Friday, January 8, 2021

Top 10 Most Forgettable Films We Discovered in 2020

Here it is, the last of our Year in Review lists. We’ve discussed the best and worst of the films that came out, the best and worse of the older movies, and the most memorable flicks that we reviewed in 2020. For our final installment, we’re going to talk about the most forgettable.
In 2020, Trust the Dice reviewed approximately 120 films. Cat and I saw many others in our free time. That makes it impressive when something sticks out to us. What tends to go unrealized is that there are so many movies in play that it’s inevitable that not all of them will have staying power.
There’ve been times when I’ve gone to make the schedule and I’ll try to add a movie that we’ve actually reviewed. Sometimes I’ll have a vague idea of it, other times I may have no memory of ever having heard of it.
Every year, there are a few flicks that just don’t make the cut for our crowded brains. Below are the top 10 most forgettable films we reviewed in 2020.

10 – Tragedy Girls (2017)
I have a vague memory of what went down in Tragedy Girls. I remember some masks and one scene where someone got murdered with a table saw. There are also some wisps left of the ending, but that’s about it.
At the time of the review, Cat and I both thought it was slightly better than average. It clearly entertained us then, though I doubt I’ll even remember its existence in about a year or two.

9 – Can’t Take it Back (2017)
I know that there was some kind of ghost story in Can’t Take it Back. I remember the ending, which stood out a bit, but that’s pretty much it.
The only thing I could tell you about, without re-watching it, is that I hated Logan Paul. That guy is a habitual jackass and I think it’s a shame that he has any influence over anyone. It is one of my sincerest wishes that he, and his family, disappear into obscurity.

8 – The Last Days of American Crime (2020)
When I think of The Last Days of American Crime, the emotion that always rises is disappointment.
I don’t remember anything about the film, but I remember the trailer and how much I was looking forward to seeing the full thing. I remember the plot and how interesting it seemed.
After that? Nothing. Without looking at IMDb, I couldn’t even tell you who was involved. In fact, I only remember it was a Netflix film because I’ve seen the poster recently.

7 – The Lovebirds (2020)
This one is a crying shame.
Looking back at our review, both Cat and I loved it. It got 4s across the board, which should have put it on track to be one of our Top 20 Best Films of 2020… but we had to disqualify it.
Between June 5th and now, we’ve forgotten the entire film. Nothing sticks out in our minds at all. I had to go back and re-watch the trailer just to remember who the two main actors were.
As much as we enjoyed it at the time, it must have been more basic than we realized.

6 – 6 Underground (2019)
This is another flick that I actually enjoyed. In my review, I gave it a 3.5. However, when it came up in discussion as we were putting the lists for this week together, I wound up staring blankly at the screen just trying to remember what it was.
It wasn’t until I looked at the poster that I recalled it was a Ryan Reynolds film.
Still, the only thing I can even remotely bring back into my mind is a very long action/driving scene at the beginning. That’s where it ends.

5 – Scare Package (2019)
When this movie came up as a possibility for our worst new discoveries of the year, I had to go back and re-watch it to remember anything.
It was a campy horror anthology. It tried to be a love letter to horror, but missed the mark. I disliked it both times I gave it a chance. 

Worse yet, I still couldn't tell you what any of the stories were off the top of my head. Even having seen it twice, once recently.

4 – Dangerous Lies (2020)
Cat and I were split on this one when we reviewed it. She thought it was a little better than basic, I thought it came up short. Either way, we both had one thing in common when it came time to get the lists together: Dangerous Lies hadn’t left a lasting mark on us.
It was just so much more basic than either of us realized.

3 – The Quiet Ones (2014)
This film was on Cat’s review schedule, but not mine. So, it’s only her memory we’re talking about.
The thing is, Cat is a huge fan of Sam Claflin. So, it was already a big deal that she didn’t like the flick. When I brought it up to her as a possibility for one of the worst new discoveries, she had to look it up to even try to remember what it was. Even while looking at IMDb, though, she still fought to remember anything about it.

2 – The Jurassic Games (2018)
This was a B-movie with decent production values that sucked Cat in when she first watched it. However, when it came down to list making, she struggled to remember anything. She knew she’d seen it, but that was where the recollection ended.
She had some basic wisps return to her after checking the trailer, though.

1 – Awaiting (2015)
Cat didn’t see Awaiting, but I did. At least, that’s what searching the blog tells me.
I cannot remember watching this film at all. I’ve looked at the poster, watched the trailer, and reread my review. I still don’t remember anything about.
At the very least, I can usually pick out a still, or something, that remains buried deep in my sub-conscious somewhere, but not with this one. It’s as if a dimensional hole opened and swallowed the entire thing right out of my past.
It is definitely the most forgettable movie I saw in 2020.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Top 20 Most Memorable Films We Discovered in 2020

Sometimes movies just stick with you. Whether it’s part of the performances, a certain scene, or even just a piece of trivia – there are somethings that have staying power. 
This list is not about whether or not a film is good. Memories are neutral. I remember the first time I was seriously rejected, just as well as I remember my first kiss. This list, instead, looks at those flicks we reviewed in 2020 that we know we’ll remember years from now.
A lot of the memorable moments involve plot twists and endings. For that reason, we’re issuing a:

20 – Vivarium (2019)
Vivarium was not a good film. It worked for critics because it was cerebral and added up to something – it had a message. But, to the average movie-goer is was boring, slow, repetitive, and more than a little annoying.
There are, however, some scenes that stand out. There’s one, in particular, that I know I’ll remember well into the future.

In this scene, Gemma has had enough of her alien non-child and attacks him with a pick axe. He inhumanly crawls away and lifts the sidewalk up as if it were a blanket, then crawls underneath. Using her weapon, the protagonist wedges the sidewalk open and follows to find some kind of mirror universe.
The visuals are insane and impossible to forget.

19 – Unhinged (2020)
Unhinged was not a perfect film, but it was thrilling. Russell Crowe is unstoppable when he can be as creepy, and tough, as he wants to be.
His performance is part of why Unhinged is unforgettable, but it’s the realism of the plot that really drives it on home. (No pun intended.)

The movie focuses on road rage, and starts off with a bunch of real-world examples. Then it flows into the story of a young divorced mother trying to get to a job on time and bring her kid to school. She inadvertently starts a psychopath on a rampage that he focuses on her. It’s not deep, but it’s effective.
Thinking about it makes me think of the worst road ragers I’ve come across in my travels. Equally, when I see an instance of road rage, it makes me think of this film. There’s been times since, where it’s caused me to hesitate on my horn, and I don’t use it much to begin with.
It’s the kind of thing that sticks with you.

18 – The VelociPastor (2018)
This movie wasn’t for me, but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been burned into my retinas against my will.
The VelociPastor is one of those films that was made to be bad. No one making it was trying to create something of substance. It was their intention to do something fun with friends and make a flick that was completely balls-out weird as fuck.
In that way, they succeeded.
This movie was definitely the one that made us say ‘what the fuck?’ the most. The part I remember best, is in the very beginning. The pastor’s parents die in an explosion and instead of wasting time and money on CGI effects, we got this:

I have to say, it is one of the few part that DID work for me. I just about died laughing. It was a great move for a parody film, and one I don’t think I’ll see replicated.

17 – Project Power (2020)
I, personally, enjoyed this movie as a whole. I thought it was well acted and had some seriously cool action sequences. Then again, I’m almost always going to like something starring Jamie Foxx or Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Regardless of that, I don’t think enjoyment of the plot is a necessity to enjoy Project Power, and that’s where that staying power comes from.
Say what you will about the film, it was still one of the most gorgeous films to come out this year – at least where CGI is concerned.

There are moments in the film that I will absolutely never forget because of just how astounding they were to watch. I could have watched the whole thing on mute and still given it a favorable review. 

You see some of the moments in the trailer. The way Gordon-Levitt’s face ripples when the bullet hits the side of his head, the flames coming off the fire elemental… it was all impossible to look away from.
I will never forget some of the visuals in this flick.

16 – The Cleansing Hour (2019)
There’s a lot about The Cleansing Hour that sticks out in my mind. Alix Angelis’ performance, for one. The entire premise, as another. Nothing beats the ending, though.
Throughout the entire film, the demon possessing Lane has forced them to stay connected to the internet – broadcasting the entire ‘exorcism’ to millions of fans. It blackmails them, saying that Lane will die if they pull the plug.
Some basic possession stuff happens, and a whole story is revealed that turns the characters against each other. Almost predictably, they complete the exorcism – seemingly just in the nick of time.
Lane is saved! But the story is not over. 

The demon possesses one of the dead bodies in the room and they learn it wasn’t who they thought, but the actual devil. He reveals his true form in a sickening body-horror transformation scene, but it’s not the others in the room he’s concerned with. He leans down to stare into the camera and speaks some Latin before biting into the wire and disappearing.
It’s confusing. Strange. Nothing seems to have happened. In fact, I started to roll my eyes.
Then the camera cuts to what’s happening all around the world. People watching the stream have been infected with whatever the devil did and are starting to grab weapons. Shooting and slicing through anyone who hasn’t been affected.
It’s the end of the world, and it started with a liar and a fake exorcism.
That ending is going to stick with me for a LONG time.

15 – Midsommar (2019)
When I first saw Midsommar I didn’t really get the hype. There were a lot of scenes that seemed on the melodramatic side and others that just seemed to go on forever. Over time, though, something changed.
This is one of those films that produces more meaning, and packs a heavier punch, the longer you ruminate on it. It helps to watch it more than once. That is actually what makes it so memorable.
It’s rare to find a film with this kind of re-watchability.

When I buy a video game, I take re-playability into account. Are there side quests? Are there hidden trophies? Are there collectables? Are there multiple options? These are all questions that come to mind when I’m preparing to lay down $60 for a new game. That’s a lot of money. I don’t want to spend it on something I’m going to play for 4 hours and never touch again.
The same questions don’t come into play when I look into watching a movie. Even if I only watch it once, it’s fine.
Midsommar has so many nuances that as you re-watch it over and over again, the story develops more meaning. You understand more about the characters. You get to the ending easier. And that re-watchability is what I find incredibly memorable.

14 – Extraction (2020)
The story for extraction is a bit basic, but the way it was shot, was not.
I’ll admit, I couldn’t recount any of the non-action scenes if someone asked me to. However, I could blow their mind with some behind-the-scenes trivia on how the fast-paced scenes were shot.

That’s what you get when you hire a stunt man as a director, though. It felt like every single scene had some kind of long-take, should be impossible, shot in it. Sam Hargrave, the director, wound up acting as the camera man for almost all of those impressive shots.
In one scene, he had to be strapped to the front of a car driving at stupid-fast speeds in order to get the shots he wanted. In another, he flat out jumped off a roof. Every risky shot he made, was worth it. In the end, we wound up with crazy action gold.

13 – A Quiet Place (2018)
This was a very well-made film. I’m a post-apocalyptic fan and always knew that it would be added to a list of my favorites. I didn’t know how badly it would seek to fuck me up, though.
Many of the scenes were memorable. When Lee signs that he has always loved his daughter to her, just before he dies – I cry every time. It’s a gorgeous moment of closure for a little girl who thinks her father resents her, and a phenomenal piece of cinema.
It’s not the most memorable moment, though.
That honor goes to the scene at the beginning of the film that makes Regan think her father resents her in the first place.
In the beginning we are being introduced to a world that has already ended. The aliens have landed and won. Humanity must continue to survive in total silence or be destroyed. In the middle of it all is a family that has been saved because their daughter is deaf. They know sign language. They can communicate without speaking.
During a supply run, the parents need to wrangle three kids. One of those children is sick and one is very young. 

The young boy finds a toy and begins to play with it, but the parents catch him and take it away, removing the batteries. When they turn to leave, carrying their sick son with them, Regan takes the toy and gives it back to her brother.
The young child, not understanding the danger, takes the batteries back and puts them into the toy as they’re all leaving.
As an audience member, it’s something that made me tense, but not too much. Early on in a movie, there doesn’t tend to be too many important deaths. On top of that, a lot of films shy away from killing kids. It’s something that makes almost everyone feel especially bad.
By the end of that scene, though, the toy starts making noise and that child is scooped up and eaten by one of the aliens.
It’s horrific and done during a time in the film where people feel mostly safe. It’s completely silent up until that moment, as well. We're forced into the belief that silence is safety. It was a brilliant way to train the audience to associate anxiety with sound.

12 – Host (2020)
Host was memorable for a different reason.
I loved the hell out of Host. I thought it was a very smart film, and it brought new life to a basic Ouija/haunting plot. Although I would consider a lot of what happened memorable, it sticks out to me more based on the situation surrounding it.
In 2020 we all had to deal with the corona virus. Anyone who wasn’t essential or stupid, locked down. I think a lot of people assumed it would be easier than it was. I know, as an introvert, I can often forget that humans are social creature. We survive best in packs.
That loneliness and boredom led to an overconsumption of entertainment – but it was hard to relate to much of it at that time. We couldn’t go out. We couldn’t have friends over. Anything we watched could only be escapism, because it wasn’t relevant anymore. Life had changed, and we didn’t know how long it would last.

Then came Host.
To my knowledge, it was the first flick that was filmed, and set, entirely in Zoom, during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It was amazing, and I’ll be revisiting it many times in the future. More importantly, though, it’s a time capsule. It shows the atmosphere of 2020 for what it was, for better or worse.
A few films have done it since, but Host came first.

11 – The Call of the Wild (2020)
I hate the reason The Call of the Wild is so memorable.
The thing is, I enjoy the story of this film. I like the book, I like some of the past adaptations, and a ton of stories that were inspired by the original. The marketing was not the best for this particular flick, but it really shouldn’t have been that bad.
I hate to say it like this, but the reason this adaptation didn’t hold up is because of the dog.

If this exact film came out in the 90s, with no changes, I’d have been fine with it. Might have been one of the best of the year, even. However, we’re in the 21rst century and this movie was made by production companies that have money. There’s absolutely no reason for how badly the dog in The Call of the Wild was rendered.
The shark in Santa Jaws (2018) was better.
If this were an indie film, it might have been a little distracting, but it would have been fine. If I’m laying down $20 to go see a mainstream movie in a theater, I don’t want to be distracted by how bad the CGI is.
It’s not the best way for a film to be remembered, but here we are.

10 – Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)
Anna and the Apocalypse is what you get when you mix Shaun of the Dead and High School Musical. It is hilarious and good-clean-zombie fun. When I saw it this year, it instantly became one of my favorite films ever. The whole thing is memorable just for the total randomness it is. Still, there’s one song that stands out.
Anna is the main character of this flick and she’s a basic teenager. She's in secondary school and about to move on when zombies attack. Naturally, the movie focuses on her life a little before the apocalypse. Her school is filled with cliques. It’s based in England, but it’s not really different in that way. The rebels, the nerds, the jocks, the indie kids/hipsters… simple formula. Universal, really.

The song that sticks out the most is “Soldier at War,” and it comes in while Anna and her friends are trying to escape some zombies while hiding under an inflatable pool. The rebels are grouped together, of course, and come across the protagonist. It’s their song that makes the most memorable cut.
It’s not just interesting because it’s catchy – though it is. It’s also different in that it shows a group of people who are not afraid of the zombies and, in fact, kind of enjoy kicking their asses. That’s not something that pops up a lot in horror films, unless there’s some kind of seedy underbelly to the group – which this doesn’t really have.
Check it out, but be prepared to have it stuck in your head for the foreseeable future.

9 – The Hunt (2020)
The Hunt was decent. It was action packed and had some good acting, especially from Betty Gilpin.
Of its content, the most memorable moment would be the beginning. The camera follows one character as though they’re going to be the protagonist, but that character dies. So, the camera follows someone else, and then they die. It pulls the same hunt for a main character a few times before it settles on Gilpin’s character.
As interesting as that was, it’s not what's going to stick with me the longest.
In fact, it didn’t even make this list based on the content. It’s one of the most memorable of the year because of the controversy surrounding it.

You’re going to find a great many different stories about what that controversy is, though.
Some sources say that the drama went down because of a school shooting happening near the intended release (which would have been in 2019) and it caused this overly violent film to postpone. Others say it was based on the politics, which was kind of backed up by the Cheeto-in-Chief tweeting about how it was created to cause chaos.
Whatever the height of the controversy, the movie was actually pretty benign. It made both liberals and conservatives look like idiots, and the one person who walks out alive is never said to be one or the other. It WAS violent, but no more so than most horror films these days.
Still, the controversy is unforgettable.  

8 – 365 Days (2020)
This film is as memorable as it is because of how bad it is.
365 Days (alternately known as 365 dni) sits at a high of 0% critics, and 29% audience, score on Rotten Tomatoes and yet, somehow, had such positive word of mouth that it caught our attention. That’s how this glorified porn wound up on our schedule.

It’s not the film itself that we’re going to remember. It’s just how much faith we lost in humanity that it ever came to our attention to begin with.
I can’t even add a clip to this list. It’s so close to being a full-on porn, that I can’t find anything even remotely appropriate. I’d tell you to go watch it yourself, but that would be a waste of nearly 2 hours of your life. Let’s just move on and try to burn it from our brains.

7 – Ready or Not (2019)
It’s really difficult for me to not just say “Samara Weaving’s scream” here.
To be fair, this was one of the first films that really made me start looking at Weaving as a modern-day scream queen. Her performance is practically perfect, and it’s very difficult to not remember every moment of it.
It’s the movie itself that really gets me, though.
I was so surprised that this was not a basic bitch slasher film. Aside from that, the humor of it is what makes the whole thing so memorable.

The depictions of family members using weapons they’ve never seen in real life is paired with someone hiding in a bathroom to watch a quick YouTube tutorial, for one example.
It’s all like that. The writers don’t go with the easy story. Instead, they take any expectations they know people are going to have and subvert them in the funniest way possible. I felt like the creators were living rent free in my head just to troll me.
The ending is insanely memorable, too.
Also, Samara Weaving’s scream.

