Movie Review: Game Night

The premise of Game Night is relatively simple: a group of die-hard gamers (who indulge mostly in board games) enter a real-life ‘game’ of their own where the stakes are life or death. And hey, it’s a comedy!

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, and they are introduced to us in an almost Up-esque montage of two people who meet over common interests, bond, and then host game nights forever. Once the cutesy montage is over, we reach a point in their lives where they are trying to have children, but Max is brutally told by the doctor that his sperm are lazy and tells him that it’s also most likely a by-product of his sibling rivalry with his brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler, whom I discovered in Early Edition which I LOVED). Brooks is constantly living the jet-set life much to the envy of Max, but he returns one day and offers to host the couple’s regular game night at his new swanky digs one day. He hires a company to engage them in a real-life mystery game, but that’s when it all horribly goes wrong. Brooks is taken by real goons and, while the group of six don’t realise it at first, they soon catch on that this is playing for the high stakes, where nothing is really transparent.

So I said group of six. In addition to Max and Annie, we have Billy Magnussen as Ryan (who is a character that’s slightly blank and seemingly superficial) who, to this game night, brings along Sarah (played by Sharon Horgan), who is pretty different from the usual kind of date he has on hand. The final two are married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Added to this is the standout performance of Jesse Plemons as Gary, the next-door neighbour of Max and Annie’s, who is their friend Debbie’s ex-husband as well as a cop.

This is a movie with comedic moments, sarcasm, hilarity, and some brilliant deadpan moments. The chemistry between Bateman and McAdams is pretty good, and both their comedic timing is perfectly in tune with each other. Plemons, as I said earlier, steals the show. His character is devoid of any reactions of personality and his blank face and creepy expressions just add to the fun in the movie. And Chandler is great as a rake!

By creating sub-plots for most of the characters, the writers have cleverly pulled off depth and backstory for them, which is nice. There’s a few cool set pieces in the movie, one involving a dog, and the other involving a fairly absurd chase through a huge mansion. The plot isn’t necessarily straightforward though – there are twists and turns, and by the climax scene, it’s almost like the characters are acknowledging that there have been an almost silly number of ‘gotchas!’ – you’ll see what I mean when you see it.

So yes, the story gets absurd at some points. But what works in this movie is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a game night-themed movie that was presumably set out to entertain audiences, and that’s just what it does.


Where to try barre in Dubai

So after my ‘where to Zumba’ and ‘where to learn dancing’ posts, it occurred to me that I’ve also tried quite a few barre classes in Dubai and figured I’d share my experiences to anyone else interested. And if you scroll all the way down, I’ve got my GuavaPass referral code if anyone would like to sign up.

First of all, what is barre? So barre combines a range of disciplines from ballet poses (we are on tiptoes for quite a bit, for example) through to yoga and pilates, along with using weights where necessary. There is the barre that is used for balance for a few reps. It’s quite a workout, one that you do barefoot, or with grip socks. I have scoliosis, but despite that, I am able to work out quite effectively with barre. I’d of course recommend you mention any and all problems to your instructor, but also definitely know your own body. If it hurts, stop.

So here are the studios (and in some cases, instructors) that I like (in alphabetical order!!!):

Cafe de La Danse
Located on Al Wasl Road in Dubai, there is a ‘booty barre’ class and a ‘power barre’ class, which is the intermediate version of the former. I’ve only been to the booty barre classes so far and most of them have been taught by the studio’s founder, Milla Tenorio. There’s a healthy mixture of the barre, weights and matwork, and what I like is during some of the mat exercises, she comes over to help us stretch our bodies, which is great to improve our elasticity and flexibility.

DEFINE body & mind
This studio is in Dubai Marina, within Silverene Tower B. I’m not entirely sure how to get there without going through the Dubai Marina Mall, but I’ve not gone there often enough to figure that bit out yet. This class [titled DEFINE body (barre)] is almost military in its preciseness and approach, and there’s a very clever use of what can be misconstrued as a small space. You pick a spot in front of the barre where the mat, weights and exercise bands await. The music is loud and pumping, and the instructor is tough but encouraging.

So I’ve mentioned this studio before when talking about dance. But I’ve also tried its booty barre class, which is pretty good. The studio, located in Cluster T of Jumeirah Lakes Towers, is smaller, but there’s movable barres so the space is flexible to the various exercises. I’ve done this one just once, but I had a good experience and would return.

Pilates Academy
Located on the 42nd floor or Jumeirah Bay X2 Tower in Cluster X, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, this studio is probably my favourite right now for barre. I’ve been taught by Victoria so far and she is amazing! The studio is spacious, and there’s such an inviting feeling as soon as you walk in. The exercises are tough, but the instructor is an absolute joy to work with. I’m not sure if it’s how green, woody, and open the entire studio is, I just feel uplifted when I walk in. A combination of the music, the instructor’s cheerfulness, and the exercise is why I think I’ll definitely be a regular there.

Yoga House
Really love this studio and its overall aesthetic; it’s located in The Greens area, in building 4 of the Emaar Business Park. It has quite a few – you guessed it – yoga classes, but there’s also a barre offering. I’ve had two different instructors every time I’ve gone there, and both have had different styles yet equally effective in working out the body. I’ve always felt like I push myself to the max and beyond when I do this class, and leave feeling refreshed.

So there you have it, it’s my round-up of barre classes and studios in Dubai I have personally tried and like.

As always, if you’d like to try GuavaPass, click here for my referral code! Enjoy barre-ing, among many other things!

Movie Review: Black Panther

nullIt’s been a while since I saw Black Panther, but I’ve been:

  • (a) too busy to pen all my thoughts down
  • (b) letting these thoughts percolate into something more cohesive than: ‘OMG THAT WAS AMAZING’.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, have a look at the trailer before moving on… I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

So here’s the basics: Black Panther sees the return of T’Challa whom we saw in Captain America: Civil War, where we witnessed the death of his father, the king of Wakanda. In this movie, he returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to assume his role as king. But an enemy of the state returns, and he must work with his friends and allies to keep both Wakanda and the world safe.

This is possibly one of my most favourite Marvel movies yet. What struck me straight off the bat was the visual oomph this movie possessed. Not only how everything looks from landscapes, architecture, and overall set design, but also clothes. I’m not exactly someone who notices outfits in movies, but the vivid colours and designs lent themselves to the story. It’s not just that, but the music is beautiful. Beyond the fantastic work by Kendrick Lamar on the songs, the background score is also fitting. It’s a great way of showcasing how music and design enhance storytelling.

The characters are equally vivid. Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa is restrained, and sometimes I wanted him to break free of those restraints but as the movie progressed I realised that actually added to his nuanced performance. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger was brilliant; he showcased a range of emotions from rage to sensitivity, to cruelty with aplomb.

The women though. Oh. My. Goodness. These are not women who need to be rescued. These are not women who could just as well be written out of the plot. These are women who are an integral part of the story and that was absolutely amazing. Lupita Nyong’o plays Nakia, who plays a spy/activist/protector-of-all. She’s also the woman T’Challa loves, but isn’t defined by it. She fights alongside and without him, she is there to support him but is there to protect Wakanda and all that she holds dear.

And what can I say about Danai Gurira’s character Okoye? I’m not going to lie, I do not like her character in The Walking Dead, so I was almost ready to dislike her here. No such thing. Her role as a warrior and the leader of the all-female troop of bodyguards is pretty cool. I loved her sass and her complete dedication to Wakanda.

But for me, Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, was the best. She is intelligent, smart, irreverent (and has amazing outfits omg), and is the backbone to her elder brother. Played by Letitia Wright, she is funny, has these great one-liners and is responsible for a lot of laughs in the audience when I watched it. She is integral to so many plot points, and her portrayal of this cool geek was on-point.

Martin Freeman as Everett Ross and Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue lend admirable support, as does Winston Duke as M’Baku, who was more or less an antagonist but then rallies around for the good of Wakanda. There are many more well-written characters with not as much screen time, but were important to the plot, from Angela Bassett as the queen mother, to Forest Whitaker as Zuri, and Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi.

I clearly found the movie impressive, but my only niggle is with the slight abruptness of a certain moment at the end of the final battle sequence, but that’s it.

Something else that’s absolutely relevant and beautiful about this movie is its diversity and inclusion; it’s something many others have written about so I’ll let you explore that on your own (as a starting point, read this piece by TIME).

Can’t wait to watch the movie again, if I’m honest!

I mean, even Michelle Obama loved it!

Book Reviews: Discworld 36-41

And we’re back! This is the final installment of my Discworld reviews. I set out on this mission in January 2016. Between life, work, and reading other books, it’s taken me two years to go through the entire Discworld series. It’s been a fantastic journey, filled with laughter, lessons learned and some bittersweet moments too. I will take a break from Discworld for a bit, but I’m sure it’s something I can return to, time and time again…

Earlier installments: Books 1-4, Books 5-10, Books 11-15, Books 16-20, Books 21-30, Books 31-35

Making Money: Discworld, #36

Moist Von Lipwig returns in this book, which many might assume (somewhat correctly) is a repeat performance of Going Postal. Well, it sort of is. After his success with changing the fortunes of the post office, Lord Vetinari ropes in Moist yet again – this time to fix the fortunes of the Bank. There’s a rather old, wicked woman, golems (obviously), and a few strange characters in the bank. It’s a typical Pratchettian Discworld novel, and while some may feel like there’s a sense of repetition, it’s actually still ridiculously enjoyable.

Unseen Academicals: Discworld #37

While this this is part of the Rincewind series, I was thankful that he wasn’t the central focus in this book. Rather, the focus is on all the wizards at the Unseen University, who might have to resort to leaving their comfortable space to engage in…physical activity *shudder* – football. And while this is ongoing, a Romeo/Juliet is playing out against the background of this sport, unbeknownst to the wizards. And then there’s Nutt…who is he? Or rather, what?! I found the book slightly long in places, and some jokes a bit flat – but it’s still an enjoyable read.

A Collegiate Casting-Out of Devilish Devices: Discworld #37.5

This is an online-only piece, and can be accessed here. I was a little confused by the appearance of the Dean, since he was absent in the last book (#37) due to his defection to another university. A short read, but entirely missable – really not that entertaining, and slightly pointless.

I Shall Wear Midnight: Discworld #38

The fourth Tiffany Aching book shows her grown-up (I think she’s 15 or 16 in this book?) and as the Witch of the Chalk takes care of many people. Roland is also back, but what’s this? Their relationship has slightly changed, because he’s engaged! Letitia is his fiance, and there’s more to her than anyone thinks – and Tiffany can’t help but like her when she meets her. I have begun to love the Nac Mac Feegles more than ever before; I initially found them annoying but I’ve found them more and more endearing as the books went by. Not my most favourite Aching, but a good one.

Snuff!: Discworld #39

Ah Vimes. A really good, satisfying Vimes adventure – and his final one. Sybil finally manages to drag Vimes off to her ancestral home, which he, of course, now commands. He hates it but Vetinari signs it off, and off he goes. While there, he feels like something is afoot, and he gets embroiled in an adventure involving goblins and shady landowners. What I loved about this book was the continuation of themes of acceptance and diversity. Vimes fighting for what is right, rather than following the status quo. I found the river climax fairly lengthy but once that was over it got interesting again.

Raising Steam: Discworld #40

The final Moist Von Lipwig adventure, this one was pretty satisfying. The railway is here, and it’s ready to power its way through the Discworld. Connecting Ankh-Morpork to Quirm, to Uberwald, and beyond… I enjoyed reading of Moist’s adventures beyond the Ankh-Morporkian borders, and it was nice to see yet another species – goblins – continue to make their mark felt in the series. Plus, the appearance of characters like Nobby Nobbs, Colon, Cheery Littlebottom and so on on the side are welcome. Loved the ‘reveal’ at the end, although I’ve suspected it for a while, this is definitely one to read and cherish. Ties up the Watch/Moist side of things nicely enough… considering it’s the last we will see of them…

The Shepherd’s Crown: Discworld #41

Finally… the last Discworld novel. It’s not his best book, but it’s a pretty near perfect end to the series, even though, as the afterword reveals, we will now never know about the new adventures he was clearly planning. The book has some goodbyes (keep tissues handy), and some new characters creep in. I’m grateful to have been able to read this book, because it brings together so many beautiful elements across the entire Disc-verse. Thank you Sir Terry Pratchett ❤

Note: there is a 39.5, called The World of Poo but I wasn’t able to obtain a copy, so haven’t penned anything on it.