“Ready or Not” is a hoot. Funny, macabre, violent but in a silly way, well acted and written, a Grand Guignol of a modern-day take on Gothic horror stories. I went to see it without knowing anything about it, and I’d like to not give any of it away, except to say it involves a wealthy family that engages in a very serious game whenever someone new marries into it. Enough said about the plot. A stunner named Samara Weaving (another Aussie doing a perfect American accent) is the new bride and she is not only beautiful but her comic timing is impeccable, as are her acting chops. The groom’s eccentric parents are wonderfully overplayed by Henry Czerny and Andie McDowell, which is a revelation as neither of them have been known to camp it up and to do so with glee. Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy are the writers, Matt Betinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett the directors and both pairs deserve a lot of credit for what looks like they were able to take a shoestring budget, shoot it on one set and make it look sumptuous. The largest expenditure might have been the fake blood and various fake limbs, but if you’re like me and always avoid films that glorify violence, not to worry—it’s all done in such a wonderfully wacky way all you can do is gasp and giggle at the same time.
“Brittany Runs a Marathon” is also funny, but with serious underpinnings. On the surface, it’s one of those films where the heroine undergoes a big change—in this case, from overweight couch potato to healthy marathon runner—but that’s only the first and least-nuanced layer. Based on a true story and blessed with a delightful lead performance totally lacking in vanity by Jillian Bell, it tackles so very many concerns of young women today: her value being based on thinness, fulfilling the “fat girl” role at parties and with friends, being judged only by what she looks like rather than who she is, filled with self-loathing because she’s different, saying yes to sex solely for attention and a temporary sense of validation. I could go on and on. Young men have their own set of problems to deal with, for sure, but this is about Brittany and her life. The film’s good intentions to delve deeply pay off, for the most part. There could have been some judicious cutting in the second half and often the dialogue goes on too long and feels repetitive, but with the fine script, lead performance and excellent supporting cast, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” is both timely and worthwhile.
In my last review, I said I would be binge-watching the new season of Netflix’s “Mindhunter.” It turns out I couldn’t binge on it—the subject matter was too upsetting—but I did watch a couple of episodes each day and here’s what I think: This based-on-a-book series about the birth of FBI profiling in the late 1970s, in which serial killers are interviewed to ascertain personality patterns, had a terrific first season. The second one has the same exceptional cast and some fine scripts, but what it covers—the disappearance and murder of black children in Atlanta—as horrific a theme as it is, doesn’t work as well as a dramatic arc. The hunt for the killer or killers, the theories and lack of success, take up so many episodes that it is simply disheartening. Also, this season we delve more into the private lives of two of the three main characters (played so well by Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and Anna Torv) and that diversion from the main story, while interesting, also feels repetitious. Even so, while it pales compared to season one, it’s still a well-done show and worth watching. In fact, if season three happens, I’ll be on board for that one, too.