Monday, May 21, 2018

DISOBEDIENCE (2018)



Rated:  R

STARS: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

DIRECTOR: Sebastian Lelio
GENRE: Drama

Pay close attention to the opening monologue in Disobedience, because the theme of the film is encapsulated there.  Rav Krushka,  the elderly spiritual leader of an orthodox Jewish congregation in London, is pouring it all out--as if these would be the final words he would ever speak. Immediately afterwards, he croaks. This sets up the return of his estranged daughter, Ronit (Rachel Weisz), a New York photographer who was exiled from the community due to her youthful penchant for her own gender--in particular her childhood friend, Esti (Rachel McAdams). Ronit is not welcomed back with open arms into the closed--and closed-minded--community, but she is invited to stay with Esti and their mutual school days chum, Rabbi David Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), who is now Esti's husband.

It doesn't take long before the repressed passions between Ronit and Esti are rekindled, leading them to consummate their love for each other on the sly, which will set up the inevitable conflict for Esti to choose between desire and duty--whether to flee with Ronit to New York or stay and be the good wife for her husband and support him in his ambition to take over the leadership position that Ronit's father has vacated.

What to do. What to do.

Disobedience is about life in a closed conservative religious community, and it feels as real and authentic as you can get, right down to some great singing in Hebrew that even someone like me can appreciate. It's also about lesbian sex, as there's a really hot lovemaking scene between Weisz and McAdams. Oh wait a minute...it's not between the actors, it's between their characters--Ronit and Esti. Because in real life these two have male partners, and so of course they're just acting. Decide for yourself on that one.

But the central theme of the movie is what lies at the heart of existentialism, and it harkens back to Rav Krushka's monologue at the beginning of the film: Free will. The freedom to choose. The main tenet of existentialist philosophy is that with freedom comes responsibility. This plays out beautifully in Disobedience, as Esti has a lot more to consider in making her decision than just her own happiness. It all leads to a climactic scene (no, not that one) that's as touching as any I have seen on film. And while the first half hour or so of Disobedience is as slow as the molasses in January, the story will draw you in with three remarkable turns from Weisz, McAdams, and Nivola, and you'll be hooked in short order.

For me to reveal more than that just wouldn't be kosher.

Grade:  A


JILL'S TAKE

People who read our joint reviews tell me they much prefer it when our opinions are diametrically opposed. Well, get ready, folks! Maybe it's because I didn't like studying existentialism in college.  Or I have an automatic mad-on for stultifying religious communities.  But Disobedience left me disappointed and disgruntled.  

The film took forever to get started, as director Sebastian Lelio (who also directed A Fantastic Woman) wanted us to understand every little nuance of the plot.  I'm a great believer in bookends, i.e. starting and ending a film with the same visual. Disobedience followed this cinematic premise to the letter. But as a romantic (and a fan of Hollywood schmaltz), I believe love should triumph over anything else. Especially when the other choice is so depressing.  

When Casablanca first came out, the producers aired two separate endings:  one where Bogart and Bergman stayed together; the other where war and duty triumphed. (I didn't like that ending either!)

The acting is superb and that sex scene Tim refers to is tastefully done albeit highly erotic.  For you trivia buffs, it might interest you to know that Rachel Weisz (the wife of Daniel Craig aka "007") is having her first child at age 48. Obviously, she's a rebel in real life, too!

Too much thinking gives me a headache. I like my movies to be entertaining.  They can be violent.  Or scary.  Or even sad.  But when a philosophical  concept drives the storyline it makes me break out in hives.

Grade: C -

Sunday, April 29, 2018

LEAN ON PETE (2018)



Rated: R

STARS: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Travis Fimmel
DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh
GENRE: Drama

I once read a review by a prominent film critic who was so disgusted by the ending of Pay It Forward that he revealed the ending in the review, reasoning that what happened was a cheap and shitty thing to do to viewers who had invested their money and emotional energy into something that up to that point had been an uplifting experience, and that they were better off knowing. I'm about to do something similar here, though I'm not revealing the ending...just the ending of my caring anything about what happens in this film from that point forward. 

Imagine if King Kong were not about a gorilla, but more about one of the Skull islanders who threw bananas at him from afar, and the gorilla was just incidental to the story...a prop, basically. You'd wonder why the hell they named the movie King Kong, now wouldn't you? And you might be pretty pissed at the film makers for the misleading way they advertised the movie to get gorilla lovers to fill the seats. That, in essence, is Lean On Pete, purportedly a story about a boy and his horse. It's not. It's a violent, mean-spirited film masquerading as a lyrical tale about a boy and a horse. The horse is just incidental to the story--expendable not only to the cold-hearted racing industry that uses the animals up and then sends them off to the glue factory when they no longer make money for the owners, but expendable to the plot of this film as well. And I don't consider my revealing this a spoiler so much as a public service for animal lovers and parents with children who love horses. This is not your kind of movie!  

Charlie Plummer is Charley Thompson, the Oregon teenager who gets hired on as a stable hand for a grizzled, cynical trainer of the low-rent quarter horse racing circuit, Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi). Lean On Pete is the  name of the horse Charley takes a shine to. Despite repeated admonitions to not get emotionally involved (good idea for you too), Charley is crestfallen when he learns Del is about to sell Pete and that the horse will end up in Mexico and become dog food. Charley loads Pete into the trailer and takes off, embarking on a cross-country odyssey, roaming through picturesque fields that make for some great cinematography. He's trying to find his estranged aunt, who lives somewhere in Wyoming, and maybe have a place to call home.        


It is here where the film breaks the covenant with viewers who are expecting something more than just killing off characters for convenience. (Charley's dad dies earlier in the film as well.) Killing off characters is the easy way out if you don't know what to do with them. What's hard is bringing their screen time--synonymous with their time on this earth--to some sort of existential vista where they, and the viewer, can gaze back from and ponder how it all fits into the what's-it-all-about-Alfie narrative of their life. 

In fairness, the film makers were just being faithful to the 2010 novel by Willy Vlautin, so they're not responsible for the plot elements. What they are responsible for is the graphic, jarring and manipulative way they showed Pete making his "exit," which comes about two-thirds of the way through the film. After which, as stated above, I cared not a whit about what happened the rest of the way--just sat through it because I was going to review it. 

Still, this is a hard one for me to grade. Because there are good turns here from the young Plummer, who gives an understated performance that makes him seem real. And Steve Buscemi, demonstrating the versatility of his acting chops as the crusty trainer. And the film should maybe win an award for sound editing, because when those quarter horses come thundering past you, it puts you right there. I'm torn between what I want to give it on a heart level and what I want to give it on a head level. So I'll average the two out. 

Grade: C


JILL'S TAKE

Well, readers.  Get ready for some big disagreements. Lean On Pete is a film about survival.  And the title is both the name of a racehorse and a metaphor for Charley's journey.  Yes, I assumed when I entered the movie theater, that I'd be seeing a grittier version of My Friend Flicka. But even as the stark opening credits rolled and the unfamiliar production company announced itself, I knew it wasn't going to be a kiddies' film. 

There are so many unexpected twists and turns in Lean On Pete that I defy even the most knowledgeable film goer to predict any of them in advance.  Because they were so unpredictable, I actually felt like I was experiencing them along with Charley. (Not an altogether pleasant feeling but certainly an engrossing one.)  The kid who played Charley was brilliant.  Since his last name is Plummer, I wondered if he was any relation to Christopher. No, he isn't.  But he did play John Paul Getty's grandson in All The Money In The World. (The other Plummer played Getty Sr.) 

The rest of the cast was also excellent.  Steve Buscemi...Chloe Sevigny...and especially Steve Zahn, as a homeless psychopath. Reality was rampant in this nugget of a film  Whether witnessing PTSD victims at their very worst.  Or the smarmy side of horse racing.  I was hooked -- like a morbid onlooker at the scene of a car crash. 

Another disagreement with Tim?  I thought the sound editing sucked. Too loud in places, inaudible in others.  But a minor criticism.  On the whole, I really liked this movie.  My subtitle for Lean On Pete? (It ain't The Kentucky Derby....)

Grade: B+



Sunday, April 15, 2018

CHAPPAQUIDDICK (2018)


Rated:  PG-13

STARS: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara, Bruce Dern
DIRECTOR: John Curran
GENRE: Historical Docudrama

Recalling my youthful impressions of what the Chappaquiddick incident was about: It's 1969 and Senator Ted Kennedy is driving home from a party late at night...possibly drunk...with a young worker from his late brother Bobby's campaign--Mary Jo Kopechne--when he runs off a bridge...the car is submerged...Kennedy escapes...she doesn't...he claims to have made valiant efforts to rescue her...he waits eight or so hours--pondering how to handle the situation--before reporting the incident to the authorities. He may have been boinking her.

