Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Guest (2014)

Number Rolled: 95
Movie Name/Year: The Guest (2014)
Tagline: Be careful who you let in.
Genre: Thriller
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment
Executive Producer: Simon Barrett
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Actors: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Tabatha Shaun, Chase Williamson, Joel David Moore, Steve Brown, Brenden Wedner, Alex Knight, Ethan Embry

After the death of her son, Caleb, Laura Peterson is stuck in a cycle of grieving. When one of her son’s military friends randomly shows up on her doorstep, she takes the chance to learn what Caleb’s life was like overseas.

Selina’s Point of View:
I found The Guest to be a decent film. I’m not sure I understand the depth of the hype, but it wasn’t bad.

I didn’t enjoy certain aspects of the plot but the thrill was definitely there. Although the beginning was a touch slow, once the film picked up speed, it got the heart racing without relying too much on jump scares or action.

It was Alfred Hitchcock (The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo) that explained the difference between a scene with an explosion and a scene where the viewer knows the bomb is there, but the characters don’t. The quote is extremely effective in explaining why a movie can be suspenseful and thrilling before the real action starts.

“There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and ‘surprise,’ and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I'll explain what I mean.

We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: ‘You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!’ 
In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.”

Hitchcock knew a thing or two about suspense. More-so than most modern directors.

Keeping that lesson in mind, Adam Wingard (V/H/S, You’re Next, The ABCs of Death) kept the movie focused less on surprise and more on suspense. As a result, we have a more true-to-heart thriller.

The actors were great in their parts, though I couldn’t help but notice that Dan Stevens (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Downtown Abbey, Summer in February) has nearly the same smile as Milo Ventimiglia (The Whispers, Heroes, Pathology). Ventimiglia is one of my favorites, so that might have made me enjoy Stevens’ acting even more. Never-the-less, I don’t think I’m bias when I say he was the right choice for the part.

My one acting issue was Lance Reddick (Bosch, Fringe, John Wick). I’ve just always found him to be an awkward actor. Like he doesn’t quite understand the subtleties of emotion. I can name about twelve other actors that would have been a better fit for that part.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was surprised with how much I enjoyed this movie. A few places were a little strange with the plot; though it can likely be chalked up to maintaining the mystery. There’s definitely a sense of ‘what the hell is going on’ in a few places.

Dan Stevens (The Cobbler, The Fifth Estate, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) wasn’t really on my ‘radar’ before this film. I was amused to learn, however, that I wasn’t going crazy when his voice sounded familiar.

He had provided the voice for TIM on the underrated and cancelled-too-soon CW show The Tomorrow People (2013). It will be interesting to see what he does with the role of the Beast in the upcoming live action Beauty and the Beast (2017) adaptation.

I enjoyed the subtleties of his performance. He pulls off the ‘nice guy’ checking in on his friend’s family, alternating with moments of ‘something isn’t right with this guy’ seamlessly.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between his character, David, and Luke, played by Brendan Meyer (Girl vs. Monster, Tooth Fairy, Starving in Suburbia). Amidst the tension of events, they provided some moments that were rather entertaining.

An interesting point of note for a cameo-like role in the film – if you find yourself thinking ‘hey that scruffy guy looks like the guy from Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)’; you’d be right! Ethan Embry (Echoes of War, The Reunion, Eagle Eye) is, indeed, in this movie.

I don’t think this film would make my top movies of all-time list, but I would definitely watch it again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 90%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 68%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4.6/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

P.S. It is a suggested, and widely believed, possibility that The Guest is a movie from the same universe as the V/H/S films (2012-2014) and You’re Next (2011) – due to the existence of the organization “KPG” in each film.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (2013)

Number Rolled: 92
Movie Name/Year: Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (2013)
Genre: Family
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Summertime Entertainment, Prana Animation Studios, Prana Studios
Executive Producer: Greg Centineo, Nick Centineo, Christie Hsiao, Neil L. Kaufman, John A. King, Robert Laimo, Joe Occhiogrosso, Jim Roberts, Rene Torres
Director: Will Finn, Daniel St. Pierre
Writer: Roger S. Baum, L. Frank Baum, Randi Barnes, Adam Balsam, Daniel St. Pierre
Actors: Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Lea Michele, Tacey Adams, Michael Krawic, Martin Short, Bernadette Peters, Oliver Platt, Hugh Dancy, Bryan Adams

It’s been a year since Dorothy’s been in Oz (or a day, depending who you ask) and things have gone drastically downhill. An evil Jester has stolen the power of the broom and controls the magical lands as only a tyrant would.

Selina’s Point of View:
There are very few films that I watch with a fully blank expression on my face. This is one of them.

I do like a great deal of family movies, despite the fact that I don’t have a child and I haven’t been a minor for roughly 14 years. At the very least, I have it in me to appreciate a movie that might be too young for me to truly enjoy. That is approximately where this film stands for me.

I didn’t like the animation much, especially where Glinda was concerned. Played by Bernadette Peters (Anastasia, Annie, Animaniacs), I feel like the good witch’s animation never fully synced up to her sounds. It was like a colorful dubbed kung-fu movie. I also found the plot lacking for something coming from such an influential story as The Wizard of Oz (1939). Of course, I haven’t read the book Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return was based off of, so that might not have been the fault of the writer (who is L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson).

It wasn’t all bad. Lea Michele (Glee, Scream Queens, New Years Eve) has a lovely singing voice and Martin Short (The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That!, Father of the Bride, Damages) voices characters like very few can.

In the end, it was just too juvenile for me to really want to sit down and watch. I believe it felt more geared toward very young children.

Cat’s Point of View:
I had missed this movie, somehow, when it was released in 2013. I wish that we had caught it then, when my daughter was a little younger. I think she would have enjoyed it more.

The lengthy opening credits splashed the names of the stellar cast immediately. Automatically, I had high expectations for this movie.

It was a treat to have the likes of Patrick Stewart (X-Men, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Green Room), Oliver Platt (2012, The Ice Harvest, Kill the Messenger), Bernadette Peters (Coming Up Roses, Wine and Kisses, It Runs in the Family), Martin Short (Inherent Vice, Frankenweenie, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil), Kelsey Grammar (The Expendables 3, Fame, Middle Men), James Belushi (Underdog, The Ghost Writer, Thunderstruck), and Dan Aykroyd (Pixels, Tammy, Yogi Bear) in the film.

The movie was cute, and I think it would appeal to younger kids – about the age range that enjoy Dora the Explorer (2000-) and Sofia the First (2013-).  It was just lost on me, and my daughter got bored about halfway through.

Something was missing that I just can’t put my finger on.

The animation was about on par with most of the animated kids shows on TV these days. There wasn’t anything that was deficient with the acting or singing, either.

Though, I do feel that they went too far with the appearance of the Jester character towards the end – he ended up looking like a cheap knockoff of DC’s Joker.

Singer Bryan Adams (Jock the Hero Dog, Twisted Tango, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) even had a small role and wrote three of the musical numbers on the soundtrack: "Candy, Candy", "Work With Me", and "One Day" (though, he only performed one of them).

I love stories of Oz, and so I am glad that I have seen this movie, I just don’t think we’ll be watching it again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 16%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 70%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 2.1/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

P.S. Some small scenes during the credits.

Movie Trailer: