Friday, August 2, 2019

The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)

Movie Name/Year: The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Length: 129 minutes
Rating: MA-TV
Production/Distribution: BRON Studios, EMJAG Productions, Shaken Not Stirred, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Gideon Raff
Writer: Gideon Raff
Actors: Chris Evans, Haley Bennett, Alona Tal, Michiel Huisman, Ben Kingsley, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alex Hassell, Alessandro Nivola, Greg Kinnear, Chris Chalk, Mark Ivanir, Danny Keogh, Schelaine Bennett, Patrick Maher, Karl Thaning, Chad Phillips, Philip Waley, Vere Tindale

Blurb from IMDb: Israel's Mossad agents attempt to rescue Ethiopian Jewish refugees in Sudan in 1977.

Selina’s Point of View:
Watching The Red Sea Diving Resort was an experience. Straight out of the gate, the movie wastes no time. You see a few words on the screen and then you’re thrust immediately into war. It doesn’t really spare much on the details. It doesn’t rely on gore, but you get a pretty clear picture of the worst of it.

The pacing does relax at times, just enough to offer a false sense of security.

I wasn’t born yet when the events in this film took place, so I don’t really know the ins and outs of it. How much is true and how much the writer/director fiddled with is a blank to me. That said, I never really knew what was going to happen. It’s not like watching fiction. As a result, I was always a little bit on edge with dread when things got rough.

I believe that Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Playing it Cool, Before We Go), Alessandro Nivola (Weightless, Disobedience, You Were Never Really Here), and Michael Kenneth Williams (F is for Family, SuperFly, The Wire) did amazing in their respective parts. 

I saw some critics saying that the black characters all felt flat, but I disagree. I felt for Kabede (played by Williams). His personality and purpose played out in depth. He could have used a little more on-screen time, but this was based on a true story and he wasn’t the character being followed.

Was it the greatest film in the world? No. There were some bad choices in the direction that made parts of the film seem like a trope-y heist flick. There were also some transitions that felt completely out of place – like they were from a Facebook-made friend video. The script also could have used a bit more polishing before being committed to screen, but none of that affected the watchability all that much.

Critics are trashing it, but audiences seem to be giving it more of a chance. As of this moment, there’s nearly a 60% difference between the critic and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. From what I’ve been reading, it seems like most critics are angry about aspects of the film that really couldn’t be changed without telling someone else’s story.

It’s a toss-up. I, personally, liked it. But it’s not going to be for everyone.

Cat’s Point of View:
The first word that came to mind as credits for The Red Sea Diving Resort began to roll was ‘wow.’

I have to say that this is another of those times that Netflix has outdone themselves with one of their original productions. Not only was the quality of the film on par with most of what’s on big screens right now, but it also packed the additional punch that it was inspired by actual events in the late 70s, early 80s. Ironically, some of the lead actors were only just born when these events took place. I was too little to remember any news reports, myself – but, of course, that doesn’t take away from the gravity of what was accomplished.

Powerful, gripping, and suspenseful would be another few words that best describe this movie for me. I was riveted. The Red Sea Diving Resort reminded me a lot of Argo (2012). Different situations and different real events, of course. I love a good spy movie; and this stuff of reality -- the crazy genius shenanigans of these real agents -- hit all the right notes for me.

This film would definitely get my recommendation. I think history buffs and anyone that’s fond of war movies would also get a lot out of this one.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 26%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 29/100
Metacritic User Score – 5/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

P.S. Real life images connected to this story show during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In August (2019)

According to: Selina

20 – The Art of Racing in the Rain (8/9)

Production/Distribution: Fox 2000 Pictures, Original Film, Shifting Gears Productions, Starbucks Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Forum Hungary, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Mark Bomback, Garth Stein
Actors: Kevin Costner, Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Martin Donovan, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker, Al Sapienza, Karen Holness, Andres Joseph, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, McKinley Belcher III, Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey, Lily Dodsworth-Evans, Nicole Anthony, Elizabeth Bowen
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG
Length: 109 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A dog named Enzo recalls the life lessons he has learned from his race car driving owner, Denny.

Not going to lie, I don’t care how overused the trope is, I’m a sucker for a story told from a dog’s perspective.

I’m 100% a dog person. Ok, sure, since I’m allergic to cats I didn’t have much choice. I mean, I guess I could have chosen fish, but they’re not big on cuddling. So, dogs it is.

In the case of The Art of Racing in the Rain, I’m not just in it for the pup. I have great faith in the cast. Amanda Seyfried (Anon, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Jennifer’s Body) almost always turns in a performance that’s worth watching. Milo Ventimiglia (This is Us, Heroes, Pathology), though, I’ve been a huge fan of since the original Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) series. He’s one of those actors that I will follow to any project. He’s never given me cause to regret it.

There are a couple of reasons that this film is not higher on my list.

First of all, it does look a little trope-filled. I highly doubt there’ll be anything surprising throughout the movie. We’ll go into it with a good idea of how it’s going to go and we won’t be far off. I assume the dog will probably die. I assume Ventimiglia’s character will win the big race after bypassing a final obstacle. I really don’t think we’re looking at anything all that surprising for this.

Secondly, I normally don’t have an issue with movies based off books, but I do this time.

I haven’t read this one, but I am familiar with one of the people responsible for adapting this book to the big screen. Mark Bomback (The Wolverine, Live Free or Die Hard, War for the Planet of the Apes) also worked on Insurgent (2015) which was adapted from the Divergent (2011-2013) book series. I AM a big fan of that book series and I can’t tell you how angry the adaptations made me. If you are familiar with The Art of Racing in the Rain as a book, go into the film with no expectations. You may be disappointed if you go into it thinking it will be ANYTHING like what you read.

19 – Otherhood (8/2 - Netflix)

Production/Distribution: Mandalay Pictures, Welle Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Cindy Chupack
Writer: Mark Andrus, Cindy Chupack, William Sutcliffe
Actors: Becki Newton, Patricia Arquette, Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman, Jake Lacy, Afton Williamson, Heidi Gardner, Tim Bagley, Frank De Julio, Molly Bernard, Jake Hoffman, Stephen Kunken, Sinqua Walls, Damian Young, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Eve Lindley, Emily Tremaine, Kate Easton, Rosanny Zayas, Mario Cantone, Kelcy Griffin, Dan Puck
Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Length: 100 minutes

IMDb Blurb: Three mothers who are long-time friends and empty nesters decide to drive to New York City to reconnect with their adult sons. In the process, they realize their sons are not the only ones whose lives need to change.

Look, if your mother was abusive, that’s one thing. But if she wasn’t – how the hell are you going to ignore her on Mother’s Day?

Ok, that’s the last I’ll say of that.

This movie looks like a lot of fun. I’m really close to my mom. She’s one of my best friends. We are very different people, but that doesn’t really matter in the big picture. She was a single mother working 70 hours a week to keep a roof over our heads – but she always managed to find a way to make every play or dance recital. We had some rocky times when she went through menopause at the same time I went through puberty… but hard times end.

I see movies like this and think about when I first moved out. Young adults get lost in their own lives. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to call someone as often as they should. I think people from both sides of the argument can relate. It took a while before we settled into a routine that allowed us to stay connected and still have our own separate lives. Especially since we only had each other for upwards of 20 years before that.

It’s very possible that this movie is going to go into not just how moms learn to be themselves once they’ve raised their children – but how children learn to see their parents as independent people and not just their mom. It’s a lesson everyone learns eventually – but not something everyone learns in time.

As humorous as the trailer looks, I’d get ready for some seriously emotional scenes as well. I’m positive there’ll be some room for tears, too.

18 – Tone-Deaf (8/23)

Production/Distribution: Best Medicine Productions, Circle of Confusion, Saban Films, Falcon Films, Mongrel Media
Director: Richard Bates Jr.
Writer: Richard Bates Jr.
Actors: Amanda Crew, Robert Patrick, Hayley Marie Norman, Johnny Pemberton, Nancy Linehan Charles, AnnaLynne McCord, Tate Ellington, Ray Wise, Kim Delaney, Ray Santiago, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Shane Brady, Christian Calloway, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Nelson Franklin, Heidi Kaufman, Morgan Krantz, Stacey Machelle, Dianna Miranda, Danny Ramirez, Pia Shah, Gigi Zombado
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 87 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A woman goes to the countryside to spend a quiet weekend after losing her job and having her last complicated relationship implode. She rents a country house to an old-fashioned widower, who struggles to hide his psychopathic tendencies.

This film looks fucking weird.

The trailer starts off super typical. It originally looked like it was going to be a simple cabin in the woods type of movie. I knew who the villain was immediately. For a few there, it looked like I wasn’t going to have any questions at all. If you have no questions you need answered – then there’s no point in seeing the film.

Just when I was ready to write it off, shit went haywire.

It looks like we get to see inside the mind of the bad guy. If I take those surreal scenes in the trailer to heart, the inside his mind apparently looks like sexy smurf killer hell. I really don’t have a clue what to make of it, but I want to figure it out.

I’m not sure if including that was a good or a bad move, if I’m honest. For me, and people like me, it’s going to trigger enough curiosity to have us wanting to see the film. To others, it’s going to seem incredibly out of place and turn them off. There aren’t many big names to draw them in, either. Though I, personally, would see it for Ray Wise (Batman: The Killing Joke, Night of the Living Deb, Reaper).

It was a big risk to include that part. I’m hoping audiences will react well to it, because I think Tone-Deaf has the ability to be unique and interesting.

17 – Coyote Lake (8/2)

Production/Distribution: Entertainment Law Partners, BondIt Media Capital, Cranked Up Films, Van Johnson Company
Director: Sara Seligman
Writer: Thomas James Bond, Sara Seligman
Actors: Camila Mendes, Charlie Weber, Adriana Barraza, Neil Sandilands, Manny Perez, Andres Velez, Tyler Silva, Luisina Quarleri, Ru Benjamin Revolver, Antonio López-Valero
Genre: Thriller
Rated: NR
Length: 93 minutes

IMDb Blurb: Ester and her overbearing mother run a small bed-and-breakfast near the US/Mexico border. One night, two unwanted guests arrive, threatening the safety of everyone. But the two women are hiding a secret, one that may prove the most dangerous of all.

This trailer is a great example of how to get people interested in a film that isn’t a blockbuster.

Immediately, the preview shows us that the main characters are not typical. People make jokes that it’s a trope that weird or incredible things happen to the characters in a movie, but that’s because a film featuring two people drinking coffee and reading the paper without interruption, or conflict, for two hours would fail. So, this trailer shows us right off the bat that the characters are the kind we want to follow.

Then, just when you think you can imagine where the story is going to go, it flips things around and introduces new characters that you also want to follow.

By the end of the trailer, you have a small amount of information about the story, enough to get you curious. What you do have, is questions. That curiosity is just enough to make you want to get those questions answered.

On its own, I might not be all that interested in Coyote Lake. I mean, it’s fine on paper, but there are a lot of good films coming out in August – so many that it was hard to narrow them down to only 20. None of the actors in this are people I would follow, normally. I don’t know the director or writer. However, the trailer brings on enough intrigue that it’s hard to not think back to it later. It gets the film stuck in your mind.

For a smaller movie, that’s important. If it’s stuck in your head, you’re more likely to go out of your way to watch it.

Hats off to the editor(s) that worked on the trailer. You did your job very well.

16 – My Spy (8/23)

Production/Distribution: STX Entertainment, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, Golden Village Pictures, Lotte Entertainment, Roadshow Films, The Searchers
Director: Peter Segal
Writer: Erich Hoeber, Jon Hoeber
Actors: Dave Bautista, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Chloe Coleman, Greg Bryk, Nicola Correia-Damude, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Noah Dalton Danby, Laura Cilevitz, Michelle McLeod, Ali Hassan, Vieslav Krystyan, Sukhman Gill, Darrin Baker, Keller Viaene, Devere Rogers, Olivia Dépatie, Rakhee Morzaria, Basel Daoud, Lindsay Mullan, Charlie Luborsky, Benjamin Luborsky
Genre: Action, Comedy, Family
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unknown

IMDb Blurb: A hardened CIA operative finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl, having been sent undercover to surveil her family.

Not gonna lie, my first introduction to this film was on Twitter through an actor that was standing up for Dave Bautista (Stuber, Avengers: Infinity War, Blade Runner 2049) after his words were taken out of context in an interview. He said something about looking to be in good movies when asked why he was never in one of the Fast and Furious (2001 -) films with Dwayne Johnson (Moana, Baywatch, Fighting With My Family). The actor I follow reminded fans that Bautista was just teasing his friend and posted this movie poster to prove it.

I believe it. If anyone can take a joke, it’s The Rock. Besides, both Johnson and Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter, Avengers: Infinity War, Ralph Breaks the Internet) have been in similar family comedies that utilize the juxtaposition of their tough demeanor against a child-geared plot: Tooth Fairy (2010) and The Pacifier (2005), respectively. It’s almost a rite of passage now for tough-guy actors.

Really though, this film actually looks decent.

Bautista playing a too-tough intelligence agent definitely make sense. When he’s paired with a little girl who threatens to expose him, the idea of him making a deal to train her to be a spy isn’t all that bad. If you suspend a little disbelief, it definitely feels like something amusing to watch.

The trailer shows some killer one-liners and even the little girl, Chloe Coleman (Big Little Lies, Puppy Star Christmas, Henry Danger), seems to have a hell of a delivery.

Is it going to be a masterpiece? Probably not. But I’d bet that it’s going to be hilarious and entertaining. That’s what really matters.

15 – The Peanut Butter Falcon (8/9)

Production/Distribution: Armory Films, 1993, Lucky Treehouse, Nut Bucket Films, Tvacom Film and Tv, Distributors, Roadside Attractions, Eagle Films, Golden A Entertainment, The Searchers
Director: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
Writer: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
Actors: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, Yelawolf, Jake Roberts, Mick Foley, Raquel Aurora, Michael Berthold, Deja Dee, Karen B. Greer, Noah Hein, Mark Helms, Annie Jamison, Susan McPhail, Nick Morbitt, Lee Spencer, Rob Thomas
Genre: Adventure
Rated: PG-13
Length: 93 minutes

IMDb Blurb: Zak runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true.

There’s a lot I like about this one.

The very first thing I like is that the character with Down Syndrome, played by Zack Gottsagen (Becoming Bulletproof, Bulletproof, The Homecoming: A Musical), is shown as having his own, individual, personality. It doesn’t seem like he exists just to further the storylines of the other characters. Where he is still, apparently, the focus of their evolutions, he has his own plot and dreams. Not enough movies have a character with Down Syndrome that feels like an independent character instead of a plot point.

Secondly, this is exactly the kind of part I think works very well for Shia LaBeouf (Fury, Eagle Eye, Disturbia). People give LaBeouf less credit than I think he deserves.

I don’t really care how crazy he seems to be off screen. He’s a method actor. All method actors seem somewhere between a little and completely nuts when not filming. If you hold that against him instead of judging him on his talent alone then, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. He’s a good actor. Even in movies from earlier in his career, he was anywhere from decent to amazing. In a film like this, he can let himself be a little looser and easier to relate to. He’s not going to be off somewhere getting teeth pulled (look it up). I think this is just the right characterization for him.

All-in-all, I think The Peanut Butter Falcon looks like a heart-warming and engaging movie.

14 – Where’d You Go, Bernadette (8/16)

Production/Distribution: Color Force, Annapurna Distribution, United Artists Releasing, GEM Entertainment, Digicine, Entertainment One, Ascot Elite Entertainment Group
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater, Holly Gent, Vincent Palmo Jr., Maria Semple
Actors: Cate Blanchett, Judy Greer, Kristen Wiig, Billy Crudup, Troian Bellisario, Laurence Fishburne, Kathryn Feeney, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, James Urbaniak, Claudia Doumit, Zoe Chao, Emma Nelson, Kate Easton, Lana Young, Katelyn Statton, Richard Robichaux
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Rated: PG-13
Length: 130 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.

The trailer for this one isn’t catchy. The first time I watched it, I really didn’t think much about it one way or another.

Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Me and Orson Welles) is a director that successfully thinks outside the box and he’s working with some decent writers here. The cast includes some very talented actors, including: Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok, Carol, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Judy Greer (Archer, Driven, Ask the StoryBots), Kristen Wiig (Mother!, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Skeleton Twins), Billy Crudup (Alien: Covenant, After the Wedding, The Longest Week), and Laurence Fishburne (Ant-Man and the Wasp, John Wick: Chapter 2, Hannibal). Just looking at that, and nothing else, this film wound up on my list. It was pushed higher the second time I watched the trailer.

During the second watch through I realized that what I had mistaken for bland was actually an understated humor. A lot of the comedy is dry, which I realize is not for everyone, but I tend to enjoy a bit of dry wit. On that second viewing, I also realized how relatable the main character is.

Who doesn’t look back sometimes and wonder if they made the right choices or missed a chance that would have taken them somewhere different? I think this movie will touch on how the main character follows her dream even in a situation where society has kind of told her that it’s not something in the cards for her.

This isn’t the 1960s. Women and men are nearly equal in the workplace, but working moms still get unsolicited comments about how much time they spend away from their children.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I had my daughter was from my mom. She told me that being a mother doesn’t have to erase, or take over, who I am. She encouraged me to keep doing what I love instead of putting it aside, and I’m glad for that. If I couldn’t have a chance to be creative, I don’t know what I’d do. Its’s my outlet; a huge part of who I am.

Clearly, I’m a little bias in favor of the plot… but I’m still confident in my placement of this movie. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is going to be great, whether or not you can fully relate.

13 – Blinded by the Light (8/14)

Production/Distribution: Bend It Films, Ingenious Media, Levantine Films, Rakija Films, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., Entertainment One, Karo Premiere
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor, Bruce Springsteen
Actors: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nikita Mehta, Nell Williams, Tara Divina, Rob Brydon, Frankie Fox, Hayley Atwell, Sally Phillips
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 117 minutes

IMDb Blurb: In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher's Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

I enjoy Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love, The Rising, Working on a Dream), but he’s never been a huge figure in my musical landscape. I mean, if you don’t rock out at least a little to some of his songs, then are you even really human? The point is that I didn’t choose to add Blinded by the Light to the list because it was specifically his music.

I added it because I understand how music can alter the way a person views the world.

I’ve mentioned being an angry teenager before. I went through a lot of things that a teen really shouldn’t have to deal with and it left me furious with the world – and, in some cases, myself. There were aspects of survivor’s guilt and PTSD. It was not a good time in my life. I did stupid things and I felt a depth of hate I don’t think I can accurately describe here without going on a ten thousand-word tangent. No one needs that in their movie reviews.

Believe it or not, I’m not digressing. There’s a point here.

While I was experiencing all this hate the musical climate of the time was seeing bands/musicians like Disturbed (The Sickness, Immortalized, Believe), Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory, A Thousand Suns, Minutes to Midnight), Korn (Follow the Leader, Issues, Life is Peachy), Papa Roach (Infest, Lovehatetragedy, Crooked Teeth), Slipknot (Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat., Iowa, Crowz), and Eminem (Encore, The Eminem Show, The Slim Shady EP) enjoying popularity – their music told me that I wasn’t the only one feeling what I felt. There was nothing quite as cathartic as screaming along with Down with the Sickness in my bedroom when the anger was more internal. When I was angrier with the world than anything else, I could pop in Ani Difranco (Little Plastic Castle, Living in Clip, To the Teeth) and sing along, asking the universe why people didn’t understand how to care about each other. At some point, I met this kid named Frank who introduced me to punk music and it resonated with me on a level that connected the two. I could scream out of that internalized hate while still asking the universe why it was so fucked up. Bands like Bad Religion (Stranger than Fiction, The Gray Race, The New America), NoFX (Punk in Drublic, The War on Errorism, 13 Stitches), Black Flag (My War, Damaged, Jealous Again), and Dead Kennedys (Bedtime for Democracy, Milking the Sacred Cow, Mutiny on the Bay) mixed anger and that feeling that things weren’t just unfair for me, but for everyone.

Now my playlist has everything on it from hardcore rap to country. From punk to pop – and everything else. When I’m feeling creative and trying to get writing done, I’ve got the Hamilton soundtrack in my ear. When I’m walking around and getting errands done, I’m listening to AJR (The Click, Neotheater, Living Room), The Chainsmokers (Memories… Do Not Open, Sick Boy, Collage), or Imagine Dragons (Night Visions, Evolve, Smoke + Mirrors). When I’m feeling playful, I’m listening to Epic Rap Battles of History (Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs, Miley Cyrus vs. Joan of Arc, Moses vs. Santa Claus), Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (Have a Ball, Blow in the Wind, Take a Break), Reel Big Fish (Turn the Radio Off, Cheer Up!, Candy Coated Fury), or Nick Jonas (Last Year Was Complicated, Nick Jonas). There are plenty other bands in my musical landscape, that’s just the smallest taste.

Music is just as big a part of my life as movies are.

When it comes to a movie like Blinded by the Light, it’s hard for me to not relate. It’s not the struggles of the main character that seem familiar to me – but the coping mechanisms. Turning to entertainment as an outlet makes sense to my heart.

I’m not familiar with anyone involved in this film, but that doesn’t mean anything. The story is a good one, a relatable one. Give it a chance and you might find some new favorites.

12 – Luce (8/2)

Production/Distribution: Dream Factory Group, Altona Filmhaus, Neon, Topic Studios, GEM Entertainment, Elevation Pictures, The Searchers
Director: Julius Onah
Writer: J.C. Lee, Julius Onah
Actors: Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Norbert Leo Butz, Andrea Bang, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Omar Shariff Brunson Jr., Noah Gaynor, Astro, Christopher Mann, Hannah Cabell, Colton Osorio, Ian Unterman, Souleymane Sy Savane, Amanda Troya, Zoe Whitford
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Length: 109 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A married couple is forced to reckon with their idealized image of their son, adopted from war-torn Eritrea, after an alarming discovery by a devoted high school teacher threatens his status as an all-star student.

This movie is labeled as a straight drama, but I really feel some thriller aspects in the trailer. I hope that’s not a mistake, because as single-genre drama I’d enjoy the idea a lot less.

Operating on my assumption that there are thriller tones to Luce, this preview is very intriguing.

We get hints of both what the parents and the teacher see in the main character. Then we get hints of possibilities that the parents could be very naïve – or the teacher could be insane. By the end of the trailer, you can’t be sure who’s lying, and that’s exactly how it should be. Coming attractions that lead you to believe you know the truth, for films like this, take away some of the fun.

Octavia Spencer (Ma, Hidden Figures, Bad Santa) has been getting some interesting parts lately, and I’m here for it. There’s no way she can be type-cast at this point, because she’s shown that she has a knack for everything. She can do anything from an agonizing death scene to ridiculous comedy, and everything in between.

I’ll admit, I underestimated Spencer earlier on in her career, and that was stupid. We all make mistakes.

11 – Freaks (8/23)

Production/Distribution: Amazing, Bloomgarden Films, My Way Entertainment, Well Go USA Entertainment
Director: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein
Writer: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein
Actors: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker, Amanda Crew, Grace Park, Dakota Daulby, Matty Finochio, Michelle Harrison, Aleks Paunovic, Dean Redman, Lee Shorten, Ava Telek, Kwesi Ameyaw, Aria Birch
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 104 minutes

IMDb Blurb: In this genre-bending psychological sci-fi thriller, a bold girl discovers a bizarre, threatening, and mysterious new world beyond her front door after she escapes her father's protective and paranoid control.

This film takes a fresh look at the idea of a claustrophobic thriller. It’s got a slight taste of an apocalyptic, dystopian, or alien-based plot. You can’t really tell which one – which is interesting. Of course, it could also go the psychological route. The film could very well be following the plot of the father having severe paranoia.

I hope that’s not it. That’d mean the whole thing goes from fresh to overdone. The only reason I’m hopeful is that IMDb lists ‘sci-fi’ as one of the genres.

Don’t promise me monsters and give me something mundane. I’m tired of that shit. I can’t tell you how hard I’d roll my eyes.

That’s part of the fun with this movie, though. You have no idea what’s driving the main character’s apparent insanity, and the trailer makes you want to know. Even not knowing what the big danger is, watching the little girl walk out the door is anxiety inducing. The only thing you know is that she shouldn’t be out there, and she is.

The unknown ‘evil’ can sometimes be even more terrifying than the one you know. Expectations can alter experiences infinitely.

10 – The Kitchen (8/9)

Production/Distribution: BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, DC Vertigo, Michael De Luca Productions, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros.
Director: Andrea Berloff
Writer: Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle, Andrea Berloff
Actors: Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Domhnall Gleeson, Margo Martindale, Jeremy Bobb, James Badge Dale, Common, Bill Camp, Brian d’Arcy James, Wayne Duvall, Gabriel Rush, Rob Yang, John Sharian, Tina Benko, Myk Watford, E.J. Bonilla, Robert Neary, Joseph Russo, Pamela Dunlap, Maren Heary, Elli, Angus O’Brien, Tatienne Hendricks-Tellefsen, Stephen Singer, Matt Helm, Nicholas Zoto, Chuck English
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 102 minutes

IMDb Blurb: The wives of New York gangsters in Hell's Kitchen in the 1970s continue to operate their husbands' rackets after they're locked up in prison.

We’re going to be seeing more and more of these films. Typical genre films that get a twist because the main focus will be on female characters. We’ve already seen it in remakes like Ghostbusters (2016) and sequels like Oceans 8 (2018). The fact of the matter is that female actors are starting to rise up and expect the same amount of starring roles. Furthermore, there’s a market for them. As long as they continue to draw attention – even in the form of controversy – they will continue to exist. Personally? I’m happy about it. Whether they’re amazing or they suck, the point is that leading ladies are getting more of a chance to show that they can carry a film.

In this case, it looks like we have a gangster plot where some kept women wind up needing to fend for themselves and, instead of sinking, they just take the fuck over. It’s a great way to give us a female-led gangster flick without making it feel like it’s just pandering to the audience.

The actors chosen are interesting. Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, The West Wing, The Pack) is most well-known for her role in the heart-wrenching series The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 -). She’s built her career out of being able to do that kind of drama-centric acting. Then you have Melissa McCarthy (Central Intelligence, Mike & Molly, Bridesmaids) and Tiffany Haddish (The Secret Life of Pets 2, Night School, Girls Trip). They’re both great actors, but they tend to be more on the comedy side of things. I love the idea of getting to see them spread their talent out and show people how it’s done.

I’ll be honest now. If this movie was made with male leads instead, it might not be so high on this list. It would feel a little overdone – especially since the more interesting aspects of the story wouldn’t have worked with male leads. The cast is part of the reason The Kitchen is so high. That and it looks like a good, solid crime movie.

Also? It’s a DC film based on a graphic novel. It was always bound for the top 20.

9 – Ready or Not (8/21)

Production/Distribution: Mythology Entertainment, Vinson Films, 20th Century Fox, Forum Hungary, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Writer: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy
Actors: Samara Weaving, Andie MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, Nicky Guadagni, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston, Liam MacDonald, Ethan Tavares, Hanneke Talbot, Celine Tsai, Daniela Barbosa, Chase Churchill, Etienne Kellici, Andrew Anthony, Elana Dunkelman, Kate Ziegler, James Eddy, Adam Winlove-Smith, Alan Richardson
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 95 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A bride's wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.

On first watch, I put this film lower on the list. It looked a bit too much like a Purge (2013) kind of movie and I wasn’t sure it had the originality to stand on its own – but the more I watched the trailer, the more I realized how dumb that concern was.

Ready or Not feels fresh and interesting the more you watch the preview. It’s got a touch of The Purge, sure. But it’s got some call backs to You’re Next (2011) and even a bit of The Cabin in the Woods (2011). All of those films are on my ‘yes, please’ list.

You can see threads of humor woven throughout the trailer, as well. I love when a writer mixes comedy into my horrors. It’s one of my favorite things.

I’m not at all familiar with the directors/writers, but I know almost the entire cast in some capacity – and I like them. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work together in the context of this material.

I believe Ready or Not has the capability to become the type of horror film that inspires other film-makers. If the writers get the script right, and the directors bring it to life well, people may find a new favorite. I’m really looking forward to seeing this.

8 – Burn (8/23)

Production/Distribution: Yale Productions, Hopscotch Pictures, Particular Crowd, Inwood Road Films, Momentum Distribution
Director: Mike Gan
Writer: Mike Gan
Actors: Harry Shum Jr., Josh Hutcherson, Suki Waterhouse, Shiloh Fernandez, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, James Devoti, John D. Hickman, Rob Figueroa, Wayne Pyle, Winter-Lee Holland, Steve Garfanti, Gregory John Mitchell, Malina Moye, Joe James, Doug Motel
Genre: Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 88 minutes

IMDb Blurb: When a gas station is held at gunpoint by a desperate man in need of cash, a lonely and unstable gas station attendant, tired of being overshadowed by her more outgoing co-worker, finds an opportunity to make a connection with the robber.

I’ve noticed a lot of reversal thriller/crime films coming out in the past couple of years. By that, I mean movies that explore the idea of a bad guy doing, or trying to do, something only to find out that their victim – or the location – is not to be fucked with. Think The Vault (2017) or The Last Heist (2016).

In The Vault, the bank being robbed is haunted. In The Last Heist, one of the hostages taken by the robbers turns out to be a serial killer. (Not all the films revolve around banks but these are the two that came to mind in this context.) I have to say, I kind of like this trope. Everyone likes to see someone get what they deserve sometimes.

Burn covers a gas station robber picking a location where a strange and unstable girl works. In the trailer, we get to see that she captures him at some point, she talks about fire as a cleansing tool, etc. It’s creepy and kind of interesting.

It’s no secret that I adore Josh Hutcherson (Future Man, The Disaster Artist, Red Dawn). I will watch most anything that he’s in. I haven’t seen him play the villain much, though. I feel like this is an interesting film to see him switch sides in. It still allows him to have that relatability that he’s great at portraying while still giving him more edge.

As for the writer/director? I’m unfamiliar with Mike Gan (Into the Dark, Class Assignment, No Evil). As far as I know, this is his first time handling a full-length feature film. Quite frankly, that doesn’t turn me off to it at all. Fresh voice, fresh ideas… that’s not a bad thing. Our favorites all started somewhere. Let’s see what Gan can do.

I’m looking forward to seeing this one.

7 – Nekrotronic (8/23 - UK)

Production/Distribution: Guerilla Films, Hopscotch Features, GEM Entertainment, Entertainment One, Momentum Pictures
Director: Kiah Roache-Turner
Writer: Kiah Roache-Turner, Tristan Roache-Turner
Actors: Dave Beamish, Monica Bellucci, Charmaine Bingwa, William Cheung, Mike Duncan, Caroline Ford, Benedict Hardie, Tess Haubrich, Goran D. Kleut, Jessica Racz, Epine Bob Savea, Nic Westaway, Felix Williamson
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 99 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A man who discovers that he is part of a secret sect of magical beings who hunt down and destroy demons in the internet.

I don’t know why I keep punishing myself like this. I have such bad luck with movies that go into people being sucked into a video game. The last one I remember watching was The Call Up (2016) and I hated it.

I just keep rationalizing this one by saying that it’s about the video game coming into the real world, but that’s not very convincing is it? Still, here we are. I want to see it.

With the way augmented reality games have invaded our lives, a movie like this was bound to follow. It’s not the first, but it looks the best so far. There’s a Supernatural (2005 -) meets Black Mirror (2011 -) feel to plot – which I think works.

I’m not going to beat around the bush, there’s one big reason Nekrotronic is this high on the list: the trailer is outstanding. Everything from the graphics to the comedy looks on point. It’s for that reason that I’ve opted to judge this film on its own instead of as part of the genre. I think it has some serious potential.

Horror/comedy is always going to draw a little extra attention from me, just because it’s my favorite genre cross. That said, this one drew me based on the content more than anything else.

I’ll be seeing it very shortly after it’s released. Well, as soon as I can get my hands on it. I’m cautiously optimistic.

6 – Brian Banks (8/9)

Production/Distribution: ShivHans Pictures, Gidden Media, Bleecker Street Media
Director: Tom Shadyac
Writer: Doug Atchison
Actors: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Tiffany Dupont, Melanie Liburd, Matt Battaglia, Dorian Missick, Xosha Roquemore, Gino Vento, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Dean Denton, Harrison Stone, Kevin Yamada, Calvin Williams, David Clyde Carr, Monique Grant, Jose Miguel Vasquez, Mystie Smith, James Andrew Kientzy, Cyril Smith
Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 99 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A football player's dreams to play in the NFL are halted when he is wrongly convicted and sent to prison. Years later, he fights to clear his name within an unjust system.

There are a lot of fun movies on the list this month. This one is not one of them. This one is here because it’s important.

Brian Banks is based on the true story of a man who was charged, and convicted, of a crime he didn’t commit. This is an issue that’s been very prominent lately. People being killed who weren’t guilty of anything, people earning their freedom years after they were convicted. Our system was built on the belief that depriving one man of his freedoms based on a wrong conviction is worse than anything. People have forgotten that over time.

This movie shines a light on the flaws in the US criminal justice system – and there are a lot.

In the trailer, we see some very quotable lines. They suggest that the truth matters and that the system just doesn’t care about some people. If you’ve ever lived on the wrong side of the poverty line, then you can likely relate. More-so if you’re black or foreign.

Movies like Brian Banks, especially when they involve recognizable faces like Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures, Leverage, Underground) and Greg Kinnear (Phil, House of Cards, Little Men), draw attention to the problem. Will it change anything? That’s uncertain – but it will inspire conversations. Change starts there.

It would be a little higher on my list, except I’m concerned about the choice of director.

Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty) is not a bad director by any stretch, but he’s known mostly for slapstick comedy. I highly doubt there’s any room for that in the story of Brian Banks. Clearly, I’m still willing to give him a shot, but that doesn’t stop me from being a little worried. This is the kind of movie that needs to be handled seriously.

– Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (8/9)

Production/Distribution: 1212 Entertainment, CBS Films, Double Dare You (DDY), Entertainment One, Sean Daniel Company, Lionsgate, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, Diamond Films, Eagle Films, Notorious Pictures, Shaw Organisation, United King Films, Universal Pictures International (UPI), WW Entertainment, Sierra / Affinity
Director: André Øvredal
Writer: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Guillermo de Toro, Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton, Alvin Schwartz
Actors: Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint, Austin Zajur, Natalie Ganzhorn, Austin Abrams, Kathleen Pollard, Jane Moffat, Marie Ward, Javier Botet, Mark Steger, Troy James, Will Carr, Brandon Knox, Amanda Smith, Elias Edraki
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Length: 111 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A group of teens face their fears in order to save their lives.

I don’t know anyone my age that didn’t read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when they were kids. Since this movie was announced, I’ve been looking forward to it just as much as Cat has. The trailers have only intensified my desire to see it. (I was a little surprised to see it fall as #2 on Cat’s list – only because I expected it to be #1.)

Admittedly, there’s a lot of nostalgia involved in this film being so high on my list. It helps that one of the actors, Zoe Margaret Colletti (Annie, City on a Hill, Wildlife), reminds me of a young Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, Monkey Trouble, Parenthood) from Now and Then (1995). That was one of my favorite films as a kid and seeing Colletti in Scary Stories just heightened that nostalgia for me.

Even without all that, though, the trailer looks terrifying. It looks like they took that ‘scary’ aspect and ran with it. Hopefully, they went far enough. If they didn’t pull their punches, this could be an amazing horror film for teens.

On top of that, the inclusion of the book in the film as a way to give that ‘short story’ kind of feel without making it an anthology movie, was a good idea.

It’s hard not to have complete faith in it with the involvement of Guillermo del Toro (The Strain, The Shape of Water, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark). He’s a giant in the industry and you have to believe he’ll give this movie his all.

4 – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (8/2)

Production/Distribution: Universal Pictures, CJ CGV Viet Nam, CinemArt, NOS Audiovisuais, Toho-Towa, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson, Drew Pierce
Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Sua, Cliff Curtis, Lori Pelenise Tuisano, John Tui, Joshua Mauga, Joes Anoa’i, Rob Delaney, Alex King, Tom Wu, John Macdonald, Joshua Coombes, Meesha Garbett, Harry Hickles
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rated: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes

IMDb Blurb: Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity.

I can’t tell you how little I care about the Fast & Furious (2001 -) series. I liked the first one and just never cared to follow the rest of them. So why do I care about this one?

Just watch the trailer. I’ve never had so much fun watching just one preview. It’s fucking hysterical. If they didn’t put all the best jokes in the coming attractions, that means the movie is going to be amazing.

As much as I love Dwayne Johnson, I think I might love him even more working opposite Jason Statham (The Meg, Snatch, The Bank Job). Their chemistry in the trailer is insane. I don’t think I’ve seen any preview with more apparent chemistry between the main characters – even in romance films (different kind of chemistry, of course).

And what about Idris Elba (Luther, Avengers: Infinity War, Beasts of No Nation)? He looks damn terrifying here. An invincible villain in a world without superheroes? That’s a huge leap to take – and I think if anyone can pull it off, it’s Elba.

I don’t think you need to be a hardcore – or even casual – fan of the Fast & Furious series to be looking forward to this one.

3 – Love, Antosha (8/2)

Production/Distribution: Lurker, mTuckman Media
Director: Garret Price
Writer: N/A
Actors: Anton Yelchin, J.J. Abrams, Sofia Boutella, Nicolas Cage, John Cho, Marlon Clark, Ian Cripps, Willem Dafoe, Joe Dante, Paul David, Ryan Dean, Drake Doremus, Ben Foster, Jodie Foster, Craig Gillespie, Dave Glowacki, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Jones, Avy Kaufman, Martin Landau, Frank Langella, Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Lester, Mark Palansky, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Jon Poll, Zachary Quinto, Parush Rao, Zoe Saldana, Luke Shaft, Sophie Simpson, Kristen Stewart, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gena Tuso, Jon Voight, Richard Wicklund,
Genre: Documentary
Rated: R
Length: 92 minutes

IMDb Blurb: A portrait of the extraordinary life and career of actor Anton Yelchin.

When Anton Yelchin (Dark, Green Room, Star Trek) died, I made it no secret just how upset I was.

I was a huge fan of his, and was under the belief that his career was just beginning. I was convinced that he was going to be a household name and an A-Lister for decades to come. He was insanely talented and unique enough to stand out from everyone else in the industry that was at his level.

Documentaries are rarely found on my Top 20 and being this high is almost unheard of. I just don’t tend to enjoy documentaries. They tend to get monotone and boring. Most of them work like a sleeping pill for me.

This one? I really don’t think it will go that way.

Yelchin had so much life to live, yet. If he was around now, I can almost guarantee he would be changing the general cinematic landscape. I still mourn him when I see a film he would have made better just by existing. It happens more than you think.

It just comes down to my belief that Anton Yelchin should be remembered. I’m looking forward to learning more about him.

2 – The Fanatic (8/30)

Production/Distribution: Daniel Grodnik Productions, Fig Production Group, Media Finance Capital, Oscar Generale Productions, Pretzel Fang Productions, Wonderfilm Media, Quiver Distribution
Director: Fred Durst
Writer: Fred Durst, Dave Bekerman
Actors: John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja, Jacob Grodnik, James Paxton, Josh Richman, Jessica Uberuaga, Marta González Rodin, Martin Peña, Kenneth Farmer, Elle Matarazzo, Jeff Chase, Luis Da Silva Jr., Denny Mendez, Theresa Ireland, Marcela Herrera
Genre: Thriller
Rated: R
Length: Unknown

IMDb Blurb: A rabid film fan stalks his favorite action hero and destroys the star's life.

Full transparency, I thought this movie was coming out in September. It wasn’t until I started building the master list to work off of for the September top 20 that I realized I was wrong. August’s article was already posted and ready to go. Honestly, this has been known to happen, but normally I just shrug it off and move on without making changes. A lot goes into altering the top 20 after it’s already posted. Things need to be reformatted, graphics need to be altered, records need to be fixed… it’s normally not worth it.

This time is different.

Since I first saw Devon Sawa post something about this film a few months ago, I’ve been dying to see it. That was before I even saw the trailer… but now I want to see it even more.

When you initially hear the premise of the film, it sounds ridiculous. Sawa is an amazing actor, but the idea of John Travolta playing his stalking fan is a little amusing. Travolta is the heavyweight celebrity between the two, after all. When you add that the writer/director is former Limp Bizkit front-man Fred Durst… it sounds like a prank. But the preview really works.

Travolta is really good at playing insane-type characters, and Sawa is versatile as well. Playing an action actor isn’t exactly a huge step for him, though.

Everything in the trailer is thrilling. Both actors look like they are completely on their game. Considering the fact that they’re working with a decent story… it’s difficult to not get excited.

Whether this one turns out good or bad, I’m excited to see it.

1 – Madness in the Method (8/2)

Production/Distribution: Autumnwood Media, Happy Hour Films, Hawthorn Productions, Red Rock Entertainment, Straightwire Films, Cinedigm
Director: Jason Mewes
Writer: Chris Anastasi, Dominic Burns
Actors: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Gina Carano, Jaime Camil, Vinnie Jones, Danny Trejo, Mickey Gooch Jr., Stan Lee, Brian O’Halloran, Teri Hatcher, Esther Anderson, David Dastmalchian, Blake Harrison, Matt Willis, Dean Cain, Judd Nelson, Nick Nicotera, Harley Quinn Smith, Zach Galligan, Edmund Kingsley, Casper Van Dien, Matthew Sterling Nye, Evanna Lynch, Paul Chowdhry, Alejandra Medina, David Sterne, Mario Corona, Matthew McGreevy
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Rated: NR
Length: 99 minutes

IMDb Blurb: Jason Mewes, attempting method acting in order to gain more respect for himself in Hollywood, slowly descends into madness.

I almost missed the chance to add this film to my Top 20 for August. I had it set to go as an honorable mention, instead. The thing is, we don’t consider a movie for our Top 20 unless it has a trailer available at the time the article is written.

Now, I’m in the middle of buying a house, so I had to write this article much earlier than I normally do. That means the trailer wasn’t out yet when I started. I was heartbroken. I’ve known about this film for a few months and I’m super looking forward to it. Luckily, I had a little extra time to write later on after the preview launched.

I had to rewrite half my list, and it was well worth it.

I love Jason Mewes (Shoot the Hero, Noobz, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil). There are very few people I admire more than those who have seen rock bottom and pulled themselves back up. He’s one of those people, and he’s done amazing for himself since. He’s the kind of person I look at like a role model. So, I follow his career because I want to see him succeed.

As a result, I want to see Madness in the Method do well. It has a great plot idea with an amazing cast and a new director I have faith in. Not to mention that it’s Stan Lee’s (Big Hero 6: The Series, Avengers: Endgame, Bad Days) final acting credit.

I believe in this film.

I’m so glad the trailer surfaced in time, because Madness in the Method deserves to be my #1 pick for August.

Movies to Look out For
According to: Cat

Brittany Runs a Marathon .20
The Peanut Butter Falcon .19
The Nightingale .18
Brian Banks .17
Good Boys .16
Where’d You Go, Bernadette .15
Freaks .14
47 Meters Down: Uncaged .13
Bennett’s War .12
The Informer .11
Killerman .10
Ready or Not .9
Burn .8
Luce .7
My Spy .6
Madness in the Method .5
The Art of Racing in the Rain .4
Angel Has Fallen .3
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark .2
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw .1