Saturday, December 16, 2017

But I Digress... For the Honor of Grayskull - A New She-Ra Series

By Cat

Logo from this Italian website here.
I’ll admit that I haven’t been quite as vigilant, recently, with paying attention to my entertainment news feeds. For this reason, Selina was able to pretty much knock me out of my chair with some news  fresh off the ‘presses’ – She-Ra: Princess of Power  (1985-1987) is getting a Netflix reboot series in 2018.

Netflix issued the statement on December 12, 2017 regarding a number of new shows they’ll be bringing to the streaming service along with Dreamworks. "From Eisner Award-winning author and executive producer Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes, Nimona) comes a modern take on the ‘80s girl power icon for a new generation of young fans. The trailblazing property originally debuted in 1985 to satisfy overwhelming demand for a female lead fantasy series. With Stevenson's unique voice at the helm, fans are in store for an epic and timely tale that celebrates female friendship and empowerment, lead by a warrior princess tailor made for today. The series will be available to Netflix members worldwide in 2018."

This deal has apparently been in the works for a little bit, all very hush-hush. Stevenson appears to be very excited about the project. With the veil of secrecy still shrouding the project, she still couldn’t help tease us all about what was ‘behind the curtain.’ Once the proverbial cat was out of the bag, however, she was quick to share her enthusiasm with a tweet linking one of the many articles that spread through the net’s geek community like wildfire. While her link leads to Variety; I’ve also seen articles on Nerdist, CBR,, MSN, LA Times, and the list goes on.
I am seriously excited about the prospect of this new series. Further, I can only hope that it performs better than the various attempts over the years to bring He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983–1985) back to the screen. However, rather than finding itself in the hands of a more traditional or cable network, this project will be curated by Netflix. I have yet to see them drop the ball on one of their projects. This gives me a great deal of hope that this will be the She-Ra we need for this generation.

While little is known about cast or plot elements currently, it is my hope that we’ll receive a bit of a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the streaming premiere. The news is so fresh, it’s possible that we’ll get information such as cast announcements sprinkled in the time between now and then. It’s smart to keep us on the edge of our seats a bit. It generates prolonged buzz and anticipation for the series, after all.

It’s really the only thing I’m a little anxious about. The casting choices can make or break the whole thing.Admittedly, the plot is another factor we know very little about as well. It’s not clear if this series will essentially repackage the original story with only a few minor tweaks or if we’re going to get a re-imagining for the more modern generation of viewers.

One thing’s for sure – I hope they keep at least one element of the original show’s formatting. Back in the day, the 1980’s cartoons often ended with a small PSA targeted to their young audiences. G.I. Joe (1983-1986) is one of the most remembered for that – because “knowing is half the battle.”

She-Ra took a different tack on the concept in that the show had a character dedicated to the moral tie-in for the episodes named Loo-Key of the Etherian species of Kon-Seals. He would often be hidden in various episode scenes. At the end of the show, he’d play a bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ game asking kids if they spotted him. He then revealed where he was hiding and then shared the moral of the story.

The first episode Loo-Kee appeared in was #6 of the first season. The 5 episodes prior were dedicated to She-Ra’s origin story as told by the theatrical movie that was her debut - He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword (1985). This was a brilliant idea, at the time. It ensured that kids that couldn’t make it to theaters for the film still didn’t miss out on the story (and Mattel didn’t miss out on toy sales opportunities). Though, once the stand-alone original content of the series started; Loo-Kee and the Kon-Seals became a firm fixture.

The first moral message shared with the ending of episode #6 was about bullies and encouraging kids to talk to their parents if it happened. In a world where kids are opting-out of life because of bullying, this is a very relevant message. Kids’ shows today seem to be missing some of the more meaningful elements that we got with the older generations of cartoons. These PSAs were clear, unmistakable, and didn’t rely on anyone to extrapolate the message from the show’s plot alone.

At its very core, She-Ra’s story arc explores family, redemption, fighting for what is right, and friendship. I’ve heard She-Ra compared to Xena: Warrior Princess(1995-2001), as she was certainly a strong female role model in the fantasy genre for the 1980s. We live in a modern age of female empowerment, and this show is an excellent vehicle to strengthen the can-do spirit in girls of all ages.

I will be waiting with bated breath for this new series to premiere, and you can bet you’ll hear from me afterwards to let you know if it lives up to expectations once I’ve binge-watched it all. I can't wait to visit Etheria again!

Since there’s so little known about the details of the new series, I’ve compiled an overview for the original series for you below. If you are unfamiliar with the series, you can always watch Season 1 of the original on Netflix right now. Let us know if you find Loo-Kee!

Series Name/Year: She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1987)
Tagline: For the honor of Grayskull, SHE-RA has the power!
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 2 Seasons, 93 Episodes, Run-time average 21 min. per episode
Rating: TV-Y7
Production Companies: Filmation Associates, Mattel
Producer: Lou Scheimer
Directors: Bill Reed, Lou Kachivas, Richard Trueblood, Marsh Lamore, Ernie Schmidt, Ed Friedman, Tom Tataranowicz, Tom Sito, Mark Glamack, Steve Clark, Bill Nunes, Bob Arkwright, Gwen Wetzler
Writers: J. Michael Straczynski, Gene Ayres, Tom Bagen, Carol Baxter, Frank Becker, Joseph Botsford, Harvey Brenner, J. Larry Carroll, Michael Chain, Lawrence G. DiTillio, Kathryn M. Drennan, Steven J. Fisher, Bob Forward, Lee Fraser, Barbara Hambly, Phil Harnage, Don Heckman, Denis Higgins, Coslough Johnson, Philip Kassel, Durnford King, Robert Lamb, Drew Lawrence, Francis Moss, Arthur H. Nadel, Brynne Stephens, Michael Utvich, Brooks Wachtel, Michael Chase Walker, Chris Weber, Robert White, Karen Willson, Leslie Wilson, Linda Yuro
Actors: Melendy Britt, Linda Gary, John Erwin, George DiCenzo, Lou Scheimer, Erika Scheimer, Alan Oppenheimer, Diane Pershing

Netflix Blurb For Classic Series: Disguised as superpowered She-Ra, Princess Adora -- He-Man's twin sister -- fights to save planet Etheria from the clutches of dark sorcerer Hordak.

Languages Currently Available With Classic Series on Netflix:
Speech Available: English, German
Subtitles Available: English [CC], Arabic, German, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese

For a little lagniappe (something extra), have a dash of nostalgic cheer for your holiday season with this cartoon Christmas special


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, December 15, 2017

Trust the Dice: Stand For Net Neutrality

By: Selina Tropiano

Today, we won’t be watching a foreign film. Instead, we’ll be talking about something much more important: Net Neutrality.

Undoubtedly, by now, you’ve heard plenty about this issue. In fact, you might be getting incredibly sick of it. I get that. Never-the-less, I hope you read on anyway.

For those of you who don’t know, the FCC repealed net neutrality mid-day yesterday. It was an appalling bit of news that made the rounds and filled a lot of people with dread. But why? What’s the big deal about net neutrality anyway?

Clearly, I could go into how a lack of net neutrality would affect Trust the Dice. I could remind you that we’re a small blog that doesn’t take money from directors or producers in order to review their films. Even though we work through the use of Netflix, we’re in no way considered to be representatives of them and we’re certainly not sponsored by them. A lack of net neutrality could easily mean that we would be required to pay a lot more than what we spend on our domain.

Quite frankly, even with ads, we don’t make enough money for that. Pretty much every cent that we’ve made through Trust the Dice gets pumped right back into the blog.

If the above scenario happened, we would likely cease to exist. Along with the majority of other small blogs that you follow, and possibly some of the bigger ones.

That’s not the problem, though.

Admittedly, it’s easy to focus on the part that could affect my site… but there’s a much bigger issue at stake.

A lack of net neutrality turns the internet into a space that’s ‘pay-to-win.’ Until now, it’s been a space dominated by freedom of speech, but people could easily use this new ‘pay-to-win’ system to shut down anyone that disagrees with them.

I will give you an example.

One of my articles greatly angered someone involved in a project I was talking about. Since then, they’ve located my phone number and made it their mission to prank call me – and have their friends prank call me – numerous times a day from many different numbers. This has been going on for nearly a year and a half now.

Clearly, that’s a really childish way to react to a bad review… but without net neutrality, it gets worse. The person involved has more money than I do, that’s just a matter of fact. They could easily pay to have this blog, or any of my social media sites, shut down or slowed to a crawl.

Money speaks in this new internet world.

My example above is just a small way that a lack of net neutrality could affect our freedom of speech. Have a complaint about the president or his enemies? Too bad. Get into an argument with a politician? Good luck signing on tomorrow. Leave a bad review on Rotten Tomatoes? Post something negative about a fast food restaurant? Call out an insurance company on Twitter? Anyone, at any time, including trolls, could pay to have your internet experience destroyed.

It is the first dent in attempting to break through our freedom of speech. It doesn’t demolish it, but it sets a very bad precedent. One that could be used to further prevent the population from speaking up.

That is why the FCC vote fills people with dread.

Luckily, the fight is NOT over.

The people who made this decision, would prefer if we all thought this was the end. The repeal passed, so all is lost. Except, it’s not.

The repeal doesn’t actually go into effect immediately. Before that can happen, it has to hit the Federal register, which will open it to the possibility of lawsuits. Already, many states in the U.S. have expressed an interest in suing the FCC over their decision. Among them are: New York, California, and Washington.

That means we’re not alone. Some of the state governments have been listening, and there are those among them willing to fight alongside, and for, their people.

Don’t be fooled, either, when the FCC comes out in a month and starts pointing out that the internet hasn’t gone ‘pay-to-win’ yet. It can’t actually happen that quickly. The rules have to go through all kinds of steps before they can be activated… and that could take many months. The repeal could be tied up in those aforementioned lawsuits for even longer than that.

We cannot be tricked by the greed of the FCC and their lobbyists, because we know we can still help.

Unfortunately, politicians seem to be among our only hope. That might not fill you with confidence, and I don’t blame you, because it doesn’t do much for me either.

You have to speak to your congressman. You have to urge them to understand that this is not an issue that can be swept under the rug. This is not a small freedom that you will allow the internet-version of Martin Shkreli to rip away from you.

2018 is an election year. Politicians, especially right now, want to come out for the people in order to remain popular enough to win their respective elections. We, the people, need to make it more expensive for them to ignore us than to listen. Which means every single person with an opinion on the subject needs to act.

It’s difficult to believe that we can make a difference. Each one of us is just one. One person versus the entire United States government can be a frightening thought. That’s why we need to rely on each other right now.

This vote passed because of how divided we are. Democrats can’t trust Republicans, Republicans can’t trust Democrats. Everyone’s either racists or a snowflake. We’re all libtards or cold-hearted freaks. Politics has forced us to our respective corners and we’re all too wrapped up in it all to walk into the middle of the room and see that things are being done without our input because we’re allowing it. Because we’re too divided to agree on anything.

Regardless of what side of politics you’re on; regardless of your race, creed, sexuality, or station in life… this subject affects you. If you’re rich, there’s always going to be someone richer. If you’re a Republican and you want to say something negative about Hilary Clinton, you could be shut down just as quickly as a Democrat saying something negative about Trump.

This should be the line we draw in the sand. This should be our hill to die on. Because this isn’t about whether or not you’re going to get to watch Netflix or play World of Warcraft. It’s not even about whether or not you’ll be able to continue keeping in touch with your Uncle that moved to Australia. It’s about a civil right being slowly sliced away from you. And THAT is not ok.

Call your congressman. Tell them this IS the issue for this election.

Be outraged. Be active. Be loud.

Or be silenced.

It’s your call.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Embers (2015)

Number Rolled: 29
Movie Name/Year: Embers (2015)
Tagline: The world without memory.
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Length: 86 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Chaotic Good, Papaya Films, Bunker Features
Producer: Mevlut Akkaya, Justin Benoliel, Pawel Bondarowicz, Claire Carré, Lynda Carré, Steve Drypolcher, Dan Fabulich, Karen Fischer, Warren Fischer, Daniel Fries, Richard Giannotti, Andrew Guo, Jason Stevan Hill, Kirsten Kairos, Tomek Kulesza, Nathan Lackie, Marysia Makowska, Nicholas Monsour, Cy Myers, Kacper Sawicki, Hana Shimizu, Daniel Shoenman, Todd Antonio Somodevilla, Charles Spano, Susan Spano, Frank J. Stamler, Lana Valenta, Quinn Wilson, Julian Yap, Eugene Zarakhovsky
Director: Claire Carré
Writer: Claire Carré, Charles Spano
Actors: Jason Ritter, Iva Gocheva, Greta Fernandez, Tucker Smallwood, Karl Glusman, Roberto Cots, Dominique Swain, Matthew Goulish, Silvan Friedman, Derrick Aguis, Nathaniel Andrew, Brandon Bowens, Janice Culver, Ryan Czerwonko, Kirsten Kairos, Arianna Messner, Sundance
Stunt Doubles: None

Blurb from Netflix: Survivors of a global epidemic are left without the ability to create memories, forced to navigate the bleak world by living entirely in the present.

Selina’s Point of View:
This film takes the term ‘living in the present’ to a whole new level. A frightening level.

There were a lot of things that Embers did right.

For the most part, it was a straight drama. Sure, there was a dystopian aspect to it, but the movie didn’t delve into the sci-fi side of things. You never really find out what caused the epidemic that ended life as we know it. Instead, the story is more of an in depth look at the lives of several different people as they simply exist in their new world without memories.

The road taken was definitely one less traveled for this plot. That made it incredibly interesting to watch, even when it got slightly repetitive or the pacing slowed.

Due to the fact that it was a very little-seen plot, it left me looking forward to finding out where it was going and how it was getting there. I couldn’t predict anything because I’d never seen anything like it.

That was the best part. Unfortunately, the ending fell flat.

By the time the story ended, it became clear that there was no real point to anything. What had been building up to have such incredible substance and power to it just died… out of nowhere.

I don’t mind films that leave me guessing. I don’t mind when there are questions left unanswered. Open endings can lead to some of the best debates… and I usually hope that the director or writer never comes out with an answer – not even in an interview. But this ending was more than just open. It gave no hint of any closure. It just left me with a feeling of utter pointlessness.

This film was funded through Kickstarter. So, I have to focus on how I would feel as an investor.

How WOULD I feel? Despite my dislike of ending, I don’t regret watching the rest of it. There were real feels throughout, and a lot of the acting was decent – or better. I’d be proud to have had my name attached as an investor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still good.

This was Claire Carré’s (Paris Not France, One night with the King, Behind the Smile) full-length feature film debut as a writer/director. And Charles Spano’s (Serving a Life Sentence for Your Viewing Pleasure, Bouncing Cats, God Bless Bloc Party) full-length feature film debut as a writer. You have to keep that in mind.

Quite frankly, I attribute the ending snafu to both the creators being more knowledgeable about documentaries than fiction.

For a first film, Carré and Spano did very well. You can’t expect someone to reach the moon on their first try… and they still managed to get pretty close. I’ve seen debut films from well-known, amazing directors that I wouldn’t have scored as high.

I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to watch this film again, but I WOULD look into other projected by the creators, and I would consider donating.

Cat’s Point of View:
This has been a week for really dark movies. Embers is a bleak glimpse into a dystopian future that, frankly, will haunt me.

I feel that it’s best to just give a heads up that this movie won’t be for everyone. It’s not your typical story arc. In fact, had I not read the Netflix blurb before viewing, I might not have understood what was going on, at least for a bit.

The movie has a weight to it. It’s cerebral, and full of expanses between moments of dialogue. It has sweet moments and moments of brutality – thankfully, the latter isn’t too graphic. Even though this film is a ‘thinker,’ it’s clear that it’s not set up from any elitist point of view. It’s not pretentious in its storytelling endeavor. It is a slow burn, though, and the real horror behind the trappings of this sci-fi tale doesn’t jump out at you. It creeps up until the sense of dread rivals your inner voice asking ‘are we there yet?’

There were moments I was bored to tears – until it hooked me and left me shaken.

Part of that is to the credit of the cast and production team, and the rest is due to my own personal fear.

Consider me triggered.

Memory loss, loss of intellect, and the disappearance of self are terrifying to me. Largely, that is due to the fact that it hits too close to home. I have a medical condition that, while currently stable, could at some random point in the future progress in that direction. The fact I could wake up some future day and suddenly have any number of neurological hurdles is a heavy thought. Imagining the whole world afflicted, is just chilling.

This Kickstarter-funded independent film helmed by the married production team of Claire Carré (Talkers Are No Good Doers, The Quiet One, Sia: Soon We'll Be Found) and Charles Spano (Rock n' Roll Fantasy Camp, Directions, Terry the Claw) is both quietly brilliant and tedious at the same time. 

Since this was Carré’s directorial debut, I wonder if the latter was intentional with the theme of the movie.

I enjoyed most of the cast in their roles. I loved the poignant dynamic between Jason Ritter (About Alex, Gravity Falls, The Meddler) and Iva Gocheva (Charlie, Incognita, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors). Greta Fernandez (Three Days With the Family, The Next Skin, Amar) was relatable in her sense of boredom and futility.  Karl Glusman (Stonewall, The Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals) filled me with a sense of foreboding uneasiness as he embodied chaos.

While I can certainly appreciate what this movie attempted to accomplish – I am thoroughly grateful to never have to watch it again.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 81%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 49%
Metascore - 55/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.3/10

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

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

P.S. Kickstarter page can be found here.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 11, 2017

Meadowland (2015)

Number Rolled: 31
Movie Name/Year: Meadowland (2015)
Tagline: What if you had nothing left to lose but your mind?
Genre: Drama
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Bron Studios, Itaca Films
Producer: Jason Cloth, Santiago Garcia Galvan, Alex Garcia, Aaron L. Gilbert, Paul Golini, Erika Hampson, Margot Hand, Jennifer Levine, Kelly Morel, G. Scott Paterson, Andrew Pollack, Clifford Rand, Chris Rossi, Lauren Selig, Allan J. Stitt, Matt Tauber, Chris Taylor, Steven Thibault, Olivia Wilde
Director: Reed Morano
Writer: Chris Rossi
Actors: Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, Elisabeth Moss, Ty Simpkins, John Leguizamo, Kevin Corrigan, Merritt Wever, Scott Mescudi, Skipp Sudduth, Nick Sandow, Mark Feuerstein, Yolonda Ross, Anna Khaja, Eden Duncan-Smith, Ned Eisenberg, Casey Walker, Justine Torres
Stunt Doubles: None

Blurb from Netflix: After their only child disappears from a service station bathroom, a shattered husband and wife take different dark paths to deal with the grief.

Selina’s Point of View:
The concept of this film is incredibly frightening. However, the story doesn’t follow the actually frightening aspect – the loss of a couple’s child. Instead, the plot is centered around how the couple deals with life after the unthinkable. It’s a different take on the topic.

There were both good and bad aspects of Meadowland.

On the good side, the emotions were instantaneously understandable. The way the film showed the couple attempting to move on while they were still struggling under the surface was brilliant. There are some tragedies that happen in our lives that make us wonder if we will ever smile again… and the truth is that we will – even if we’re just faking it. This movie covers that aspect of grief and life-after-loss very well.

The scenes that get the emotion right, that the actors portrayed well, were heart-wrenching. Those moments made me very sure that it would be a very long time before I forget this film.

For someone like me that watches hundreds of unfamiliar movies per year, that’s a hell of a feat. There are some movies in Trust the Dice’s records that I could not, for the life of me, tell you anything about. I just don’t remember watching them at all. Meadowland won’t be one of those.

Mainly because I’m going to be paranoid as hell with my daughter in corresponding situations now.

On the bad side, there were aspects of the film that felt incomplete or like they didn’t quite fit what was happening. For instance, the ending. I get what the writer and director were trying to portray… but it fell flat. It just kind of felt like a cop-out.

I expected part of the ending, but the rest of it was symbolic crap that made very little impression.

This movie would have received a much higher score from me if they had just done something a little more definite and less pretentious for the ending. In fact, it was that ending that made one of the characters of the film little more than a plot device, when that character could have been so much more.

If there’s an alternate ending out there, I’d watch this film again. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.

Cat’s Point of View:
When I read the blurb for this movie, I cringed. I was fully expecting a gut-punch to happen any minute.

The reason why is simple: this film centers around an event that dwells among every parent’s worst nightmares.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve simply looked away for a split-second in a store and turned back to find my child not where I saw her last. It’s an adrenaline rush of the worst kind as your heart begins to race and chills creep along your spine in the flash of a second. Thankfully, the reason for sudden disappearance was something simple and she reappeared again an aisle over, or hiding underneath a clothing rack. Funnily enough, sometimes she’d just wandered directly behind me so while she wasn’t where I expected her, she was there when I turned around.

I get a knot in my stomach just thinking about what it would be like for the worst to happen.

I’m not sure how I would cope with the loss of my child. As someone who has fought depression off and on for a good deal of my life, I can imagine it wouldn’t be a pretty sight. As a result, I found myself less judgmental, perhaps, of Olivia Wilde’s (House, Rush, Her) character, Sarah.

The impact of the movie’s events was significant, and yet I think the blow was softened somewhat by the meandering pace the film took. Some of it made sense and other points just had me tipping my head and questioning ‘why.’

I didn’t like the ending, though. In a way, I see how it was fitting as a scene. Unfortunately, that was a really strange note to end the film on.

I don’t think I would willingly watch this one again, but it’s mostly due to the subject matter. I don’t feel that the movie was bad; though, I would have to say it was generally unremarkable. Even with that said, I will likely be glued to my child in public for a while.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 57%
Metascore - 67/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 5.8/10

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

Movie Trailer: