Friday, June 12, 2020

Revenge (2017)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Revenge (2017)
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: M.E.S. Productions, Monkey Pack Films, Charades, Logical Pictures, Nexus Factory, Umedia, uFund, Canal+, Ciné+, Cinémage 12, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Investisseurs Tax Shelter, A Contracorriente Films, Albatros Film, Another World Entertainment, Cinemundo, Cinéart, Future Film, Fênix Distribuidora de Filmes, Neon, Odeon, Rézo Films, Sony Pictures Releasing, Vertigo Releasing, A Contracorriente Films, Film1, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, Koch Media, Netflix, Shudder, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE)
Director: Coralie Fargeat
Writer: Coralie Fargeat
Actors: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens, Vincent Colombe, Guillaume Bouchède, Jean-Louis Tribes, Barbara Gateau

Blurb from IMDb: Never take your mistress on an annual guys' getaway, especially one devoted to hunting - a violent lesson for three wealthy married men.

Selina’s Point of View:
I find revenge-plot films to be highly cathartic. Sure, they’re usually extremely bloody, and they’re often low-budget with poor acting, but I still come away from them feeling satisfied. They always feature people doing disgustingly awful stuff, but those people then receive the punishment they deserve. You don’t always see people getting what they deserve in real life.

I was pleasantly surprised when this film came out swinging with decent acting and quality shots. Already it felt elevated.

Of course, there are scenes that are difficult to watch. They’re supposed to be difficult. When you see what happens to the main character, you’re supposed to be sickened and angry. Otherwise the revenge aspect wouldn’t work.

They don’t get overly graphic with what happens to the main character, but I would still issue a trigger warning. Either way, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. It shows only enough for the audience to be able to empathize with the main character and root for the antagonists to die.

After that, the movie has no problem being gratuitous as fuck with the violence against. There were so many times where something happened on screen and my entire body would tense up and I’d make those sounds some people make when they’re seeing something super painful – like they can feel it. By the end of the film, my muscles were screaming at me because they’d been tense for so long.

It is bloody and unapologetic in how it handles the revenge aspects… which I liked. What the hell is the point of revenge porn if punches are pulled.

Revenge is just a good, old-fashioned, fuck-‘em-up story. You want to see the antagonists suffer, and you do. You want to see the main character rain down vengeance, and she does. It’s not perfect. I couldn’t stand the soundtrack, and there were some errors where physics was concerned, but it was solid.

Honestly? I’d probably watch it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
Revenge has been on my ‘to-watch’ list, and I was rather giddy when I saw that this movie had come up for review.

Before I get into my opinions on the film, I need to caution viewers that if you want to be completely surprised about the core elements of this tale, don’t watch the trailer. It gives away some key moments of the movie that may just lessen the impact of the scenes. If you don’t mind spoilers, then by all means proceed – just don’t be surprised when the film doesn’t offer you much more than an expansion on the teaser.

Revenge released in a month where there were several female badass characters to choose from on the big screen and I remember being excited about that. I was also curious as to what in the world they’d included in this film for the production team to entirely run out of fake blood during production.

There are a good number of disturbing scenes in this film. It is definitely not for the queasy or faint of heart. Revenge is, for that matter, quite aptly rated. It’s a hard R rating, so keep that in mind if watching where youngsters might be roaming around. It’s not just based on gore – there are some disturbing sexual situations as well.

The story highlight’s the main character’s sheer will to live, in spite of the odds stacked against her. I enjoyed some of the subtle imagery laced in to underscore the characters’ ordeal and the revenge theme.

It was a fairly solid film in general, I was just disappointed that there wasn’t a lot more to it than I’d already seen in the trailer. I wouldn’t steer someone to a Shudder subscription for this movie alone, but if you’ve already signed up for the horror streaming network and you get stuck on what to watch, Revenge isn’t a bad choice.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 56%
Metascore – 81/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.4/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
CinemaScore – None

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

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Clearing (2020)

Streaming Service: Crackle
Movie Name/Year: The Clearing (2020)
Genre: Horror
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Lexicon Entertainment, Core Vision Films, The PanOptic Group, Room In The Sky Films, Alpha Studios (II), Crackle Plus
Director: David Matalon
Writer: David Matalon
Actors: Liam McIntyre, Aundrea Smith, Steven Swadling, Sydelle Noel

Blurb from IMDb: A father must battle his way through the zombie apocalypse to save his daughter.

Selina’s Point of View:
The beginning impressed me. It jumped right into the action and showed some aspects of the zombies that made it feel like they were going to have a different kind of lore behind them. It felt like The Clearing was gearing up to be something that set itself apart from a typical zombie film.

Unfortunately, the film didn’t deliver on the promises it made in the opening.

The story never went into what was behind the zombies at all. So, even though we get these walking dead creatures that seem to burst at strange moments and that are brimming with insect life the bodies are too new to attract on their own, we get no explanation. I hate that. I want to know why they’re different than I should expect. In this case, it’s just something done to try to up the ‘gross’ quotient.

In reality, it was a by-the-number, stay-on-the-safe-side, nothing-new kind of zombie film. I mean, I could have timed the events that took place. In some cases, I did.

Then there were other parts that just didn’t make sense. Either they were full-on plot holes, or they were the equivalent of a person surviving a nuke by hiding in a fridge. I’m sorry, but I just can’t suspend my disbelief that hard.

This was my first experience on Crackle.

I always thought that Crackle had a pay wall. Since there was only one thing I wanted to see on it [Snatch (2017-)], I didn’t feel like it would be worth the monthly payment. Once I found out it was 100% free, I decided I had nothing to lose.

Although I’m not a fan of this film, I have been browsing around the app and I still feel glad I made the account. There’s a lot more available on it than I thought there’d be. The ads are a little obnoxious, but compared to the decent options you get, I still say it’s worth pausing the ad-blocker.

Cat’s Point of View:
I am fairly certain that The Clearing is going to stick with me for a while. I can’t shake this lingering feeling of dread that built steadily throughout most of the movie. I have to say, I am looking forward to seeing what other stories David Matalon (Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, In 3 Days) might have up his sleeve for the future, considering this was his feature-length film debut as a writer and director.

The Clearing has everything you would expect from the zombie-horror genre, and then some. This production didn’t try to change up the recipe too drastically, however. A good number of the tried-and-true staples are present. There’s just a little extra kick. Not only that, but there are some impressive action elements here. The fight choreography won me over. I found myself holding my breath without realizing it at times because I couldn’t see how the main characters were going to make it out of the predicament they found themselves in.

I think they struck gold casting Liam McIntyre (Spartacus, The Flash, See You Soon) in the role of the father. His previous experience had to be a great bonus here.

I was caught hook, line, and sinker by this story. There was enough character development so that it wasn’t just a zombie gore-fest going on, and I was thoroughly invested. I identified especially well with the frustration of the father trying to relate to his tween-age daughter. My nearly 17-year-old practically requires an act of congress to get her to put her phone down. Heaven help me, when I encourage her to go outside and do something; you’d think I’d just asked a vampire to walk into the sun. I digress.

Another thing I appreciated about this film was the fact that they kept it focused on the microcosm of the titular clearing area, rather than shifting back and forth between the world-at-large dealing with the zombies and the main character. It was a smart play, considering the Crackle platform has regular commercial breaks. The focus was entirely where it was supposed to be so that the intermittent interruptions didn’t distract as much as they could have from the story. I’ll come back to that, though.

The only thing that worked against this movie was the fact that it had commercial interruptions. Granted, I am not mad that they existed in general. That’s the trade-off for the Crackle streaming platform remaining free. My issue was how the film was seemingly cut up by the commercials.

When you watch made-for-TV movies, there are strategic pauses or scene transitions that allow the commercials to break in on a regular basis without interrupting the flow of the story. That wasn’t the case, here. It was as if the ads were on a timer and were simply unleashed upon a theater release film so that they barged in like the Kool-Aid man through a wall. It was very jarring at times.

I have to take this with a small grain of salt, considering the concept of the movie was rather relentless, so there weren’t exactly a lot of great places to break in – but it felt like it could have been better organized in a Crackle exclusive. It didn’t detract from the movie too much. It was still a great experience – especially for free.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Last Days of American Crime (2020)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Last Days of American Crime (2020)
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Length: 148 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Radical Studios, Mandalay Pictures, Radical Pictures, Netflix
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writer: Karl Gajdusek, Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini
Actors: Neels Clasen, Edgar Ramirez, Tony Caprari, Norman Anstey, Brandon Auret, Daniel Fox, Sean Cameron Michael, Nathan Lynn, Tamer Burjaq, Jonathan Pienaar, Anna Brewster, Michael Pitt, Sharlto Copley, James Richard Marshall, Terence Maynard, Tiyler Kriel, Leandie du Randt, Patrick Bergin

Blurb from IMDb: In the not-too-distant future, as a final response to terrorism and crime, the U.S. government plans to broadcast a signal making it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit unlawful acts.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Last Days of American Crime caught my attention initially because of the dystopian/heist hybrid-genre. I was looking forward to seeing how the two, usually very separate, genres would work together. I’m a huge fan of dystopian stories and I can usually get behind a good heist. So, I figured, it could be a great combination.

Having seen the film, I can tell you what I forgot.

In dystopian stories, world building is absolutely essential. Creators need to get their audience to understand what the unfamiliar world in the film is all about. In some cases, you even need to know how it got to that point for the story to hit right. In the Hunger Games (2012-2015), we know that the districts rebelled against the capital and the capital saw it as a failure of control, so they put a firmer strangle-hold on the districts as they moved forward. In Snowpiercer (2013), we know that there came an ice age and that humanity was condemned to live on a train in order to survive. So they were settled into the locomotive according to caste. With Tank Girl (1995), we know that a comet struck Earth causing a massive drought.

In each case of a successful dystopian story the environment and settings are the most important aspects to develop. The world in that genre is completely foreign to us, so we need to know the ‘whys.‘

Now, a heist film is the complete opposite. We don’t need to understand the world. It’s our world. We know the specifics. Thievery is illegal. Cops will be called. Stakes include jail and possible bodily harm from officers trying to apprehend the main characters. We don’t need a rehash on that. What we need is to care about the characters most of all.

What sets heist movies apart from each other is how much we care about what happens to the characters. In Ocean’s Eleven (2001), the characters are charismatic and we learn a bit about what brought them there, how they’re interwoven. In The Fast and the Furious (2001), we learn so much about the characters that we accept the undercover cop changing sides because it feels natural.

Trying to combine the two genres is difficult, because there’s NO room for error. Where a heist film could let the setting speak for itself and a dystopian story can just let the characters react to the setting, a combo of the two needs to be 100% on top of things from both areas.

I don’t really feel like this film shined in either aspect. We wound up with depthless characters because they needed to spend so much time on trying to show the setting, but they spent so much time on the way the characters interacted with each other, that they didn’t really succeed in showing us why the world was the way it was.

In the end, we wound up with a very long movie that felt like it took an eternity to get started. When it did finally get to a good part, it wasn’t enough to make me forget how long it took to get there. I mean, the actual heist and the ending was pretty well done, but I didn’t care about the characters or the setting by that time in the film. I just didn’t.

Cat’s Point of View:
Summer is knocking on the door of the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s usually the season for action blockbusters. In this crazy time, I’ve been wondering what might change with this year. Can I tell you how excited I’ve been that drive-in movies are making a comeback? My own preference is that they never really should have gone away… but I digress.

My point is that The Last Days of American Crime, as a Netflix Original, didn’t require a big screen and yet it made a solid impact as a respectable summer action movie. Here’s to hoping that this ball keeps rolling with strong releases.

This film was unsettling.

At its core, the movie was a well-executed and grimy heist flick. The cast was strong with well-known actors such as Edgar Ramírez (Point Break, Joy, Bright) and Sharlto Copley (Open Grave, Free Fire, Gringo) onboard. There were also relatively fresh faces among the key players. Anna Brewster (The Reeds, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, Versailles) and Michael Pitt (Seven Psychopaths, Ghost in the Shell, Run With the Hunted) were most notable among those.

There’s a little bit of everything you’d expect with an action-crime thriller – enough to keep you on the edge of your seat and wondering if the main characters are really going to make it or not.

At the same time, there’s an undercurrent of dread that amplifies everything else as a countdown clock ticks away steadily in the background.

The timing of this movie is uncanny, as the world joins sanitized hands in protest against police brutality. The Last Days of American Crime’s plot touts a signal that can inhibit people from committing acts that they know would be law-breaking. What would happen if the police force could get around that? The film does a pretty good job in illustrating how scary that actually is – if real-world actions hadn’t already given us a preview of the frightening things that could happen.

There are a few loose threads in the plot – mostly involving the nebulous references to money. If that was more adequately explained, I may have missed it. I was generally inwardly reeling from the concept of the signal and how horrifyingly bad that would be.

The perspective of a ‘good cop’ doing his best within the system was a subtle but important element in the plot as well. What happens when even a ‘good guy’ gets pushed too far in this film’s new world order? Copely was amazing bringing that element to life.

I would certainly give this one a recommendation as both an excellent cautionary tale and also good old-fashioned action entertainment. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 0%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 24%
Metascore – 16/100
Metacritic User Score – 2.3/10
IMDB Score – 3.8/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

Movie Trailer: