John Lui Film Correspondent recommends

TV & Film Picks: The Lovebirds

The Lovebirds
The LovebirdsPHOTO: NETFLIX
Spelling The Dream
Spelling The DreamPHOTO: NETFLIX
Path To War
Path To WarPHOTO: HBO

THE LOVEBIRDS (NC16)

87 minutes/ Netflix/ 3.5 stars

Comedians Kumail Nanjiani (the hit romcom The Big Sick, 2017) and Issa Rae (HBO's Insecure comedy series, both above) play a nice middle-class couple who are drawn into a murder conspiracy.

Director Michael Showalter, who also helmed The Big Sick, lets the pair perform loose, improv-style jokes as their characters find themselves caught in a series of life-threatening scenarios.

Rae and Nanjiani are not the typical Hollywood choices for a movie like this - it is easy to imagine Kristen Bell and Seth Rogen in the roles, or Rose Byrne and Paul Rudd - but the duo enjoy an easygoing, low-key chemistry that completely works.


SPELLING THE DREAM (G)

83 minutes/Netflix/ 3.5 stars

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the holy grail for the American competitive speller.

The documentary charts the journey taken by four young persons - all Indian-American - as they rise to a showdown at the Bee.

By interviewing family members and tracking what it is that makes this group of immigrants dominate the competition, the investigation uncovers, perhaps not surprisingly, that the secrets are a fierce will to win and a gruelling work ethic.

This is an engrossing look into a set of minds that, in a high-pressure situation, can step up to the microphone and calmly break down canafistula, forastero and eurygaean.


PATH TO WAR (PG13)

157 minutes/HBO Go/ 4 stars

Netflix's Da 5 Bloods, the much-anticipated drama about the Vietnam War and its effects on five black Americans directed by the acclaimed Spike Lee (BlackKkKlansman, 2018), has been something of a letdown.

Path To War, a 2002 made-for-television film, looks at the same war from a different perspective and is much more effective at achieving its goal.

Part biopic of President Lyndon B. Johnson (British-Irish actor Michael Gambon, right, with Donald Sutherland, far right) and part record of the war as seen from the Oval Office, this is an emotional, thrilling account of how smart men with good intentions and the best weapons got their nation stuck in a nightmare in South-east Asia that seemed to have no end.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2020, with the headline 'TV & Film Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe