Review of “Ready of Not”

Because of the recent spate of mass shootings with multiple deaths, violent media has come under more scrutiny as a scapegoat.  Numerous studies have shown violent movies, TV shows, and video games do not cause violent acts by consumers of such media in reality.  That doesn’t stop pundits and politicians from naming media as a cause for violence in society.  Instead of members of Congress doing something concrete to fight the use of assault-style weapons against innocent victims and removing the ban on federally funded research of gun violence, they would rather blather away on opinion shows, playing to their base and ignoring their responsibilities.  Universal Pictures decided to not release its “rich hunting the poor” satirical thriller “The Hunt” as a response to recent mass shootings and a tweetstorm from President Trump.  The 2014 Sony comedy “The Interview” was yanked off the schedule when North Korea threatened terrorist attacks against theaters because the film showed the (spoiler alert) assassination of Kim Jung-un.  North Korea can’t feed its people, so I doubt they could carry out numerous attacks (or one) on theaters in the U.S.  Popular media is an easy target for those looking to place blame for all of society’s ills, so it’s a surprise that satirical suspense comedy “Ready or Not” didn’t attract more controversy.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family.  The Le Domas family made all their money from making and selling board games over the last four generations.  Grace was raised in foster homes and has always wanted a forever family.  She believes her marriage to Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) will make her dream come true.  While she feels like patriarch Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny) doesn’t think she’s good enough for his son, Alex’s mother Becky (Andie MacDowell) welcomes Grace with open arms.  Other family members in attendance are Alex’s younger brother Daniel (Adam Brody), Daniel’s wife Charity (Elyse Levesque), and elderly Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni).  Arriving after the ceremony is sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) and her husband Fitch (Kristian Bruun).  Alex tells Grace of a long-standing family tradition:  Every new person marrying into the family must play a randomly selected game.  The game could be anything from backgammon to checkers to Old Maid to anything else.  Prior to the game announcement, Tony explains that his great-grandfather Victor Le Domas made a deal with a man named Mr. Le Bail where Le Bail would help create the Le Domas fortune if the Le Domas family established the tradition.  Grace is confused but goes along as this is now her family.  An old wooden box received from Mr. Le Bail is used to select the game.  A card pops out of the box that says, “Hide and Seek.”  Tony explains Grace can hide anywhere in the house and must stay hidden until dawn to win.  As Grace goes to hide, the family members all select antique weapons collected by Victor.  The Le Domas family scatters through the house looking for Grace as she is not just the newest member of the family, but a sacrifice to maintain its good fortune.

“Ready or Not” focuses its satire squarely on the super rich.  The head of the Le Domas family brags about buying four professional sports teams since he took over the company.  Adam Brody’s Daniel says, “The rich are different.”  In this family that is taken to a ridiculous extreme.  Much of the film is about how conventional ethics and a sense of morality is totally ignored by the Le Domas to maintain their status quo.  Grace must die before dawn in order for the family to remain rich and powerful.  Despite the pain and suffering Grace will go through, the Le Domas do not care.

While it is totally unintentional, there are clear parallels to what we’ve seen in the news about the rich and powerful and what they are willing to do.  Harvey Weinstein would flex his film making muscles to force young women to have sex with him in exchange for roles in the films he was producing.  Jeffrey Epstein uses his wealth and power, along with well-placed friends, to silence the young women and girls he sexually abused for decades.  There are countless examples throughout history of rich and powerful (usually) men taking advantage of those less fortunate and abusing them for their pleasure.  Is it any wonder most of these abusers end up in prison or dead once one or a few of the abused gain the courage to say, “Enough!”

What is at first for Grace a fight to survive soon becomes “Enough” for her.  The transformation from frightened waif to angry warrior takes a bit of time.  However, when the transition occurs, Grace takes on the mantle of hero instead of victim.  While the film does follow a fairly standard structure of peril, escape, capture, escape, there are moments of originality and sheer joy in watching our hero find the strength to cross another hurdle and escape another trap.  Grace may become a new feminist hero.

Samara Weaving is wonderful as Grace.  While the supporting cast is all very good, including Adam Brody as the conflicted, alcoholic Daniel, the movie lives or dies on Weaving’s performance, and the film thrives.  Weaving plays Grace as an everywoman.  She wasn’t raised in wealth, had to work hard to get where she got and considers herself lucky to be marrying a great guy like Alex.  Weaving immediately connects with the audience as she practices her vows early in the film and throws in a few lines about how nervous she is.  It’s an endearing moment that makes us appreciate Grace as one of us (assuming you aren’t obscenely wealthy).  As the film descends into the madness of the game, Weaving gives Grace the determination to live despite having guns stuck in her face on multiple occasions.  She doesn’t become Rambo or the Terminator, but Grace is resourceful and willing to get down and dirty (in one scene, literally) if need be.

Something you might not expect from “Ready or Not” is that it’s funny.  There are some very big laughs in the film at the most inappropriate times.  I don’t want to give anything away, but the final scene with the family leads to some of the biggest laughs of the whole film.  The humor comes more from the situation and how absurd it is opposed to actual jokes.  You laugh because if this happened in real life, you’d either scream or faint.  When you see it in a movie, your natural reaction is laughter followed by the thought, “Glad that didn’t happen to me.”  “Ready or Not” is filled with these moments.

“Ready or Not” is rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.  There are some very graphic shootings, stabbings, and an arrow in the mouth.  A waste pit filled with corpses leads to a character vomiting.  A young boy gets punched in the face.  A woman is beaten to death with a box, leaving a large pool of blood around her head.  The ending of the film is very gory.  Drug use is suggested with white powder under a character’s nose then that character being shown using cocaine.  There is also mention of a cannabis edible.  Foul language is common throughout.

I have only one complaint about the film.  The event that sets up the ending felt a bit contrived and convenient.  I won’t give anything away, but Grace is able to escape her murder a little too easily considering the family believes they have everything to lose if she isn’t dead by dawn.  That said, “Ready or Not” is a very fun thriller that delivers great tension, gory kills and some big laughs.  If you’re looking for something that isn’t based on a comic book and isn’t a sequel, this might be perfect for you.

“Ready or Not” gets five stars.

Only one new movie this week and I will definitely see and review it.

IT: Chapter 2—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Reviews of “Magic Mike XXL” and “Terminator: Genisys”

Summer is the season of school being out, vacations, spending time at the pool or lake or ocean or whatever body of water you might be near and braindead movies meant to pass a few hours between warm weather activities. Few films this season will probably be as braindead as “Magic Mike XXL” and “Terminator: Genisys.” I saw them both and could feel the death of grey matter as they both progressed. One was responsible for more synapse-cide than the other.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has left the male stripper life behind and is now building and selling custom furniture. He gets a call from former fellow stripper Tarzan (Kevin Nash) telling him their old boss and MC Dallas (played in the first film by Matthew McConaughey but only mentioned in this film) has died. Mike travels to a motel where a wake is supposed to be held but finds Tarzan and the rest of his old crew of Ken (Matt Bomer), Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) partying around the pool. Tarzan admits he lied and Dallas isn’t dead but left them on their own to go start another club overseas. The gang is headed up the coast to Myrtle Beach for the annual stripper convention for one last ride before they all hang up their G-strings and try for some kind of normal lives. They ask Mike if he wants to go but he says no as he has a life, business and responsibilities there. That night, he hears a song he used to dance to and does an impromptu routine in his work space. The next day, he meets with the guys and agrees to go on one last ride. An accident disables their ride and puts Tobias in the hospital with a head injury, standing them until their converted food truck van is repaired. Mike decides to approach his old boss Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) who runs a private club for women in a house where male strippers are scattered around performing shows. While unable to convince Rome to be their fill-in MC, she does give them access to a car and has Andre (Donald Glover), one of her performers, give them a ride. Things are looking bleak as the troop heads to their last convention with no MC and not much of a plan.

“Magic Mike XXL” looks like a movie that didn’t have a completed script when it went into production. The story is very fragmented and jumps around like a child playing hopscotch. The only cohesive section of the film is the road trip until Tobias gets hurt; then, the section with every fortuitous turn imaginable begins. People who won’t help suddenly appear to do exactly what the boys need. There’s no slot during the convention for them to perform but that suddenly opens up. All their plans, thrown together in what appears to be a matter of hours story-wise, work out perfectly leading to a triumphant conclusion. It appears the only thing you need to live a charmed life is washboard abs and bulging pecs. Anything resembling everyday life is left behind once Mike decides to rejoin his buddies in Stipper-ville. “Magic Mike XXL” is a silly fantasy about shallow people living lives filled with as much instant gratification and recreational drugs as they can find. Of course, we discover they are all much deeper than we suspect and all they really want is just an average life with someone to love…except the New Age healer/actor/singer who realizes his dreams of stardom are likely never to be fulfilled but tells Mike, “I’m still pretty.” There were times in this film that I wanted to smack ever character on screen for being so petty.

About the only saving grace of the film is a scene involving Andie MacDowell as a divorced, modern southern belle hosting some friends at her home when Mike and the guys show up. It turns into a session of discovery and revelation that, while ridiculous, was interesting to watch. It seems like the only scene in the film that actually had a little thought applied to it. It also is one of those aforementioned fortuitous turns helping the boys get to Myrtle Beach. The film is also saved (somewhat) by the charisma of Channing Tatum. Tatum plays characters in most of his films that seem like decent people. Tatum comes off in interviews like an average guy that just happens to make movies. It’s his appeal as an everyman that keeps “Magic Mike XXL” from being an insufferable experience.

“Magic Mike XXL” is rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use. Most of the dance scenes involve simulated sex acts. The only nudity I remember is Joe Manganiello’s bare backside early in the film. There are also some exposed cheeks when the boys are wearing their stripper gear. The guys are shown smoking weed and taking capsules that are referred to as Molly. Foul language is common.

While this film certainly isn’t aimed at me, “Magic Mike XXL” still manages a few laughs with the antics of the male strippers and a cameo by Michael Strahan as one of Rome’s dancers. While the humor and the charisma of Channing Tatum provide some bright spots, “Magic Mike XXL” feels like it was made from an unfinished script that left me feeling at times confused and then finally uninterested.

“Magic Mike XXL” gets a fully clothed three stars out of five.

John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) along with the rest of their troops are on the verge of destroying Skynet and ending the extinction of the human race. One team is hitting a facility where Skynet is based by Connor and Reese lead a team against a facility that contains the time machine used to send Terminators to the past. Skynet is disabled and all the robots shut down; but the time machine has been used to send a T-800 model back to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Kyle Reese volunteers to go back and protect Sarah. John knows if he doesn’t he’ll never be born. Kyle begins the process of time travel but sees John being attacked by someone in the crowd. Kyle shows up in 1984 and is almost instantly attacked by a liquid metal T-1000 model (Lee Byung-hun). Hiding in a clothing store, Kyle is saved by Sarah Connor driving an armored truck. In the back is an aged looking T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Kyle tries to shoot him but the old T-800 knocks him unconscious. When he wakes, Sarah tells Kyle that the Terminator she calls “Pops” has raised her since she was nine. He’s there to protect her. Kyle is suspicious and doesn’t trust Pops. Things have changed from the history Kyle was told by John. Kyle also has memories of being a child and telling himself that Genisys is Skynet. Nothing is making sense.

I don’t want to give away any more than that brief synopsis as I often get yelled at for telling too much. Besides, the whole story of “Terminator: Genisys” is far more complicated as time is twisted into knots and histories and futures are as fluid as water. Nothing you know about the “Terminator” universe stays completely unchanged from film to film so this shouldn’t be a big surprise. That the timeline can be manipulated and changed was one of the most appealing aspects of the film. It also means there can be endless sequels since the past can be manipulated like soft clay and molded into whatever the next writer wants.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the star of the film even though his is more of a supporting character. Pops is given the job of putting the science of the film into words. It seems like a risky idea considering Schwarzenegger’s thick accent. Still, he manages to deliver explanations for the various timelines that at least sound like they have a scientific basis. Schwarzenegger also provides much of the film’s humor. His scary dead-eyed smile is usually delivered at the perfectly inappropriate time and his lack of emotion and understanding of emotional expressions means lines that aren’t funny take on a humorous context.

Most of the film’s action is created through CGI. While many scenes look pretty good, including the film’s climax, some look bland, particularly a helicopter chase amongst the skyscrapers of San Francisco. There are shots that look flat and unfinished like the nighttime setting would hide the flaws. It doesn’t. This is a brief scene compared to others but it stuck out. One highlight of the CGI is the fight between old and young Schwarzenegger. An Australian bodybuilder with matching physical measurements to 1984 Arnold was used as a body double then had Schwarzenegger’s young face digitally stitched to his head. It works surprisingly well and looks almost completely natural. Oddly enough, the digital Arnold face actually has a brief flash of too much emotion.

I believe the studio made a tactical error in releasing a major plot twist in one of the film’s trailers. It caused a bit of a stink on the Internet but I didn’t think that much of it at the time. Having now seen the film it was a much larger mistake than I originally thought. This kind of surprise (which I won’t tell if you don’t already know) is the kind of major story event that can raise the audience excitement for a film and give it enormous word-of-mouth buzz. Since it was revealed in the trailer, the reveal is ho hum. According to press reports, director Alan Taylor didn’t know about the spoiler being in the trailer and is quoted as saying he wouldn’t have revealed it before the film came out. Since the film is underperforming at the box office in its opening days, this may actually be costing the studio some money. It also doesn’t help that “Inside Out” and “Jurassic World” are still performing strongly this late in their runs; but people talking about that surprise might have driven a few more patrons the film’s way. The trailer reveal seems at best short sighted and at worst incompetent.

“Terminator: Genisys” is rated PG-13 for gunplay throughout, brief strong language, intense sci-fi violence and partial nudity. Guns of various types are fired throughout the film, most frequently at non-human characters. Those humans that are shot show very little blood. The fights between the various types of Terminators involve lots of bodies getting thrown around and through walls and ceilings. The flesh gets beaten, burned and ripped off the T-800 models in various ways. The nudity consists of those people who travel in time as they must do so naked. The most we see is bare male backsides. Foul language is intermittent.

If you don’t think too hard about the twisty timelines (or know anything about actual physics and the improbability of time travel), “Terminator: Genisys” is a fun action flick with plenty of nostalgia for those of us old enough to have seen the first film in the series. Seeing Arnold in his various forms saying his most famous “Terminator” lines in completely different contexts brings a smile to those of us who have aged along with the T-800. Resetting the timeline also opens the door for more films with two already planned and getting 2017 and 2018 release dates. It would appear Arnold is telling us, “I’ll be back.”

“Terminator: Genisys” gets five stars.

Horror, sci-fi, a sex romp and little yellow helpers are all on tap at theatres this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following.

The Gallows—

Minions—

The Overnight—

Self/Less—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.