Saturday, February 25, 2017

But I Digress... Mardi Gras in Movies

By Cat

This is an insanely busy time of year around my neck of the woods. Not only is it Girl Scout Cookie time, but we’re smack in the middle of the Mardi Gras season. After last weekend’s big parade festivities, and as I prepare for one more round this weekend, I definitely have this time of celebration on my mind.

I was also curious to see how many movies I could come up with that were set during Mardi Gras. I’ve compiled a handful for you, but there are likely more.

Before I get into that, some of you might be wondering “what’s the deal with this Mardi Gras thing?!”

This is one of my favorite holiday seasons, right up there with Thanksgiving and Christmas. There’s parades, parties, lots of friends gathering, and good food. (Crawfish, y’all! All the crawfish!) The fact my birthday usually falls somewhere in this timeframe is just icing on the king cake.

Louisiana is actually the only state in the US where Mardi Gras is considered an official legal holiday.

Mardi Gras has its roots in Carnival, as celebrated in Rio de Janeiro, and was introduced to North America by French Catholics. It’s not a celebration unique to that region. Many places around the world celebrate one form or another of a festival during this same time of year. Of course, celebrations of spring and fertility in this timeframe date back thousands of years. The holiday as we know it today is more closely tied to the Christian calendar.

The season begins on the 12th Night, or Epiphany (also called Three Kings Day). Basically, it’s the signal to kick off the biggest party you can before Lent begins - the season of fasting and penance. Mardi Gras culminates on Fat Tuesday (also called Shrove Tuesday), which is the night before Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent, which is the 40 days immediately preceding Easter. The practice seems to have stemmed from people clearing out their cupboards and binging on everything that would spoil or be an undue temptation during the fasting period-to-come.

You might have seen the meme about these trees 'growing' in New Orleans or Louisiana in general. These trees are a common sight along parade routes where branches get in the way of bead throws. There's a tree just like this at the end of my street. The leftover beads tend to remain on it year-round.

The tradition of parades and the like started in New Orleans back in the 1830s. Though, many of the gulf coastal states carry on this tradition in current day. Each of the parades is sponsored by a ‘Krewe.’ These are the folks that get to dress up and ride on the parade floats and toss goodies to the crowds. There are some crazy things that get tossed from floats down in New Orleans. Krewe of Zulu has coconuts. Others have shoes or handbags. Some even give out real jewelry. These bespoke items are generally handed out by parade walkers rather than lobbed into the crowds (they used to throw the coconuts once upon a time, though). In my area; we get plastic beads, cups with parade themes or the krewe logos printed on them, Mardi Gras colored stuffed animals or toys, and plastic or aluminum doubloons. I am not ashamed to admit that Mardi Gras cups collected over the years are my household’s staple for every-day use. Actual glassware doesn’t come out unless we’re having a formal or holiday dinner.

Images from 2017 Krewe of Centaur Parade, Shreveport, LA 02/18/2017. Photos by Greg Atoms

The Krewe of Centaur and the Krewe of Gemini have been rolling in Shreveport, LA for over 25 years now. People (and port-a-potties) line the parade route for a day of food and fun. Streets get shut down and traffic getting in and out of the parade zones can be a bit of a pain, but when you live on the route, it’s just part and parcel of this time of year.  

But I digress… Back to the movies! Now that you’ve got a little more of an idea of what Mardi Gras is all about, take a look at how the Mardi Gras scene has been reflected in the world of cinema.

French for "Let the good times roll," a common Mardi Gras phrase.
Honorable Mention – Rio (2011)

Tag Line: He's going to the wildest, most magical place on earth ... home.
Production Companies: Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Studios
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Writers: Carlos Saldanha, Earl Richey Jones, Todd R. Jones, Don Rhymer, Joshua Sternin, J.R. Ventimilia, Sam Harper
Actors: Leslie Mann, Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx,, Carcinha Leporace, Phil Miler, Bernardo de Paula, Carlos Ponce, Jeffrey Garcia, Davi Vieira, Jake T. Austin, Jemaine Clement, George Lopez Bebel Gilberto, Tracy Morgan
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: G

IMDb Synopsis: When Blu, a domesticated macaw from small-town Minnesota, meets the fiercely independent Jewel, he takes off on an adventure [in] Rio de Janeiro with the bird of his dreams.

This movie is an honorable mention here because it is set in Rio during Carnival. There’s an important scene in the movie centered around a parade and gives you an authentic peek at the flash and dazzle that draws millions every year.

5 - Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015)

Tag Line: Boys on the Hood
Production Companies: Fox 2000 Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Bagdasarian Productions, TSG Entertainment, Sunswept Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Animation
Director: Walt Becker
Writers: Ross Bagdasarian, Janice Karman, Randi Mayem Singer, Adam Sztykiel
Actors: Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Josh Green, Tony Hale, Bella Thorne, Eddie Steeples, Christina Applegate, Kaley Cuoco, Anna Faris, RedFoo
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG

IMDb Synopsis: Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami...and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother.

In this cute family movie cashing in on the Chipmunks nostalgia wagon, the ‘Road Chip’ only makes a pit stop in New Orleans. Lucky for them (and for us), they arrive during Mardi Gras. Shenanigans, of course, ensue.

4 - Dracula 2000 (2000)

Tag Line: The Most Seductive Evil of All Time Has Now Been Unleashed in Ours.
Production Companies: Dimension Films, Neo Art & Logic, Wes Craven Films, Carfax Productions Ltd.
Director: Patrick Lussier
Writers: Joel Soisson, Patrick Lussier
Actors: Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer, Jonny Lee Miller, Justine Waddell, Vitamin C, Jennifer Esposito, Omar Epps, Sean Patrick Thomas, Danny Masterson, Lochlyn Munro, Tig Fong, Jeri Ryan, Shane West, Nathan Fillion, Jonathan Whittaker, Robert Verlaque
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror
Rated: R

IMDb Synopsis: A group of thieves break into a chamber expecting to find paintings, but instead they release the count himself, who travels to New Orleans to find his nemesis' daughter, Mary Van Helsing.

The majority of this movie takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Parade crowds are featured in parts of the movie and there’s even some scenes in the famous cemeteries where the burial vaults are all above ground. (They have to be that way due to the high water table since New Orleans is actually below sea level.) I have a feeling that those weren’t shot on location, though, due to another movie I’m listing later.

Bonus? It’s Gerard Butler (Gamer, How to Train Your Dragon, Olympus Has Fallen) at the beginning of his career, long before his kingly role in 300 (2006). So what if his accent doesn’t fit the character stereotype?! Double bonus - Nathan Fillion (Serenity, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Castle) dons priestly garb in this role that predates Firefly (2002-2003) by several years.

The movie poses an interesting theory about the vampire origin story. There’s some cheese and definitely some standard tropes here, but it’s an entertaining movie.

3 - Easy Rider (1969)

Tag Line: A man went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere.
Production Companies: Pando Company Inc., Raybert Productions
Director: Dennis Hopper
Writers: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern
Actors: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Antonio Mendoza, Phil Spector, Mac Mashourian, Sabrina Scharf, Sandy Wyeth, Robert Walker Jr., Jack Nicholson, Toni Basil, Karen Black
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Rated: R

IMDb Synopsis: Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America.

When I mentioned earlier that there was a movie that sparked some crack-down on filming in cemeteries in New Orleans, this was the one I was mentioning. They really didn’t even have permission to film in St. Louis Cemetery #1 for the infamous LSD scene. There have been other movies since this that have filmed in various cemeteries around New Orleans, but special permission is required – and generally it is not granted for this particular cemetery.

This iconic movie didn’t really have a script; and, for the majority of the film, didn’t even have an official crew. They just picked up people along the way.  While this might not be an ideal family movie, due to the drug use, etc; it is certainly a classic and was a groundbreaker back in its day.

The road trip featured in this movie culminates in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. In fact, the Mardi Gras scene was supposedly shot as a quasi proof-of-concept as they were securing funding for the film.

2 - Mardi Gras (1958)

Tag Line: Not Available
Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director: Edmund Goulding
Writers: Curtis Harrington, Hal Kanter, Winston Miller
Actors: Pat Boone, Christine Carère, Tommy Sands, Gary Crosby, Fred Clark, Dick Sargent, Barry Chase, King Calder, Robert Burton, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Frank Mills
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Rated: Unrated

Synopsis: A military school cadet wins a date with a French movie goddess who happens to be the queen of the Mardi Gras parade. The two fall in love, but the starlet's movie studio wants to capitalize on this newly found love for publicity.

Now this one’s a real throw-back. It’s not something you can find on Netflix, but it is accessible if you really go looking for it. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t include a movie titled after the actual holiday in this list.

This is an old school musical from the age of crooners. There isn’t a trailer available for this movie, either, due to its age. I did find a clip that might give you a feel for the vibe of this film.

1 - The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Tag Line: Every love story begins with a kiss.
Production Companies: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
Directors: Ron Clements, John Musker
Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker, Greg Erb, Jason Oremland, Rob Edwards, E.D. Baker
Actors: Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Elizabeth Dampier, Breanna Brooks, Ritchie Montgomery, Don Hall, Paul Briggs, Jerry Kernion, Corey Burton, Michael Colyar, Emeril Lagasse, Kevin Michael Richardson, Randy Newman, Danielle Moné Truitt
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: G

IMDb Synopsis: A waitress, desperate to fulfill her dreams as a restaurant owner, is set on a journey to turn a frog prince back into a human being, but she has to face the same problem after she kisses him.

In this Disney animated movie, Mardi Gras is a prominent theme and plot point. This film has a little something for everyone in it. There are some pretty dark moments, but Disney doesn’t shy away from that as much as they did back in the day when The Black Cauldron (1985) got semi disowned by the studio due to its darkness. (The movie didn’t find re-acceptance and resurgence until a much later anniversary edition re-release. That Horned King was too much nightmare fuel for many.)

At this time, this movie is available on Netflix DVD service, only. One of these days it will make it to streaming and I trust the dice will let us offer you a full-blown review. ‘

If you'd like to read more about the Mardi Gras holiday or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, feel free to follow the links provided. 

But I Digress... is a 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, February 24, 2017

Spy Time (2015) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 83
Movie Name/Year: Spy Time (2015) [aka Anacleto: Agente Secreto]
Tagline: They always hit the target.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Thriller
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Agente Secreto 2015, Telefonica Studios, Zeta Audiovisual
Producer: Gabriel Arias-Salgado, Eneko Gutierrez, Axel Kuschevatzky, Jaime Ortiz de Artinano, Francisco Ramos, Oriol Sala-Patau
Director: Javier Ruiz Caldera
Writer: Fernando Navarro, Pablo Alen, Breixo Corral, Manuel Vazquez Gallego
Actors: Imanol Arias, Quim Gutierrez, Alexandra Jimenez, Berto Romero, Carlos Areces, Eduardo Gomez, Dani El Rojo, Emilio Gutierrez Caba, Rossy de Palma, Silvia Abril, Toni Sevilla, Gilbert Bosch, Qihui Zhu, Daniel Ripolles, Daniel Arias
Stunt Doubles: Javi Cornelio, Oscar Dorta, Sara Leal, Marc Padro

Speech Available: Spanish (Spain)
Subtitles Available: English, Traditional Chinese, French, German, Spanish (Spain)

Blurb from Netflix: When his girlfriend dumps him for being a bore, a working stiff discovers that his father is a secret agent and a dangerous thug is targeting them.

Selina’s Point of View:
Spy Time is a classic spy spoof film. If you’re hoping for something along the lines of the James Bond films (1962 - ) this is not the right movie for you. It had a lot of the action that you would expect from that kind of film, but it’s like comparing Scream (1996) to Halloween (1978). You get a lot of the same scares, but most of the film is spent taking jabs at the predictability of the tropes.

I could have watched this film without subtitles and still been able to keep up. That’s not because I understand Spanish, it’s because I’ve seen the storyline roughly several hundred times. That should tell you how closely the project stuck to the recipe. However, because they put that spoofy spin on it, and the creators didn’t take themselves too seriously, it was elevated beyond what the finished product should have been.

I greatly enjoyed it.

The jokes were funny, the script was amusing, the actors were good, and a lot of the scenes were relatively beautiful to look at. I was also pretty impressed with the fight choreography. In spoof-like films you don’t always get a lot of attention to detail where the choreography is concerned, and it hurts the end product. That just wasn’t an issue in this film.

Although no one actor specifically stood out to me, it’s because I was continuously absorbed in the story. The end took some turns that even tugged it away from where you’d expect the recipe to go, which also heightened my enjoyment.

I would absolutely recommend this film.

Cat’s Point of View:
This was an exciting selection for Foreign Film Friday. I was seriously crossing my fingers that it would live up to its name. I’m a sucker for secret agent movies.

If you’re looking for straight-laced action, though – this isn’t your movie. I think it was fantastic that this film didn’t take itself too seriously. One of the genre bylines on the Netflix description said ‘absurd.’ It wasn’t really wrong. It was just the right balance of ridiculousness, however. If you go too far in that direction, you get something like Top Secret (1984) or The Naked Gun (1988). I think this stayed fairly middle of the road.

I found it interesting that this was actually a comic book movie. The main character of this film, Anacleto, was the subject of a comic strip from the 60s in Spain. It was intentionally a parody of Ian Fleming’s famous Bond character. There is a scene in the movie where sketches appear on the walls in a room – those are from the comic.

Learning that little tidbit also helped explain why it was a little harder for me to follow along with the Spanish being spoken, so that I had to read the subtitles more often than not. One reason is the actors spoke really fast quite a bit – but the main reason was difference in dialect. Spanish from Spain is different than Spanish from Mexico. It’s a bit more involved than the difference between someone having a ‘southern drawl’ or the accent of the far Northern states near Canada.

Speaking of language, I’m happy to report that the subtitles had me fairly giddy. They were over the movie, but well defined and in a yellowish color. They were also generally accurate to the actual dialogue, from what parts I could discern.

The production team made an excellent choice casting Imanol Arias (Besos de gato, Mentiras, Paper Birds) as Anacleto. He pulled off the silver fox secret agent vibe seemingly with ease. I really enjoyed his chemistry with his whiny on-screen son, played by Quim Gutiérrez (Without You, Sangre de Mayo, The Last Days).

I saw shades of Maggie Siff (Push, The 5th Wave, Mad Men) from her role in Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014) in Alexandra Jiménez’s (Ghost Graduation, We Are Pregnant, Born to Win) character. It’s actually a bit eerie how they somewhat resemble each other. I’m afraid I can’t illustrate my point very well without giving away spoilers, so maybe check the movie out and see for yourself!

I’d gladly watch this one again and would recommend it in a heartbeat as some good action-comedy fun.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 35%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 2.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

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

P.S. An extra scene just at the start of the credits after the word “Anacleto” pops up.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Someone Marry Barry (2014)

Number Rolled: 55
Movie Name/Year: Someone Marry Barry (2014)
Tagline: The story of a guy only a wife could love.
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Madrose Productions, Straight Up Films
Producer: Jeremy Bailer, Kate Cohen, Donny Debarr, William Gheen, David Jeffery, Barry Josephson, Joanna Meek, Peggy Lee Miller, Ryan Neville-Alfieri, Rob Pearlstein, Marisa Polvino, Marat Rosenberg, Marc H. Simon, Phil Vehec, Gabriela Vazquez, Alexander Young
Director: Rob Pearlstein
Writer: Rob Pearlstein
Actors: Tyler Labine, Damon Wayans Jr., Lucy Punch, Hayes MacArthur, Thomas Middleditch, Amanda Lund, Frankie Shaw, Wyatt Oleff, J. Robin Miller, Ginger Gonzaga, Ed Helms, Jerry Minor, Lauren Miller, Brian Huskey, Greg Germann, Brett Gelman, Liza Lapira, Michael Panes, Joe Lo Truglio, Mark Edward Smith
Stunt Performer: Tyler Bonura

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: Weary of putting up with their embarrassing chum Barry, three friends set about finding a woman who’ll solve their problem by putting him in wedlock.

Selina’s Point of View:
If you’ve seen one romantic comedy, you’ve seen the majority of the rest of them. Really, there aren’t that many different flavors of the genre. This one, however, had a very different flavor.

Don’t get me wrong. The film definitely followed a LOT of the stereotypes and tropes you’d expect from the genre. What made it ultimately different was the characters.

Each of the characters had their own storyline and issues to overcome, instead of just the leading actors with their love story. By the end of the film I felt like I knew, and was invested in, all the character stories. I normally only find that happening in intersecting anthologies – like New York, I Love You (2008) – or movies that are created for the sole purpose of utilizing several different main characters – like He’s Just Not That Into You (2009).

The storyline itself, where it followed a lot of stereotypes, spit in the face of some of the most annoying tropes known to romantic comedies. I enjoyed that part immensely. However, I can’t go into specifics without causing some major spoilers, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

I really enjoyed Someone Marry Barry. It was an interesting take on the genre, the actors did very well in their parts, and it was hilarious.

I’d watch it again without any hesitation.

Cat’s Point of View:
Where do I start with this one? I know that sounds ominous, but it’s not a bad thing. This movie was a decidedly pleasant surprise. It was a blend of hilarity and the urge to plaster my palm to my face (while still laughing). I’m not afraid to admit I enjoy the occasional dive into raunchy humor. The good news is that this film wasn’t only that.

The underlying theme exploring the bonds of friendship is pretty solid. The movie pokes at how our friendships evolve as we get older – especially with a person or group of people we’ve known since childhood.

I have to say that the casting for this movie did a phenomenal job. I think the core ensemble of Damon Wayans Jr. (Marmaduke, The Other Guys, New Girl), Hayes MacArthur (The Game Plan, Answers to Nothing, The Motel Life), and Thomas Middleditch (The Brass Teapot, Fun Size, The Final Girls) worked well together as the ‘straight men’ foils to their crazy Barry, played by Tyler Labine (Control Alt Delete, Best Man Down, Voltron).

Of course, Labine is no stranger to off the wall comedy. I do, however, appreciate that his character had some layers. If it had only been blue comedy, I don’t think the film would have had the same impact.

I absolutely adored Lucy Punch (Dinner for Schmucks, Stand Up Guys, Cake) in this movie. Aside from the fact that she got to rock her native British accent for her role, I loved the brazen abandon of her character. She made the underlying vulnerability of Melanie look simply effortless, too.

While I don’t think this film rates as high as Labine’s insanely funny work in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010), it made enough of an impression that I wouldn’t mind watching it again or even recommending it to anyone that enjoys some irreverent humor occasionally.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 45%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 3.5/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score3.5/5

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

The Random Rating: R

P.S. An extra scene just during the beginning of the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ferocious Planet (2011)

Number Rolled: 51
Movie Name/Year: Ferocious Planet (2011)
Tagline: The next dimension of terror.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Parallel Film Productions, RHI Entertainment, Syfy
Producer: Mary Callery, Mark Grenside, Robert Halmi Jr., Alan Moloney, Adrian Sturges
Director: Billy O’Brien
Writer: Douglas G. Davis
Actors: Joe Flanigan, John Rhys-Davies, Catherine Walker, Dagmar Doring, Robert Soohan, Michael Yare, Chris Newman, Shashi Rami, Kevin Flood, Sam O’Mahony
Stunt Coordinator: Donal O’Farrell

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: A groundbreaking device designed to glimpse alternate universes malfunctions and transports a group of observers into a nightmarish new dimension.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was very much not impressed by Ferocious Planet. I love a good Sci-Fi, I love a good creature feature… but this one was just so lame. It was chock full of references, which I’m normally amused by, but the good references didn’t fit the scenes they were in and the rest of them were references to notoriously sub-par movies. I don’t even know where to file that in my brain.

Why would you reference a notoriously bad movie – one with no cult following – in your film? That’s not a rhetorical question, I legitimately want to know.

The first ‘alien’ we see on screen is actually relatively decent graphic-wise, but the rest make sharknados look real.

I wasn’t really fond of the obvious cuts made for commercial breaks, either. If I had ever gotten into the story to begin with, that totally would have taken me out of it. I imagine it was made for TV, but a lot of made for TV movies smooth out the cuts when they bring it to DVD or throw it up for digital playback/download somewhere.

Ferocious Planet was just a bad movie with shallow characters, loose ends that never tie up, a weak plot, a very bad attempt at science use, and not very good acting. In fact, I’m finding it difficult to find any redeeming qualities in this film. The shallow characters weren’t even likeable enough for me to care if they lived or died.

I just really expect more from people like Joe Flanigan (Stargate: Atlantis, 6 Bullets, A Reason to Believe) and John Rhys-Davies (The Shannara Chronicles, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). They were not utilized well in this film at all.

Cat’s Point of View:
Off we go, once more into the land of Syfy Channel TV movies.

I feel I must confess that I had to watch this movie twice. The first time, I fell asleep not too far in. To be fair, I don’t think it was entirely the movie. It’s Mardi Gras here in Louisiana, and while I’m in the Northwestern part of the state, we still have a few big parade days. We had a massive get together yesterday complete with crawfish boil and I’m simply tuckered out.

With the napping out of my system, I tried to give the movie another shot. I was more successful the second time around. The thing is… while the movie wasn’t entirely what put me to sleep the first time, it wasn’t exactly the most engaging thing I’d ever seen, either.

I wanted to like it, really. Sci-fi is my wheelhouse even more than my semi-obsession with horror movies and my love of fantasy. The concept of parallel dimensions is fascinating. I’m even on board with the idea that it’s a plausible thing that could exist. Why not?

This movie just didn’t exactly execute its concept as well as it could have.

I did appreciate that John Rhys-Davies (Prisoners of the Sun, Beyond the Mask, Raiders of the Lost Ark) was a part of this film. It seemed like it might be a subtle nod to nostalgia for his old show Sliders (1995-2000). I watched a bit of that show back in the day, so I was amused at the reference.

Some elements of the plot just felt a bit disjointed. I was, however, thankful that the movie kept a decent pace. I wasn’t a fan of the ending. Actually, I should amend that statement. I wasn’t a fan of the entire ending. There was a satisfying moment before the final scene that answered a hunch I’d had earlier on.

I was pleased to find that this movie was filmed in Ireland and pulled quite a few of its cast from “local” actors. Catherine Walker (Leap Year, Patrick's Day, A Dark Song) and Dagmar Döring (The Front Line, 13 Steps Down, Fair City), who were the female leads, are both Irish. Michael Yare (Ghostwood, Leopard, Morgan) hails from Dublin as well. He played one of the main military personnel.

The one cast member you would think would belong with the Irish crowd is actually a resident of California. Joe Flanigan (Good Day For It, The Other Sister, The Bandit Hound) played the male lead, Colonel Synn. I can give him honorable mention Irish points, though. It’s bound to be in his family background, right?

I digress.

I thought the monsters in this movie were actually handled pretty well. The creatures were interesting and well thought out. I was impressed, actually. Their rendering was even pretty smooth. Though, some scenes did feel like they were borrowed slightly from a certain wildly popular dinosaur movie franchise.

All in all, if I caught this on TV I might let it keep playing. It wouldn’t be much more than background noise, though. I doubt I’d seek it out to watch on purpose again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 8%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 2/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score1/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 1.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score2/5

The Random Rating: Soft R, Hard PG-13

Movie Trailer:

Sunday, February 19, 2017

This Week in Crowdfunding (2-19)

By: Selina

Through “This Week in Crowdfunding,” you’ll find five of the best projects Trust the Dice found hosted on crowdfunding sights this week. These are Films/Web Series’/Shows of varying lengths and genres that we believe in. If you like any of the projects you see here, donate to them, tell your friends, and/or post it on social media.

These projects don’t just need money, they need people to care and spread the word that they exist.

Support creativity. Support indie artists.

Remember that every actor, director, writer, and movie you have ever fallen in love with had to start somewhere.

Trust the Dice does not, and will not, accept payment from project creators for
Appearance on this list. Projects are chosen solely on the merit of the idea,
proposal, and people involved.

5 – Beautiful Things

Crowdsource Platform: KICKSTARTER
Director: Paige Polk
Writer: Paige Polk
Other Staff: Carla Tramullas (Director of Photography), Nneka Njoku (Production), Katherine Fana (Production)
Amount Requested: $24,953
Current Standing (as of Saturday night): $2,158 raised by 61 backers.
Type of Goal: All or Nothing

I think, as children, we can’t really see our parents as real people because they’re more than that. They’re the ones that give us life and we’re not really old enough at that point to understand that they have the same emotions we will when we grow up.

My mother raised me on her own because my father was a prick. As a result she worked damn near constantly. She opted not to make many friends at all and never once went on a date. So I probably didn’t realize she had the same emotions I did until I was older than most others. Instead of figuring it out as a pre-teen, I was a teenager before that realization hit me. Later than I’d care to admit.

It’s because of that truth that I tend to get really happy when I see projects being made that remind people that being a parent doesn’t mean a person has stopped being human.

Yes, a great mother would put her child first in all things, but she still her own needs and desires to look after. Even if those emotions are put on the backburner.

The love story being showcased in Beautiful Things is between two women, one of them just happens to be a mom. It’s a project being made by experienced people with a significant interest in the story being told. One of those experienced people, Carla Tramullas, also has an Emmy credited to her name. As a result, regardless of people’s opinions of the subject or finished product, there is pretty much a guarantee that the creation will be handled professionally.

I’m also very impressed that the makers of this film have opted to keep their budget available to the public. That means that, whether or not you donate, you can see how the budget for the film is being handled.

Transparency is an idea I can get behind.

Lowest Fund Reward: $5 – I’m Your Fan! – A public shoutout on the Beautiful Things Facebook Page!
Highest Fund Reward: $8,000 – Juju on That Beat – We’ll fly you out to the wrap party where you can meet the cast and crew. – Includes: Public shoutout, Name in the credits, Link to the original soundtrack, Link to the finished film, Signed copy of the script, Be an extra, Executive Producer credit.

4 – Holiday Hostage

Crowdsource Platform: INDIEGOGO
Director: D.W. Moffett
Writer: David Storch, Abby Walla
Other Staff: Sawyer Williams (Producer), Phil Parmet (Director of Photography), Aida Lembo (Line Producer), Tiffany Berube (Associate Producer), Kerry Carroll (Associate Producer), Erin Coleman (Associate Producer), Thomas Ochoa (Associate Producer), Alisha Ricardi (Associate Producer), Julian Ricardo (Associate Producer), K.C. Wolf (Associate Producer)
Amount Requested: $40,000
Current Standing (as of Saturday night): $28,158 raised by 402 backers.
Type of Goal: Flexible

I grew up in a Jewish family. Not the kind that did Shabbat every Friday or celebrated Passover together, but Jewish none-the-less. So, when I saw the trailer posted on this Indiegogo page, I totally got it.

Even if my mom didn’t have the kind of neurotic tendencies displayed (she still calls me up the moment anything happens in the news anywhere and tells me to look out for monsters in the dark), I’d still have my childhood friend’s families to compare too, my Jewish summer camp, and every other cultural aspect I grew up around. I even grew up in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood.

Generally, the really stereotypical projects don’t tend to catch my interest at all. When people overdo the cultural references, you just know it’s not going to speak to everyone because not everyone is going to relate. Holiday Hostage, however, doesn’t quite travel that route.

Sure, it focuses on the culture of a Jewish family specifically, but mostly it seems to focus on crazy families in general. You don’t need to be Jewish to have one of those. We don’t have a monopoly on it.

It seems like Holiday Hostage is going to have more of a widespread likeability to it despite the cultural references because of the addition of the hostage storyline.

The writers also seem to have great comedic timing. Since they’re also acting in the film (under the direction of a well-known professional actor), that really elevates my expectations for the final product.

Lowest Fund Reward: $10 – Thank You Turkey! – A hand-turkey drawn in your honor and put up on our wall of gratitude, plus a social media shout-out.
Highest Fund Reward: $3,500 – Executive Producer – All hail the King/Queen! You are the top of the top when it comes to producers. Everyone else bows down before you. (Like, Abby & David will literally send you a video bowing down before you.) Come visit the set via a personal driver to see what you helped make happen and meet the cast & crew. (Travel to Los Angeles & Accommodations not included.) – Items Included: Hand Turkey & Shout-Out, Download of Holiday Hostage, Blooper Reel, Awkward Family Photo, Original Puppet Show, Name in Credits, Behind the Scenes Camera, Executive Producer Credit

3 – Trapper

Crowdsource Platform: INDIEGOGO
Director: Oskar Brockbank
Writer: Oskar Brockbank
Other Staff: Alex Starr (Producer), Nicolo Biarrise (Cinematographer), Jonna Laitinen (Art Director), Ruaridh Turner (Assistant Director), Ruth Hope (Costume Designer), Elley Lewis (Costume Designer)
Amount Requested: $2,119
Current Standing (as of Saturday night): $155 raised by 8 backers.
Type of Goal: Flexible

The creators of this film did an amazing job of making the story seem absolutely harrowing in the trailer. The combination of visuals and audio during the parts where they’re discussing the plot give a base taste of what to expect of the finished film. Even the trailer itself is shot well.

Although I thought the trailer was well done, it has almost nothing to do with why Trapper made this list.

I’m absolutely entranced by the story they’ve decided to work with.

While writing for Trust the Dice I have watched hundreds of movies. I did the math in a previous article, though I couldn’t even begin to tell you which one, so I’m not going to do it again. Before the blog, I was a movie lover, so I watched a ton of films before I ever started the site. As a result, I’m always incredibly impressed when I find a film that has a unique subject. There aren’t many of those left except for historically accurate ones about events that haven’t happened yet.

Plainly put, Trapper takes a story I’ve never seen told in a film and expands upon it.

That, alone, is what got this project on the list. The trailer and information available on the Indiegogo site are the reasons the film wound up as high as it did.

I’m also a big fan of supporting students for their graduation projects. You never know which among them will be our next legend.

Lowest Fund Reward: $12 – Trapper – You get a link to the film upon completion, thank you so much for your support!
Highest Fund Reward: $310 – A Prop from the Set – This is the largest perk available, thank you so much for your generousity! For this, you receive everything listed above, but we will also send you a prop from the film. This could include anything from a lantern, helmet, piece of the set, or costume item! You will also be granted the opportunity to visit the set and meet the director, as a personal thank you for your donation!

2 – Forget Me Not

Crowdsource Platform: INDIEGOGO
Director: Ryan Love
Writer: Zackery Alexander
Other Staff: Manuel Sherbakoff (Producer), Emily Reas (Producer), Romas Usakovas (Director of Photography)
Amount Requested: $3,000
Current Standing (as of Saturday night): $260 raised by 6 backers.
Type of Goal: Flexible

Forget Me Not struck me because of how important the subject matter is.

I have a lot of friends that have served in various branches of the military. Although most of them seemed fine when they returned home – not all of them were. In fact, almost all of them had trouble adjusting back to a civilian lifestyle.

One of those friends once said that nothing since returning home has felt as real as his time overseas. I’m not going to reveal his name because I don’t remember if he told it to me or allowed me to read it in his private journal, so I don’t really want to overstep bounds. However, this guy is a good friend, a good father to his daughter, and a good person in general. His heart and mind seem to almost always be in the right place, so when I heard that sentence from him, it shocked me.

You don’t have to agree with war or violence in order to support the people that make up our troops. These people join the military for many different reasons and it’s not usually because they’ve decided they want to do something violent. Sometimes it’s for college money, sometimes it’s to escape a bad situation, sometimes it’s because they don’t know what they want to do with their lives, sometimes it’s because they feel it will help them fix a part of them, sometimes it’s out of loyalty for the country; the list could really go on forever.

Forget Me Not delves into the subject of a veteran’s mental health. It follows a former Air Force member as he battles dementia in his civilian life.

Anything that raises awareness for a subject of this importance, can’t be ignored. In this case, the film is done and the funding being requested by those involved is for post-production and the ability to submit it to film festivals. The makers are also donating part of what they raise to the California Mental Health Connection.

This film has an important subject mixed with a talented and experienced cast and crew. I truly believe that, if it is funded, it will not fail.

Lowest Fund Reward: $1 – Thank You! – Thank you for donating! A contribution of any size makes a difference. You’re helping to finish Forget Me Not and raise mental health awareness!
Highest Fund Reward: $750 – Executive Producer – Be the sole Executive Producer of Forget Me Not! You will have your name listed as an Executive Producer in the film’s credits, on IMDB, in all future marketing material, at film festivals, and more! You’ll be thanked on our Facebook Page, emailed a link to watch the film as soon as we finish editing, and you’ll be sent a copy of the film poster. – Items Include: Facebook shout-out, Personal Link to the film, Forget Me Not poster, Executive Producer Credit

1 – Skywatch

Crowdsource Platform: KICKSTARTER
Director: Colin Levy
Writer: Colin Levy, Mike Sundy
Other Staff: Uriah Shelton (Actor), Zach Callison (Actor), Andre Danylevich (Producer), Sandro Blattner (VFX Supervisor), Adam Habib (Director of Photography), Julie Chen (Production Design), Morgan Johnson (Sound Supervisor), Jasper Blunk (Composer)
Amount Requested: $35,000
Current Standing (as of Saturday night): $25,407 raised by 196 backers.
Type of Goal: All or Nothing

This film looks outstanding.

Colin Levy is familiar with the workings of Kickstarted projects, so he likely has plenty of plans to back-up his ideas. That means Murphy’s Law might not have as much of an effect on him and his team. Things go wrong in filming all the time, experience helps people sort that out.

Not only is Levy experienced, but he chose two very talented and experienced teens to play his leads. Uriah Shelton has a longer IMDb page than some adult actors do. He’s been acting since 2007 and has almost 30 credits to his name. More impressively, the productions he’s credited in aren’t really on the “B” level. I’ve heard of, or seen, almost everything he’s been in.

If you can believe it, Zach Callison’s IMDb page is even longer – with 45 acting credits since his start in 2007. His most popular project by far is Steven Universe, which has a cult following that includes a ridiculous amount of people my age or older, but his credits are also full of legitimately great projects that would impress any skeptic.

These are definitely the kind of teen actors that will make you wonder what the fuck you’ve been doing with your life.

Even if this short film didn’t boast such an experienced and talented cast/crew, the trailer speaks for itself. It looks like something that could easily expand beyond a ‘short’ into either a feature film, or a television series. In fact, I’d love to see it expand. I’d watch the hell out of it.

Trust the Dice has donated a small amount to Skywatch to back up our belief that it is the top crowdfunded project for the week.

Lowest Fund Reward: $1 – Join the Team – Every dollar counts. Get a warm fuzzy feeling for chipping in to make this film a reality! Also get access to exclusive updates on Kickstarter.

Highest Fund Reward: $10,000 – Co-Executive Producer – In addition to the 3D print and above reward, receive a Co-Executive Producer Credit in the main titles of the film and we will invite you and a guest to an exclusive screening of the proof of concept in Los Angeles before its premiere. You will be responsible for you travel and lodging. – Includes: Co-Executive Producer Credit, Exclusive Screening Invite for you and a guest, All above rewards.