Friday, November 20, 2020

Black Box (2020)

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video
Movie Name/Year: Black Box (2020)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Amazon Studios, Blumhouse Productions, Black Bar Mitzvah, Blumhouse Television, Amazon Prime Video
Director: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour
Writer: Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, Stephen Herman
Actors: Mamoudou Athie, Phylicia Rashad, Amanda Christine, Tosin Morohunfola, Charmaine Bingwa, Troy James, Han Soto, Andrea Cohen, Gretchen Koerner, Donald Elise Watkins, Najah Bradley, Nyah Marie Johnson
Blurb from IMDb: 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.

Selina’s Point of View:
Just about all the new movies I’ve seen lately have been pretty damn good. This one was no exception.
Black Box started off as expected. There was some mild intrigue, but it was a bit slow.
It immediately showed off how abnormal the life of the protagonist was, and that fed me plenty of questions to keep me interested. After that initial shock, though, it started to feel a bit basic.
Until it didn’t.
After about a half hour, the first of several twists hit. From then on, I was glued to the screen. I thought I had the film all figured out. I was very, very wrong.

Some highly-rated films definitely influenced the creation of this one, even though the story didn’t feel familiar. I can’t be specific about which ones without giving serious spoilers. After watching it, I’m fairly certain the four flicks that come to mind, would also be obvious to many movie-lovers.
Mamoudou Athie (Uncorked, Underwater, Sorry for Your Loss) had a chance to show off some incredible range in this film. He wasn’t on my radar before, but now he definitely is. At no point in this complex part did I question his acting. I believed every single moment. Even when the story was slow, he kept me tethered to what was going on, enough to keep me around for the twists.
Everyone else involved was at the top of their game as well, but Athie really stood out. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the rest of his projects now.
I absolutely recommend Black Box to fans of sci-fi thrillers – or even just fans of Black Mirror (2011- ). This is something both groups would enjoy.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 74%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%
Metascore – 62/100
Metacritic User Score – 6/10
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Freaky (2020)

Movie Name/Year: Freaky (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Blumhouse Productions, Divide/Conquer, Cinemundo, Toho-Towa, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures Argentina, Universal Pictures Canada, Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Michael Kennedy, Christopher Landon
Actors: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Emily Holder, Nicholas Stargel, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Mitchell Hoog, Dana Drori, Katie Finneran, Alonzo Ward, Alan Ruck, Uriah Shelton, Melissa Collazo, Zack Shires, Magnus Diehl
Blurb from IMDb: After swapping bodies with a deranged serial killer, a young girl in high school discovers she has less than 24 hours before the change becomes permanent.

Selina’s Point of View:
Blumhouse is a divisive production company. Pretty much every movie-minded person I know either loves or hates them. There doesn’t seem to be many who fall in the middle. I think, even though their films can be hit or miss, I fall more on the ‘love’ side of things.
As a company, Blumhouse tends to prefer taking familiar storylines and delving into them on a ‘yeah, but what if?’ platform. I’ve always liked that kind of thing. I mean, my favorite DC arc is Superman: Red Son (2003) and I went nuts for Marvel’s Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe (2012). Seeing a kind of alternate universe depiction of something otherwise overdone and predictable, does it for me. That’s Blumhouse’s specialty and, even when they fail, it’s almost always worth a shot.
When Blumhouse came to the question: ‘What if Freaky Friday (2003) was a horror film?’ – you know I was here for it.

I had a very clear idea of what to expect from Freaky and I absolutely got everything I pictured and then some. It was fucking hilarious with a touch of cringe and some ridiculously creative kills.
From the very start of the movie, you’re introduced to the tone.
You know that – although you’ll be watching teens die – there’s not going to be much seriousness involved. It’s going to lean more toward the humorous aspect than horror. I respect the upfront honesty, even though it was what I figured the situation would be.
Especially from the director of Happy Death Day (2017), Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Viral, Disturbia).

As the movie went on, there were some more subtle bits and pieces that made me think of horror classics.
Particularly Scream (1996).
There’s this thread of self-awareness that Freaky has that makes me feel like it’s inspired by the idea of Scream. It outright acknowledged problematic stereotypes and tropes, then made fun of them. It paid homage to a lot of other films from horror, as well. It was both a love letter, and a roast, of the genre.
And it works.
I adored Freaky. There were a few minor issues here and there, but nothing that I really felt hurt the film. It was just an amusing trip through a ‘what if’ story. I’m glad I got to see it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 85%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 66/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 7.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2019)


Streaming Services: Hulu, Hoopla
Movie Name/Year: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2019)
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi
Length:  98 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Epic Pictures Releasing, Epic Pictures, Title Media, Transformer, Capelight Pictures, Eagle Films, Mares Filmes, RLJ Entertainment, Sparky Pictures
Director: Robert D. Krzykowski
Writer: Robert D. Krzykowski
Actors: Aidan Turner, Sam Elliott, Caitlin FitzGerald, Larry Miller, Mark Steger, Anastasia Tsikhanava, Nikolai Tsankov , Ron Livingston, Rizwan Manji
Blurb from IMDb: A legendary American war veteran is recruited to hunt a mythical creature.

Cat’s Point of View:
This movie confused me.
From the title, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, I expected some sort of campy B-movie romp with Nazi-punching and creature fun. What I experienced was a flight of folklore fantasy that leaned further into drama than anything else. Then, of course, my own WWII veteran ties didn’t help me pull out of the melancholy reflection aspect of the story at all. I’ll get to that in a minute.
At first, the film felt a little disjointed for me and too slow. Then, as it progressed, I feel like I understood the ebb and flow of it a bit better. The flashback sequences interrupted the titular character’s life much like they interrupted the story of his ‘current-day’ existence. Time also seemed to drag on for him as he lived a solitary life of regret and self-isolation. The audience gets to experience a bit of this as well. It might be a bit off-putting for anyone hoping for more upbeat pacing.

I have to give the production team kudos for casting Sam Elliott (The Good Dinosaur, The Ranch, A Star is Born) as Calvin Barr the elder and Aidan Turner (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Secret Scripture, Poldark) as his younger self. I could listen to Elliott read the phone book and just be blissful – it’s even better when he has some good scenes to chew through. I completely bought their dual portrayal of the same man in different eras.
For those that can stick it out to the end of the story, there is a nice book-ended feeling to the film’s resolution. It’s far deeper than I expected it to be. If there was supposed to be more humor in it, I’m afraid it was lost on me. Of course, Elliott plays an excellent straight-man in comedic terms… there just was a glaring absence of anyone as his foil.

The overall feel to the movie actually had me in tears. I’ve mentioned before that my grandfathers were both WWII veterans. While I’m not sure what my paternal grandfather’s role was in the Army, my maternal Grandfather was an officer that ran afoul of a landmine in Germany and survived. We didn’t realize until after his passing that he was also in military intelligence. It got me to thinking about whether or not there were things that happened that he might have regretted – considering the nastiness of war in general. All in all, it took me to a maudlin place and colored my experience with the movie.
This film was well done and certainly defied expectations. I can’t see myself watching it a second time, but I wouldn’t steer anyone away from experiencing it. Just remember to take it with a grain of salt that it won’t be what one would expect from a title like this.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –75%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 50%
Metascore – 51/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.0/10
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
Movie Trailer: