Friday, March 27, 2020

Spenser Confidential (2020)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Spenser Confidential (2020)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Length: 111 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Film 44, Netflix, Original Film
Director: Peter Berg
Writer: Sean O’Keefe, Brian Helgeland, Ace Atkins, Robert B. Parker
Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, Iliza Shlesinger, Michael Gaston, Bokeem Woodbine, Marc Maron, James Dumont, Post Malone, Colleen Camp, Hope Olaide Wilson, Kip Weeks, Brandon Scales, Ayana Brown, Dustin Tucker, Alfred Briere, Rebecca Gibel, Alexandra Vino, Patty Ross

Blurb from IMDb: When two Boston police officers are murdered, ex-cop Spenser teams up with his no-nonsense roommate, Hawk, to take down criminals.

Selina’s Point of View:
We were going to watch and review The Farewell (2019) today, but we thought that it might not be the best movie to get everyone’s mind off the pandemic. It’s just a little too close to what a lot of people are going through. It is a good movie, though. If it’s something that you feel capable of watching and you think you can handle it, it’s streaming on Prime Video. We’ll likely return to that film at a later date and give a full review at that time.

Instead, we settled on Spenser Confidential. Which is a MUCH different kind, class, genre, and quality flick.

The trailer looked pretty basic, but not too bad. I figured it would be a mindless, action romp. Which it was. The film didn’t disappoint me, because I didn’t expect anything that it wasn’t.

It was mostly predictable. For example, Mark Wahlberg’s character says something near the beginning of the film and immediately I was like: “yup, that’s gonna happen in the climax.” And it did. There was a lot of shit like that, that’s just the most ‘in-your-face’ of them.

Some of the accents were over the top and ridiculous, but I feel like they were meant to be. It fed more into the comedy aspect of the project.

Honestly, even with the paint-by-numbers plot, I kind of enjoyed it. The action was fast-paced and easy to follow. It took my mind off the shit going on around me. The script had some hilarious jokes in it, too.

I LOVED the performance of, and the character played by, Winston Duke (Us, Black Panther, Person of Interest). It is the exact kind of character that most movies would have turned into a meathead sledgehammer. Instead, we got this new age-y, tough-but-approachable, strange kind of guy. He felt like he had depth, but I would have like to hear more about his backstory. What landed him in that house with the main character? They yada-yada’d that a little too hard for my liking. Especially since he seemed too upstanding to really be there. It’s a plot hole.

Mark Wahlberg (Instant Family, Deepwater Horizon, Ted) was who he normal is in these films. I did like that his character never quite seemed unstoppable. In action movies, especially at the very end, the main character can sometimes feel a bit bulletproof, but Wahlberg’s character never does. He gets hurt, a lot. He gets tossed around, a lot. He loses fights… a lot. I think that’s important to show in these movies and it’s something that not a lot of them do.

Then there was the issue of Post Malone (FishCenter, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Cody Hughes’ Pangea). He did great in his part, but I’ve seen way too much of him in videos and interviews, just being himself. I have trouble buying him as a bad guy. It’s not his fault, he did great, but I watched him on Good Mythical Morning (2012-) and I just can’t see it. That’s on me. That’s part of why I don’t bother with celebrity news and interviews – I don’t want to accidentally take anything into account when I watch a movie other than what you see on screen.

In the end of the film, there’s a 30-second scene that leaves it open for a sequel. The scene feels so forced and badly done that it’s hard to not be left with a bit of unintentional cringe. If they had just edited that part out, it would have been much better.

Still, if you want to get lost in a brain-less, kind-of-funny action film, this could be a great watch. Don’t expect a reinvented wheel and you’ll be fine.

Cat’s Point of View:
I just had an experience, and let me tell you – I’m fairly giddy about it. To be fair, it’s not entirely driven by this particular Netflix Original. It’s the nostalgia ride that I just went on without even entirely realizing why. Boy, do I feel silly for not catching this earlier.

The final credits had rolled and the more I thought about it, the more the characters felt familiar, and yet I couldn’t quite figure out why. It was something I’d missed when I looked at this film for the March 2020 Top 20 Movies to look out for. This was my #6. I’d say it was deservedly so.
Before I get into my journey of feels, let’s talk about this movie specifically.

Hooray, first of all, that as a Netflix original this has been available to stream immediately and didn’t suffer any of the delays or roadblocks that some of the theatrical release films have been experiencing due to the fairly worldwide viral lockdown.

My next thought is that I did end up enjoying the pairing of Winston Duke (Person of Interest, Black Panther, Nine Days) and Mark Wahlberg (Daddy's Home, All the Money in the World, Instant Family) as Hawk and Spenser respectively. There were so many subtleties to their performances that just elevated their roles well off the pages of their dialogue.

While there was considerable darkness in the story, there was also a good balance of humor. Helping that was the take-no-prisoners performance by Iliza Shlesinger (Paradise, Forever 31, Instant Family). I really have to say I was impressed. Most of all, though, I loved Alan Arkin’s (Rendition, Argo, Going In Style) dry and wry humor he brought to the story.

The production quality was great and effectively transported me into this Bostonian world. I had a giggle about the Boston soundtrack offerings, as well.

What blew my mind and had me face-palming at the same time is the fact that this movie is loosely based on the same books as a show that I enjoyed watching as a kid (even if my parents weren’t aware that I was).  Yep. This is the same Spenser as in Spenser: For Hire (1985-1988).  My dad loved to watch this show at night and I would be camped out behind his recliner peeking around the side to watch along waaay past my bedtime. Spenser and T.J. Hooker (1982-1986) were the two shows I remember doing this for the most.

I’d say Wahlberg captured well the essence of the beloved character Robert Urich (Ice Pirates, The Lazarus Man, Night of the Wolf) portrayed for so many years. I hadn’t thought about a revival of these stories mostly because it’s hard to see someone else in Urich’s shoes. Good on you, Wahlberg. If this becomes a franchise, carry the name well. 

I don’t remember the character of Hawk as clearly, unfortunately – so I can’t really draw any comparisons there. I’m afraid as a youngster I fixated on Urich a bit because he so closely resembled my dad.  Even so, Duke has excelled in every role I’ve seen him in so far and I expect great things from him in the future. There was so much depth to his character that I sincerely hope gets explored in the next (hopeful) installment of these characters' shenanigans.

I’d recommend this movie in a heartbeat. It has the heart of the old, but brought into the current times. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 38%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 59%
Metascore – 49/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.4/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
CinemaScore – None

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Toss a Coin to Your... Witcher Review

Series Name/Year: The Witcher (2019-)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Drama
Length: Season 1, 8 Episodes, Run-time range of 47-67 min. per episode
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films, Platige Image, Sean Daniel Company
Creator/Showrunner: Lauren Schmidt
Directors: Alik Sakharov, Charlotte Brändström, Alex Garcia Lopez, Marc Jobst, Edward Bazalgette, Sarah O'Gorman, Geeta Patel, Stephen Surjik
Writers: Andrzej Sapkowski, Lauren Schmidt, Haily Hall, Declan De Barra, Beau DeMayo, Jenny Klein, Sneha Koorse, Mike Ostrowski
Actors: Henry Cavill, Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Mimi Ndiweni, Mecia Simson, Eamon Farren, MyAnna Buring, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Adam Levy, Joey Batey, Lars Mikkelsen, Royce Pierreson, Anna Shaffer, Jodhi May, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Therica Wilson-Read, Judit Fekete, Máté Haumann, Daniel Burke, Mahesh Jadu, Emma Appleton, Josette Simon, Maciej Musial, Shaun Dooley, Anna-Louise Plowman, Tobi Bamtefa, Terence Maynard, Nóra Trokán, Martin Berencsy, John Wolfe, Aisha Fabienne Ross

IMDB Blurb: Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts.

Cat's Point of View:

The catchy tune from The Witcher has exploded all over YouTube and the memeverse, and I just couldn’t resist the temptation. (Translate that as it’s stuck in my head – help!) Come, Valley of Plenty, and let’s take a look at this new Netflix Original series.

I had simultaneously two reactions when I first saw that this series was in production. I completely geeked out because I had heard so many great things about the games from a friend. He had talked it up to me so well that the most recent game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) was the birthday present I gave to myself last year. (Sadly, I just haven’t had the time to play it yet. That changes imminently!)

At the same time, I tilted my head to the side a little as I regarded Henry Cavill (Stardust, Immortals, Night Hunter) and that long white hair. It took me only a moment to get past a small mental block that was stuck from seeing him in roles such as the Superman character. The moment didn’t last long, however, because I realized what a physical presence and subtle humor that Cavill was going to bring to the role, and I got even more excited in anticipation of the series.

The world has been craving something to fill the fantasy epic void that Game of Thrones (2011-2019) left in its confounding and controversial wake. I wasn’t sure if it would grab me, much less a wider audience as thoroughly as Thrones did. Nevertheless, I set out right away to learn as much as I could about this new incarnation of the Witcher franchise.

What I hadn’t realized from at-length discussions with my friend was that The Witcher games are based on books. (More titles to add to that ever-growing to-read list of mine.) This is important to note because the series is generally based on these written works by Andrzej Sapkowski, rather than the video games. The production team did make great strides to ensure that some iconic visuals were incorporated into the episodes, but story content from the game vs. the plot of the series may significantly vary – depending on how off-book the games have taken the tales and their respective characters.

That being said, after watching the entirety of this series I couldn’t honestly care less if the games were or weren’t entirely represented here. The cinematography is splendid, the visuals are stunning, the creatures well-rendered, and the fight scenes are intricate and impressive. There’s something here for everyone – adventure, romance, comedy, war, gore, drama… I could go on.

Getting back to those fight scenes. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Cavill performed all of his own stunts. If you think about it, if he didn’t we’d be looking at something tantamount to the video games from the editing required so I’m thankful that it worked out this way. Honestly, watching Cavill in a swordfight is a thing of beauty.

No, I’m not talking about his jacked physique for this role. I’m talking about his fighting style and how he was able to flow through the movement so well. He was praised by the production’s fight-master, a veteran of stunts and stunt-design Vladimir Furdik (Skyfall, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Game of Thrones), for how well he picked up the skills and fight choreography and the speed at which he did so. It does very much appear that he’s dancing through the movements.

It’s also evidence of the dedication Cavill has given to this role. Aside from his ability to make pages of dialogue obsolete simply by nuances in his performance, it was a role that he actively sought out – even before there was a script – because he was a fan. They auditioned 207 other actors, though, before he was officially cast.

Though, of course, Cavill may be playing the title character here, but is by far not the only noteworthy cast member helming memorable characters. Though relatively new faces, Freya Allan (Captain Fierce, Into the Badlands, The War of the Worlds) and Anya Chalotra (Wanderlust, The ABC Murders, Sherwood) playing Cirilla and Yennefer respectively, are killing it with their characters as well. While Ciri feels a bit lost in this landscape, it is likely meant to be due to her individual quest and the circumstances. Yennefer’s journey provides a well-nuanced arc through the series.

There does also seem to be another common thread between this series and the games – likely born of the source material, of course – the shenaniganry of Jaskier (or Dandelion) played by Joey Batey (The White Queen, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, Knightfall). Batey’s character brings some much-needed levity to balance out the darkness of this fantasy world. I’d have to say that he’s probably my favorite character in the series aside from its titular figure.

The only downside that I can think of with the series is some of the framings of the story. It’s a little confusing at first because timelines flip back and forth from past to present-day – through all of the core triad’s stories. Once you realize that’s happening, though, and get some reference on events, then it’s easier to go with the flow.

Showrunner Lauren Schmidt (Private Practice, The Defenders, The Umbrella Academy) has indicated that with this introduction season out of the way, the foundation has been laid to get the story moving more cohesively into the future That’s right! There WILL be a season 2 of The Witcher – we’re just not sure when it will actually be released yet. Target release has been set for sometime in 2021. While production had started already in February 2020, they had to halt and shut down for the time being due to the global pandemic crisis. Still, there is hope. At this point, it’s a matter of when they can resume – not if.

In the meantime, we have this first 8 episode run to watch while we’re staying at home and practicing the all-important social distancing right now. It’s unthinkable how the world has changed in just the course of a month or so. One thing can be counted on, though – through books, movies, ‘television’ series, games, and other means of constructive escape we can take the edge off for a little bit and be transported elsewhere to focus on fictional characters’ problems instead of our own. For this reason, The Witcher is a great way to spend roughly 8 hours in a world of fantasy and monsters. 

P.S. -  For a fun extra, Netflix released a short video of Henry Cavill reading from a book the series is based on. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 92%
Metascore – 53/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 8.3/10
CinemaScore – none

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5

Series Trailer:

Monday, March 23, 2020

13 Movies Available On Demand Early

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the way most of us have to live our lives. Without that ability to go out to the theaters or work or a friend’s house or the library – or wherever else you usually go – it’s easy to start feeling claustrophobic and depressed.

Right now, essential personnel are working to save our bodies while teachers are online trying to save our minds. Those are very important things, but our emotions need tending to as well. Everywhere we look numbers are rising and the news just serves to induce panic. In this time, we turn to entertainment more than ever to help us stay sane.

Trust the Dice will still be doing reviews, but not as many. For the time being, we’re going to be restructuring a little. We want to bring you ideas and sources on how to keep yourself, and the people you love, entertained. We’re going to collect resources that can be used for distraction, education, hope, and anything else we can think of.

People have asked us to do lists of isolation or outbreak films, and we may do one or two of those, but we’re going to concentrate more on sources that guide minds away from our current situation.

Our Top 20 for next month will be replaced by a list of new movies being released online in April. We also have plans to draw your attention to newer TV shows, various YouTube genres, comedy specials, free educational video games, silly games available on Steam, games you can play online with your friends, we may go into stuff like anime, books, Japanese game shows, or TikTok. We’ve even compiled a list of board games that can be played solo.

Check back throughout the week. We will have our normal Mon/Wed/Fri schedule, but we may post extra here and there as time and sources allow.

For today, we are going to talk about movies that were already released in theaters and are about to, or have, become available to us at home early. Keep in mind, not all of these films will be available for free.

I’ll be separating them by service. There won’t be any of these movies showing up on Netflix, at least not at first.  


Onward (2020) – April 3 – Free with Subscription

Onward was the last film I got to see in theaters before I had to lockdown with my family. I absolutely adored it. Despite a slow start, it really picked up and I feel like I am able to place it among the Pixar greats in my mind. If you have Disney+, it’s worth looking out for.

However, since this is the only movie I know of that’s being released early on Disney+ I don’t think it’s enough for me to recommend getting a new subscription to the service.


Zombieland: Double Tap – April 3 – Free with subscriptions including Starz attachment

Granted, this one was probably closer to hitting the streaming services than the majority of the other films on this list, but I thought it fit here anyway.

I loved Zombieland (2009), but I never got the chance to see the sequel. Believe me, it was not by choice. I’ve heard good and bad things, but I have to appreciate the comedy/horror mash up even more in these upsetting times. Anything that gives us permission to laugh while the world burns around us is going to draw my attention more than usual.

I am thinking of adding Starz to my Hulu subscription for this one, but I’ll have to see what else is included.

Parasite – April 8 – Free with subscription

There’s no doubt that the awards won by Parasite make it more intriguing to audiences that haven’t seen it yet. It’s not often that a foreign film captures the interest of people in the US the way this one has.

I think the difference in social classes is becoming more obvious in our society, especially with the virus being a factor. Parasite really touches on those differences. It’s an interesting watch. There’s a lot of comedy woven into the creepiness and thrills. It definitely deserved to be a part of the award season. My own vote was for 1917 (2020) to win (which can be found on Amazon Prime), but I can understand why it went to Parasite.

Amazon Prime Video

Cats – Available Now – $19.99 to Buy

I almost didn’t even bother to put this on the list.

I expressed concerns about the trailer for Cats back in December when it came out. I worried that the CGI would be awful and… well… it was. If you’ve been curious about how bad, now may still not be the time to take a look. It actually costs more to watch on Prime Video than it did to see it in theaters. I can’t recommend it, by any stretch of the imagination. Still, it’s there. You have that information now. On to more worthy films.

Emma – Available Now - $19.99 to Rent

This is definitely a few steps up from the previous movie. Still, there are some things to consider.

I’m not going to speak to the quality of the film. I did see it, but it’s not the type of flick I enjoy regardless of quality. I feel it would almost be unethical for me to include my personal feelings on it here. That said, what I WOULD consider is that the price listed on Prime Video is higher than what one would have spent to see it in theaters, and that’s just the price to rent. I understand that production companies are trying to make back their money, but the price listed is a little ridiculous and I think that’s going to be the case for the majority of what’s coming out.

The Hunt – Available Now - $19.99 to Rent

Ok, so I rented this one. I had to. I was DYING to see it. After all that controversy back when it was supposed to come out, my interest was through the roof. I had my ticket in hand, ready to go. The theaters just closed before I had a chance to see it. So, yeah, I spent extra money to see it on demand.

The question here is whether or not I regret it. I don’t, for the most part. Seeing the film eased my curiosity. In the end, that’s really what I was paying for. If I knew what the movie actually was beforehand, I likely would not have spent this much to see it. It’s decent. I’m not saying it’s a bad film. I’m just saying it’s not worth THAT much. That said, if you’re as curious as I was, go for it.

The Gentlemen – March 24 - $14.99 to Preorder

I really wanted to see this one in theaters, but never got the chance. I like Guy Ritchie and the trailer looks pretty solid.

There’s a great cast involved in The Gentlemen and it’s got some incredibly high reviews from both audiences and critics. Of the films being released to video on demand early, this is the one I’m most likely to go for. The price is fair, I have the interest, and the promos are great. This might be the right kind of comedic adventure to get your mind off of things for a couple of hours.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – March 24 - $19.99 to Preorder

There’s been a lot of shit-talking where Birds of Prey is concerned. The best thing I can say about my personal experience with it is that I saw it once on a free ticket… and then I saw it two other times in the theater and I was happy to pay for it. Simply put, I really loved this film.

I love Harley Quinn. I thought this movie paid a beautiful homage to her comic books and I think Margot Robbie is perfect as the titular character. It has its minor flaws, but for the most part Birds of Prey gives you the best perspective of the batshit crazy main character while remaining intensely fun. If the price is how much it would cost to buy the film, I will likely pay it. If it’s just the rent price, however, I’d wait a little. It’ll still be just as good in a few months and there are plenty of other options at the moment.

The Way Back – March 24 - $19.99 to Preorder

This was on my schedule to see in theaters after The Hunt (2020). Unfortunately, both tickets went unused as the coronavirus spread and theaters in my area shut down.

I’ve heard some very good things about The Way Back. Not the least of which is that it’s a return to form for Ben Affleck. Judging from the plot and trailer, I’d imagine Affleck related to this role a little more than some of his more recent parts. If that’s the case, then this could be one of his best works. It sounds a bit like an 80s sports movie on first look, but most of the reviewers I follow say that’s not how it is. I’d really love a chance to find out for myself.

Bloodshot – March 24 - $19.99 to Preorder

Bloodshot isn’t getting the best reviews from critics… but audiences are another story.

If I had to take a guess, from the scores I’ve been seeing on Rotten Tomatoes, Bloodshot isn’t reinventing any wheels. There’s not likely a whole lot that makes it stand out from all the other violent action films out there. Aside from that, it has to be – at the very least – a hell of a fun movie. It has a 78% from audience members. That means that there’s either impressive fight choreography, or great acting, or some really amazing effects. It’s possible there’s a mix of those involved. Either way, on paper, it looks like a great distraction film.

Dolittle – March 24 - $19.99 to Preorder

I had a free ticket to Dolittle and opted not to use it. I decided I’d rather watch other movies that came out around that time. The truth is, I had the ending spoiled for me, and I was not impressed with what I heard.

Because I hate spoilers, I’m not going to divulge what I was told and I’m not going to judge anything about the film, because I have a bias against it. That said, I still think it’s important for me to let you guys know that it’s going to be out and available. If you have kids running around your house that are bored and driving you nuts during this lockdown, it might be worth it to rent Dolittle just to give yourself a couple of hours of silence.

I Still Believe – March 27 - $19.99 to Preorder

This is another film that isn’t really my ‘type’. I just don’t tend to gravitate toward faith-based films. Some catch my attention; this wasn’t one of them.

That said, faith is important right now. Whether you put your faith in science or god or something else, doesn’t matter. When fear is so wide-spread, it’s important that there’s something to have faith in. So, if this is your thing – just know it’s available. Still expensive, but available.

Sonic the Hedgehog – March 31 - $19.99 to Preorder

I really liked Sonic the Hedgehog. That’s not even because I grew up with a Sega instead of a Nintendo, either. It was just a genuinely good film.

This would be a great movie to use to occupy your kids for an hour and a half, especially if you intend to watch with them. It wouldn’t be a tough watch for parents. It’s something decent to rent for the whole family. Maybe, by then, the people in charge will realize that the prices they’re putting these movies up for is a little steep.