Friday, December 22, 2017

Girlhood (2014) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 42
Movie Name/Year: Girlhood (2014)
Tagline: You don’t have the full story. Until you know hers.
Genre: Drama
Length: 113 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Hold Up Films, Lilies Films, Arte France Cinéma, Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), Fonds Images de la Diversité, Agence Nationale pour la Cohésion Sociale et l'Egalité des Chances (ACSE), Région Ile-de-France, Canal+, Arte France, Ciné+, Pyramide Distribution, Films Distribution, Arte / Cofinova 9
Producer: Remi Burah, Benedicte Couvreur, Olivier Pere
Director: Celine Sciamma
Writer: Celine Sciamma
Actors: Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Marietou Toure, Idrissa Diabate, Simina Soumare, Dielika Coulibaly, Cyril Mendy, Djibril Gueye, Binta Diop, Chance N’Guessan, Rabah Nait Oufella, Damien Chapelle, Nina Melo, Elyes Sabyani, Halem El Sabagh, Aurelie Verillon
Stunts: Virginie Arnaud, Gregory Loffredo, Astou Vedel

Blurb from Netflix: Disillusioned with life at school and at home, a cynical teenager drops out, joins a gang and begins an arduous search for independence.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was all set to give this film a really high score… and then the ending happened.

It came out of absolutely nowhere, but not in a good way. Twist endings, unexpected conclusions… I love that stuff. If that was what happened, it would have been fine. I’d have loved it. However, it wasn’t. The last ten minutes or so of the film decided to alter the main character at a somewhat core level.

For a moment I just kind of looked around, wondering if I’d missed something during the movie.

Did Netflix cut out a part of it? Did I miss some kind of subtitle that would have explained the sudden weirdness to me?

I did a lot of rewinding and fast-forwarding after the film finished and, no, I don’t think I missed anything. I think the writer completely lost the plot for a few minutes and then had to rush to finish it because nothing made sense anymore.

It’s a real shame, too. The majority of the film was engrossing and interesting. The acting wasn’t my favorite, but the story was decent enough that I was willing to forgive that.

I’m so disappointed in the way Girlhood left off.

Cat’s Point of View:
I am really on the fence with Girlhood. On one hand, I was happily immersed in the world of the main character; and on the other, there were a few things that bugged me here and there that didn’t let me fully buy-in.

That being said, the dialogue felt natural and I honestly felt like I was the proverbial fly on the wall watching a teenage girl find new friends and a new sense of self. I found myself smiling while rooting for her and her squad, even feeling a sense of worry or dread as I feared something negative might happen to her.

Thank goodness for the subtitles. Even if I had a rough knowledge of French, I’m not sure if I would have been able to keep up with the rapid-fire conversations and environmental banter. I was quite happy that the pacing kept up but didn’t run away with the words before I could read them. This is one of those movies I absorbed the subtitles without really noticing them most of the time. The majority of the film flows really well.

Of course, there were a couple stumbling blocks that kicked me out of the groove a few times. What was up with the extended scene transitions with a totally dark screen? It took fade-to-black a little too seriously. There was also one scene that was far longer than I would have anticipated. However, with the context of the musical selection involved, I imagine they were trying to get the most bang for their buck.

I think what bugged me the most about the movie was the ending. It felt too abrupt for me and I don’t feel like enough resolution happened one way or another. When the final scene ended and credits began, I wondered if I was being punked. I thought, surely, that there would be another scene laced into the credits – alas, that was not the case.

While I enjoyed this bleak window into the struggle of life for a teen in France, I’m so frustrated with the ending that it takes away from the rest of it for me. I wouldn’t steer anyone away from this movie, though. I’d just caution that it might leave the viewer feeling a little lost.

Speech Available: French
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore - 85/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.9/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5

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

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

OtherLife (2017)

Number Rolled: 78
Movie Name/Year: OtherLife (2017)
Tagline: None
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: WBMC, Cherry Road Films, Head Gear Films, Kreo Films FZ, Metrol Technology, See Pictures
Producer: Stephen Boyle, Tommaso Fiacchino, Jamie Hilton, Lucas Howe, Phil Hunt, Bo Hyde, Janelle Landers, Marco Mehlitz, Aidan O'Bryan, Josh Pomeranz, Michael Pontin, Kendall Rhodes, Compton Ross, Elliot Ross, Fenella Ross
Director: Ben C. Lucas
Writer: Kelley Eskridge, Ben C. Lucas, Gregory Widen
Actors: Jessica De Gouw, Thomas Cocquerel, T.J. Power, Liam Graham, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Hoa Xuande, Sarah Anjuli, Anna Philp, Priscilla-Anne Forder, Clarence John Ryan, Joseph J.U. Taylor, Adriane Daff, Steve Turner, Ian Toyne
Stunts: Peter West

Blurb from Netflix: After inventing a drug that induces time-compressed virtual realities, young Ren grapples with partner Sam over how to use their powerful creation.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m on the fence with this film.

See, OtherLife had a good story and decent acting… but the pacing was weird and the scenes were disjointed to the point of sometimes being hard to follow.

It’s clear to me that a lot of the disjointed quality was done on purpose and, quite frankly, I think they took it way too far. On the one hand, it makes sense for mind-fuckery to have that sense of the story lunging back and forth from time to time. On the other hand, if you do it too much, you pull the viewer right out of it and leave them wondering what the actual timeline is. Especially when you don’t really give any indication of closure to that time line by the ending.

The thing is, that quality caused me to be pulled out of the story so often that I spent the majority of the film bored. I mean, to the point of tears. The kind you get when you yawn way too much.

Eventually, the pacing did pick up, and they eased off that jumping bullshit long enough for the story to really engulf me. When they did, the movie became phenomenal. I was absolutely glued to the screen for the last 15 or 20 minutes of OtherLife.

Is that enough?

The film is an hour and a half and I was only transfixed by it for less than the last half-hour. That’s a problem.

I don’t know whether or not this kind of movie is par-for-the-course for director Ben C. Lucas (Wasted on the Young, My Generation, Slaughtered). I hope it’s not. With any luck, OtherLife just exhibits some bad experimental choices by him, instead of a pattern.

Cat’s Point of View:
OtherLife was a refreshing and welcome change of pace. It certainly had a little bit of everything and it defied my expectations at every corner.

I’d say that Ben C. Lucas (My Generation, Wasted on the Young, Casa del Suenos) and his production crew got a cosmic bang for their buck over their mere five week shoot. That seems like such a short period of time for everything that was crammed in this movie – without things feeling crammed at all.

It was as if I’d hopped into my own little pocket experience where time was a little more fluid than the little clock in the corner of my computer screen would insist.

This film is said to be loosely based on a novel. This is another one that has brought me to consider expanding my ‘to-read’ list by another volume. If this was a loose adaptation, I wonder what other avenues the written page explored.

Returning to the movie, though, I found it visually mesmerizing in places. I absolutely loved the kaleidoscope transitions. It made so much sense and was really cool to watch.

While the film has some expected sci-fi elements, I can’t recall the thematic story vehicle being used quite in the same way before. I honestly can’t think of anything I would change and I certainly wouldn’t mind watching this again.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 61%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.3/10

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

Movie Trailer: 

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Tortured (2010)

Number Rolled: 30
Movie Name/Year: The Tortured (2010)
Tagline: How far would you go?
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 81 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Twisted Pictures, LightTower Entertainment, MP Productions, Twisted Light Productions
Producer: Troy Begnaud, Mark Burg, Chad Cole, Stephen Gates, Kari Hollend, Anne Jacobsen, Oren Koules, Curtis Leopardo, Raymond Massey, Carl Mazzocone, Derik Murray, Marek Posival, Jessie Rusu, Tom Strnad, Don Zorbas, Jonathan Zucker
Director: Robert Lieberman
Writer: Marek Posival
Actors: Erika Christensen, Jesse Metcalfe, Bill Lippincott, Bill Moseley, Fulvio Cecere, Thomas Greenwood, John R. Taylor, Peter Abrams, Paul Herbert, Chelah Horsdal, Carl Mazzocone Sr.,
Stunt Doubles: Mark Aisbett, Krista Bell, Clint Carleton

Blurb from Netflix: After their young son is abducted and murdered by a psychopath, a well-heeled couple kidnaps the killer and tortures him.

Selina’s Point of View:
I want to preface what I’m about to say with a reminder that I have both seen and enjoyed the first Saw (2004), and a few of the sequels.

That said? What the fuck kind of snuff film did I just watch? Better question. Can I be put on some kind of FBI watch list FOR watching it? I mean, I google some weird stuff for my writing… so I’m probably already on that list… but still.

You might wonder what was so much worse for The Tortured that Saw doesn’t seem as bad. After all, torture-porn is torture-porn, right?

Although later sequels of Saw lost the plot a bit and spiraled off into a world without meaning, that first film had a story. It was cohesive and it took a new route that hadn’t really been seen before. It was shocking to watch, but there was substance to it.

The Tortured didn’t remind me of that first Saw. It reminded me of a much different film. One I reviewed for Trust the Dice long before Cat was ever a part of it. Before there was a unique url for the blog, before we had our current layout. You might not remember that movie unless you’ve been reading since the very beginning… but it got the absolute lowest score I had ever given a film. I broke my 1 – 5 rating rules and gave it a hard 0.

Victim (2010) was that film.

There were holes in both films that were so big that swiss cheese would have been jealous. The torture aspect really served no point and the script did the plot absolutely no favors.

Quite frankly, the only reason this film isn’t getting the same score, is because the acting wasn’t as completely horrible.

Still, when I look back and think about this movie, it’s going to be difficult for me to differentiate it from Victim in my memories. That is not a good thing.

Cat’s Point of View:
The dice are feeling sadistic lately. Last week we got a kidnapping movie – this week we got a kidnapping movie. I feel I must now resist temptation to invest in a tether that physically attaches my child to me.

There were some interesting similarities between The Tortured and the last heart-wrenching film we reviewed about kidnapping. It almost feels like this one presented a ‘what if’ scenario into what could have happened differently. Of course, there’s nothing actually tying those movies together; it’s just watching them practically back to back that brings me to draw the parallels.

While Meadowland (2015) was dark, this film took the spiraling darkness of grieving parents to an entirely new level.

This movie was hard to watch. Be warned that the title of the movie is a giant trigger warning. If you’re uncomfortable watching torture-porn, this film will likely not be your cup of tea. It wasn’t really even my cup of tea and I can take movies like Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005).

There were some scenes that just had me feeling downright queasy. Perhaps it was my emotional investment in the situation that made this harder to take.

All told, however, I bought what the film was selling. The characters were believable, relatable, and you could palpably feel their rage, grief, and desire for karmic justice.

The only real issue I had with the movie was the ending. It felt like there was quite a bit of drawn out buildup to a heart-pounding climactic moment… and then it all wrapped up too quick, and a little too neatly. It almost felt like things got carried away with the ‘meat’ of the film and then suddenly they realized ‘oh we need to end this thing, don’t we.’

I mean, I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’d want to watch a movie with this theme that would require an intermission due to length; so, I guess I’m glad they did wrap it up. I just don’t think I’d put myself through watching this one again anyway.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 6%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 35%
Metascore - 9/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 2.5/5

Movie Trailer: