Friday, December 18, 2020

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020) - 'Tis the Season


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Motion Picture Corporation of America, Brad Krevoy Television
Director: Mike Rohl
Writers: Robin Bernheim, Megan Metzger
Actors: John Jack, Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Mark Fleischmann, Mia Lloyd, Nick Sagar, Suanne Braun, Lachlan Nieboer, Ricky Norwood, Florence Hall, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell, Giles Taylor, Juliet Cadzow, Ewan Somers, Sandy Welch, Rose McIver, Ben Lamb
Blurb from IMDb: When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with Kevin, it's up to her double Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike, party girl Fiona foils their plans.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been super excited to watch The Princess Switch: Switched Again. I absolutely adored the first movie, and I was intrigued as to what angle they’d take for the sequel to ensure this wasn’t just another rinse and repeat of the original swap-up tale.
While the film starts off appearing to follow the same sort of trajectory, don’t worry. There are plot twists aplenty as events progress. The key to enjoying these movies, however, is to just let go of judgment and just have fun with it. It's a fairytale full of the First World Problems of fictional royals, after all. 
I definitely want to tip my hat to Vanessa Hudgens (Polar, The Knight Before Christmas, Bad Boys for Life) for her triple roles here. Each character was nuanced and distinct, even while switching with each other. She evoked changes in carriage, demeanor, and speech that were each unique. You don’t often find actors that can pull that off so flawlessly. Of course, there are a few outstanding examples – such as Tatiana Maslany’s (Destroyer, 3Below: Tales of Arcadia, Perry Mason) 14 on-screen clones in Orphan Black (2013-2017).

Thankfully, Hudgens only had to juggle 3 look-alikes.  I find she’s often underrated as an actor, due to her beginnings with Disney, appearances in movies such as this, as well as off-the-wall projects. All the same, she’s one of those that I’d watch, regardless of the nature of the project she’s involved with.
I digress…
The settings and scenery were gorgeous and on-point. I loved the decorations and the whole movie just exuded the spirit of the holidays. I was also blown away by the costuming – especially for the coronation.

According to IMDb, there seems to be a third movie in the works. I have no idea how the production team is going to raise the bar without too much redundancy in the concept – but I’m eagerly anticipating finding out what they have up their sleeves.
As for The Princess Switch: Switched Again, this is the perfect movie to watch while curled up with a cozy blanket and a mug of hot cocoa. In fact, I’m probably going to get my husband to scare up some firewood so we can light the fireplace and I can watch this film again with my daughter. If you enjoyed the first movie, I’d wholeheartedly recommend watching this sequel. If you haven’t seen The Princess Switch (2018), maybe it’s time for a double-feature night!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.3/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Santa Jaws (2018) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video, FuboTV, Hoopla, DirecTV, Syfy
Movie Name/Year: Santa Jaws (2018)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Active Entertainment, Syfy
Director: Misty Talley
Writer: Jake Kiernan
Actors: Reid Miller, Courtney Lauren Cummings, Jim Klock, Carrie Lazar, Arthur Marroquin, Miles Doleac, Haviland Stillwell, Hawn Tran, Scott Allen Perry, Ritchie Montgomery, Lindsey Michelle, Creek Wilson, Sherri Eakin, Dylan Westfall, Danny Cosmo
Blurb from IMDb: Trying to survive the family Christmas, Cody makes a wish to be alone, which ends up backfiring when a shark manifests and kills his entire family.

Selina’s Point of View:
This was bound to make an appearance on Trust the Dice eventually. The only reason it didn’t happen sooner is because I didn’t know about it before a couple of months ago. I figured it would be a great movie to watch in December to break up the rom-com monotony. Of course, I also figured it would be a super-typical creature feature.
It was not.
Santa Jaws is what you get when you take a corny, live-action, Disney Channel movie and give it to a creative team that specializes in creature features and Christmas movies. Then, just have it produced by Syfy.
It really took me by surprise. It had everything I loved from all the genres it meshed together. The teen main character took charge and learned a lesson. Family was shown as important and came together. The creature in question was ridiculous and the script was hilarious in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way.

I really just enjoyed it a lot more than I should have.
I hunkered down for some serious Asylum bullshit and wound up with a charming B-movie creature flick.
I had a great time.
Santa Jaws knew what it was and leaned into it. It never tried to make the audience buy any more than it had to offer. It’s not deep, it’s not reinventing the wheel, and it’s not going to be pulling in any of the high-class, stick-up-their-ass, critics. It will, however, be shown during all my holiday marathons.
Also, “Ho ho ho, you son of a fish!” is right up there with “Meow, Bitch!” – from Zombie Apocalypse (2011) – as one of my favorite lines from a B-movie ever.

Cat’s Point of View:
When you have a movie title like Santa Jaws, it almost guarantees groans and eye-rolls. You just know it’s going to be a B-movie, and quite possibly bad. The question always remains, however, whether or not it falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category or the dreaded ‘simply awful.’
To be honest, Santa Jaws fell somewhere in the middle for me. It’s bad. You really can’t get around that. It does have a few redeeming qualities, though.
I’ll start with the positives.
This won’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a lover of puns and dad jokes.This movie is loaded with them from opening credits to final scene. Zingers such as “you better watch out, you better not die,” are par for the course in this holiday horror-comedy.
Another item in my plus column is the special effects. Let me be clear that it’s the shark I’m talking about. Some of the practical effects, such as props, were absolutely abysmal – such as weapons that were clearly plastic. Santa Jaws, herself, was actually fairly well rendered.

There’s a decently thought-out story behind the red-hat-wearing beast and the way it targets one specific family amongst its opportunistic chomping. That element of the 1975 movie, this film’s namesake, is clear.
I start running out of things to appreciate, however. I can’t really praise the acting – though, some may have been doing the best they could within the parameters of the direction and writing. Everything was fairly predictable along the ‘adults are dumb, so it’s up to us kids’ recipe, as well.
Now don’t get me wrong – while this movie definitely won’t be an award contender, it’s actually the perfect bit of mind-numbing fluff for this year’s Holiday Season. There’s too much serious stuff going on right now, and most of us are in need of some relaxing escapism more than ever.
If you could set aside the things that make this movie absolutely horrible, and focus on the lighter elements of this dark tale, then this movie might actually be an enjoyable experience. Besides, if you’re sick of Hallmark rom-coms and all the saccharine smarmy productions that flood screens and TV channels this time of year, this is a decent selection to provide a welcome intermission.
If horrible holiday puns and cringe-worthy family interaction makes you want to flip tables, however, then maybe go fishing for a good title elsewhere.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 56%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, December 14, 2020

Happiest Season (2020) - 'Tis the Season

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Happiest Season (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: TriStar Pictures, Entertainment One, Hulu Originals, Temple Hill Entertainment, B&H Film Distribution, Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina, Sony Pictures Releasing Australia, Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Hulu
Director: Clea DuVall
Writers: Clea DuVall, Mary Holland
Actors: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Dan Levy, Burl Moseley, Aubrey Plaza, Sarayu Blue, Jake McDorman, Ana Gasteyer, Caroline Harris, Jenny Gulley, Dominique Allen Lawson, Michelle Buteau, Timothy Simons, Lauren Lapkus, Jerick Hoffer, Benjamin Putnam, Anis N'Dobe, Asiyih N'Dobe, Chelsea Banglesdorf, Daryn Kahn, Matt Newell
Blurb from IMDb: A holiday romantic comedy that captures the range of emotions tied to wanting your family's acceptance, being true to yourself, and trying not to ruin Christmas.

Selina’s Point of View:
I need to start off by saying that I hate the trope this film covers. I hate it, because there shouldn’t be a norm for it to be imitating. No one should have to deal with the fear of how someone is going to react to them because of who they love.
That said, it was a really great movie.
This is only Clea DuVall’s (The Intervention, The Handmaid’s Tale, Veep) second writer/director full-length feature film credit. Still, it’s incredible. I haven’t seen her first, but I can tell you that this made me want to. Happiest Season is one of the best rom-com dramas that I have seen in a long time, maybe ever. I felt the situations as though they were nearly first hand, and it dug into that part of me that has never felt like I belonged in a family.
I’d be surprised if DuVall didn’t write the script, at least partially, from her own experiences. It was too honest.

The family is built up to show this unsupportive group of people, but it goes deeper to show that most of them don’t realize how awful they are to each other. It exhibits a family trying so hard to seem one way that every individual person involved can’t see beyond their own little picture. In that way, it almost feels like there is no antagonist. It’s the situation itself that wears that label.
The poster actually shows each character’s perspective extremely well, just through facial expressions. I normally don’t even bother to mention the poster, but this one gets better the longer you look at it.
As a Christmas film, Happiest Season feels like it properly portrays the anxiety of masking for your family and worrying that if you slip even a little bit, that everything will go wrong. I can absolutely relate to it. I know a lot of people can.
Most films in the holiday genre aren’t really directed toward people who find the entire season anxiety-inducing. When they are, it labels the main character as uncaring, or emotionally constipated. Here, we see the protagonists as people who care so much that they can’t help but be terrified. I think that’s something that’s not represented well enough in holiday films.
I would absolutely recommend Happiest Season for anyone looking for a Christmas setting in a well-written story. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ll be honest. I owe Happiest Season an apology. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting – but it was certainly not the glorious emotional gauntlet I actually experienced.
This felt so grounded. It doesn’t surprise me at all that writer/director Clea DuVall (Argo, American Horror Story, The Intervention) pulled from her own experiences to create this story. While the tale focuses on the gay couple, it also illustrates well that you don’t have to be queer to find yourself wearing a mask in life and the complications of such. While presenting a solid LGBTQ+ story as the focus, this film went the extra mile to give everyone a little something to relate to - all without minimalizing the core issues. 

Like most offerings in the holiday rom-com genre, Happiest Season hit on most of your staple tropes that one would expect to see and then upped the ante by blending in the wonderfully awkward ‘meet the family’ moments. While generally predictable, I found that I didn’t even mind. I was just enjoying being in the moment and along for the ride.
The entire cast of Happiest Season is chock-full of talent. I couldn’t find fault with anyone’s performances – not that I was looking. I was happily immersed in the story and wasn’t even taking mental notes. If pressed to pick a favorite among the cast, however, it would be Dan Levy (Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Stage Fright, Schitt's Creek) without question. Though, I do also want to tip my proverbial hat to Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Seberg, Underwater). The last several movies I’ve seen her in have been a refreshing change of pace from her earlier work – this film included.

While I don’t feel like this movie will make it into my annual rotation, I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it again and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 80%
Metascore – 68/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S. – A small epilogue, represented by a character’s Instagram posting, is shown during the beginning of the credits.
Movie Trailer: