Friday, February 15, 2019

He’s Out There (2018)

Number Rolled: 63
Movie Name/Year: He’s Out There (2018)
Tagline: Terror is lurking.
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: R
Production Companies: Screen Gems, Unbroken Pictures
Producer: Adrienne Biddle, Mitch Budin, Jack Campbell, Glenn S. Gainor, Ogden Gavanski, Richard Goldberg, Peter Jarowey, Tamara Nagahiro, Ryan Noto
Director: Quinn Lasher
Writer: Mike Scannell
Actors: Yvonne Strahovski, Anna Pniowsky, Abigail Pniowsky, Ryan McDonald, Justin Bruening, Julian Bailey, Stephanie Costa

Blurb from Netflix: While vacationing at a remote lake house, a mother and her daughters become pawns in the twisted game of an ax-wielding psychopath.

Selina’s Point of View:
I have some issues with this film.

Ignoring the fact that it is pretty much the most basic recipe of all, I feel like the majority of the dialogue and character actions are unbelievable. There wasn’t a single moment during the movie where I felt sucked in.

Now, granted, pretty much every slasher film needs some suspension of disbelief – but when you pair it with a ridiculous script and actions that simply don’t make sense, all you’re left with is a hot mess.

Let me put it to you this way. The kids in this film had less supervision than Carl in The Walking Dead (2010). On top of which, the adults make choices that no adult in their situation would make.

I’m not going to fault the actors here. Two of them were kids, which automatically excuses them. You can’t properly judge a child’s acting skills if they have bad direction – and there was some massively bad direction happening. I’ll watch them in other projects to give them a real chance.

It’s almost like the creators wanted to make a new masked slasher to turn into a franchise. Only, they didn’t care how they did it. They paid no attention to anything. Not even something as simple as continuity. For instance, and I’m only going into it because I don’t think it’s a spoiler, they come upon a man in the beginning that has to describe to them that he’s considered neighborhood security as though it’s their first time there. You come to find out later that they make the trip every single year. It’s a small – but noticeable – issue.

The concept was the only part of this film that had any promise.

He’s Out There is just not good.

Cat’s Point of View:
­Within the first 10 minutes of this movie, I thought I had it all figured out. I was wrong. That’s not a bad thing, either. I definitely enjoy when films throw my expectations out the window.

It’s rare for a thriller or horror movie to not make me feel the urge to yell at the characters to not do something stupid. Surprisingly, there was very little of that for me here. Instead, I was leaning forward with suspense and hoping for the best.

I bought in at a level that my pulse was pounding. 

The sound that Netflix’s closed caption subtitles dubbed ‘demonic giggling’ gave me goosebumps and a sense of dread that has lingered after the final credits. (When I watch movies at night, I sometimes use the closed captioning so I don’t miss dialogue due to using a lower volume setting.)

The story was framed well; and the object used was outright dark. It set a nice foreboding tone that carried from the very beginning through the thematic elements that tied it in with the rest of the movie.

As I attempt to sleep without that horrifying laughter following me into my dreams, at least I do so knowing that I enjoyed myself obtaining that new nightmare fuel. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this movie, especially to fans of the genre and strong female roles.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 44%
Metascore - None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.3/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

FAQs – What makes a movie eligible for Trust the Dice’s Top 20?

Almost without fail, every month, someone contacts us to ask why some films are on our list although they appeared in festivals several years earlier. If it’s not one of those questions, it’s a note asking why a movie didn’t make the list although it was released in certain countries to high praise.

We figured those questions might be answered best by explaining what films we see as eligible for our Top 20 each month.

When we build the index for our list, we do a lot of research into what’s coming out. We have a series of sites we look through and contacts we communicate with to get all the information. We try to make sure we learn about all the indie films. We feel as though focusing only on mainstream films does our readers a disservice. Sometimes that requires some hunting.

When we’re done with our research, we often wind up with about two or three pages on Microsoft Word (10pt font).

Not all of those films are eligible.

Once the titles are all collected, we cross-reference them with IMDb in order to makes sure they meet our requirements.

The first thing we do is double check that our sources were right about the release date. Trust, but verify. Those are words we learned the hard way after a few mistakes.

Once the date is cleared, we make sure it’s for a wide or, at the very least, limited release (in some cases we also include straight-to-video dates). We are not interested in movies that are only going to be accessible by critics and film students. We want to make sure the general movie fan will have at least SOME access to it. In the case of Netflix, or other streaming service originals, we make sure it’s a wide digital release. We do not count festival showings as a release date.

For instance, Pulp Fiction (1994) was first shown, according to IMDb, at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 1994. If the blog was running back then, we would not have had it on the list for May. We would have had it on for October when it had it’s first US release (October 14, 1994).

Which brings me to my next point.

Me and Cat are from the US. The majority of our readers are also from the states. So, we generally look at release dates in the US first.

According to IMDb, Pulp Fiction’s first wide release was September 10, 1994 in South Korea. We still would have put it under October since it was released in the US on October 14, 1994.

Now, there are some films that make our list that don’t actually have any release date in the US at all.

Not all of our readers are from the US. In fact, many of our readers are in Germany, Ukraine, Russia, France, Australia, India, Brazil, China, Belgium, England, and Japan. So, in the event that there is no US release listed, we will list the release date for the country that most of our readers come from.

For example, if Pulp Fiction had no US release date, we would have had dates from South Korea, Japan, Slovakia, Canada, UK, Norway, France, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Germany and many others to choose from. Because the majority of our foreign readers come from Germany, we would list that release date instead of the others (November 3, 1994).

Things like language, subtitles, country of origin, subject, and behind-the-scenes scandals do not affect whether or not it is eligible for the top 20. It’s completely based on date and the opinion of either me or Cat – depending on who’s writing the article that month.

I hope this information has cleared up our thought process when building the master list for our Top 20.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

Movie Name/Year: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
Tagline: None
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Mystery
Length: Between 40 mins and 90 mins approx.
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: House Of Tomorrow, Netflix
Producer: Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones, Mark Kinsella, Marshall Leviten, Russell McLean
Director: David Slade
Writer: Charlie Brooker
Actors: Fionn Whitehead, Craig Parkinson, Alice Lowe, Asim Chaudhry, Will Poulter, Tallulah Haddon, Catriona Knox, Paul Bradley, Jonathan Aris, A.J. Houghton, Fleur Keith, Laura Evelyn, Alan Asaad, Suzanne Burden, Jeff Minter

Blurb from Netflix: In 1984, a young programmer begins to question reality as he adapts a dark fantasy novel into a video game. A mind-bending tale with multiple endings.

Selina’s Point of View:
We opted not to roll today in order to give this interactive entertainment experience a shot.

Now, although this is my first exposure to Black Mirror (2011-), this is not my first time watching an interactive movie. Two years ago, Markiplier posted an interactive experience called A Date with Markiplier (2017). Just like Bandersnatch, it featured several different endings.

Because of that history, I knew what to expect with this film. I still think it’s revolutionary.

Now, choose your own adventure books don’t get a lot of love. I read them when I was a kid, but they don’t tend to have a lasting appeal. In movie form, however, I think there’s a lot more room for success… even though it does mean a ton of extra work.

I watched through the story several times and got about five different endings. Some were better than others, but I don’t want to go into it because I don’t want to spoil anything. My favorite ending was definitely the final one I got.

The choices start off as pretty mundane. What cereal will you eat for breakfast? What music will you listen to on the bus? Things quickly turn more life-altering, though.

I think the entire thing was done incredibly well. I’ve heard of how creepy Black Mirror can get, and I think this movie probably fits right in, but I’ll have to watch the show to be sure.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have always been a huge fan of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Interactive media, in general, has always been appealing to me – but those books really hit me in the nostalgia feels. I remember checking out the same books over and over again from my school library so that I could explore different paths of the stories.

I have been cheering from the sidelines as Netflix has been introducing programming such as this. Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale (2017) was the beginning of this new adventure with the streaming giant. My daughter and I enjoyed that experience immensely. There weren’t nearly as many choices in that title as there are in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, but that’s like comparing balloons to pears. Both are generally oblong, but are totally different. Bandersnatch is certainly a later-generation evolution of the concept.

There are so many tiny nuances within the story regardless the path you take. Just keep in mind that while the official published run-time is about 90 minutes, there are more than 5 hours of footage available between all the story paths. If you are in the mood to explore every rabbit hole this tale dives into, prepare to spend a chunk of time doing so. The thing is – you might not even notice. When one path ends, even more choices appear for you – unless you’ve come to a credit-running ending, of course. Just have no fear of taking a "wrong" turn along the way. You don’t have to do anything convoluted to continue your experience.

Looking through the trivia section on IMDb, I realize that fans of the Black Mirror (2011-) Netflix series will get a good deal more out of this experience. I’m going to have to bump that series up on my to-watch list and then give this movie another watch-through. I don’t feel like I missed anything important for lack of recognition of the plethora of Easter eggs, however. The film's premise and story are clear enough without them. It simply reinforced my desire to watch the anthology series.

This interactive experience was, at times, a bit disturbing due to the choices offered. Everything starts with simple choices to get your feet wet - but don't worry. You'll be taking a plunge into the deep end in short order. The story was a bit on the trippy side, and it gets really meta in a few places. Just keep in mind the TV-MA rating here. It’s a rather dark tale at its core; and the choices the main character has to make can be a bit on the heavy side.

I recognize that this particular story won't be for everyone – but I am pleased with this advancement in the interactive storytelling genre. I can’t wait to see where they go from here with it. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 61/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 7.4/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

Movie Trailer: