decide to move Emily to top-rated Northwestern Hospital (the one she’s in is only #17 in this huge city) but have to abandon that when the infection moves into her heart.
 Distraught, Kumail does a horrible job with his act that night, intended as an audition for the Montreal Comedy Festival, being both morbidly serious and flat in his comic attempts, but the next day Emily revives when a comment Kumail made about her sprained ankle not healing after several weeks miraculously leads to the discovery she's been fighting (even in her coma) an auto-immune-disorder (known to the medical profession as a condition called Adult-onset Still’s disease) which can be controlled with the proper use of appropriate medications.  Everyone’s jubilant she’s on the road to recovery, but she still doesn’t want to see Kumail, despite his long vigil in concern for her condition.  Later, there’s a welcome-back-party at her apt., Kumail attends, privately shows her a few things including the ashes of the Pakistani-women’s photos as he’s now been honest to his parents about everything (which caused them to disown him), yet she still doesn’t want to risk getting involved with him again so he leaves, deciding to move to NYC with a couple of comedian friends in hopes of jump-starting their careers (we’re given a little touch of hope here in that one of them’s played by Aidy Bryant, a current regular on NBC TV’s Saturday Night Live).  Back in Chicago, Emily had watched the YouTube video of Kamail’s horrible set but understood his sincere concern for her, visited him one night after his 1-man show was over to learn he's leaving Chicago, then appears unannounced in NYC when he’s doing his act, indicating their relationship will connect after all (no hints about what his parents will think, though, as his mother still wouldn’t look at him on the day he left for the East Coast, although Dad Azmat [Anupam Kher] was more conciliatory).

Real-life spouses/co-screenwriters Kamail and Emily
So What? If you think anything seems absurd about this story, we again have solid proof that life can be so much stranger than fiction because this is all based on real events that led to the actual Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself in this film that he co-wrote, stars in) and Emily V. Gordon (... Sick's co-screenwriter) meeting in a Chicago comedy club, falling in love, enduring her awful medical crisis (although a review I’ve read says they never broke up during this time), then getting married.  How much creative license has been taken in the film's depiction of their families I have no way of knowing, although in the 3rd link to this film way below you’ll find an interview with this creative-couple in which Kamail says his parents came to accept her (we get a few quick photos of the actual folks during the start of the end credits, including their Pakistani wedding, with what appears to be his parents in attendance) which is not the impression you’re left with in the film (especially concerning Sharmeen), so I guess these real-world/Old-World elders also are tolerant of the rather negative impression we’re left with of them in the script, as opposed to Emily’s parents who’re depicted as having come to really appreciate—probably love—Kamail, with their final hopes their daughter might someday come to a different conclusion about the guy she’s so hesitant to reconnect with.  Screenwriter Nanjiani implies some in-narrative-reconciliation with his actual parents, though, in a scene where after being disowned  for his heresies Kamail barges in on a family dinner to which there’s no longer a plate set out for him, telling them all (parents, brother, sister-in-law) that, like it or not, he’s still a part of this family, then leaves without even any sense of acceptance or agreement from any of them.

 There are enough odd-but-enticing-moments in this unique dramedy (with lots of solid laughs throughout the running time, tempered by legitimate-feeling aspects of human mistakes) a variety of viewers can likely find reason to relate to but one that immediately caught my attention (it’s shown in the trailer, 2nd link with this film far below) is when Terry crashes with Kamail in his small place one night after a fight with Beth, trying to explain to the younger man why love’s so complicated (“That why they call it love.”), a conclusion Kamail doesn’t understand; Terry admits it’s no great insight, just an attempt on his part to start saying something with hopes the ending will be meaningful even though he wasn’t able to make it so.  That kind of thing used to happen to me all the time when delivering lectures in my former life as a Mills College Film Studies professor, as I worked very loosely from my extensive notes, allowing spontaneity to take over even as I’d start a sentence suddenly realizing I had no idea how to finish it but push on I did until somehow I made my way to some sense of closure.  Based on responses I got from my students, I think I had some useful realizations I wasn’t aware of before the thought started working its way out of my subconscious; however, I’ll never know for sure because, unlike my students, I wasn’t taking notes on the lectures so I never really knew for sure what I said in those instances.  Later, when I started compiling lengthy lecture notes into course readers to distribute to them I told the students to always focus their studying for tests on their textbook readings—including my compiled notes—rather than any serendipitous remarks because I wouldn’t test them on something I couldn’t even prove I’d said.

 Now I wish I’d recorded those lectures because I’d probably been able to learn a lot from them, assuming whatever evolved in those random statements was actually true (hopefully it was, or at least I never got any after-the-fact-challenges about “Wait a minute!  That’s not right!”).  I’ve never encountered a reference to something like this in a film before, helping further individualize The Big Sick for me, with hopes similar components of it might yield the same effective result for others.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: 
In last week's posting I noted how, in attempting to write about Baby Driver (Edgar Wright), that words could just get repetitiously-frustrating trying to apply them to a strong cinematic experience so both audio- and visually-oriented that attempts at making verbal equivalents are inadequate in hoping for this filmic-work to come alive again on a small computer—rather than a large theater—screen; I’ll have to say the same thing applies to The Big Sick (not the most attractive title but a memorable one, which is likely more useful in trying to call attention to this unique independent film than it is in being eloquent) because the full range of emotions displayed among the many characters, along with the nature of Kumail’s odd sense of humor (which, as presented—probably intentionallyoften comes across as funnier in his offhand interchanges than in his stage acts), becomes hard to replicate in essay-words (maybe reading the script would give a reasonable facsimile of watching ... Sick, but I doubt it) so, once again, I heartily encourage you to go see this film for yourself or at least keep it in mind when available in some form of video (which may be soon as the film’s found its way to only 326 theaters so far in the domestic [U.S.-Canada] market, even after 3 weeks in release, making only $7.7 million worldwide [almost all of that domestically] thus far, so unless word-of-mouth begins to set fire to ticket sales I think you’ll have to seek another form of “on demand” to see it).  However, if critical opinion has any relevance here, there may be further interest as … Sick’s scored 97% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes along with an extremely-respectable-average of 87% at usually-more-demanding-Metacritic (details in the links to this film much farther below), so if what we reviewers offer to our publics can make a positive impact on the reception of a work of art, I hope this will prove true for The Big Sick, an amusing, charming, sad-at-times example of how life can be successfully rearranged into an arresting fiction.

Kamail's filmic-family in happier times (i.e. before Emily's appearance)
 You might be aware that I try to end each review with a Musical Metaphor, intended to offer one last comment through aural artistry to some connection—be it solid, vague, or just whimsical at times—with what’s just been analyzed, so in the case of The Big Sick I’m drawn to a Beach Boys song, “I’m Waiting for the Day” (from their very significant 1966 Pet Sounds album—I’d love to say “influential” but it’s a musical expression probably more honored for itself than used as a model for others to follow) at https://www. B2ne_yQlwGY (although, if you’d like to see Brian Wilson perform this live [at LA’s Greek Theatre on October 20, 2013, supposedly with original B Boys Al Jardine and David Marks, even though I can’t say I see either of them in this video] then go here) because even though these lyrics are about a guy who’s trying to be a sensitive new lover to a woman in distress because some other man “broke [her] heart […] But you know that pretty soon I made you feel glad [… because] you’re the only one, I’m waiting for the day when you can love again,” while in … Sick’s case Kamail’s in the role of both heartbreaker and better-alternative, as he even admits to Emily when he’s trying to win her back he’s a changed man since she went into her coma, telling her that “You didn’t think that I could sit around and let you go,” although ultimately she’s the one to make the reconnection decision, implied nicely in the film’s last scene, with the verification of Nanjiani and Gordon’s off-screen-marriage truly ending The Big Sick with a healthy, happy romance (which finds ways to appreciate Pakistani Muslims, a needed addition to the media-images of our American society).
                    Spider-Man: Homecoming (Jon Watts)
Peter Parker’s story’s rebooted again (no radioactive-spider-bites shown this time; this new version of the web-slinger’s already known to us from Captain America: Civil War), as a high-school-vigilante under the tutelage of Tony Stark/Iron Man; Peter’s now dealing with Avengers-envy plus his standard adolescent qualms about girls, proms, bullies, and Spanish tests.
What Happens: Once again we’re treated to the story of young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) developing his identity as Spider-Man (firmly in high school this time, with detention, tests, parties, and the Homecoming prom as major factors in this adolescent’s life, even as he intentionally cuts back on school activities to be available should he get a call from Tony Stark/Iron Man [Robert Downey Jr.] to take on Avengers tasks—a call that never comes because Stark wants this kid to lay low, take care of petty crime in his NYC area [Queens to be specific, where I spent a couple of years in the early ‘70s] while better learning how to control his superhuman skills passed on from a radioactive-spider’s bite [which we don’t see this time, with the probable assumption this aspect of Peter’s life has been clearly established enough in the 2 previous Sony Spider-Man series beginning in 2002]), with exuberant early scenes of a smartphone video shot by Peter in his previous encounter with the Avengers (Captain America: Civil War [Anthony and Joe Russo, 2016; review in our May 13, 2016  posting]), after which Stark sends him back home to continue his seasoning, even though frisky Mr. Parker wants to evolve beyond retrieving stolen bikes or other Boy Scout-level-activities even as he’s dealing with normal adolescent challenges like trying to connect with Liz (Laura Harrier), who admires him as a whip-smart-member of their Midtown School of Science and Technology’s Academic Decathlon team but hesitates in taking his interest any further.  That might change when she invites him to a party at her parent’s sprawling suburban home, but Peter’s distracted by far-away-events, races to the location (creating some clumsy—although funny—havoc along the way) to find once again crooks with powerful weapons beyond the capacity of normal lawkeepers to control (he encountered such before when he broke up a local ATM robbery).

 The source of these weapons is disgruntled former industrial-cleanup-specialist Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), who once thought he had a gold mine of ongoing work repairing the parts of Manhattan that were badly damaged 8 years earlier in the first Marvel superhero team-up (The Avengers [Joss Whedon, 2012; review in our May 12, 2012 posting]) when these guardians of Earth fought off the invading cosmic forces of Thor’s evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston); however,  we see Toomes and his team soon out of work as a U.S. government agency headed by Anne Marie Hoag (Tyne Daly) took command of their job, gathering all the alien hardware left behind from the battle.  Toomes took some of this stuff as he departed, gathered more over time, constructed wicked weapons for the highest bidders, as well as a large, mechanical flying contraption for himself in his Vulture villain-persona.  Long story (well, 133 min. total, just a bit over standard-movie-run-time) short, Peter tries to track the Vulture to his headquarters in Maryland (with the help of close friend Ned [Jacob Batalon], who accidently discovers Spider-Man’s secret identity), leading to near-disaster for his Decathlon team (in D.C. for a tournament Peter manages to miss, but they win anyway) in the Washington Monument where Spider-Man eventually saves them all, including Liz, leading to a firm admonition from Stark to Peter to stand down in his above-pay-grade-quests, but the kid can’t help himself so when Parker tries to capture Vulture and his crew selling weapons on the Staten Island Ferry, a battle results that cuts the boat in half, forcing Peter to use every ounce of his strength (and chemistry-class-manufactured-spider-webbing) to hold it in place until Iron Man arrives to put it all together again.  

 Complications continue as Peter shockingly learns Toomes is Liz’s father, out to highjack an Avengers airplane carrying a huge load of top-secret-stuff to a new upstate NY location; through a huge in-air-conflict, Peter manages to crash the plane at Coney Island, then digs Toomes out of the rubble he’s caused (saving his life) when some devices he tried to steal explode (even though Vulture left Peter to die under another pile of concrete when this confrontation started that night).

This series' version of the original Spider-Man costume
before the high-tech, Tony Stark-supplied upgrade.
 As all of this frantic plot comes to closure as Toomes is taken into custody, Liz is moved to Oregon while her father goes on trial so she seems to be out of Peter’s life without ever knowing how he was the one who rescued Adrian after the plane crash (although Dad also discovered Spider-Man’s secret identity, but in a quick scene during the credits he denies that to another inmate who's offering his outsourced-services to kill Spider-Man in retaliation for Vulture's capture, yet Adrian just turns down the offer seemingly in respect of how Peter saved the plausibly-doomed-lives of both Toomes, father and daughter), Stark offers Peter his prized-acceptance into the Avengers but he declines (the whiz kid seemingly realizing he’s still got some maturing to do but also making it corporately-convenient as to when this character will show up in the Disney-controlled Avengers stories or just have singular adventures under Sony's roof), then returns home to find Stark’s returned his high-tech-Spider-Man-suit (taken away after the ferry incident so that in the climatic battle Spidey’s uniform was the original crude mask/hoodie-combination) but just as he puts it on he’s surprised by Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) as the scene cuts to credits.  One last bit at the very end parodies the traditional Marvel post-credits teasers with Captain America (Chris Evans) doing one last promo (he’s done a couple earlier-on-videos at the school, encouraging good teenage behavior), this time talking about the frustration which can come waiting patiently for something that doesn’t seem worth your wasted time when it finally arrives.

So What? This latest superhero flick’s already so ubiquitous that if you haven’t seen it yet you’re probably part of a vast minority worldwide (this movie's global take so far is about $268.7 million [roughly $129.2 million of that from the domestic market—playing in 4,348 theaters in northern North America] after just 1 week in release) so I doubt that there’s much I can say at this point to sway you one way or the other, although I certainly do want to recommend your attendance while it’s on the majestic big-screen because like others of its ilk, whether from various owners of various Marvel properties that range all the way from the current Sony offering (Spidey), to Disney (the large Avengers group plus Guardians of the Galaxy), to 20th Century Fox (the even larger collection of X-Men) or Warner Bros. for various DC stalwarts (including the “holy trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman), the special effects justify the $175 million budget with many web-swinging-scenes played out in spectacular fashion while more-intimate character relations also resonate well, with Tony Stark as his established-obnoxious-self in a pseudo-father-role with Peter; (Aunt) May as a much hotter property than in the comic books I’m familiar with* (or how that traditional portrayal was carried into the earlier Spider-Man series when her character was played by Rosemary Harris [in the Sam Raimi-directed-versions of 2002, 2004, 2007, Tobey Maguire in the lead role] or Sally Field [in the Marc Webb-helmed-versions in 2012, 2014 starring Andrew Garfield; reviews in our July 12, 2012, May 8, 2014 postings]); a very
clear sense this is viably a 15-year-old-high-school-sophomore (even though Tom Holland is now 21 he’s still passably seen as of juvenile appearance, even has a high-enough-pitched-voice that one of his confronters isn’t sure if it’s actually a girl under that mysterious red mask—which marks a nice conceptual change from assumptions about the all-male-hero-paradigm, a long-established-cultural "norm" which the current huge-box-office-success of Wonder Woman [Patty Jenkins; you can find a supportive review in our June 8, 2017 posting]—$746.7 million worldwide so far—has helped to challenge) who’s sincerely trying to succeed with his new-found-abilities while easily falling victim to his own emerging-adult-emotional-limitations; along with some grandiose, computer-driven special effects, especially the climactic scene of Spider-Man taking down the Avengers self-flying-plane while simultaneously battling the deadly, high-flying Vulture (here’s a Variety article with 5 reasons … Homecoming’s had such a grand debut—including younger-viewer-appeal, fortuitous-timing in this 2017 summer schedule, and links to the well-established, highly-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU]).

*But, as I’ve noted before, I’m not nearly as up on Marvel backstories—that these movies are based on, more than I realized—as I used to be with the DC ones (although that’s also fading fast), so if you’re as out of touch on what may be inspiring story lines in this—and other—Spider-Man cinematic stories I encourage you to view the 3rd link in the group connected below to this movie for a useful refresher/revelation on how much of what we see on screen’s not that original after all but probably does please the die-hard-fanboys (and girls) who constantly analyze this sort of thing.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Comic-book-based-superhero-movies often end up with difficulties getting praise from critics looking for more substantial plots and complex characters than these stories are likely to provide, but that’s generally not been the case with … Homecoming where those surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes offered a highly-supportive 93% cluster of positive reviews (although those included in the Metacritic tally were considerably more restrained with an average score of 73%; details on both in links a bit farther below), setting up an opportunity for me to explain my 3½ stars for something my overall comments might imply deserves a 4.  My score’s mathematically in line with the Metacritic reviews (3½ of 5 = 70%, although there’s always my “fudge factor” to be considered because I’m terribly stingy with any rating over 4, saving those stars for truly exceptional cinema) whereas RT ratings tend to be noticeably higher than those at MC because all a review at that former site has to do is be deemed “positive” to go into the “win” column, so when 93% of 228 shows that result it seems overwhelming, even though when you read
the full context of many of those reviews you will find frequent negative comments because RT doesn’t offer a “mixed” status like MC does—although how the MC custodians calculate the specific numerical scores for many of their included reviews  is a process that still mystifies me.  Thus, I can fundamentally “like” … Homecoming in just a reductionist “thumbs up" or "down” manner but still  perceive reasonable reservations enough to temper my stars a bit, especially with superhero movies which are mostly required to follow certain formula-constructs even if some added-attributes help distinguish a few of them from the pack, as is ... Homecoming's case.  

 For me, a superior superhero movie needs something like the psychotic-character-insights into The Joker (Heath Ledger) or even Batman (Christian Bale) himself in The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) or a foundational sense of caring—rather than just the ego-gratification we see with most of the Avengers—such as what we find from a demi-god in Wonder Woman to rate 4 stars (or more?), although I was also willing to offer that honor to both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 if you’d like to slip back in time to see what fascinated me about them (but, as usual, please disregard as much as you can the lousy layouts I was content with back then which look especially bad on Firefox so I encourage you to view on Safari or Chrome if available).

 None of this rationale explanation should cause you any hesitation in going to see Spider-Man: Homecoming if you’re among the likely few who haven’t done so already, but I’m just saying that along with what's been constructed in this blend of magnificent computer-generated-imagery where Spidey careens through various landscapes, the effective comic timing of Jon Favreau as “Happy” Hogan (who, as Stark’s loyal assistant, shows no interest in Peter’s reports of his activities in hopes of promotion to Avenger), or the appearance of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at the ending's press conference where Stark was to announce Spider-Man’s inclusion into the superhero team, then gets upstaged when the kid turns down the offer (with the announced-event seemingly saved by Tony’s decision to propose to Pepper in public, but we’ll have to wait to see if that plot twist carries over into the next MCU episode) you also get the requisite amount of troubled-heroic-sacrifices for the greater good, spectacular scenes not really needed to move the story along (the Staten Island Ferry near-catastrophe looks great but is too-easily-resolved, not even resulting in an effective stand-down of Spider-Man, who’s soon back on the Vulture’s trail—admittedly, because Happy’s not interested in Peter's attempted phone warning about hijacking of the Avenger plane), and questioning on the part of the protagonist if all the efforts on humanity’s behalf are really worth it.  Taken together, you get a satisfying return on your investment, great for distraction from current-real-world-awfulness, but still not quite as finely-focused a cinematic-experience as is The Big Sick, at least in my opinion.

This goofy image (not actually from the movie) 
is indicative of the sparse selections available 
 for me to enhance this review; even the site 
where I can buy images is prevented from 
releasing them until a week after opening 
night which doesn't work with my posting 
schedule so I beg your indulgence for not 
having access to a better range of shots.
 My honored opinion also leads me to make a somewhat-silly-choice for … Homecoming’s Musical Metaphor, in tribute to the often-whimsical-tone of this movie, so I’ll combine Spider-Man’s amazing ability to swing himself through urban jungles via his webbing (not unlike Tarzan in nature’s jungles with his ever-present-vines) along with his decision to stay somewhat local, moderately-heralded (for now at least, but we know that will surely change in the near future) to sum up this latest interpretation of our well-known-web-slinger’s most-recent-adventures with Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” (from their 1978 self-titled debut album) found at https://www. (this is a 10:38 live performance from the 1988 70th Birthday Tribute to Nelson Mandela, with amazing duo lead guitar work by Mark Knopfler and guest Eric Clapton, virtuosity ranging from subtle to near-screaming notes) in recognition of these lyrics about an obscure “trumpet playing band” (not the equivalent of the Avengers, what the “crowd of young boys” noted in the song or the headline-attentive-audiences within these movies would “call rock and roll”) that Parker’s willing to emulate at this point, as “your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” until he’s more ready to “get up under the lights to play his thing” in some upcoming Marvel/Sony/Disney movies when he knows he’ll draw crowds “out of the rain to hear the jazz go down [despite any] Competition in other places” as Spidey’s story will continue on for years, in solo work and with his ultimate Sultans, the world-famous Avengers.
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*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are just too many to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 forward this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.

Here’s more information about The Big Sick: (7:09 interview with director/co-screenwriter/actor/real-life-husband Kumail Nanjiani and co-screenwriter/real-life-wife Emily V. Gordon about the transformation of their lives into a now-very-well-received film script)

Here’s more information about Spider-Man: Homecoming: (14:35 video about Easter Eggs references from the comic books) and (11:25 video about the post-credits scene—very detailed, in that this explanation runs considerably longer than the scene itself, filling in information for those of us who haven’t been reading Spider-Man comics for the last 50 years—along with quick comments on the parodic-post-credit scene using Captain America)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken*

*Please note that YouTube keeps taking down various versions of this majestic Eagles performance at their 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so I keep putting in newer links (of the same damn material) to retrieve it; this “Hotel California” link was active when I did this posting but the song won’t be available in all of our previous ones done before 7/6/2017.  Sorry, but there are too many postings to go back and re-link every one.  The corporate overlords triumph again.

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 36,978; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (by total chance, the 2nd most after a whopping tally from the U.S. come from Pakistan so they must have known I’d be writing about The Big Sick [how cleverly-prescient of them]):


  1. The Big Sick is a very good "grown-ups" film well worth the effort to find and watch.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for your comment. We're in complete agreement about the positive merits of The Big Sick. Ken