Friday, January 10, 2020

Descendants (2015)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Descendants (2015)
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Comedy
Length: 112 minutes
Rating:  TV-G
Production/Distribution: Disney Channel, A 5678 Production, Bad Angels Productions, Blu Shine, Disney Cinemagic, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, Galapagos Films, Galapagos Films, The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Walt Disney Television
Director: Kenny Ortega
Writers: Josann McGibbon, Sara Parriott
Actors: Dove Cameron, Booboo Stewart, Cameron Boyce, Sofia Carson, Mitchell Hope, Melanie Paxson, Keegan Connor Tracy, Kathy Najimy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sarah Jeffery, Stephanie Bennett, Dan Payne

Blurb from IMDb:  The teenage son of the king and queen of Auradon offers the trouble-making children of villains a chance to attend prep school in the kingdom.

Cat’s Point of View:
We have always been Disney fans in my family. It was a no-brainer when Disney+ was announced that we would sign up ASAP. For this movie, however, we didn’t have to wait for the streaming platform launch to watch. My daughter had corralled us (at least me) to watch this film (and its sequels) as they aired on the Disney Channel for the first time.

That being said, I didn’t mind watching again.

I love how Descendants sprinkles little nods to the fairytale movies represented by the teen characters in the movie, or their families. I always enjoy that little ‘ooh!’ feeling each time I spot something new. These go beyond Easter eggs because they enrich and offer a foundation to the stories unfolding within the frame of the film.

I have enjoyed the take on each hero and villain’s offspring. The overall plot might be a smidge on the predictable side – because let’s face it, it’s a Disney fairytale movie – but it’s still interesting enough to keep attention on the way towards the finale.

Aside from that, the story is ultimately about redemption, second chances, and children not being bound by the sins of their parents. It’s a study of nurture vs. nature wrapped in candy coating. It’s that long sung of spoonful of sugar to let the medicinal lesson go down. Of course, there are other lessons laced within – and more to be explored with the sequels.

The music and dance numbers are fun and catchy – but that’s to be expected from director Kenny Ortega (High School Musical, Legally Mad, A Change of Heart). Some of his first IMDb credits are music videos of iconic songs from the mid-'80s. He hit the ground running and really hasn’t looked back.

The overall film isn’t too corny, and it’s phenomenally cast with beloved Disney staple actors such as Dove Cameron (Barely Lethal, Liv and Maddie, Marvel Rising: Initiation) and Cameron Boyce (Grown Ups 2, Bunk'd, Paradise City), as well as those with more mainstream recognition like Booboo Stewart (He Never Died, Bad Company, #Roxy).

This re-watching was rather poignant to me, considering the untimely death of Boyce in 2019. I have to admit I got seriously misty during his scenes.

I would have no qualms in giving this film a recommendation for anyone who enjoys the fairytale (especially Disney) genre, and those that have tween or younger children. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 90%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 67%
Metascore – 63%
Metacritic User Score –  None
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Irishman (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Irishman (2019)
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Length: 209 minutes
Rating:  R
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Tribeca Productions, Sikelia Productions, Winkler Films, Fábrica de Cine, STX Entertainment, Media Asia, Aeon Entertainment, Altitude Films, Cineteca del Comune di Bologna, Dendy Cinemas, Energía Entusiasta, Filmwelt, Odeon, Pancinema, TriPictures
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Charles Brandt
Actors: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Jack Huston, Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons, Kathrine Narducci, Stephanie Kurtzuba

Blurb from IMDb:  A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.

Cat’s Point of View:
The Golden Globes (1943-) have come and gone just recently. While I didn’t watch at the time, my husband showed me a picture he’d run across as it was circulating the internet. It was of a group of distinguished gentlemen sitting around a table at that very awards show. My comment was something along the lines of noting that it was a table full of cinema mob royalty. Of course, it was The Irishman’s table.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have to be in the right sort of mood for a gangster movie – especially the old school mob variety. That’s largely the reason why The Irishman didn’t land on my personal Top 20 for its month of release. I had no doubt of the power of the cast and the potential for the story. I figured it was going to do fine – it just wasn’t jiving with me at that moment.

Irony likes to toy with me on occasion. I swear it’s in cahoots with Murphy’s Law… but I digress.

I went into this movie with a little trepidation. When I’d first seen the title of the film, I’d gotten all excited that it was something about an Irish person that would, hopefully, be full of my favorite lilting accent. The trailer quickly corrected my delusions of such. Alas, that disappointment likely was a secondary factor in my Top 20 exclusion of the film. In my defense (and perhaps to my shame) I only just watched The Godfather (1972) trilogy within the last 10 years. I’m sorry Irishman. I wasn’t fair to you.

To cut to the chase, the movie was a masterpiece.

It was filmed well. The settings were immersive, and I just felt like I’d fallen back in time for a bit. Moments in history I’d read about in school and the like just flowed across the screen like a living time capsule, giving fresh insight into the old ‘who done it’ surrounding the infamous Jimmy Hoffa.

Netflix was bold in taking the reins for this 3.5 hour Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Hugo, The Wolf of Wall Street) opus. It’s a shame that it won’t get quite the same treatment as a wide theater release movie would, but streaming originals are getting more and more well-earned recognition these days. The Irishman is well-deserving of any nominations and awards it has and will achieve.

Back to the movie, itself. The phrase "I Heard You Paint Houses" is prominent – both in the opening and closing credits of the movie and in the story itself. It is actually the name of the book that this film was based on. I’ve not read it, but the title phrase stuck with me. The movie deftly illustrates what it means, and thus I won’t spoil you.

It was easier than I thought to connect with the primary characters – even though they were ruthless gangsters. You couldn’t have asked for a better cast. Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, The Intern, The Wizard of Lies), Al Pacino (The Merchant of Venice, Oceans Thirteen, Manglehorn), and Joe Pesci (Casino, Gone Fishin', The Good Shepherd) were just the tip of the iceberg. I’m thankful that Scorsese was eventually able to convince Pesci to come out of retirement for this film – without him, it would have been an entirely different movie.

There were comedic, heartfelt, heart-wrenching, and horrific moments all woven into the story unflinchingly. Friendship, rivalry, loyalty, politics, and betrayal. These are all staple hallmarks of a good mobster movie. They’re all present in spades, and yet this film is anything but cookie-cutter.

I also feel the need to shine the spotlight on the film’s special effects. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) apparently courted Scorsese and the production team rather doggedly to helm the digital effects for this film. They provided a process where the primary actors didn’t have to have younger stand-ins or extensive prosthetics as the characters aged – it was done digitally, and just like makeup. I marveled during the film at how well they ‘made-up’ the actors for their younger selves – even older selves… It was seamless. I think this is going to be a game-changer in cinema.

All told, this movie should make fans of the genre rather giddy. For those on the fence, like myself, I urge you to give it a shot. I would highly recommend it. 

P.S. If you let the credits play through all the way, Netflix will auto-start a behind the scenes segment featuring Scorsese, Di Niro, Pesci, and Pacino. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 86%
Metascore – 94%
Metacritic User Score –  8.2/10
IMDB Score – 8.1/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Quiet Place (2018)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: A Quiet Place (2018)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Paramount Pictures, Platinum Dunes, Sunday Night, Andes Films, Central Partnership, CinemArt, Columbia Pictures, Intercontinental Film Distributors (HK), NOS Audiovisuais, Ro Image 2000, Toho-Towa, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI), Amazon Prime Video, Film1, Hua Wen Movie Group, Odeon, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Universal Pictures
Director: John Krasinski
Writer: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski
Actors: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom, Rhoda Pell

Blurb from IMDb: In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Selina’s Point of View:
Where do I even start?

This was not my first time watching A Quiet Place and it won’t be my last. It is one of the best films I have ever seen.

The way sound is used in this movie is outstanding. Instantly, the film lets you know how abnormal the world portrayed has become. It does this by avoiding a typical soundtrack. The only time a song is really used, it gives you such an unfamiliar sense of normalcy that there’s unease surrounding it.

It’s not just music, though. Because sound feels so important from the moment you first hear the wind whistling into the silence, every single shuffle/word/crash becomes that much more significant. Something as innocent as the beeping of a child’s toy instantly strikes fear in you.

I’ve seen a lot of movies play with the use of sound as a weapon, but never as well as I did here.

The acting was all phenomenal. John Krasinski (The Office, The Hollars, 13 Hours), Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train, Sicario, Edge of Tomorrow), Millicent Simmonds (Andi Mack, Wonderstruck, This Close), Noah Jupe (Wonder, Ford v Ferrari, The Last Dragonslayer), and Cade Woodward (Avengers: Endgame) made me believe their parts. But I really have to credit the direction most.

As a director, Krasinski took a TON of risks in A Quiet Place and every single one of them paid off. Given this same story/script – with the same actors – a lot of directors would have taken the safe route. They’d have used tension-building music throughout the entire film, whereas Krasinski only used it sparingly. Instead, he relied on familiar sounds from the wind and footsteps to really make us tense. He also relied more on psychology than typical jump scares.

The final product is something that absolutely leaps off the screen. I’m in tears by the end every single time.

If you haven’t seen A Quiet Place yet, I absolutely urge you to. I’m looking forward to the sequel, but I’m a little concerned that they won’t be able to capture the feel as well.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore – 82/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 7.5/10
CinemaScore – B+

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5

Movie Trailer: