Friday, October 2, 2020

Scare Me (2020) - Shudder Spree

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Scare Me (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Irony Point, Artists First, Last Rodeo Studios, Shudder
Director: Josh Ruben
Writer: Josh Ruben
Actors: Aya Cash, Rebecca Drysdale, Chris Redd, Josh Ruben, Lauren Sick
Blurb from IMDb: During a power outage, two strangers tell scary stories. The more Fred and Fanny commit to their tales, the more the stories come to life in their Catskills cabin. The horrors of reality manifest when Fred confronts his ultimate fear.

Selina’s Point of View:
Shudder is an all horror, all the time, streaming service. We thought it would be fun to check out what they have to thrill and chill us this Halloween. Their service has a reasonable cost and, in these times, may be more accessible to people who have less to spend. If ever you were going to switch to a horror streaming service, October is the right time. (None of the posts this month are sponsored by Shudder or any companies associated with them.)
A lot of their originals have struck a chord with me, but this is not one of them. It’s a pretty poor start to our Shudder Spree.
I have to start with what I thought immediately upon the films end: You can’t put only 15-minutes of substance into a boring, cringy film and expect it to be good. I get the ending. I get what they were saying. I understand the point of it all. That doesn’t change that it was torture to get through.

Scare Me with its lessons and exceptionally slow start, as well as the whole point of tell rather than show, would work much better as a book – or even an anthology film. As a movie, it’s not very scary and kind of difficult to sit through. There are people who would forgive that because of the interesting 15-minute ending… but I’m not one of them.
Where the content itself is concerned, it does have some good writing advice. Still, the story itself is a little hard to swallow because there’s not a likable character anywhere in the flick. Seriously, not even the cab driver.
Scare Me isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve seen the reviews. I know it’s an unpopular opinion. I still dislike this film.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been fairly addicted to scary tales ever since I brought home my copies of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book trilogy from my scholastic book orders back in middle school. I was so giddy that there was going to be a movie adaptation of those very books that I wrote a whole article about them. Now, given, Scare Me was not set up in the same manner. The description of the film did give me an impression, however, that something similar was likely going to be afoot.
What actually transpired on the screen left me with a forlorn sense of disappointment. While I expected supernatural shenanigans to kick off our month-long Shudder Spree in honor of Halloween… what I got was decidedly not that.
To be fair, there were plenty of shenanigans. I appreciated how the cast quite literally threw themselves into their parts. I loved the voice work and the physicality of some of the bits. The ambiance for chilling tales was perfect. I just found myself fighting the urge to check the progress bar to see how much of the movie was left for them to squeeze the scares into.

I do get it. The film does make sense in a realist way. This was just not what I was hoping for. Disappointment colored the entire production for me once I figured out I likely wasn’t getting what I thought the promo paragraph had promised. There were moments that I got a rush of “oh there it is, now we’re in business,” only for those expectations to be dashed in the next moment. It felt like I was being teased.
The pacing was also sluggish. It just felt like it took forever for not much to happen. Had the film been framed as a playful, if dark, writer’s exercise about killing time during a storm with a dash of intrigue (and I use that word very loosely), it would have been more successful in setting the appropriate expectations.
Alas, with a chasm of regret that this was the movie we had to open with, I can’t say I would recommend Scare Me to anyone -- not for a scary Halloween movie, at least.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 95%
Metascore – 62/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S.: Short mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In October (2020)

According to: Selina
Image by: Christian Wagner

We keep hearing that theaters are going to reopen and then finding out there’s been another postponement. (Wear your damn masks!) We’re going to be optimistic and keep to our original format for the Top 20. We’re considering all films coming out – whether digital, straight to DVD, or in theaters – as eligible for this list. However, we felt the need to still include a disclaimer. (Once theaters are fully opened, this disclaimer will no longer be used.)
There are certain states that meet all the requirements to reopen, and are doing well. In those states, we absolutely support people going to the movies, as long as they remain cautious, and the theaters are following all safety precautions.
However, a lot of states in the USA are opening before medical experts believe they should.
If you live in one of those states, especially those with rising COVID-19 cases, we urge you to stay home. There are a lot of great movies that continue to be released digitally, and we hope you stick with those. We understand that cabin fever is setting in with everyone right now, we’re not immune to it, but put your health and safety – and the health and safety of your family – first.
That said, all the release dates mentioned are tentative. Revisit this article throughout the month, we'll post small updates about postponed films as we are alerted to the delays.
Thank you for sticking with us through these strange times.
20 – Tremors: Shrieker Island (10/20)

Production/Distribution: Living Films, Universal 1440 Entertainment
Director: Don Michael Paul
Writer: Brian Brightly, Don Michael Paul
Actors: Jackie Cruz, Jon Heder, Richard Brake, Michael Gross, Caroline Langrishe, Cassie Clare, Ron Smoorenburg, Brahim Chab, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Bear Williams, David Asavanond, Alexander Winters, Niko Rusakov, Iris Park, Randy Kalsi, Boonma Lamphol, Aukrawut Rojaunawat
Genre: Action
Rated: NR
Length: 103 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Graboids are illegally taken to a new island resort by a rich playboy as a dangerous form of trophy hunting, and Burt Gummer steps up to save the day.
I don’t care how many of these films come out, I will see every one of them.
The Tremors series is just so much fun. It’s dumb and campy and fucking hilarious. The character of Burt Gummer is awesome. Michael Gross (Noelle, Carbon Dating, Power of the Air) is perfect for the Tremors world. He fits. So well, in fact, that I don’t even care that Jon Heder (When Jeff Tried to Save the World, The Ladybug, Ghost Team) is in it. (I’m not the biggest fan of Heder.)
Luckily this one still looks good. It actually looks like it’s got even better graphic quality than some of them – though that may be because the trailer only shows a few seconds of each scene involving the graboids. Either way? I’m here for it.
I think this #7. But if it was #17, I’d still tune in.
19 – Books of Blood (10/17)

Production/Distribution: Fox 21 Television Studios, Fuzzy Door Productions, Hulu
Director: Brannon Braga
Writer: Clive Barker, Brannon Braga, Adam Simon
Actors: Britt Robertson, Anna Friel, Rafi Gavron, Cory Lee, Saad Siddiqui, Andy McQueen, Brett Rickaby, Etienne Kellici, Seamus Patterson
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Rated: NR
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: A journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three tales tangled in space and time.
Anthologies are tough. There are more chances to get something right, because there’s more than one story that’s often written and directed by different people. Of course, that also means that there’s more room for something to go wrong. I think back to anthologies like The ABCs of Death (2012) whenever something like this comes up. There were a few memorably good segments – but the rest was just disturbing and unnecessary.
If my mind goes back to something I didn’t like, why do I keep letting myself get sucked into the genre? That would be a very good question.
I love anthologies in general. Even as books. I’ve found some of my favorite creators through collections of short films or stories. For instance, one of my favorite authors is Jonathan Maberry (V-Wars, The Kill Play, Zombies: A Living History). I first came across him in a book of short zombie stories.
Long story short, I feel like the benefits outweigh the cost where anthologies are concerned.
Now, this one is a little different. There’s only one director and three writers. What I believe that means is that we’ll get to delve into different stories while still having the reliability of one voice. The stories look interesting, too.
Aside from that, it’s based off the work of Clive Barker (Hellraiser, Nightbreed, Candyman) – a horror genius. I think it’s absolutely worth a shot, just based on that.
18 – A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting (10/15)

Production/Distribution: Netflix, The Montecito Picture Company, Walden Media
Director: Rachel Talalay
Writer: Joe Ballarini
Actors: Tom Felton, Indya Moore, Oona Laurence, Momona Tamada, Cameron Bancroft, Tamara Smart, Crystal Balint, Eliza Faria, Ian Ho, Alessio Scalzotto, Ashton Arbab, Linden Porco, Ty Consiglio, Lynn Masako Cheng
Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Rated: NR
Length: 94 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A babysitter embarks on a mission to save a child who's been abducted by monsters.
I’ll admit that the graphics are a little off putting when it comes to the monsters in this trailer, but I still think it looks absolutely adorable.
There’s a real place for overly campy kid films like this one. They definitely appeal to the younger generation, but they can also appeal to parents – even if it’s on a slightly lesser scale. I think there’s even more of a chance that it’ll be watchable for parents because of director Rachel Talalay’s (Doctor Who, The Flash, Tank Girl) involvement. She’s known for some complex projects that draw in people of all ages.
I also like it when the writer of the book is credited for the screenplay as well. It means that fans of the book should be happy as well, though I’m mostly unfamiliar with Joe Ballarini’s (My Little Pony: The Movie, Father vs. Son, Dance of the Dead) work in general.
17 – The Call (10/2)

Production/Distribution: Single Malt Productions, Appreciated Films, BondIt Media Capital, Kalispel Tribal Holdings, Buffalo 8 Productions
Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Writer: Patrick Stibbs
Actors: Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Judd Lormand, Randy J. Goodwin, Brooklyn Anne Miller, Leah Contreras, Toby Leeder, Aidan Bertola, Madeleine Wade, Ciara Hanna
Genre: Horror
Rated: NR
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: In the fall of 1987, a group of small-town friends must survive the night in the home of a sinister couple after a tragic accident brings them to the couple's door.
Two very familiar faces are involved with this film. Lin Shaye (Darkness Falls, Ambition, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) and Tobin Bell (Gates of Darkness, The Way We Weren’t, The Flash) are giants in the horror genre. Involved in the Insidious (2010 -) and Saw (2004 -) worlds respectively, their names carry a lot of faith when it comes to any kind of horror flick.
It’s because of Shaye and Bell that I feel like The Call will be less basic that it initially seems. Putting those two faces together just seems like the right move. Even before I knew the full story, I was ready to see it.
16 – The Craft: Legacy (10/28)

Production/Distribution: Blumhouse Productions, Columbia Pictures, Red Wagon Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Sony Pictures Releasing, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Amazon Prime Video
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Writer: Zoe Lister-Jones
Actors: Michelle Monaghan, Cailee Spaeny, David Duchovny, Gideon Adlon, Nicholas Galitzine, Lovie Simone, Charles Vadervaart, Donald MacLean Jr., Hannah Gordon, Zoey Luna, Julian Grey, Travis Caverhill, Mike Dara, Devin Cecchetto, Chris Tomassetti, Owen Szabo, James Madge, Victor Chiu
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rated: NR
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: A group of high school students form a coven of witches. A sequel of the 1996 film, "The Craft".
The Craft (1996) is super nostalgic. When I was younger, it was THE movie for me. I felt like an outcast and it just resonated. I still look back on it favorably, even though I see some of the flaws now.
On the same note, I see the flaws here as well.
This film is following the trend of too-late sequels that are being thought of as soft reboots that pay homage to the original. It’s part of the remake culture that Hollywood is steeped in and that people roll their eyes at. Still, I can’t deny that the trailer looks really good. It looks good enough that I believe there are teens out there that will resonate with it so much that it will be to them what the first one was to a lot of girls like me when we were younger.
I mean, there was a reason we were all trying ‘light as feather, stiff as a board’ at every sleepover.
I’m looking forward to it. Though, I do understand if others are a little more skeptical.
15 – Death of Me (10/2)

Production/Distribution: Benetone Films, 13 Films, Dobre Films, Envision Media Arts, Media Finance Capital, Golden Screen Cinemas, 30 Holding srl, Eagle Films, Saban Films, Tiberius Film
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer: Ari Margolis, James Morley III, David Tish
Actors: Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Essoe, Kelly B. Jones, Kat Ingkarat, Michael S. New, Angel Ladao, Rome Romanne
Genre: Horror
Rated: R
Length: 94 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A vacationing couple must discover the mystery behind a strange video that shows one of them killing the other.
I really love Maggie Q (Allegiant, Nikita, The Con is On). There’s very little that could turn me away from a film that includes her. She’s a great actor in general, but she shines in physical rolls (action, horror, etc.).
The story also looks interesting. I have no idea what’s going on in Death of Me. I could guess all I want as to how it’s going to end, but I doubt I’d get it right. That’s something that really draws me. I see a lot of movies and that means I’ve gotten very good at pinpointing tropes. I see a few that could be in use here, but I’m not certain. I like that.
It looks like a solid horror film and, with Halloween coming up, I’d say that sounds awesome.
14 – The Mortuary Collection (10/15)

Production/Distribution: AMP International, Trapdoor Pictures, MVK, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Loona Film
Director: Ryan Spindell
Writer: Ryan Spindell
Actors: Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Christine Kilmer, Jacob Elordi, Ema Horvath, Jennifer Irwin, James Bachman, Barak Hardley Sarah Hay, Ben Hethcoat, Mike C. Nelson, Brannan Murray, Michael Bow, Tom Woodruff Jr.
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Rated: NR
Length: 108 minutes
IMDb Blurb: On the cusp of retirement, an eccentric mortician recounts several of the strangest stories he's encountered in his long career, but things take a turn for the phantasmagorical when he learns that the final story - is his own.
Here we have another anthology. Like Books of Blood, there’s a minimal amount of hands responsible for the creation. That means we’re going to get something that sticks to one voice. I am not familiar with the writer/director, Ryan Spindell (The Babysitter Murders, Bully, The Window), so I don’t know what to expect from him. Good or bad, though, I’m more interested in this anthology for one reason.
The framing device is better.
The idea of a mortician going through stories of the weirdest deaths he’s seen with a new hire is super interesting to me. Have you ever spoken to a coroner, or mortician, that’s been in the business for a few decades? Even in real life their stories would lift the hair on the back of your neck. Running with the idea, and adding the supernatural, leaves a lot of room for potential.
We’ll be reviewing this film next month. It’s going to Shudder for it’s release and we’re doing an all Shudder October – in honor of Halloween.
I can’t wait to see it.
13 – Wolfwalkers (10/30) – Ireland

Production/Distribution: Cartoon Saloon, Dentsu Entertainment USA, Mélusine Productions, SIF 309 Film Music, Apple TV+, Child Film, GKIDS, Wildcard Distribution
Director: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Writer: Jericca Cleland, Will Collins, Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Actors: Sean Bean, Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jon Kenny, John Morton, Oliver McGrath, Niamh Moyles, Nora Twomey, Paul Young
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family
Rated: PG
Length: 100 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A young apprentice hunter and her father journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumored to transform into wolves by night.
The animation style of this film brings me back to the video game: Don’t Starve Together. I still play it occasionally, and I really enjoy the style. That said, until it was used in this film, I did not realize how very Celtic it could look.
The way the animation is used in Wolfwalkers is just gorgeous. Whatever else happens in this movie, it will definitely be stunning to watch.
For me, there’s nothing more calming than the sound of an Irish accent, too.
Really, every aspect of Wolfwalkers just works for me. It’s a peek into the Irish culture, it’s pretty, and it’s got a seriously interesting premise. Outside of the animation style I’ve never really seen anything quite like it. It’s gonna be a good time.
12 – Over the Moon (10/23)

Production/Distribution: Glen Keane Productions, Janet Yang Productions, Netflix, Pearl Studio
Director: Glen Keane, John Kahrs
Writer: Audrey Wells, Jennifer Yee McDevitt
Actors: Phillipa Soo, Kimiko Glenn, Ken Jeong, Sandra Oh, John Cho, Brittany Ishibashi, Conrad Ricamora, Margaret Cho, Irene Tsu, Cathy Ang, Ruthie Ann Miles, Clem Cheung, Artt Butler, Edie Ichioka, Robert G. Chiu, Esther Chae
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 95 minutes
IMDb Blurb: In this animated musical, a girl builds a rocket ship and blasts off, hoping to meet a mythical moon goddess.
This film looks absolutely adorable. I love fables, myths, and cultural stories, especially of the Chinese, Japanese, or Korean varieties. So, this one draws me right in.
In this case, the film is based on the Chinese myth involving Chang’e – the goddess of the moon. The story about her in the trailer is a little off… but still interesting. At the very least, the film seems respectful of the culture and the animation style is gorgeous.
It would be a shame if I failed to note that this is the final film that was made with the involvement of the late writer: Audrey Wells (The Kid, A Dog’s Purpose, Shall We Dance). She’s known for writing some really great films, including The Hate U Give (2018). Her voice is unique and, even if this movie didn’t look amazing, it would have still made my list.
11 – Batman: Death in the Family (10/13)

Production/Distribution: DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Director: Brandon Vietti
Writer: Brandon Vietti
Actors: Gary Cole, Bruce Greenwood, John DiMaggio, Vincent Martella, Zehra Fazal, Mihai Tuca
Genre: Animation, Action
Rated: R
Length: 96 minutes
IMDb Blurb: In this very first interactive animated DC movie, you get to decide the direction Jason Todd's fate.
DC animation always brings it.
Personally, I enjoy this arc. I like the idea of Robin developing a different crime-fighting philosophy than Batman after being through something traumatic. It makes sense. I’ve read some of the comics, so I recognize some of this trailer – at least in spirit.
What really intrigues me here is that this is an interactive film. We’ve seen that with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018), which was a lot of fun. In this case, though, these are characters we know and love and have much more of a relationship with. That raises the stakes.
I’m looking forward more to seeing how that interactivity works than the actual story.

10 – The War with Grandpa (10/9)

Production/Distribution: Marro Films, Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films (EFO Films), TRI G, West Madison Entertainment, GEM Entertainment, Film & TV House, Batrax Entertainment, 101 Studios, Diamond Films, Odeon, Shaw Organisation, Ukrainian Film Distribution (UFD), WW Entertainment, Ascot Elite Entertainment Group, EuroVideo, Filmarti, Storm Pictures Korea, VVS Films
Director: Tim Hill
Writer: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, Robert Kimmel Smith
Actors: Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Rob Riggle, Oakes Fegley, Laura Marano, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour, Christopher Walken, Juliocesar Chavez, Isaac Kragten, T.J. McGibbon, Poppy Gagnon, Lydia Styslinger, Joe Gelchion, Colin Ford, Faizon Love, Rutanya Alda
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Rated: PG
Length: 94 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Upset that he has to share the room he loves with his grandfather, Peter decides to declare war in an attempt to get it back.
As funny as this trailer is, the first draw for me was the cast. I mean, there are plenty of hilarious movies that just don’t make my lists because there’s no substance to them or no other draws. In this case, that amusement is coupled with a line-up of talent that can’t be ignored.
Robert De Niro (Dirty Grandpa, The Irishman, Joker), Uma Thurman (Burnt, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, The Producers), Rob Riggle (Night School, Midnight Sun, 12 Strong), Cheech Marin (Elena of Avalor, Coco, Dark Harvest), Christopher Walken (Nine Lives, Irreplaceable You, Percy); hell, even the child actor that’s front and center, Oakes Fegley (Wonderstruck, The Goldfinch, Pete’s Dragon), has got some great experience under his belt. With a cast like that, it would have been impossible to bypass this film even if the trailer was subpar.
But it’s not.
I was chuckling throughout the trailer. There was a good mix of types of humor. Some of it seemed juvenile and some was geared toward the older generation. I think that this movie will be a great family film.
9 – Vampires vs. the Bronx (10/2)

Production/Distribution: Broadway Video, Caviar, Netflix
Director: Osmany Rodriguez
Writer: Blaise Hemingway, Osmany Rodriguez
Actors: Jaden Michael, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Shea Whigham, Method Man, Coco Jones, Judy Marte, Chris Redd, Adam David Thompson, Jeremie Harris, The Kid Mero, Imani Lewis, Vladimir Caamano, Germar Terrell Gardner, Gerald Jones III, Toree Alexandre
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Rated: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A group of young friends from the Bronx fight to save their neighborhood from gentrification...and vampires.
This movie looks cheesy and campy and glorious.
As a young Brooklyn girl, whenever my friends and I roleplayed, our drug of choice was World of Darkness. For me, it was specifically Vampire: the Masquerade. There was an absurdity to the idea of an entire vampire society somehow living in Brooklyn and Manhattan, ignored or unseen. Most of the time, we didn’t even bother put the setting in the Bronx, though. Mainly because it was ridiculous to think of vampires being successful there.
It’s gotten better in some areas, but growing up – the Bronx was tough. We all believed that if the vampires in our game tried to take over, they’d be exterminated pretty quickly. I mean, I pictured a few bodies popping up devoid of blood, and the entire borough just mobilizing and killing every last blood sucker. Even the grannys of the area. Now, I get to see it on screen? I’m very much here for it.
In fact, I’m going invite my best friend over to watch it with me so he can share in the amusement.
I have a feeling it’s a going to be a fun ride.
8 – Alone (10/16)

Production/Distribution: ICM Partners, JAR Films, Martini Films, Grindstone Entertainment Group, Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Director: Johnny Martin
Writer: Matt Naylor
Actors: Donald Sutherland, Tyler Posey, Robert Ri’chard, John Posey, Eric Etebari, Summer Spiro, Brooke Swallow, Jonathan Peacy, Greg Fitzpatrick, Bridgette Meredith Garb
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: When an outbreak hits, Aidan barricades himself inside his apartment and starts rationing food. His complex is overrun by infected Screamers, and with the world falling apart into chaos, he is left completely alone fighting for his life.
Last month there was a movie coming out that was also called Alone. That movie, to the best of my knowledge, did get released. This is a different film. It’s just a coincidence.
A lot of people are sick of zombies, and I get it. I do. This movie is different, though. It seems to concentrate more on the isolation of a zombie outbreak rather than the actual zombies. (Though there’s clearly plenty of action to match the situation.)
I feel, especially now, that isolation is something we can all identify with. That may put some people off, but others could easily find themselves drawn more into the story than they would have otherwise.
I am particularly drawn to this movie. I feel the connection, but I also really admire some of the cast. Tyler Posey (Elena of Avalor, Teen Wolf, Jane the Virgin) is a decent actor, but Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games, The Calling, Trust) is legendary.
Alone is going to be a harrowing film, perfect for Halloween watching.
7 – Love and Monsters (10/16)

Production/Distribution: 21 Laps Entertainment, Entertainment One, MTV Films, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Players, Eagle Pictures, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Michael Matthews
Writer: Brian Duffield, Matthew Robinson
Actors: Dylan O’Brien, Jessica Henwick, Michael Rooker, Ellen Hollman, Melanie Zanetti, Ariana Greenblatt, Amali Golden, Larry Cedar, Damien Garvey, Tasneem Roc, Tandi Wright, Dan Ewing, Miriama Smith, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Donnie Baxter, Pacharo Mzembe, Joel Pierce, Senie Priti
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: After a Monsterpocalypse forces humans into underground colonies, a young man decides against all logic to brave the surface and face the monsters standing between him and his lost love.
You know me and apocalypse films. It’s 2020 and there’s a new mini apocalypse every single month, so I should be over it – but I’m not. Something about a dystopian or apocalyptic film just does it for me.
I’m also a fan of creature features. Since this end-of-the-world scenario is caused by giant monsters, that’s also something to trigger my interest.
Then, there’s comedy involved. I love when comedy links up with a darker theme. That’s why horror/comedy is my favorite genre. In this case, linking it up with the entire world being destroyed definitely fit my sense of humor.
Finally, there are some great actors involved. Dylan O’Brien (Teen Wolf, The Maze Runner, Deepwater Horizon) has a lot of experience in this kind of film setting. Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist, Underwater, Game of Thrones) has an incredible physical acting ability. I don’t think I could say enough about Michael Rooker (Brightburn, The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy), he can handle just about anything.
Still, with all that, it’s mostly just a basic apocalypse film. What throws it over the edge for me is Brian Duffield’s (The Babysitter, Underwater, Jane Got a Gun) involvement.
Duffield has written some amazing films. He’s done the action thing as well as the horror/comedy thing. I think that if anyone could elevate Love and Monsters it would be him.
6 – Black Box (10/6)

Production/Distribution: Amazon Studios, Blumhouse Productions, Black Bar Mitzvah, Amazon Prime Video
Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour
Writer: Wade Allain-Marcus, Stephen Herman, Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour
Actors: Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, Charmaine Bingwa, Donald Elise Watkins, Troy James, Nyah Marie Johnson, Najah Bradley, Betsy Borrego, Andrea Cohen, Justin David, Scott Green, Gretchen Koerner, Han Soto
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: NR
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: After losing his wife and his memory in a car accident, a single father undergoes an agonizing experimental treatment that causes him to question who he really is.
Watching this trailer immediately makes me think of Memento (2000). There are worse films that could inspire others.
Black Box does seem different enough in that it takes a horror/sci-fi perspective. Considering how scary it is to lose one’s memories, I think it’s a valid stance to take.
Clearly, it will go to some psychological places. I’m wondering if it will explore the side effects of hypnotherapy. Confabulations, specifically.
In hypnotherapy, one of the risks is that the therapist can accidentally (or maliciously) make suggestions that cause the patient to fill in their missing memory with lies. I wouldn’t mind seeing this kind of thing in Black Box, but the plot they’re using is so versatile that it’s only one of a great many possibilities.
Hell, with a sci-fi genre, it could just be aliens.
There’s a lot going on in this trailer, and I expect a lot from the film because of it.
5 – Spontaneous (10/2)

Production/Distribution: Awesomeness Films, Jurassic Party Productions
Director: Brian Duffield
Writer: Brian Duffield, Aaron Starmer
Actors: Katherine Langford, Piper Perabo, Charlie Plummer, Chelah Horsdal, Rob Huebel, Kaitlyn Bernard, Yvonne Orji, Hayley Law, Laine MacNeil, Dolores Drake, Payton Lepinski, Mellany Barros, Peter Bundic, Melody Nosipho Niemann, Doralynn Mui
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 97 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Get ready for the outrageous coming-of-age love story about growing up...and blowing up. When students in their school begin exploding (literally), seniors Mara and Dylan struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last.
I’ve never seen anything quite like Spontaneous.
It seems to be an epidemic-style film, but for spontaneous combustion. I definitely think it’ll be more funny than scary, but still Halloween-worthy. A coming-of-age and exploding story.
Again, I find that Brian Duffield’s involvement makes it even better. I don’t care who the actors are, I’d have been interested in this story if it was acted by a high school drama club. The trailer just looks that hilarious.
I don’t have much to say about this one. I just really love the plot. It makes me giggle.
4 – Synchronic (10/23)

Production/Distribution: Patriot Pictures, Pfaff & Pfaff Productions, Love & Death Productions (LDP), Rustic Films, Well Go USA Entertainment, Signature Entertainment, Umbrella Entertainment, VVS Films
Director: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Writer: Justin Benson
Actors: Jamie Dornan, Anthony Mackie, Katie Aselton, Ally Ioannides, Bill Oberst Jr., Natasha Tina Liu, Devyn A. Tyler, Martin Bats Bradford, Betsy Holt, Lawrence Turner, Carl Palmer, Shane Brady
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 96 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Two New Orleans paramedics' lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.
I’m not 100% certain of what’s going on here – but I think that was the point of the trailer. I have questions. I want answers.
It does seem like basing a story around designer drugs is becoming more of a sci-fi trend. In each case, the drug does something unbelievable that gets out of hand and leaves destruction in it’s wake, or tears away the heath of the user. This film looks like it goes into a bit of both. I’m not sure if it’s causing supernatural occurrences or time travel or dimension shifts, but it’s likely one of those. Whichever it is, though, I am dying to find out.
I’m a bit familiar with Justin Benson (V/H/S Viral, The Endless, Resolution) and Aaron Moorhead (V/H/S Viral, The Endless, Resolution), the project creators. Not overly-so, but enough that it deepens my curiosity on what to expect. I’m also a huge fan of Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon, Avengers: Endgame, The Hate U Give). Of course, who isn’t?
Synchronic has the potential to be phenomenal.
3 – Cadaver (10/22)

Production/Distribution: Motion Blur Films, Netflix
Director: Jarand Herdal
Writer: Jarand Herdal
Actors: Gitte Witt, Thomas Gullestad, Thorbjørn Harr, Kingsford Siayor, Maria Grazia Di Meo, Jonatan Rodriguez, Trine Wiggen, Tuva Olivia Remman
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated: NR
Length: 86 minutes
IMDb Blurb: In the starving aftermath of a nuclear disaster, a family of three attends a charitable event at hotel, which takes a dark turn when when people start to disappear.
It’s October. You had to expect a plethora of apocalyptic horror. I don’t even apologize for putting so much of it on my list.
I LOVE the concept here. People are starving and dying, and the over-privileged are still plucking the weak out to prey on them. It feels realistic. Especially since charity is being used as a cover to take advantage of them.
It’s a dark subject in a dark setting – but it’s still based on a premise that exists in the real world. In my opinion, that makes it even more horrifying.
Add to that, the film is visually entrancing. Everything is about contrast. There’s color contrast, setting contrast… it’s appealing while still exuding that terrifying core of the story.
October is for Shudder, but we’ll definitely be reviewing this in November.
(Cadaver is in Norwegian.)
2 – Beyond Barricades (10/1)

Production/Distribution: TurnStyle Films
Director: Jon Nix
Writer: None
Actors: Tom Morello, Fat Mike, Tim McIlrath, Billy Bragg, Ian Madrigal, Jim McDermott, Justin Sane, Tom May, Brian Baker, Martin Geever, Pat Thetic, Chris ‘#2’ Barker, Chris Head
Genre: Documentary, Biography, History
Rated: NR
Length: 92 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A documentary on political punk band Anti-Flag. The film explores the trials and tribulations of playing politically charged music and devoting your life to activism.
I was introduced to the music of Anti-Flag when I was in high school. That was back when the thing I looked forward to most of all was hitting Warped Tour when it came to NY. They didn’t immediately grow on me, though. I was drawn more to NOFX, Bad Religion, and some other bands. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I really started to listening to them. They eventually became one of my favorites.
This documentary goes into who Anti-Flag is. It shows us why they’re so political, what their life is like, why they choose to tour back to back the way they do.
I don’t usually go for documentaries, but this one is about a highly political, anti-fascist, anti-nazi, fuck police brutality band. Topical’s the word for it. Relevant maybe even more-so.
Even if I didn’t like Anti-Flag, I’d be here for promoting an activist band that fights against so many of the evils we see in the world today. They are a voice that inspires people to learn more about what’s going on. I have to support that.
Also, the new album they put out is amazing. Take a listen to the song: Hate Conquers All.
1 – The Trial of the Chicago 7 (10/16)

Production/Distribution: ADS Service, Amblin Partners, CAA Media Finance, Cross Creek Pictures, Diamond Films, Double Infinity Productions, DreamWorks, Entertainment Film Distributors, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Hakuhodo, Madman Entertainment, Madman Films, MadRiver Pictures, Marc Platt Productions, Metropolitan Filmexport, Movie Cloud, Netflix, Nordisk Film, Nordisk Film Distribution, Norsk Filmdistribusjon, NOS Audiovisuais, Odeon, Panorama Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, PVR Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Rocket Science, ShivHans Pictures, United King Films
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Actors: Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Shenkman, J.C. MacKenzie, Frank Langella, Noah Robbins, Danny Flaherty, John Doman, Mike Geraghty, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Caitlin FitzGerald, John Quilty, Max Adler, Michael A. Dean, Meghan Rafferty, Brady Jenness, Steve Routman, Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Kate Miller, Kathleen Garrett, Alice Kremelberg, Juliette Angelo, Michael Keaton
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 129 minutes
IMDb Blurb: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
As well-made as The Trial of the Chicago 7 looks, it made it to #1 on my list because of its importance.
The story of the Chicago 7 is still relevant today. It shouldn’t be. Police brutality should be a thing of the past. Corruption in the judicial system is abhorrent. Racism is insane… why is this all still an issue. Why are there still people arguing that these are ok, or non-existent? How can anyone look at the world today and say things are fine? A black woman was shot in her own home and cops involved were only charged for the shots that missed. They decided she was acceptable collateral damage.
I don’t know if putting the story of the Chicago 7 on a streaming service will change any minds. My faith in humanity is at an all-time low. At the very least, people will be able to get a basic history lesson about our rights to protest. About wrong and right.
If 1 good thing comes out of 2020, let it be tearing down of a corrupt system that allows racism and fascism to hold sway.
The whole world is still watching.
Movies to Look out For
According to: Cat
The Call .20
The Devil Has a Name .19
Books of Blood .18
Possessor Uncut .17
The True Adventures of Wolfboy .16
Vampires vs. the Bronx .15
The Doorman .14
Alone .13
2067 .12
Rebecca .11
Honest Thief .10
Don’t Look Back .9
Death of Me .8
The War with Grandpa .7
The Craft: Legacy .6
Come Play .5
Batman: Death in the Family .4
Over the Moon .3
Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo! .2
Love and Monsters .1
          What makes a movie eligible for Trust the Dice’s Top 20?

Monday, September 28, 2020

Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (2020)

Streaming Services: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (2020)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 99 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Pictures, Disney+
Director: Anna Mastro
Writers: Alex Litvak, Andrew Green, Austin Winsberg
Actors: Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Niles Fitch, Isabella Blake-Thomas, Olivia Deeble, Noah Lomax, Faly Rakotohavana, Ashley Liao, Sam Page, Greg Bryk, Elodie Yung, Skylar Astin, Julianna Marie Neo, Jessica Du, Alli Chung, Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, Sofia Pernas
Blurb from IMDb: It follows Sam's adventures at a top-secret training program for a new class of second-born royals tasked with saving the world.

Cat’s Point of View:
We’ve been looking forward to watching Secret Society of Second Born Royals for a little bit now, ever since it hit our radar while going through coming attraction trailers. Both Selina and I had this movie ranked in our Top 10 (of 20) for the month of September. In retrospect, my #6 was estimating this a little too highly whereas I should have probably listed it closer to #10, as Selina did. Alas, hindsight is what it is. I digress…

My expectation for this film was a light-hearted Disneyfied superhero origins story befitting a Disney Channel production. I imagine I wasn’t too far from the mark, but it still seems I over-estimated.

The mouse house has a bit of a roller-coaster track record on its productions. There have been some stellar shows and movies, and on the flip side, there have been some less so. We’ll call those “basic Disney.” On the one end of the spectrum, you have excellent work such as Descendants (2015). On the other end, you have…well…this. Okay, to be fair, this film did manage to be a little more likable and less frenetic than Artemis Fowl (2020).

The verdict isn’t all bad, though. Secret Society of Second Born Royals wasn’t a complete flop. I did enjoy it, so please don’t misunderstand me. I’m just slightly disappointed that the movie didn’t live up to its potential. There is an opening left by this film’s ending, however, that says there’s room for sequels. Hopefully, they’ll up their game with any future installments.

If the premise of the movie and overall content were directed at a slightly younger audience, I would understand, and give more credit. Unfortunately, this appears to be aimed at young teens – and today’s movie-going teenagers are a bit more sophisticated in the ways of action/adventure movies than this film gives them credit for. When you compare with other titles available on the same streaming platform, this adds up to merely a superhero-lite movie with training wheels.

There are good points, however. While most of the teen characters are played by fresh-faced up-and-comers, there’s no doubt that Disney was pulling on the popularity of its show Andi Mack (2017-2019) with Peyton Elizabeth Lee (Shameless, The Lion Guard, Stumptown) in the lead. I was surprised to see Greg Bryk (Ad Astra, Code 8, My Spy) and Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect, Ghosts of War, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist), and enjoyed their performances. I do wish that they would have given a bit more oomph to Bryk’s character.

The settings were believable and allowed immersion into the story. I just wish that the special effects could have lived up to the characters’ potentials regarding their powers. The production team got the general point across so that it wasn’t cheesily lacking – it just doesn’t stack up with theater release production quality.

I do feel that bonus points are due, though, for the story including a best friend pairing of opposite sexes without some sort of romance being involved. I appreciated the messages of friendship and teamwork as well. It’s generally a core tenet of “basic Disney,” after all.

All told, I’d recommend this film for fans of the aforementioned Andi Mack show, and probably middle-school-aged kids. There’s some very mild violence involved with the movie, but otherwise, it’s fairly tame in that regard. This isn’t something you’d want to watch immediately after a Marvel marathon, however.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 59%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 51%
Metascore – 28/100
Metacritic User Score – none
IMDB Score – 4.4/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG
Movie Trailer: