Friday, September 20, 2019

How It Ends (2018)

Movie Name/Year: How It Ends (2018)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Length: 113 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Paul Schiff Productions, Sierra / Affinity, Netflix
Director: David M. Rosenthal
Writer: Brooks McLaren
Actors: Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Katerina Graham, Kerry Bishé, Mark O'Brien, Nancy Sorel, Eric Keenleyside, Grace Dove

Blurb from IMDb: A a desperate man tries to return home to his pregnant fiancee after a mysterious apocalyptic event turns everything to chaos.

Selina’s Point of View:
Apocalyptic movies are part of my bread and butter. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to them, but I very much am. So, I got excited about our movie this week.

How it Ends is a Netflix original, so I had no expectations one way or the other. Some of them are very, very good. Others are awful. There’s no real consistency from film to film. That’s the thing about turning out so much new content so often. There’s no way they could hit it out of the park every time – but they’re not going to be known as the next Asylum production company, either.

I’m left with some conflict on how I feel about this one.

On one hand, I love that I wasn’t punched in the head with exposition right out of the gate. Brooks McLaren (Rambo: New Blood, XOXO, Nightingale), the writer, allowed there to be some intrigue and guidance without spelling everything out for me like I’m an idiot. As a result, there’s some dialogue that’s unusual for a movie, but very natural for real life. They also managed to divert expectations in several interactions. It was impressive.

The problem with making everything feel a little more natural is that the ‘fantastic’ that normally weaves itself through a film like this was absent some of the time.

It was never hard to watch, but I did wind up with some questions I don’t think I was supposed to have. I’m not including the stuff you’re supposed to wonder about, but other things. It didn’t equal out to huge plot holes, but there were smaller ones that kind of added up in the end.

The acting was good. Theo James (Castlevania, Divergent, Golden Boy) and Forest Whitaker (Burden, Arrival, Out of the Furnace) are both great at what they do. I expected nothing less. Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Poison Rose) is also amazing, but she wasn’t in much of the flick. I would have liked to see more of her.

When all is said and done, I did enjoy How it Ends, but I don’t think it was one of Netflix’s best. 

Cat’s Point of View:
Overall, I didn’t mind How It Ends. I can’t say that it’s my favorite Netflix original, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. The film’s name is a little ironic, really, but I’ll get into that in a minute.

I was initially drawn to this movie via the trifecta of actors that I really enjoy – namely, Kat Graham (17 Again, Addicted, All Eyez on Me), Forest Whitaker (Arrival, Sorry To Bother You, Finding Steve McQueen), and Theo James (Underworld Awakening, The Secret Scripture, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance). I’ve generally liked most of their collective work, and can count on solid performances from them. I had no disappointments from their respective roles. I might wish for a little more screen-time from Graham, but I understand that since the tale was being told from William’s perspective, that meant that we would only ever know what he knew and his fiancee's well-being was a pivotal point of the suspense in the plot.

Stories about the ‘end of the world,’ disasters, and apocalyptic events are always intriguing to me. I find the ideas that writers come up with fascinating. The best ones play off of an entirely plausible scenario, making the concept even more chilling. When supernatural means are involved, it has to be extremely well executed to allow the suspense of disbelief. Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres, though, so flights into the fantastical are quite welcome.

With this film, the disaster that plays out seems as believable as it is enigmatic. I really liked the fact that the narrative wasn’t cluttered with too much detail, and the puzzle pieces to put the bigger picture together were doled out with subtlety. I’m OK with how this plays out and even all of the unanswered questions surrounding what was – or wasn’t – going on.

I just didn’t like the ending. There were both good and bad notes for how the final scene plays out, but it mostly left me hanging uncomfortably. The movie had me hooked right up until the credits began to roll, and I felt it a bit like a slap in the face that it was over. I had a moment asking myself “That’s all? They’re leaving it there???”

If put on the spot, I wouldn’t steer anyone away from the film, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to endorse or recommend it all the same. If not for that ending, I’d likely give it a higher score. As it stands, I would say this falls in the high-end of the middle where the quality of Netflix originals is concerned. There are some that are exceedingly better but there are others that, quite frankly, reek. This one is just good – and OK.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 19%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 17%
Metascore – 35/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.4/10
IMDB Score – 5.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

For Love or Money (2019)

Movie Name/Year: For Love or Money (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Solar Productions, Goldfinch Studios, Amazon Prime Video, Eagle Films, Golden A Entertainment, Gravitas Ventures, Myriad Pictures, Romis Film
Director: Mark Murphy
Writers: Mark Murphy, Sabrina Lepage
Actors: Robert Kazinsky, Samantha Barks, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ed Speleers, Tony Way, Ivan Kaye, Anna Chancellor, Tanya Reynolds

Blurb from IMDbA fairy tale romance takes an unexpected turn when Mark discovers his beautiful bride-to-be, Connie, has actually been plotting against him.

Cat’s Point of View:
When this movie came up on our list for review, I thought that the name sounded familiar. It took me a bit to piece together that I was thinking of another film with the same name from the nineties. Alas, this is not the 1993 Michael J. Fox (The Good Wife, A.R.C.H.I.E., See You Yesterday) movie. Instead, this story takes a different perspective on a similar theme, and adds a gender flip for good measure with this updated version.

If you decide that you want to watch the trailer for this one before choosing whether or not to watch, just make sure you don’t view the extended version. The ‘extended’ scenes included with that trailer give away most of the best gags in the movie.

If I had watched a preview for this film, I might have felt slightly less cringe through the duration – maybe. Knowing the gist of what to expect only prepares one so far, really. There have been a couple times in my life where I have been lead on by someone without good intentions. That’s all ancient history, but when that’s happened to you a part of you never forgets and still twinges in sympathy for others in that boat even if you’ve long since moved on. Some of the revenge shenanigans were amusing, but most of them just had me feeling bad for the antagonist.

The film was sprinkled with some surprising comedy elements that I chalk up to quirky British humor. Needless to say, I was in stitches in those random moments between the sobering cringe-worthy bits.

I like the fact that this unabashedly proclaims that it is an ‘unromantic comedy’ right there on the poster. That definitely sets it up well. While there are the occasional romantic-ish elements, it’s mostly colored by the revenge scheme.

I quite enjoyed the performances by the cast as a whole. I couldn’t point out any single role as lacking. The soundtrack was also interesting, with some recognizable pop songs added for good measure. I almost got my phone out for a music identification app. Almost.

If you asked me to boil down my opinion on the movie to whether or not I liked it, I’d have to say I did. I was entertained just as much as I cringed. There were a few moments that I saw going in one direction that ended up differently than expected, as well. I don’t know that I’d intentionally steer anyone towards this film, but I wouldn’t tell them to avoid it. 
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 78%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

P.S. There are small scenes during the credits that are either out-takes or deleted scenes.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, September 16, 2019


Movie Name/Year: #REALITYHIGH (2017)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production/Distribution: Court of Five, Netflix, Reality High Productions
Director: Fernando Lebrija
Writer: Brandon Broussard, Hudson Obayuwana, Jana Savage
Actors: Nesta Cooper, Keith Powers, Alicia Sanz, Jake Borelli, Anne Winters, Patrick Davis, Michael Provost, Ryan Malaty, Kate Walsh, John Michael Higgins, Valarie Rae Miller, Jeffrey D. Sams, Leah Rose Randall, Marissa Cuevas, Peter Gilroy, Rebekah Graf, Thomas Anthony Jones, Suzanne Altfeld, Jana Savage, Kid Ink, Yousef Erakat, Chris Broussard, Tatiana Lett, Olivia Trujillo

Blurb from IMDb: High-achieving high-school senior Dani Barnes dreams of getting into UC Davis, the world's top veterinary school. Then a glamorous new friend draws her into a Southern California scene that threatens everything she's worked for.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve seen this movie about ten thousand times. Not this specific movie, but the plot of it.

You see hints of it in classics like Sixteen Candles (1984) and Pretty in Pink (1986). You also see bits of it in iconic films like Mean Girls (2004). If a movie is going to utilize this kind of plot, the creators need to understand that they are up against some serious hard-hitters. If #REALITYHIGH wanted to succeed, it needed to step up.

It didn’t.

There were a couple of parts that really hit home and the rest of it was incredibly basic.

The characters weren’t nearly as developed as they could have been, and the script left a lot to be desired. Acting wasn’t the problem. If you took the same exact actors and just transplanted them into another film with a better script – they would have been fine.

Little Leah Rose Randall (Graveyard Spiral, All About the Washingtons, Celebrity Page) has got a great career ahead of her, I recommend keeping an eye on her. She was super natural in her part, and if she can do that at her age, I can only assume she’ll be a regular at award shows when she’s older.

In the end, teenagers might find #REALITYHIGH watchable, but most adults are just going to roll their eyes through it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 52%
Metascore – 38/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.0/10
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5

Movie Trailer: