Friday, August 16, 2019

Otherhood (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Otherhood (2019)
Genre: Comedy
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Mandalay Pictures, Welle Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Cindy Chupack
Writer: Mark Andrus, Cindy Chupack, William Sutcliffe
Actors: Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, Felicity Huffman, Jake Hoffman, Jake Lacy, Sinqua Walls, Heidi Gardner, Stephen Kunken, Damian Young, Afton Williamson, Frank De Julio, Becki Newton, Mario Cantone, Emily Tremaine, Molly Bernard, Tim Bagley, Kate Easton, Kelcy Griffin, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Rosanny Zayas, Samuel Li Weintraub

Blurb from IMDb: A grounded, soulful, celebratory comedy about three mothers and their adult sons. The film explores the stage after motherhood, Otherhood, when you have to redefine your relationship with your children, friends, spouse, and most importantly, yourself.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was pretty much right about what to expect from this film.

What I wrote in my Top 20 for August was spot on. Otherhood was a fun story about moms learning who they are without their kids, and their kids learning to appreciate them as independent people. There was a lot of comedy and cringe, but the dramatic scenes snuck in here and there.

I’m alright with having put it at number 19, though. Although it wasn’t a chore to watch, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

The script had some clunky moments and there were places where the exposition was a little too obvious.

Then there was the issue of starting out with a narrator but not being consistent with it. Normally, if there’s a narrator in a film, you know that person is the main character and you’ll be following their perspective. In this case, it didn’t work that way and the voice-over in the beginning just winds up feeling lazy and unnecessary.

I also had some problems with the timeline, especially at the ending. There’s an epilogue to Otherhood that really didn’t make sense. The movie would actually have been better if that part was cut out completely. It would have left a few questions unanswered, but that still would have been preferred.

In the end, it was solid enough. I don’t think anyone will be calling it their favorite, but it wasn’t bad.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been slightly worried that summer has not been kind to my perception of cinema, so far. Well, everyone, I feel that we now have definitive proof that the heat hasn’t made me overly critical.
How so, you might ask? The answer is simple. After braving the sweltering summer sun in my mobile oven (i.e. a dark-colored SUV without AC in Louisiana) running errands for school supplies, a doctor’s office visit, and other mundane tasks; it is safe to say that cranky was my middle name when I got home.
Let me tell you, Otherhood made it so easy to say ‘bye Felicia’ to that bad mood and enjoy this story. The plot, centering on mom-friends with adult children trying to reconnect with aspects of their lives and relationships with their sons, was something I could really relate to. As an adult, I find that it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life. Time can pass in the blink of an eye, and sometimes it’s easy to forget to keep in contact with family – even parents.
This is something that I’ve long struggled with in my life in general. I get so tunnel-visioned sometimes or "HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL" happens, and it doesn’t occur to me to call again until stupid-o-clock or other inappropriate timing. This film was a reminder that all relationships require work and communication – whether friendships or family. One of the many things I loved about this movie was that it flowed as a narrative and called me to invest in the characters on their emotional journeys rather than feeling browbeat by the underpinning message.
Everything is easier to swallow with a liberal sprinkling of comedy, however. The poignant moments were well supported by lighter touches, which successfully kept the movie uplifting. Of course, the stellar cast was largely responsible for bringing these three intertwined stories to life.  As an example, I absolutely adored Angela Bassett’s (American Horror Story, Avengers: Endgame, 9-1-1) character. This film really played to her strengths and I could swear that they’ve paid homage to some of her earlier work here. I am fairly certain there was a throwback moment to How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998) in there. Groove on, Ms. Bassett. Groove on.
My daughter just turned 16 this week. I’m letting this movie be one of those well-timed cosmic reminders to keep working on my relationships, lest time slips by with me on the wayside. I swear she was my ‘little girl’ just yesterday – and here we are at her Sweet Sixteen. Talk about some perspective.
I digress…
Netflix did well in nurturing this tale into being. I would encourage anyone who enjoys a good dramedy to give this one a chance. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 29%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 66%
Metascore – 37/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.6/10
IMDB Score – 6.0/10
CinemaScore – None

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

P.S. Some additional scenes and bloopers during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Soul to Keep (2018)

Movie Name/Year: Soul to Keep (2018)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Shady Tree Films, Cineque Pictures
Director: Moniere, David Allensworth
Writer: David Allensworth, Eric Bram
Actors: Jordan Theodore, Aurora Heimbach, Sandra Mae Frank, Derek Long, Kate Rose Reynolds, Craig Fogel, Tony Spitz, Brian Donovon, Jessie Jordan

Blurb from IMDb: Beelzebub, a powerful demon hellbent to possess and consume souls goes after siblings and their lifelong friends at a rundown country house.

Cat’s Point of View:

I think there is a chance that the summer heat has made me cranky. Take that thought forward, perhaps, as I tell you that I didn’t really like this movie. I watched this one with a clean slate – I had no preconceived notions of what it might be, nor did I have any expectations.

There was one positive take-away from this film. I discovered a new song that I like. "Loss of Life" by One Eyed Doll is featured during the movie and also played again during the credits. It’s a little repetitive and won’t be up for a Grammy, but I enjoyed the melody and it was catchy.

To be fair, I did appreciate another aspect of Soul to Keep. Sandra Mae Frank (Beautiful Sounds of Love, Switched at Birth, Reverse Polarity) is a talented actress who had just wrapped playing a lead role on Broadway before filming this movie. She is also hearing-impaired. The movie is signed in ASL almost as much as the characters speak aloud. The way this is implemented both through character interactions and the plot, itself, are why I rated the film as high as I did. The signing felt genuine and fluid in the scenes, and it was clear that respect was given to how it was portrayed.

Unfortunately, that’s where my praise ends.

Soul to Keep fell out of the trope-tree and hit every branch on the way down. The opening credits set a tone that, at the same time, sets up anticipation for both the demonic horror aspect and the weird-factor. While the movie doesn’t quite deliver on the first, it hit the mark with the second in spades.

College-age kids partying at an inappropriate location? Check. The same kids dabbling in things they don’t really understand? Check. Sex and drugs? Check. I could go on, but spoilers.

I also didn’t appreciate being spoon-fed one of the plot twists with the ‘how it happened’ flashbacks. It stole from the impact, rather than letting it be a bomb-drop moment. 

Needless to say, I won’t be steering anyone towards this movie. There are far better ways to spend an hour and a half. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.3/10
CinemaScore – None

Netflix Parental Advisory Rating – TV-MA
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating - R

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Space Between Us (2016)

Movie Name/Year: The Space Between Us (2016)
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance
Length: 120 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Los Angeles Media Fund (LAMF), STX Entertainment, Southpaw Entertainment (I), Entertainment Film Distributors, SF Studios, Colossal Mega Films, Diamond Films, Golden Village Pictures, Gulf Film, Impuls Pictures, Odeon, TOBIS Film, The Searchers, Batrax Entertainment, Cinemundo, Film & TV House, Film1, GEM Entertainment, Mongkol Major, Noori Pictures, Pinema, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE), Universum Film (UFA), VVS Films
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Allan Loeb, Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis
Actors: Gary Oldman, Janet Montgomery, Trey Tucker, Scott Takeda, Adande ‘Swoozie’ Thorne, BD Wong, Lauren Chavez-Myers, Morse Bicknell, Beth Bailey, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, Luce Rains, Colin Egglesfield

Blurb from IMDb: The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Space Between Us did not make a good first impression.

I was looking forward to seeing it, there are some great actors involved in the film, but I was just about immediately unimpressed. The audience is introduced to the plot during a speech given by Gary Oldman’s (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Lawless, The Book of Eli) character. During the scene, we meet the astronauts that will be heading to Mars. Once they’re in the shuttle and off world, we find out the female amongst them is pregnant.

That’s all fine. Just from watching the trailers, you can get all that. My problem is: if they were going to show us all that – then why didn’t they actually put any effort into it?

Remarkably, the 9-month pregnant woman fits into her space suit. That’s the first thing that threw me off. They also just happened to have that receiving blanket handy that every hospital I’ve ever been to uses. If you’ve had a kid, then you know the one. That’s just lazy direction.

I can understand having to gloss over the suit situation… but the blanket? You’re telling me that there wasn’t any way to make that a touch more realistic? Have the team use a different kind of cloth that would made more sense for them to have handy? Come on now.

I know it seems like a small issue, but that blanket told me immediately that the script and direction would not deserve the talent and plot that it was paired up with, and I was right.

If there’s a trope that exists in a romantic drama, this movie hit it. The writing was exceptionally lazy, as well.

After all that, it either wasn’t marketed or edited right. As much as it seemed The Space Between Us should have been a romance, the actual love story felt shoe-horned in. For roughly the first hour of the film, there was no evidence of a budding romance except for a couple of barely-there scenes where the two main characters were messaging each other online.

It almost felt like the movie was supposed to be a coming of age story about this boy who was born on Mars finally getting to return to Earth – but a production company demanded a love story be added.

The film could have either been cut down to a shorter time, or made into two completely separate films with completely separate genres.

I hate how utterly mediocre The Space Between Us is. The fact is, it should have been great. It had a creative and interesting plot with a phenomenal cast. The actors were all at the top of their game, too. Not one of them held back. There was no excuse for the writing and directing… and the editing, for that matter, to be as bad as it was.

The good and the bad balance out enough so that it’s not awful - just bland, out of place, and mediocre.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 16%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 55%
Metascore – 33/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.0/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
CinemaScore – A-

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2/5

Movie Trailer: