'Black Panther' repeats at #1, Beats Newcomers 'Game Night' & 'Annihilation'

Published: Feb. 25, 2018 at 5:39 PM EST
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Coming in behind Marvel's juggernaut 'Black Panther' at the box office this weekend was the Jason Bateman/ Rachel McAdams-led 'Game Night.' The writers of 2011's 'Horrible Bosses' penned this dark comedy about a competitive couple and their close friends trying to solve a murder mystery.

Bateman and McAdams star as a husband and wife duo obsessed with winning their weekly game nights that are of the typical board game and charade variety. But when Bateman's brother, played by Kyle Chandler, convinces our characters to attend a murder mystery game night, all bets are off as the gang finds themselves embroiled in an actual kidnapping plot.

'Game Night' is much better than I anticipated. Typically with these big budget studio comedies, I find there is far too much improvisation among a talented cast of comedians. And while that can at times be hilarious, I sometimes feel as if the plot and story is a tad underwritten. 'Game Night' is a carefully crafted comedy with a great cast that has more than just a few funny moments, it's a genuinely good setup with clever twists and turns.

Bateman has perfected his sarcastic everyman, McAdams is charming and vibrant, and Jesse Plemmons deserves a shoutout for his hilarious turn as a creepy neighbor who desperately wants in on game night. It's quick paced, filled with memorable characters, and strikes a difficult balance of adult humor without coming off overly crude and raunchy while also featuring moments of violence without coming off cynical or mean-spirited. For a comedic date night, or those looking for a fun mystery, 'Game Night' comes recommended. I give it a B+.

Fans of cerebral, thoughtful sci-fi may want to check out 'Annihilation' instead. It stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Issac and comes from the mind of Alex Galand, writer/ director of the excellent 'Ex Machina.' A team is sent in to explore an unexplained environmental phenomenon where the laws of nature do not apply.

'Annihilation' is a gorgeous mystery that will not appeal to everyone. While it's been marketed as a sci-fi horror, it's a much more of a dreamlike meditation on existence itself, on biology and life and what makes us who we are. But it doesn't explain everything, and in fact purposefully goes out of its way to leave the audience questioning what they just saw.

The effects are great, and Garland creates some intense scenes filled with grotesque mutations and body horror. Along the lines of recent head-scratchers like 'Arrival' and 'Interstellar,' 'Annihilation' is bold, beautiful, and unlike traditional studio sci-fi. While it doesn't quite hit the heights of Garland's directorial debut, it's an engaging mind-bender that is sure to polarize audiences. But in an industry filled with predictable and similar movies hitting theaters week after week, 'Annihilation,' for me, was a welcomed surprise. I give it a B+.

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