Saturday, July 22, 2017

Chester Bennington

By: Selina

I don’t normally do this, especially for people outside of the movie industry, but I’m making an exception.

I could say that Chester Bennington counts toward the movie business due to his parts in Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010), Crank (2006), and Crank: High Voltage (2009), but that still wouldn’t be the reason I’m breaking from Trust the Dice’s normal film-core. The truth is much simpler than that.

Although we don’t really cover music in this blog, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a significant effect on our lives. Cat goes to concerts relatively constantly and I grew up in love with bands that helped me feel anything but what I was forced to feel.

As one part of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington has been an absolute constant in my life. I’ll be honest, I don’t have many of those. Constants, where people are concerned, are those that can be counted on to always be there to a point where not a single doubt occurs in one’s mind. I have three of those at this point in my life, but when I was a teenager that number was effectively zero. My constants could only come in the form of entertainment.

Linkin Park was one of those constants that I could count on.

“It’s just a band.”

People say things like that, but they’re wrong. Obviously, I didn’t know Bennington personally. As cool as that would have been, I don’t feel that’s a requirement to grieve his death.

I was sixteen-years-old when Linkin Park came out with Hybrid Theory. I had been suffering for three years at that time. There was no naivety left for me, no childhood. The world was a bleak place and I was dealing with everything alone. My mother was so fed up with my inability to open up that she was convinced I was using or dealing drugs. Despite experimentations, that was never the case… but home life was no longer a break from the rest of the terrible world.

When I was thirteen, I was sexually assaulted by a man that lived in my neighborhood. I pressed charges, but the police officers treated me like a criminal and the prosecutor continuously, and publicly, dragged me out of class every single day. On top of that, she was cruel. It got to the point where I had to agree to let him plea because no one wanted to deal with it. Meanwhile, whenever his girlfriend ran into me on the street she verbally assaulted me however she could.

It was around that time that a friend of mine killed himself. He was a good guy that I greatly admired. 

I stopped bothering with school. I was depressed and embarrassed. I felt guilty and as if I were worth nothing. I quit dance class and I hid in my room whenever possible.

Teenage me didn’t handle things well. My mom kept putting me into therapy with these “world-renowned” psychologists that couldn’t earn so much as an iota of my trust. She wound up spending money we didn’t have on sessions where the therapists would do their busy work while I sat there staring at a wall for an hour.

I was in a dark place. I can’t even logically express just how dark. The few friends I had made in early high school didn’t last long – though that wasn’t such a bad thing. They weren’t the greatest people in the world.

The first time I heard Linkin Park, the song was “One Step Closer” and I latched onto it like it was as necessary as air. I bought Hybrid Theory the moment I had the money and listened to it on repeat for months. I would scream along with each song at the top of my lungs. I’m sure it pissed off all my neighbors spectacularly… but every time I screamed I felt a little better.

I honestly believe that album was instrumental to getting me to a point where I felt ready to open up. It wasn’t the only factor, but I think it was a very large one.

It wasn’t long after that when I agreed to meet with someone at the Jewish Board of Family Services. They funded a school for teenagers with emotional problems, Thomas Askins. The one requirement for that school was that I had to go to therapy to be enrolled. I started talking to a woman that was just starting out as a therapist, I was her first client. She earned my trust within days. Through that school I met one of the people that would become a constant in my life and my mother and I were able to begin mending our relationship.

Would Thomas Askins have worked out if I wasn’t so read to open up? No, I don’t believe it would have.

Since then, whenever I have been at my lowest, I listen to Linkin Park. Not always their first album, a lot of their stuff has the same effect on me as Hybrid Theory did.

Recently, when I had the suicidal ideation side effects from one of my medications, “Heavy” was a song that clicked with me like nothing else had in a very long time.

Chester Bennington’s death was a huge shock. He has touched so many lives. I know of many people that have stories like mine where Linkin Park’s music gave them the strength they needed to fix themselves.

I don’t think I need to know Bennington personally to mourn him. He’s done more for me without knowing my name than people who share my blood have. He was a muse to this world and a savior to so many. I can only hope he knew that.

Rest in peace, Chester. And thank you, for everything.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Red Eagle: The Movie (2011) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 3
Movie Name/Year: Red Eagle: The Movie (2011)
Tagline: None
Genre: Action, Adventure, History
Length: 116 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Globomedia, Instituto de la Cinematografia y de las Artes Audiovisuales (ICAA), Television Espanola (TVE), Versatil Cinema
Producer: Santiago De la Rica, Kiko Vega, Arantxa Ecija, Daniel Ecija
Director: Jose Ramon Ayerra
Writer: Guillermo Cisneros, Pilar Nadal, Juan Maria Ruiz Cordoba
Actors: David Janer, Javier Gutierrez, Francis Lorenzo, Inma Cuesta, Miryam Gallego, Roberto Alamo, Pepa Aniorte, Santiago Molero, Xabier Elorriaga, Jose Angel Egido, Guillermo Campra, Patrick Criado, Martina Klein, Mariano Pena, Antonio Molero, Stany Coppet, William Miller, Xavier Lafitte, Joan Crosas, Jean Dominikowski, Joan Carles Suau, Frank Crudele, Inma Sancho, Simon Cohen, Miko Jarry
Stunt Doubles: Diego Alvarez, Ramon Alvarez

Blurb from Netflix: Stepping into the persona of his alter ego, Gonzalo de Montalvo tangles with the corrupt Spanish government to avenge an attack on his son.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was thrilled with this week’s pick. A Spanish fantasy sounded pretty golden to me.

This was definitely an interesting film. It was serious, but it had some campy moments and characters that were parodies of their archetypes. The mix of the two was strange to see, but not in a bad way.

To be honest, the feel of the movie reminded me a lot of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991). My mom used to love that movie and watched it over and over again throughout my childhood, and I watched with her. Keep in mind, the plot is absolutely different, it’s just the basic feel that reminded me of the older movie.

There was a lot packed into this film. There was a superhero aspect to it, conspiracy, politics, romance, decent fight choreography… in fact, the only thing it didn’t have that I thought it would was some sort of mysticism. I guess that makes it more of a period piece, but it still had that warrior-heavy fantasy feel so I’m sticking with that label.

It felt like the beginning of something and, quite frankly, if they came out with an entire series of these films I’d watch them. I’d watch every single one of them.

There was definitely enough of an opening at the end to do something more with it.

Upon further research, Wikipedia says that Red Eagle is a television show that ran from 2009 to 2016. I found the show on IMDb under the Spanish title Aguila Roja. I’m guessing that means the film was just something extra that came out during the show’s running. All the actors seem the same and it’s the same universe, so I think both the show and the movie are canon for the plot.

I’m going to be hunting the show down and giving it a watch-through.

Cat’s Point of View:
This Foreign Film Friday selection was a wonderful treat. Sci-fi and fantasy are my true favorite genres and this movie was squarely in the fantasy action range with historical fiction flair.

I have no idea if the Red Eagle is an actual figure of Spanish folklore, but the character resonates nearly on the level of Robin Hood. I did say nearly, though. From my perspective, albeit which could be somewhat limited, the Hood is more ingrained into the global consciousness and this is my first introduction to the eagle of crimson.

While the film did feel a bit like it picked up in the middle of something, and there was a sense of layers just out of reach of understanding – it grabbed my attention phenomenally and I was glued to the screen so that the nearly two hours of the movie just flew by.

I absolutely adored the dynamic between Gonzalo and Satur, played by David Janer (Mar de Fons, Paco's Men, The Blind Sunflowers) and Javier GutiƩrrez (A Night in Old Mexico, The Olive Tree, Assassin's Creed) respectively. Their banter and hero/sidekick roles are an integral part of what makes this whole thing work.

My only beef wasn’t even with the film, itself, but with the stupid Netflix blurb. Don’t read it. This is yet another case where the summary gives a patently false impression of the movie’s plot and gives potential spoilers at the same time. I mean seriously, Netflix. You need to sack the llama responsible for writing those and hire another llama with more sense.

All said, I adored this movie and want more. I would gladly recommend it as something for the whole family to enjoy. (There are a couple spots you might cover the eyes of the young due to some nudity, but it’s not gratuitous and quite brief.)

Speech Available: Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 32%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.9/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

P.S.  Some tiny scenes during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It Follows (2014)

Number Rolled: 5
Movie Name/Year: It Follows (2014)
Tagline: It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.
Genre: Horror, Mystery
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Northern Lights Films, Animal Kingdom, Two Flints
Producer: Joshua Astrachan, Robyn K. Bennett, Mia Chang, P. Jennifer Dana, Frederick W. Green, Rebecca Green, David Kaplan, Corey Large, David Robert Mitchell, Alan Pao, Erik Rommesmo, Jeff Schlossman, Laura D. Smith, Bill Wallwork
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Actors: Bailey Spry, Loren Bass, Keir Gilchrist, Maika Monroe, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Debbie Williams, Daniel Zovatto, Ruby Harris, Leisa Pulido, Linda Boston, Claire Sloma, Joanna Bronson
Stunt Doubles: Travis Russell, Amber Whelan

Blurb from Netflix: After a sexual tryst, Jay learns that her date has passed on a lethal curse that can only be shed by sleeping with another unsuspecting partner.

Selina’s Point of View:
What is it with sexually transmitted curses lately? Is this Hollywood’s attempt at a PSA about unprotected sex or promiscuity?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m losing my taste for horror films or something. At the very least, I definitely haven’t been in the mood for horror lately. I’ve been more looking forward to the comedies in our queue.

For now, I’m just going to chalk it up to the pregnancy making my brain a little wonky.

What I did notice was how similar It Follows and Contracted (2013) were. They had similar plots with different curses. The movies eventually took different paths… but I still felt like I had seen this film before.

Maybe if it had been longer since I’d seen Contracted I might have taken more to this film.

The acting was fine and It Follows was MUCH better quality than the other film. Given a choice between the two I would choose this one every time… but given a choice between this movie and another horror flick, I’d choose the other one – for the most part.

I also hated the ending. I hated it. A better ending might have saved the whole thing, but the one it had just made everything seem worse.

It Follows just wasn’t for me.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was super excited that we landed on this movie. This wasn’t my first time watching it, nor will it be my last. The trailer stuck with me back in the timeframe this film was released. Needless to say, I jumped at the first chance I had to see if it lived up to my expectations.

Not only did this movie exceed them, it’s now one of my favorite horror movies. This is at least the third time I've seen it - perhaps more. It's been in rotation on cable movie channels.

The atmosphere and pacing of the film feed into the plot-based dread. Sweeping camera pans add to anticipation as you wonder what is coming next and where it’s coming from. The fact that you can’t quite pin down the timeframe of the setting due to the mix of style and technology gives it this nebulous feel that keeps you a little off-kilter. Overall, it feels a bit retro-noir like Stranger Things (2016-) – especially with its electronica soundtrack.

It’s said that writer and director David Robert Mitchell (Kiss, Virgin, The Myth of the American Sleepover) based this story on a tweaked version of a recurring nightmare he used to have. I sincerely hope that he exorcised whatever it was that compelled him to repeat a dream such as this. I think if these were my dreams, I wouldn’t sleep.

Then again, dreams sometimes breed genius - take H.R. Giger for example. He was the dark visionary artist that created the original design for the creatures in Alien (1979). 

I once happened upon a documentary about him and learned that his often grotesque and disturbing art was an expression of his dreams. He had to get them on canvas, so to speak, so that they would no longer drive him mad.

This movie definitely had a bit of a dream-like quality to it, which seems to be exactly Mitchell’s intention. At the same time, the film seems to prod at familiar horror movie tropes without falling squarely into a recipe that’s been done before.

Unfortunately, quite a few of the elements of this film that I adore would give too many spoilers; so it’s something you’ll just need to see and judge for yourself. Just keep in mind that the R-Rating is well deserved here.

Speech Available: English, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 65%
Metascore - 83/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.8/10
IMDB Score – 6.9/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 17, 2017

Girl vs. Monster (2012)

Number Rolled: 29
Movie Name/Year: Girl vs. Monster (2012)
Tagline: Face your fears.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: Bad Angels Productions, Disney Channel, Just Singer Entertainment
Producer: Christopher J. Connolly, Tracey Jeffrey, Sheri Singer
Director: Stuart Gillard
Writer: Annie DeYoung, Ron McGee
Actors: Olivia Holt, Kerris Dorsey, Brendan Meyer, Katherine McNamara, Adam Chambers, Tracy Dawson, Brian Palermo, Luke Benward, Jennifer Aspen, Donald Heng, Rowen Kahn, Anna Galvin, Stefano Giulianetti, Jonathan Hers, Jocelyne Loewen, Douglas Abel, Jarel Geis, Ken Lawson
Stunt Doubles: Krista Bell, Marie-Eve Boudreau, Connor Dunn, Shelene Yung

Blurb from Netflix: Teenager Skylar Lewis discovers that her parents have a secret avocation when she innocently releases a cache of monsters in the family basement.

Selina’s Point of View:
So… the folks over at the Disney Channel really miss Hilary Duff (A Cinderella Story, Younger, Gossip Girl), don’t they?

I could not get over just how much Disney tried to morph Olivia Holt (I Didn’t Do It, The Standoff, Kickin’ It) into that previous blonde of theirs. They gave her everything from the same hair to an outfit that Duff would have worn in the early seasons of Lizzy McGuire (2001-2004). To the best of my knowledge, style has changed since 2001. So, no… I don’t think it fit in this film.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Hilary Duff’s work… but she’s long gone from the Disney Channel and I think it’s important for those in charge to get over it. Lizzy McGuire was her last credit in a Disney produced project. It’s time to move on and let their new actresses be new.

I know I’m ranting on this a bit, but that’s because it was the thing that stuck out the most to me about Girl vs. Monster. The acting wasn’t great, the script was pretty much every Disney Channel film you’ve ever seen (only with supernatural stuff), and the plot was so common that it would have taken a real twist to make it interesting.

Although this was a shorter movie, just shy of hitting the hour and a half mark, it felt like it stretched on for eternity.

All that said, it didn’t have a bad message and the ideas in it might actually seem fresh to kids between the ages of eight and twelve. For that reason, I’d recommend it to pre-teens and kids nearing that age-group… but parents should plug in their headphones and pull up YouTube.

Cat’s Point of View:
I thought this movie was something different, at first. Unfortunately, that set me up for some minor disappointment. Once I got past that, though – things were fine. For whatever reason, I was just thinking that this was a B-movie along the same vein as Zombeavers (2014). What I got, instead, was a Disney Channel made-for-TV Halloween movie.

In any case, once I settled into that groove, it was easy enough to appreciate the movie for what it was.

This particular film from the mouse house pretty much hit all the notes that one would expect – both literally and figuratively. As usual, the show was also a platform to showcase some of the vocal repertoire of the regular Radio Disney talent.

The songs were actually catchy and I wouldn’t mind listening to them again.

Girl vs. Monster didn’t stray far at all from the recipe – but I didn’t really expect it to. This wasn’t meant to be some sort of groundbreaking bit of theater – but more of an entertainment piece with a dash of life lesson of learning to work around your personal fears.

I had a bit of a chuckle at the irony of Katherine McNamara’s (New Year's Eve, Natural Selection, Little Savages) casting in this Disney-monster movie – considering her current regular role is playing Clary Fray on Freeform’s Shadowhunters (2016-).

The special effects, stunt work, and the like were about on par with what’s currently being utilized in most of the Disney Channel shows these days. It’s not too shabby, but clearly not in the blockbuster category. (Though my daughter is about to turn 14, she still loves several shows on this channel so I end up watching a good deal of it still.)

All told, this was a fun Halloween movie for tweens and early teens, but older teens and adults might not find it to their tastes. I would definitely recommend it as a solid pick for a fall family film.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 61%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5

Movie Trailer:

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hundred (2016) - Anime

Chosen Through Crunchy Roll’s ‘Random’ Feature
Anime Name/Year: Hundred (2016)
Season/Number of Episodes: 1 (12 episodes)
Tagline: None
Genre: Action, Romance, Comedy
Episode Length: 24 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Production IMS
Producer: None Listed
Director: Tomoki Kobayashi
Writer: Jun Misaki, Nekosuke Okuma
Actors: Yoshiaki Hasegawa, Wataru Hatano, Yui Horie, Mao Ichimichi, Rumi Okubo, Kaya Okuno, Yuka Otsubo, Mayu Yoshioka, Chinatsu Akasaki, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Ayaka Imamura, Rika Kinugawa, Machico, Yui Makino, Saori Oonishi, Rina Sato, Yuhei Takagi, Romi Pak

Blurb from Crunchy Roll: "Hundred" - the only weapon capable of fighting the Savages, mysterious life forms attacking Earth. Hayato enters the battleship university Little Garden in hopes of becoming a Slayer... but his roommate Emile Crossfode, who seems to know a lot about him for some reason, awakens a sort of unsettling nostalgia within him. What's more, right after he joins the school, the strongest Slayer at Little Garden, the "Queen" Claire Harvey, challenges him to a duel! Misaki Jun and Ohkuma Nekosuke (Nitro+) are teaming up to bring you the ultimate school action anime!

Selina’s Point of View:
I had a significant amount of trouble getting through this anime. It’s one short season, however, so you know it wasn’t the length that did it.

Let me offer some perspective.

A close friend of mine, Ghostgrafx, is a huge fan of anime. When we were hanging out one day, I asked him if he’d ever seen Hundred. He didn’t think so, but asked me to describe it to him. I was only about two episodes in at that point so my description was a little on the vague side but his guesses included numerous animes I’d never seen alongside things like Bleach (2004-2012) and Sailor Moon (1995-2000). It was at that moment I realized just how interchangeable this anime was with many others… all of which were (or probably are) better.

I’ve seen Bleach. This series wishes it was half as good as Bleach.

There was also an insane amount of fan service. For a non-hentai, there was a TON of boob grabbing. I don’t have an issue with a little bit of that stuff. I’m human. I ship characters all the time… but when the majority of the series is pointless fan service, I lose interest completely.

Truth is, this anime probably would have been better as a hentai with how they opted to write things.

My favorite character had minimal on-screen time and there really wasn’t any substance to the story that made it worth watching. I barely cared about watching one episode a day… and I’m a dedicated binge-watcher.

There are better animes out there that cover the same basic subject. Do yourself a favor and watch those.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’d never heard of Hundred before it came up as our next anime to review. Before I started watching, I asked a few friends that watch a lot of the genre if they’d seen it. Most that had heard of it had positive reactions. I’m glad to say I’d have to agree.

The concept is interesting and almost seems to be a mashup of cherry-picked elements from tropes spanning most of the anime spectrum. It comes across a bit odd at times but overall doesn’t totally knock its audience out of the story. Some of the oddness, at least for me, stems from the weird names – but I guess that’s just par for the course, right? I’m not talking about individual character names but names given to places, things, and the like.

The sci-fi meets magical-girl element blends anime’s love of mecha-type enhancement with the whole transformation montage in an innovative way. I can’t say that I’ve seen this before in any other anime – even though I must admit that my repertoire isn’t as extensive as I’d like it to be.

There was a little bit of everything in this show – action, romance, comedy, bug-like monsters, and more.

The romance element doesn’t get explicit or too graphic, but the TV-MA rating is appropriate. This is largely due to the occasional scantily clad character, but mostly the buxom bouncing breasts that appear everywhere and the show’s focus on them. There are a few spots here and there with female nudity- but, as I said, it’s not exactly explicit due to placement of hair, hands, convenient ambient glowing, and the like. The only intimacies shown between characters is the occasional inadvertent boob-grab or kissing.

I have to admit; the story did seem a little disjointed at times. It was almost like the showrunners were trying to cram too much into the single season so it got the cliff notes version of backstory and certain plot elements. Perhaps they weren’t sure if a second season would be ordered. I hope there will be a follow up, though. Given the note the series ended on, I would like to see what comes next. Don’t get me wrong, though – for what this series was, the ending was satisfying enough to me that a single-season as a one-and-done would be tolerable.

I wouldn’t have a problem recommending this series, though there are definitely others out there that are better.

Sub v. Dub: Sub

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.3/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

P.S.  Some scenes during the credits of the last episode.

Movie Trailer: