Tag Archives: jason bateman

‘Game Night’ is a Great Dark Comedy

When executed properly, I don’t think there is anything better than a black comedy.

“Game Night” follows a group of friends (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) who get involved in a possible kidnapping mystery during their weekly game night get together. Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons and Jeffrey Wright also star as John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein direct.

I have enjoyed every project that John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have done, grant it to varying degrees. I love “Horrible Bosses” and despite its critical backlash I liked the unflinching mean-spirit of “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” Their directorial debut, the “Vacation” reboot, has a decent amount of chuckles (many from Chris Hemsworth) and they also had a hand in the Frankenstein script of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” They didn’t write this film, that credit goes to Mark Perez (although the duo apparently did an uncredited rewrite) but their trademark dark comedy touch is on it and thanks to a talented cast this is a fun film that works.

The names on the poster of this film are incredible and Daley and Goldstein get A-games out of them all. I adore Jason Bateman and his trademark deadpan shines here yet again and partners well with Academy Award nominee Rachel McAdams’ simple charm. McAdams made a name for herself with “Mean Girls” but actually doesn’t do too many comedies so here’s hoping this opens up the demand for her to star in more.

Lamorne Morris has some great impersonations and reaction shots (he’s basically playing his “New Girl” character) and there are several cameos I won’t spoil that add a layer of mystery and fun to the film.

The absolute scene-stealer is Jesse Plemons, who plays a socially inept neighbor. Absolutely crushing his toe-to-toe deadpan matchups with Bateman and using dictionary-level vocabulary, Plemons is so wonderfully awkward and dark that a lot of the time the audience didn’t know if and when to laugh because the uncomfortable pauses he creates are so masterful. Really, I enjoyed every performance here and have a big crush on J̶a̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶B̶a̶t̶e̶m̶a̶n̶ Rachel McAdams but Plemons is the hands-down best part of this film and it’s no coincidence that he is featured in its best scenes.

The whole selling point of the film is the “what is real, what is a game” aspect but that really is just all it is: a selling point. There are a few twists along the way but nothing you haven’t seen before (and probably done better) and the film does lag a bit toward the end of the second act (even though it only runs 100 minutes).

“Game Night” has gross-out gags, deadpan and mean-spirited deprecation, all of which are right in my comedy wheelhouse so this was always going to be my slice of pie. I do think that it has enough broad humor for audiences who just want a fun time at the movies, though, and with a cast like this it would be hard to go wrong.

Critic’s Grade: A–

‘The Gift’ an Effective and Well-Acted Thriller

The_Gift_2015_Film_Poster1This was an interesting weekend at the movies. We got an awful film (“Fantastic Four”) and an OK one (“Ricki and the Flash”), so I guess it makes sense than we are rewarded with our perseverance with an actual good movie.

“The Gift” is a psychological thriller written, directed, and starring Joel Edgerton, and follows a couple (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) that has recently moved from Chicago to the Los Angeles suburbs. When Gordo (Edgerton), an old classmate from school, begins to continuously stop by their house and leave them gifts (I know, right? The title makes sense now!), they realize the past may be catching up to them.

I have to be honest: when I saw this trailer, cast and release date, I thought this film was going to be a train wreck. It looked massively conventional, and no offense to Bateman but I couldn’t see him carrying a dark, non-comedic film like this. Plus it’s no secret that August is one of Hollywood’s two dumping grounds for subpar films (see: “Fantastic Four”), so I was just ready for a stupid summer “horror” film. But I was pretty wrong, because “The Gift” is a well-executed and smart psycho-thriller, and I have to give both Edgerton and Bateman props: they turn in killer performances.

I like Jason Bateman, I’m a big fan of his deadpan comedy, but like I said, I was shocked how good he is in this film. He completely surprised me here playing a man who is harboring secrets and emotions, and while he has one or two moments of straight-faced delivery that produced a chuckle, he fully dedicates himself to the role of a broken man.

Meanwhile Joel Edgerton, who we last saw putting audiences to sleep while wearing mascara in “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” excels in every part of the film he had a part in. Whether it is his chilling performance as Gordo, his steady work behind the camera, or his smart script, Edgerton’s passion project really makes you feel awkward and uncomfortable while watching, which is exactly what it is going for. You don’t know if you can believe what Gordo tells Bateman and Hall, nor what his motivations are or the extents he is willing to go.

The film features several twists, none of which really floored me (some are foreshadowed, others are easily guessable based on the genre), but the film’s sense of tension and the uneasy feeling it gives both you and the characters is near masterful.

There are some slow parts that never really lead to a payoff, and then once the film reaches its climax it kind of just ends, but just like with “Foxcatcher” I wasn’t too bothered by these things because the performances and the feeling that we’re building towards an explosion had me too invested to care.

“The Gift” is a very well-acted and well-directed film, and it may make you start to question your relationships with the people around you now, as well as those from your past. It isn’t anything revolutionary, but in a summer of big-budget sequels and animated creatures, it is nice to see something be small and effective. I guess you could say “The Gift” is a real, come on and say it with me, effective and rewarding thriller.

Critics Rating: 7/10



Horrible Accurate Description of ‘Bosses 2’

Horrible_Bosses_2            The moment they announced “Horrible Bosses 2” was a thing I scratched my head. I loved the first film, it remains one of my favorite comedies of all-time, but it just didn’t have substance to warrant a sequel. Then director Seth Gordon said he wouldn’t be returning and he was replaced with Sean Anders. All these were red flags but I held up hope that the returning cast would make this sequel work.

They couldn’t.

“Horrible Bosses 2” follows Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) after they have quit their jobs and started their own business with their invention, The Shower Buddy. When they are scammed by an investor and his son (Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine), they decide their only course of action is to kidnap the son and hold him for ransom (because, duh).

I don’t really know where to start with this film, because it really is disappointing. Comedy sequels are rarely as good as the original (“22 Jump Street” excluded), but I expected “Horrible Bosses 2” to at least have the same tone as the first film. The writers of the original film, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, wrote a draft for this film but when Anders took over as director he and his writing partner John Morris reworked the script (the duo helped on the scripts of the scattershot but very funny “We’re the Millers” and “Hot Tub Time Machine”). Some of the first film’s bite and self-awareness still remain, but most of the jokes now are nothing more than poop and sex gags, which are Anders’ trademark.

The movie is paced in a way that just doesn’t work. It takes a full hour before the trio even discusses the kidnapping scheme, or at least it felt like that. This clearly was not an idea that could carry an entire film, so it was stretched by having an entire subplot involving Jennifer Aniston’s sex-crazed dentist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Jennifer Aniston, but when she starts to fantasize about 14-year-old boys at wrestling camp, you lost me.

Bateman, Day and Sudeikis (whom I love and believe is very underrated) all still have fun chemistry and give and take among each other, and Electro himself Jamie Foxx is back as Dean MF Jones, but they can’t save this sinking ship.

Christoph Waltz is criminally underused as the film’s antagonist (pun intended?), but there’s still something about seeing Hans Landa play a ruthless business man that put a smirk on my face. Pine seems to be having a blast as the spoiled son, who partners up with the trio in the hostage plan to get back at his dad. Kevin Spacey also returns for a few minutes as Dave Harken, but in the end that only made me miss the first film even more.

In retrospect, expectations for “Horrible Bosses 2” shouldn’t have been high, as they put “horrible” right in the title, alongside the number two, which is all this film is: poop.

There is a saving grace towards the end of the film with a few twists and an interestingly executed hostage plan, but that saving grace comes in the form of a bullet to the head, saving my soul from this unjustified, heart-crushing sequel.

Critics Rating: 4/10