While most studios would have stayed out of the wake of ‘Black Panther’, three were brave enough to release counter-programming this weekend. Warner Bros. has the widest release, a couples comedy loaded with R-rated hijinks. Paramount has a hard science-fiction thriller that has the studio terrified. And Orion – yes, Orion is still around – has a quiet teen romance in the mix.
Over the past several months, I’ve pretty much quit watching trailers. Only knowing the titles, people involved and genres, blindly walking into screenings can be extremely liberating. Had I known anything about Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams’ ‘Game Night‘ prior to seeing it, there’s a high likelihood that I would have shown up with an attitude that the comedy would have to fight hard to overcome. In this new state, I entered the screening with no expectations, which allowed me to enjoy all 100 absurd and hilarious minutes of it.
Bateman and McAdams lead the ensemble as a competitive married couple whose lives entirely revolve around gaming. Each weekend, they host game nights with two other couples while their uninvited creepy and recently divorced neighbor (Jesse Plemmons) longingly watches on from his porch. Bateman’s playboy brother (Kyle Chandler) throws the pair off when he hijacks a weekend with a kidnapping game that rivals the one in ‘The Game‘. Once severe wounds are inflicted in the game, the players start to wonder if it’s a game at all, or a dangerous plot that they just-so-happen to find themselves in. As generic as the story sounds, the comedy – which at times features an Edgar Wright flavor – easily makes it worth rolling the dice and giving it a chance.
Alex Garland has an excellent track record with his screenplays. Now with two features under his director belt, his record is even better – but the casual moviegoer may struggle with his latest. Adapted from the first of a trilogy of hardcore science fiction books, ‘Annihilation‘ stars Natalie Portman as the biologist wife of a soldier (Oscar Isaac) who mysteriously turned up after being MIA in a dangerous quarantine zone for 12 months. Determined to uncover the truth about his disappearance and return, she volunteers to enter the area (known as “the shimmer”) with a group of four scientists. It has been reported that test screenings left viewers asking, “What the hell did I just watch?” Paramount execs asked producer Scott Rudin (who was given final cut in his contract) to conduct reshoots that would make the movie more easily digestible. When he refused, they canceled the film’s international theatrical release and instead sold overseas distribution rights to Netflix (similar to what happened to the global release of ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ recently). Netflix will stream the film internationally in just a few weeks. It’s a damn shame when you consider how beautiful and cinematic the film is. I’m disappointed that foreign movie-lovers won’t get the same theatrical experience I had.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new body-swapping movie. One with a teenage flare is here to meet the decade’s quota. ‘Every Day‘ focuses around a teenage girl (Angourice Rice from ‘The Nice Guys‘) whose best friend and romantic interest is a being that wakes up every day in a different body of a person the same age and in the same town. For this write-up, I did watch the trailer. While it certainly doesn’t look bad, I’m not sure that the Young Adult tone does enough justice to the potential in this story. ‘Every Day’ comes to us from the director of ‘The Vow‘, which also had a great idea at its core, but bad execution and a terrible ending. Let’s hope he can improve with this one.