Game Night

Movie Review: Game Night (Spoiler Free) | ReelRundown

It’s a pain trying a find a movie that my wife and I will both like. I follow tonnes of movie sites, blogs, fan pages, and am constantly updating lists of movies I want to see. She does none of these things and therefore generally won’t have heard of a lot of the movies I suggest. Of course, I’m constantly suggesting things no sane person would choose to watch, but when she essentially only knows the biggest, most recent blockbusters or whatever her friends have been talking about, reaching a compromise can be difficult. I’ll generally watch anything, though Romance and Musicals are at the back of that list, so I’ll let her decide and say yes to the first thing she picks. As I was putting the kids to bed one night recently, I came downstairs to see she had picked Game Night. Having vaguely heard of it when it was released, and given that it didn’t sound too irritating, I agreed, hoping it wouldn’t fall into the traps most modern mainstream comedies do.

Game Night sees a husband and wife, played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, organizing their weekly Game Night with friends. We’re introduced early to the film’s ongoing conflicts – husband and wife are competitive, but a team, and are planning to have a baby. The husband has unresolved sibling rivalry issues with his much more successful brother who just happens to be attending the upcoming Game Night, and they live next door to an unusual Police Officer who used to be part of their Game Nights until he got divorced and went a little weird. When the brother (Kyle Chandler) shows up, he suggests he hosts the following week’s festivities, which turns out to be a Murder Mystery Night. Things take a turn for the Hitchcockian when a genuine kidnapping takes place, leaving the three playing couples wondering what’s real, who’s winning, and spinning the plot off in different overlapping narratives filled with maguffins and red herrings.

I enjoyed Game Night a lot more than I was expecting. I hadn’t read any reviews beforehand and only loosely knew the synopsis. The blend of humour and mystery pays off, the characters are more than lewd walking one-liners and feel suitably threshed out for the most part, and while the twists and turns do leave themselves wide open for plot holes, I was too wrapped up in the story and shenanigans to overthink things. Rachel McAdams has an unfortunate habit of being used in Rom Coms – and while this could loosely fit that mould, it gives her a greater opportunity to show off her comedy chops. She has always been an engaging presence and deserves better material than she tends to be given. Jason Bateman does his usual straight-man shtick here, but again it works, and the surrounding cast each get a chuckle at some point. The Directing duo and writer keep the audience guessing, even if there is ultimately nothing overly surprising, and everything from the slapstick action to the tense moments are handled well. The most notable moments to me were the faux Tim Burton-esque miniature shots to make the world and the actors seem more like players on a board. Like an actual Game Night, this is a fun and diverting time and will only be as enjoyable and as memorable as you choose to make it. I was all in.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of Game Night!

Zombieland

Ever since the trio of Shaun Of The Dead, Dawn Of The Dead Remake, and 28 Days Later, zombies have seen a resurgence in media that hasn’t really gone away since. We’ve had a number of big budget movies and shows, and an even larger number of low budget and indie titles. Zombieland falls into the former category, and even though I’m a self-confessed zombie and horror junkie I didn’t get around to watching it until 2017. So, how does it fare against the myriad other horror comedy crossovers?

It fairs quite well. Make no mistake – I’m no great fan of Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, or Jesse Eisenberg but none of them managed to irritate me during the course of the movie, and everything which the cast and crew attempted, worked amicably. There are laughs, both visceral and script based, the gore isn’t overloaded so as to put of sensitive non-horror fans yet present enough and wrapped up in entertaining action to appease those who like a bit of red on them.

The story and structure is all quite tongue in cheek – both mocking and paying skewed reverence to the genre. There has been an outbreak which has led to zombies everywhere, and one geek loner is travelling through the US and surviving following his self-made rules. As any zombie fan will attest – we all have our own rules for surviving our own imagined apocalypse. Along the way he meets Woody Harrelson’s character – a piss-take composite of several prior Harrelson creations and the conniving sisters played by Stone and Breslin. Part Road movie, part Crime caper, part comedy horror, the disparate parts rarely feel like they are pulling in opposing directions and the highlights are of course the Bill Murray cameo sequence and the finale set in an Amusement Park. If you know me, you’ll know I love movies set around or involving Amusement or Theme Parks.

At the time of writing, I haven’t yet watched the sequel but based upon how much I enjoyed this one I imagine it won’t be long before I catch up to it. Let us know in the comments what you think of Zombieland!

Attack Of The Adult Babies

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As an ardent fan of all things fucked up, I often get questioned by the more straight-laced members of my social circle – ‘what the hell is wrong with me’. I mean, if you have to ask, you’re never gonna get it – right? The truth is, I don’t know. None of us can truly know and people much smarter than me have tried to answer – what drives us to watching horror, or the bizarre, and beyond? What drives people to make art and entertainment based in these worlds, with these ideas? We don’t know, but we are a community, and for better or worse we can smell our own. It’s interesting then that Emmerdale’s Paddy – Dominic Brunt – is a proponent of these creations as he doesn’t seem like ‘one of us’. Of course I’m conflating his character in the TV soap with the real person I know little about. It appears he is one of us; since branching out as a director he has created a number of commendable and interesting films which are likely to never be seen by anyone who isn’t like me – they are low budget, they are weird, and while I can’t honestly say if they’re any good, I enjoy them and will gladly tell other like me to give them a shot. Anyone else? Stay far away.

The film poses a vital question we’ve all pondered upon once or twice – what if the power of the world’s elite was being provided by an immortal God of Feces? What if the way to ultimate wealth, power, and influence was to drink this God’s milk, shit, then feed the shit back to the God and have the God shit giant gold nuggets? That’s what we’re dealing with in Attack Of The Adult Babies, as a family of four infiltrates the country mansion of an elite gathering to retrieve some information – forced at gunpoint by a couple of bumbling criminals. We learn that not all is what it seems within the family, or within the mansion, and what at first seems like some bizarre old white dude’s sex fetish cult becomes even more strange. I think I remember Eurotrash exploring real people who get their kicks by dressing as babies and having sexy nurses ‘look after them’, so the idea is grounded in some fucked up sense of reality. People, eh? Bunch of freaks the lot of us.

The film has a lot of comparisons with former notable works of depravity – The Human Centipede, Salo, Guest House Paradiso, and strives to be a more lurid version of Animal Farm or a British version of Society. There’s no guesswork with the satire but the film seems more concerned with using the satire to allow for lots of gore and loads of, well, shit. Which is perfectly fine for me of course – the film doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest and it’s much worse when your attempts at mixing satire with exploitation are done in a po-faced, drenched in vanity way. Brunt merges slapstick humour with toilet humour, literally, gore gags, knowing nods, and every so often the jokes land. Like some of the aforementioned films it all becomes so ridiculous that you’re swept along with it, providing you haven’t turned it off.

Stay around and you’ll find a few familiar faces among the mostly amateur or little known performers – Roger Stiles from Coronation Street as the dad, Uncle Peter from Reeves And Mortimer, Faith Dingle from Emmerdale, and Martin from The Human Centipede Part II. With this being a mostly low budget affair, even though British audiences will recognise some of the cast, we do still have to deal with some dodgy acting, some terrible accents, and an overall cheap feel. Thankfully most of the special effects, ranging from practical blood spurts to puppetry and claymation, all get the full attention they deserve – it’s clear this is where the money went. While still cheap, it’s all tactile and done with love and reverence in a way that makes the glossy big budget films feel sterile. You can stride through any number of holes in the plot and asking why there isn’t any security inside or in the grounds of the central mansion (given these are supposed to be the most important people in the country) is futile. I imagine The Daily Mail would have a field day if they got in with their cameras. Actually, The Daily Mail would probably cover it up or blame those loony liberal lefties of being behind it all. Likewise, no-one in the film seems to know how to defend themselves, standing and apparently willing to receive a blade to the eye or a bullet up the ass, and everybody apparently loves to show off their bubbling, gushing wounds before they die.

The film will succeed or fail depending on your love of the different types and tropes of exploitation. We have a number of funny, over the top kills, but then we have an overly long intermission scene which feels too much like a nod to Tarantino. The soundtrack is decent enough and while much of the dialogue ranges from pleasingly puerile to predictable and character names fall into the old trap of naming characters after real life notorious figures or famous fictional characters, it does feature one of the best lines of the year – taken in its context of course -‘missed both me legs’. There are actually some nice shots – near the climax as one battered protagonist stumbles from one end of a room to another and slumps on the floor, followed by a group of axe wielding adult babies is of particular note.

It all leads to a bloody climax a la Braindead, but with added shit.   If you’re a fan of Guest House Paradiso’s vomit-filled climax, then you’ll probably enjoy the closing minutes of Attack Of The Adult Babies – though it’s not the mouth expelling fluid here. It’s even funnier because of the stiff upper lip, super posh high society delivery of the lines, cheesy as many of them are. Just when you think that’s the end, we have time for some trippy stuff which is a bit silly and the film may have been better served without it. Just when you think that’s the end, we get some claymation and a final few minutes which goes all out buck nuts with giant shit Gods, rewinding film, and an alien spacecraft heading towards Earth. In other words, Brunt is having a whale of a time and the rest of us are welcome to join in.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Attack Of The Adult Babies – or am I the only one who has taken the plunge?

The Visit

Okay, okay, Mr. Shyamalan – I enjoyed The Visit. Even the corny humour and the pre-requisite twist worked for me and while there is absolutely nothing ground-breaking or new here, it’s a perfectly entertaining horror movie that I still struggle to find a target audience for – is it form regular horror fans? Is it for kids? Does it matter? I have no idea.

Shyamalan jumps on the found footage band-wagon with The Visit – the conceit being that our two lead characters want to document meeting their grandparents for the first time. This is the 21st Century, and our two leads are tweens, so this is perfectly believable. Less believable is the fact that they are sent off on their own, across country, to meet their grandparents without having the faintest idea what they look like or without their mum dropping them off. The film wouldn’t work if those things happened of course, but it’s a silly setup nevertheless. The grandparents seem lovely, even if the generational gap means things are awkward, but they all seem to get on. There are house rules, such as going to bed early and not leaving your room after 9.30, and not going in the basement, but we accept those because old people are weird. Time passes, things get weirder, and twisty twist time comes.

The twist becomes more apparent as the movie progresses – it’s Shyamalan so you know shenanigans are afoot. Mercifully, the twist isn’t left to the final moments but revealed fairly early, setting up an interesting finale. There are some inspired moments which allow the faintest dread to creep in – playing under the house is jumpscare bait, but fun, and the cleaning the over sequences recall our childhood Hansel and Gretal fears. I won’t go so far as saying there’s supposed to be any deeper level of generational paranoia going on here – the fear of aging, of the mentally ill, or of dying for example – the set up seems too silly to allow such thoughts. You will be left with questions – spoiler alert – why is this couple living at the house after all this time and why do they consent to the kids coming? You can’t throw around ‘they’re crazy’ as an answer for everything.

The film works because the four leads are all believable and watchable. Even the son (Ed Oxenbould), with his annoying raps somehow comes off as funny to me when there’s no good reason he should. Olivia DeJonge gives a nice twist on the final girl trope, while both Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are effective pre and post twist. How the kids aren’t destroyed mentally after this is a wonder – maybe they’ll crop up again as Shyamalan experiments with his own Extended Universe. So yes, I enjoyed it in spite of myself – it’s silly but feels like a good popcorn flick – light scares, some laughs, and a twist which most likely won’t catch anyone off guard, and a return to commercial success for someone once hailed as the next big thing.

Problem Child

*Originally written in 2003

In 1990 we were blessed with one of the greatest comedies of all time. Problem Child came along just before the more sophisticated Home Alone blew all competition out of the way. Problem Child is nevertheless a film filled with great gags, brilliant acting from everyone, and a witty dark side which few directors can effectively balance. Unfortunately most people see it as nothing more than juvenile and it has become a fairly despised movie. While critics hated it and it seems that it hasn’t found a subsequent audience, it still generated an inferior sequel and spin-off TV series. For me, it will always be an all-time favourite, and even though I first saw it when I was seven or so and can see why it is so hated, I still find it hilarious.

Junior is an orphan. Abandoned by his parents, he did the rounds at various homes, never staying at one place for too long because he didn’t fit in or rather because he was as one character says – ‘wicked’. Junior finds himself at a Convent school where he soon starts trouble. The Administrator, Peabody (Gilbert Gottfried) knows that the Nuns want to get rid of him, and when he hears that a husband and wife who can’t have kids are looking for a child to adopt, he cons them into taking Junior – everyone’s happy. However, the family soon realise that Junior is no angel and want to get rid of him, but adopted father Ben sees that he is just a lonely kid who keeps getting shoved around. When Junior’s hero – a murderer named the Bow Tie Killer – murders his way out of prison, he pays Junior a visit, kidnapping Junior and his adoptive mother and sending Ben on a rescue mission.

The film has too many funny moments to mention – the opening montage with Junior growing up, the scenes with the nuns, the camping trip, the baseball game, and even small things like – ‘Look a giraffe!’… ‘Look a fist!’ make this film a comedy which deserves so much more respect than it will ever get. The dark side, the violence, these are neatly balanced by the fact that Junior just wants to be loved, and the film can be seen as an effective satire on the whole adoption process where children can often become numbers or forgotten in a system. John Ritter is perfectly cast as the father, Jack Warden is brilliant as old fashioned Big Ben, Amy Yasbek is good as the annoying Flo, and Michael Oliver puts in a stunning performance, stealing every scene he is in. Unfortunately he seems to have disappeared from the spotlight and never did much beyond the sequel. For all round laughs they do not come much better, and every kid should see this. When you grow up though, don’t hate it just because it seems childish and amateurish, love it as it should be loved.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Problem Child!

Mr And Mrs Smith

*Originally written in 2003

A light-hearted Hitchcock comedy with some good performances and an interesting idea, but one which fails to stay in the memory. Hitchcock’s most notorious and memorable comedic scenes are those which appear in his most tense and thrilling films, working best because of the dark and sexually charged situations his characters find themselves in. In Mr and Mrs Smith Hitchcock spends the entire film dissecting the flaws and perks of married life – becoming overly accustomed to one another, yet knowing that no-one else could put up with each other.

After playing their usual, monthly truth telling game in which husband and wife ask each other a question which the other must answer truthfully, a game which will naturally lead to problems, Annie becomes annoyed with her husband David. She asks if he had to do it all over again, would he still have married her. He answers with a ‘no’ as he misses his freedom, but says he does not regret anything he has done, and loves her. In an odd coincidence both David and Annie hear that their marriage is void and they simply must remarry. However, both decide to play with the rule unknown to the other, and soon all hell breaks loose.

The two leads are good and the best moments, aside from the dialogue, are Hitchcock deliberately showing the monotony of both married life, the singles game, and the last few scenes in the log cabins involving husband and wife trying to make each other guilty. Unfortunately this is too soft, and does not have enough funny parts to deserve many watches, but is an interesting film nonetheless and a change of pace from what we would expect.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

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British Televsion comedy can be excellent, unfortunately it’s usually the dregs like The Office or Little Britain which reach a wider audience, while classics such as People Like Us, Look Around You, The League Of Gentlemen, or Alan Partridge get overlooked. The character of Partridge has been a beloved figure here for decades now, but it’s only recently that he made his big screen debut. Does it succeed in translating to the movie format where so, so many have failed before?

Yeah, pretty much. Partridge as character is both strong and established enough to fit any medium – radio, TV, stage, and film. Coogan and Iannucci have been writing and performing this guy for decades and still find ways to keep things (my most hated word) fresh. Keeping things up to date is easy when you have someone like Partridge – he isn’t a product of a decade or a flash in the pan – he’s just some bloke who has lived and grown as all humans do – we just happen to have seen it happen. That’s the key factor in the movie being a success. On top of that, the writing is as sharp as ever, the performances are just as good as on the small screen, and the plot is cinematic and over the top without being overblown or reaching into silly excess. There is no need for globe-trotting or apocalyptic villains or endless celeb cameos. It’s just Partridge in an unusual, but not unexpected, hostage crisis.

As you would imagine, Partridge is the architect of some of what happens. His job at North Norfolk Digital is at risk after a buyout by some larger corporation so when he hears that it’s either him or fellow DJ Pat who will be axed, he does his best to save his own skin. Later, a disgruntled Pat enters the Station armed with a shotgun and demands his job back. Soon all manner of awkward Partridge antics ensue as Alan tries his hand at negotiating, surviving, scheming, DJing from within the hostage situation, and making sure he comes out on top.

Like the best movies based off shows, this feels like an extended episode which both respects and expands the show’s mythology/universe. The humour will be familiar to fans of the show, as will most of the faces – most of the series regulars show up here, from long suffering Lynn and Geordie weirdo Michael, to Mid Morning Matters co star Simon. Plenty of gags in the script which will reveal themselves with multiple viewings, and plenty of laughs from the more physical side.The movie never tries to cater for a new audience my going to extremes of action or casting, and is more than comfortable in its own skin – if you like any of the Partridge or Coogan shows, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this. Newcomers should find an easy blend of comedy and action, but I have a feeling that the audience will continue to be mostly British – it’s not as immediately universal as something like Mr Bean, though once you understand the characters and his quirks it should sell anywhere.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Alpha Pappa and if you think it does a good job of both advertising and expanded on the series!

Stripes

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I think I have come to a shocking revelation; I’m not a huge Bill Murray fan. Sure I like him, and I enjoy plenty of the movies he has been in – particularly in the early days, but he’s rarely laugh out loud funny for me. Stripes is another good Billy Murray movie where he is supported by an terrific comedy cast – it is those guys who evoke the most laughter from me and I always get that gnawing suspicion that this film, and even a few other Murray classic might have been better with someone else in his place. Blasphemy, I know! I’ve no idea who that other person may be but still, that suspicion rears its head, chomping away at me and saying everyone else is laughing, why aren’t you laughing you weirdo? Stripes is one late 70s, early 80s cult comedy classic that had always somehow passed me by – while plenty of the films made around the same time by the same cast, writers, directors are ones I grew up with, Stripes is a film I only came to in recent years.

Murray plays a deadbeat taxi driver who loses his job, girlfriend, and apartment after a particularly bad day – in classic Murray fashion this all drifts off his back in a carefree way. Looking for something to pass the time rather than any higher notion, he encourages his friend (Harold Ramis) to join the army with him. As this is the 80s, they set off and hi-jinks ensue. We meet a variety of cadets and commanders, as portrayed by some of Hollywood’s finest and a fair few up and coming comedy stars – Warren Oates, PJ Soles, Judge Reinhold, and John Candy are some of the recognizable faces. Like any other number of movies of similar ilk, we get training skits showing how Ramis and Murray rub against authority but eventually, and nonsensically, they complete training and are sent on a top secret mission.

To the film’s credit, it resolves the conflict between maintaining a semblance of plot while the slacker skits are played out – the comedians are given free-rein, but only as much as the plot will allow. The plot is by the by, but it’s enough to keep us engaged whereas a series of unrelated bits would have just fallen flat. The comedy mixes slapstick with deadpan slacker humour, light satire, visual gags, and mini stand-up routines. It doesn’t go the juvenile way of Police Academy though there are moments of raunch and sex comedy, and the general tone is one of playful anarchy. If it was one I grew up with, like the aforementioned cop series, or some of John Candy’s hits, then I’m sure I would hold more fondness for this, but watching as a new customer it gets a few laughs, chuckles, and holds the attention, but not much more than that.

Is Stripes one of your favourite comedy’s? How do you think it ranks alongside other comedies of the time and subsequent slacker type movies? Let us know in the comments!

Horrible Bosses

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It’s another BLOKES comedy for MEN with TESTICLES. Following such dubious hits as The Hangover, this film caters to men who like their jokes breast fueled and their films boob filled. As a bloke of some description I can see the merits in these movies, and even enjoy them, but I won’t rave about them like many other critics have. Horrible Bosses is an okay movie with a good cast giving okay performances. There are some good laughs, there’s an okay story, and some stuff happens along the way. Okay?

The story follows three friends – all 30 or 40 something – in dead end (decent) jobs who hate their bosses. They’re just like you! At some point a – ahem – Hitchcockian plan is hatched where they decide to kill their respective bosses. The rest of the film follows various japes in the same vein of all these types of films. It has the same loose vibe as all those other films, not as energetic or youthful as Judd Apetow’s films, and perhaps with not as talented ad-libbing comedians, but upping the world-weary frustration. Some good jokes, some laughs, some entertainment from watching Aniston be slutty, Farrell being weird, and Spacey being Spacey, but beyond that there isn’t much to recommend it. It’s fine.

I guess that’s it.. does anything else need to be said? There’s a sequel which I haven’t seen yet. Type words into the comments!

Wolfcop

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Lets get the cliché comparisons out of the way – it’s Teen Wolf meets The Evil Dead! Or something along those lines. I wasn’t expecting too much from Wolfcop, and although it’s the sort of film I generally (or used to) enjoy for inherent cult silliness, genuinely good films in this vein have been few and far between in recent years. Thankfully Wolfcop is an enjoyable romp with plenty of laugh out loud moments and a great soundtrack. It doesn’t take itself too seriously (because of course you wouldn’t) and although it clearly has a low budget, most of the effects are good, most of the performances are passable, and I suspect most viewers will be entertained on some level.

The plot goes something like this – a small town down and out alcoholic cop whose only interest in life is when the next booze break is, suddenly becomes empowered to take out the trash when he discovers he is a werewolf. Rather than the usual tropes of trying to hide this fact from everyone, he embraces it, slaps on his badge and side-arm, and goes out to rid the town of crime, a la Robocop. While it seems like the main goal of the film is to watch him take out local drug dealers and gangsters, the film introduces a twist later when a group aware of the existence of werewolves begins to cause trouble.

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I don’t want to say too much more on the plot, not because there are any genuine game-changing spoilers, but because you should watch the fun unravel for yourself. It does take some time before the wolf antics begin, but the film and central characters are interesting enough before that point to carry things. Once the werewolf emerges, the entertainment, and gore, levels are dialed up and you’ll be giggling like a child at the silliness, the one-liners, and the visual gags. We get a funny spin on the werewolf transformation scene (with one body part change being particularly amusing), quotable dialogue, a funny side-kick, and good performances from Leo Fafard, Amy Matysio, and Jonathan Cherry (though the rest of the cast don’t come off as well). The plot is a little haphazard and cliché-ridden, but you don’t go in expecting miracles. What may be the strongest piece of the puzzle is the soundtrack by Shooting Guns – a heady mix of guitars, noise, and electronica which is prominent throughout, varied, and memorable. If you enjoy cult films, cheesy horror comedies, or simply like the title of the film then give Wolfcop a go before all your friends see it.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Wolfcop – is it up there with An American Werewolf In London, or down there with An American Werewolf In Paris?