Game Night (2018)

I saw this as the final film in a 3-film binge at the cinema which also included I, Tonya and The Shape Of Water. So it was a weird contrast, started with two films which have pretty much swept all the awards this season, and then ended with one that definitely didn’t. So it came as a surprise that I was really impressed with a lot in this. Visually it did more than I expected it to. A lot of the establishing shots were set up and lit so that the houses looked more like toy models on a board game. It’s a great visual trick and one that wasn’t actually needed, which makes me appreciate it even more. They could have just done them normally, but the fact they did, was cute and added to the film. This film is actually a lot better in a cinematic sense than you expect, not just with the aforementioned establishing shots, but also the action scenes. They’re not quickly done, the action lingers on and is really well constructed. Shout out has to go a scene involving the characters playing keep-away with a Faberge egg. A seemingly one-shot scene that tracks all the way through a house and involves all the characters at different locations in the house. A remarkable achievement and one that will surely land in my “best scenes of the year” come years end.

So onto the rest of the film. This wasn’t the best film I’ve seen, but it was very very good. Was funny, had more twists than a pretzel, and the performances did what they needed to. It’s basically the cinematic equivalent of a burger, it won’t change your life, and you won’t rush out to consume it again, but it is incredibly enjoyable whilst it lasts, and you will have fond memories of it.

Back to the performances; Billy Magnussen, in particular, was impressive. From what I saw in the trailers, and from his opening scene, I assumed his performance would be “Poundland Alan Tudyk”, but it was a great performance. So more like the Pepsi to Tudyk’s Coca-Cola, not quite the same but enough similarities where you like it anyway. His character is basically a smart idiot, which is always a great character for comedy. Actually, the entire thing is full of well-developed characters. 10 characters are given extensive screen time, they all have their own personalities and quirks. Whilst the film itself doesn’t really lend itself to a sequel, the characters do.

I feel special mention has to go to Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. Not only for their performances on their own but also their on-screen chemistry. They make an easily believable onscreen couple, which makes it easier to root for them. Also, thank God this film doesn’t go with the traditional “couple fights after a misunderstanding” sub-plot. No matter what goes on in the film they’re a tight couple, it’s actually genuinely heartwarming and sweet to see such an idyllic vision of love and relationships in modern cinema. The montage where we see their relationship develop and grow is a brilliant piece of relationship-building, very good, very funny, and incredibly sweet.

So, in summary. I’d highly recommend this film, a welcome piece of comedy to watch during the overly serious Oscar season. A fun caper that you can lose yourself in briefly. Buy on DVD if you see it in a 2 for 1 deal.

Films Worth Seeing from 2015: The Serious ones

Dramas(ish)

Inside Out

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Yeah I’m putting this in the drama section; go fuck yourselves if you disagree. For every laugh out loud moment, which there are a few; Pixar’s latest masterpiece is littered with heartfelt and moving moments that will warm the cockles of your aging bitter heart and will make you cry. The idea behind it is amazing and while the plot it follows isn’t anything new, it’s execution is near flawless. I knew from the opening melody of the main theme Bundle of Joy (my pick for best original score of the year), that this film was going to be exactly what everyone wanted from a Pixar film, and it was.

Steve Jobs

steve-jobs-posterProbably the most intense and thrilling film of the year, and not one shot is fired and not one car is chased, it never goes beyond people just talking (and screaming). Set in three real-time acts spread across the 1970s-1990s, this film gets to the heart of Steve Jobs the man/the character (he was quite a dick it turns out), and the heart of what it means to be innovative and push the boundary of what technology can be for people. Thrilling, heartstopping, emotional, and surprisingly beautiful to look at, Steve Jobs is a breath of fresh airconditioned air for the Biopic genre…and the fact it made less that jObs is just depressing.

 

Youth

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Another funny but heartfelt film that is a meditation on fame, but even more so is about aging, love, and parenting. Directed by Italian autor Paolo Sorrentino, it’s led by a best in decades Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, as two friends at a Swiss retreat in the Alps trying to keep their lives going. Now this is a bit of a tricky film to talk about, as its light on plot and heavy on strange things happening and characters reacting to them. So just trust me that Youth is a beautiful film and the kind of bold artistic statement that makes you glad that the studio process still lets creatives work their magic on us.

Spotlight

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An in-depth investigative drama that follows the journalist team who uncovered the Child abuse coverups by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s; and it will piss you off for all the right reasons. I’m a sucker for a good investigation film, like Zodiac or All The Presidents Men, and this was no different. Though I don’t think it’s up there with Zodiac, this is still a very well written and compelling drama/thriller that step by step will take you through the disturbing looking glass. Led by a stellar cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and more, this film is a masterclass of restrained filmmaking and acting. With a topic as hot as this, Spotlight could have easily become an over-dramatic spotlight-S_070416_rgblifetime mess, but director Tom McCarthy made the wise choice of keeping everything restrained, realistic, and beautifully drab (never has a cast of A-listers looked so normal), all so the facts can speak for themselves, and they scream.

 

The End of the tour

film-sundance-end-of-the-tour-first-look-2b1b02c3b573cbe3Already talked about this in our 2015 Film Awards, where it was one of the films awarded with best picture, but I’ll talk briefly about it here. It’s a funny and heartfelt road movie that meditates on fame, creativity, and loneliness, through the indepth and witty conversations of its protagonists. Whether you know David Foster Wallace’s work or not, this is an accessible and great film.

Wild

WILD_movie_posterFollow a mesmerizing Reese Witherspoon on a thousand mile hike as she flashes back to the different traumatizing points in her life that led her to the hike. It’s a compelling character film of the purist nature, and with a combination of a great soundtrack, editing, and sound-editing, is the best film I have ever seen capture the feeling of fleeting thought.
But this is a bit of a divisive film it appears, depending completely on whether you like the main character, as she is not really a good person; and not in the love to hate them way, but in a realistic way. I did like her, or at least I was engaged by her, while my fellow Troubled Production’s producer did not, leading to me putting this as one of the best films of 2015, while he put it as one of his worst. (See his personal blog here).

99 Homes

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Michael Shannon is on terrifying form as a realtor looking to make money during the housing crises of 2010, and Andrew Garfield finally acts his age to heart-breaking effect, as a single father kicked-out of his home by Shannon, and taken under the corrupt realtor’s wing. Another film that finds it’s intensity in its emotions; this film grabs you by the throat and keeps you electrified as you watch a normal man grapple for his morality and his fall to ‘the darkside’ as it’s the only way to provide for his family.

 

 

Brooklyn

file_610952_brooklyn-poster-640x951The second Nick Hornby script on this list (the first was Wild), and it just shows you the versatility of his writing. In 1950’s an Irish immigrant moves to Brooklyn (go figure) where she finds love, life, and a future, but then finds herself torn between the life she wants in America and the life everyone else wants for her back in Ireland. Much more a classic Hollywood romance (in all the right ways) and less the love triangle bollocks the trailers made it look to be, this is really a beautiful film about striving to achieve your own happiness, and who you’re willing to hurt to keep it.