As it turns out, my recollections were spot on according to the known facts as they are presented in Chappaquiddick. What remains unknown---and forever so--and the speculation surrounding it to this day is what keeps the film from being a boring documentary style retelling of old news.   

But if you're looking for fresh insights to lead you to one conclusion or another as to what really occurred on that fateful night, you won't find them--save for a couple of brief scenes that suggest the senator and Mary Joe may have engaged in some hanky-panky earlier in the evening. 

Chappaquiddick cuts Kennedy no slack, portraying him as shallow and more angst-ridden over the political ramifications to his possible presidential bid than he was over the snuffing out of a young life due to his negligence.  Jason Clarke, as the senator, brings these qualities out in spades. Kate Mara, as Mary Jo, doesn't get enough screen time (as you might expect) to bring any depth to the character of Ms. Kopechne. Bruce Dern, in what has to be the strangest and most WTF role of his career, plays a grotesque, near mute papa Joseph Kennedy, whose guttural utterances demonstrate his disdain for his only surviving son in scenes that are played to their maximum dramatic potential. Ed Helms, as cousin Joe Gargan--one of the senator's "fixers"--gives the strongest performance of the ensemble crew.  

Down the aisle from me, a coterie of older folks tittered away...derisively yukking it up virtually every time Teddy came on screen. In other words, the entire length of this brooding film--revealing themselves as being obviously from the "other side."  Reveling gleefully again in the man's misfortune! There's plenty of grist for them here too. Some will even interpret Chappaquiddick as a straight up hit piece on the Kennedy clan, and by implication, the progressive ideology they embraced--the timing of its release no coincidence in this critical election year. Anyway, prepare to be annoyed by such boisterous folk in the theater, depending on the random luck of where you are seated.  

If I were them, I'd have piped down and observed and taken a lesson from the master spin doctors who helped to resurrect Ted Kennedy's political career to where he was reelected to the U.S. senate continuously for another forty years until his death in 2009. Because when it comes to the art of the spin, their current heroes are tripping all over themselves. 

Grade:  B

JILL'S TAKE

As someone well acquainted with the environs of Cape Code and Martha's Vineyard, I felt Chappaquiddick portrayed both beach life and the world of the not-so-idle rich to perfection.  Kudos to cinematographer Maryse Alberti.  In watching the story of young Ted's self-serving neglect, I kept hoping none of the surviving Kennedys would watch this cinematic hatchet job on their uncle.  We all make mistakes....Granted, not as horrific as this one was....

I think the screenplay took certain liberties.  For example, it is widely known that Joseph Kennedy never spoke another word after his stroke. But the scene -- whether accurate or not -- where two of Ted's closest pals went diving in the water trying desperately to save Mary Jo while Ted lay prostrate on the dock was a definite shocker. 

An odd bit of casting was comedian Jim Gaffigan as states attorney Paul F. Marham.  A close friend of Teddy's, he willingly bent the truth for his drinking buddy. Be that as it may, I couldn't help watching Gaffigan in the role and recalling many of his comedy bits.  ("hot pockets," etc.)

I wasn't the least bit bored by this rehashing of history.  I did, however, wonder who Ann (Joseph Kennedy's caretaker) was.  A relative?  A nurse? Because she wielded quite a bit of power in this family drama, her relationship should have been explained. 

Not a film for everyone, especially if you're a  Kennedy worshipper.  But Jason Clark's performance is worth the price of a ticket.

Grade B+

Friday, March 23, 2018

DEATH WISH 2018



Rated:  R

STARS: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camilla Morrone
DIRECTOR: Eli Roth
GENRE: Action-Adventure/Drama

Remakes are seldom as good or have the same pizazz as the original (a notable exception was The Thomas Crown Affair). And if we're going to compare and contrast (which we are) Death Wish 2018 with the original 1974 film starring Charles Bronson, the latter version is a misfire. You can't call it a remake, really, so much as something loosely based on the original. 

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a Chicago surgeon with a nice life. Beautiful wife and daughter. When three intruders break into his home, his wife is killed and his daughter ends up in a coma. Thus begins the transformation, and the irony, of a man who has dedicated his life to saving lives turning into "The Grim Reaper"--cold-blooded judge, jury, and executioner of the violent street scum that have turned Chicago into the murder capital of the country. 

Charles Bronson had the ability to be debonair and dangerous at the same time, and that's what made him intriguing. Bruce Willis is a blue collar guy all the way, and thus hard to swallow as a surgeon from the get-go. He plays it deadpan pretty much throughout, and without the smirking wise-ass persona we've come to know and love, there's not a lot of charisma there. The producers are counting on name recognition alone to put butts in the seats.

The original Death Wish was pretty shocking. It contained one of the most brutal and graphic rape scenes ever for a major film. Wisely, the new version doesn't go there. Which is not to say it doesn't have a ton of violence and gore--whether it's in the operating room or mowing down the bad guys with an increasingly deadly arsenal of firepower. Bruce's Paul Kersey not only offs the perps, he tortures them as well. Bronson's vigilante had too much class for that. He just did what he had to do...plugged 'em and got the hell out of Dodge. All the way to Tucson, with its  established historical precedent for the kind of frontier justice he was meting out. It was a fitting backdrop. Our contemporary vigilante never makes it out of Chicago, and I guess that might turn anybody into a monster.

The similarity is in the message. Fight fire with fire. The end justifies the means because it's often a long wait for the cops to arrive. Only the timing for Death Wish 2018 couldn't have been worse, as a wave of anti gun sentiment now sweeps across the nation.  Even so, you may catch yourself rooting for Mr. Kersey and his do-it-yourself approach...until you stop and say: what am I thinking? 

That's the times we live in.

Grade:  C 

JILL'S TAKE

I kind of knew what to expect from my co-reviewer (since the original Death Wish was one of his very favorite films) but I didn't expect that I'd like this latest version as much as I did.  Of course Bronson's Paul Kersey as an architect was a lot easier to buy than Willis' surgeon role.  But when payback time began, and Die Hard Brucie got down to the business of killing, he became totally believable. Still, the choice by screenwriter Joe Carnahan to make our main character a surgeon was a tad dicey.  (Can you picture any of the surgeons on "Grey's Anatomy" behaving in such an unsavory manner?)

But I was definitely seat-of-the-pants involved with this thriller. The part of Kersey's somewhat shady brother Frank was beautifully portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio. (He's one of these actors you've seen on TV and in movies but can't quite place.) 

And in an eerie example of life imitating art, the actress who plays Kersey's wife, Elizabeth Shue, was just in the news recently, pleading for any information leading to the arrest of the person who repeatedly stabbed her 20-year-old nephew on the streets of London.

My only nitpicking comment?  We should all be as quickly healed as Bruce Willis was from all his serious bodily injuries.... 

Be forewarned -- there's a lot of maiminig in this movie.  So if the sight of blood makes you queasy, go see Sherlock Gnomes instead.  

Grade: B +

   

  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2018



Rated:  R

STARS: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes
DIRECTOR: Sebastian Lelio
GENRE: Drama/Arthouse

The screen is a very powerful tool for social acceptance.
--Andie MacDowell

There still seems to be some confusion these days about transgender folks. I'm not sure that the Chilean drama, A Fantastic Woman, clears any of that up, but it is a poignant and sympathetic character study of one individual.

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity differs from their biological sex at birth. 
(Or as I like to say: the biology doesn't match the psychology!Simply put, one's sex is about the body...one's gender identity is in the mind. A transsexual is someone who has taken steps to more physically resemble the gender they identify with through the use of hormones and/or surgical procedures. So, if anyone should ask... 

Were you to begin watching a A Fantastic Woman with no prior knowledge of what's what, you'd be in for a surprise as it is slowly revealed that Marina (Daniela Vega) is not a biological woman. Ya coulda fooled me, as the saying goes. There's no indication as to whether it fooled her ostensibly straight older lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), in the beginning, so we don't really know how or why they hooked up. But they have real passion for one another. Orlando croaks unexpectedly after they share an evening in bed together, with Marina rushing him to the hospital where a tense life or death drama plays out. It's the beginning of an odyssey of suspicion and bigotry directed toward Marina by the authorities--who suspect she may have had something to do with her lover's death--and Orlando's family, whose attitudes and subsequent actions toward Marina reveal that Chileans may have farther to go than even we here in the U.S. do in developing a live-and-let live attitude toward those who fall out of the mainstream.    

28 year-old Daniela Vega, who gets to display her impressive singing talents in the film, gives an understated (with occasional bouts of explosiveness), perfect pitch performance. She was the first openly transgender person in history to be a presenter at the 2018 Academy Awards broadcast. 

A Fantastic Woman won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. And while Jill and I frequently fall outside the mainstream with our opinions (yeah, I gave The Shape Of Water a C +), this time I'm falling right in line.
Grade: A   


JILL'S TAKE

And I'm falling in right behind you.  Almost.  Whenever I go to see a foreign film, I have to adjust my mindset. The leisurely pace, original camera work, unglamorized actors catch me off guard at first.  But I soon forget about the escapist entertainment Hollywood churns out and drink in those subtitles with unquenchable thirst.

A Fantastic Woman is a fantastic film.  And I loved the fact that the lead actor Daniela Vega is herself a tranny.  As appealing as she was as a woman, there were some dead giveaways that made me think "Not so fast."  Her large masculine hands, for one.  And her overly broad shoulders, for another.  Still, the one thing most men (who transition into women) can't hide is their Adam's apple.  Ms. Vega's managed to remain unnoticeable.  

I would quibble with the opening of the film.  The whole bit about the key and finding the locker (I'm not giving anything away here) seemed totally unnecessary.  I would have started the movie when our heroine was singing in the club.  But my far-more-intellectual movie buddy pointed out the symbolism: by confronting her own masculinity, she found her true identity.  To me, it was an anti climactic subplot.  (Sorry, I hate people who go into too much detail about a film I haven't seen yet!)

The score was seamless.  And that aria Daniela Vega sang at the end?  Oh, my.  It kept circling around in my head for hours after A Fantastic Woman was over.  Kudos to composers Nani Garcia and Matthew Herbert.  Because I don't want to parrot Tim's grade and I think the ex wife, ably played by Amparo Noguera, was miscast (too young-looking to have a grown son), I'll go down half a grade. After seeing this film, I'm going to make a concerted effort to see more foreign-made movies in 2018!

Grade: B+





Wednesday, March 7, 2018

RED SPARROW (2018)



Rated:  R

STARS: Jennifer Lawrence, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Mary Louise Parker
DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
GENRE: Action-Thriller/Drama


Ever since she outgrew her Catnip...er, I mean Katniss Everdeen persona, Jennifer Lawrence has been  moving into edgier adult roles, and now she's "gone and done it" in Red Sparrow, a spy thriller with a plot designed to get those pesky clothes off of her as often as possible! There's even one scene that I'll call soft-core porn. If she gets any edgier, we'll be speaking of her and Stormy Daniels in the same breath!  

The cold war hasn't ended, it's just gotten more sophisticated, according to the premise of Red Sparrow. Lawrence plays a former ballerina turned Russian spy named Dominika Egorova. Not your run-of-the-mill spy, but a "sparrow," mind you--a highly trained seductress who can get what she wants out of anyone or anything short of a turnip. She is compromised by the Americans and becomes a double agent, but in the end her sympathies will be swayed toward one side. Like any good spy thriller, Red Sparrow keeps you guessing as to which side that is until right near the end.  

To learn her trade, Dominika is sent to a Russian "whore school" where she and her fellow cadets, both male and female, practice the most degrading and appalling kind of sexual acts on and in front of each other--and when I'm appalled by something in the movies, you know it's pushing the envelope. Throw in a generous helping of gore as the twisty plot wends its way along, and you've got a film that stands out not for great acting or originality, but for those gratuitous elements alone. 

RANT ALERT! 
So here we have another "star vehicle" for Jennifer Lawrence. I find it rather obscene that a 27 year-old with journeyman talent is the highest paid actress in the world--more generously compensated than a Frances McDormand or a Meryl Streep. But then I  find it obscene when someone like Miley Cyrus can become a filthy rich mega-star simply for being obscene. Rome is fixin' to burn...

Now, back to our regular programming!

I've never watched a spy thriller where I didn't get lost somewhere along the way in the twisty plot. That's the nature of the beast, and Red Sparrow is no exception. You've got some of it, other parts you're shaking your head at and saying wha? Just make sure you're clear on who "Boo-Shay" is and you should be all right.

Interesting turns from Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Mary Louise Parker can't save a film where all the Russkies speak English only--for our benefit--in obviously manufactured Russian accents. Subtitles would have given it more of an air of authenticity.  

What Red Sparrow has going for it is that it's whorry and gory--perfect for the average American taste--so if that's your cup o' vodka...drink up my friends!

Grade:  C

JILL'S TAKE
(
As some of you already know, Tim writes his review first and then I add my two cents. (In this case, rubles.) Before I begin my rant, I must praise my co-writer for making this turkey of a film worth seeing. Why? If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of reading Tim's very witty-yet-bitchy review!

Aside from nodding off during Red Sparrow, where slow doesn't begin to describe this movie's pace, I was totally lost throughout. So was my friend – who kept leaning over asking who was who and why were they doing what they were doing? Sure, thrillers are supposed to stump the audience until the very end. Sadly, I left the theater more stumped than ever!

The best thing about Red Sparrow? The casting of Matthias Schoenaerts as the villain. Why? His resemblance to Vladimir Putin is unmistakable. So many fine actors in cameo roles. Such a waste of great talent. But the one scene with Jeremy Irons made seeing this tautless thriller worth it. (Almost.)

In my movie reviews, I'm often hard pressed to find something to criticize. Such is not the case this time. I've already mentioned the slow pace, the confusing plot, the waste of talent. I might also add that director, Francis Lawrence, who also directed Ms.Lawrence (no relation) in The Hunger Games, has trouble cutting out unnecessary scenes that only befuddle the viewer. A cinematic hoarder, indeed!  

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I hated this movie. And for the first time since I began adding my two cents, Red Sparrow merits the lowest grade I can give it.



Grade: F

Monday, February 26, 2018

GAME NIGHT (2018)



Rated:  R

STARS: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons
DIRECTOR: John Francis Daley, Jonathon M. Goldstein
GENRE: Dark Comedy/ Mystery/ Suspense

It ain't over till it's over. In cinematic terms, that phrase was never more appropriate than to Game Night!

Max and Annie (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams) are the nucleus of a group of friends who love their game nights! Charades, Pictionary, Jenga--you name it--they play like their lives depend on it. Ironically, that's just what develops when Max's more successful older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up and invites them to play at his house. It's a murder mystery party--great fun, eh? But it becomes all too real when a group of violent thugs invades the premises and kidnaps Brooks. All part of the game, right? The couples proceed on that assumption, as they begin a frantic search to find him. Hey, there's a classic Corvette Stingray that goes to the winners! But they will run into some truly scary hombres along the way, and suddenly it's confusing as to what may be real and what may be part of the game. 

Joining Max and Annie on the adventure are Ryan and Sarah (Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan)  and Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury). Each couple has its own quirky relationship issues that play out against the action/mystery/suspense backdrop. The pacing of the plot sometimes takes a back seat to the personal relationship gags, but the little detours are comically rewarding and well worth it. Don't worry, there's plenty of wild and crazy action to come...in spades!

Inventiveness abounds, as in the rugby metaphor where a priceless Faberge egg is being tossed about like a hot potato...everything's a game...life is a game!


Stealing the show is Max and Annie's deadpan somber policeman neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons). Gary makes Keely Smith look like the life of the party (ya gotta be pretty old to remember her routine with Louis Prima--uh, I'm only familiar with it through YouTube videos!)  Needless to say, Gary is a buzz kill, and the running gag is that he wants to join the couples on their game nights, with Max and Annie using every comically transparent deception to throw him off the scent and convince him there's "nothing to see here." 

Game Night, brilliantly conceived and executed, is the wildest and goofiest ride you're going to take all year, and it'll keep you guessing right up to the final moment. It truly is the most fun you can have with your clothes on! 

Grade:  A     


JILL'S TAKE

(Or your clothes off, as far as I'm concerned.) Game Night is a winner all around. If you don't see any other film this month, or year, or in your lifetime, go see this one! It's a laugh-out-loud, movie trivia buff's orgy of a movie. If you've seen the trailer, or read Tim's review, you already know what you're getting into. What you don't know is how engrossing it is. The audience where I was—disappointed that they couldn't get into the theater playing Black Panther—forgot feeling miffed the minute Game Night started. Like me, they were hooked!

If any of you have see Jason Bateman in the Netflix original Ozark, you already know what a good actor he is. And if you seen Kyle Chandler in the Netflix original Bloodline, you know what a good/bad guy he can turn into. A word I seldom use but feel compelled to in describing this script, skillfully penned by Mark Perez, would be "seamless." Not a false moment slinks by. And each pair of game-players has an individual story that'll entice you even further. But be forewarned: you'd better suspend your disbelief at the door!

As a flaw-finding film critic, I'm at a loss to point out anything in Game Night that I didn't enjoy.  And if you, like the rest of us, are currently experiencing bad weather?  (It's cold as a witch's you-know-what here in Del Mar!)  This movie will make you forget your woes entirely. It's Entertainment Personified!



Grade: A