Saturday, August 29, 2020

Chadwick Boseman - A Real Life Hero

I was watching Captain America: Civil War, the first appearance of Black Panther, when my best friend texted me: “Did you hear about Chadwick Boseman.” I just about had a heart attack and googled him immediately.

I’m not going to write too much here. Understand, it’s not because he doesn’t deserve beautiful tributes from all over the world, it’s because I’m heartbroken.

The shock I felt at hearing that he’d been struggling with colon cancer was extreme. In the past four years, Boseman went through the production process of several films – the majority of them action. I had no clue he was doing it while fighting through chemo and surgeries. I can’t imagine how physically difficult that much have been for him. Still, he did it.

Acting must have been something he loved very much.

He made his mark. He was only here for 43 years, but Boseman made himself a powerhouse in that time. Even if I ignore the rest of his films, his portrayal of Black Panther alone is something that will be shaping the cinematic landscape for years to come.

Some people turn up their noses at the superhero films, but I will always believe they’re wrong. Superheroes come to the forefront of pop culture when times are bad. When there’s excess violence and uncertainty in the world. When justice seems to be unattainable. We need our fictional heroes in order to inspire real ones.

And, where heroes are concerned, Black Panther (2018) was a thing of beauty. It was a blockbuster film that allowed black children to see themselves on screen. While there is so much racial tension in the world, that’s so incredibly important.

Here was this black-led, black-acted film that just exploded onto the screen. It was an amazing film that celebrated a culture behind the fiction. And there, standing as tall as any other protagonist in the MCU, was Chadwick Boseman. He brought a poise and a power to Black Panther that is impossible to forget. More importantly, he made it all impossible to ignore.

Chadwick Boseman is an icon. He fought all his life to do what he loved, and in the end his work helped allow others to dream.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Shed (2019)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Shed (2019)
Genre: Drama, Horror
Length: 98 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: A Bigger Boat, Sideshow Pictures, Film & TV House, RLJE Films, Defiant Screen Entertainment, Films4You, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Kino Swiat, Open Sesame Company, Volga
Director: Frank Sabatella
Writer: Frank Sabatella, Jason Rice
Actors: Jay Jay Warren, Cody Kostro, Sofia Happonen, Frank Whaley, Timothy Bottoms, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Chris Petrovski, Francisco Burgos, Uly Schlesinger, Mu-Shaka Benson, Drew Moore, Caroline Duncan, Sal Rendino

Blurb from IMDb: A hunter gets bitten by a vampire and runs into a shed to avoid sunlight. Stan, a 17 y.o. on probation, and his supervisor grandpa live next to it. Stan's bullied high school buddy can use a monster.

Selina’s Point of View:
Yes. This is what I want in a vampire film.

I’m not the biggest fan of the romantic teen vampire. I like my vamps to be creepy. I want them to be otherworldly, psychopathic murderers. That’s just how I take my blood-sucking undead. I especially prefer when project creators stick to the ‘death by sunlight’ stereotype. I feel like that, and drinking blood, is what makes the vampire genre. Most everything else is negotiable.

One bit of the vampire personification I didn’t like, was how more were created. I just don’t like when they’re created quickly and by a single bite. That screams ‘zombie’ to me. I prefer a more in-depth siring process. Vampire are a more complex creature, so their creation should match that.

I’m just digressing all over the place. Let’s get to the movie.

I was almost turned off to the film in the first few minutes. It seemed campier than the trailers had suggested it would be. As it turned out, it was just a strange introduction. After that scene, the entire flick picked up and felt a lot easier to get into. 

Looking back, I do understand the need for what was shown – but starting on it was a little rough.

I’ll admit there were some predictable jump scares and a few overdone tropes utilized, but for the most part, it was a much more original story than I thought it would be. That’s saying something, because I’ve really wanted to see this one, ever since I saw the trailer. My expectations were already high.

If anything, I’d say there were moments that flashed me back to Fright Night (2011). Not in content, but through the feel of it.

Although The Shed did follow a bit of a recipe, it still managed to feel fresh. Everything was just a little bit tweaked, and that made it feel new.

I enjoyed just about everything involved in this film – straight down to the soundtrack. If you want to turn off your brain for a while and just watch something easy and interesting, and you’re a horror fan, this is definitely a good pick.

Cat’s Point of View:
Was The Shed the best horror movie I’ve seen this year? Probably not. Was it worth my time, in general? Sure.

I think every kid who’s got it rough, whether through home life, bullies, or the occasional combo of both, wishes that they could have their own personal monster to take out all the bad elements. The Shed brings us a bit of a morality tale about a teen that has the opportunity for that very thing dropped into his lap…or, well, crawled into his shed.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t find it easy to lose myself in this one. I’m not sure if it was just because I was tired after the stress of the storm, or if it was the movie, itself. Because of that, I’m really trying to be as positive as possible and not rip into it too harshly.

I did connect in some small way, at least, with the protagonist. I felt bad for his circumstances, wanted to throttle his best friend, got irked at his bullies, and rooted for his love-life. I’m not really sure where things started falling apart for me.

The titular shed, on its own, was fine. Overall, the effects employed were effective. I’m glad that the majority were practical effects. Aside from a few minor plot holes and a couple of characters that just felt a little phoned-in, the story was generally solid as well.

If you’ve already got a subscription to Shudder, I wouldn’t steer anyone away from this movie. I wouldn’t get the subscription for the sole purpose of watching it, however. Albeit, there’s a gigantic selection of amazing horror films and shows on the service so if this flick bores you, there’s always something else that might work better!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 65%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 2.3/10
IMDB Score – 4.4/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5

Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Into the Dark: Crawlers (2020)

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Into the Dark: Crawlers (2020)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Hulu, Blumhouse
Director: Brandon Zuck
Writer: Catherine Wignall, Mike Gan
Actors: Giorgia Whigham, Pepi Sonuga, Cameron Fuller, Olivia Liang, Jude Demorest, Zachary Roozen, Virginia Louise Smith, David Carzell, Tensaye Yosef

Blurb from IMDb: On Saint Patrick's day-a night of wild parties and drunken revelry-three unlikely friends band together to save a college town from a vicious horde of body-switching aliens.

Selina’s Point of View:
The story visited in Into the Dark: Crawlers had some potential, but I just don’t think it was executed all that well.

I don’t have a sweeping dislike of narration. When done well, it’s fine. It’s a quick and easy way to get some exposition without it feeling clunky and shoehorned into scenes. It’s not one of my favorite things, but it’s a valid choice for movie creators to utilize.

The problem is that this film went a little heavy-handed with the narration. When I believed the voice-over should be done, I was still subjected to about 15 more minutes of it. Then there were other short scenes of narration placed throughout the story as though it were being used as a framing device. If it was an anthology, that would have been fine – but it wasn’t. In the end, the narrator went on to describe some stuff I really didn’t care about, before it left off with an amusing little punchline.

If it would have just been about 5 minutes of narration in the beginning, then that cute last couple of lines at the end, it would have been much better for the movie. When you spread narration through the whole thing like that – you get way more tell than show. That’s not a good thing.

Otherwise, the film was decent. They took on some incredibly controversial topics and did it with honesty. It wasn’t always pretty, but I could relate. I also liked the way they handled the preternatural creatures that they used for the story. It wasn’t the same old thing.

I wouldn’t out-right warn people away from Into the Dark: Crawlers, but I’m not going to be going out of my way to recommend it, either.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m loving Hulu’s Into the Dark series more and more with each film we watch.

There were so many things worth noting within this movie that I’m struggling a little to decide what to discuss first. When in doubt, roll dice!

I was a bit giddy to see that this film was set on St. Patrick’s Day. There really aren’t that many horror flicks outside of the Leprechaun (1993) franchise that utilize the holiday. It cleverly sets up the perfect backdrop for this story amidst a college party town. Drunken shenanigans everywhere can be the perfect smokescreen for much mischief. I also got a kick out of the concept of a ‘pub crawl’ playing off the film title and the premise of the movie’s antagonists.

This movie also gets two thumbs up from me for utilizing some fresh faces with the cast here. I was more invested in their performances and didn’t have that little voice in the back of my mind connecting dots as to where I’d seen them before. This movie is one of those you just turn off your brain for a little bit to enjoy, anyway. Though, admittedly, I did recognize Giorgia Whigham (The Punisher, The Orville, Sierra Burgess is a Loser), playing the story’s narrator.

I feel like everyone’s got to have that one friend or, an acquaintance, that’s a bit on the fringe and buys into conspiracies and whatnot. What if one of their most far-fetched ideas was actually true? That’s pretty much what the concept of this movie is, and it’s executed in an imaginative way.

In spite of the slightly wacky premise, the production was of a quality that it gave in-the-moment believability to the fresh look at what might be considered today’s take on pod-people. The concept that this was a ‘show within a show’ via the narrator’s video blog allowed for some really interesting moments that added value to the story, as well.

I also appreciated that this story highlighted a persistent problem that quite often has gotten swept under the proverbial rug in the past. Of course, I’m speaking on the topic of date rape culture – especially in the college crowd. I am loving that this film snuck that in there as a sticking point within the plot, and gave voice to the perspective of someone who had been preyed upon and their personal aftermath.

Into the Dark: Crawlers flew by and was over before I realized it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely encourage anyone looking for a fresh take on an old trope to give it a shot. This would be a great flick for anyone finding themselves stuck at home on a St Paddy’s Day, as well!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.6/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

P.S.: Bloopers during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Take Me to Paradise City - A Look at the Upcoming Series

(by Cat)

Promo banner source:
Back in May, I learned some really exciting news. Fans of the movie American Satan (2017) will be happy to hear (if you haven’t already) that the film is getting a sequel – by way of a series. That’s right, instead of a couple hours to whet your thirst for details and more of The Relentless, we’re going to get roughly 8 hours.

Before I get too far into what we know about this story continuation, let me touch on the movie for a moment. For some reason, I had thought we had reviewed American Satan already when, in fact, we hadn’t. For that reason, I will attempt to give as few spoilers as possible and go over the film with you briefly so there’s a little background behind why I’m doing my geeky squee-clap-of-joy at this sequel news.

American Satan was my #20 pick on my Top 20 list for movies releasing in October 2017. The placement wasn’t a reflection of my opinion of the film, but rather the controversy that titles along these lines generate. It was getting a limited release for only a handful of screens outside the film festival circuit. I think I wrote one of my longest blurbs ever, in hopes that this movie would get a fair shake. (If you’re interested, you can read the article here.)

For those who want a TL;DR version, let me sum it up. The movie is a modern-day retelling of the centuries-old folk tale of Faust put in a setting of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. It’s a story of a young band, The Relentless, trying to make it big in L.A., and the price of cutting corners and taking too-good-to-be-true shortcuts. The film explores what selling your soul to get ahead becomes, and how important it is to value self-integrity, friends, and family. All of this is carried out by a phenomenal cast and also put to an epic soundtrack.

Among the cast are members of actual bands. Johnny Faust is played by Andy Biersack (Legion of the Black, Average Joe, American Satan) of Black Veil Brides and Leo Donovan is played by Ben Bruce (Asking Alexandria: Live from Brixton and Beyond, American Satan, What Now) of Asking Alexandria.

Although Biersack and Bruce are both musicians in their own right, and the other cast members equally talented, the movie was unable to use Biersack’s voice due to contract stipulations with his record label at that time. The vocals for The Relentless are provided by the front-man of Palaye Royale, Remington Leith (American Satan, Palaye Royale: Mr. Doctor Man). 

Image courtesy Paradise City Facebook
Part of the good news to be shared about the series is that this dynamic will continue. Although Biersack is now under the Sumerian Records label, run by writer/director Ash Avildsen (The Warrior Show, What Now, Palaye Royale: Mr. Doctor Man), everyone is on the same page that Johnny Faust’s singing voice is already well established and there’s no reason to change it.

There have been some re-casts among the existing American Satan characters. Three are particularly of note. Band member Dylan James, formerly played by Sebastian Gregory (Accidents Happen, A Heartbeat Away, Shooting in Vain), will now be represented by Bruce’s real-world band-mate James Cassells (Asking Alexandria: Through Sin and Self-Destruction, At Hell's Door: Behind the Scenes at Hellfest, Asking Alexandria: Live from Brixton and Beyond).

Interestingly, the role of ‘Capricorn’ within the series will give us a bit of a twist with Brooke Lyons (The Inner Circle, 2 Broke Girls, Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector) instead of the movie’s 'Mr. Capricorn' played by Malcolm McDowell (Death Race 2050, Walk of Fame, Abnormal Attraction). Of course, this shouldn’t be a terrible shock if you’ve seen the movie.

Image courtesy Paradise City Facebook
I think I’m the most excited about the new version of Lily Mayflower. I’m not sure if it’s known why Jesse Sullivan (Enigma of Being Awake, American Satan, Don't Stop Don't Speak) couldn’t carry forward her performance of the character to this series, but I’m really amped up to see the role in the hands of Bella Thorne (Ratchet & Clank, Amityville: The Awakening, Midnight Sun). I think she’s going to take the character to the next level. So far, the stills and what snippets are offered in the teaser are simply fire.

That’s not all of the casting news. This series really just keeps getting better, the more layers I’ve peeled back surrounding it. Fans of Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014) will be happy to hear that Mark Boone Junior (30 Days of Night, The Birth of a Nation, Ghost House) is returning to reprise his role from the film. He’ll be joined in the series by two of his former SoA castmates, Drea de Matteo (Desperate Housewives, Shades of Blue, A Million Little Things) and Ryan Hurst (Rango, CBGB, The Walking Dead).

Image courtesy Paradise City Facebook
The one sad note that makes this series a little bittersweet for me is that this production captured the final role of Cameron Boyce (Descendants, Mrs. Fletcher, Runt). The former Disney star is greatly missed and had an unquestionable talent for both acting and music. If you’re a fan, maybe keep some tissues handy while watching Paradise City. You may need them. Boyce plays a central character in this first season, and thankfully had completed all of his filming at the point of his untimely passing. Following the tragic news, the show’s Instagram shared that a portion of the show’s proceeds would be going to The Cameron Boyce Foundation to honor the late humanitarian actor.

I could keep going about this star-studded cast, but there’s even more to unpack about what’s known regarding the series so far.

It’s been said that you don’t have to watch American Satan first to understand this series, but fans of the film will certainly get a lot more out of the experience while they learn more about The Relentless band members on a more detailed level. The series looks to go into some of the characters’ backgrounds and give us a look at what makes them tick.

Image courtesy Paradise City Facebook
I know I’m excited to see the interplay between Biersack and Boyce’s characters as they take on the themes of seasoned pro mentor and idolizing rookie. Further, who knows what’s up Capricorn’s sleeve following the shocking events within the movie?! There’s bound to be some amazing new music underlying everything, as well.  

I have so many questions that I’m hoping the series answers – and I have faith that it will. The show’s Instagram gave us another tease in late June, promising that the release date and network home for the series would be released ‘soon.’ I know I can’t wait, and I’m on pins and needles in anticipation. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen the movie yet – there’s some time still before Paradise City drops. Give it a whirl! If you're not sure where to find the movie to stream, give JustWatch a click and you'll see all of the currently available options.

Without further ado, you can watch the Season One teaser for Paradise City below. 

P.S.  - For a little lagniappe, below you'll find the YouTube interview of Ash Avildsen, Andy Biersack, and Ben Bruce by hard-hitting rock journalist Matt Pinfield. (Runtime approx 30 min.) WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS