Saturday, September 9, 2017

But I Digress... Inspirational Interlude

By Cat

First Harvey, now Irma. These destructive weather patterns seem to have a homing beacon to put my family and friends right in their crosshairs. Nerve-wracking is the understatement of the century. I know that I’m not alone and my plight of simply being hundreds and hundreds of miles away from being able to help is not unique. Both of us here at Trust the Dice have loved ones in Florida right now as this terror of a hurricane is working its way in that direction.

I don’t mention this to dwell on the fact or further sensationalize it – nor is it passing any sort of judgement on those that are not joining the clogged interstates in a bid to flee. None of that.

What I want to focus on today is giving you a second part in what seems to be becoming a series focusing on hope and inspiration. Last week was hope – this week is the latter.  (Though, I suppose my title gave that away!)

We all need some positive vibes right now. We cannot let ourselves get flushed in the vortex of the cloud-spin. (This is what I have to repeat to myself so that I don’t keep the Weather Channel on the TV 24/7.) With that in mind, I bring you 5 movies to inspire you (and hopefully not tread on your feels too much in the process).

5) *batteries not included (1987)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu, Youtube Movies (purchase)
Director: Matthew Robbins
Actors: Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Frank McRae, Elizabeth Peña, Michael Carmine, Dennis Boutsikaris, Tom Aldredge, Jane Hoffman
Genre: Fantasy, Family, Science fiction, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 106 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: Apartment block tenants seek the aid of alien mechanical life-forms to save their building from demolition.

This has to be one of my favorite movies of all time. It runs you through a gauntlet of the full spectrum of human emotion (unless you’re an unfeeling rock – seriously). There’s comedy, romance, sci-fi, feats of the fantastical, tragedy, drama, action – you name it! I will admit that I had tears in a few places, but those little mechanical aliens are just so darn cute!

This movie was powerful enough to make an impact that resonated all the way into Saturday morning cartoons, where the Muppet Babies (1984-1991) used a diner scene from the movie in one of the imaginative adventures of the muppet toddlers.

This story was originally set to become a part of Amazing Stories (1985-1987), which was a TV series developed by Steven Spielberg. He thought it was so fantastic that he pushed to turn it into its own feature film, where he continued to support the film as one of its Executive Producers. Pair his genius with the movie score by the late James Horner (1953–2015) and you have movie gold.

How does it fit in with this theme? Simple. Hope, faith, The Golden Rule, and perseverance. The residents of the apartment block don’t really have any other choice (or desire) to relocate in the face of big business wanting to bulldoze it for “progress.” They stand their ground in the face of impossible odds and their hope is rewarded with assistance from the most unlikely of places –outer space. It’s not all that one-sided, though. It’s because of their own basic human decency and treating the little adorable flying saucer people well (we won’t count the hamburger incident) that the little guys are able to lend a hand as a thank-you.

4) Peaceful Warrior (2006)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube Movies (purchase)
Director: Victor Salva
Actors: Nick Nolte, Scott Mechlowicz, Amy Smart, Tim DeKay, Paul Wesley, Ashton Holmes, Agnes Bruckner, B.J. Britt
Genre: Drama, Sports
Rated: PG-13
Length: 121 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: A chance encounter with a stranger changes the life of a college gymnast. 

This is the one movie on today’s list that I haven’t already seen. I actually stumbled across it recently out of curiosity when I saw the lead actor was in it. After looking into it a bit, watching the trailers, and reading some reviews; I am confident in listing this here.

It very well might fit the recipe of most sport movies – and even those based on true stories, as this one is. That’s not the point, though.

I think we all need reminders every once in a while that life sucks sometimes and we can’t change things that have already happened to us. What we can do is find the strength and courage to pick ourselves up and put things together again, even if things can’t be the same as they were before. We can still strive to exceed expectations – but not just that of others, but our own.

Everyone in the path of any of the horrible storms that have plagued our coastlines, and even those caught in the devastation of fires raging elsewhere in the country, or even the major earthquake in Mexico – everyone – will have a rebuilding and healing process in the coming months and years.

The more positivity and inspiration out there in the world right now, the better; I say.

3) The Spitfire Grill (1996)

Viewing Options: Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu,
Director: Lee David Zlotoff
Actors: Alison Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden, Will Patton, Kieran Mulroney, Gailard Sartain, Louise De Cormier, John M. Jackson
Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 116 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: Percy, upon being released from prison, goes to the small town of Gillead, to find a place where she can start over again. She is taken in by Hannah, to help out at her place, the Spitfire Grill. Percy brings change to the small town, stirring resentment and fear in some, and growth in others.

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen this film, but I remember it fondly. It was one of the movies that came to mind as I was trying to think of those that fit the themes of rebuilding your life, starting over, and a sense of community.

It’s not all sunshine and roses on the community front – but that’s how everywhere is. There are some people that are yapping about the disasters everywhere being some sort of cosmic or theological punishment and all sorts of crazy talk. Sadly, it’s part of the human condition for some people to be susceptible to believing such things.

What counts is how the members of the community that DO rally around the main character interact and how they protect her quest for a second chance and new beginnings.

2) The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995) 

Viewing Options: Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube Movies (purchase)
Director: Christopher Monger
Actors: Hugh Grant, Tara Fitzgerald, Colm Meaney, Ian McNeice, Ian Hart, Kenneth Griffith, Tudor Vaughn, Hugh Vaughn
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 99 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: When an English cartographer must tell a Welsh village that their mountain is only a hill, the offended community sets out to change that. 

I had to throw some levity in here. There are comedic elements in other movies listed here, but they’re mostly stacked on the heavier side of things. This film is a fun romp where an entire Welsh community comes together to do something about what should have been otherwise impossible to change.

There are some crazy shenanigans hatched as the village strives to build their mountain out of a hill.

The key thing here is community working together to better their village – regardless of their individual motivations. It’s funny, it has heart, and a great underlying message.

1) Pay It Forward (2000)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, BestBuy CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube Movies (purchase)
Director: Mimi Leder
Actors: Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, Jay Mohr, Jim Caviezel, Jon Bon Jovi, Angie Dickinson, David Ramsey
Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 122 Minutes
More Information Here. 

IMDb Blurb: A young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance.

OK. I was really on the fence about listing this movie, and, in my decision to do so, I felt it was necessary to ‘go big or go home’ by listing it as the #1 entry.

Here’s why. I hate the ending. I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever talked to that has seen this movie that has ever liked the ending. Hated it. It’s an unnecessary punch to the most sensitive of feels.

This is my disclaimer. I already warned you before about spoilers – but this is different. If you watch this, prepare for your soul to feel trampled on.

Even with my dire warning, and the inevitability of the scenes that immediately precede the credits, this is an absolutely outstanding movie. The concept of turning good deeds into the best pyramid scheme on the planet is phenomenal. It’s a concept more people should embrace. Be kind to one another. Treat other human beings with respect regardless of your differences. Help those in need if you are able – and it will spread outward in ripples that will make the world better.

After all the disasters and devastation, this is the sort of message and vibe I want to put out into the world. It’s the sort of impetus that had strangers hauling boats into flooded areas to help evacuate people from harm’s way. 

Tell someone you care about that you love them today.  The first ripples are small, after all.

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, September 8, 2017

We Are the Best! (2013) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 9
Movie Name/Year: We Are the Best! (2013)
Tagline: Three girls vs. the world.
Genre: Drama, Music
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Film i Vast, Memfis Film
Producer: Anna Anthony, Jessica Ask, Serina Bjornbom, Marie Gade Denessen, Lars Jonsson, Christian Wikander
Director: Lukas Moodysson
Writer: Lukas Moodysson, Coco Moodysson
Actors: Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne, Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg, Jonathan Salomonsson, Alvin Strollo, Anna Rydgren, Peter Eriksson, Charlie Falk, Ann-Sofie Rase
Stunts: Kimmo Rajala

Blurb from Netflix: Refusing to believe punk is dead, a trio of 13-year-old misfits form a band in spite of their collective lack of musicianship.

Selina’s Point of View:
First of all, punk’s not dead. It’s just yelling at you to get off its lawn.

That said… as much as I enjoy glimpses into the punk lifestyle of other cultures, this movie was not for me. I can’t really say there was anything wrong with it… it just didn’t capture or hold my interest. At all. However, it was more of a personal thing.

I lost any desire to watch about fifteen minutes in, and never really got it back again.

The actors were good, especially for children. However, the story was pretty basic and there didn’t seem to be enough to make it stand apart from others like it.

There were a few scenes, here and there, that were amusing. Either they made me smile slightly or cringe expertly… but they didn’t come along as often as I would have liked.

The ending was kind of nice, but I still wouldn’t watch it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I didn’t really have any preconceived notions going in – I just hoped that it would be less about tween angst and more focus on, well, anything else. Seriously. My daughter just turned 14 and the struggle is real.

Thankfully, the film delivered something really special – in spades.

Not only was this a great movie about young friendship with a liberal dash of comedy – it was also a film about musical diversity and self-discovery. There were so many awesome things going on here.

There was a point where I was afraid that things were going to take a very dark turn, but I was relieved to find that they chose a different path with the story.

This somewhat felt like the tween Swedish version of SLC Punk! (1998). They obviously weren’t trying to retell that particular tale – it just had the same sort of vibe to it that worked well and made it enjoyable in spite of the occasionally uncomfortable moments.

All said, if there was a sequel to this film; I’d definitely want to see it. This won’t be for everyone, but I found it highly entertaining.

Speech Available: Swedish
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 78%
Metascore - 87/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.6/10
IMDB Score – 7.2/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13

P.S.  Some scenes during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eden (2014)

Number Rolled: 64
Movie Name/Year: Eden (2014)
Tagline: Welcome to paradise.
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Gobsmack, H&H Creative Ventures, Ombra Films, Perlapartment Pictures, Tiny Giant Entertainment
Producer: Michael Cardelle, Sanjay Chabra, Jaume Collet-Serra, Bruce DeWitt, Marie Lloyd Henson, Kalpana Kutty, Sandeep Leyzell, Shyam Madiraju, Dawn Manning, Todd E. Miller, Jane Oster, Nate Parker, Hernany Perla, Mohit Rastogi, Tarun Revoo, Abe Schwartz, Steve Smith, Juan Sola, Jeffrey Summers, Zak Tanjeloff, Juan Villarreal, Amile Wilson, Shobhna Yadav
Director: Shyam Madiraju
Writer: Mark Mavrothalasitis, Nate Parker
Actors: James Remar, Mario Casas, Jessica Lowndes, Eugene Simon, Sung Kang, Diego Boneta, Ethan Peck, Nate Parker, Rob Mayes, Joey Pollari, Matt Testro, Brad Schmidt, Seth Michaels, Leore Hayon, Nicole Pedra, Eva Jenickova, Grant Alan Ouzts, Michael Cardelle, Ryan Mulkay, Alejandro Cardenas
Stunts: William Ong

Blurb from Netflix: After their plane crashes, stranding them on a deserted island, the surviving members of a soccer team break into factions and battle for dominance.

Selina’s Point of View:
I kind of enjoyed this film. I mean, it was pretty basic… but I still liked it.

Eden didn’t break any big expectations, and it certainly didn’t revolutionize anything, but it held up to the recipe it was following.

For the most part, the acting was good. The script was believable. The settings were even decent. Entertainment-wise, I wanted to watch. I was highly annoyed when my internet went out at the 40-minute mark. I had nearly a twenty-minute intermission due to it, but when the movie started up again, I found I still fell right back into it.

There were some minor issues. One of the romance scenes featured the most awkward kiss that I’ve seen in a long time. And, no, I don’t believe it was supposed to be awkward. There was also a part where the camera focused on someone swimming from above, and it was the most clearly faked swimming I’ve ever seen. I get what the director was going for, but he had to know it looked like crap.

Those are two examples of some scenes that made it into the film that probably shouldn’t have. There were a few more, but mostly along those lines. They didn’t affect the story.

I do think it’s important to note that Eden was Shyam Madiraju’s first full-length feature film direction. With experience, he might have realized those scenes were expendable. He showed some promise. A lot of his suspense scenes were on point.

In the end, all that really matters is whether or not the film is entertaining. Over time, you forget small mistakes, but you don’t forget when a movie captured your attention.

In this case, Eden is a film I’ll remember as entertaining.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to say that this movie wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. To clarify, I fell into the trap of taking an initial impression for the film based on one of the preview stills that rotates when you select an expanded view of a film on Netflix. One of the images had me thinking that this might just be a campy survival movie – I was wrong.

Sure, the film followed some pretty standard shipwreck tropes – but it succeeded in avoiding the typical B-movie schlock.

Generally speaking, the movie was pretty intense in places and I had a genuine sense of dread for the fate of the characters. I found I was generally willing to suspend some significant disbelief on some aspects of the plot, though there were areas where there could have been improvement. For example, there were some environmental factors that were brought into play and then never came to anything.

Surprisingly, this is the sole directorial credit for Shyam Madiraju, whose only other IMDb listing is as Executive Producer for Cake (2014). With both listings taking place in 2014, one almost wonders where he came from and where he went off to after that busy year.

This movie was jam-packed with talent. I was happy to find Sung Kang (Bullet to the Head, Pali Road, Power) as the team trainer. With actors on board such as Diego Boneta (Underemployed, Summer Camp, Another You), Ethan Peck (In Time, The Curse of Sleeping Beauty, Tell Me How I Die), Rob Mayes (Melvin Smarty, The Client List, Different Flowers), and Nate Parker (The Secret Life of Bees, They Die by Dawn, The Birth of a Nation); the beefcake factor was definitely high. They made sure it was clear that they were on screen for more than just shirtless scenes, though.

I haven’t forgotten the girl-power amongst the cast. Jessica Lowndes (Greek, Altitude, Abbatoir) and the two actresses that played her character’s sister were integral to what makes this film tick. There were a few spots that were a little off for me – it was the story, however, and not the fault of the actors.

All told, the movie was pretty decent and I was definitely entertained. I was invested in the plight of the characters and it successfully made for some suspenseful tension. I wouldn’t mind watching it again, and not to ogle, I promise!

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 24%
Metascore - 30/100
Metacritic User Score – 4/10
IMDB Score – 4.7/10

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

Movie Trailer:

Monday, September 4, 2017

For a Good Time, Call… (2012)

Number Rolled: 70
Movie Name/Year: For a Good Time, Call… (2012)
Tagline: Lose your hang-ups. Find your calling.
Genre: Comedy
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: AdScott Pictures
Producer: Jonathan M. Black, Ursula Camack, Sam Childs, Angela Demo, Ari Graynor, Jenny Hinkey, Josh Kesselman, Barbara J. McCarthy, Dan Miller, Daniel M. Miller, Daniel Matthew Miller, Lauren Miller, Jack Nasser, Joseph Nasser, Katie Anne Naylon, Jen W. Ray, Nick Theodorakis
Director: Jamie Travis
Writer: Lauren Miller, Katie Anne Naylon
Actors: Lauren Miller, James Wolk, Ari Graynor, Justin Long, Lawrence Mandley, Steven Shaw, Mimi Rogers, Don McManus, Mark Webber, Nia Vardalos, Kevin Smith, Sugar Lyn Beard, Seth Rogen, Ken Marino, Martha MacIsaac, The Legend of Zelda Miller-Rogen
Stunts: Michael Owen

Blurb from Netflix: Fate lands former college rivals Lauren and Kate together in the same apartment, where they launch a phone sex line to make ends meet.

Selina’s Point of View:
So, you all know how much I adore Kevin Smith (Clerks, Red State, Yoga Hosers). Always have, always will. Never-the-less, I don’t think I ever had the desire to watch him masturbate to the sound of a woman pretending to be a truck.

That may sound a bit random, but it was a scene in this film. I believe that kind of sums up what to expect from For a Good Time, Call…

This film was incredibly random and beyond cringy. We’ve been over this. I don’t do well with cringe. It’s not that I dislike it, however. It’s that my face turns beat red and I have to hide in my shirt. I can watch a gory horror film without batting an eye. I can watch a tearjerker without shedding a tear (unless the dog dies). Give me a cringe film, though, and it doesn’t take much.

I have NO threshold for cringe.

For a Good Time, Call… might have been the cringiest thing I’ve seen in a long time, but that doesn’t mean it was bad. It thoroughly entertained me and I was amused by the characters. I also enjoyed the cameos, but I don’t think they were necessary. The movie would have held up fine on its own.

What it really came down to was a cute friendship story that just happened to involve a slightly weird aspect.

I’d watch this film again, but it’s certainly not for everybody.

Cat’s Point of View:
There was something really familiar about this movie to me – it’s possible that I’ve seen it before as it made its way through cable movie channels. Be that as it may, the familiarity with the film was from a positive place; so, I was happy to give it another watch-through.

I knew right out of the gate that there was going to be a certain degree of raunch associated with the movie. It just underscores that this is definitely a hard R rating for the content. However, for the inherent presence of sexual theme within the movie, there isn’t any nudity present at all – unless you count dildos and underwear.

This was definitely a fun ride.

I really enjoyed the cameos that were sprinkled in, but more so the movie was just outright entertaining. I loved that it didn’t take itself too seriously and kept the film light and funny. Goodness knows that we need a lot more of that in the world right now.

The movie might not be for everyone, but I would gladly recommend it.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 56%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 53%
Metascore - 55/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 6.0/10

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

Movie Trailer: