February 25, 2018, - 12:33 am

Weekend Box Office: Annihilation, Game Night

By Debbie Schlussel

Two new movies this weekend–both of them just okay, but neither of them great.

* Annihilation – Rated R: I wasn’t all that impressed with this movie. I expected a lot more than I got, given that this is billed as being from the same people as “Ex Machina,” which I liked (read my review). Both are science fiction films, but Ex Machina is far superior. I feel that this film leaves too much unexplained, too much unresolved, and is far too ambiguous. I like movies that are ambiguous to an extent, but you can’t just leave everything unexplained. That makes for an unfinished movie. And this felt unfinished, like half a movie. I was thinking at the end, “Is that all there is?”

Also, I hated the silly feminist vibe–pretending that women would be stronger, tougher, smarter than men in determining the cause of harm and fighting bad forces from outer space. They aren’t. But I guess the movie realizes that–sort of–by the end. And another thing I hated: pretentious Natalie Portman in the lead role. As radio host Mike Church, on whose show I appear every Friday morning, noted, her first, last, and only movie of note was “Leon: The Professional,” a very good (but violent) movie in which she starred when she was 12 years old (it was her silver screen debut). That was 24 years ago, and it’s been downhill with her ever since.

There is a constant herky-jerkiness that is very annoying in this, with constant flash backs and flash forwards. It’s kind of confusing. Another thing: there are several gratuitous sex scenes of Portman riding a Black dude who is not her husband. They feel like they were inserted into the movie “just ‘cuz.” They have absolutely nothing to do with the plot.

That includes her turn in this. She is as pretentious as ever. In real life, Portman wants everyone to think she’s so smart (and that her admission into Harvard was anything but a sop to the typical Ivy League movie star with standard grade inflation from on-set Hollywood tutors). And in this movie, she’s given a role commensurate with that. Portman plays a biologist with a Ph.D. who is an expert in the minutiae of cellular biology. She is also a military veteran who was once stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan along with her dead–or so she thought–husband.

The story: Portman thinks her husband has been dead for some time, having been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan (I forget which and they tend to blur together, since it is pointless that we are in either). Then, suddenly, as she is grieving, her husband shows up. But is he really him? And why is he back? Where was he? It turns out that he’s the only survivor of “The Shimmer,” where team after team of explorers, volunteers, and military men have gone to figure out what is happening and stop it, and all have died or disappeared. The Shimmer is a swath of land, presumably in America, that is surrounded by a shimmery wall (it looks like aurora-borealis-style sparkle). The amount of land it contains is ever-growing, and the fear is that it will take over the whole world and kill everyone. Nobody knows what happens inside the Shimmer since no one has returned who can remember or tell about it. Portman’s “husband” can’t remember much.

Soon, Portman has volunteered to go into the Shimmer with a group of women–most of them widows of men who never returned from the place. Their leader is the government’s lead scientist on the area, Jennifer Jason Leigh. The others are “tough girls,” including Michelle Rodriguez (of “Fast & Furious” movie fame).

Once they get into the Shimmer, there are interesting things they discover, including bushes that take the shape of humans and humans who sprout plants. But other than that, there’s very little that’s interesting here, and almost nothing of note happens. It’s kind of slow and boring. And it’s not explained or discovered why the Shimmer is there–although it is presumed that the walls of the Shimmer were sent down from outer space by aliens.

And that’s the problem with this movie. It’s visually interesting. A little. They could have done much more with the interspecies human/plant beings (you don’t see much or enough of it in the movie). But while it’s high on style, it’s very short on story or substance. And, again, they don’t explain much. It’s okay to leave some things to the imagination or post-movie discussion, but not most of it. And this movie leaves most of it unexplained–so much so, that it’s kind of unsatisfying and when it concludes, you feel like you’ve seen an incomplete movie.

I love science fiction, but this didn’t do it for me. Nothing really offensive here, just a whole lot missing. So, I’m being very generous when I give this . . .


Watch the trailer . . .

* Game Night – Rated R: This was mildly entertaining and somewhat funny. I laughed quite a bit . . . when I wasn’t cringing at some of the gross, dirty jokes that landed with a loud thud. Because of those and other factors, ten or 15 years ago I’d have given this a Marx-endowed rating. But the movies are so bad lately, that this is a relatively okay and entertaining comedy, with the operant word being, “relatively.” I might even pay to see it (if I were paying matinee prices or waited until it hit the bargain theaters). I liked the idea of it, but it could have been done better. Or it could have been done far worse. I give it some credit for being better than I expected, even though it’s still not a “great” movie or even very good.

The story: a group of friends get together every week for “Game Night,” on which they play various games, including charades, trivia, and so on. The week in question, the game night is at the home of married couple Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. Bateman and McAdams don’t like their former game night participant–their next door neighbor–anymore because he scares them. A police officer (Jesse Plemons, an even more warped-looking version of Matt Damon), he is obsessed with his ex-wife, to the point that he is a downer and negative presence at game night. So, they lie to him about their hosting of the event.

This week, game night is indeed at their home. Along with their usual friends–a Black couple with marital problems and a womanizing male who brings a new bimbo each week–there is Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler). The brother has everything Jason Bateman wants: a vintage red corvette he covets, lots of money, a huge mansion, etc. At this week’s game night, Chandler is kidnapped. The participants must figure out where the brother is. And soon, they realize that not everything is what it seems. They also realize that the obsessive police officer is everywhere and annoying the heck out of them.

Mobsters, car chases, dead people, hoaxes, stalkers, action–this movie has it all, and isn’t what you’d expect from a movie called, “Game Night.” But the best part of the movie is the closing credits, not for the usual reasons, though. You must stay for the ending credits as they are probably the funniest part of the movie and wrap everything up.

One significant plus: the movie is only an hour and 40 minutes, which is in the range of my ideal movie length. The film moves fast, and you’re never bored.

Like I said, not a great movie. In fact, parts of it are just really dumb. But it’s okay if you’ve seen anything else good and need something escapist and mildly amusing. Be forewarned: If you’re over 60, you will probably hate it.


Watch the trailer . . .

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11 Responses

One plus for Annihilation –the Shimmer apparently originated from outer space, and not from global warming.

Little Al on February 25, 2018 at 9:46 am

Annihilation looks like something someone would come up with if they were trying to create a Predator/Arrival chimera. I thought Arrival was overrated and empty masquerading as meaningful so won’t be rushing out to catch it.

Mochizuki Koga on February 25, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Debbie is again right about another so-called Hollywood “star,” Natalie Portman. I liked the professional because of her, Jean Reno and Gary Oldman. However, there is a somewhat disturbing implication that Portman’s 12 year old character is having sex with Reno’s professional assassin. I understand that the version released in Europe was more open about this. And the chickification of masculinity is a turn off. The attack on males and whites, particularly white males, is growing also.

CC: I have to take issue with you. The version I saw of “Leon: The Professional” had no implication whatsoever that the 12-year-old girl is sleeping with Leon the hitman. Not even close. I wouldn’t have liked it if it did because that’s sick. The movie is about the man assuming the role of father figure with her, and that’s it. DS

Concerned Citizen on February 26, 2018 at 8:58 am

Something tells me that the current drive to spread transgenderism and turn more and more of our children and teens transgender – including having such children taken away permanently from their birth parents so those kids could be so transgenderized (as in states like Ohio and countries like Canada and Britain – in the last two cases, already lost to Islam) – is part and parcel of this anti-white male witch hunt that ‘Concerned Citizen’ referred to. I’d say, in fact, it is directly related to what far-left, neo-Riefenstahlesque, fat-slob propaganda film director Michael Moore openly called for “cleansing America of its white male privilege.”

Concerned Patriot on February 26, 2018 at 10:47 am

Attended the preview for critics in San Diego last Wednesday. Paramount had an artist paint an interpretation off the trailer. She got the “thing” in the lighthouse spot on. Her painting of the “shimmer” was better than the movie’s. 3-D under LED black lights. I have the same exact opinion of the movie as Debbie’s. The artist was excellent. But then, I live with her.

jake49 on February 26, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Maybe Michael Moore is just p!ssed off because nobody wants to make babies with his nasty slobby azz? Lol. Perhaps he is in fact jealous of president Trump? Meow! I probably won’t view “Annihilation” unless asked/coerced to in a group setting. I may watch “Game Night” @ some point for amusement. Thanks for your review, Debbie! Thank you, previous commenters for inspiring me to exercise my right of free speech:) And a good day to all of you. PEACE

Lyrical Pranksta on February 26, 2018 at 4:06 pm

There is another big downside associated with the anti-American anti-White Black Panther movie.

It has enjoyed phenomenal box office success, and without doubt will embolden the leftists in Hollywood to more more and more leftist movies. I fear they have learned something from Black Panther.

The leftism and anti-American in this movie is ambiguous, and, unfortunately has even fooled many who call themselves conservatives. Hollywood is likely to try to sneak in their leftism in more ambiguous forms now, rather than with a sledge hammer, both for box office effect and to get their disgusting messages across.

Little Al on February 26, 2018 at 6:07 pm

I’d say ‘Little Al’ hit the nail on the head with said sledgehammer in his analysis of the afterburners from Black Panther. My points about the transgenderization of America and how it relates to the anti-male witch hunt and the war against masculinity (among other things – plus Mr. Moore’s openly declared war on “white male privilege”) were to show that, like one of his other observations in the pertinent article about said film, nothing does occur in a vacuum whatsoever.

Concerned Patriot on February 27, 2018 at 12:21 pm

I liked Annihilation. I didn’t buy the explanation of the phenomena in the movie by the characters. But the whole thing was kind of fantastical anyway so it fit in as a whole. They could have dropped the stupid sex scene flashbacks and probably gotten a PG-13 rating and bigger box office. Not a brilliant movie but better than most of the garbage that’s out there.

Daniel Middleman on March 1, 2018 at 7:46 am

I wasn’t impressed by Annihilation either. Seems like there’s a huge number of science fiction films that appeared just recently, but mostly they have a stimulus, but no development of the plot. Mostly, all stories are about space, that’s one point I noticed, or about AI. However, no more is there to learn. The idea may be great, the actors may be brilliant, but the plot fails.
Movie making qualities can be possessed by anyone at any stage and at any position. You do not get awarded the ‘movie making skills’ just because you are the CEO of the organization or President of a certain company. We can all be leaders in our spheres of life and at any given position, provided, the situation demands (or the opportunity arises) for us to step up, take charge of the situation and contribute effectively to address that situation or satisfy the demands. But movie making in 2018 is more about the quality (48% of people think that quality films are the future of cinematography – survey by hireessaywriter research club).

Samantha Wilson on March 26, 2018 at 1:42 am

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Belle D on April 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm

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