‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is not rocket science. If you’ve seen the trailer then you already know where the movie is going. It’s a buddies bonding flick in the vein of a dozen other equally positive and easy to predict movies.
Zak has Down Syndrome. He lives on a 200-mile strip of Islands known as North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Abandoned by his family, Zak is a ward of the state. He has a dream of becoming a pro wrestler and is tired of being stuck in a home for senior citizens. With the help of Bruce Dern’s tired old man roommate Carl, Zak escapes. He heads for the pro wrestler training camp run by the legendary Salt Water Redneck.
Shia LaBeouf is Tyler. He’s a bit of an outlaw. Tyler steals some crabbing traps. That gets him on the wrong side of some bad dudes. Tyler is forced to flee for his life. He’s headed for Florida and better days.
As they traverse the string of islands, fate brings the two together and they quickly bond. Zak has to avoid being captured and returned to his prison of sorts by Dakota Johnson’s social worker. Tyler has to stay out of the way of John Hawkes’ Duncan or else.
Eventually, fate predictably intervenes and Johnson’s Eleanor has no choice but to accompany them on their trip to find Salt Water. That’s no surprise. Neither are the love story hints that have all the subtlety of a swing and a miss by a pro wrestler that somehow manages to knock down the opponent.
In fact, there are very few surprises in “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and you won’t care one little bit.
Whether a movie like this works or not depends on how the writer or writers, director or directors and producer or producers take the story from opening A to closing Z. Part two of that equation is the chemistry of the acting participants.
In this case A to Z is on pitch and that very necessary chemistry is exceptional.
La Beouf and Zack Gottsagen — who really does have Down Syndrome — give each other high fives and are stuck in a half-a-dozen buddy bonding scenes set to swamp sounding bluegrass music. They will have you smiling.
Both men are very good actors and they obviously have chemistry off screen as well as on screen. So do their co-stars. It’s the stuff of which award nominations are made.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” is written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. Their experience is short subjects. Two of them are about the now living legend Alex Honnold who scaled El Capitan sans ropes in the Oscar winning documentary “Free Solo.”
This is their first foray into real storytelling. Perhaps Honnold — who is likely a bit autistic — inspired them. Whatever, or whoever did, if you’re going to have a first effort, make it one as good as this.
The story the two writers and directors tell is deliberately simple. The situations the characters find themselves in are of the oh-come-on-now variety. However, the people Nilson and Schwartz create are as real as you and me. You’ve known and loved individuals in your own life that are exactly like them.
So have I.
In a peanut shell, that is exactly why “The Peanut Butter Falcon” works. It is also exactly why you’ll, ironically and as predictable as this movie, leave the theater with a huge smile on your face.
▪ Rated PG-13 for mature themes and language. It’s playing exclusively at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12.
▪ Rating: 5 out of 5
‘Ready or Not’
“Ready or Not” is about a game making family playing a game. This is game makers as in Parker Brothers, or Milton-Bradley or one of those companies. A century or so ago the family patriarch cut a deal with a Mr. Le Bail. He gave them a device to name a game to play when a new member joins the family. Use the device — Le Bail said — and fabulous wealth follows.
The thing is also designed to give the demonic, but now very dead, Le Bail a sacrifice.
The new member and the family have to play whatever game the card calls out. Be the tag-you’re-it new person in the game, and then make a mistake before the sun comes up and death is all but certain.
By the way, in this case the game is not tag. It is hide and seek, thus the title.
Ready or not here we come — armed to the teeth with guns, knives, axes, crossbows and more — happens to Samara Weaving’s Grace. Dressed in a gorgeous wedding gown, she marries spineless but rich Alex who is troubled about the whole thing but still fails to tell her exactly what marrying him means. Translation: the death do us part of the nuptials might be before the honeymoon.
The game begins at midnight with Grace told to go hide, and hide well. She doesn’t — of course — and spends the rest of the movie dodging death.
Weaving (“The Babysitter,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) serves as the film’s fulcrum. She gives a believable — if a plot and this type of character can fit that definition — and very good performance that runs the movie gamut of so scared that movement is impossible to determined to win the game and keep her life at all costs.
All the while she and others in the cast are tossing off witty one liners that give the film its humor.
The family members are a bumbling lot and are played by Andie MacDowell, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny and others. They stumble through a very, very funny script that contains as much slapstick as it does dramatic moments. The most fun — however — is had by Nicky Guadagni who plays creepy Aunt Helene. She’s an axe-toting psychopath who has nothing but disdain for the family but delights in the game.
Movies like “Ready or Not” either work very, very well or they totally bomb. Play it straight and the latter is the likely, and eventual outcome. Since the suspension of disbelief is critical to the movie’s premise, a liberal sprinkling of humor to go along with the horror is a must.
“Ready or Not” is written by two guys the average moviegoer has never heard of, and is directed by two men that are equally unknown. That, too, is a plus. With nothing to lose, they hoist up their pants, slap their hands together and go to work.
As a result, this is the most fun you’ve had with a horror movie in a long time. You — I suspect — will react as I did and leave the theater agreeing with me that “Ready or Not” has game.
▪ Rated R for mature themes, language and violence. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 5 out of 5
‘Angel Has Fallen’
Angel refers to Gerard Butler’s secret service agent Mike Banning. He saved the president of the United States in 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen” and almost single-handedly saved the world’s leaders from terrorists in 2016 when London almost joined Olympus and fell.
It’s now 2019 and Morgan Freeman’s Allan Trumbull has moved from Speaker of the House to vice president and now president. Banning is his main protector and is in line to take over secret service operations. A bunch of drones — in Star Wars-like fashion — attack the president while he’s fishing. Secret service agents by the score are killed. Banning saves Freeman’s president but gets tagged as the villain behind the attack.
With the president in a coma and unable to defend him, Banning is forced to escape and run. FBI muckity mucks need to catch him and the bad guys need Banning dead. With nowhere safe to go, Banning tracks down his survivalist dad who helps defend him from the bad guys that did the attack.
The other plot thread has a power-crazed vice president — done by Tim Blake Nelson — wanting to go to war with Russia.
There are only three things to like about “Angel has Fallen.” Number one is Nick Nolte who plays Banning’s father. Though he growls and mumbles his lines, and though none of us have understood a word he’s said in a decade, Nolte is terrific and adds some nice comedy to an otherwise predictable, and very dull, movie.
Second is the acting of Jada Pinkett Smith. Like Nolte, she has a good time with her role as the FBI agent pushing hard to find Banning. Last is Freeman. As the perfect president of the United States — and with the kind of calm about him we wish all our presidents possessed — Freeman continues to be one of the only reasons to see this series of movies.
As for the movie? There are no surprises. None. Zero. Zip. A different director and writers present a similar premise via the same, worn formula. Big buck bombing sequences, guns blazing confrontations, car chases and hand-to-hand combat fights dot this landscape as they did the prequels.
“Angel has Fallen” is terrible and proves my long-time movie theory that the third time is not the charm.
▪ Rated R for mature themes and some violence. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12, at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
▪ Rating: 2 out of 5