Game Night

Viewed – 02 March 2021 online-rental

I must admit I like Jason Bateman. Other than his excellent turn in the Ozark tv series, he’s always enjoyable in most things he appears in. This comedy has him as one half of a couple who once a week get together with their friends for ‘game night’. However one such night, Bateman’s arrogant elder brother turns up to propose a new game that will involve a kidnapping and nobody will know what is real and what isn’t.

Just fun and games?

Co-starring the equally reliable Rachel McAdams, initially I wasn’t sure what to make of this. The characters are all drawn a little larger-than-life and could’ve got obnoxious until that is, the story kicks in and quickly the movie got really interesting. This is helped by a solid script with many funny lines and unexpected twists and turns. McAdams & Bateman are a good pairing and I was always invested in what was going on. Support comes from Kyle Chandler as the elder brother and the increasingly enjoyable Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad) as the a creepy neighbour.

It gets a bit silly towards the end and I did get a bit lost amongst the plot twists at one stage, but overall this was still highly entertaining. Well worth a watch.

Verdict: Recommended

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Viewed – 26 May 2012  Blu-ray

The first Sherlock Homes movie I really enjoyed, as although looking back the casting of Robert Downey Jr didn’t seem obvious at first, I was pleased to see his chameleon-like acting skills suited the part immensely, helped by an equally adept Jude Law as Dr Watson.  So sitting down to another escapade with this likable duo was easy.  This one has Holmes and Watson up against their greatest ever foe, Professor Moriarty (a brilliant Jared Harris) who seems behind a series of bombings and assassination attempts.  Holmes leaps into action to piece the clues together and sets forth on an adventure that takes him from London to Paris and many other locales in an attempt to prevent a global catastrophe.

Downey Jr, easily one of my favourite actors is on brilliant form as Holmes, and his quips, excentric behaviour and plethora of increasingly bizarre disguises is a joy to behold.  Law is somewhat more subdued this time around but still manages to spar with his on-screen buddy amicably.  Joining the cast is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace who makes for a feisty action heroine.  Yet above all else this is director Guy Ritchie’s gig with some quite remarkable visual flourishes that enhance the wealth of action sequences and really stamp his identity on the movie.  He’s come a long way since Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and has grown into a director with real intelligence and  imagination.

The story does get a tad confusing and over-complicated at times, and the comedy is laid on a touch thick for my liking.  Yet as a follow-up to an already impressive adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary icon – this is every bit as good as that movie was, and in Moriarty has a villain that actually gives Holmes a run for his money this time around.

Verdict:  4 /5

Midnight In Paris

Viewed – 24 March 2012  DVD

It’s been a long time since I have sat down to watch a movie by directing legend Woody Allen.  I’m not sure why but my love of his brand of whimsical, angst-ridden relationship comedies, has waned over the years, and have found myself less and less interested in his output, which continues to be one of the most prolific outputs of any director currently working.  Yet post-Oscar season, this latest effort sparked my interest.

Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter who takes a holiday in Paris to work on his novel with fiance Rachel McAdams and her upper-class friends.  Yet he finds their company disenchanting, and although adoring Paris and its inspirational mystique, finds himself taking solitary midnight walks to gather his thoughts.  That’s when he is transported back into the 1920’s and starts mingling with the famous names of the era, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Pacasso and Salvador Dali etc.   This is a great concept and a perfect fit for Woody Allen’s often over-used nervy navel gazing lead characters and relationship woes.  The Paris locales are shot beautifully, clearly offering a love letter to the city like he did with New York in his classic Manhattan, and the writing is as sharp as he’s ever been.  Owen as expected is playing the ‘Woody Allen’ role but it works wonderfully for one of the most likable Hollywood stars around, and the various actors playing the famous faces, deliver perfectly fascinating caricatures.  McAdams is gorgeous, but doesn’t offer up anything various pretty actresses couldn’t have done just as well.  Inception’s Marion Cotillard instead delivers a far more enjoyable performance, exuding French sexiness and mystery.  Also for an Allen movie the comedy is played a touch too gentle and charming for my taste.

As a long time fan however, I feel so glad to be back in the director’s company, and although I’m sure he could have delivered just as good a movie if he had starred himself, his casting and choice of location won me over, leaving me with a really nice feeling as the credits rolled.

Verdict:  4 /5

Sherlock Holmes

Viewed – 19 May 2010  Blu-ray

I will always say you can’t go wrong with Robert Downey Jr, arguable one of the most gifted and enjoyable to watch actors of his generation, he often livens up even the weakest movies and when script, character and actor come together it can be something to behold (Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang anyone?), so when I heard he was stepping into the shoes of the East End sleuth, I was more than confident he would deliver the goods.  Less confident was I when I heard that Guy Ritchie was at the helm, following his awful return to cockney-geezer gangster movie with the lamentable Rocknrolla.

Yet I shouldn’t have been too worried.  The story has Holmes and his faithful crime fighting friend Dr Watson (a brilliant Jude Law) in turn of the century London up against a disgraced Lord who dabbles in black magic, and set forth solving a mystery after said Lord seemingly cheats death.  What impressed me was that instead of making Holmes some sort of action-hero (for the most part), the script focused on his genius crime solving methods and intricate eye for details and clues, delivered effortlessly by an excellent Downey Jr.  Law lends support as a tougher, more modern interpretation of Watson closer to Conan Doyle’s original character than the bumbling old man you may be used to, and with Mark Strong on hand as the sinister Lord, the cast is fleshed out and jumping off the screen.  Love interest Rachel McAdams offers a spunky career thief and someone to outwit Holmes but any bed hopping is thankfully avoided as the two instead choose to spar and bicker endlessly.  Ritchie’s film is full of style, with a great soundtrack and some brilliant period detail.  He also handles the action masterfully, which did surprise me, but proves that Snatch wasn’t just a fluke.

The old story of the Templars and shady secret organisations may be a cheap villainous cliché nowadays, and Mark Strong is getting a little too familair as a bad guy (I almost expected Hit Girl to turn up).  Also at times some set pieces (such as the warehouse fire) seem rather random and a little old fashioned.  Yet these are small gripes in what is otherwise a very well put together movie that is sure to spawn a franchise.

Verdict: 4 /5

The Notebook

Viewed – 26 October 2008  DVD

Well amongst my die hard cravings for copious amounts of blood, tits and unnecessary violence, I can still be found to have time for a good old fashioned weepie.  This one passed under my radar, so I am waaaay late to the party.  An old guy in a nursing home is reading from his notebook to an old woman, recanting a tale of forbidden love between a rich girl and a rough around the edges country boy, that is of course doomed to failure mostly down to said girl’s over baring parents.  What transpires is that this story is actually the old fellows attempt to get his wife (suffering from dementia) to recall their love for each other, back when they were sweet hearts…but he’s clearly fighting a loosing battle.

Screen legend James Garner plays the old man with Gena Rowlands as the woman, at times hopelessly caught up in the story she’s being told, and other times violently pushing her husband away and making out she doesn’t know who he is.  Anyone who has ever experienced the horror of dementia / Alzheimer’s will understand just how heart breaking it must be for James Garner’s character watching his wife slipping away.  Thankfully on a lighter note the 40-set love story (told in flash back) is both uplifting and well acted with younger actors (DeNiro-like) Ryan Gosling and the gorgeous Rachel McAdams perfectly cast and every bit the ooh, ahh love struck couple.  Ok, its as slushy as hell, takes itself very seriously, but is also charming and well told, even if the story lacks ambition – it just builds up, falls apart and then kinda gets going again until the downbeat, but kind of lovely ending.

So check it out if you want two hours of undemanding, heart warmingly sentimental slush that neither out stays its welcome or sits too long in the memory.

Verdict:  3 /5