Friday, June 21, 2019

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Netflix
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Writer: Michael Golamco, Randall Park, Ali Wong
Actors: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Keanu Reeves, Susan Park, Daniel Dae Kim, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Lyrics Born, Casey Wilson, Miya Cech, Emerson Min, Ashley Liao, Jackson Geach, Anaiyah Bernier, Raymond Ma, Peggy Lu, Simon Chin, Panta Mosleh, Karen Holness, JayR Tinaco

Blurb from IMDb: A pair of childhood friends end up falling for each other when they grow up.

Selina’s Point of View:
Netflix is just killing it with romantic comedies. Their originals are hit or miss, but their romantic comedies have been pretty on the ball for me.

I absolutely adored Always Be My Maybe. There were a few scenes where I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe.

I’ll be honest, the place I know Ali Wong (Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Hero, Father Figures) from the most (aside from stand-up comedy) is Ask the Storybots (2016-2018). That’s another Netflix original. It’s a kid’s series that doesn’t make me want to rip my ears off and throw them at the screen. Unfortunately, that means that I’ve seen the episode featuring Wong about 900 times (this week), so her voice just kept bringing me back to Ask the Storybots. Totally not her fault. She rocked her part.

Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-O, Allegiant, Lost) also gave me a bit of a problem with his voice. He voices a character in one of my favorite video game series’: Saints Row (2006-2015). Never-the-less, he made for a hell of a believable cocky obnoxious manager.

I didn’t have as hard a time with Randall Park (Aquaman, Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Interview). Although I’m very familiar with him, this part separated him really well from his past characters.

In fact, all the actors were amazing.

As for that meme-able Keanu Reeves (John Wick, Destination Wedding, Toy Story 4) scene? Fucking hilarious. 

This film tugged all the right strings and pushed all the right buttons. I felt exactly what it wanted me to feel at exactly the right time, but I didn’t feel manipulated into it. I definitely had more of that ‘fly on the wall’ experience.

I think Always Be My Maybe is worth watching.

One more note. For some reason, Netflix is really good at taking a scene that shouldn’t stand out and making it incredibly memorable. JayR Tinaco (Home and Away, Rake, Drown) had just a few lines in a very basic scene, but I can’t get them out of my head. They’re a newcomer to acting – according to IMDb – and I’m actually really looking forward to seeing them in other stuff.

Cat’s Point of View:
At the outset, I enjoyed the trailer for Always Be My Maybe. It looked cute, and I’m a sucker for a good play on words. Bonus? Keanu Reeves (The Bad Batch, Destination Wedding, Replicas). I think it’s fairly safe to say that I’ll watch just about anything he appears in. His film choices are fascinatingly eclectic and cross an impressive span of genres. His part here was amazing. I digress…

Back to the movie at hand.

There are so many rom-coms out there that are practically cookie-cutter. It felt like this movie took a familiar recipe and then gave it a little twist and a sprinkle of zest.

Two elements of this story stand out. First, I love the theme of food and family that binds the overall plot arc together. There are so many nuances that are well utilized to add heart and depth to the tale. The second factor that jumps out at me here is that, while Ali Wong’s (Savages, The Angry Birds Movie, Father Figures) character, Sasha, underwent somewhat of a caterpillar to butterfly transformation; she didn’t inherently attempt to change herself to make her relationships work. There are no makeover montages here, folks. No one tells her to ditch her glasses to be fabulous – she rocked those lenses as high-end accessories.

Aside from the themes I’ve already mentioned, the film also explores the concept of biological family vs. chosen family in addition to the more obvious of friendship, love, and loss.

There’s a bit of awkwardness and cringe factor here, but it’s not at an intolerable level and serves the story. There are moments in the dynamic between Wong and Randall Park (Snatched, Dismissed, Long Shot) that made me want to just squirm, but it worked overall.

I’ve got to say that Michelle Buteau (Singularity, Sell By, Tales of the City) was my spirit animal in this movie. Her confidence and sass as Wong’s bestie and business partner was phenomenal. I’m also a big fan of the fact that her role challenges typical stereotypes.

All told? I really enjoyed this movie. I wouldn’t mind watching it again (especially for the epic song that plays during the credits), and I certainly would recommend it. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 84%
Metascore – 64/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.9/10
CinemaScore – None

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

P.S. Scenes and a song, by the band in the film, plays during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019)
Genre:  Biography, Crime, Drama
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Ninjas Runnin' Wild Productions, Voltage Pictures, COTA Films, Netflix
Director: Joe Berlinger
Writers: Elizabeth Kendall, Michael Werwie
Actors: Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich, Jim Parsons, Angela Sarafyan, James Hetfield

Blurb from IMDb: A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother meets Ted Bundy.

Cat’s Point of View:
The topic of serial killers is one that many ponder with morbid curiosity. I can’t say that I’ve delved too far into that realm of trivia, to be honest. Part of me is curious how the mind of someone capable of so many depraved things works – the rest of me would rather not get into the graphic details.

Most shocking may be the duality that such criminals likely counted on to save them – because they were so normal-seeming to everyone around them. Surely average Joe next door couldn’t be responsible for the horrifying events. Wednesday Addams summarized it rather well in the explanation she gave for her Halloween costume in The Addams Family (1991) – serial killers look like everyone else.

Zac Efron (The Disaster Artist, The Greatest Showman, Beach Bum) gave a wonderful performance portraying the infamous Ted Bundy. His resemblance to the real-life killer was eerie and uncanny at times. He captured the dangerous charisma, intelligence, and sociopathic chameleon nature of Bundy rather well.

While there are many other well-known actors among this cast, and I couldn’t find fault with any of them, Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror, To The Bone, Tolkien) must be acknowledged for her stand-out performance. She depicts well the emotional torture of her character in the wake of Bundy’s discovery and unfolding legal ramifications.

Unfortunately, aside from the solid cast, this film didn’t have much to offer to hold my attention. I guess it’s not entirely my cup of tea. I enjoy the occasional biopic drama, or even the occasional crime procedural – this one just didn’t entirely float my boat.

I am curious as to why Netflix released this movie so closely on the heels of Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019). The documentary featuring death row interviews with the convicted killer was released in January 2019. Only days later, this film began its movie festival run. While this film seemed to model quite a lot of its scenes post-capture on such recordings, I have to wonder if some of the mixed reviews are due to viewers drawing comparisons between the two.

All told, if this sort of true-crime drama is your ‘thing,' then Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile might be right up your alley. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 55%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 60%
Metascore – 52/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat's Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

Movie Name/Year: The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Levantine Films, Worldwide Pants, Netflix
Director: Rob Burnett
Writer: Rob Burnett, Jonathan Evison
Actors: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Jennifer Ehle, Selena Gomez, Megan Ferguson, Alex Huff, Donna Biscoe, Julia Denton, Ashley White, Matthew Pruitt, Alan Boell, Bill Murphy, Samantha Huskey, Frederick Weller, Bobby Cannavale

Blurb from IMDb: A man suffering a family loss enrolls in a class about care-giving that changes his perspective on life.

Selina’s Point of View:
To be honest, I normally find films that revolve around a handicapped character tend to be pretty exploitive. They’re usually emotionally manipulative and paint the characters as sad sacks. More often than not, the only stand-out trait of the main character in those films is that they’re handicapped. There’s rarely a depth or personality included.

In the beginning, I thought The Fundamentals of Caring would walk the same path, but I didn’t think that for long.

The main character had more personality than most people I meet in a year.

There was a lot of comedy in this movie, but it was very dark. Personally, I enjoy dark humor quite a bit, but I can understand why others wouldn’t. This film just happened to hit the bullseye on my funny bone. It’s that sarcastic attitude that does it, I think.

Craig Roberts (Tolkien, Kill Your Friends, 22 Jump Street) did a fantastic job. I loved his comedic timing, though there were a few times I saw him almost lose his fa├žade and start laughing. Of course, he was acting opposite Paul Rudd (Avengers: Endgame, Mute, The Little Prince). I imagine it’s difficult for most actors to keep their composure across from Rudd.

On top of all that, The Fundamentals of Caring subverted my expectation. I was SURE I knew EXACTLY what would happen from the start. The creators knew that’s how the audience would feel and used that knowledge expertly. They used the trope in order to lure viewers into a certain mindset and then flipped it around. It was gorgeous.

I’d highly recommend The Fundamentals of Caring, but it won’t be for everyone. The humor is so dark that many people may just find it distasteful. Go into this one knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 77%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore – 55/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.2/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5

Movie Trailer: