Film Review: Game Night (dir by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein)


In this time of division and conflict, can we all agree that Game Night is a damn funny movie?

The film tells the story of three couples who regularly get together for, as the title suggests, a game night.  Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and Sharon (Sharon Horgan) are quirky and a little bit daffy.  Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and his wife, Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) are generally dependable and Michelle has a really interesting story about the time that she met a man who may have been Denzel Washington but probably wasn’t.  Meanwhile, Annie (Rachel McAdams) and Max (Jason Bateman) are an ultracompetitive married couple, frustrated in their attempts to conceive a child but always confident in their ability to win any game that they play.  At one time, Gary (Jesse Plemons) and his wife used to be a part of the group but, after they got divorced, Max and Annie stopped inviting him.  You really can’t blame them.  Gary’s seriously creepy.

And then there’s Brooks Davis (Kyle Chandler).

Brooks is Max’s brother and, at first glance, he would appear to be everything that Max isn’t.  Brooks appears to have a lot of money.  He claims to have a successful career, even if no one’s quite sure what he does for a living.  He drives a nice car.  When he comes to town to visit his brother, he rents out a mansion.  Brooks is the type of older sibling who always has an embarrassing story or two to share about his younger brother.  In fact, Max feels so inadequate when compared to Brooks that it’s even interfering with Max and Annie’s efforts to have a child.  When Brooks invites everyone to come to his house for a very special game night, Annie and Max are determined to beat Brooks at whatever game he’s planning on having them play.

It turns out that Brooks has hired a company to put on an interactive role-playing game.  While listening to a fake FBI agent (Geoffrey Wright) explain the background of the mystery that they’re about to solve, the couples are shocked when several masked men burst into the house.  Everyone’s impressed as the men beat the fake FBI agent unconscious.  When the men start beating up Brooks, everyone praises Brooks for the realism of his game.  After Brooks is dragged out of the house, the couples set out to solve the mystery of who is behind this kidnapping.  As for the fake FBI agent, he lies on the floor motionless.  Even when Ryan kicks his body, the agent doesn’t move.  Everyone agrees that the agent is a really good and committed actor.

Of course, the joke is that Brooks really has been kidnapped but nobody realizes it.  It’s a good joke but, to the film’s credit, it’s not the only joke.  In fact, Game Night actually get funnier after everyone eventually realizes that they’re no longer playing a game.  Ever after they realize that Brooks actually has been kidnapped, Annie and Max are so competitive that they still keep trying to outdo everyone else.

Annie and Max also discover that they have no choice but to involve their creepy neighbor and former friend, Gary.  Jesse Plemons doesn’t have a lot of screentime but he gives a performance that is so exquisitely strange and awkward that he ends up stealing the entire movie.  Watching Plemons, you both feel sorry for Gary and understand why no one wants to play with him.  His desperation to be apart of the group is both exasperating and somewhat touching.

In fact, the entire cast does a good job, bringing their often clueless characters to life.  Max and Annie are a likable couple and Bateman and McAdams have a natural chemistry that makes them a lot of fun to watch.  There’s a great scene where Max and Annie, still thinking that they’re just playing a game, subdue a group of criminals in a bar.  Max and Annie’s clueless joy is intoxicating.  They’re having fun playing at being tough and we’re having fun watching them.  Of course, it eventually turns out that the gun that Annie thought was a toy is real and loaded and … well, things get a little bit messy.  While the scene where Annie and Max try to figure out how to dig a bullet out of a man’s arm may have made me cringe a little, it also made me laugh.  That’s a credit to both Bateman and McAdams, who made the scene both real and funny at the same time.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Game Night.  Clocking in at 100 minutes, it’s a briskly paced and good-natured comedy that never makes the mistake of lingering for too long over its own cleverness.  Director Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley both redeem themselves for 2015’s Vacation.  If, earlier this year, you missed this one when it was in theaters, see it now and have a good time.

Doctor Strange Trailer Arrives At SDCC 2016


Doctor Strange

San Diego Comic-Con for the past decade has always been a major mainstay for Marvel Studios when it comes to releasing their latest news and trailer for their upcoming films. There has been rumors the last couple years that Marvel Studios may skip Comic-Con and it’s venerable Hall H altogether in the near-future. Marvel Studios being owned by Disney means they have access to their parent company’s own D23 event. There’s even talk of just having a yearly Marvel Con to showcase everything Marvel.

Until that occurs many who attend San Diego Comic-Con will stand hours (some even days) to be able to get into Hall H and be the first to see what Marvel Studios has up it’s sleeves. This year we get the latest trailer on their biggest gamble to date: Doctor Strange.

A gamble in that it will delve deeply into the one aspect of the Marvel Universe it has so far avoided: magic.

One cannot make a film about Doctor Strange and not portray the magic and sorcery, the otherworldly dimensions and demons, spells and illusions. This is the bread and butter of the Sorcerer Supreme and if this latest trailer is any indication then filmmaker Scott Derrickson may have just broken the code in how to integrate this aspect of the Marvel Universe into the grounded, albeit hyper-reality, of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Doctor Strange arrives this November 4, 2016.

Doctor Strange Trailer Makes It’s First Visit


Doctor Strange

This coming November sees the arrival of not just another new character from the Marvel Comics pages onto the big-screen, but the parting of the curtains to give the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s first glimpse at the mystical and magical.

The MCU has been mostly about advanced technology, techno-thrillers and a corner or two of the cosmic, but Feige and company has never truly explored the esoteric and occult side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the release of tonight’s teaser trailer for Doctor Strange we will finally get a glimpse into this unseen corner of the MCU.

Doctor Strange is set for a November 4, 2016 release date.

Here Are The Oscar Nominees!


Oscars

I am so happy that Mad Max, Brooklyn, and Room were nominated but considering how many great films were released in 2015, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the nominees for Best Picture.  No Carol.  No Ex Machina.  No Sicario or Inside Out.  No Straight Out Of Compton, Creed, or Beasts of No Nation.  Is The Martian the only best picture winner to even have more than one African-American prominently featured in the cast?  10 years from now, when people can see past the politics and concentrate on the filmmaking, The Big Short will be recognized as one of the worst best picture nominees of all time.

As for other snubs, I am so sad to see that Kristen Stewart and Benicio Del Toro were not nominated in the supporting races.  For that matter, Rooney was the lead in Carol and that’s where she should have been nominated.  It’s also interesting to note that Mark Ruffalo was nominated for giving the worst performance in Spotlight.

I know that Spotlight is the official front runner but, looking at the nominations, I wouldn’t be surprised to see The Revenant win.  Or maybe even (bleh!)  The Big Short.

Best Picture
“The Big Short”
“Bridge of Spies”
“Brooklyn”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Room”
“Spotlight”

Best Director
Lenny Abrahamson, “Room”
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “The Revenant”
Tom McCarthy, “Spotlight”
Adam McKay, “The Big Short”
George Miller, “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, “Trumbo”
Matt Damon, “The Martian”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Revenant”
Michael Fassbender, “Steve Jobs”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Danish Girl”

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Joy”
Charlotte Rampling, “45 Years”
Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, “The Big Short”
Tom Hardy, “The Revenant”
Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”
Mark Rylance, “Bridge of Spies”
Sylvester Stallone, “Creed”

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, “The Hateful Eight”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Rachel McAdams, “Spotlight”
Alicia Vikander, “The Danish Girl”
Kate Winslet, “Steve Jobs”

Best Original Screenplay
“Bridge of Spies”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Spotlight”
“Straight Outta Compton”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“The Big Short”
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“The Martian”
“Room”

Best Cinematography
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”

Best Costume Design
“Carol”
“Cinderella”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”

Best Film Editing
“The Big Short”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Revenant”
“Spotlight”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared”
“The Revenant”

Best Production Design
“Bridge of Spies”
“The Danish Girl”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”

Best Score
“Bridge of Spies”
“Carol”
“The Hateful Eight”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Song
“Fifty Shades of Grey” – “Earned It”
“The Hunting Ground” – “Til it Happens to You”
“Racing Extinction” – “Manta Ray”
“Spectre” – “Writing’s on the Wall”
“Youth” – “Simple Song #3”

Best Sound Editing
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Sicario”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Sound Mixing
“Bridge of Spies”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Visual Effects
“Ex Machina”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Best Animated Feature
“Anomalisa”
“Boy and the World”
“Inside Out”
“Shaun the Sheep Movie”
“When Marnie Was There”

Best Documentary Feature
“Amy”
“Cartel Land”
“The Look of Silence”
“What Happened, Miss Simone?”
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Mustang”
“Son of Saul”
“Theeb”
“A War”

Best Animated Short
“Bear Story”
“Prologue”
“Sanjay’s Super Team”
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos”
“World of Tomorrow”

Best Documentary Short
“Body Team 12”
“Chau, Beyond the Lines”
“Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
“Last Day of Freedom”

Best Live Action Short
“Ave Maria”
“Day One”
“Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)”
“Shok”
“Stutterer”

Playing Catch-Up: Spotlight (dir by Tom McCarthy)


Spotlight

Earlier today, I finally got to see Spotlight, the film that is currently the front-runner to win the Oscar for best picture.  Spotlight tells the story of how the Spotlight team, a group of journalists working for the Boston Globe, investigated the shameful history of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston.  Starting with charges against one priest, the Spotlight team eventually uncovered sexual abuse by at least 70 priests and also revealed that the revered Cardinal Law was involved in covering up the crimes.

Having now seen Spotlight, I can say it’s a good film.  It’s well-made.  It’s well-acted.  The script contains some memorable lines.  I’ve talked to a few friends of mine who have actually worked as journalists and they have all assured me that Spotlight gets the details of their profession correct and that it’s pretty much an authentic look at what it’s like to be a reporter at a major newspaper.  There’s a lot of good things that can be said about Spotlight.

And yet, I’m not particularly enthusiastic about it.  I think my main issue with the film is that it’s just such an old-fashioned and rather conventional film.  It’s a throw back of sorts, an earnest exploration of a real-life outrage.  (Even the fact that the heroes are journalists makes the film feel as if it was made a decade or two in the past.)  On the one hand, you have to respect that director Tom McCarthy had the guts to tell his story in the least flashy way possible.  But, occasionally, his by-the-book approach is not as compelling as you want or need it to be.  Spotlight is a good film but it’s not a particularly challenging film and it’s the films that challenge us that truly stay with us after the final credits conclude.

Yes, it’s a good film but some are declaring that Spotlight is the best film of the year and I’m afraid that I just don’t see it.  There are a lot of 2015 films that will probably still be fondly remembered 5 years from now: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, Sicario, and others.  When compared to those films, Spotlight feels more like an admirable made-for-TV movie.  It feels more like something that should sweep the Emmys than the Oscars.

That said, Spotlight does feature some excellent performances.  In fact, the entire cast does such a good job that it’s difficult to really single anyone out.  They come together as a nearly perfect ensemble.  (That said, I’m a bit torn on whether Mark Ruffalo came across as being passionate or merely mannered.)  Michael Keaton, especially, does a good job, embodying everyone’s ideal image of a journalist with integrity.

Spotlight‘s a good film but my favorite Tom McCarthy movie remains Win Win.

The Central Ohio Film Critics Have Announced Their Nominations!


Here are the Central Ohio Film Critics Nominations!

Best Film

-The Big Short
Ex Machina
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
-The Revenant
-Room
Sicario
-Spotlight
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Best Director

-Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
-Todd Haynes, Carol
-Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
-George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Ridley Scott, The Martian
-Denis Villeneuve, Sicario

Best Actor

-Matt Damon, The Martian
-Johnny Depp, Black Mass
-Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
-Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
-Jacob Tremblay, Room

Best Actress

-Cate Blanchett, Carol
-Brie Larson, Room
-Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best Supporting Actor

-Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
-Tom Hardy, The Revenant
-Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina
-Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
-Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Supporting Actress

-Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
-Rooney Mara, Carol
-Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
-Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
-Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Best Ensemble

-The Big Short
Ex Machina
-The Hateful Eight
-Spotlight
Steve Jobs

Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)

-Cate Blanchett (Carol, Cinderella, and Truth)
-Michael Fassbender (Macbeth, Slow West, and Steve Jobs)
-Domhnall Gleeson (Brooklyn, Ex Machina, The Revenant, and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)
-Tom Hardy (Child 44, Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant)
-Alicia Vikander (Burnt, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son, and Testament of Youth)

Breakthrough Film Artist

-Sean Baker, Tangerine – (for producing, directing, screenwriting, film editing, cinematography, camera operation, and casting)
-Joel Edgerton, The Gift – (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
-David Robert Mitchell, It Follows – (for producing, directing, and screenwriting)
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – (for acting)
-Jacob Tremblay, Room – (for acting)
-Alicia Vikander, Burnt, The Danish Girl, Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Seventh Son, and Testament of Youth – (for acting)

Best Cinematography

-Roger Deakins, Sicario
-Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
-Robert Richardson, The Hateful Eight
-John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Dariusz Wolski, The Martian

Best Film Editing

-Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
-Tom McArdle, Spotlight
-Stephen Mirrione, The Revenant
-Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Joe Walker, Sicario

Best Adapted Screenplay

-Emma Donoghue, Room
-Drew Goddard, The Martian
-Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
-Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, The Big Short
-Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

Best Original Screenplay

-Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley, Inside Out
-Alex Garland, Ex Machina
-Taylor Sheridan, Sicario
-Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
-Quentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

Best Score

-Carter Burwell, Carol
-Michael Giacchino, Inside Out
-Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario
-Junkie XL, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight

Best Documentary

-Amy
-Best of Enemies
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
-The Look of Silence
-The Wolfpack

Best Foreign Language Film

-The Assassin (Nie yin niang)
-Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, ich sech)
-Phoenix
-The Tribe (Plemya)
-Timbuktu
-Wild Tales (Relatos salvajes)

Best Animated Film

-Anomalisa
-The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
-The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

Best Overlooked Film

-The End of the Tour
The Gift
-Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
-Mistress America
-Slow West
-The Tribe (Plemya)

The North Carolina Film Critics Association Have Announced Their Nominees For The Best of 2015


Here are the nominees from the North Carolina Film Critics Association!

BEST NARRATIVE FILM
Carol
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Spotlight

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
Amy
Finders Keepers
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
Mustang
Phoenix
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Son of Saul

BEST DIRECTOR
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

BEST ACTRESS
Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy)
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies)
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (Inside Out)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Emma Donoghue (Room)
Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)

TAR HEEL AWARD
(To an artist or film with a special connection to North Carolina.)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)
Finders Keepers
Peyton Reed (Ant-Man)