Friday, February 7, 2020

Troop Zero (2019)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Troop Zero (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Amazon Studios, Big Indie Pictures, Escape Artists, Amazon Prime Video
Director: Bert & Bertie
Writer: Lucy Alibar
Actors: Mckenna Grace, Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan, Allison Janney, Charlie Shotwell, Milan Ray, Johanna Colón, Bella Higginbotham, Mike Epps, Ashley Brooke, Ash Thapliyal, Kai N. Ture, Kenneth Wayne Bradley, Edi Patterson, Maureen Brennan, Gwendolyn Mulamba, Jecobi Swain, Herreast Harrison, Lucy Alibar

Blurb from IMDb: In rural 1977 Georgia, a misfit girl dreams of life in outer space. When a competition offers her a chance to be recorded on NASA's Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime.

Selina’s Point of View:
Troop Zero was awesome. It felt like some of the really good young teen/kids films from the 90s, like Little Giants (1994) or The Mighty Ducks (1992). Only, instead of sports, the kids are in a girl scout-like troop. They’re just a group of misfits trying to win something.

Here’s the thing. I feel this movie in my soul.

I was a girl scout when I was younger. For the majority of that time, I had the best troop. We did all the cool stuff; like hiking, camping, knot-tying, etc. When I was just shy of becoming a Cadet, the troop lost funding. So, thinking every troop was the same, my mom put me in another one.

There was no way I could have been more of a misfit. I went from doing all the active badges to being stuck making fuzzy magnets. Every. Friday.

I not only stopped going, I started sneaking over to boy scouts and participating from the back of the room until they decided I was their mascot.

Troop Zero took me back to wanting to be a part of something so much that I was willing to shove myself into a situation that everyone saw me as a bad fit for, even with the consequences. I was a boy scout mascot long past when parents started complaining about me being there. When I was no longer allowed in the room, I sat right outside the door, and I learned that way.

Maybe all that history makes this film hit differently for me. I see myself in the main character, so it’s easier for me to suffer her losses and celebrate her successes.

Either way, I still think this flick took some risky turns and I have to appreciate that – especially since it worked. It was realistic. I felt things, I laughed… everything it wanted out of me, it got.

I enjoyed Troop Zero. When my daughter’s a little older, I look forward to watching it with her.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was excited that this Amazon original came up for review. Likely, I would have watched it relatively soon, even if it hadn’t. It had landed as my #6 on my January 2020 Top 20 list, after all. I was doubly excited that my daughter got a chance to watch it with me.

Troop Zero has given me a serious case of ‘the feels.’ I was on a rollercoaster of emotion as I ran the gauntlet of nostalgia, sympathy, cringe, laughter, warm-fuzzies, triumph, and heartache.

When I was little, I tended to be the odd kid that befriended the other misfits when I wasn’t a loner, myself. I had a tomboy streak a mile long and went from playing with Barbies with the girl across the street to digging for worms in the mud and catching frogs and turtles with her older brother.

Late in junior high I was the new kid or the weirdo with glasses that liked to read rather than playing basketball – or whatever it was that was going on. I was different. It was easy for the snobby bullies to turn their noses up at me. They even gave ultimatums to those that tried being friendly – they could choose the popular kids over me or they could become shunned too.  But I digress…

My heart hurt for little Christmas and her rag-tag group of Birdie Scouts. I could easily step into her shoes. At the same time, it was wonderful to watch their journey as they learned to celebrate their own strengths and grew in friendship. I love a good underdog tale.

The cast here was phenomenal. Each role was brought to life so vividly. Their performances gave me giggles, invoked ire, and induced misty eyes as they embodied this story of hope, friendship, and perseverance.

I would watch this movie again in a heartbeat, and it has my solid recommendation for anyone looking for a little slice of the late 70s woven into a tale of diversity and bucking the status quo. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 68%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 80%
Metascore – 59/100
Metacritic User Score – 5/10
IMDB Score – 7.0/10
CinemaScore – None

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

P.S. There’s some audio and images during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Lady and the Tramp (2019)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Lady and the Tramp (2019)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Musical
Length: 103 minutes
Rating:  PG
Production/Distribution: Taylor Made, The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Pictures, Disney+, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Charlie Bean
Writers: Andrew Bujalski, Kari Granlund
Actors: Tessa Thompson, Sam Elliott, Kiersey Clemons, Justin Theroux, Janelle Monáe, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ashley Jensen, Ken Jeong, Kate Kneeland, F. Murray Abraham, Thomas Mann, James Bentley, Benedict Wong

Blurb from IMDb:  The romantic tale of a sheltered uptown Cocker Spaniel dog and a streetwise downtown Mutt.

Cat’s Point of View:
Aside from The Mandalorian (2019-), this new live-action spin on Lady and the Tramp was something my family – more specifically my daughter – had been looking forward to with the release of the new Disney+ platform.

I had some initial reservations, as evidenced by the film’s lack of presence within my Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in November 2019 article. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand that Disney is keen to take a stab at remaking all (or most) of their animated classics with a ‘live’ treatment. I’m curious and even somewhat excited to see how some of them will turn out. This just wasn’t one of those I was over the moon about.

There are just so many iconic moments within the original animated movie that wouldn’t translate well to a modern movie or audience. My case in point would be the alterations that were made to make the film more culturally sensitive and to incorporate diversity. Let’s put aside the period accuracy. That wasn’t what bugged me.

I applaud the casting for this new retelling. I can’t find fault with anyone, to be honest. I was even giddy that Sam Elliott (Rock Dog, The Ranch, A Star Is Born) voiced Trusty. I didn’t mind that the characters’ ethnicities were swapped around.

I was also impressed that quite a few of the dogs used during the filming were rescues and all had found forever homes by the end of production. There’s even a message advocating pet adoption during the end credits. Kudos to Disney, indeed. 

If I’m being honest, it was the cats. I know, I know – it’s a movie about dogs. All the same, one of my favorite parts of the animated movie as a child was the “Siamese Cat Song.” It was funny and a catchy tune. I can still remember most of the words to this day, and I haven’t watched Lady and the Tramp nearly as often as most other Disney movies I enjoy. I get why it changed. I even commented to my husband as we watched the movie that I understood. I’m not faulting them for it, necessarily. The new replacement song and its devilish feline duo are great for the modern retelling. It just didn’t have the same catchy zing to me.

Overall, the changes weren’t deal-breakers. They just didn’t have me falling head-over-heels for this new interpretation. My daughter really enjoyed the movie, so there’s that at least. I don’t think she formed as close an attachment to the original animated film when she watched it years ago.

If anyone told me they had a Disney+ subscription and were thinking of watching this film, I wouldn’t steer them away at all. I just wouldn’t list this movie as one of the reasons to purchase a subscription to the service. It was fine, really. Likely, those that are super attached to the original for whatever reason may have a similar reaction. This film will likely be perfect for new audiences freshly introduced to the story.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 65%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 52%
Metascore – 48%
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 3, 2020

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, War
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: TSG Entertainment, Piki Films, Defender Films, Czech Anglo Productions, 20th Century Fox Argentina, 20th Century Fox Brazil, 20th Century Fox, Big Picture 2 Films, Forum Hungary, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Odeon, Press Play Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Taika Waititi, Christine Leunens
Actors: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates, Luke Brandon Field, Sam Haygarth, Stanislav Callas, Joe Weintraub, Brian Caspe, Gabriel Andrews, Billy Rayner, Robert East

Blurb from IMDb: A young boy in Hitler's army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.

Selina’s Point of View:
After watching this film, I’m more convinced than ever that the controversy was unwarranted.

It’s easy to see the words ‘World War II’ or ‘Holocaust’ and get pissed off when they’re paired with words like ‘comedy’ – but making any definitive statement about a work of art before consuming it is simply ignorant.

Yes, there was comedy in this film. There were bright colors, jokes, and a ridiculous depiction of Hitler. Still, this is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen.

The beginning of Jojo Rabbit made me feel like I was living in an alternate reality where Germany won World War II. It was horrifyingly like a director from that reality created a comedy. Good was bad. Down was up. It was insanity. People were laughing all around me as the jokes and awkward situations fell upon the brainwashed 10-year-old German boy on screen.

It was almost easy to miss the threads of truth woven into the jokes. From the moment I saw those threads, I knew what Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, The Inbetweeners, Thor: Ragnarok) was trying to portray.

The movie wasn’t just from the point of view of a fly on the wall watching Jojo. It was directly from his perspective, despite not being in first-person.

It started out bright and funny, though twisted. Just about a 10-year-old living his life after being exposed to a propaganda machine since birth. After finding the Jewish girl in his home, however, Jojo began to see the truths of his world. Colors became more muted. The funny parts became cringy and absurd.

By the end, the horrors of war were inescapable. And, at one point, the humor ended completely until the moment that Germany lost, when people could be free again.

It’s true that different people are going to take away different things from Jojo Rabbit, but what I saw was intense. It was a point of view I have never seen before and it put an emphasis on a pain experienced by people I’ve never considered.

From the trailers it’s easy to expect something that makes light of the war and/or the Holocaust, but that’s not what the movie is.

Jojo Rabbit was intense, bizarre, and mental. It was aesthetically beautiful, hard to look at, bitter, painful, and – yes, at times – funny. But it didn’t shy away from anything.

I loved it. I paid to watch it, and I have no regrets.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 95%
Metascore – 58/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 8.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5

Movie Trailer: