Saturday, January 14, 2017

But I Digress... Following The White Rabbit

By Cat

If you, like me, have missed the feel of the old Mythbusters (2003-) team that was bigger than just the two beardy guys, this new Netflix show might be right up your alley. Don’t get me wrong, though. The new show White Rabbit Project (2016-) is decidedly not a derivative show. No one’s really trying to bust anything here. 

The trio of geeky shenanigan-masters Kari Byron (Beyond Tomorrow, Sharkzilla, Head Rush), Tory Belleci (R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, Punkin Chunkin, Thrill Factor), and Grant Imahara (The Guild, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, Star Trek Continues) have come back together to bring us a new Netflix original show that appeals to my geeky random heart. 

The White Rabbit Project is a celebration of random geekdom – right up my alley! I did a little poking around and found that the name came from the concept of “going down the rabbit hole” as one sometimes can do when chasing cool ideas on the internet.

The show takes six ideas around a central theme and explores them in an effort to ultimately rank at the end of each episode. It’s a bit of friendly competition between the three show leads. Each of them spearheads two of the topics and, in similar vein to shows past, they test out their theories with experiments and demonstrations. Each idea is then scored based on three core criteria for the episode theme. 

Take for example the first four episodes of the ten show season. Superpower Tech leads the charge. They each pick two superpowers it would be cool to have and test if they would be plausibly scientifically replicable. Cool, right? Next up is Jailbreak with a ranking of six bold escapes and how they were accomplished, etc.

As you can see, so far, there’s not really any rhyme or reason to these themes. It appears totally random and that’s part of the awesome as they poke through pop culture as well as history. Third up is Crazy WW2 Weapons. Some of these are just insane – and all were very real. Episode four focuses on Scam Artists. Who were they? How much did they get away with? Are they still at large? 

I have to tell you that my jaw has dropped a few times watching this series. I’ve seen seven of the ten so far. Next up? Where’s My Hoverboard? No seriously. Where is it? Not one with wheels – the one that Back to the Future (1985) promised we’d have already. That is the title of the episode, though. I can’t wait to watch it.

Their science remains on point, their tech is crazy and amazing, their humor had me laughing til it hurt, and their spirit of fun and adventure remain at the heart of the show. 

If you’d like to check out more of the nuts and bolts of the production information, you can find it here on IMDb then head over to Netflix and give it a peek! (Or the other way around.)

Bonus!:  You can check out the 30 min Nerdist Facebook Q&A Video with the White Rabbit team here.

But I Digress... is a new weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Rigor Mortis (2013) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 19
Movie Name/Year: Rigor Mortis (2013)
Tagline: Nobody’s story ends well here.
Genre: Horror
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Kudos Films
Producer: Juno Mak, Takashi Shimizu, Steven Lo, Bernard Lai, Purcy Cheung, Eric Huen
Director: Juno Mak
Writer: Jill Leung, Philip Yung, Juno Mak
Actors: Anthony Chan, Siu-Ho Chin, Fat Chung, Kara Hui, Chun-Man Ko, Giselle Lam, Billy Lau, Hoi-Pang, Richard Ng, Hee Ching Paw
Stunt Doubles: Wong Hoi Sum, Choi Kwok Ping, Leung Shing Hung, Ringo Chan, Chan Kin Wing, Chau Suk Wai, Che Kim Fai, Tang Tai Wo, Mr. Niwat Seehanon

Speech Available: Cantonese
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: In a tenement swarming with spooks, a suicidal actor finds himself fighting the forces of evil when a tenant unwittingly sparks supernatural chaos.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m going to start off by saying that I’m a lot more familiar with the culture utilized for this film than I was for the last foreign film we did. I am in no way, shape, or form an expert. Still, it means not as many cultural references went over my head. I hope this becomes the case for other cultures as our Foreign Film Friday continues on.

I loved this film.

From the very beginning I knew it was going to be an easy watch because it was visually stunning. Due to the fact that I don’t know much of the language (I can pretty much only say/understand some of the words you’d say at a restaurant), I was very reliant on visuals.

The film was beautiful, but the actors were also incredibly convincing. In fact, they were so convincing that I forgot I was reading subtitles about a quarter of the way in because I felt like I was hearing the actors speak the words. That makes this a phenomenal film to watch if you’re dependent on the subtitles. No one wants to be aware that they’re splitting their attention – Rigor Mortis makes it feel a lot less like a chore.

Although I know a little more about the religions and base culture of the Cantonese people, I don’t know much about their cinematic culture. A lot of the storyline – such as the type of vampire involved, the way the ghosts were portrayed, and the way the exorcism was performed – was completely new to me. It may very well be old-hat for Cantonese cinema, but for me it was completely unique.

I don’t think I’ve seen a unique take on exorcisms since… ever. I’d say since The Exorcist (1973), but that was made an entire decade before I was born. That means I saw other exorcist films before the original. Unfortunately, that ruins the perspective a little bit.

If I had to make a comparison between Rigor Mortis and an English-language film, it would easily be Sucker Punch (2011). Not for the story, but for the visual effects. There was that same clean-cut, phenomenally choreographed aspect to it.

This is my favorite of the foreign films we’ve watched so far, and it sets the bar very high for movies on the horizon.

After the credits an image flashes very quickly – it must only exist for one or two frames. I caught it, but Cat didn’t – it happened that fast. I had to rewind and pause several times before I was able to get a screenshot. It focuses on a man sitting in a theater. It’s not a spoiler. It’s actually an image of Juno Mak (Let’s Go!, Revenge: A Love Story, Dream Home), the director of the film. I’m not sure if this is customary for Cantonese films or not. Feel free to let us know!

Cat’s Point of View:
My lack of knowledge of Cantonese culture was evident as I watched. I had a pronounced sense that I was missing something important in several places – only because of my unfamiliarity.

For now, let’s put that aside and focus on the movie. I’ll come back around to that.

I found the blend of CGI, animation, and live action paired with practical effects to be quite the interesting mix. For a few moments here and there, I felt like I was watching a visually well-wrought anime. It almost had that Sin City (2005) effect of a graphic novel brought to life through the usage of so much grayscale and selective coloring. This wasn’t quite as starkly contrasted as those movies were, though.

The creepy-crawlies were very creepy. I also wished in several places through the movie that I knew more of the significance behind the scenes. As it was, I didn’t have very long to ponder on that. The pacing kept moving right along, carrying with it the feeling that more is going on than meets the eye.

I have so many questions!  Not all of them were as a result of the culture-gap, either. There were plot-related aspects that just kept me guessing. I’m still questioning reality, hours later.

One thing I did take note of was that the original title for this movie was Goeng-si. Another spelling variant on that is Jiangshi. The English title is pretty much a literal translation since it means ‘stiff corpse’ and that is descriptive of what rigor mortis is. I’ll let you discover for yourself how that ties into the movie. It’s worth a peek and it might answer some questions for you – I found it interesting, at least.

Apparently this film was supposed to be a bit of a homage to a Chinese film franchise that started with the horror comedy Mr. Vampire (1985). Several of the cast members from those movies are in this film. Richard Ng (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Skiptrace) is one of them. From his IMDb listing, it looks like another movie in this same vein seems to be in post-production.

Before I ramble on too long; let me say in closing that I wouldn’t have a problem recommending this to others. I also have a newfound desire to go dig up some Chinese horror comedy from the 80’s and 90’s.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 65%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 57%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

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

The Random Rating: R

P.S. After the first part of the credits, when the vampire wheel disappears, a photo of director, Juno Mak, appears for a split-second. Don’t blink, you may miss it.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plague (2014)

Number Rolled: 20
Movie Name/Year: Plague (2014)
Tagline: Pray you don’t survive.
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: N/A
Producer:  Alexandros Ouzas, Brian Temple Smith
Director: Nick Kozakis, Kosta Ouzas
Writer: Kosta Ouzas
Actors: Don Bridges, Cris Cochrane, Tegan Crowley, Liza Dennis, Steven Jianai, Scott Marcus, Sarah Ranken, Benjamin Rigby, Nicholas Stribakos
Stunt Doubles: N/A

Speech Available: English, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: In a post-apocalyptic world, a woman makes her way across Australia seeking refuge from a deadly plague and those who’ve survived it.

Selina’s Point of View:
This movie was just all over the place. The characters weren’t relatable or likable. The plot was so chaotic that they obviously couldn’t choose one direction to go so they went all directions at once.

On top of that, the only acting I believed was for the one character that annoyed me the absolute most.

I love zombies. I love zombie flicks. I even love B/Indie zombie flicks. This one was… not good. Coming from me that’s saying something. I’ve liked some weird-ass zom films in the past that others just couldn’t stand.

Worst of all, Plague was dreadfully boring on top of being bad.

I would absolutely not recommend this to anyone for any reason.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m a sucker for apocalypse movies, so the fact that this particular film was a relatively unknown title from a shiny new director and had a relatively unknown cast was not a daunting prospect. Given, I didn’t have any giant expectations going in –but hey, it was set in Australia and I’m a sucker for accents, too.

Let’s get into the nuts and bolts here.

I appreciated that they didn’t waste too much time setting the premise. There weren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, but that was a good thing. I think it would have detracted from the story. I know this isn’t the most original theme, and it’s right there in with the genre recipe.

What makes this movie more entertaining was the sheer grit of it in focusing not on the title ‘plague,’ but keeping that as setting material that revolved around the story of people struggling with how to act with the world turned upside-down. Where does morality and humanity factor into survival?

I was really impressed with Tegan Crowley’s (Stranded, Chimera, Lion) performance. I believed every second of her emotional journey. She grabbed me and yanked me along on her rollercoaster – even through some of her situations that were a bit triggery for me.

This was a solid offering, even though I likely wouldn’t watch it again. I wouldn’t steer anyone away from it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 7%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 1.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score1/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 1.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

The Random Rating: R

Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 9, 2017

Goon (2011)

Number Rolled: 72
Movie Name/Year: Goon (2011)
Tagline: Meet Doug, the nicest guy you’ll ever fight.
Genre: Comedy
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: No Trace Camping, Caramel Film, Don Carmody Productions, Inferno Pictures Inc.
Producer: Jay Baruchel, Theodore Bressman, Don Carmody, Jesse Chabot, Valérie d'Auteuil, Ian Dimerman, Hartley Gorenstein, David Gross, Kyle Hunter, André Rouleau, Ariel Shaffir, Jesse Shapira, Ben Silverman, Mark Slone
Director: Michael Dowse
Writer: Jay Baruchel, Evan Goldberg, Adam Frattasio, Douglas Smith
Actors: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber, Eugene Levy, Marc-André Grondin, Kim Coates, Nicholas Campbell, Richard Clarkin, Jonathan Cherry, Ricky Mabe, George Tchortov, Karl Graboshas, Larry Woo, Stephen Sim, Ellen David, David Paetkau, Mike Bell, Jeff Strome, Jeff Wahl
Stunt Doubles: Sean Dutiaume, Travis Kornelsen, Joey Moggach, Dan Skene, Anders Strome

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: When he’s seen dispatching a rude opposing hockey player in the stands, Doug Glatt is hired by a rival team… for his fighting skills.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve been hearing really great things about Goon for a very long time. Being a huge fan of Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon, The Art of the Steal, This is the End), I couldn’t wait to see for myself. However, I’m NOT the biggest fan Seann William Scott (Cop Out, Role Models, The Dukes of Hazzard) – which made me feel iffy about the whole thing going in.

To be fair, I’ve only seen Scott in some really stupid-ass movies. In each of those films, he’s supposed to act like a dumbass. I fell into a very easy trap because of that. When people get type-cast, it’s easy to start thinking that they take on those roles because it’s all they’re capable of. I’m ashamed to say I fell for this one. I wish I hadn’t, because – holy shit guys – Seann William Scott is a fucking ACTOR. If Scott ever sees this, I fucking apologize. You deserve way more credit than I’ve given you in the past.

I believed every single aspect of his character. So much so, that I didn’t even doubt the authenticity of the “based on a true story” aspect. He made his character simultaneously relatable and larger than life. That’s an incredibly difficult feat.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Some of the humor was super juvenile, but I still laughed. That’s what matters. It was absolutely entertaining. Not all true stories can be entertaining. I’m sure they exaggerated some aspects for the story to really stand out… but who cares?

This movie isn’t for everyone. Like I said, some of the comedy was what some would deem inappropriate. Of course, I’m completely in love with Kevin Smith (Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Clerks, Mallrats) so “juvenile” and “inappropriate” are right in my wheel-house.

Chances are, if you like Smith’s work, you’ll like this. I would definitely recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:
When I told my husband which movie was next for the blog, he practically cackled. I’ve mentioned before how sports just isn’t entirely my thing, right? Lo and behold, we’d rolled a hockey movie.

I’ve also begun to think that, perhaps, our “wall o’ movies” has taken on a life of its own – apparently we own the blu-ray for this one and I hadn’t realized. We still watched it on Netflix, durnit!

This was not, however, a film that we were able to let our daughter watch. Aside from the inherent violent aspect of the movie, it had really the over the top explicit language and that reinforced the R rating.

On to the movie!

I’d actually been interested in this film since it first came to my attention through our rolling list. The combination of Seann William Scott (Planet 51, American Reunion, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and Liev Schreiber (Lee Daniel's The Butler, The 5th Wave, The Bleeder) was what really got my attention. What sort of sports movie would have such a goofball like Scott with Schrieber’s intensity? This one, obviously.

I tip my hat to Jay Baruchel (RoboCop, Don Peyote, Man Seeking Woman) for his involvement in penning this comedic, yet heartfelt tale of finding your place in the world.

This wasn’t exactly the role that I expected for Scott. It seems like the industry has generally type-cast him; but this movie breaks that stereotype. That’s not to say the same elements Scott’s characters are generally known for aren’t in the film – because there’s plenty of that raunchy humor. It’s just not from him. In a similar vein, Eugene Levy’s (Over the Hedge, Astro Boy, Madea's Witness Protection) character in this movie is quite far removed from his previous screen-time shared with Scott.

I liked that this movie took a comedic peek behind the scenes at one of the things that the sport of Hockey is best known for – the fighting. That said, there are other nuances woven into the story that layer in things like self-discovery and romance without diminishing the overall sports and comedic feel.

Overall, I think this movie has a great balance of its elements and I really enjoyed it more than I even initially thought. I’m actually looking forward to the sequel coming out sometime in 2017. It’s currently in post-production, so we’ll see.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 82%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 70%

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

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

P.S. Movie is based on a true story. During part of the credits, parts of the actual footage of what happened play.

Movie Trailer: