Friday, July 17, 2020

The Old Guard (2020)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Old Guard (2020)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 125 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Denver and Delilah Productions, Dune Films, Image Comics, Marc Evans Productions, Marc Platt Productions, Netflix, Skydance Media
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
Writer: Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernandez
Actors: Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Natacha Karam, Mette Towley, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Ward, Shala Nyx, Majid Essaidi, Joey Ansah, Andrei Zayats, Olivia Ross

Blurb from IMDb: A covert team of immortal mercenaries are suddenly exposed and must now fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve liked a lot of Netflix films in the past, but this one is different. Not only did I enjoy it, but I would have happily paid $20 to see it in theaters. I don’t just mean now, while we’re all starving for real world comforts, I mean even before the coronavirus locked everything down. This would have been amazing on a big screen.

I have to tell you, between this and Extraction (2020), I’m going to start expecting a lot more from Netflix – and that means judging their films more on the level of theater-releases than I currently do.

Moving on.

As epic as the trailer looked, I was still a little skeptical. It was a straight-to-streaming movie and it seemed to have some very recipe-qualities to it. I figured it would be a good time, but it probably wouldn’t give me anything all that new.

What it actually gave me was a film that could very well be the start of a top tier series. Something I could watch with the same fervor and loyalty that I have for something like the Marvel movies.

I could discuss why for about six-thousand words, but most people wouldn’t read that, so I’ll condense.

Most importantly, the action was on point. The fight coordinator for The Old Guard, Daniel Hernandez (Avengers: Endgame, Logan, John Wick: Chapter 2), is a genius. Every single fight was so well done that it was like art work. Yeah, you have to appreciate the stunt doubles in that case – but the choreographer (or, in this case, the fight coordinator) is the design master. He’s worked on a ton of amazing films, but this was the first project that gave me the desire to look him up and memorize his name. From now on, when I see him involved in something, I’m going to want to be all over it.

Now, keep in mind, I’m not a bullet counter. I have no idea how many bullets are in a clip for any given gun. So, if you do, and the count’s off, maybe you’ll have a different perspective. For me, though? Every fight was choreographed to perfection and performed with the precision of a ballet.

Now that I’m done praising the stunt team; the actors were outstanding as well. Charlize Theron (Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tully) was perfectly believable as an immortal warrior. She had a presence about her that was been impossible to ignore. KiKi Layne (Chicago Med, Native Son, Captive State) felt like her character, a younger fighter just learning how to utilize her abilities to her benefit. Meanwhile, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Laundromat, The Mustang, The Danish Girl), Marwan Kenzari (Ben-Hur, The Mummy, Aladdin), and Luca Marinelli (Slam, Let Yourself Go, Martin Eden) were incredibly in sync and made the idea that they were a millennium-old team believable.

Kenzari and Marinelli also made their love story feel like it belonged – it didn’t seem shoehorned in like it sometimes can. It felt right.

Then there was the plot. I adored the way everything thing was subtly foreshadowed and laid out for the audience. Every character had their own intensely deep story and connections, while still managing to make perfect sense when put all together. Exhibiting Big Pharma as the enemy worked on so many levels.

I think The Old Guard was exceptional. It was left open for a sequel, and I will definitely be watch when that comes out.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was so excited for The Old Guard to hit Netflix. I generally love narratives involving immortals. This flavor of immortal lore seems to put a bit of a spin on Highlander (1986) type immortality… except there’s no battle to be “the only one” or quickening or anything like that.

Needless to say, right off the bat I was down with the general premise of a band of immortal mercenaries fighting for the side of good across the ages. I think the movie did well in reflecting on the upsides and downsides of that premise.

I also really enjoyed that we get to see how these beings tick as far as bringing fledgling immortals into the fold. The concepts there were really interesting and well-executed.

Charlize Theron’s involvement with the movie is what initially caught my attention before I even learned of the plot. She has played one badass female character after another. This film was no exception. I was on a rollercoaster of emotions with her character’s jaded outlook and the weight of multiple-lifetimes-worth of experiences. She wasn’t the only exceptional member of the cast, however.

I absolutely adored the dynamic between the two characters played by Luca Marinelli and Marwan Kenzari. They brought some really solid chemistry, pathos, and even humor to the table. Every moment of their screen-time was believable and well-executed.

KiKi Layne was also a great choice for the ‘newbie’ to the immortal band of brothers-in-arms.

This film was adapted from a series of graphic novels. Of course, that means it’s something else to add to my ever-growing to-read list.  Apparently, a sequel is in the works and that has me rather giddy. 

I’d have to say this is one of the best things that Netflix has put out recently, and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 81%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore – 7.0/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5

P.S.: There's some articles and images during the credits that show the way the immortals have altered history through the years.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Palm Springs (2020)

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Palm Springs (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Limelight, Sun Entertainment Culture, The Lonely Island, Neon, Hulu
Director: Max Barbakow
Writer: Andy Siara
Actors: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons, Peter Gallagher, Meredith Hagner, Camila Mendes, Tyler Hoechlin, Chris Pang, Jacqueline Obradors, June Squibb, Tongayi Chirisa, Dale Dickey, Conner O’Malley, Jena Friedman, Brian Duffy, Martin Kildare, Lilli Birdsell

Blurb from IMDb: When carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honor Sarah have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other.

Selina’s Point of View:
Palm Springs has a familiar plot. A lot of movies utilize a time loop in their stories, and it’s pretty difficult to get something new out of it. Happy Death Day (2017) was decent, but there was a definite recipe quality to it. It’s normal with this kind of film, and stories rarely – if ever – deviate.

This one was something special, though.

You don’t enter the story in the beginning here. I don’t mean you come in at the end and then see the beginning later, either. I mean that you never see the beginning. When you first get into it, it’s clear that Andy Samberg’s (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Brigsby Bear, Take the 10) character has been stuck in this loop for a while. He’s reached that acceptance phase already. He’s lived through his Groundhog Day (1993), only it never ended for him.

Right off the bat, that changes things. We don’t have the go through the whole part of the story where he tries to figure out what’s going on, he already knows. That leaves time for so much more.

There is a depth to Palm Springs that I did not predict. On top that, it was funny. I spent almost the entire time laughing my ass off. Still, when it wanted to get emotional, it excelled at that too. I teared up a few times.

I expected Palm Springs to be a decent film. It absolutely exploded through my expectation, though. It was impressive, to say the least. I would recommend this one to just about anyone. Without a doubt.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 90%
Metascore – 84/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.2/10
IMDB Score – 7.6/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5

P.S.: There’s a short extra scene at the beginning of the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 13, 2020

Greyhound (2020)

Streaming Services: Apple TV+
Movie Name/Year: Greyhound (2020)
Genre: Action, Drama, History
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Stage 6 Films, Bron Creative, Zhengfu Pictures, Sycamore Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Playtone, Apple TV+, China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Aaron Schneider
Writer: Tom Hanks, C.S. Forester
Actors: Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham, Matt Helm, Craig Tate, Rob Morgan, Travis Quentin, Jeff Burkes, Matthew Zuk, Joseph Poliquin, Casey Bond, Josh Wiggins, Josh Wiggins, Michael Benz, Grayson Russell, Ian James Corlett, Maximilian Osinski, Dominic Keating, Dave Davis, Tom Brittney, Chet Hanks

Blurb from IMDb: Early in World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m going to start off by talking about the best part of the film. Tom Hanks (The Post, Saving Mr. Banks, Toy Story) is now, and will always be, a national treasure. He is the best of us and an amazing actor. Watching the Navy playfully rib the Army about Hanks moving to their team was one of the funniest things leading up to the release of Greyhound.

Unfortunately, that’s where I need to pause on the good things for a moment.

The entire thing is in naval jargon. You’re bound to see some of that in any military/war movie. It would pull you out of the story if people weren’t talking like their characters should be in the situations shown. The problem is that the film never diverts from the code so that laymen can have an easier time understanding what’s happening.

It’s hyper-realistic, to a fault.

Greyhound makes you a fly on the wall of a ship crossing the Atlantic during World War II. There’s that instant tension because you know the brutality of that war. There are moments where you hear German transmissions that really make you feel like there are killers stalking the convoy. In almost all ways, this film puts you on the ship. It is heart-pounding and breath-catching.

The thing is, if they had cast anyone but Tom Hanks as the Captain – the movie would have sucked.

Simply put, there were times that I had no fucking clue what was going on. If it wasn’t for Hanks being the level of actor he is, I would have been hopelessly lost. His expression, the tone in his voice, the subtle limping… that’s what portrayed to me the gravity of the situation. I didn’t understand half the script.

I also feel like the miniature love story wasn’t really needed. They could have gotten the same effect by just having the Captain look at a picture from his pocket or something – but even that would have been unnecessary. It felt shoe-horned in and pointless. You don’t need it to sympathize with the main character. His actions during the battle do that.

This is the kind of movie you have to concentrate on. You can’t be looking at your phone or cleaning the house while you’re watching. It’s not made to be background noise. All the nuance is in the way people react to the main character and how he emotes. If you miss something visual, you’re going to have a problem. Unless, of course, you’re military personnel.

I feel like military personnel are the people who are going to get the most out of this. They won’t get lost in the jargon and they’ll still have the benefit of Hank’s performance. If I were going to recommend it to anyone, I’d recommend it to them first.

Cat’s Point of View:
The first thing that comes to mind before I even get into reviewing the movie itself is a funny anecdote. Greyhound is another film on the growing list in the meme-verse as proof of why it’s not safe to travel with Tom Hanks – U-boats, plane crashes, and pirates… oh, my. (I couldn’t help it.)

Back to the movie.

While Hanks is beloved for his comedies, he excels at drama – Greyhound has that in spades. Once the film picks up steam it’s fairly relentless with both tension and action alike. I felt like I’d been awake and battle-harried just as long as the captain by the end of the movie.

While World War II battle movies make me a little maudlin and I force myself to watch them because of my grandfathers’ service. I’m generally not a huge fan of the genre. I tend to start tuning out when military jargon gets tossed around rapid-fire. This film was pretty thick with the nautical military verbiage. If Hanks wasn’t the captivating and charismatic actor that he is, I likely would have zoned right out fairly quickly after that started.

I appreciated the cinematography and effects employed to capture the feel of the battle at sea. The casting was also well done. I bought all of the crew’s performances. It was also a touching moment when I realized that Hanks got to share this movie with one of his sons, Chet Hanks (Project X, Shameless, Empire). I was surprised and excited to see Lee Norris (Zodiac, Gone Girl, A Christmas Wish) on the ‘big screen,’ as well. I haven’t seen him in much since One Tree Hill (2003-2012). I hope this marks the beginning of an uptick in projects for him.

I’m afraid that I don’t have much else to offer for this wartime movie. This genre simply isn’t my preference and it’s hard for me to really ‘enjoy.’ That being said, it’s a well-executed maritime story and a solid film offering. Those that appreciate the genre more will likely get a lot out of it.

If this sort of movie is your cup of tea, and you have an Apple TV+ subscription, I would recommend giving Greyhound a chance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 79%
Metascore – 62/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
CinemaScore – None

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

Movie Trailer: