Friday, February 14, 2020

Marriage Story (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Marriage Story (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length:  136 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Heyday Films, Netflix, Odeon, TriPictures, The Criterion Collection
Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Actors: Alan Alda, Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson

Blurb from IMDb: Noah Baumbach's incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.

Selina’s Point of View:
I short-changed the shit out of this film when it was up for the Top 20 list. The trailers just made it seem like it would be such a basic drama film that ended the way you’d expect films like it to end. It didn’t showcase the best of… well… anything.

Before I go into what I thought of this film, I need to go into my previous statement a bit.

We write a Top 20 every month at Trust the Dice. Whether it’s my month, or Cat’s, we watch every single trailer that we can find – foreign, streaming, independent, blockbuster… hell, if we can find B-movie trailers we devour those too. We compare and contrast them. We use our personal experiences to try and figure out if a trailer is blowing smoke or trying to hard. And, as much as we attempt to judge the trailers on their own merit, we’re gonna make mistakes.

Some great movies are going to be overlooked because of badly made trailers or our own personal taste. Other movies, bad ones, may wind up getting too much recognition from us for the same reasons.

It all comes back to one idea. It’s one that I’ve always tried to keep as the main focus of this blog. And I think it needs some serious reiterating: YOU CAN’T JUDGE A MOVIE BEFORE YOU SEE IT. It’s just a good idea to live by in general. Can’t judge a book before you read it, or a person before you know them, either.

You have moments like with Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman, Shutter Island) claiming that the Marvel films aren’t cinema, or thousands of people bitching online that Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020) is just a bunch of SJW bullshit – in both cases, their wrong and the comments were made before seeing the films. It’s not the right way to go about anything.

We write our Top 20s as a guideline. We want to get the best trailers out for people to see so that you guys can make an educated decision on where you spend your money on your next movie ticket… but our opinions are based on a small amount of information. Even when we do get to see a film before it hits theaters, it’s rarely that early. Always trust your own opinions before you trust ours. And give other works of art a chance, even if it’s not something that you would normally gravitate toward.

A Marriage Story is not the kind of film that would normally seek out, but it was phenomenal. I thought it would get boring at times. I thought it would drag on. It didn’t.

There was more suspense and tension orchestrated throughout each scene than I could have ever expected. It was more well done than just about every thriller I’ve seen in the past 5 years. Maybe longer. At one point, my internet went out while I was watching and I nearly had a tantrum. Not even gonna lie.

Everything about A Marriage Story was so visceral and real. The couple involved was shown in such a light that I could feel myself entranced by them.

I recognized one of the deals they made. My husband is from Long Island and I’m from Brooklyn. He moved to Brooklyn with me at the beginning of our relationship, but moving to Long Island was always something we agreed to do when we had a kid. So, we live in Long Island now. It’s been rough adapting to the different style of living, but it’s starting to feel comfortable. Still, I could see why he might be pissed if I hadn’t followed through with my promise. His home was always here. He made the sacrifice to live in my home city for a while and now the tables are turned. We make compromises for the people we love.

I won’t go too deep into the reasons for the movie couples divorce… but I understood it. I took sides in my head, but I felt for both of them. And the performances by Adam Driver (The Dead Don’t Die, Logan Lucky, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Avengers: Endgame, Isle of Dogs) were flawless. When they cried, I cried. There was never a moment where I got distracted from what they were showing me on screen. Both of them lost the Oscar, but I don’t fully agree with that. For Driver: sure. He was up against Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here, Her, Inherent Vice) in Joker (2019). That was just bad luck for him. But Johansson should have won.

The writer/director, Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America, Fantastic Mr. Fox) also had some bad luck going up against Bong Joon Ho (Okja, Snowpiercer, Mother) and Jin Won Han (Take Point, Okja) for Best Original Screenplay. If Parasite (2019) didn’t exist, however, Baumbach should have won. Hands down.

This film was absolutely Netflix’s best. 100%. I do not know how they could ever do anything better. I’m look forward to finding out.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m not sure where to begin. This time, at least, my initial loss of words isn’t due to frustration with the movie I just watched. It’s quite the opposite, really. Marriage Story was powerful, emotional, and touched on moments in my life that connect me to the story. My eyes are misty and I have a deep craving for a mug of hot tea and some snuggles.

Unfortunately, this movie didn’t make it onto my Top 20 list for the month of November 2019. Part of me regrets that oversight in retrospect. Marriage Story certainly deserves any accolades that it receives. At the same time, I think I understand why I didn’t add it. Movies along this subject matter involving divorced families tend to get emotional for me. My parents separated and ultimately divorced when I was young. Thankfully, their relationship remained friendly and – at least from my point of view – their custody arrangement went smoothly. Even so, I sometimes find films on the subject matter hard to watch. I fled the theater in tears when I attempted Hope Floats (1998) and I haven’t looked back – all due to my visceral reaction to some of the opening scenes of the movie.

I digress…

This story felt visceral and real. I related to each member of this family in my own way. I’ve had friends going through rough times with their relationships. I have friends that have had difficult custody battles. I’ve seen the good and the bad from all sides of the divorcing family situation. Hell… my husband and I have been together over 20 years and it hasn’t all been rainbows and sing-alongs. It’s no surprise that the story was written somewhat based on a real divorce.

My heart bled for the characters. I felt their sadness, anger, care, and frustration. I squirmed when things got awkward, and I found myself truly invested in hoping things would turn out alright.

Adam Driver (The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The Dead Don't Die, The Report) and Scarlett Johansson (Hail,Caesar!, Sing, Rough Night) were amazing in their roles. With the recent movies in the Star Wars (1977) franchise, it’s hard to see Driver outside of his lead role in that saga. This film was able to transport me entirely to a place where I didn’t even consider a hint of Kylo Ren. I only saw Charlie. I am rather impressed with his range – and even his vocal ability.

I would certainly recommend this film for anyone who enjoys a powerful emotional drama – or anyone that needs a good cathartic cry. It wouldn’t necessarily be a good Valentine’s movie, however, so try to save it for something other than Netflix and Chill on this holiday. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 85%
Metascore – 93/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10
IMDB Score – 8.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Quiet Ones (2014)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: The Quiet Ones (2014)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length:  98 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Caffeination, Exclusive Media Group, Hammer Films, Traveling Picture Show Company, Lionsgate, Batrax Entertainment, A Company Hungary, A Company Russia, Alfa Films, Cathay-Keris Films, Delta Films, Entertainment One, Independent Films, Innoform Media, Key Films, Lionsgate UK, Scanbox Entertainment, Umbrella Entertainment, Ascot Elite Entertainment Group, Divisa Home Video, Film & TV House, Film1 Action, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, GEM Entertainment, Tanweer Films, Zon Audiovisuais
Director: John Pogue
Writers: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, John Pogue, Tom de Ville
Actors: Jared Harris, Sam Claflin, Olivia Cooke, Erin Richards, Rory Fleck Byrne, Laurie Calvert, Aldo Maland, Max Pirkis

Blurb from IMDb: A university professor and a team of students conduct an experiment on a young woman, uncovering terrifyingly dark, unexpected forces in the process.

Cat’s Point of View:
Where do I even begin? This movie was a bit of a hot mess. I really try to find positives in everything I watch. I don’t like the tendency that professional critics have of finding ways to tear down projects that they don’t particularly like. That being said, I’m struggling a bit here.

When I searched for John Pogue (U.S. Marshalls, The Skulls, Quarantine 2: Terminal) on IMDb, I learned that he has penned the screenplay or has produced several movies that I have really enjoyed over the years. The Quiet Ones is the second credited movie he has directed. Perhaps it’s the transition from one ‘hat’ to another that he’s still working on? I can only speculate.

The premise of the film is interesting. I watch a lot of paranormal-related shows, as I’m fascinated with such interactions with ‘energies from the beyond’ so to speak. The science behind modern ‘ghost hunting’ specialists is also intriguing. I’m familiar with the theory that a person with latent ability can manifest a poltergeist without even realizing it – especially females entering puberty. To cut to the chase, inducing such a person to manifest seems plausible enough that it should be able to carry the story. I suppose it was moderately successful there – but only by the bare minimum.

The fact that this movie is based on actual events is what lies at the core of what is horrifying to me. To think that a girl was actually put through the experiences that the character Jane Harper goes through is sickening. Whether it actually yielded results or not, it was tantamount to torture.
There are some loose ends waving around in how that process ties with the other plot nuggets that are woven into the film. I feel like I’m left with more questions than anything. That is sometimes the hallmark of a good mystery. In this case, it’s just unnecessarily complicated.

Aside from the annoying shaky-cam that comes with movies that show you the story literally through a character’s camera lens, the audio was a bit disjointed. I get that part of it may have been for dramatic effect and to make sure that jump-scares were more effective. I just found it tedious that one moment sounds were normal, then everyone is talking so softly that you have to turn the volume up and/or rewind to understand what they’re saying. Then suddenly the sound blares up again. It left me scrambling to adjust the volume over and over again since I was watching this movie at night while my family was sleeping. They don’t have the same appreciation of the horror genre as I do.

I wish I could find something more positive to say about this film, alas I could not in good conscience recommend this one. Perhaps die-hard fans of some of the cast members might take more away from the experience. I like the actors well enough, but not enough to give me blinders on The Quiet Ones

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 37%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 25%
Metascore – 41/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.5/10
IMDB Score – 5.1/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5

P.S. There’s a short scene and images during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 10, 2020

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: DreamWorks Animation, Mad Hatter Entertainment, Dentsu, Fuji Television Network, Universal Animation Studios, Andes Films, B&H Film Distribution, CJ CGV Viet Nam, CinemArt, Finnkino, Forum Film Bulgaria, Karantanija Cinemas, NCG Distribution, Ro Image 2000, Silverbird Distribution, Toho-Towa, Tulip Entertainment, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI), Universal Pictures, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE)
Director: Dean DeBlois
Writer: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell
Actors: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple, Robin Atkin Downes, Kieron Elliott, Julia Emelin, Gideon Emery, Ashley Jensen, AJ Kane, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, James Sie, David Tennant

Blurb from IMDb: When Hiccup discovers Toothless isn't the only Night Fury, he must seek "The Hidden World", a secret Dragon Utopia before a hired tyrant named Grimmel finds it first.

Selina’s Point of View:
I don’t care what anyone says. How to Train Your Dragon is the greatest full-length animated film series in existence. I’m including all the Disney movies in that statement – old and new. I know it’s not the popular viewpoint, but I believe it 100%. I haven’t seen the TV series or shorts, however, so I’m just talking in terms of full-length features.

I’ve never seen a film series where every single sequel is just as good, or better, than the last. It’s simply a given that sequelitis will rear its ugly, over-budgeted, bloated head. Except in this case.

The series is very good at mixing young and more mature humor with sensitive and heart-wrenching themes. Throughout the movies we witness the death of a beloved character, the reuniting of a family, the loss of a limb, and the changing of prejudice minds. It’s the way the series touches on those more difficult subjects that keeps me coming back for more. It’s always handled so well, with grace and honor, without stepping out of ‘family film’ territory.

I adored the first film. It’s one of those flicks that has stuck with me since the first time I watched it. It immediately resonated with me for no other reason than how amazing it was. I was so nervous when I saw the second one, and then I wound up loving it.

One of the very best aspects of the films is just how right the creators get the characterization.

Hiccup and Toothless never stop evolving – both individually and together. You can follow their arcs like the writers are holding your hand and walking you through it and it never becomes tedious. It never seems forced. Every growth, every failure, ever success – the story is right there supporting it. The main characters, at the end of this film, are not the same as they were at the beginning of the first. It’s so inexplicably realistic, especially for an animated fantasy series.

This film also touched on self-sacrifice and letting go, without losing the idea of love that exists in relationships – even over distance. I’m not gonna lie, it brought tears to my eyes.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World was my favorite of the trilogy. It was a strong finish to a strong series. It was absolute and satisfying.

I will be watching this movie many times in the future. Hell, maybe I’ll just set up a day to marathon the whole trilogy.

The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to see it in theaters. Some of the imagery in the film was outstanding. I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be on the big screen.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 86%
Metascore – 71/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.0/10
IMDB Score – 7.5/10
CinemaScore – A

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