DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 59 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence and Language throughout, Sexual References and brief Drug Material.

Directed by: David Leitch

Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds

(based on the comics by Fabian Nicieza & Rob Liefeld)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy & Stefan Kapicic

Back in February 2016, DEADPOOL was released and significantly shook up studio expectations of what an R-rated superhero film could do. The crudely hilarious comic book adaptation broke box office records, converted many newcomers into DEADPOOL fans, and has influenced studios to make riskier R-rated projects since its well-deserved success. DEADPOOL is the reason for last year’s LOGAN being a proper treatment of Wolverine and now we finally have a full-blown sequel. How does it compare to the first film? While I wouldn’t say that’s it’s on the same level as or better than the original (as some fans have been claiming), it’s a blast of ultra-violent, bombastically hilarious fun!

Taking place shortly after the events of the first film (Deadpool’s origin story), DEADPOOL 2 follows the masked merc with a mouth Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as he struggles to cope with unforeseen problems in his life (no spoilers). Wade/Deadpool isn’t taking it well, but finds his life gets a little more interesting when Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Nega-Sonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) recruit him as an X-Men Trainee. Soon enough, Deadpool is trying to form his own super-duper group to stop angry futuristic soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) from eliminating a pyrokinetic little brat named Russell (Julian Dennison). However, there is more to Cable’s motives than Deadpool assumes and many lives hang in the balance…all while Deadpool kills things and makes wisecracks. So you know, it’s kind of what you would expect from a DEADPOOL sequel.

DEADPOOL 2 clearly has a bigger budget than its relatively small scale predecessor (which basically served as an origin story for the masked merc with a mouth). As a result, the second film ups the ante in both its scope and plot. While that would normally push any sequel above the high bar set by the original, DEADPOOL 2 actually falls a few steps below the first film’s quality. That’s not to say it’s bad (it certainly isn’t and I’ve seen the film twice in theaters now), but the novelty has slightly worn off since the 2016’s crude, lewd, and ultra-violent R-rated predecessor.

From the get-go, DEADPOOL 2 makes it clear that it’s keeping the very adult, immature, and irreverent tone/humor that fans love so much. The opening credits wonderfully spoof any number of 007 films and will no doubt result in lots of laughter from the audience. Also, be sure to stick around for an end credits montage of material that had more borderline in tears from laughing so hard. It’s still quite refreshing to see a big screen superhero that doesn’t take its material seriously in any way, shape, or form and focuses on entertainment above setting up lore for future installments (though DEADPOOL 2 makes it clear when it’s doing that as well, in the formation of the X-Force).

As far as the cast goes, Ryan Reynolds still seems like he was born to play Wade Wilson/Deadpool. Morena Baccarin receives slightly more serious material and screen time as Deadpool’s significant other Vanessa in this outing. Josh Brolin damn near steals every scene he’s in as the ultra-stoic, super-dark Cable (a futuristic soldier whom Deadpool points out seems more suited towards the DC Universe than this light-hearted Marvel film). Young New Zealander Julian Dennison is hilarious as the foul-mouthed, adolescent mutant Firefist. Zazie Beetz is also great as the upbeat, luck-powered Domino. Despite what Deadpool says about her, Domino’s lucky powers do have lots of cinematic flare to be seen on the big screen and make her stick out amongst her X-Force pals.

Even though DEADPOOL 2’s script offers loads of ties to the comic book material, tons of bloody ultra-violence, and a more complicated narrative, it somehow winds up being more predictable than the first film. The film occasionally takes on a half-hearted serious attitude regarding one of its major plot developments and (though the script occasionally mocks this twist) the tonal shifts feel out of place. I could also clearly see where the entire film was going as it set itself up, because it hits many plot beats that we’ve seen before in other sci-fi/superhero films (including earlier X-MEN films). The result is that some of the thrills were ever so slightly diminished and I felt like I was just waiting for certain plot points to arrive. This might also be because the novelty of a foul-mouthed, R-rated superhero film has slightly worn off (which Deadpool acknowledges in the opening minutes of this sequel).

If you loved the first DEADPOOL, you’ll probably wind up liking/loving this sequel. I had a blast watching DEADPOOL 2 and it’s still refreshing to see an ultra-violent, irreverent superhero blockbuster amongst the overflow of modern comic book adaptations. This sequel’s story is set on a larger scale than the first film’s contained narrative, though it’s definitely more predictable this time around. The new characters are extremely fun to watch, while the old ones maintain their likability. The humor results in tons of laughs and is sure to shock viewers on a few occasions (stick around for the mid-credits montage). However, I’d say the occasional lack of freshness puts DEADPOOL 2 a few steps below the first film. Face it, you likely know whether or not you’re going to see this movie (you probably already have) and/or if you’ll enjoy it! Here’s to DEADPOOL 3!

Grade: B+

FAR CRY 5 (PlayStation 4)

Review by Derrick Carter

Long since the series’ conception, the FAR CRY games have shown themselves to be rather experimental first-person shooters…as opposed to a repetitive generic series of first person shooters (cough, CALL OF DUTY, cough). At any rate, FAR CRY 3 mixed open-world qualities with adrenaline-pumping action and made for one of the most acclaimed shooters of the 2010s. Two years after that fantastic game, FAR CRY 4 was released and met with almost universal disappointment from fans. Now, FAR CRY 5 has come and proven itself to be the best of the bunch. Not to sound hyperbolic, but FAR CRY 5 is one of the most fun and strangely profound first-person shooters I’ve had the pleasure of playing.

Welcome to Hope County, Montana. It’s a friendly enough place, with the exception of a violent doomsday cult that’s brewing within a Waco-like compound. You (a nameless rookie) have been tasked to accompany a Sheriff and a few federal agents to take in notorious cult leader Joseph Seed. However, things don’t go according to plan (do they ever?). Your helicopter crashes and you’re stranded smack dab in the middle of a county that’s overrun by cultists and yet still has a small band of resistance fighters. You’ll have to save your officer friends, make a few new friends (both humans and animals), and take out the notorious Seed clan (Joseph and his three vicious siblings) if you want to get out of Hope County in one piece.

One common complaint that I’ve been hearing over and over is that FAR CRY 5 is the exact same game as every other FAR CRY game. I beg to differ. I feel that Ubisoft did their damndest to make this the best FAR CRY so far and they succeeded by (appropriately enough) a country mile. Things immediately kick off differently in that your protagonist is completely customizable towards your preferences. You decide if they’re male or female, how they look, and (in true open-world fashion) what their combat strengths are. While FAR CRY 3 was jokingly described as SKYRIM with guns, I’d argue that FAR CRY 5 actually more wholeheartedly lives up to that comparison.

FAR CRY 5 also allows you to have a follower (or two, if you earn one of the games best perks). While FAR CRY 4 had a “Guns for Hire” system, it was flawed to say the least and usually sent a generic guy who only existed to fight until he was inevitably gunned down by one of the more annoying heavily armed foes. FAR CRY 5 actually gives you nine supporting characters with colorful personalities that you can complete missions with and then have them fight alongside you. These special followers range from a very handy pilot to a goth archer (my favorite character in the whole damn game). However, followers also include tamed animals…like Boomer (the cutest dog ever), Peaches (a cougar), and Cheeseburger (a fucking bear that becomes one of your strongest allies ever). The truth is that I felt connected to these supporting characters and got legitimately angry when cultists shot at them or briefly incapacitated them.

Unlike previous FAR CRY games, where hunting was an essential part of the story and almost felt like a chore in certain spots (especially FAR CRY 4), FAR CRY 5 lets you upgrade your skills with perk points that you earn through various challenges. These challenges include some hunting (but that’s totally optional), but mostly involve getting a certain amount of kills with different weapons and followers. This game actively encourages you to vary your approaches and try new things in order to advance your abilities. It’s kind of brilliant on the part of the developers and it really helps players hone in on what weapons, combat styles, and followers they like best.

Besides letting you choose your look, your play style, and your followers (or lack thereof, if you prefer to fly solo), FAR CRY 5 is also structured in a way where you choose what order you play through the main campaign. There are three main regions in Hope County and each region is home to a Herald (a main underling of the cult). By completing general chaos, side quests or story-related quests in each region, you attract the attention of that region’s Herald and engage in confrontations with them (including three wildly different, but amazingly cinematic big boss battles). You can choose to tackle them one at a time (the approach that I took on my first play-through) or plan to take them all down simultaneously. The latter would be building up towards an undeniably action-packed two-three final hours of adrenaline-pumping gameplay (this is the approach that one of my friends took and I plan for my second play-through). At the end of the day, it’s a ton of freedom left up to the player, making this the possibly most choice-driven first-person shooter in ages!

Speaking of the Heralds and Joseph Seed, this game’s villains are simply awesome. FAR CRY is a series that functions on delivering truly psychotic baddies (FAR CRY 3’s Vaas is a fan favorite for good reason and the underused Pagan Min is definitely the best thing about FAR CRY 4). FAR CRY 5 gives us, not one, not two, but four(!) big bads that you have to tackle throughout the game. Each of Joseph Seed’s siblings is drastically different, making each region feel unique as a result. My favorite of the underling bosses is Jacob (a military man driven by a “cull the herd” philosophy) and providing a few borderline nightmarish moments in his encounters. However, Faith is the most unusual of the bunch as she provides a slightly sympathetic side to her evil ways and also induces loads of hallucinations that you have to survive (including drugged out moments that randomly occur outside of your encounters with her).

FAR CRY 5 takes lots of risks as far as its storytelling goes, but ensures that no two players will have exactly the same experience with this game. This is one of the most open-world games I’ve played in that it just lets the player forge their own path and forms the plot around their choices. I’d also argue that the “good” ending of the campaign is one of the ballsiest conclusions that I’ve seen in any video game ever and the effect it leaves is absolutely chilling. There’s a lot to be said in the feelings it leaves you with and to say anything more, would be doing a disservice to players who haven’t experienced it yet.

As far as the technical aspects are concerned, FAR CRY 5 has realistic graphics and only a few technical glitches that I encountered. The much-dreaded microtransactions are purely cosmetic and you can 100% ignore them and still have just as much fun/skill as players who dump extra money into their weapons and vehicles. Also, the game has a phenomenal soundtrack. Nothing beats the feeling of a perfect song hitting at the exact right moment, whether it was programmed to be a story-specific sequence (a long hotel shootout against Jacob’s militia ranks as one of my biggest highlights in the entire game) or random bits (like a rock song hitting as you’re driving around rescuing random hostages from heavily armed cultists).

Though some people have argued FAR CRY 5 is more of the same, I’d point out that they changed and improved on so many things for this fifth (official) installment in the long-running open-world first-person-shooter series. While games like the new GOD OF WAR are undeniably amazing achievements, I still think that FAR CRY 5 is the most fun I’ve had playing a new game in ages. If you’re a FAR CRY fan, this is explosive, chaotic heaven. If you have never played a FAR CRY game at all, there’s no better place to start than here. FAR CRY 5 is an adrenaline-pumping, hugely entertaining, and frequently shocking blast. I love every second of this game!

Grade: A+

FAR CRY 4 (PlayStation 4)

Review by Derrick Carter

In 2012, FAR CRY 3 was released and garnered a massive amount of critical praise. That game’s reputation is more than well-deserved due to its clever open world mechanics, adrenaline-pumping action, and riveting plot. It was obvious that any future FAR CRY games would have a lot to live up to. A mere two years later, FAR CRY 4 dropped. Though some praise was lauded on this game upon release, it has since gained a reputation as somewhat of a disappointment in the series. As someone who played both games within mere weeks of each other, I have to say that FAR CRY 4 is fun while it lasts. However, that’s not exactly high praise or a great quality.

FAR CRY 4 has a straightforward, simple story. Ajay Ghale is returning to his native Himalayan country of Kyrat to scatter his mother’s ashes. His somber trip of remembrance is suddenly derailed when tyrannical dictator Pagan Min kidnaps Ajay for unknown reasons. When an opportunity arises, Ajay escapes and runs headlong into the “Golden Path” (a rebel movement who are slowly gaining ground against Pagan Min’s rule). Ajay must aid the Golden Path and take down Pagan Min’s forces…one evil foe at a time. However, Ajay must also choose which direction the Golden Path will follow as the rebels are currently led by two bickering leaders with very different ideologies.

Where FAR CRY 4 undoubtedly improves over its predecessor is in the gameplay and overall graphics. The massive country of Kyrat is quite the beautiful sight to behold as fast-travelling from location to location will almost become an outright necessity, assuming that you’re liberating the games 24 outposts as you progress forward in the story. When you head out on your own path occasionally, you’ll discover that there’s plenty of locations to explore as well. The stunning graphics bring the realistic environment to life in a way that’s very convincing. For the first few days that I played FAR CRY 4, I was blown away by how it looked and that made the experience ten times more enjoyable.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, there is a ton of stuff to do in FAR CRY 4. Side quests include your usual hunting missions, assassinations, and supply runs. However, there are also timed racing trials (which were far more enjoyable that I initially expected), drug-fueled trips to find missing things that are missing, and spiritual journeys to Shangri-La. There’s also a gladiator arena that holds life-or-death battles and I must have spent (at least) two full hours on those ultra-violent (but hugely fun) side quests.

FAR CRY 4 tries to be very ambitious in certain areas too. The outposts range from incredibly easy (near the beginning of the game) to ridiculously difficult (near the end of the map). However, they’re never frustrating to a point where I felt like giving up. Instead, I strategically planted traps and mapped out each approach in entirely new ways. Fortresses also serve as bigger (more adrenaline-pumping) versions of outposts and there’s one controlled by each of the four big bosses. The wildlife can seriously fuck up the enemy’s day (or yours, if you’re not careful) as rhinos, elephants, and even honey badgers (who don’t give a shit) make their way into the mix. Some of the best experiences I had in this game featured myself riding on the back of an elephant, while ripping enemies apart with a massive machine gun.

As my progress through FAR CRY 4 moved forward (I wound up clocking in a little over 30 hours, including the main campaign and many side quests), I couldn’t help but notice that flaws were sticking out more and more. The game’s biggest problems are bland characters and somewhat hollow story. While FAR CRY 3 had loads of insane individuals and a gripping transformation of the main character, FAR CRY 4 lacks in these departments. Ajay is a wooden protagonist who doesn’t really evolve as the story moves forward. One minute, he’s on a bus and the next minute, he’s transformed into friggin’ Kyrati Rambo. Pagan Min is the best character of the bunch (as a main villain), but he’s not seen nearly as much as he should be and the smaller bosses feel like generic henchmen.

Where FAR CRY 4 offers some interesting developments are in missions that ultimately shape who leads the Golden Path. You’re given ethical dilemmas between choosing Amita (who loves the idea of making Kyrat a drug country) or Sabal (who seems a little to eager to enact Kyrat’s version of Sharia Law). These decisions presented moral choices that ultimately shape the direction of your gameplay. Sadly, I still found myself underwhelmed by the overall plot and the ending felt very unsatisfying. Some people might say that this was the game developers’ intentions to make things unsatisfying. However, the campaign’s weak conclusion left me with a bad taste in my mouth. As a result, I don’t think I’ll be returning to play this game again anytime in the near future (unlike FAR CRY 3).

This being said, there are two technical complaints that I have to level at FAR CRY 4 too: the ridiculous difficulty curve and the flawed trophy system. When you are halfway through the main campaign, FAR CRY 4 throws major curve balls at the player in its rising difficulty. Soldiers were suddenly much harder to take down and unexpected roadside encounters could spell certain death. In some ways, this felt like a severely unfair shift in the game’s difficulty. Sure, it forces the player to adapt in drastic ways, but expect to die…a lot. Also expect to get frustrated with dying a lot.

As far as the trophy system is concerned, FAR CRY 4 has easy trophies to earn and then no trophies for fully completing certain tasks. It’s like the game doesn’t want to reward you for clearing all four fortresses…instead just giving you a trophy for doing two of them (half-assing it). There’s also no trophy for clearing all of the bell towers (just half of them). At the end of the day, it felt like the developers didn’t want to provide incentives for players to fully complete certain aspects of the game. This wouldn’t have been such an issue if FAR CRY 3 didn’t reward you for fully clearing all radio towers and whatnot. It might be a minor gripe, but it definitely rubbed me the wrong way.

The best thing that I can say about FAR CRY 4 is that it’s fun while it lasts. Unlike FAR CRY 3 (which is easily in my top ten shooters of all-time and a game that I’ll repeatedly play in years to come), FAR CRY 4 feels like a slapdash effort to duplicate that game’s success. The gameplay, graphics, and sheer amount of shit to do has definitely improved. I can’t praise those gladiator battles enough. However, the plot, characters, and game’s difficulty/trophy system are far weaker this time around. The ending is also sure to rub lots of people the wrong way. It’s depressing, but not in a way that feels earned or necessary to the (already bland) story. FAR CRY 4 is okay. It’s fun, but I had lots of mixed feelings about it afterwards.

Grade: B-

ANNIHILATION (2018)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Violence, Bloody Images, Language and some Sexuality

Directed by: Alex Garland

Written by: Alex Garland

(based on the novel ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer)

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, Benedict Wong, Sonoya Mizuno & David Gyasi

Going into 2018, ANNIHILATION was easily one of my most anticipated films of the year. Besides a high concept premise and a very intriguing trailer, the main reason for my excitement came from the presence of director/screenwriter Alex Garland. This man helmed one of my favorite science fiction films of the past decade: EX MACHINA. Needless to say, I was more than a little eager to see what his sophomore directorial effort would look like. While I won’t claim that ANNIHILATION is perfect and on the same level as EX MACHINA (for a couple of reasons that will soon become clear), this is a damn fine combination of arthouse storytelling,  thought-provoking science fiction, and disturbing horror!

Lena (Natalie Portman) is a biologist struggling with serious grief. A year ago, her soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) disappeared on a top-secret government mission. Lena’s trying to mentally cope with the harsh reality that he might be dead, when a near-comatose Kane randomly shows up at her door. One strange conversation and a nosebleed later…and Kane is whisked away to an unknown government facility. Because they can’t have any witnesses, Lena is held at the facility with him and (in an effort to save her dying husband) volunteers to venture into the strange shimmering area where her husband originally went. Biological nightmares, thick tension, and bizarre Lovecraftian horror ensues.

ANNIHILATION is a strange beast of a film. The trailer sold it as something far more straightforward than it actually is. The narrative is spun in a non-linear fashion that flashes forward to a surviving Lena relating her tale to a group of baffled government officials, shows us what occurred within “The Shimmer,” and also flashes back to Lena’s relationship with her husband. In less talented hands, this approach might have wound up as a cheap cop-out that spoils key moments early on. In Alex Garland’s hands, it’s a brilliant way of piecing together a weird cerebral puzzle for the viewer.

This film nails its smart science-fiction and grisly horror in equal measure. I won’t go into specific details, because one could easily spoil some of the film’s huge twists. The scariest horror bits easily belong to encounters with a heavily mutated bear. There is one sequence in the film that might very well rank in my scariest movie scenes of all-time. You’ll definitely know it when you see it and an aftermath conversation makes that moment ten times more chilling. ANNIHILATION also knows when to keep its monsters in the shadows and when to showcase them in their crazy mutated glory.

This film isn’t a simple creature feature though, because there is other disturbing stuff happening within “The Shimmer.” Some details are given in scientific conversations that confirm worst fears and elaborate on grim theories. The film never feels the need to specifically spell everything out for the audience though and it expects you to use your brain while watching the strange story evolve. ANNIHILATION’s final third contains one of the biggest “holy shit” moments that I’ve seen in recent years. This revelation will likely result in many debates about the film’s open-to-interpretation ending. One of the story’s most terrifying concepts is glimpsed early on (The Shimmer seems to cause memory loss), but is never returned to again. Fully utilizing this concept might have pushed things further into nightmarish territory and made the film even smarter. Sadly, it was completely abandoned for a more straightforward-ish narrative.

As far as the acting goes, things get a bit mixed in the performances. Natalie Portman is good as the main character who’s clearly struggling with grief and all sorts of newfound knowledge. This causes her to react in complicated ways during certain scenarios. Oscar Isaac doesn’t receive a ton of screen time, but makes a big impact in what he delivers. Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny are serviceable as the supporting scientists. The weakest performance comes from Jennifer Jason Leigh. While some viewers might potentially argue that the bland acting was just in relation to her character, I’d argue that it was just bland acting and this particular character felt wooden as a result of it.

ANNIHILATION nails its storytelling, delivers cool spectacle, and brings forth nightmarish images that will likely flash before my eyes when this movie gets mentioned in casual conversations. The film delivers many amazing qualities (especially in its horror concepts being utterly terrifying and its sci-fi ideas being absolutely brilliant). However, the film occasionally drops the ball in a couple of missed opportunities (one concept is completely abandoned and one key performance is hollow). If you dig strange deliberately paced science-fiction and otherworldly Lovecraftian horror, you’ll find a lot of love in ANNIHILATION.

Grade: A-

GAME NIGHT (2018)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language, Sexual References and some Violence

Directed by: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein

Written by: Mark Perez

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Jeffrey Wright & Danny Huston

There were reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic towards GAME NIGHT. The reasons to be optimistic came from the clever premise, hilarious promotional material, and talented leads. The main reason to be pessimistic came from the fact that this was a big studio comedy being released during February, which is typically considered only slightly less worse than January for studios dumping films they don’t believe in. However, GAME NIGHT turns out to be a wildly entertaining ride that you should see in a packed theater filled with other people who are also laughing their asses off. I had a great time watching this very funny film!

Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are two competitive gamers…who also happen to be husband and wife. During one night every week, Max holds a game night for their adult friends and they all have a great time hanging out together. When Max’s more successful show-off brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to town, the game night changes in a strange new direction because Brooks has hired an interactive murder-mystery company to liven things up. However, the game becomes all too real when two actual gangsters break into Brooks’ home and abduct him. Thinking it’s all part of the game, Max, Annie, and their friends find themselves in over the heads…and things get crazier from there.

GAME NIGHT makes no qualms about what it is. This is an adult-oriented comedy that has a fantastic premise. Nothing more, nothing less. While the film does indulge in crass language and occasional crude humor, a lot of laughs result from jokes that aren’t crude for the sake of being crude. Instead, GAME NIGHT actually puts thought into its script and this results in a constant sense of fun. The running gags are great too as certain jokes find themselves not only recurring, but evolving between different characters. My favorite of which easily involves a suspicious police officer neighbor (Jesse Plemons) who has a rather distinct way of wording things. Seriously though, Jesse Plemons steals every scene he’s in and arguably walks away with the entire movie in his pocket.

The rest of the cast contains no slouches either. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams have fantastic on-screen chemistry together. Aside from Plemons, they receive arguably the funniest scenes in the film. My favorite sequence has them playing with a loaded gun (which they think is a toy) and I was giggling the whole way through it. Billy Magnussen is fun as a dim-witted friend Ryan, while Sharon Horgan is well-cast as his date Sarah (using her brains to make up for Ryan’s stupidity). Plenty of laughs also result from a running joke between Lamorne Morris’s Kevin and Kylie Bunbury’s Michelle, a married couple having a rough night in their relationship.

Aside from good jokes, GAME NIGHT contains some (dare I say it) actual suspense in its execution. There are lots of twists and turns woven throughout the plot. Some of these revelations you can see coming from a mile away. Others arrive as legitimate shocks that result in both laughs and gasps. Even though one subplot is pretty damn predictable (anybody with half a brain can figure out how the sibling rivalry angle will wrap up), other surprises result in a couple of unexpected cameos that further liven up the already fun film.

It also helps that GAME NIGHT looks fantastic. The visuals are slick and the film stylizes its establishing shots with miniatures. This causes cars and houses to look like pieces on a board game. This effect isn’t employed to a distracting degree either, but serves as a cool way to transition from certain scenes. There were even audience members that pointed out “that was a cool shot” or commented that they “loved the use of miniatures” by the time the film had concluded. The camera also occasionally pulls neat tricks during the more action-oriented sequences that make these moments stick out from the regular dark comedy moments.

Overall, GAME NIGHT is a very entertaining, clever, and hilarious time at the movies. The actors all bring their A-game. Although the film has one very predictable subplot, there are plenty of unexpected twists to accompany the many laughs. It’s also worth noting that the film contains some of the best running jokes that I’ve seen in years, which evolve over the course of the film along with the characters. If you want to have some good laughs (and who doesn’t, these days), give GAME NIGHT a watch. This is one of the better R-rated comedies to come out in a long time and comes highly recommended.

Grade: B+

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