Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Name is Not the Game - A Look at the Foreign Film Tag (2015)

By Cat


I decided to dabble in Netflix’s foreign film selection to find something to share with you today. It actually came up in my recommended movies list. I guess I’ve been watching a lot of horror lately. It’s almost October, though! This is the best time of year for such things!

This instance is decidedly one of those times where you can’t judge a film by its title – or even poster for that matter… ok let’s expand that to even include the Netflix blurbs. I seriously wish that I could have found some job where it was ok to blatantly share incorrect information like these blurb writers. I just can’t even… so we’re moving on.

When seeing the movie title, the recently released film by the same name came to mind. This, however, has a story completely and utterly different than that of the 2018 film directed by Jeff Tomsic (This Is Not Happening, Crazy House, Idiotsitter). The newer film explores a group of friends with a long-running game of tag in the spirit of the school playground game – just taken to the extreme with cross-country travel and the like. No… no… I watched the 2015 version directed by Sion Sono (Why Don't You Play in Hell?, The Whispering Star, Tokyo Vampire Hotel).

Here are the two blurbs that Netflix was kind enough to misleadingly provide:
  1.  “Alternate realities, Japanese schoolgirls, and lots and lots of blood make this a whole new way of playing tag.” 
  2. “The sole survivor of a freak school bus accident, a shy Japanese high schooler finds herself in a surreal -- and very violent -- alternate universe.”
What the bloody (and I mean that literally) hell, man?!

I must give credit to IMDb for having a more accurate short synopsis for this movie: ”A girl's life cascades into chaos as everyone around her suffers a gruesome fate while she herself becomes less and less certain of who she is and what kind of a world she lives in."

Sadly, I didn’t look at IMDb prior to watching the film. It left me rather confused through the whole thing. I kept waiting for the big reveal to show me where the game of tag was involved with the story.

Spoiler alert! It’s not – not really. Do you know how it fits in? You see it on a poster towards the very end of the movie – the word ‘tag,’ that is. Are you kidding me???!

You might wonder why my reaction is so strong to this particular misnomer. You can call it my breaking point, I suppose, with the whole disparity between blurbs and actual film content. Like the Brits seeking the holiest of chalices with invisible coconut horses, someone needs to sack the llama in charge of those things.

What the movie boils down to is a completely bonkers display of spatter and the occasional choreographed fight scene. Nothing seems to make sense at all. It was just a lot of shrill screaming and running from one strange scenario to another, with a lot of carnage on the way. There were moments that I thought there might be a deeper meaning to everything – that, perhaps, this was a trip through the main character’s subconscious while she was in some sort of coma following the bus accident. Nope. No such luck.

I can’t say that I liked this film very much, but I CAN say that at least it wasn’t boring. Just don’t go into it expecting any sort of real game of tag. Further, for the love of Bob, please don’t let the Japanese School girl uniform fool you –this movie isn’t for kids at all.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Number Rolled: 34
Movie Name/Year: Mamma Mia! (2008)
Tagline: Take a trip down the aisle you'll never forget.
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Littlestar, Playtone, Internationale Filmproduktion Richter
Producer: Benny Andersson, Judy Craymer, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Mark Huffam, Björn Ulvaeus, Rita Wilson
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writer: Catherine Johnson
Actors: Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Rachel McDowall, Ashley Lilley, Julie Waters, Christine Baranski, Ricardo Montez, Mia Soteriou, Enzo Squillino, Dominic Cooper, Philip Michael

Blurb from Netflix: On the Greek isle of Kalokairi, a single mom goes into a tizzy when her bride-to-be daughter invites three of Mom’s ex-lovers to the wedding.

Selina’s Point of View:
This was my first time watching Mamma Mia. I’m not sure if it would have been better if I saw it earlier or not. Parts of it made me emotional as a new mom… but not really for any other reason.

I’m not going to go into whether or not any of it was believable, because I can’t. I grew up in a world where men who claimed their kids were in the minority, and this film was about three guys stepping up to a plate, having no clue if it was theirs or not.

The whole thing felt surreal and off to me.

Some of the songs were great, but I didn’t really like most of the music, to be honest. There was one scene/song that just came out of no where and felt like it belonged anywhere BUT this film.

I guess I’m just not that big a fan of ABBA.

I do enjoy musicals in general, this one just really didn’t do it for me.

Even well-loved movies aren’t going to please everyone.

Cat’s Point of View:
If I were asked to give a single statement to sum up my experience with Mamma Mia, there would be no waffling. My immediate and unequivocal response would be – I loved it. There really isn’t anything I didn’t enjoy about it.

The framework of the film using ABBA songs to illustrate a story in the fashion of a Greek Comedy was a stroke of genius. There are few who haven’t heard some of the songs at least once, as pervasive as they are in pop culture crossing generations. If I wasn’t trying to watch the film quietly with my headphones on so that my family could sleep, I would have been singing along with quite a few of the numbers, myself. 

The familiarity with the music is just an extra layer that draws you into the world. Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the works of ABBA; not only will you have remedied that by the end of the movie, but you won’t have less of an experience as a result.

Then there’s the cast. I have to say that this has to be my favorite role I’ve seen Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Into the Woods, The Post) in. One of the scenes featuring her singing had so much heartfelt emotion in it that my eyes were leaking.

The movie is crammed with talent. You’ve got Pierce Brosnan (The November Man, I.T., The Foreigner), Colin Firth (Dorian Gray, The King's Speech, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Julie Walters (Brave, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Paddington 2), Christine Baranski (The Bounty Hunter, Yellowbird, The Good Wife), and Stellan Skarsgård (Angels & Demons, Melancholia, Cinderella) to name a few. I think this is my favorite role to date for Amanda Seyfried (Gone, Les Misérables, Epic), also.

There’s such whimsy in the film with all the singing and dancing, but I also enjoyed how those scenes were used to showcase the relationships of the characters – whether friends or otherwise. The mother-daughter scenes between Streep and Seyfried really resonated, and I loved the friend groupings for both the mother’s generation and the daughter’s. It looks like everyone on set had a lot of fun filming this project, and those good vibes shine through clearly.

I’m also pretty impressed that the cast really did sing all of their own parts. That’s just one of those things that adds something a little extra to a musical for me.

The sequel to this movie came out earlier this year, and you can bet I am now super excited to see it to find out what happens next. I can’t wait to see what sort of musically illustrated shenanigans will happen. I would definitely give this film a whole-hearted recommendation.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 55%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 66%
Metascore - 51/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5

Movie Trailer: