Friday, January 31, 2014

Killing Season (2013)

Number Rolled: 39
Movie Name/Year: Killing Season (2013)
Genre: Thriller
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Writer: Evan Daugherty
Actors: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elizabeth Olin

Ben is an American vet with some severe psychological issues stemming from his deployment in the Bosnian War. In an attempt to clear his mind, he spends his days living in a little shack out in the wilderness, about as far away from people as he can get. When a tourist arrives in his life, he’s forced to a place where he can no longer forget the past as he’s thrust into a new battle.

I have no doubt that this movie was made simply as a ploy to pit two big names against each other. They are two titans of the industry and making a movie like this starring both of them is like a magnet for die-hard fans of either of them. The only problem with it is that it’s easy for the director and writer to feel as though they have to do less work because the actors are certainly going to pick up the slack. I’m happy to report that’s not the case here.

“Killing Season,” was amazing. It was brilliantly written and, despite a few less than savory direction and effects moments, it was easy to watch and get engulfed in. It avoided the issues that some movies run into when it portrays only a couple of actors and the movie wound up more than enjoyable because of that.

I particularly liked the way it ended, though I will admit that some of the rest of the movie was predictable.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3.9/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 10%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 29%

Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

P.S. Nicolas Cage was originally supposed to play the part of Ben. Robert De Niro was a good replacement.

Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sassy Pants (2012)

Number Rolled: 91
Movie Name/Year: Sassy Pants (2012)
Genre: Independent
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: NR
Director: Coley Sohn
Writer: Coley Sohn
Actors: Haley Joel Osment, Anna Gunn, Ashley Rickards, Diedrich Bader, Jenny O’Hara, Martin Spanjers, Shanna Collins, Aaron Perilo, Rene Rosado, Drew Droege, Mathew Botuchis, Jenna Kanell, Shanica Knowles, Keith Page, Jennifer Robertson

Bethany is the product of bitterly divorced parents. Under the care of her ridiculously overbearing mother, she has learned plenty of history but barely anything about the present-day world or socialization in general. Armed with no training outside of her home-schooling, Bethany leaps into the real world and just hopes she can learn to tread water.

Although the acting was relatively spectacular, I found “Sassy Pants” to be mediocre. There was a lot of cringing as I watched Ashley Rickards’ character, Bethany, get herself into more and more trouble. There were also a few laughs, usually dealing with Haley Joel Osment’s character, Chip. Other than that, I found myself unimpressed.

The story is something I should have gotten into. I usually love that in depth look into the teenage psyche, especially when the environmental norms are messed around with. Something just felt off about this one. Like the director took a great idea that should have been off the beaten path and then tried to force it onto a road commonly traveled. Maybe it didn’t go far enough, maybe it just didn’t hit all the areas I think it should have; to be honest the larger problem with this film escapes my descriptive ability.

“Sassy Pants” is a cute movie, but it lacks that certain something that could have made it really good.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3.2/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 50%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 49%

Trust-the-Dice Score2.5/5

The Random Rating: PG-13 – for sex references and suggestive humor

P.S. Based on a short film titled: “Boutonniere” (by the same director/writer)

Movie Trailer: 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)

Number Rolled: 51
Movie Name/Year: Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)
Genre: Action & Adventure
Length: 103 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Stuart Beattie
Writer: John Marsden, Stuart Beattie
Actors: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings, Andrew Ryan, Colin Friels

Ellie and her best friend Corrie decide to take a trip to the bush for a weekend camping trip. While there, they experience some light hearted bonding with friends and a great chance to relax. When they get home, they find something is off. All their families are gone and soldiers are parading through the streets.

This movie was based on the first book of the “Tomorrow Series,” written by John Marsden. Since the book was published in Australia in 1993 (1995 in the US), I think it’s safe to say that the series was likely inspired by the 1984 version of “Red Dawn.” It’s easy to pick out the various parallels between the two, but it’s also easy to pick out the differences. Despite the R rating, it’s obvious that this version of the story is geared toward teens where “Red Dawn,” though it showcased teens, was geared more toward adults.

In “Tomorrow, When the War Began,” the script not only goes about putting the audience in the middle of World War III, but it gives a somewhat accurate portrayal of how teenagers would react on a psychological level; considering not only the trauma aspect, but the original caste, reputation and status of them and their families.

I do like “Red Dawn” better, but not by a lot. This movie felt honest, it had better graphics than I expected and I really enjoyed the script. Even though the characters were somewhat cookie cutter in their stereotypes, they also had depth and originality beneath it all.

This film was the highest grossing film in Australia the year it came out, but didn’t quite find any success overseas. To be honest, I would look to the reboot of “Red Dawn” for the answer to why. Although “Tomorrow, When the War Began” came out in Australia in 2010, it wasn’t set to come out in the U.S. until 2012 – the same year the reboot came out for “Red Dawn.” It was a case of bad timing by the production company and the director. A couple years earlier or later and this movie could have blown up. Coming out in the same year makes this movie feel like a poor attempt at a copy, which is a shame.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 4.3/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 58%

Trust-the-Dice Score – 4.5/5

P.S. There are seven books in the “Tomorrow Series.” Those are: “Tomorrow, When the War Began,” “The Dead of the Night,” “The Third Day, the Frost,” “Darkness, Be My Friend,” “Burning for Revenge,” “The Night is for Hunting,” and “The Other Side of Dawn.” Unfortunately, due to the production company falling apart, according to Director Stuart Beattie, we will never see movie adaptations for the rest of the series.

Movie Trailer: