Thursday, September 8, 2016

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 (2016)

Number Rolled: 42
Movie Name/Year: Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 (2016)
Tagline: A young punk's odyssey.
Genre: Dramedy
Length: 75 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Liberty Spikes Productions, Ross Productions NYC
Producer: Dallin Bassett, John Bedell, Ewan Bourne, Severine Ferrari, Brent Geisler, Andrea Kreuzhage, Eric C. Lin, Devon Sawa, Branden Steineckert, Hraefn Wulfson
Director: James Merendino
Writer: James Merendino
Actors: Machine Gun Kelly, Devon Sawa, Ben Schnetzer, Sarah Clarke, Hannah Marks, James Duval, Adam Pascal, Michael A. Goorjian, Emma Pace, Jenny Jaffe, Jarrod Phillips

Blurb from Netflix: A mopey kid whose dad died of an overdose sheds his straight-edge outlook and goes on a crazy bender during a road trip to a punk show.

Selina’s Point of View:
SLC Punk! (1998) may be my favorite film of all time.

No. Not “may be.”


SLC Punk! IS my favorite film of all time. I fell in love with it the very first time I saw it and I have, since then, seen it about a billion times. I can recite parts of it, my favorite being Steveo’s rant, “The Fight: What Does it Mean and Where Does it Come From?” That movie spoke to me in ways that not even Kevin Smith (Clerks, Red State, Mallrats) has been able to, and that’s saying something – because we all know how much I love me some Kevin Smith.

The original SLC Punk! felt not only like a definition of who I was, but who I wanted to be. The chaos and the anarchy represented in the film meshed with the uncertainty of life and was backed by a sick fucking soundtrack. Watching that film for the very first time, was like the first time I heard a punk song. Shit clicked into place and made sense for a few minutes, which was rare in my life when I was younger. Hell, I still go back to my chaotic roots when the uncertainty of life smacks head first into whatever the hell’s going on at that moment. It’s a comfort.

Needless to say, when I heard James Merendino (Evil Remains, Hotel Alexandria, River Made to Drown In), the writer/director of the first one, was seeking funds for a sequel, I was on it immediately. This movie was put up on Indiegogo (which is basically a movie-based Kickstarter) and it was more than fully funded by January 16, 2014.

I put as much money as I had to spare into it.

Was I nervous? Of course. Whenever someone makes a sequel out a movie you love and care about, you’re gonna be nervous. It’s the way of the world. Especially when you hear the actor of a character that died in the first one is going to be in it and the original main character, played by Matthew Lillard (6 Love Stories, The Bridge, Fat Kid Rules the World), won’t.

I pushed my nerves aside, though, because I love SLC Punk! and I wanted MORE.

Due to the fact that I was one of the backers, I had access to the film long before it came out, but I didn’t watch it. I knew I wanted to review it for the blog and when I did I wanted to have an honest ‘first time’ reaction to it. So this was my first watch-through.

Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 is an argument for why Hollywood needs to keep the original creators on if they want a decent sequel. If anyone but James Merendino had gotten their hands on control of this film, I can’t imagine what kind of shit they would put out… but Merendino stayed true to the story – HIS story – and that gave the sequel the same intense, controlled-chaotic feel the first one had.

As a sequel, this film was absolutely everything I hoped it would be. It was super engaging and it kept my eyes glued to the screen even through the super cringe part.

That’s a weird thing for me because I’ll stay focused on a film during any torture porn a director decides to showcase, but give me an embarrassing teen moment and I’m shrinking away and covering my eyes.

That being said, I loved the new characters in this film and getting to see how the older characters wound up. I was especially excited to see Devon Sawa (Nikita, A Warden’s Ransom, Little Giants) sporting those orange mittens again. It was such a minor thing in a relatively minor scene, but it brought a smile to my face anyway.

Like the first film, this movie was worth watching just for the soundtrack and look into punk lifestyles alone. There’s a certain ‘documentary’ feel to parts of it that show a significantly realistic look into what punk is, why it is, and what the draw is. There’s even a part where the narrator goes into a rant about how punk split off into different sub-cultures. (Hey, Merendino, how could you remember steampunk and forget cyberpunk?)

I love how it had the same casual, conversational vibe that the first one did. Not all narration-based films do well with the tactic, but these plots just work with it. It allowed the movie to follow a chaotic structure while still remaining cohesive and understandable – which is the heart of the punk scene. Sticking together through chaos.

Is Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 my new favorite movie of all time? No. The original will not be dethroned. Through that original film I found a better understanding of myself and developed a deep love for Matthew Lillard. Unless I find another film that is as life changing and causes as much introspection as the original, nothing is going to budge it from my first place slot.

Still, this sequel is up there. It’s definitely one of the best sequels I’ve ever seen – if not the absolutely best. It stayed true to the fans and the story while still separating itself into a new plot that made sense and didn’t fuck up what the first one established.

In fact, my only complaint is that I still want more. It was too fucking short.

I’m glad I backed this film and I will back pretty much any project Merendino wants to do in the future.

For the record, I'm having some very minor surgery on Friday, so I will not be part of the post on Monday, possibly not Thursday either. However, Cat will still be posting. I'll be back next Monday.

Cat’s Point of View:
We’ve been highly anticipating this movie for a while now. The original SLC Punk! (1998) was epic, and one of Selina’s favorite movies of all time.

This movie had some big shoes to fill as a sequel, though. The first SLC Punk! was edgy without being full of itself. The film had grit in its ‘day in the life of’ the focal characters, while at the same time being both fun and introspective. It was definitely a great movie, hands down.

This sequel became possible through popular demand. Punk’s Dead was achieved through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. Some contributors had their names in the credits; while others were actually part of the movie as concert-goers. Talk about an amazing experience!

Right away there were indications that this film might just be somewhere in the ballpark of a good sequel. A lot of the original cast from the first movie returned to reprise their roles. It’s said that Devon Sawa (Endure, The Philly Kid, Life on the Line) was even paid in Subway gift cards. I mean seriously – it’s got to be a project of the heart for that kind of thing to happen.

I liked seeing what Sean had done with his life after what he experienced in the first movie. It was pleasantly surprising, to say the least. I adored the character shift for John (formerly ‘John the Mod’) played by James Duval (Toxic, Sushi Girl, American Idiots). He might have been my favorite of the returning characters.

This also felt like it was a bit of a passing of the torch type movie. The next generation characters represented by the likes of Ben Schnetzer’s (The Book Thief, The Riot Club, Goat) Ross, Hannah Marks (The Runaways, Slash, Hard Sell) as Penny, and Machine Gun Kelly aka Colson Baker (Beyond the Lights, Nerve, Roadies) as Crash bring new life and extension to the original tale.  Crash was my favorite new character; and probably my favorite character in the whole movie.

I enjoyed the way the kids connected. You could get real deep into this movie with metaphors of their ‘road trip’ and self-discovery and all that; or you could just enjoy the ride. Like the first, there’s a lot of thought mixed in with the irreverence, humor, and drama of the movie.

Then, of course, the soundtrack ties it all together.

If you loved the original SLC Punk! movie, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this one. Check it out!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – Not Currently Available (You can check for updates here.)
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 43%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

The Random Rating: R

P.S. Matthew Lillard was originally rumored to be in the sequel, but he had scheduling conflicts that kept him out of it.

P.S.2. We’re looking into the rumor that Devon Sawa reprised his role of Sean – a decent size part in this sequel – for $100 in Subway gift cards. We will edit with an answer if/when we find out.
         UPDATE - We directed inquiries to Devon Sawa on Twitter about this rumor. Although he didn't respond, both the official Punk's Dead account and James Duval saw it and liked or retweeted it. I believe this to be confirmation. We are pretty sure this rumor is true.

P.S.3. Although this film CAN be watched as a stand-alone, Trust the Dice seriously recommends watching both the films of this series, and watching them in order.

Movie Trailer: Don't watch this trailer unless you've seen the original SLC Punk!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Standoff (2015)

Number Rolled: 89
Movie Name/Year: Standoff (2015)
Tagline: A deadly game only one can survive.
Genre: Action & Adventure
Length: 86 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Goldrush Entertainment, First Point Entertainment, Maple Leaf Films
Producer: Bernard Bourret, George Castrounis, Hayden Christensen, Tove Christensen, Lee Clay, Eric Gozlan, Richard Iott, Rosie Komadina, Michael Wexler
Director: Adam Alleca
Writer: Adam Alleca
Actors: Thomas Jane, Laurence Fishburne, Ella Ballentine, Jim Watson, Joanna Douglas, John Tench, Ted Atherton, Laura de Carteret

Blurb from Netflix: After witnessing an assassin’s slaughter, a young girl holes up in a farmhouse with a suicidal vet, who must use wits and guts to fend off the killer.

Selina’s Point of View:
Action & adventure? No… no… I don’t think so. I buy that this film was a thriller, but action & adventure? Not so much. Just because a movie has some shooting in it, doesn’t make it an action film. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t.

This film is labeled 2015 on Netflix, but it came out in the U.S. this year. When Trust the Dice put out our “Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in February (2016)” it showed that both Cat and I had very similar desires to see this film. It was at a nearly identical place in each of our lists.

Laurence Fishburne (Roots, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Colony) is the kind of actor that can draw in an audience really well. Not only with his acting, but just with his name. If I see that Fishburne is going to be in a film, I give serious consideration to wanting to see it, even if the trailer doesn’t really speak to me or I’m not fond of the genre.

Films like this that take place all in one small setting with very little to distract from the story and the actors can be hit or miss. The actors need to be on point and the story needs to be as flawless as humanly possible. There are no fancy explosions to fall back on. There’s no CGI to catch the eye of the audience.

I feel like Standoff was successful, despite being the type of film easily screwed up. I wasn’t bored at any point during the movie and I absolutely believed the characters.

There was a short speech near the beginning of the film, delivered by Fishburne that reminded me of Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction – which is not a bad thing – and the kid, Ella Ballentine (Time Tremors, Clara's Deadly Secret, Against the Wild 2: Survive the Serengeti), really sold the part of the traumatized little girl to me. I believe Ballentine could have a hell of a career to look forward to if she escapes the curse that affects children in Hollywood.

Despite how good I believe the movie was, I found a few moments to be a little meh. Each of those moments were very small but served to take me out of the story for a few minutes before I could get back into it. There were enough of those moments that I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to consider this film a favorite, but it was still very, very good.

FYI, I had a little WTF moment when I found out one of the producers of this film was Hayden Christensen (Jumper, Awake, Vanishing on 7th Street). You know, the guy responsible for killing the dreams of nerds everywhere with his rendition of Anakin Skywalker. I have no damn clue what to make of that.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was glad to see that the dice had given us this movie. It made #16 on my Top 20 list when it was released back in February of this year. It seems like it had a rather limited release. I don’t remember seeing it hit any of my local theaters.

That aside, my prediction back then was that it would be “really intense” and “one of those movies in close-quarters where the small cast shines.”

I am happy to say that I was right.

Laurence Fishburne (Ride Along, The Signal, Hannibal) as a sociopath is a terrifying thing. His character had just enough unpredictability that it had me wondering what he was going to try next. Thomas Jane (Drive Hard, The Veil, Before I Wake) deftly captured the essence of the man that had crawled into a bottle and never came out until meeting little Bird, played by Ella Ballentine (The Captive, The Calling, Anne of Green Gables).

That young lady is going places. There was both an innocence and maturity to Ballentine’s delivery that was engaging and just made me want to reach through the screen and hug her.

I can’t think of a single thing that I could list to fault this film. It’s gripping, believable, a heart-pounder, and heart-stirring. I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 53%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 44%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score3.5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 4/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score4.5/5

Movie Trailer: