Friday, December 7, 2018

How Sarah Got Her Wings (2015)

Number Rolled: 53
Movie Name/Year: How Sarah Got Her Wings (2015)
Tagline: Sometimes you need a helping hand.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: Fancy Pants Films
Producer: Sharon Bordas, Valentina Bove, Damon Tod Hill, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
Director: Edmund Entin, Gary Entin
Writer: Damon Tod Hill
Actors: Lindsey Gort, Derek Theler, Melanie Liburd, Jeremy Luke, Caleel Harris, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Daniel di Tomasso, Vanessa Waters, Charles Robinson, Troy Evans, Hayes Hargrove

Blurb from Netflix: When a good Samaritan dies in a pre-Christmas accident, a celestial hitch sends her back to earth as an angel in training to make something right.

Selina’s Point of View:
I feel like this movie is an insult to the genre. It’s a carbon copy of Just Like Heaven (2005) only with a slightly different, more boring, ending – and worse acting.

I’m not spending one more minute on this film than I already have.

Cat’s Point of View:
I knew that we were going to run into one of these, eventually. What, you ask? A movie that somehow missed the mark, would be my answer.

I wanted to like it, really. In fact, it wasn’t completely awful – it just fell short. I found myself comparing the plot to a ‘white elephant’ gift that just keeps getting re-gifted. You see, this isn’t the first time this story has been done. Anyone crying out ‘derivative’ wouldn’t exactly be wrong.

Apparently, this movie was based on the Dolly Parton (Gnomeo & Juliet, Joyful Noise, A Country Christmas Story) movie, Unlikely Angel (1996). That film seemed to be re-using the plot from the sitcom Parton was working on in 1994. They filmed 6 episodes before she pulled out of the project, and it never aired. I think it’s time that we moved on from this one, right?

The premise was cute, but for some reason I just couldn’t get invested. I was enough detached that I kept getting distracted by little things like the maĆ®tre d’ of heaven’s lobby’s teeth, and the fact that Derek Theler (Project: SERA, Shark Killer, Baby Daddy) could pass for the younger brother of Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers, Avengers: Infinity War) or something along those lines.  

To be fair to the cast, I don’t think this film’s shortfalls falls on their shoulders.  I felt they did the best they could with the material. It’s just one of the rare circumstances where recycling really wasn’t a good thing.

Needless to say, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend this movie as ‘the thing to watch’ this Holiday Season. There’s far too many quality choices out there that simply leave this one in the dust. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 25%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.6/10

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

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Dear Santa (2011)

Number Rolled: 11
Movie Name/Year: Dear Santa (2011)
Tagline: None
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: Nomadic Pictures, ITV America, Johnson Production Group, Government of Alberta, Alberta Multimedia Development Fund, Annuit Coeptis Entertainment Inc.
Producer: Jay Daniel Beechinor, Petros Danabassis, Oliver De Caigny, Michael Frislev, Timothy O. Johnson, Chad Oakes
Director: Jason Priestley
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka
Actors: Amy Acker, David Haydn-Jones, Emma Duke, Patrick Creery, Gina Holden, James Dugan, Margherita Donato, Brooklynn Proulx, Paulina ‘Miel’ Chmielecka, Bob Irvine, James D. Hopkin, Dave El Wray, Kristina Elliott

Blurb from Netflix: Finding a letter mailed to Santa by a girl asking for a new wife for her daddy, twentysomething Crystal sets out to make the girl’s wishes come true.

Selina’s Point of View:
I imagine all our Christmas movies this month will be barking up the same basic rom-com tree. This one just felt like it did the whole thing a little better than the last.

It was still a recipe and super easy to predict… but I caught myself smiling a little more than I did with A Christmas Prince (2017). Of course, a lot of that could be attributed to Amy Acker (The Gifted, Con Man, Much Ado About Nothing).

I absolutely adore Amy Acker, and I have since I first saw her on Angel (1999-2004) back in the day. Just her existence in this film made me look forward to it.

I thought Dear Santa was going to be a disappointment. Acker’s character was not likeable to me upon first glance. I was sighing and rolling my eyes a lot – but as the film went on, she became less annoying and a lot easier to root for. Of course, that could just be the sweetness of the actor shining through.

I was not fond of David Haydn-Jones (Supernatural, My Christmas Dream, The Toyman Killer), though. His character and his acting left a lot to be desired.

All in all, I think this was a heart-warming film. It was flawed, certainly, but not bad for some light holiday watching.

To be honest? I don’t really expect anything to actually wow me this month. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

Cat’s Point of View:
Okay. So, I might rag on the Lifetime Channel’s typical programming fare occasionally – but I have a confession to make. While I don’t make a habit of watching that or the Hallmark Channel, I have been known to really enjoy some of their content. In random small doses; and then only if it’s not too over-the-top saccharine. I might be a die-hard optimist, but that only carries so far.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind adding this to my ‘guilty pleasure’ list. I can’t say that it would become a holiday tradition or anything; but out of the bazillion holiday romances out there, I enjoyed this one.

Would I go out of my way to seek it out or films like it? Probably not – but this is from someone who gets primarily horror, sci-fi, and anime suggestions from Netflix. (When I’m not watching for the blog or trying to catch up on one of my 999 shows, I tend to gravitate there for things I can’t watch with my husband or kiddo. I digress…)

Getting back to the movie, it certainly lived up to its expectations. The film was festive, had a good message, plenty of feel-good moments, a life-epiphany plot for good measure, and a few good chuckles. It didn’t matter that I’d predicted what would happen a third of the way in. I was smiling, and there was even a moment I got misty-eyed.

I was surprised to see that Jason Priestley (Call Me Fitz, Rookie Blue, Van Helsing) was the creative force behind this film’s direction. He is by no means a stranger to directing, though. He even directed 15 episodes or so of the hit show, 90210 (1990-2000).

I was more excited, however, to see Amy Acker (Dollhouse, Person of Interest, Con Man) in her role here. While I am waiting with bated breath to see if Fox will renew her current show, The Gifted (2017-), for a third season; it was a treat for her to step into the shoes of this heartwarming role.

To sum up, this film was everything you would expect it to be.  It might have technical goofs and a highly predictable plot, but it wasn’t shabby. It’s good if you have a glass of wine and want to curl up for some feels that don’t require a mascara alert.

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English, Portuguese, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 50%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.5/10

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

Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Christmas Prince (2017)

Number Rolled: 44
Movie Name/Year: A Christmas Prince (2017)
Tagline: None
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production Companies: Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA)
Producer: Nate Atkins, Alexandru Balta, Vince Balzano, Cristian Bostanescu, Mickey Gooch, Eric Jarboe, Amy Krell, Brad Krevoy, Carolyn McLeod, Amanda Phillips Atkins, Jimmy Townsend
Director: Alex Zamm
Writer: Karen Schaler, Nate Atkins
Actors: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Emma Louise Saunders, Theo Devaney, Daniel Fathers, Tahirah Sharif, Amy Marston, Joel McVeagh, Tom Knight, Richard Ashton

Blurb from Netflix: Christmas comes early for an aspiring young journalist when she’s sent abroad to get the scoop on a dashing prince who’s poised to be king.

Selina’s Point of View:
If this film was any more paint-by-numbers you would actually see the lines and numbering in the scenes.

Seriously, I feel like I’ve seen A Christmas Prince a thousand times… and done a lot better. It incorporated every single piece of trope that you could ever expect from a rom-com project involving a prince and a civilian.

The writing was just incredibly lazy and, despite the name, I really didn’t get much of a Christmas feel from it. There was some snow and some decoration, but nothing even remotely reminiscent of what I’d want to see in a film representing the holidays.

For a random note, some of the music felt like it was trying to call back to The Karate Kid Part II (1986) – which does not fit the theme they were going for at all.

It was just about as basic as it comes.

This December, Trust the Dice will be looking at some of the Christmas movies available on Netflix. Our schedule will shift to the Monday/Wednesday/Friday variety until the new year.

Cat’s Point of View:

I have to say that this movie was not at all what I expected - and it’s fabulous!

As we focus this month on films fitting for the holiday season, I had a bit of an inward groan when this one came up first. I had no specific initial bias against the production – it just seemed like it would be another fluffy romance to blend in with the scores airing constantly on the Lifetime Channel.

There’s that old saying about books and covers. I know better, but still can’t help but fall into that trap on occasion.

I can’t tell you that this romantic dramedy doesn’t follow some of the tried and true recipes for the genre. What I can tell you is that while I was swept up into the story, I didn’t care.

There’s such a modern-day fairytale quality about the film. The gorgeous setting, endearing characters, and caliber of performances add up to an experience that far outweighs any predictability the story experiences.

Seriously. I have a new place to visit for my bucket list. The dazzling and picturesque castle where a good deal of the movie takes place is the real deal. The Peles Castle in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania could have been plucked right out of my dreams. This was certainly no model given CGI polish.

Those responsible for casting this cinematic gem should certainly be applauded. Aside from leads, Rose McIver (The Lovely Bones, Predicament, Once Upon A Time) and Ben Lamb (The White Queen, Now You See Me 2, Knightfall), and their believable chemistry; I’d have to say that my favorite character is actually the young Princess Emily – played by Honor Kneafsey (Miss You Already, Butterfly Kisses, Crooked House).

One of the best things about this story is that I am excited to watch it with my daughter. I think she’ll really get a kick out of it, and I’m certainly planning to give it another watch very soon. Aside from the fun part, there are more layers to the story than that.

This is going to be a bit of a hard year for our family. This will be our first Christmas without my late mother-in-law. I think there are some important and meaningful points about processing loss during the Holidays here too.

All told, this film certainly has my ringing endorsement – whether you’re looking for a film to cozy up with during the Holidays or any time. 

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

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 75%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 51%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10

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

Movie Trailer: