Friday, July 24, 2020

Into the Dark: Good Boy (2020)

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Into the Dark: Good Boy (2020)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Hulu
Director: Tyler MacIntyre
Writer: Aaron Eisenberg, Will Eisenberg
Actors: Judy Greer, McKinley Freeman, Steve Guttenberg, Ellen Wong, Maria Conchita Alonso, V.J. Foster, Elise Neal, Travis Schuldt, Veronica Diaz Carranza, Chico, Parisa Fakhri, Tatiana Carr, Aaron Eisenberg, Iman Nazemzadeh, Mina Joo, Marina Valle, Dylan Arnold, Jessica Jade Andres

Blurb from IMDb: After being forced into freelance work, 39 year old journalist Maggie Glenn is encouraged by her boss to adopt an emotional support dog. She does so, unwittingly becoming embroiled in much more than she bargained for as the dog is not what he appears to be, and far more dangerous than your average pet.

Selina’s Point of View:
There is only one good thing I have to say about this film, and it’s not something that actually has anything to do with it. The music in the beginning reminded me of the Seed music from Final Fantasy 8 and it was a hit of nostalgia. That’s it. That’s my good thing.

The rest of the film was intolerable.

Look, I’m definitely one of those people that see Judy Greer (The 15:17 to Paris, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Archer) as underutilized, but this film was not the one to help. It used her, but not well.

The plot seemed so interesting, but they shoe-horned in this ‘biological clock is ticking’ story for the main character that was just ridiculous. Had her doctor talking about her 39-year-old eggs with words like “geriatric”.

Now, I know that’s something that the medical community used to do decades ago, but that’s been out of practice for a long time. It was outdated information when this film came out. They stopped because the word doesn’t fit the situation.

I didn’t like it. If done well, that kind of story can work. It does, in fact, in many different creative projects. But when it’s done like this it feels off-putting and stereotypical. Maybe it’s time to retire it.

The way they executed the main story was not great either. You know from the start exactly how it’s going to end. There’s only one surprise by the time the story winds down and it just involves some disturbing, and completely unnecessary, imagery.

I will never recommend this one.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to admit, I’m a little on the fence with Good Boy. I was excited to see that another Into the Dark installment had landed on our schedule. Considering the relatively good experience that we’d had with Uncanny Annie (2019), I had some hope. Cautious optimism is generally a good rule of thumb when dealing with any sort of anthology.

Let’s focus on the positives first. I found myself really investing in the frustrations of the socially awkward main character played by Judy Greer. I wanted to root for her. I giggled at the nostalgia factor of Steve Guttenberg’s (Lavalantula, Lez Bomb, Heckle) casting, and genuinely bought his portrayal of a corporate schmuck. There were some other stand-outs among the cast as well, such as McKinley Freeman (Second Chance Christmas, Illicit, I Got the Hook Up 2). I was even on board for the dynamic between his character and Greer’s.

Of course, then we arrive at the titular character of the Good Boy. The puppy performer was absolutely adorable.

That’s where this movie starts to lose me, though.

I’m a bit on the fence with the film’s portrayal of an ‘emotional support animal.’ I understand that any pet can really be utilized to boost someone’s mental health. Unfortunately, too often people confuse these with ‘service dogs,’ and it makes it harder for people who have canine partners that have gone through extensive (and expensive) training. Though, in the movie’s favor, they do mention the distinct difference that this pooch wasn’t a service dog. I don’t want to nitpick, though.

I appreciated how most of the scenes involving canine mischief are left up to the viewer’s imagination. You know something is different, but you haven’t come face to face with it directly. It felt like there was a huge buildup for a reveal at the film’s climax. Then I felt let down. While I understand this production may not have had the biggest budget to work with, I think they could have gotten more bang for their buck going in a different route on the creature effects.

I don’t think that the practical effects that they chose to employ did this story any favors. The screen time for the climactic events is so very brief, it seems almost that the effects were tossed together as an afterthought. It took me right out of the moment, unfortunately.

All told, I’m still interested in watching more of the Into the Dark anthology film series, but this is not one of the episodes I’d recommend to introduce it to someone.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5

Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Miss Meadows (2014)

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu Free, Tubi
Movie Name/Year: Miss Meadows (2014)
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Length:  88 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Vie Vision Pictures, Atlantic Film, Eagle Films, Entertainment One, Home Box Office, Lighthouse Home Entertainment, Programs 4 Media, River, Three Lines Pictures
Director: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Writer: Karen Leigh Hopkins
Actors: Katie Holmes, James Badge Dale, Callan Mulvey, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Ava Kolker, Stephen Bishop, Kate Linder, James Landry H├ębert, James Keane, Graham Beckel, Gregory Allen Smith, Anna Moravcik, Tyler Corbet, Milly Hopkins, Harry Zinn, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Charlotte Labadie, Aubree Stone, Amy Kravockuck

Blurb from IMDb: A story centered on a proper elementary school teacher who moonlights as a vigilante.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to say, Miss Meadows was certainly unexpected. I don’t remember this movie from back in 2014, though it had some stiff competition at the box office at that time. (Can we say Baymax?) If anyone is looking for something new and interesting to watch, this movie would not only provide quite the intriguing change of pace but also offer something unique to the vigilante genre as well.

Another good word to describe Miss Meadows is quirky – it applies well to both the character and the film, itself. I can’t say that I’ve seen its like before, and that’s quite the feat in this age of Hollywood recycling every good idea that’s come before into reboots, remakes, and re-hashes oh my.

The concept of this movie is deceptively full of whimsy. At its core, however, is something darker and more substantial.

Of course, some might not like the formality of the dialogue. It did make some scenes feel a little stiff at times, but I have to feel that the inherent awkwardness of it was intentional. It was perfectly in tune with the somewhat anachronistic protagonist.

Another thing I adore about this movie is the purposeful, yet seemingly random incorporation of dance into the story. It really doesn’t surprise me, as this film was used as a vehicle to help expose the children cast members to the arts – which was noted in a line within the credits. Katie Holmes (Jack and Jill, The Giver, Logan Lucky) has long been a supporter of such projects for quite a while. She was one of the 4 founding members of the Dizzy Feet Foundation in 2009, after all. That organization is all about supporting and promoting dance education. I digress.

As for Holmes’ role in the movie, I honestly couldn’t picture anyone else in the part. Her portrayal of this character felt so emotionally honest. I could feel how internally broken the character was, and how it fueled her life choices, as everything played across Holmes’ body language. 

I am a bit disappointed in the way the trailer for this movie was packaged. It seems to try and spin the film as something of a thriller when it’s less fast-paced and is sparse on the edge-of-the-seat moments. I worry that those watching the trailer may be disappointed when watching the actual movie because of that. On the bright side, it did mention the one descriptive phrase that nails the heart of this odd, yet enjoyable, vigilante tale – “Pulp Fiction Mary Poppins.”

Of course, while Holmes dominates the screen here, she certainly wasn’t the only notable cast member. I really enjoyed the dynamic between Miss Meadows and the sheriff. James Badge Dale (The Grey, Donnybrook, The Kitchen) really captured well his character’s moral quandary.

I always get a bit giddy with nostalgic feels when I see Jean Smart (Life Itself, A Simple Favor, Watchmen) involved with a project. Designing Women (1986-1993) remains one of my favorite shows from yester-year, and every time I see Smart on the screen, I get all sorts of fuzzy nostalgic feelings. It does help that she’s immensely talented.

If you prepare yourself for the fact that this isn’t your typical tale, and oddness is the name of the game for Miss Meadows, this movie can be quite touching and compelling. There’s some really profound stuff going on under the surface here. I will probably recommend this movie to many if only to open a discussion about it afterward.

Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 25%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 34%
Metascore –  43/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.5/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 20, 2020

Scare Package (2020)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Scare Package (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 107 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Paper Street Pictures, Shudder
Director: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn
Writer: Courtney Andujar, Hillary Andujar, Cameron Burns, Anthony Cousins, Ben Fee, Frank Garcia-Hejl, Emily Hagins, John Karsko, Aaron B. Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn
Actors: Jeremy King, Noah Segan, Toni Trucks, Chase Williamson, Baron Vaughn, Zoe Graham, Byron Brown, Chelsey Grant, Luxy Banner, Josephine McAdam, Aaron D. Alexander, John Bloom, Allan McLeod, Jocelyn DeBoer, Melanie Minichino, Johnathan Fernandez, Dustin Rhodes, Haley Alea Erickson, Jon Michael Simpson, Mac Blake, Hawn Tran, Frank Garcia-Hejl, Justin Maina, Gabrielle Maiden

Blurb from IMDb: Chad, the owner of Rad Chad's Horror Emporium, recounts a series of bone-chilling, blood-splattered tales to illustrate the rules of the horror genre to his newest employee.

Selina’s Point of View:
Honestly, I don’t think I like movie anthologies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind an anthology series; like American Horror Story (2011-), The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), or Black Mirror (2011-). In those cases, each season or episode is just one story and the show-runners put all their creativity into it. I love anthology books, because I can read short stories and decide from there if I want to seek out more from each specific author. It keeps me from spending money on writers I may not enjoy.

Anthology films are just tough. They’re rough to judge on an overall basis because of how different the segments are, but they’re also difficult to get right for the people working on it. It’s more likely that the audience will remember the worst of the segments and it’s damn near impossible to get ALL the parts to represent their highest quality.

Scare Package is not the worst anthology I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t even put it in the bottom five. Still, it’s not great.

The framing device was a bit outdated. No one’s watching VHS tapes anymore and, from what I can discern from the posters in the video store, this isn’t a story that takes place in the past. It would have been better to use a collectible store as the setting. It still would have had the same feel to it, with access to films for use as the segments – but it wouldn’t have felt so wrong for the era.

Where the segments are concerned, I did not enjoy the second at all. It was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. It would have fit better in an ABCs of Death (2012) film and I hated those flicks. The first segment had a really original take and it came on before the framing device, which I enjoyed since it touches on cold opens. The third segment had one of the funniest moments of the entire film. I had to pause in order to cackle at it. Aside from that moment, though, it was still pretty blah. The fourth segment was a Halloween parody. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t really do anything extra. It didn’t even really give me anything to laugh at. I did thoroughly enjoy the fifth segment, though. I’d have watched a full 90-minute movie with those characters, actors, and a similar plot. It was too good to be surrounded by the rest of the anthology.

Once the segments play through, we’re returned to the framing device for a closing story line. It’s got a real Cabin in the Woods (2011) vibe. If Cabin in the Woods was made on a much lower budget and fell into the hardcore parody genre. It wasn’t great. I saw what they were going for, and it could have been much better.

The final ending was amusing, though. I gave a small chuckle.

In the end, I wouldn’t direct people away from Scare Package, so long as they understand that it leans more toward hard parody than general comedy. For myself, I’ll likely never watch it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been wrestling with my feelings regarding the movie Scare Package.

On one hand, I get it. Unfortunately, on the other hand, I don’t think it quite hit the mark that it was aiming for. This film aspired to be both a love-letter to the horror genre and a clearly framed anthology like the V/H/S (2012) movies.

Honestly, it felt a little bit like someone had taken V/H/S, Scream (1996), and Cabin in the Woods and threw them in a blender with every 80s horror movie made.

Some of the film was amusing, but I wasn’t over the moon about it. The movie’s self-awareness was both intriguing and off-putting for me. I snickered a few times, but I think I actually exclaimed “really?” to the screen more than once.

This production does have a point in its favor with the effects. It was clear that they got a lot of mileage out of practical effects. There didn’t seem to be much CGI. That’s a good thing, however, because all of the movies Scare Package was paying homage to used very little computer-aided graphics.

If you already have a Shudder account, and you’re seriously bored, this might be an ok film for killing time. I wouldn’t generally go out of my way to recommend it, though.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 82%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 59%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.8/10
CinemaScore – None

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

Movie Trailer: