Saturday, August 26, 2017

But I Digress... Hurricane Harvey

By Cat

Today’s usual Digression has unfortunately been pre-empted by good ol’ Hurricane Harvey which is currently pounding the coast of Texas from the Gulf of Mexico.

With the storm’s projected path over the next several days, it’s due to veer further East, which will impact the state of Louisiana with some rather nasty weather ranging from Severe Weather and Flooding. 

My area of Louisiana is more landlocked and not in danger of being windswept or washed off the map, but due diligence calls for me to prepare for potential flooding and power outages so that my family and I can be safe to ride out what follows from this weather event. 

For anyone in the path of this storm, my thoughts are with you. Please stay safe. If they tell you to evacuate, please do so if at all possible. I know that “turn around, don’t drown” saying gets old but please take heed. Stuff can be replaced, but people cannot.

But I Digress will return next weekend with an ode to the weather in film. 

If you are interested in keeping up with the storm's progress, below is the ongoing Live Weather Channel coverage. 

For a little lagniappe (something extra), I found a seawall cam of live storm footage as the hurricane makes landfall. 

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, August 25, 2017

We Are Young. We Are Strong. (2014) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 92
Movie Name/Year: We Are Young. We Are Strong. (2014)
Tagline: None
Genre: Crime, Drama, History
Length: 123 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: UFA Fiction, Das Kleine Fernsehspiel (ZDF), Arte, Cine Plus
Producer: Leif Alexis, Brukhard Althoff, Frank Evers, Olaf Grunert, Michael Jungfleisch, Jochen Laube, Helge Neubronner, Sarah Neumann
Director: Burhan Qurbani
Writer: Martin Behnke, Burnhan Qurbani
Actors: Jonas Nay, Trang Le Hong, Devid Striesow, Joel Basman, Saskia Rosendahl, Paul Gabler, David Schutter, Jakob Bieber, Gro Swantje Kohlhof, Mai Duong Kieu, Aaron Le, Larissa Fuchs, Axel Pape, Thorsten Merten, Enno Trebs
Stunts: Jan Bohme, Daniel Helbig

Blurb from Netflix: In 1992, three radically different residents of Rostock, Germany, became entangled in a violent xenophobic riot that rocks the beleaguered city.

Selina’s Point of View:
Considering the state of things recently, this movie was fucking terrifying.

We Are Young. We Are Strong. concentrated on riots that were protesting foreign asylum seekers while the government mostly ignored it and that the people involved weren’t really Nazis.

I’m sorry, I can’t talk about this film without going into the social weight of it. It sounds too familiar. It was horrific to watch, nerve-wracking, sickening, and so well done that it’s almost insane.

The movie starts out in black and white, so for a while it’s very easy to look at it as if it’s describing something in the past. Like it’s just another World War II film with updated fashion and technology. At the climax, however, the film bursts into color. Suddenly, you’re in the present and you can’t ignore the parallels anymore.

It tells you this is our world and that it happens in our time.

The absolute manipulation of the audience’s emotions and perspective was outstanding. In fact, it’s something I’ve never seen before. The closest thing I can think of would be the films that are largely in black and white, but feature red to accentuate blood. Although those films do get their point across, this was much different, much better, and much more affective.

My family is Jewish. I grew up learning about the holocaust, Nazis, and the atrocities of that time. One of the first comics I read cover to cover (other than Archie) was Maus. As graphic as that comic was, I read it in middle school.

When you grow up in a Jewish family, you don’t wait until Junior High or High School to learn about hate. It’s in our past. Our grandparents and great grandparents were more than just targets, they were barely seen as human in many places during their time.

Movies that involve Nazis, and a level of hate that chooses victims from birth, make me a little ill. I watch them because I owe it to my ancestors to never forget what they went through. Films that are based in World War II are easier to watch because I can remember, but still acknowledge that it’s in the past. This film was based in the 90s and reminded me of shit happening now, in my country. The terror factor was much higher with this movie.

I don’t throw the word ‘Nazi’ around. It’s a powerful word. I don’t call every right-wing person a Nazi. I don’t used the term feminazi. I look at people who do as if they’re dumb. However, when confronted with a group of people who use the ‘sieg heil’ salute and chant racist things, of course I’m going to use that word – because that’s what they are. You can give them a different name if you want, but a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.

This film is from a different country and made years ago. The picture it paints, however, was not an unfamiliar one.

Furthermore, this film was very good at showing all the sides of what was happening. You got to see the point of view of the Nazis, the victims, and the politicians. You got to see the danger of not taking sides, of hate, and of trying to just block out the bad. I think that’s very important.

I won’t continue on. I want to, this is a very important subject to me, but I won’t.

This film won’t be for everybody, but it is a phenomenal work of art, and I do recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:

It sounds like an ominous word to open with. It’s well earned by this exceedingly dark and heavy movie.

That being said, it wasn’t bad. It was haunting. The film was a visceral gut-punch repeated from beginning to end. One of the most chilling realizations while watching was that this is based on a true historical event in Germany. Part of me feels rather badly that I don’t remember it. I don’t recall if it hit the news here in the States or not.

Everyone that was around and old enough to remember things in 1989 remembers the Berlin Wall coming down – but for 1992, this doesn’t jog my memory.

Fear of the unknown and different is still a problem today. Xenophobia still survives even in the modern age we live in – but I don’t have to tell you that. What I can tell you is that it makes me ill to think about. Watching a whole cringe-inducing movie full of neo-Nazi propaganda, even as a cautionary tale, was hard to do.

There were moments I held my breath, and others that I scolded the screen. There were times that I fervently wished that characters made different choices – alas, my role could be no more than an unwilling bystander… unlike the mobs that gathered to denounce refugees back in the summer of 1992.

There are some eerie similarities to some of the political rhetoric I’ve heard bandied about in recent times; and that is a very chilling revelation.

Back to the movie.

I loved the black-and-white as a cinematic choice. It likely was meant to be metaphorical – and it worked brilliantly.

This is one of those movies that stirs something inside you and leaves you changed once you’ve watched it – and then you never want to see it again. That’s where I am right now. The roll of credits found me in solemn and silent awe. I didn’t like the feeling I was left with.

The film was very effective getting its message across.

I doubt that school boards would allow it, but this movie quite possibly would be a good teaching tool to highlight mob mentality as well as a number of other societal issues; not to mention the inherent history lesson.

The film was powerful and I hated it – in the best way.

Speech Available: German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, French
Subtitles Available: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, German, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 7.2/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

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

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sing (2016)

Number Rolled: 92
Movie Name/Year: Sing (2016)
Tagline: Auditions begin Christmas
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Length: 107 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Dentsu, Fuji Television Network, Illumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Producer: Janet Healy, Brett Hoffman, Igor Khait, Christopher Meledandri, Robert Taylor
Director: Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings
Writer: Garth Jennings
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman, Adam Buxton, Brad Morris, Jim Cummings

Blurb from Netflix: An optimistic koala tries to save his theater with a singing contest featuring a timid elephant, a teenage gorilla, an overworked sow, and more.

Selina’s Point of View:
Two music-based movies in one week. That’s always good news in my mind. It’s about time, too. Normally when we have the same genre for both English films in a week it’s horror. Nothing wrong with horror, it’s just nice to have a change.

Sing was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. It was adorable and had some inspirational messages, but it was mostly predictable. The characters were relatable, but not really special.

The climax of the film, however, was much different than I expected.

I, of course, knew something to happen. That’s just the outline of a plot in general, but I had no clue it would go the route it did. 

What’s impressive is that the left turn didn’t just come out of nowhere. There was plenty of foreshadowing, it was just subtle enough that the result came as a bit of a shock.

I would have had a much lower opinion of the film if the story had taken that route I expected. But with that sharp left at the climax, my enjoyment spiked.

For kids, this movie will be absolutely perfect. There are singing animals and bright colors. Everything is pleasant on the ears and there’s a lot of fun. For adults, there might be some initial boredom, but that will clear up after a while.

All-in-all, I think it’s a decent family movie that won’t make parents hate their lives.

Cat’s Point of View:
This is one of those movies that kept me geeking out through most of it. Why? The answer is simple. It centers on music and singing. It’s been a musical week with our movie selections and that has had me a bit on cloud nine. That’s my jam. No, seriously – music saved my life.

I’m not going to get all maudlin on you or digress into a meandering tangent, I promise. The point is that I identify with this film on a very profound level. Finding my own voice and my journey with music helped me find myself.

There were so many interesting pieces of music featured here – from the funny to the slightly random. When I first watched this in a theater with my daughter, it was an act of sheer will that kept me from singing along. There’s a little bit here for everyone with the musical selections spanning generations.

This is a familiar recipe, but I’d have to say this seems to be the first time an animated movie has put a spin on it, and I didn’t mind. Director, Garth Jennings (The Best of R.E.M.: In View 1988-2003, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Son of Rambow), was certainly hitting all the right notes with his first animated film.

Aside from the fun with the music and the various animals represented, the movie had great heart. You can’t ignore the stellar cast, either.  From up-and-comers such as Taron Egerton (The Smoke, Legend, Eddie the Eagle) to voice-over pros such as Seth MacFarlane (Tooth Fairy, Robot Chicken, Movie 43); each of the animals the film focuses on were portrayed with panache.

I can’t think of a single negative thing to say. I adore the movie and would gladly watch it many times over.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 73%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore - 59/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10
IMDB Score – 7.2/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5

P.S.  Dancing squids during half the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rock the Kasbah (2015)

Number Rolled: 23
Movie Name/Year: Rock the Kasbah (2015)
Tagline: Opportunity rocks when you least expect it.
Genre: Comedy, Music, War
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Covert Media, Dune Films, QED International, Venture Forth
Producer: Ahmed Abounouom, Steve Bing, Bill Block, Stephen J. Eads, Tom Freston, Elissa Friedman, Mitch Glazer, Brian Grazer, Gelareh Kiazand, Peter Lawson, Anton Lessine, Kris Moran, Tom Ortenberg, Jacob Pechenik, Iakovina Petsenikakis, Iakovos Petsenikakis, Roxie Rodriguez, Sasha Shapiro, Ethan Smith, Jason Sosnoff, Marsha L. Swinton
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Mitch Glazer
Actors: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Arian Moayed, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Fahim Fazli, Beejan Land, Sameer Ali Khan, Jonas Khan, Husam Chadat, Taylor Kinney, Megan Raich, Sarah Baker
Stunt Performers: Younes Afroukh, Ali Ait Mazouz, Abdelaaziz Attougui, Mohamed Attougui, Hami Belal, Ait Ben Azzouz Brahim, Benoit Fabre, Abdellah Oukseh

Blurb from Netflix: When a has-been music producer gets stuck in Afghanistan he discovers a girl with a wonderful voice, then has to find a way to market her talents.

Selina’s Point of View:
I enjoyed this film.

Not only was the acting great, but the story was one worth telling and the script kept my attention.

As entertaining as this movie was, though, I cannot deny that there was a message underneath it all that really spoke to me and likely added to my score.

If you follow the blog regularly, you know I posted an article about bad ass women in films on Saturday. Well, I say we should consider Rock the Kasbah an honorary member of that list. If I had seen this film before writing the article, it undoubtedly would have made an appearance – a very high appearance.

I’m guessing that this movie was based on a true story and, in that case, the girl represented was fearless.

The soundtrack was also decent.

Really, I have very little to say that’s bad about Rock the Kasbah. The worst thought that went through my mind was that Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom) was either miscast for his part, or didn’t feel like giving it his A game. Either way, he did the movie a disservice. I didn’t believe anything about his character until the last scene he was in.

Still, I would watch this film again.

As for the reviews I saw during research? The reasons behind bad reviews were a joke. There was bitching about misogyny – which was part of the plot of the film. It was about getting an Afghan girl to sing on a TV show… which is/was illegal there. The film highlighted the misogyny on purpose. That was the point.

My eye is twitching from the stupidity I just read. Watch it and judge for yourself.

Cat’s Point of View:
Back in October of 2015, Rock the Kasbah was my number 20 pick for the movies releasing that month. I surmised that, given the cast, the film was likely to be a bit kooky but enjoyable. I’m happy to report that I probably should have listed it higher in ranking.

Unfortunately, you won’t hear that iconic Clash ditty on the soundtrack here. It’s been said that they weren’t given rights to use it. Even as such, it’s still excellent symbolism for the core of this movie’s theme. The music that speaks the loudest to me are the Cat Stevens numbers. I grew up listening to his songs, and even had a routine where my mom and I played ‘Morning Has Broken’ every day on the way to school (on an 8-track no less).

Stevens, John Denver, as well as Simon and Garfunkel were the soundtrack to my early childhood…but I digress.

This film sports an interesting, yet fantastic, cast combination. The whole film is anchored by none other than Bill Murray (Get Smart, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Aloha).  Scott Caan (Ocean's Thirteen, Mercy, Hawaii Five-0) and Danny McBride (Land of the Lost, Your Highness, Hell and Back) make an interesting duo, as well. They vibe together in these roles.

Kate Hudson (The Skeleton Key, Something Borrowed, Mother's Day) and Zooey Deschanel (Bridge to Terabithia, Yes Man, The Driftless Area) are no stranger to music-themed movies. They don’t share any screen time together, but their roles are some of the glue that holds the movie together. Then you have Bruce Willis (The Cold Light of Day, The Prince, First Kill) with a role right in his predictable wheelhouse. I think they could have utilized him more, but it still works.

All told, I really enjoyed this movie and it was a pleasant end cap to what was already a phenomenal day. It’s inspirational with its message and the true story it’s based on. I’d have no problem both watching this film again and recommending it to others.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 9%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 28%
Metascore - 29/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.7/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

P.S.  There is an extra scene during the start of the credits.

Movie Trailer: