Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Game Night

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Game Night?  More like Lame Night, amirite?  No, I'm not because this was a good movie. 



Game Night – 4 out of 5

I like games—not relationship ones, those suck—but fun ones; for example, card, board and video games are all great.  As a busy adult with social anxiety, I don’t partake in many Game Nights with friends but they’ve been known to happen from time to time.  Game Night offers the fun and socializing of one of these nights and packs it with a nice dark comedy backdrop.  

It's pretty neat how some exteriors were filmed to look like game boards.

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are two very competitive people who constantly host a game night for their friends.  When Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) decides to visit, he offers to host his own game night that will involves an interactive role-playing game involving a murder mystery.  However, when Max and Annie arrive with their friends; married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and the dimwitted Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his date Sarah (Sharon Horgan), they soon learn that the line between the game and a real-life kidnapping that occurs start to blur as it is revealed that Brooks has some secrets and owes some powerful men a lot of money.

In fairness, I would have just sat and watched him get kidnapped too.
It would be hard to pull my tubby butt away from the snack table.

The trailer made Game Night look a lot of fun but trailers can be deceiving.  However, the end product to the film really lived up to my expectations the trailer gave me and the movie proved to be a really entertaining example of a dark comedy…and also showed me that being caught up in that situation would be kinda cool.

Michael C. Hall has a small role in the film.  He's a talented guy.  Why don't
I see him in tons more things?

A couple things really made Game Night click for me and really made it a fun experience.  The first thing that really made it function is the premise and how the story and plot utilize it.  The idea is simple and plays off the concept of planned situations going wrong in the right ways.  In this case, the friends are expecting a crime caper type of role-playing game to occur and they are subjected to a real-life crime.  The whole thing still feels phony to them and things only get muddier as the truth is revealed but other moments come into play that even make these reveals questionable.  It results in all the right moments to create comedy but it also made the film interesting to watch because there is a mystery unfolding and I found myself very easily getting invested and wanting to see where the whole thing goes.

These two carry the story amazingly well.

The next element that made Game Night function is the very comedy itself.  The premise is great but the gags and jokes are all little moments that exist to punctuate scenes and never act like they are there to define the scene.  Each scene feels like the jokes are supplied to be fun and not overwhelm a moment.  This ended up making the film miss having the problem a lot of comedies suffer from and that is the overwhelming sense of trying too hard.  By filling the running length with a lot of little solid moments and abandoning the desire to just “throw spaghetti at the wall” and see what sticks, you’re left with a comedy that keeps the laughs coming and never have the breaks slammed on them due to a bunch of dud throwaway lines and gags getting in the way.  All these little moments piled up and built on each other nicely and kept me chuckling and laughing the entire time.

One movie-stealing element of the comedy came from the character played
by Jesse Plemons.  Every scene with him is hysterical!

The final aspect that made Game Night work so well is the cast.  Not only are the performers great but they all had terrific chemistry.  For example, Jason Batman and Rachel McAdams play incredibly well off each other and really made their dynamic of a married couple obsessed with competition a lot of fun.  I also enjoyed their relationship with Kyle Chandler.  Bateman and Chandler do a great job of being antagonistic towards each other and pull off the sibling rival aspect very well.

They made a huge mistake.

Game Night has a lot going for it and proved to be a lot of fun for me.  The story never drags, the comedy never gets tedious and there is the potential for a lot of replay value thanks to some very memorable moments and solid gags.  It rides that line of a being a fantastic dark comedy as it balances the darker sides of it with the comedy exceptionally well.  I thought I was going to have fun with this one and I ended up enjoying more than I anticipated.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cargo

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Relax people who have an irrational hatred of cargo pants/shorts, this isn't a horror film about that particular piece of apparel.



Cargo – 3 out of 5

In a world where zombie fiction comes in many generic forms, it’s hard to create something that stands out and is different from the rest.  Writers and directors Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling did that when they made the short film Cargo in 2013.  With its simple and effective idea, it was no wonder why it went viral.  Recently, they made a feature length version and it has been released worldwide thanks to the streaming titan Netflix.  Did stretching the strong premise out to a feature length do the concept any favors?  Yes and no.

There's no point in trying to make a joke here because this picture
just looks great.

A virus has altered the landscape of the world and is turning people into zombies.  Andy (Martin Freeman) and his wife Kay (Susie Porter) are trying to live safely on a houseboat with their daughter Rosie but when supplies start to dwindle, events occur that result in Kay being bitten.  Abandoning the houseboat, the family head to the shore and attempt to try to find a hospital but after an accident occurs and Kay turns and bites Andy, new plans are made and Andy must now find a way to get his daughter to safety before he turns himself.  Along the way, he meets a young Aboriginal girl named Thoomi (Simone Landers) who hopes she can find a cure for her zombie father and quickly Andy’s mission evolves and now includes getting Thoomi to her mother.  The only problem is that once a person is bitten they turn after 48 hours and time is running out.

Sure, now she's feeding the baby but later she'll try to feed on the baby.

I really enjoy the short this film was expanded from but, after watching this, I think the short version is the way to go.  Cargo isn’t a bad film; quite the contrary.  When this film is working, it is working effectively well and is very moving and engaging to watch.  Conversely, when this film is slumping, it is slumping bad and ends up feeling like a chore to sit through.

This isn't exactly the adventure Bilbo wanted to go on, I think.

The real problem I found with this film is that the plot and story often feels like it is meandering.  After Andy has to leave his wife behind and try to find someplace safe for Rosie, it feels like Andy is just walking along a path that has been carved out for him to meet the locals.  He runs into Thoomi and then a former school teacher and then meets a crazy and violent dude who is keeping Aboriginal people as bait for zombies and holding a woman hostage in order to be his love slave—in case you haven’t guessed, he becomes the antagonist.  This part of the film lacks the emotional side that is required for Andy’s tale and it feels very contrived.  These meetings never felt natural and ultimately felt like a plot device.  At its worst, they felt like meetings that existed only to stretch the story out to a feature length.

Thoomi ends up being important for the story but I felt like there was so much
more that could have been explored with her.

The thing that makes this film really work, beyond the basic concept, is the performance of Martin Freeman.  Freeman is a very versatile actor who has managed to avoid being typecast in films and this range is once again captured in his portrayal of Andy.  The emotion and drama he brings both verbally and physically to the role was something astounding to watch.  It became incredibly easy to sympathize with Andy and cheer for him to save his child and, at the same time, feel a punch to the gut as you know that, no matter what happens, he won’t have a happy ending.  Above everything else, Freeman’s performance is what makes this film.

Yes, the premise helped but the entire emotional force of this film was delivered
by Freeman.

Cargo has an excellent premise and some heavy drama that is emphasized terrifically in Martin Freeman’s fantastic performance.  However, this film is definitely a case where less is more and the original short stands above the feature length.  Longer is not always better and, in this case, we are given a film that feels like it is wandering around in order to pan the film out.  The feature isn’t bad by any means because when it is working it is emotional, dramatic and beautiful but too often through the early portions of the story, it feels directionless.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Paddington 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! These movies make me believe that there is still good in the world...at least until I look at the news and see what our president is doing.



Paddington 2 – 5 out of 5

I had my reservations about the first Paddington movie.  I thought it was just going to be a throwaway family film filled with cheap and easy gags.  However, I was completely taken by surprised when I found an utterly charming feature that was heartwarming and laugh out loud funny.  Due to this, I was kinda excited to check out Paddington 2.  Does it deliver in the same way?  You bet your marmalade sandwich it does!

Paddington is a rarity with bears.  My attempt at having a marmalade sandwich
with a cub in the woods ended with me being mauled like I was
Leo in The Revenant.

Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is on a mission to find the perfect gift for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday.  He ultimately finds it in the form of a pop-up book of London.  However, the book holds a secret that can lead to a fortune in treasure and it is stolen by a dastardly actor named Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) from the antique shop it was residing in.  Unfortunately, Paddington takes the blame and is sent to prison.  Now his family, The Browns; Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), Judy (Madeleine Harris), Jonathon (Samuel Joslin), and Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters), must work to prove his innocence.  Meanwhile, Paddington makes an unlikely friend in the prison, a hardened criminal by the name of Knuckles McGinty (Brenden Gleeson) and he just may be the man to help get that bear out of the pen.

Gleeson is an amazing actor but can we take a minute to admire how
meticulously trimmed his beard is?

This sequel follows the same formula as the first film in the fact that it is wholesome and funny without ever feeling sappy.  The tone of the story and movie is able to be one that warms the heart, easily makes one smile and will make one chuckle as much as it will bring a tear to one’s eye.  Add in the fact that this story was easily engaging and the new additions to the cast were terrific and it created a movie that ended up being more delightful and entertaining than the first one.  The first one is still great but this one ended up just beating it by a smidge.

One of my favorite Doctors.

Yeah, Grant is the bad guy but that suit is
anything but bad.
One of the film’s strongest suits is the new additions to the cast.  The returning players like Ben Whishaw as Paddington, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi and more are still doing a tremendous job with their characters but the inclusion of Hugh Grant and Brenden Gleeson definitely kicked the feature up to another level.  Gleeson is already a powerhouse performer and he gets that perfect blend of being funny, charming and a bit of a tough guy as the convict that ends up bonding with the bear over marmalade.  Finally, Hugh Grant was just an absolute joy to watch as the endlessly amusing villain Phoenix Buchanan (which, by the way, is a great name for an actor).  The way the story emphasized his skills as an actor in order to be the antagonist and the over dramatized way that Grant played the character melded perfectly to create something that really commanded attention and made for a very enjoyable roadblock for Paddington to overcome.

Also, he dresses as a nun at one point and that cracked me up!

Finally, I really enjoyed the simplicity of the story.  Paddington is built on simplicity and the movies capture that.  All the bear wants to do is find a gift for his Aunty and it ends up putting him in jail.  The writing does a great job of having this whimsy without feeling too whimsical and it builds the adventure perfectly so that as things get more and more over-the-top, it never feels like it gets too wild or too unbelievable.  Everything about its structure, pacing and narrative fit into this perfect hole that it was made for and it delivers something magical and endlessly entertaining.

I won't even bother denying that I'm crying looking at this picture of Paddington
and his Aunty hugging.

Paddington 2 never falters or dips at all throughout its presentation.  The story is adorable and easily engaging, the characters are fun and played perfectly by the cast and the movie astoundingly balances its heart and humor and never allows itself to get too sappy.  The film is just a cute and overtly optimistic tale that wears its heart on its sleeve and has a mission to make you smile.  A mission, I might add, that it was very successful with.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Deep Blue Sea 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Why the hell wasn't this sequel entirely about LL Cool J attempting to come to terms with the loss of his bird from the first film?



Deep Blue Sea 2 – 1 out of 5

I feel like I have to add this every time I review a bad shark movie but I freakin’ love bad shark movies—to a certain extent.  I was over the Sharknado phenomenon when the second one hit.  Once the filmmakers were “in” on the joke, they stopped being fun.  Anyway, there’s something so stupidly pure and amazingly ridiculous about these movies.  I don’t know if it’s how hard some of them go to try and vilify sharks or the jumps in logic and the forced way events are put into motion in order to get the conflict starts (or maybe it’s just the insanely fun kills) but shark movies are very enjoyable.  Sure, most of the time I watch them for their accidental comedy but that doesn’t mean I’m not getting some kind of enjoyment out of them.  Deep Blue Sea is a really good example of a ridiculous but unapologetically fun shark film so, when it was announced there would be a Direct-to-DVD sequel, I was pretty excited.  However, I quickly realized I overlooked the important part about that announcement and that was it was a Direct-to-DVD release.  That should have warned me about the approaching quality but I was too excited for a silly shark movie.

"Hey, what are you guys doing in there?  Wanna hang out?"

After a pharmaceutical billionaire named Carl Durant (Michael Beach) invites shark conservationist Misty Calhoun (Danielle Savre) to his facility, she learns that he has had a team experimenting on bull sharks.  When it is revealed that the lead shark is pregnant, everything goes nuts as the now super-intelligent sharks trap the team in the underwater lab and the pregnant shark gives birth.  Now it’s up to them to get out with the help of an ex-Navy SEAL and owner of a name that could only belong to a hero of a generic action film; Trent Slater (Rob Meyers).  However, they soon realize that not only are the other sharks out for them but so are the ravenous babies…

Yeah...that's a perfectly practical way to wear your wetsuit.

Essentially, Deep Blue Sea 2 is the same film as the first one.  There are even beats and moments that look and feel like they are mirroring events that took place in the first but with very minor differences or dissimilar results.  This, among several other issues, ended up making a film that is more grating that mindlessly fun.  

Dude, it was a cheap watch. Let it go.

Besides feeling like all of this has already happened before and that being its only real connection to the first film, is the fact this movie looks incredibly cheap.  I understand it is a Direct-to-DVD feature but you can’t escape that the sets look barebones and just given enough set decoration to give a passing feel of what they are trying to accomplish or the fact that a lot of CG shots are repeated because rendering more would cost money or the fact that there isn’t a recognizable name or even that decent of talent in the roster of players.  I’m not trying to knock the cast because they aren’t the worst thing about this movie but it really feels like they were scrapping the bottom of the barrel for who they could get or actors who would agree to be a part of this.  For example, the ex-Navy SEAL character doesn’t really give off the hero vibe.  He has a dark, brooding look that suggest more that he’s a villain than a hero and the fact he delivers all his lines like he’s in a dick-measuring contest made it really hard to think of him as a good guy and not feeling like this movie would throw you a curveball and reveal he was in league with the sharks the whole time…which actually would have made the generic story even better if that happened.

He definitely felt more like a bad guy...I think it's the greased back hair.

Boy, that sea is sure deep...and blue, too!
Ultimately, though, the one thing about this movie that killed it was the lack of shark action.  Sure, the bull sharks do some things like somehow cut a tow line with their fin and push a boat into some gas barrels but they really don’t do much.  Sure, I’ll even grant the film that there is a decent moment where a shark bites a dude’s head off but this is offset by the fact that five minutes prior the man was somehow knocked unconscious by a shark lightly ramming him.  The biggest crime this film commits is the fact that the shark antagonists come in the form of…wait for it…baby sharks.  Now, this could and should have resulted in some hilarity but the end result was just boring.  There wasn't a single fun or ridiculous death caused by a baby shark.  Feels like a huge wasted opportunity and like the writer was just doing the bare minimum.

Call me crazy but baby sharks just weren't that threatening and more of
accidentally comedic.  Wait, did I say "comedic?"  I meant "dumb."

I won’t act like I was expecting greatness from Deep Blue Sea 2.  I was expecting the usual fun stupidity that comes with shark movies and, since the first one was super over-the-top and done so in a fun way, I had hopes that this one would be the same.  However, there was this inescapable feeling of laziness to the whole film and it really set the tone for me as an audience member.  None of the characters were interesting (the production even went out of their way to uncomfortably oversexualize the shark expert character and that was gross) and the action and shark kills felt uninspired and pretty lame.  To put it simply:  Deep Blue Sea 2 is very boring.