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.


Event roundup: One Night Standup

The doors shut in our face. “You can’t enter right now,” the waitress said.

A posh voice said: “Let them in.” And the gateway into the new local comedy night: One Night Standup, was opened to us.

The posh voice belonged to Hisham Wyne, whose accent, most of us thought, escalated to a grand scale of I’m-Really-From-Blighty from a lower scale of Obviously-a-Fake-Brit, through the night (you know I’m not being mean, right Hisham?). He’s also someone I’ve known for nearly 8 years now, and the organiser of the monthly free event meant to foster the local comedy scene.

When I got the event invite, I wasn’t sure if I would attend. But I needed a good laugh, quite desperately, and I felt I should go to support the community, and a friend. Off I went, wondering whether I would enjoy it. The knowledge of never having been to a live standup show before was also daunting…what if it wasn’t my thing?

We crowded into the inner room of 1Up at the Boutique 7 Hotel and Suites, TECOM (the way to get to the bar is quite interestingly a staircase that looks like the Dubai Metro entrance), and waited. True to Dubai fashion (or desi fashion imported to the country, some might argue), the event started a half-hour after it was scheduled to. But I was glad I got there early; some who landed up late had to be content with perching themselves outside the room and watching the acts on a TV screen.

The room quickly filled up, bursting to the seams – I had to move my high bar chair a few times to prevent brushing against the fellow standing in front of me. The air was rife with the smell of chips, ciggies and booze. We waited.

And then it began. Hisham opened the night, poking fun at himself and more. Then after pulling chits out of a fishbowl, the comedians moved on the stage to make us laugh. After a few acts, there was a 15-minute break with an excellent live acoustic performance (what was the singer’s name? He was so good. Plus later on the band said they were from north of England, which is my home ground…or…err…study ground), and then back to comedy it was.

It’s hard to do that you know – comedy. Making your friends laugh is one thing, but standing in front of a crowd – a hard-to-please crowd – is another. There were, quite honestly, varying degrees of success. Some comedians had me laughing so much, I was worried I’d topple off my high seat in pure mirth (Hisham, put up some pics from the night and tag the comedians; I want to know which performers were my favourites!).

A mutual consensus was reached between me and my friends: the Emirati comedians were insanely and excruciatingly good. Perhaps the cultural relevance helped, but they knew how to play the audience, knew how to get our stomachs knotted up in laughter. Well done. We even loved the opening act: a Pakistani (was his name Salman Qureshi?) whose Superhero-in-Dubai jokes were pretty hilarious. I know I’ve missed a lot of you, but I was too busy balancing myself on my chair trying not to fall off in doubled up laughter to take notes or photos. Overall, an excellent night out and time well spent.

Now to scrub away the reek of cigarette smoke from my hair.

Muchos gracias to my fellow tweeps – @VonSkunk, @Lenaro, @DaddyBird, @Azabith and @DerrickPereira – for the company.

For more information, check out One Night Standup on Facebook.