Thursday, March 24, 2016

Running Scared (2006)

Number Rolled: 90
Movie Name/Year: Running Scared (2006)
Tagline: Every bullet leaves a trail.
Genre: Action
Length: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: New Line Cinema, Media 8 Entertainment, True Grit Productions, VIP 1 Medienfonds, VIP 2 Medienfonds, MDP Filmproduktion, International Production Company, Pierce/Williams Entertainment, Zero Gravity Management
Producer: Tony Grazia, Andreas Grosch, Stewart Hall, Sammy Lee, Matt Luber, Andrew Pfeffer, Michae A. Pierce, Brett Retner, Andreas Schmid, Kevan Van Thompson, Jeff G. Waxman
Director: Wayne Kramer
Writer: Wayne Kramer
Actors: Paul Walker, Cameron Bright, Vera Farmiga, Chazz Palminteri, Karel Roden, Johnny Messner, Ivana Milicevic, Alex Neuberger, Michael Cudlitz, Bruce Altman, Elizabeth Mitchell, Arthur J. Nascarella, John Noble, Idalis DeLeon, David Warshofsky, Jim Tooey, Thomas Rosales Jr., Jan Kohout

Blurb from Netflix: Low-level mobster Joey Gazelle is tasked with disposing of a gun. But when it’s stolen and used in another crime, he must reclaim the gun quickly.

Selina’s Point of View:
It’s always a little sad to watch a movie starring an actor that’s died since filming it. It makes it a little easier when you don’t have to say anything bad about the performance.

Paul Walker (Furious 7, Brick Mansions, Pawn Shop Chronicles) was a decent actor, but in Running Scared he was out of this world. I cared about his version of Joey Gazelle. He was also blessed with a great supporting cast, even the kids. Cameron Bright (Motive, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Walled In) didn’t have as many lines as you would think, so he had to get his character’s point and motivation across with physical cues. That’s a difficult thing for an adult actor, but he was only approximately 13 at the time the film came out. I’m super impressed that Bright was able to keep up with the rest of the cast.

Wayne Kramer (Mindhunters, This Film is Not Yet Rated, Blazeland) really nailed the script and the directing. I’m not at all familiar with the rest of his work, but now I want to be.

At the start of the film, I really thought I was just watching a generic, somewhat artistically filmed, action flick. I wasn’t in the mood for an action movie, and I didn’t expect a damn thing from it. By the end of the film, I was entranced by my TV and sitting on the edge of my seat.

There was some artistic camera work that I felt actually took away from the story, but for the most part that artistic touch tended to add to the general feel of the movie. Also, in some movies, starting at the end and then showing how they got there isn’t a good idea. I feel this movie was one of those. The suspense factor would have been through the roof if I hadn’t seen that end scene in the beginning of the film.

One more thing.

Below, we have the Rotten Tomatoes scores listed, like we do in all our reviews. I would like to note the significant difference between the opinions of the critics and the opinions of the audience. There’s nearly a 30% difference, which is huge. I was curious about the discrepancy, so I actually read through a few pages of reviews by the critics.

The consensus seems to be that the movie was violent. Yeah. That’s not a typo. The majority of the “rotten” labeled reviews from critics state that the critic didn’t like the movie because it was violent.

Let me take a moment here to explain why that pisses me off.

This is a rated R action film. In none of the advertisements does it claim to be anything different.

In fact, there are three different movie posters for this film. In one, Paul Walker is holding a gun, while people cower in terror behind him. Another one shows Walker holding a gun, but looks like it’s for a Fast and Furious (2001-) movie. In that one, beneath him are images of a man screaming, and the same two people cowering in terror. In the last one, Walker is holding a gun while people are cowering and there’s another man holding a bigger gun behind him.

What the fuck did the critics expect that the violence level threw them off? This is not a rhetorical question. If you’ve got an idea, let me know, because I am fucking baffled.

So, here’s the deal. If you’re looking to watch something about tiny blue creatures dancing to a magical tune, this is not the movie you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a violent action film, this is one of the best you can find. Try not to expect fluff.

Cat’s Point of View:
If I were asked to sum up this movie in one word, it would be ‘intense.’

The movie opens with a sense of ‘what the hell did I just get myself into?!’ and then just keeps charging from there.

It’s relentless, gritty, super violent, and just a hair away from being Rated NC-17. It was miraculous that it managed the R rating. Apparently, even writer-director Wayne Kramer (Crossing Over, The Cooler, Pawn Shop Chronicles) is said to have been shocked that it managed the lesser.

I saw so many familiar faces from both the large and small screens. I also have a fresh temptation to prod the showrunners of The Walking Dead (2010-), or its after-show, to find a situation where Abraham’s Michael Cudlitz (Tenure, Stolen, Inside Out) finds a stash of gummy bears in honor of his role in this movie.

Cameron Bright (Ultraviolet, Little Glory, Final Girl) was a great choice for the creepy-quiet Oleg. He was excellent with his kicked-puppy look. It really sold his story, even though he had little dialogue. I also loved Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Goats, The Judge) in this. She was a real badass mom.

I have to say that Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V, Once Upon A Time) takes the cake for the creep-factor in this one.

It all boils down to one person, though. Of course, I’m referring to Paul Walker (Flags of Our Fathers, Takers, Hours). I’ve long been a fan of his, may he rest in peace. I don’t even care that he tended to gravitate to the same sorts of roles over and over – he was excellent at what he did.

Watching his films, now, is a bit like having a visit with an old friend. For this role, he was a loud and foul-mouthed gangster of a friend; but who’s counting?

I’d forgotten that I’d seen this one before – though, that was nearly a decade ago when the movie was released to DVD in 2006. It wasn’t by any means a reflection on the film, itself. I think my only problem with it would be the occasional patches of shaky-cam.  Otherwise, I really enjoyed the whole visceral ride.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 79%

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

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

P.S. Comic Book-type drawings during the beginning of the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Invisible Sister (2015)

Number Rolled: 64
Movie Name/Year: Invisible Sister (2015)
Tagline: What you see is only half the story.
Genre: Family
Length: 77 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Production Companies: Disney Channel
Producer: Susan Cartsonis, Michael C. Cuddy, Sheri Singer
Director: Paul Hoen
Writer: Billy Eddy, Matt Eddy, Jessica O’Toole, Amy Rardin, Beatrice Colin, Sara Pinto
Actors: Rowan Blanchard, Paris Berelc, Karan Brar, Rachel Crow, Austin Fryberger, Will Meyers, Alex Désert, Scott Reeves, Jennifer Jalene, Nikki Fuega, Tiffany Forest, Sean Maurer

Blurb from Netflix: When she tries to impress a science teacher with an ambitious experiment, a teen renders her sister invisible, forcing her to impersonate her sibling.

Selina’s Point of View:
My interest in seeing this film comes from the star, Rowan Blanchard (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World 4D, Little in Common, Dance-A-Lot Robot).

I was a huge fan of Boy Meets World (1993-2000) once upon a time. Naturally, when it was revisited by Disney as Girl Meets World (2014-) I was on it like white on rice. I recorded every episode and watched them with my best friend. He tends to watch it with me because I’m a walking encyclopedia of anything Cory and Topanga related and I can point out the references most people miss.

Speaking of, Alex Désert (The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Losing in Love, Let it Shine) was in this film. He also starred as Mr. Eli Williams, a teacher at Cory’s school, during season 3 of Boy Meets World.

Blanchard is a familiar face on Girl Meets World. There she plays Riley, the daughter of Cory and Topanga. On the show, I find her acting talent measures up to Ben Savage (Car Babes, Swimming Upstream, The Caterpillar’s Kimono) in the beginning years of Boy Meets World: slightly over-the-top but promising.

When I found out she was recently in a new movie by Disney, I wanted to see if that talent carried over into another, hopefully different, character.

The character was very different than Riley. So I did get to see her in a slightly new vehicle, which was nice. Better yet, I think she was phenomenal.

Blanchard has a way with emotional scenes. I don’t know if it’s because she’s dipping into some innate empathy she may have, or because she’s just that promising of a talent, but it’s true. You make her cry or express a deep emotion in a scene, and she is going to blow everyone away. She’s not perfect, of course, and she is very young.

At 14-years-old, this young actress has a lot to learn. She could especially use some practice in the more physical scenes (physical comedy, sports, etc), but the talent is there.

I think, as long as she doesn’t fall to the curse of child actors, Blanchard could have a potentially epic career ahead of her.

The movie itself was nothing too special. I didn’t much like the other star, Paris Berelc (Lab Rats: Elite Force, Mighty Med, Health Corner). I don’t have any familiarity at all with her, though. So it could be a one-time flop for her.

In the end, this was your basic Disney TV movie. Not really for my generation. I bet preteens and young teenagers, however, would love it.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was excited when this movie came up, because it was the first in a while that I could share with my kiddo. The Disney XD channel is one of her favorites, so she recognized the actors, and even got all bouncy because she remembered seeing the previews. She’d just missed it when it aired. (So did I, but there’s only so much of that channel I can take.)

The movie was adorable, and resonating. I think everyone can relate to feeling invisible every once in a while. It doesn’t even have to be at home – there are plenty situations ‘out in the world’ where it happens, too. You don’t have to be part of a big family, either, to get that invisible feeling.

This film definitely wasn’t all fluff. For that reason, it didn’t surprise me that it was drawing on a novel. I might just hunt it up for my daughter to read. (OK, maybe me too.)

I enjoyed the science teacher angle in the story.  There’s a fun bit of trivia regarding that actor, as well. In fun “six degrees” fashion; Alex Désert (Bob Funk, Let it Shine!, The LeBrons) played teacher Eli Williams on the 90’s family sitcom, Boy Meets World (1993-2000). 

The star of this film, Rowan Blanchard (The Back-Up Plan, Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, Best Friends Whenever), just happens to also be one of the stars of Boy Meets World’s sequel - Girl Meets World (2014-).

Fun facts aside, I think they did a great job with casting this one. Blanchard and her on-screen sister, Paris Berelc (Health Corner, Mighty Med, Lab Rats: Elite Force), have good sibling chemistry. The dynamic between Blanchard’s character, Chloe; and her guy BFF, George, played by Karan Brar (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Chilly Christmas, Jessie) was lots of fun.

I won’t lie. There were a few plot holes, but I don’t think they ultimately took away from the story.

If you’re looking for a cute family movie, this one has the right formula!

(It also has two thumbs up from my in-house Disney fanatic.)

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 2.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score 3/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 2.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

P.S. Some repeat scenes during the credits. It is also based on a novel, “My Invisible Sister,” by Beatrice Colin and Sara Pinto.

Movie Trailer: