My Two Cents: READY OR NOT

Ready Or Not

Directed by Matt Bittinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Andi McDowell

Fox Searchlight

ready or not

By show of hands, who here enjoys a rousing game of hide and seek? If I was to bet, I would say that at some point in our childhoods, we have all played. For children, everything is about fun and games; tag, duck-duck-goose, and the aforementioned hide and seek. Count to one hundred then come and find me. Like I said, these are kid’s games. Now, what if, as an adult, you were thrust into a night of a deadly game where you had to hide to save your life, and if you were found, you’d be killed? This is the situation that the new film from Matt Bittinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, Ready Or Not, presents to us.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is a lovely bride-to-be, marrying into the wealthy and eccentric La Domas family. The family, being rich, are skeptical as to Grace’s intentions. The La Domas Empire was built on the backs of board games and playing cards. Think Milton-Bradley or Parker Brothers. With this being said, it is only fitting that the family “welcomes” Grace into the fold with a wedding night game of chance. Unfortunately for Grace, she selects the wrong game; hide and seek. Thus begins a night of survival for the newlywed, as she must make it until dawn without being found.

Going into Ready Or Not, I had no real expectations. I saw the trailer for the movie a couple times, and thought it looked interesting. We decided to check it out, and will grab you right away with its back-handed charm. The characters are all jaded and untrusting, which makes them, as odd as it sounds, relatable. The family is dysfunctional and cagey, which is the case in a lot of people’s experience. The idea of someone having to survive the night until dawn, being hunted by lunatics is not original by any stretch, but the execution here is almost perfect. The dark humour and sarcasm contained in the dialogue is biting and beautiful, and the distain these characters show for one another adds to the humor and paranoia. Also, as an added bonus, there are outbursts of violence that will satisfy your bloodlust and your sense of amusement. The final ten minutes of the film are wild, and the creators do not skimp on the violence and gore. This was a welcome touch in a year that has been less than generous with good horror movies. Ready Or Not is a fun film if you take it for what it is. It may have even slid into my list of favorites so far in 2019. If you want to be entertained for ninety minutes, Ready Or Not is a game worth playing.

T.

My Two Cents: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

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Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

Directed by: André Øvredal (Troll Hunter)

Starring Zoe Margret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush

CBS Films, Entertainment One (2019)

Based on the book written by Alvin Schwartz

While I was growing up, there were not a lot of horror books and shows made for kids and preteens to enjoy. It seemed everything in the nineteen seventies and made for the horror genre was geared towards adults. The nineties kids had plenty of horror –lite to enjoy. That generation had Are You Afraid Of The Dark? And the Goosebumps books to jump-start their horror obsession. By the time these arrived, I was already desensitized from watching movies like The Exorcist and The Shining at a young age. No starter horror for me. I jumped in headfirst. Today, kids can be exposed to horror without being scarred for life. This is where Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark falls into place. The main characters are all younger teenagers, and the frights are far more palatable and less gruesome.

Scary Stories is the tale of a group of teens growing up in Middle American during one of the most tumultuous times in U.S. history; the late 1960’s. On Halloween night, the gang visits a mansion, which according to legend, is haunted. The family that lived in the home had many dark secrets, including a hidden away daughter that lived a secluded, tortured existence. The kids take a book that once belonged to the daughter, and this begins a series of fateful stories being written into the book by a ghostly presence. These stories begin to happen in real-time, and the group must face their fears to save their lives.

Scary Stories is definitely meant for a teenage crowd, but also has enough to keep adults interested as well. Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water) co-wrote the screenplay, and if you are a fan of the directors work, you know there will be some wild imagery and creative monsters in the movie. I found the political and social references of the time set a dark tone for the story, although most of the younger viewers won’t understand them. Subtle humor is injected for a good counter balance the intensity of some scenes. All in all, I enjoy my horror with a little more violence, bloodshed, and of course, nudity. After all, I am a horror veteran. Scary Stories, however, would be a very nice jumping point for someone who is new to the genre, or feels like upping the game from light fare like Goosebumps.

T.

 

My Two Cents: Ari Aster’s MIDSOMMAR

Midsommar

Directed by: Ari Aster

Starring: Francis Pugh, Jack Raynor, Vilhelm Blomgren

A24 Films 2019

midsommar

After watching Hereditary, director Ari Aster’s first feature length film, I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. Visually, the movie was great. The acting is stout and believable, and the characters are polarizing. However, I felt that maybe I missed a lot of the films symbolism after the first viewing. The film was very monotone for the first hour, and not until the final act did I become fully engaged in what was happening on the screen. After a second viewing, I was able to absorb a lot more, and pause and rewind when I felt a scene needed to be dissected. This made me appreciate Hereditary a lot more. Upon hearing about Midsommar, Aster’s second feature, I was hoping that I wouldn’t encounter the same trepidation I had after Hereditary. I was cautious.

This was not the case at all.

Midsmmar is the story of Dani (Francis Pugh), an early twenties woman whom experiences an absolutely horrific family tragedy. Dani’s emotionally absent boyfriend Christian, along with his college friends, are planning a trip to Sweden to experience a centuries old festival that takes place on a commune. Out of guilt and thinking she will decline, Christian invites Dani along. To the dismay of the group, she accepts the invitation and they are soon on their way to Sweden. Through a series of bizarre rituals and strange customs, the trip starts to unravel for the group of American outsiders (oddly enough, only one American actor stars in the film). I will leave the synopsis to this bare bones description, because honestly, you have to experience this film for yourself.

I love Midsommar. The film is a beautifully paced, and gorgeously shot look inside grief and the impact it has one a person’s mental wellbeing. I found it easier to process than Hereditary. The symbolism is there, but the messages and meanings are there for the viewer to grab on to, rather than piece together and think too much about. You know right from the time of their arrival that the journey will end badly. You just have to watch and see how badly it ends.

To be honest, there are not many likeable characters in Midsommar, but that is a good thing. This results in the tension being heightened and the dread more palpable. People grieve in different ways, which makes grief isolated and a subjective matter. This is why I feel not everyone will like this movie. I love looking beneath the surface of film plots, and with Midsommar, I was revealed a truly beautiful experience. The last thirty minutes of this motion picture is one of the wildest, imaginative and twisted conclusions to a film I recall seeing in cinema. If you enjoy watching something truly original, Ari Aster has cooked up a five star feast for your senses.

T.

 

My 2 Cents: Molly’s Game

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Molly’s Game (2017)

Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner
Distributed By: Entertainment One (Canada)
Run Time: 120 Min.

Being a Canadian, I had never heard the story of Molly Bloom. Molly Bloom is a former competitive skier turned high-stakes underground poker game “facilitator”. For seven years, she hosted celebrities, athletes, and rich businessmen each week in Los Angeles, and then moving the game to New York. Eventually. Members of the Russian mob became involved in the games, which in turn attracted the interest of the FBI. In 2013, two years after Bloom last hosted a game, she and a number of other people were arrested and charged with illegal gambling, sports betting and racketeering. Molly’s Game is alleged true story based on the book of the same name.

This is the first film I went to see in 2018. I had some pretty high expectations because of the writer/ director’s history of spinning a good yarn. Aaron Sorkin is a master at taking a true story and turning it into great film. He is the man who wrote Moneyball, The Social Network, and A Few Good Men. Molly’s game is his directorial debut. It is a hell of directorial debut. The movie clocks in at about two hours and twenty minutes, but it does not seem to be that long at all. Great pacing, interesting characters, and the narration makes the film fly by.

The acting is also great. Jessica Chastain is the main star of this film. She carries the load. Along with her voice over narration, her portrayal of Molly Bloom made me instantly love the character, and encouraged me to learn more about the real person. Chastain is also one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and she looks amazing throughout the whole movie. Molly’s attorney, Charlie Jaffe, is played by actor Idris Alba (The Dark Tower). The chemistry is good and their one on one scenes are the best parts of the film. Kevin Costner, Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim) and Graham Greene (Dances With Wolves) also play small but important roles.

Beyond the reasons I have stated, there are a few other reasons why I found Molly’s Game to be very entertaining. I am a sucker for a movie about or involving poker. Rounders (Matt Damon, 1998) is one of my favorite movies, and Casino Royale (Daniel Craig, 2006) is the best Bond movie. Secondly, I am a sucker for a movie about common people who catch a break and become rich. Wolf of Wall Street (Leonardo Dicaprio, 2013), Joy (Jennifer Lawrence, 2015), and Citizen Kane are good examples of these films.

I will probably see over fifty plus films at the theatre in 2018, and I have a feeling that come the end of the year, Molly’s Game will be in my top five. If you enjoy an intriguing story with a good balance of emotion and danger, please check out Molly’s Game.

T.