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Ready or Not

ready or not

Markus Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Most of “Ready or Not” is fun. The cat and mouse story of a woman who is forced to play a game of Hide and Seek in a mansion, on the night of her wedding, while the billionaire family she’s marrying into attempts to find and kill her (for rich people reasons disclosed later on), plays out like a little roller coaster ride of a film. And as a dark comedy, where the quirky characters really get a chance to breathe and look silly (even while brutally maiming individuals) “Ready or Not” does achieve most of what I’d expect to be it’s entertainment goals.

The main share of praise should go to directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and actors Adam Brody (Shazam!) and Margot Robbie lookalike, Samara Weaving, for making this silly premise as exciting and eccentric as it was. Brody plays the bride’s brother-in-law who openly objects to the game and is the only three dimensional character in the film, which automatically makes him likable from the start. Weaving, our heroine and outsider trapped in a house with wealthy psychopaths, plays it all very over-the-top, which is pretty much all one can ask of her. The direction maintains a high concentration of crowd-pleasing tension throughout. Also, these filmmakers do a great job at manufacturing at least one iconic indie-horror visual; the bride wearing sneakers was a wonderful touch.

The humor is fine. There are a few lines regarding the moral ambivalence of the rich, which work well. But it is in fact the writing which serves as a death blow to this film. As the third act careens towards “The Cabin in the Woods” greatness, it instead settles for a shrug inducing punchline. No, the ending didn’t ruin the movie, but by a certain point you could actually feel it running out of creative juice.

Final Thought: Overall, “Ready or Not” works. It could’ve been better, but it does work in the sense that I did have fun…even though this isn’t much more than Melania Trump fan fiction.

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Good Boys

good boys

Markus Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

The plot surrounds three boys, newly dubbed sixth graders, getting into adult situations (drinking beer, kissing, drug stuff, raunchy sex stuff; it’s more skits than story) and saying bad words. That’s it.

There’s not much to write about regarding this new Seth Rogen produced comedy. Not because it’s unfunny. Quite the contrary. It probably contains the most “laugh out loud” jokes per two minute interval than any other movie of 2019. The reason there isn’t much to say about “Good Boys” is that there really isn’t much story or anything worth mentioning besides the jokes. Actually, strike that. The three boys, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon are very charismatic (although cookie cutter characters) making some of the jokes that really shouldn’t have landed (and undoubtedly didn’t work on paper) land with authority. But yeah, everything else about this movie is a mixed bag of poor editing and clumsy direction from Gene Stupnitsky.

Final Thought: Am I trying to say that without the high quality of comedy throughout, this movie would’ve been unwatchable? Pretty much. Good thing there is a ton of funny stuff here. “Good Boys” is an R-Rated joke machine where 80% of the jokes work. It’s a comedy that is guaranteed to make its target audience laugh. So, I guess it’s a successful comedy? Anyway, it’s no “Superbad”.

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The Farewell

the farewell

4 out of 5 Stars

Based on a true story, or “based on an actual lie” as the movie states, “The Farewell” is the tale of a Chinese grandmother (the matriarch of the family) who has a terminal illness, but doesn’t know it. Instead of telling her, her family decides to stage a fake wedding in order to bring everyone together to say goodbye. This lie is meant to make her final interaction with her family more of a celebration than a sad farewell. As the story progresses, moral questions revolving what constitutes a “good lie”, arise. That said, it’s a soft comedy (touching moments, with levity) so…you’ll laugh more than you’ll cry; surprisingly. It’s a tender film. It’s a cathartic film.

The highlight of “The Farewell” is the performance of Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight) who plays an American grandchild traveling to China in order to say goodbye to a grandmother she is quite close to. Also, she is the only one in the family who doesn’t agree with keeping this type of secret from a dying person. And, as a Westerner, she was the most relatable character to me.

There is a term in sports (boxing, football, etc) described as “staying in the pocket”. This means that you know contact is coming, but unflinchingly choose not to shy away. This encapsulates Awkwafina’s performance. She emotionally leans into some of the heavier scenes, and not only holds her own, but steals the show.

The story itself transcends race/culture due to the excellent direction of writer/director Lulu Wang. Going into this I held high expectations since the plot synopsis (Wang’s autobiographical story) was so strong. But I was shocked to find that it was her graceful and quite operatic direction which made “The Farewell” so defining throughout. She’ll definitely be a filmmaker to watch.

Final Thought: This may seem like an insensitive statement, but the levity (the fact that this movie wasn’t a complete downer) was the reason that I wasn’t totally blown away, and also the reason I can see this movie as a whole (aside from Awkwafina’s performance) being forgotten come award season. I know. I’m heartless. But I’m right.

Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus