Saturday, October 21, 2017

But I Digress...A Chilling Netflix Series

By Cat

Name/Year: Slasher (2016-)
Tagline Season 1: Everyone in this town has a past. Not everyone has a future.
Tagline Season 2: Not available.
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Crime, Suspense, Anthology
Length: 2 Seasons, 16 Episodes total, 45-53 min. each
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Chiller Films, Shaftesbury Films, Super Channel, TVA Group
Creators/Developers: Aaron Martin
Producers: David Anselmo, Justin Kelly, Aaron Martin, Craig David Wallace, Scott Garvie, Christina Jennings 
Directors: Craig David Wallace, Felipe Rodriguez
Writers: Aaron Martin, Jana Sinyor
Actors: Katie McGrath, Christopher Jacot, Jim Watson, Paula Brancati, Leslie Hope, Brandon Jay McLaren, Lovell Adams-Gray, Steve Byers, Paulino Nunes, Sebastian Pigott, Joanne Vannicola, Madison Cheeatow, Patrick Garrow, Dean McDermott, Kaitlyn Leeb, Ty Olsson, Erin Karpluk, Rob Stewart, Melinda Shankar, Rebecca Liddiard, Jessica Sipos, Jefferson Brown, Mayko Nguyen, Alysa King, Enuka Okuma, David Patrick Fleming, Hannah Endicott-Douglas, Wendy Crewson
Stunt Coordinators/Doubles: Angelica Lisk-Hann, Steve Gagne, Sharon Canovas, Christopher Cordell, Bernadette Couture, Neil Davison, James Eddy, Jason Gosbee, Dana Jones, Geoff Meech, Aj Risi, Geoff Scovell, Amy Szoke, E. Nova Zatzman, Bart Badzioch

Blurb Season 1 "The Executioner": A young woman returns to the small town where her parents were murdered, only to find the past re-emerging as a new series of murders begins.

Blurb Season 2 "Guilty Party": Brought together by a long kept buried secret, a group of former camp counselors are forced to return to an isolated campground to retrieve evidence of a crime they committed in their youth.

Chiller Channel featurette with cast interviews discussing Season One.

I was pretty excited to see the Slasher series land on Netflix with its debut of Season 2 on October 17th, 2017. I remembered wanting to watch this series when I saw the trailer for Season 1, back when it was just on the Chiller network. Unfortunately, while I subscribe to several movie packages, it wasn’t included in them. 

Needless to say, this was a well-timed release landing square in the middle of the spookiest month of the year. As Halloween draws closer, many drift to the macabre to get in the mood for holiday thrills. This series, while only slightly tied to the holiday by the first season’s plot, delivers in spades for those that enjoy the genre namesake of the series. 

Images from Season 1: The Executioner

This series won’t be for everyone. I will admit that the Season 1 is a bit tamer in the graphic department than the second iteration. A large part of that is likely due to the fact it aired on an actual television network the first time around, albeit a premium cable channel devoted to the horror genre. With its Netflix follow-up, the streaming service stayed true to form in letting loose. Season 2 doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to graphic horror in the various forms portrayed. 

The Executioner’s season still has plenty of blood involved. The slice and dice is centered on a town full of secrets and the copy-cat serial killer’s quest to both bring them to light and purge the little town of Waterbury of its seven deadly sins. Everyone has something to hide and there’s a layering of subplot that feeds into giving almost every character a motive to be the killer. 

This series goes into some really dark places as it winds through its twists and turns. There are plenty of red herrings to keep you guessing in both seasons. I thought I had it all figured out in both seasons – only to facepalm myself when the truth was revealed. 

Images from Season 2: Guilty Party
The Guilty Party season is hot off the press, so to speak. This season is the brand new installment that solidifies this series as an anthology along the lines of American Horror Story (2011-). The creator of the show is said to be a fan, and was inspired by that groundbreaking series when he developed this one. The FX horror show has those pesky network constraints, and it seemed that writer and creator Aaron Martin (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Being Erica, Killjoys) had a desire to take it to the next level. 

Slasher, like American Horror Story, brings some key actors back in subsequent seasons. True to form, they portray different characters; yet the series seasons are tied together by the same world. For example, the camp mentioned in the first season is the setting for events of Season 2. While some of the actors return, none of the characters overlap. I liked that each season stands alone while being woven into a bigger picture. 

Top: Season 2; Bottom: Season 1

Other influences from the genre are heavily present in the series. The production team mixed in shades of Halloween (1978) and It Follows (2014), but specifically and quite intentionally keep the armed assailant quite human rather than pull from any supernatural source. Honestly, I find horror movies more frightening when the ‘bad guy’ is just a person. Humans are flawed and terrifying creatures sometimes, and it whispers to the potential of darkness in everyone. 

It's also a great find when you discover a series that gives you strong female characters. In season one, we had a female lead; but the story was also driven by what was happening to and because of women around her. In the second season, there are several strong female characters. You don't see the trope of the dumb but beautiful bimbo that a lot of movies in the genre lean on. These characters have beauty and brains - and while they might get upset, they aren't entirely useless eye candy. 

Top: Season 1; Bottom: Season 2
Another plus on the side of this series is that it doesn’t draw things out unnecessarily. Each season is only 8 episodes long, and none of it wastes time with nonsense fluff. Everything has a purpose and it keeps the pacing fast, but not so much that you get left behind. 

While I loved this series in both its seasons, there are some parts that were really hard to watch. The first season had some cringe factor involved, and some moments that made me go ‘ew;’ but it was the second season that really gives a gut-punch. 

Scene from Season 2
I would caution anyone that is triggered negatively by the portrayal of sexual abuse that this is your warning that you’ll want to cover your eyes in the latter half of Guilty Party. I won’t spoil it with any details, but it’s pretty rough. While the series does have some sex involved, that is probably the least explicit part of the show. Some bare breasts is as nude as it gets, so thankfully the trauma depicted doesn’t go too far into the raunch of it all. 

I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the third season. There’s definitely potential there for it to happen, and no official cancellations have been announced. At the same time, no renewal notices have been made, either. While nothing concrete has been released about the status, we can just consider no news as good news. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled.

Scene from Season 2

Speech Available: English, English (Audio-Description), Brazilian Portugese, European Spanish, French, Italian
Subtitles Available: English (CC), European Spanish, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Average Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score* – None
Average Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score* – 69%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

*Rotten Tomatoes averaged the ratings for the 2 seasons of the show.

Season 1 Trailer*:

*Season 2 doesn't have a trailer enabled for embedding into this article. There is one available on Netflix under the series listing, however.

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's our 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, October 20, 2017

The Kite (2011) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 46
Movie Name/Year: The Kite (2011)
Tagline: None
Genre: Drama
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Khushi Films
Producer: Vijay Bhargava, Mark Mann, Alan McAlex, Jaideep Punjabi, Sridhar Reddy, Hesh Sarmalkar, James Townsend, Kaiser Wahab
Director: Prashant Bhargava
Writer: Prashant Bhargava, James Townsend
Actors: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mukkund Shukla, Seema Biswas, Sugandha Garg, Aakash Maheriya, Azur, Hameed, Hamid Shaikh, Pannaben Soni
Stunt Doubles: None

Blurb from Netflix: As a million kites take to the sky during the annual festival of the Uttarayan in Ahmedabad, India, six characters’ divergent paths intersect.

Selina’s Point of View:
I did not enjoy this film.

It was disjointed and felt more like a bunch of home videos shown back-to-back than a cohesive film. I don’t mean that it was ‘found footage’ either. It just felt like relatively bad story telling.

To be honest, I do think that I’m missing some of the significant cultural aspects.

As many foreign movies as we’ve seen throughout Foreign Film Friday, this one felt the least culturally familiar to me. That means that a lot of the story likely went right over my head.

Sometimes, that just happens. To someone with a more in-depth knowledge of the Hindi culture, this might be a poignant and very watchable film. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it crosses that kind of cultural barrier.

It felt irrelevant.

Cat’s Point of View:
If this were a handwritten medium, you’d probably see some ink smears on the page from one of two things – the sprinkling of my tears as I lamented why this movie was going on so long, or drool puddles resulting from being put to sleep.

Ok so maybe I didn’t really get that far into narcolepsy, but it was hard not to nod off while watching this film. It’s rather short in comparison to other movies we’ve watched with similar origins. I just wasn’t having fun, so time was doing its best snail cosplay. I haven’t been so bored while watching something in a long time.

The premise of a family reunion during a kite festival is nifty, but this came across more like the family’s home movies of the celebration instead of a cinematic film. It was a bit all over the place. There were tiny glimpses at plot here and there but it felt like a giant free-for-all for the majority of the production.

There really isn’t much else to say. I’m just glad I won’t have to watch it again. If you’re in the mood for a Bollywood number or even something more serious in the Hindi cinema genre, we’ve reviewed far better movies in the past – perhaps give one of them a watch and skip this one.

Speech Available: Hindi
Subtitles Available: English, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, French, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 53%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%
Metascore - 67/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.2/10

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

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

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Loft (2014)

Number Rolled: 2
Movie Name/Year: The Loft (2014)
Tagline: The right place to do wrong.
Genre: Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Open Road Films, De Vijver Media, Woestijnvis, Anonymous Content
Producer: Hilde De Laere, Matt DeRoss, Steve Golin, Paul Green, Barbara Kelly, Adam Shulman, Wesley Strick, Wim Tack, Wouter Vandenhaute, Erik Watté
Director: Erik Van Looy
Writer: Bart de Pauw, Wesley Strick
Actors: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rhona Mitra, Valerie Cruz, Kali Rocha, Elaine Cassidy, Margarita Levieva, Kristin Lehman, Robert Wisdom, Ric Reitz, Graham Beckel, Kathy Deitch
Stunt Doubles: Stanton Barrett, John Bernecker, Felipe Savahge

Blurb from Netflix: Five married men rent a secret luxury loft to carry on discreet affairs, but a murder soon reveals other secrets they’re concealing from each other.

Selina’s Point of View:
For a lot of this film I was kind of out of it. I figured I pretty much knew what direction things were going. The Loft threw me off. It took a left turn that I never saw coming.

I seriously underestimated this film.

When the film first came out, I was intrigued by the trailer. At the time, Trust the Dice was only doing a Top 10 instead of a Top 20, that’s the only reason The Loft didn’t make the list. Still, I expected something a little more cookie cutter than what I got.

I’m really surprised that I wound up liking this film.

I didn’t find any of the characters relatable – or even likable. I hated every moment of each of their existences. Still, they were portrayed very well by some incredibly talented actors. It should have made a difference, but it didn’t. Each character in the film made me want to throw something at their head.

With the twist and the interesting out-of-order storytelling, though, I wound up able to care about their story anyway. I wanted to know what became of them – if only because I wanted to see them suffer a little bit.

As a psychological thriller, this film was the best I’ve seen in years. There were no supplemental jump scares to try to up the thrill-factor… there wasn’t even any real danger involved. The creators still managed to make my chest a little tight with anticipation. 

The mystery was really at the core of the thrill factor, and that is a huge deal.

There are not enough movies out there trusting the psychological factor to work without gore and jumps. Those films that do trust it, never seem to go quite far enough to succeed. The Loft was perfect where its genre was concerned.

I am curious about the original, however.

The Loft originally came out as a Belgian film in 2008. It seems to have a higher rating on IMDb, as well. It might be worth checking out.

Cat’s Point of View:
We’ve been looking forward to watching this movie for a while. Now that it’s finally come up, I can say with confidence that it was worth the wait.

This isn’t your average who-done-it murder mystery. It has some predictable qualities to it, but other aspects jumped right out of left field and caught me by surprise. I especially enjoyed the framework used for the story – particularly how the opening sets a grim tone that foreshadows events and builds up an undercurrent of suspense as you watch it all unfold.

I loved all the twists and turns the story took, as well as its infusion of both cringe and comedy. The characters were well-crafted and felt like they had some real substance. There were a few couples that had me wishing I knew more about their backstory leading up to the events in the film.

I also appreciated the symbolism in a few scene flashes that were purposefully out of focus at first but over the course of events became clearer.

Though, it was the cast that sold me and kept me at the edge of my seat. Karl Urban (Riddick, Almost Human, Pete's Dragon) was in a slightly different role than I’m used to seeing him in. I liked the smooth-operator look on him. 

Eric Stonestreet (Bad Teacher, Identity Thief, The Secret Life of Pets) had me cringing the most, I think; along with trying not to laugh at entirely inappropriate moments because of his character.

James Marsden (Into the Grizzly Maze, Wander Over Yonder, Westworld) was irritatingly likeable in his role. Considering the whole premise revolves around a condo that a group of guys keep for extra-marital trysts, I didn’t want to really LIKE any of these guys.

I found a comparison of the wives to the other women central to the story. While some might boil it down to that whole ‘blondes have more fun’ nonsense, I think there’s more to it. I also admit that I wanted to reach through the screen and smack Rhona Mitra’s (The Number 23, The Last Ship, The Strain) character for being obnoxious.

All told, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and I would watch it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I will likely do so again soon just to see if there were any tidbits that I missed the first time through.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 13%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 37%
Metascore - 24/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.3/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10

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

Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Rock Dog (2017) - Through the Eyes of Cat

By Cat

Number Rolled: N/A
Movie Name/Year: Rock Dog (2017)
Tagline: Chase your dreams. Watch your tail.
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Mandoo Pictures, Eracme Entertainment, Dream Factory Group, Huayi Tencent Entertainment Company, Huayi Brothers Media Corp.
Producers: Mike Bundlie, Tan Fei, Deng Feng, Rob Feng, Uri Fleming, Benjamin Gilberg, Bin Huang, Zheng Jun, Felix Liu, Joyce Lou, Roger J. Luo, David B. Miller, Xue Niu, Chuck Peil, Yang Ruiyi, Alonzo Ruvalcaba, Lauren Selig, Liu Shengyi, Amber Wang, Zhongjun Wang, Zhonglei Wang, Angela Wu, Xiaoping Xu, Andrew Yang, Jerry Ye, Richard Zhang
Director: Ash Brannon
Writers: Ash Brannon, Kurt Voelker, Denise Bradley, Vincente DiSanti, Will Finn, Carolyn Gair, Zheng Jun, Josh Zinman
Actors: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliott, Will Finn, Ash Brannon, Liza Richardson, Julie Craig, Kellen Goff
Stunt Doubles: None
Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, iTunes, Vudu, Youtube Movies (purchase)

Blurb from IMDb: When a radio falls from the sky into the hands of a wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff, he leaves home to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician, setting into motion a series of completely unexpected events.

Cat’s Point of View: 

Selina had a super busy weekend and wasn’t able to join in on the movie for today’s article. Considering we didn’t roll the movie up for this review, I opted to be random in another way for my movie selection. I left it up to my 14 year old. 

My daughter was dying to watch Rock Dog, and so we pulled it up via Xfinity On Demand. It’s currently in HBO’s rotation so it’s available on their subscription service as well. My flash of inspiration for this review came about when I remembered the movie had made it onto my Top 20 list for February 2017, hitting the countdown at a solid #13.

To summarize my reasoning for its list placement: I dig movies about musicians trying to make it, the interesting cast, it looked cute, and the voice of Sam Elliott’s (Digging for Fire, The Ranch, The Hero). 

All told, the movie wasn’t really all that original on a thematic level. It didn’t stand out as groundbreaking in style or substance. It was fairly predictable. 

That being said, it was still an endearing movie with some underlying positive messages. The film was clearly targeted to younger audiences. There were a few bits here and there targeted to older viewers, though. Even though the animation wasn’t jaw-dropping, it was still well done and flowed smoothly. 

Best of all, the movie delivered on the funny. My whole family was laughing, and that’s something. I think Eddie Izzard’s (Valkyrie, Monty Python Live (Mostly), Victoria and Abdul) cool-cat character, Angus, really stole the show. 

Even though the rock was a bit on the soft side, we really enjoyed ourselves for this family night movie selection. I wouldn’t mind watching it again, really.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: Varies dependent on viewing platform.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 46%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 45%
Metascore – 48/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.4/10
IMDB Score – 5.8/10

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

Movie Trailer: