Friday, July 28, 2017

No Tears for the Dead (2014) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 86
Movie Name/Year: No Tears for the Dead (2014)
Tagline: None
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Length: 116 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Dice Film, Musa Productions
Producer: Hyun-ik Baek, Gregory Bishop, Il Cho, Brian Chung, Tae-sung Jeong, Sung-woo Kim, Daniel Sollinger
Director: Jeong-beom Lee
Writer: Jeong-beom Lee
Actors: Dong-gun Jang, Min-hee Kim, Brian Tee, Hee-won Kim, Jun Kim, Edward Bosco, Jennifer Buttell, Yo-han Byeon, Skoti Collins, Alessandro Cuomo, Darell M. Davie, Anthony Dilio, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Todd Haberkorn, Chris Hackney, Jang In-sub, Kyle Mitchell Johnson, Alex Kabel, Han-na Kang, Dana Lee, Ben Lepley, Sherry Lynn, Matthew Mercer, Amanda Celine Miller, Sung-wuk Min, Minae Noji, Patrick Seitz, Victor Sgroi, Rich Ting, Alexander Wraith

Blurb from Netflix: Distraught over killing an innocent girl, a hit man chooses instead to save the life of his next target -- the dead girl’s mother.

Selina’s Point of View:
The plot of this film reminded me significantly of In Bruges (2008), though it took a much more action-heavy path. It followed a man that felt guilty about accidentally killing a little girl during an assassination job. In Bruges just went down a more dramatic road.

Where the action factor was concerned, the majority of No Tears for the Dead (aka U-neun nam-ja) was pretty much a basic-bitch of the genre. I’d have to say that roughly an hour and a half of this film was very predictable and interchangeable with any number of other action films out there.

The end of the film picked up a bit.

Although it had the typical giant battle that these kinds of movies have, there was something about it all that stood out at that point. The ending itself went in the direction I wanted it to, also… which helped my overall opinion.

Where acting was concerned, I was impressed. I’ve said it before; a good cast can elevate a mediocre film to something more than just watchable.

Dong-gun Jang (Dangerous Liaisons, My Way, Friend) was very believable as the remorseful assassin. Min-hee Kim (The Day After, Helpless, Hellcats), however, was the shining star of the cast. As the grieving mother trying to live her life, I found her to be completely flawless. She perfected her character with absolute precision.

If you’re not a fan of foreign films (there is some English in this but it’s woven in with the Korean), then there are other movies you could get the same feel from. For people who don’t mind subtitles, though, I’d recommend this.

Cat’s Point of View:
Okay dice, what the hell is up with rolling all of these movies where stuff happens to kids? Seriously. I think our dice are sadistic sometimes. Of course, I’m apparently happy to be a masochist, because I really liked this movie. This Korean film had a lot to offer across multiple genres.

Lovers of action movies with good fight choreography should enjoy the sequences here, and those who dig the stuff that goes boom get their share of screen-time enjoyment, too.

I have to tip my proverbial hat to the stunt choreographer here. I was really impressed. Of course, the actors and stunt doubles made it all look easy and flawless. Lead, Dong-gun Jang (The Promise, The Warrior's Way, A Gentleman's Dignity), did take on training with US special forces members in order to polish his movement to give his role more authenticity. I definitely think he succeeded there.

I’m afraid I struggled a little at first with Min-hee Kim’s (The Sword with No Name, Moby Dick, The Handmaiden) character. Ultimately, she won me over. She wasn’t the only familiar face among the cast, though. Brian Tee (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Hawaii Five-0, Chicago Med) has had wide media exposure in both big and small screen productions in the US. I really enjoyed the depth to his character. I got the impression there were even more layers that were just beyond reach of the audience, as well. It left me yearning to know more about his character’s story.

Don’t get confused when you hear English and don’t see subtitles in the very beginning of the movie. The characters start speaking Korean soon enough, and there’s a little English sprinkled around. I liked the way it was all mixed together.

All in all, I loved the pacing and the irony laced into the tale. I wouldn’t mind watching it again, and certainly recommend it for fans of the action genre. If you’re a parent or extra sensitive to the plight of children, though, keep some tissues handy.

Speech Available: Korean
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 26%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 55%
Metascore - 53/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10

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

Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Call Up (2016)

Number Rolled: 95
Movie Name/Year: The Call Up (2016)
Tagline: This time it’s for real.
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Red & Black Films, Stigma Films
Producer: Bob Benton, Andy Brunskill, Isabelle Georgeaux, John Giwa-Amu, Victoria Goodall, Richard Holmes, Caradog W. James, Alan Martin, Matthew James Wilkinson
Director: Charles Barker
Writer: Charles Barker
Actors: Chris Obi, Morfydd Clark, Parker Sawyers, Max Deacon, Tom Benedict Knight, Douggie McMeekin, Adriana Randall, Ali Cook, Boris Ler
Stunts: Levan Doran, Vincent Keane, Cristian Knight, Pablo Verdejo

Blurb from Netflix: Invited to play a virtual reality simulation for a $100,000 prize, gamers discover that its innovative technology is capable of causing real harm.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m a gamer and I have always relatively enjoyed the trope utilizing virtual reality to put people inside the game. Hollywood and Indie makers have been using the idea in various incarnations since the 80s. If it started sooner than that I don’t know of any examples.

The problem is that it’s starting to get slightly overused. That means it’s important for films that use it to do something exemplary or different in order to make it stand out.

The only thing The Call Up did to stand out was create the single most stereotypical character profiles that could have ever existed in a movie like this.

As a result of the intensely shallow characters, the story became weak and nothing the actors could have done would have saved it. They could have had A-list acting from support to lead and it wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference.

Not only that, but the way the film was shot highlighted just how disjointed the whole thing really was. There were parts of the story where characters lost something significant and the film doesn’t so much as give you flashbacks as to how it happened.

At the end of the film, there are questions left unanswered and that doesn’t really help things at all.

You can do better than The Call Up if this is the trope you’re looking for.

Cat’s Point of View:
For the life of me, I can’t remember hearing about this movie before it landed on our list. It’s a shame, though. A gamer-centric movie like this would have gotten my attention.

Regardless, I was happy to see that we had it to watch this week.

I think the concept is really interesting and, I dare say, believable. Sure, it’s not the only movie out there exploring this sort of concept but this certainly wasn’t a cookie-cutter of any of the other films or shows I’m aware of. With emerging technology in both the entertainment sector as well as every-day utility, it’s entirely plausible for a scenario such as this – maybe not now, but in the not too-distant future.

I love it when science fiction skirts the boundaries of present-day reality or something currently just barely out of the reach of existing technology. It helps further suspend disbelief – and in this case, that’s a bit eerie to think about.

This is a rather impressive debut movie for writer and director, Charles Barker, whose only other IMDb listing is a short film titled Indecision (2004). There are some aspects that could use some polish here and there but it’s solid. I think they got an incredible amount of bang for their buck in the effects department, as well.

While the movie wasn’t flawless, Chris Obi (Burke and Hare, Doctor Who, American Gods) and Morfydd Clark (Madame Bovary, The Falling, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) stood out in their roles. The cast was a bit of a grab bag but they weren’t bad.

All told, I was entertained by the film. It’s not as high impact or fancy as something like Gamer (2009), but I don’t feel my time was wasted.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 32%
Metascore - 60/100
Metacritic User Score – 7/10
IMDB Score – 4.8/10

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

Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Number Rolled: 29
Movie Name/Year: Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Tagline: Some secrets are too big to keep.
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Length: 103 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Walt Disney Pictures
Producer: Adam Borba, Carthew Neal, Barrie M. Osborne, Jim Whitaker
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery, Toby Halbrooks, Malcolm Marmorstein, Seton I. Miller, S.S. Field
Actors: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Marcus Henderson, Aaron Jackson, Phil Grieve, Steve Barr, Keegan Carr Fransch, Jade Valour, Esmee Myers, Gareth Reeves, Levi Alexander, Jim McLarty, John Kassir
Stunt Doubles: Andrew Cottle, Siosa Fonua, Stephen Grey, Bronson Steel, Karl Van Moorsel

Blurb from Netflix: When a strange boy turns up claiming to live in the woods with a giant green dragon, forest ranger Grace and young Natalie go digging for the truth.

Selina’s Point of View:
No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the song “Puff, the Magic Dragon” out of my head while watching, or thinking of, Pete’s Dragon. In fact, at one point in the movie a little girl sings a dragon song and as she was singing I was still hearing Puff’s song in my head.

It was not the same song.

My brain does what it wants. I have no control over it.

None of that really has anything to do with how I felt about the film, but I believe it was worth mentioning.

I enjoyed Pete’s Dragon quite a bit. There were a lot of feels, even though the majority of the film was pretty typical.

Chances are, you’ve really seen this film before. Not in this incarnation, but films that are close enough for this one to feel comfortable and familiar. That doesn’t mean boring. It’s one of those recipe films that is still decent because of the way the story was handled.

If you’re looking for a film that’s groundbreaking and spectacular, or something to really blow your mind, this is not the movie for you. However, if you’re looking for a family film that you can watch with your kids without wanting to slam your head into a wall, look no further.

I mean, do you really want to watch Frozen for the ten billionth time? Take a break and show the kiddos something new that won’t ear worm you.

Cat’s Point of View:
This time last year, Pete’s Dragon made my #3 spot on the top 20 movies to look out for in August of 2016. I was skeptical, but hopeful, going into this re-envisioning of the classic Disney tale. The original 1977 version has always been very dear to my heart, so I’m afraid I have very little tolerance for screwing it up.

This certainly wasn’t an attempt to remake the original. The core plot elements about a boy and his green dragon are there – but the rest of the surrounding elements have changed. I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful if it had tried to be a complete remake. The changes to set it apart breathed new life into the story as if we got a peek through a window into a parallel world where this series of events happened instead of the other. Of course, the time periods were differently represented also. The original G-Rated movie represents a slice of Americana from those ‘golden years’ of yesterday, and the PG-Rated update is more in tune with the modern era…even if it is set in the 1970s and 1980s.

I read that the director, David Lowery (Deadroom, St. Nick, A Ghost Story), explained in an IGN article that he chose to change the dragon’s appearance to make Elliott furry instead of the typical scaly dragon makeup because he wanted to represent a huggable dragon. I’ll buy that – it was a rather inspired idea.

The casting was well done here, as well. I could relate to the characters and there was just the right balance in their dynamic.

They had the legendary Robert Redford (All is Lost, A Walk in the Woods, The Discovery) on board here. I absolutely adored him as Meacham. Not only that, I wanted to reach into the screen and snag up little Pete played by Oakes Fegley (Fort Bliss, Prism, Wonderstruck) and give him a hug.

Redford wasn’t the only name with Hollywood star-power, though. Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water, Hereafter, Gold) and Wes Bentley (Gone, After the Fall, Interstellar) had much to offer this feature. Then there’s Karl Urban (REDD, Priest, The Loft). Urban is ‘the man’ – and in this movie, he was the man I wanted to punch.

This wasn’t my first time watching this new version and it likely won’t be my last because my daughter likes it too. This version of Elliott reminds her of Sully from Monster’s Inc. (2001). All in all, this is a great family movie about an incredible friendship; it had a good message, and a lot of heart.

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

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 87%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore - 71/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.8/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5

Movie Trailer: