Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dark Skies (2013)

Number Rolled: 27
Movie Name/Year: Dark Skies (2013)
Tagline: They’re coming.
Genre: Sci-fi & Fantasy
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Alliance Films, Automatik Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions, Cinema Vehicle Services
Producer: Jason Blum, Jeanette Brill, Bailey Conway, Phillip Dawe, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, Charles Layton, Jessica Malanaphy, Jeff Okin, Rick Osako, Matthew Parker, Scott Stewart, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Director: Scott Stewart
Writer: Scott Stewart
Actors: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons, L.J. Benet, Rich Hutchman, Myndy Crist, Annie Thurman, Jake Brennan, Ron Ostrow, Tom Costello, Marion Kerr, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Josh Stamberg, Judith Moreland, Kenneth Meseroll, Trever St. John, Andy Umberger, Michael Patrick McGill,

Blurb from Netflix: A couple has trouble convincing friends and neighbors that an alien is entering their house each night to terrorize their children.

Selina’s Point of View:
Who writes these Netflix blurbs? This is another great example of a bad blurb by Netflix. The only part of it that’s really true is “an alien is entering their house each night.” Does someone over there just watch the trailer and guess what the movie is about? If so, they should probably stop that. Trailers aren’t always as true to their movies as they should be.

Moving on.

This movie was interchangeable with every other alien-based movie in existence. In two months, if someone describes the film looking for a title, I’ll wind up going through 15 titles before I guess the correct one.

The only impression Dark Skies left on me is that producers need to find something new to do with aliens. Sometimes recipe films can be as comforting as chicken soup, but not when there’s nothing at all to elevate them to a level where you can tell them apart from the other recipe films they follow.

It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good either. It just was.


Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve actually seen this movie before, more than once. I really enjoy the film – though, that’s not why I’ve seen it the handful of times that I have. It’s been making its rounds through cable movie channels for a while now, and so I’ve just caught it here and there. I gave it another go for fresh perspective for the purposes of this review, and I didn’t mind.

It was just as eerie and suspenseful – partially thanks to the brilliant sound & music team. The background score sets the tone for the scenes so well that nothing inherently special could be going on and the suspense and sense of unease would still be building because the music or ambient sounds was taking you there.

Keri Russell (August Rush, Austenland, The Americans) had a stand-out performance in this role. It was very easy to emotionally connect with her. Of course, Josh Hamilton (J Edgar, The Wait, Experimenter) did a great job with his role as well. I wasn’t really connecting as well with the youngest child; though. I did enjoy the older boy’s performance by Dakota Goyo (Arthur, Real Steel, Rise of the Guardians). He captured the awkwardness of his character excellently.

The basic day-to-day struggles of this particular family are relevant and relatable. It gives a good grounding foundation before anything out of the ordinary is layered on top of their situation.

I am torn on how I feel about some of the special effects. On one hand, I appreciate that having appearances be a bit more nebulous allows the production to bypass the risk of things looking fake or hokey in this digital HD age. On the other hand, it leaves you wanting more and possibly takes away from the believability for some scenes.

I would definitely recommend the movie, and I’ll likely find myself watching it again in the future when it comes back around on cable.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 49%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score2/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 3/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 16, 2016

John Dies at the End (2012): Through the Eyes of Cat

Number Rolled: Not Applicable
Movie Name/Year: John Dies at the End (2012)
Tagline: Just so you know...they're sorry for anything that's about to happen.
Genre: Horror
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: M3 Alliance, M3 Creative, Midnight Alliance, Touchy Feely Films
Producers: Daniel Carey, Dac Coscarelli, Paul Giamatti, Brad Baruh, Aaron Godfred, Joshua Lewin, Andy Meyers, Roman Perez
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writers: Don Coscarelli, David Wong
Actors: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong, Tai Bennett, Bark Lee

Blurb from Netflix: Promising a trip that transcends time and space, a drug called Soy Sauce is sweeping the landscape -- and quietly robbing users of their humanity.

Cat’s Point of View:

Selina’s off on a family vacation this weekend. While the blogger’s away the Cat will play? No, not really. We did randomly fish up an old title that she had already reviewed before we began our collaboration. This has generally been our modus operandi when The Random Review’s fearless leader requires a sabbatical.

This movie was tweaky – as in it almost has you feeling like you’re the one tripping on something as you watch. I’d been hankering for a bit of a suspenseful movie with a touch of horror gore and the like. This film certainly fit that wish list, and then some (at least on the part of the gore). The whole movie was a bit of a suspense-fest because from the outset I wanted to know whether or not John really does die at the end or not. 

I’m reminded of a song, when I think of this movie. Beck’s “Loser” is a jumbled mishmash of utter nonsense, yet somehow comes together to make something rather awesome. A particular verse comes to mind: “...Don't believe everything that you breathe, you get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve...” but before we get to shaving faces with mace in the dark, let’s carry on with the movie – which was not, in fact, a loser. 

Time-bending and mind-bending shenanigans tend to have the potential of having an audience either love a movie or hate it. There generally isn’t a lot of in-between. I, for one, loved this movie. If I had to compare it to something; I’d say it was somewhat like if you took Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000), gave it a horror movie spin, and stuck it in a blender with Supernatural (2005-). 

Rob Mayes (The American Mall, Ice Castles, Burning Blue) and Chase Williamson (The Guest, Video Game High School, Siren) were excellent castings for the timeless comedy formula of the mischief maker and the ‘straight man,’ respectively. Mayes seemed to effortlessly embody that one crazy friend that we all have that just makes you cringe when they say something like “hold my beer and watch this.”

I confess that I also had a bit of a squee seeing Clancy Brown (99 Homes, The Flash, Hail, Caesar!) as Dr. Marconi. This man has been in a little bit of everything since the 80’s. Today’s audiences likely recognize his voice more for his cartoon work – but my geeky heart will forever recognize him as The Kurgan from Highlander (1986). I loved the dimension (no pun intended) that his character brings to the movie. 

It’s amazing that a twist of fate in the form of an online book recommendation brought this story to the attention of director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep). The title of the book caught his attention and the rest, as they say, is history. The book was originally published a chapter at a time online, so that readers would be kept guessing as to what John’s fate would actually be. 

Does John survive? You’ll have to watch this movie to find out. I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 61%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 54%
Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4.5/5
Cat's Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

P.S. There’s a scene that plays during the beginning of the credits.

P.P.S. Pirates beware! At the very end of the credits, there’s a warning that starts out as any other anti-piracy legalese does these days; but it ends with “…may result in civil liability, criminal prosecution and the wrath of Korrok.”

Movie Trailer: