The Game (12/15/12)

The GameMovie Two Hundred Eighty One

A wealthy, emotionally distant investment banker receives a strange gift from his brother for his 48th birthday – a life-changing invitation to The Game.

Haunted by flashbacks from his father’s 48th birthday, which ended in the man committing suicide by jumping off the roof, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a hugely wealthy investment banker, is nearing his own 48th birthday. Estranged from his ex-wife, Nicholas is emotionally cold to everyone around him, seeming to only care about the bottom line on his investments. One day, his carefree younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), visits Nicholas and gives him a certificate to a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS) to participate in “the game”, saying it will change his life. Doubtful, but curious, Nicholas goes to CRS and gets rejected from participating, but the game has really already begun, leaving Nicholas guessing what the game is really about.

Simply put, David Fincher is one of my favorite directors but for some reason The Game has eluded me. Now I’m not sure why I never sought out The Game, I’ve seen all of Fincher’s other work, but I’m so glad The Game has entered my life. I don’t tend to watch thrillers often because it’s like eating a rich dessert and I never want to grow tired of the good films. When a thriller is made well, it’s hard to top and The Game literally kept me guessing until the very end. The mystery and tension surrounding “the game” is so thick it practically oozes from the screen.

I have a feeling that there will be strong feelings about The Game’s ending and whether it’s satisfactory. At the time I watched the film, I was a bit deflated by it because I kept thinking “how is this going to end?!” but after having some time to think about the movie as a whole, I think the ending is pretty great, if not a bit too abrupt. This may be a case where the journey is the important thing, not the destination, but I liked the whole of The Game.

Criterion’s treatment of The Game is nothing short of stunning. Fincher had his hands in the production of this release and it shows. The film is dark and crisp and the soundtrack is amazing. Supplemental features are great too, with some excellent behind-the-scenes footage. This is definitely the version of The Game to see, especially when compared to the much lesser Netflix Instant source.

Fincher is known for his dark, moody, psychological movies ever since bringing us Seven and The Game, his follow-up to Seven, shows us what a talented director he is. The Game is the type of film that is so exhilarating to watch that you simply can’t take your eyes off the screen, trying to figure out what the game really is. I’m sure that finding out all the secrets the film holds is impossible on a first watch. While The Game may not be Fincher’s strongest film, it’s one of the better psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen.

I give it 5 Consumer Recreation Services out of 5.

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Tree of Life (11/12/12)

Tree of LifeMovie Two Hundred Sixty

The Tree of Life chronicles the life of a young boy growing up in Texas interspersed with the creation of the universe and the meaning of life.

A family is torn apart after receiving a letter that their son has died. In the present day, Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn) calls his father to apologize and reflects on his childhood. The universe is created, life is created and evolves, and an asteroid crashes into Earth. In the 1950s in Waco, Texas, we see the O’Brien family; the mother (Jessica Chastain), the father (Brad Pitt), and three boys, including a young Jack (Hunter McCracken). We see scenes from Jack’s life, including the drowning of his friend and the subsequent funeral and the joy of having their overbearing father leave for business.

Disclaimer – if you haven’t seen The Tree of Life, it is a very polarizing movie. The plot is minimal, there is a lot of esoteric and existential narration and visuals that may seem like they have nothing to do with the movie.

I’ve seen Tree of Life four times and each time I’ve come away with a slightly different experience but I’ve always liked the film. It is an artsy film, there is not a straight line from A to B like most movies and this can be interpreted as a lack of plot or rambling, but this is largely open to how you view movies. If you see movies strictly as entertainment, you may be bored to tears by Tree of Life but if you can appreciate movies as an art form you may “get” Tree of Life a little more. However, that’s not to say there is much to “get”. Tree of Life is writer/director Terrence Malick’s very personal story and you will likely either connect with it or you won’t.

There is not much I wish to say about Tree of Life because it’s a film that could easily be dissected and have short books written about. It is a film you will love or hate; Very few people I have talked to that have seen it fall in the middle. When discussing the film with people that don’t like it, I have a hard time defending it because it’s like defending vanilla ice cream to someone that prefers chocolate. Still, Tree of Life is a movie I would recommend everyone watch at least once to form your own opinions on. If you didn’t like it, I would be curious what your impressions would be after repeat viewings.

I give it 5 dinosaurs out of 5.

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