Berkreviews: Minari, Nomadland, and Wrath of Khan

There are a lot of movies to pick and choose from everytime I open any streaming app. I currently subscribe to most of the major streaming companies, and have amassed an extensive collection of DVDs, Blu Rays, and digital movies as well. Nevermind the fact that more movies keep getting made. Every week I have two movies to watch for podcast recordings, at least one movie to watch to keep up with another podcast that I listen to, and then I start looking at the various lists of movies I want to get through for one reason or another (e.g. AFI top 100, documentaries for a film study for my students, etc). Several of the films I’ve watched recently were watched simply to check them off of some list or another – but these three really stood out. 

Minari (2020)

I have been waiting to see Minari (2020), directed by Lee Isaac Chung and starring Steven Yeun, for a while. For the most part, I’ve avoided dropping the $20 rental fees for “still in theater” rentals over the course of the pandemic, but my interest in seeing this film justified the expense. Fortunately for me, that investment in the rental and this movie was not wasted. 

Everything about Minari worked for me. The characters were phenomenal, and nowhere was this more impactful than the relationship of the young David (Alan Kim – what a performance!) and his grandmother (Yuh-Jung Youn – also an amazing performance). When Soonja first arrived at the family’s small trailer on their giant plot of land, I assumed we were going to get one of those movie trope mother-in-laws. Instead, we get a very nuanced character who is very much a child at heart. I loved the push and pull relationship with her and David. 

There is much to discuss about Minari, but I think it’s better to just say it’s quite outstanding. The performances are subtle – with the exception of Will Patton’s character, who just can’t be subtle – and the film’s messages are quite impactful. As soon as you get the chance to check it out, I would highly recommend it. Minari earns the Must See rating. 

Nomadland (2020)

Chloé Zhao’s film The Rider (2017) blew me away. Needless to say, I was extremely hyped to see Nomadland (2020), and had to wait forever to get the opportunity. Now that it’s on Hulu and everyone can see it, I’m glad to say it lived up to my expectations. Frances McDormand kills it, as always –  and this is possibly my only complaint. 

Zhao and Sean Baker have begun crafting a new genre that blurs the line between documentary and fictional narrative films. They are telling scripted stories heavily based on real life situations, which mostly features non-actors who are from the world the movie is depicting. Baker did bring in Willem Dafoe in the Florida Project (2017), and McDormand and David Strathairn are that for Zhao here. While I think all of the actors do tremendous jobs, it could be argued that they should let the people who are living these stories take the roles instead. There is something a little jarring about the familiar faces amongst the world of regular people whose story we are learning about. 

Despite that, I found Nomadland tremendously affecting. Zhoa’s style works with my sensibilities so much. Scenes are often very quiet, the drama is slightly downplayed, and yet there is always this unease in the world as the uncertainties of what happens next dawns on both the audience and the character. There is just enough tension to keep you hooked while never feeling fabricated or over the top. Nomadland earns the Must See rating. 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Blank Check with Griffin and David podcast are doing Star Trek commentaries on their Patreon. I’ve never been a huge fan of Star Trek, but I had seen The Wrath of Khan (1982) just before Into Darkness came out. I liked it enough the first time I saw it, but I really am getting into it right now. I’m not sure if the pacing of the original Star Trek films have finally matched my mental state, but I’m enjoying watching these often-considered “uneven” films. 

I watched Star Trek The Motion Picture a week before rewatching Khan, and I liked both. Khan is definitely the better film, but there is something about all of it that I’m finally clicking with. The original cast are each great, but Ricardo Montalban is definitely the reason to watch this movie. Not only is he the titular character, but he is doing so much in this film to just latch onto and go for the ride. Is the performance naturalist? Nope, and it’s not trying to be. He isn’t just some dude. He’s a super human who had been put to sleep for 200 years, and was eccentric before all of that. Now he wants vengeance, and he will have it. 

If you slept on the Trek films like me – or maybe tried and felt they were too slow or too philosophical – maybe it’s time to revisit them. I’m planning on working through the rest of the original series movies with the podcast, but I may even dive into the original series. Wrath of Khan earns the Must See rating.

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