Games People Play (Ready or Not, 2019)

Ready_or_Not_PosterGrace is engaged to Alex, a son in the Le Domas gaming, uh, Dominion. Alex is quickly revealed to b very unlike his family.  Kind and rather unhappy with his family’s status as ultra-rich. The family is quirky, save Alex’s mother who seems to understand Grace’s nervousness at marrying into the family.

The night after the wedding ceremony, Alex explains that there is one last ceremony. The family has a tradition in which the new member of the family selects a game that the family must play.  While most of the time it is something casual like checkers, on this night, Grace draws a card Alex dreaded… “Hide and Seek”. At first, Grace finds it all silly…until it is clear that losing the game means she dies.  If she survives the night, the family is certain something unknown and truly awful will befall the family.

Ready or Not is a film with its tongue firmly in cheek.  The family is rich and inept, having gone for years without actually having to have played Hide and Seek. One of the family members struggles to learn use of the crossbow. His coked up wife is so freaked out she cannot shoot straight. They argue over the value of tradition.

Grace, on the other hand, is trying to find her way out of a house full of hidden passages and no idea who she can trust. The help? Alex? Alex’s brother who seems to be struggling with his conscience? Alex’s nephews?

The humor is dark, but effective. Its targets being ultra rich fools obsessed with keeping their wealth, their actions often have comical results. The film is so stylish, and the character and set design so full of personality, it really enhances the film. The visual sense of Aunt Helene perfectly encapsulates this.  Her hair is strikingly short and spiky. She wears a permanent scowl and really stands out.  Nicky Guadagni is wonderfully dark in the film.

I also found Samara Weaving’s performance really good.  She often gets mocked as being indistinguishable from Margot Robbie, which I think is unfair to both actresses…for one thing? Weaving has spent most of her career getting drenched in buckets of blood.  But she is great as Grace.

Ready or Not was a surprise gem of a film this year, deserving of someday being a cult classic among thrillers.

…And Dip (Chips, 2017)

CHIPS_PosterChips was an action/drama from 1977 about motorcycle cops Ponch and Jon.  I know I watched it as a kid, but beyond Erik Estrada and the other guy?  Don’t remember much.  But when it was announced that they were making a comedy movie based on the show, it seemed like an odd choice.

Written and directed by Dax Shepard, the update begins with Ponch as an FBI Agent who is sent undercover to bust a drug ring suspected to involve crooked motorcycle cops.  He is teamed up with the highly inept Jon, who is trying to save a marriage he does not get is over.  Ponch and Jon are constantly at odds to an annoying degree.  In what I suspect was intended as a “positive” message, Jon criticizes Ponch of being homophobic which leads to, unsurprisingly, a whole lot of “Eeeew! NOT GAY” type of jokes.

The jokes don’t land and the characters lack chemistry.  By the time Ponch and Jon are a team, it feels entirely unearned.  The jokes are forced as well.  This is a shame, as the cast is the one high point of the film.  Michael Peña has great comic timing.  And Vincent D’Onofrio is the villain.  And yet, neither get to bring their skills to the rather uninspired script.  Dax’s Jon is particularly flat.  His real life wife, Kristen Bell just has a sweet persona and it is hard to buy she is this terrible marriage destroying wife.

Chips obviously aimed to fall into the same company of 21 Jump Street…but it misses that mark by a great distance.


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