The Competition of Life (Game Night, 2018)

Game_Night_PosterGame Night introduces the viewer to Max and Annie, a couple that are a very competitive team in games. Any game. Trivia, board games, whatever.  It shows us a series of events leading to the present, framing their relationship in this light of their aggressive “We have to Win Spirit”.

One night Max’s older brother invites he and some friends over for a special game. It is a kidnapping  mystery hunt, in which actors show up to kidnap brother Brooks. But when gangsters show up and kidnap him in front of Max, Annie and their friends, they believe it is just part of the game. They set about trying to find Brooks, never realizing the threat of the situation until they are in to deep dealing with the criminal underground.

All of this is, of course a lesson for Max, who fears that if he and Annie have kids, their fun care free life is over. His competitive focus is never satisfied because of his fears of their lives changing. It is not anything super profound, but it works within the context of the tale which is more about the screwball antics.

Game Night is a pretty fun movie (though there are some tonal issues). It has a likable cast and some memorable performances. It yields plenty of laughs and entertaining.

Family Road Trip (Vacation, 2015)

vacation_posterThe National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise is an uneven one.  The original is a quotable classic, as is Christmas Vacation.  European Vacation has it’s moments and Vegas Vacation?  Well, it is Vegas Vacation.

National Lampoon has been dropped from the title for this updated tale of a Griswold Family Vacation.  This time around it focuses on Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) and his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate).  Pilot Rusty is inspired to take his wife and two sons on the very same road trip to Wally World as his father took him on.  In one of the more clever sequences of the film Rusty and Debbie argue whether a new Vacation is a good idea.  The whole discussion is a veiled defense of this fourth sequel.  Who remembers the Vacation from thirty years ago?  Why take the same trip? How is it any different?

Alas, most of the film is not quite as clever.  Don’t get me wrong, I did laugh.  But the film just never quite reaches the heights of either the original or Christmas Vacation.  It tries, mostly through rude and gross-out humor, but really, the truth is? Chase just brought a level of heart to the character of Clark Griswold that Helms never seems to have here.

Clark’s failures were a byproduct of major devotion to what he believed family should be.  His awkwardness was his belief in how he should be as a father and husband.  And while Helms’ Rusty pays words to this…it just feels less…real.

The film has a good cast, but the film itself never gels as well as the best of the Vacation films.  The writing never gives the cast any real heart to work with.

Spider-Man Swings Past the Origin

The site Collider has a discussion with the writers (though, the actual interview occurred on the Andy Greenwald Podcast) of the rebooted Spider-Man franchise.

comics-spider-man_00426012Much talk has been given about Spider-Man’s second reboot and his entering the the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The hype is getting so ridiculous that an article appeared in my Facebook feed *confirming* Spider-Man would appear in Civil War.  People are so desperate for angles that they are confirming stories confirmed months ago.

The more interesting part is the address the most common concern people seem to have about the reboot.  Are we getting stuck with another origin story?  The fact that Spider-Man is appearing in Civil War would indicate the answer to be no.  The MCU has been fairly good at not jumping backwards.  The timeline appears as if they will be jumping into a story with an active Spider-Man.

This interview suggests that, currently, they are not writing an origin movie:

“I think that everybody feels like you know he got bit by a spider and you know Uncle Ben died, and we probably don’t need to revisit that.”

“We want to explore the fact that just because you get superpowers doesn’t make you into a really sophisticated, successful adult. He’s still a kid and he’s clumsy and he’s a geek and he’s a bit of an outcast, and in many ways the superpowers amplify that and exacerbate his trying to fit in.”

This is good to see.  Truthfully, the origin movie is rarely needed.  I get that there are all sorts of fun that can occur with someone learning their powers.  But a simple solution is set the story early in the hero’s career.  This allows for amusing and dramatic stumbles  due to inexperience.  You can still set up the rivalries.

affleck_batmanIn that sense, I get the idea that DC is working with.  It seems like Batman v Superman will be introducing characters who are already active.  I am not fully behind the “older Batman” approach…but in a way, I appreciate the way they seem to be avoiding another Batman origin story.  Sure, it appears we will see some flashbacks, but comics have always reflected on characters origins in their storytelling.  But Warner Brothers and DC seem to be realizing they can start the story later in the career of the character.  Really, I think it would have helped Man of Steel to start in his early career, instead of the introduction to his world as fighting a massive and destructive battle with Zod.

To be fair, Marvel has not just given us origin films.  The Incredible Hulk was not an origin tale and really, Thor was an established Asgardian Warrior.  But Marvel really has leaned heavily on origin films.  And it certainly worked for the best with Captain America.  So it is good to see that Marvel and their screenwriters understand that it is just not necessary to retell the Spider-Origin all over again.

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