6 – Hamilton (2020)
We all know what I’m going to say here. What’s most memorable about Hamilton? The music.
Long before this movie came out on Disney+, I had the soundtrack memorized. When I saw it put to screen, though… it was a whole different story.
The songs I found to be most memorable when listening to the album are not the songs that I would pick from the film. On Disney+, the song that will visually stick with me the longest, is "Hurricane."
Set with the choreography, it is one of the most goosebump raising moments I’ve seen in anything.
Hamilton stands in the middle of the stage and he begins to sing. It’s quiet. A memory. Then the tempo picks up and the stage begins to revolve around him in two different directions while dancers in white make their way onto it, spinning like the winds of a hurricane. They lift furniture and people and there’s a flash as it all pauses. It looks like a force of destruction coming in on him… but there’s quiet. For just a moment.

(Couldn’t find a clip of the performance, but it can be found at the following time on the film on Disney+: 1:56:20)

And Hamilton never moves. He stands in the middle of the stage, the world turning to madness around him.
I feel like every one of us related to that moment during the pandemic.
Of course, there were other memorable moments only found in the stage performance. Death guiding the bullet. The varied and nuanced performances of Daveed Diggs, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr., Anthony Ramos, Chris Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Okieriete Onaodowan, and Phillipa Soo. The spittle from Jonathan Groff that became a meme.
Hamilton was a nearly 3 hour masterpiece that is memorable because we needed it.

5 – The Invisible Man (2020)
Watching Elisabeth Moss play a gaslit protagonist (Cecilia) that seems to be slowly going crazy as she’s stalked by her invisible ex was one of the best film experiences of the entire year. I could just cop out and say that it was her entire performance that made the movie memorable. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was part of it. It’s one single scene that stands out in my mind when I think back, though.
It’s made very clear throughout the film that Cecilia’s sister (Emily) doesn’t really get the depth of what’s gone wrong in her life. Emily helps her to the most minor extent possible, and doesn’t give her the time of day to explain what’s going on most of the time.

That makes it a bit of a shock when she actually shows up to a restaurant Cecilia’s asked to meet her at.
I expected the scene to go one of two ways. I figured it was either going to lead to some kind of reconciliation, or the invisible ex would do something to drive her off.
The scene went completely off the wall, though, as the ex actually slits Emily’s throat and frames Cecilia. It came out of no where and broke through the safety of a scene that didn’t feel tense.
I believe that scene alone is going to keep me from making off-the-cuff predictions so easily in the future.

4 – The Platform (2019)
There is no one scene in The Platform that sticks out. Instead, it’s the whole film.
Throughout the movie we are shown a pessimistic and jaded look at humanity and greed. It’s so realistic to what I believe would actually happen in such a situation, that it left a lasting impression.
In the world shown, the characters inhabit a vertical prison. There are 2 people per cell and, presumably, 150 levels. Every day, once a day, a platform full of gourmet food – stuff requested by the inmates themselves – lowers into the prison. If everyone only takes what they order, then there’s enough food for everyone.
That’s not what happens.

Instead, every single layer, the prisoners stuff themselves as much as is physically possible. As a result, there’s never enough food to go around.
We follow the main character, Goreng, as he gets switched from level to level every month. We see the higher levels spitting and pissing on the lower ones. We watch as he gets trapped on a lower level with no food. We watch people resort to cannibalism.
It’s haunting and unforgettable. It’s a scathing commentary on greed and a very visual representation of why trickle down economics is a scam.

3 – Onward (2020)
The ending of this film straight-up made me ugly cry in the theater.
COVID-19 was a thing, but lockdowns hadn’t been called for yet when I went to go see it. So, there weren’t that many people in the room. That means I didn’t disturb anyone.
It was a Pixar film. I naturally expected some feels, but they decided to give me the one ending I never saw coming. It caught me off guard and elevated it to one of the most memorable kids films I’ve ever seen.

Throughout the entire movie, the main character (Ian) and his brother (Barley) are trying to get the bottom half of their late dad to a place where they can revive him fully. The spell only works for one day and Ian is absolutely obsessed with getting to meet his father. Because the man died when Ian was very young, he has no full memories of him.
I figured they would get to what they needed and get the dad back just in time for about a 60-second piece of closure. Something sweet and tear jerking, but ultimately happy… if a bit bittersweet.
Instead, there’s a huge fight scene and, Ian being the only one able to do magic, leaves to take care of it. He lets his brother see their dad. Meanwhile, Ian can only watch from a distance.
It was fucking heartbreaking. I had no idea that Pixar had the balls for that. It was the perfect ending.

2 – Marriage Story (2019)
This movie was outstanding, and it should have probably been on our favorite new discoveries for last year, but Cat had some triggering issues. As a result, we opted not to revisit it.
That’s what’s so memorable about it, though. It was a VERY honest flick.
Every moment of argument, of betrayal, of heartache felt real. You could sympathize with every character. You could feel their tears and hopelessness.
The one scene that stands out, is when Charlie and Nicole are arguing in his new apartment.

It’s not an action sequence. The camera doesn’t pull any stunts. There’s no outside influence. The scene is just about two characters in their emotions, rising to a climax of pain that results in the crossing of a line. It’s an argument we’ve all had with someone. A lost friend, our parents during puberty, an ex. It’s relatable and so superbly acted that you can see the excess saliva in their mouths and the tears running down their cheeks.
Watching it causes the heart to race and ache. You want life to get better and, at times, you don’t even know who to side with.
It’s one of the most perfectly scripted and acted argument scenes I’ve ever witnessed.

1 – Jojo Rabbit (2019)
This movie was only surprising because it worked. I don’t think anyone expected that from a dramedy about World War II. The holocaust is just way too sensitive of a topic to be joked about. Still, Taika Watiti somehow pulled it off.
It helped that he didn’t leave out the gut punches.
There was one scene in this movie that absolutely fucked me up.
In the film, Jojo spends a lot of time with his mother. She’s a resistance fighter, but she’s very careful with her work and she tries to shelter Jojo from it. It’s hard, because he idolizes Hitler. He’s a young German boy growing up in the time of the Third Reich. He’s been indoctrinated, raised into the beliefs that he only has because he doesn’t know there’s another way.

As he spends time with his mother, the camera can be seen focusing on her shoes now and then. They’re a unique pair. Red and white, while most of the clothing in the film is seen as shades of grey. They’re one of a kind.
In the scene, Jojo is walking around when he finds a blue butterfly, and joyfully follows behind it until it leads him to gallows.
We never see his mother, but we see her shoes. They dangle beside Jojo's head and leave no question as to what has happened.
The scene is an instant lump in the throat, and one that is unforgettably tragic.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Top 10 New Discoveries We Made in 2020 That We Wish We Hadn't

In this list, I’ll be looking into the worst of the films from previous years that Trust the Dice reviewed in 2020. Maybe you have already seen them and knew we’d have a bad time watching them, or maybe they were new to you, too. Either way, each one – for whatever reason – is a flick we think movie lovers should definitely leave in the past.

10 – Vivarium (2019)
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember this film as badly as I thought I would. That said, I do remember having a hard time getting through it.
The ending is interesting and there are some unforgettable scenes throughout – but it is the slowest fucking flick I’ve ever had to sit through. It was like watching grass grow for the majority of the runtime. 

It was as if someone took that scene about the most annoying sound in the world from Dumb & Dumber (1994) and stretched it into a full movie, then sapped out any humor it might have originally had.
None of the characters are likable and watching it is a chore. There’s just no reason to sit through it if you don’t have to.

9 – Girl on the Third Floor (2019)
I wanted this movie to work. I was looking forward to seeing C.M. Punk try to step out of the ring and onto the big screen. I love seeing transitions like that. Unfortunately, the entire movie just didn’t work.
There were some cool visuals, but the acting and writing were subpar, at best.
What little I remember of it now, is not something I remember fondly.

8 – Into the Dark: New Year, New You (2018)
This was my first peek into the Hulu anthology series: Into the Dark. It was not a good introduction.
The acting went right past campy and into bad. It felt like it was trying to be a very long episode of Black Mirror (2011- ), but with none of the substance. The plot was relatively trope-y and nothing really felt authentic.
There are good episodes of this anthology film series, but New Year, New You is not one of them.

7 – Doom: Annihilation (2019)
Who asked for this?
Doom is a great video game. It’s fun and fast-paced. The newer one is gorgeous and the older ones made FPS games what they are today.
Any attempt at putting it to film has been a complete bomb – and this was no different.
The only way it could have been worse is if Uwe Boll had directed it.
Stop it.

6 – 12 Pups of Christmas (2019)
I thought our perception of 12 Pups of Christmas might have been the result of Christmas movie overload. So, I subjected myself to it a second time.
I’d like to report that it’s just a very bad film.
The only good thing about it was the puppies and they weren’t even on screen for all that long. In fact, the movie barely had anything to do with them at all.
I sat through it twice, never again.

5 – The Pool (2018)
I was dying for a creature feature when we watched this one. I was open to it, and ready to see something new and exciting.
The premise was interesting. It made me believe we were about to see a harrowing claustrophobic thriller about a man trying to protect his girlfriend from a giant predator. We did get a little of that, but so much of it was a let-down.
I particularly hated the 87 endings. You thought Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) had too many endings? Director Ping Lumpraploeng saw that and said “Hold my beer.”
With better editing, it might have had a chance.

4 – Satanic Panic (2019)
Critics enjoyed this one and neither me, nor Cat, can understand why.
We understand that it was supposed to have a parody-like feel to it – but it went WAY past that. It had questionable scenes that felt outdated. There was also some incredibly bad acting from otherwise good actors. 

It was meant to be a Scary Movie (2000) kind of thing, but it felt more like Vampires Suck (2010) instead.

3 – Boar (2017)
I was just so disappointed with the creature features this year.
Boar was outstandingly bad. The acting and the story were ridiculous. There were continuity errors and unbelievable reactions everywhere.

It was just a giant mess.

2 – Can’t Take it Back (2017)
With a basic bitch story and unremarkable acting, this was a completely forgettable film. We expected it to be bad, though. We gave it a chance, and regretted it.
There’s just one more things to say:

1 – Psychotic! (2016)
Of course I was going to watch this. Brooklyn is where I was born and raised, and most places that film there pretend to be in Manhattan – so it’s nice when they are actually trying to celebrate Brooklyn itself.
Unfortunately, it was the worst movie I have ever seen. It shared more than a few qualities with The Room (2003), but it doesn’t even have that charm to make people laugh at. It's just tragic.
Me and Cat, individually, without any discussion, gave this one a rare 0.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Top 20 Favorite New Discoveries of 2020

Trust the Dice doesn’t only review new films. We like to dig into streaming services to find other gems. We don’t delve too far into the past, but we do always find some good watches.
Here, I'm going to outline some of the best films from past years that we reviewed in 2020. Some were exceptionally popular, but others came straight out of left field and knocked my socks off. I'm not just looking at the best of the best. I'm also considering those that flew above my expectations.

20 – Santa Jaws (2018)
I know this is a really weird choice.
Santa Jaws didn’t make the list because it’s a perfect film. It made it because it soared through my expectations.
I thought it would be a basic B-movie creature feature. Instead, it had a cute little storyline for teens and a pretty decent shark cgi. (Compared to other B-movies.) It turned out to be a cute flick.
It was a wonderful little break from the basic Hallmark rom-com holiday film cycle. It stood out as a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ kind of movie. I just had a great time watching it – which was a pleasant surprise.

19 – Madness in the Method (2019)
I hoped Madness in the Method would be good, but wasn’t entirely sure how it would go. I was happy with what I saw.
It was an entirely meta story where people played alternate versions of themselves. I love films like that, because it’s a bunch of friends getting together to make something. You can tell that the actors are having fun. Stuff like that comes out in their performances.
In most of those cases, even if the acting is off, it’s still fun to watch – which is what really matters.
The ending also threw me off. I thought I knew where it was going, but I was very wrong.

18 – The Shed (2019)
What would you do with a vampire trapped in your shed?
It’s such a simple, if imaginative, question. That’s at the core of the film.
From the moment I heard the concept, I was into it. I’m a vamp purist. I like the concept of any film about the bloodsuckers that brings us away from the romance version and back into horror. This movie definitely did that.
It had a few cringey moments, but it was still solid. It even went into how the jealousy of a situation, even a bad situation, could affect relationships. I thought it was very well done.

17 – Nekrotronic (2018)
Nekrotronic is campy, action-packed, ridiculous fun.
It didn’t entirely reinvent the wheel, a lot of it utilized tropes from both the horror and comedy genres… but it did so in a way that brought them into the 21rst century. Instead of finding a way for characters to lose their phones, it utilized them. As well as a ton of the other technological advancements we’ve had since the 80s that horror movies like to try to ignore, or handicap, so the writers don’t have to think of modern solutions.
It’s face-paced and well done. It’s no where near perfect, but it’s entertaining as hell.
No pun intended.

16 – Assassination Nation (2018)
Watching this film was a trip. It took on so many newer social issues and tied them to problems humanity has had since the dawn of time. It went into the lack of privacy online and social media, then tied it all into issues like mob mentality. It took cancel culture and tied it into the Salem Witch Trials, then showed why it was all bullshit because we never get the full story from what we’re seeing.
None of the character were likable in the least. Still, the situation was so well crafted that it didn’t matter if you liked any of the characters. There was a clear right and wrong.
It was brilliantly done, and that climax was a great watch.

15 – Blood Quantum (2019)
This was a zombie flick that took a different approach.
There was a basic zombie apocalypse story to start, but the audience learns that Indigenous people are immune to the bite.
The concept was really intriguing. Not only because the plot examined what would happen if a group of people were immune to a zombie disease, but how the rest of the world would react. How would they ask for help? Would the immune group do anything? Could people survive together in that kind of situation?
It had some plot holes, but it was still amazing.

14 – The Cured (2017)
I liked this one a lot more than Cat did, but I managed to successfully argue its way on the list.
The Cured is about a man who was turned into a zombie. A cure is found, and he’s one of the many that’s receptive to it. It’s a different kind of zombie flick. It isn’t about people running away from zoms and trying to rebuild civilization. It’s about people who’ve been cured and their journey to live with what they’ve done and reenter society.
I've never seen anything like it before. 
The acting throughout is amazing but, it’s the setting and the script that really stick out. It parallels some of the trials that ex-cons go through when trying to return to the world after prison, but it’s not a social justice kind of film.
The ending is very interesting.

13 – Descendants Series (2015-2019)
I had never seen any of the Descendants before this year, now I’ve seen all of them.
I really thought the whole thing would be more Disney Channel-esk. You know what I mean. Overly campy. Eye-rolling script. Nothing that anyone but a preteen could really tolerate. I was wrong.
The music is extremely catchy and the acting was decent. Some of the CGI made it impossible to forget that it was made-for-TV, but that was easy to forgive because the films were super endearing.
Every one of these are films I’ll be happy to watch again when my daughter is old enough.

12 – The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
This movie got some awful ratings, but both of us loved it. It was bloody and hilarious.
Sure, it utilized a lot of spy thriller tropes, but it felt different because of who the protagonist was as a character.
Also, the chemistry between Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon was great. I believed they were the best of friends in a weird-ass situation.
I spent almost the entire runtime laughing. I think the critics were a little stuck-up with this one.

11 – Crawl (2019)
I love realistic creature features. The campy B-movie stuff is fun, but a realistic creature feature with terrifying graphics is where it’s at.
Crawl fell right into that category. The alligators looked real, and the acting brought everything up to max thrills. I believed they were stuck in the water. I believed that they could die. It was an extraordinary addition to the creature feature sub-genre.

10 – The Big Sick (2017)
I wasn’t entirely sure I would like this one. It seemed overly dramatic from everything I’d heard. What I got was a heartwarming modern love story.
I know you hear that term a lot. A critic will call something a “modern fairy tale” or “modern love story” and then you’ll watch the film and it’ll just be another Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast rip off. That’s not what this is.
The movie shows us two character that are very much flawed and enjoying each other. Then one runs from commitment and the other develops an illness that puts them in a coma.
Ok, I know that sounds Sleeping Beauty-esk, but it’s not. There’s no rape-y vibe to anyone, and the lead male interacts more with the female lead’s parents than her.
It’s an interesting story that’s superbly acted. It’s made even better with the knowledge that it’s based on a true story.

9 – Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)
This film did not go the way I expected it to at all. By five minutes in, I thought the protagonist was going to snap and murder everyone. I thought it would be like Mayhem (2017), at least in the horror aspect. That couldn’t have been further from what I got.
Instead, the protagonist (and one of his co-workers) are invited to a dinner with his boss and, as it turns out, his boss is a fucking loon.
The concept alone feels mediocre, but it plays out in such a way – and with such good acting – that it feels fresh, and new, and fascinating.
It was a huge surprise.

8 – Seoul Station (2016)
I have heard some very upsetting things about the sequel to Train to Busan (2016) that came out this year, but I have not had a chance to see it yet. I’m a little nervous now, because I absolutely adored Train to Busan and this, it’s prequel.
Seoul Station is the animated prequel to one of the best zombie films I have ever seen. That means it had a lot to live up to.
Was it as good as Train to Busan? No. But it had its own story and charm that was engaging. In it, I got to see how the zombie apocalypse really started, before it reached the train.
The animation style fits the chaotic nature of the story, and there are some serious twists and heartbreaks woven throughout. It hits hard, and it definitely felt like an exceptional film for the series.

7 – Fighting With my Family (2019)
I was a wrestling fan once upon a time, but I lost interest. Because of that, I’m not overly familiar with Paige, the wrestler this movie was written about. 

I didn’t really think this film would do anything for me. I almost felt I shouldn’t bother, since I wasn’t the intended audience.
You know what? You don’t need to have ever been a fan of wrestling to enjoy the hell out of this flick.
It was funny and inspiring. It almost made me want to start watching again.
Fighting with my Family is one of the best sports film biographies I’ve seen in a very long time.

6 – Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
This was a zombie Christmas musical. I had never heard of such a thing before.
It was unique, it was funny, the music was catchy… and there were zombies. It would have had to suck majorly for me to not be on board.
Instead, it had great acting, directing, and writing.
The entire film was worth watching over and over again. In fact, I have watched it several times since we reviewed it in May, and I have the soundtrack mostly memorized.
I cannot recommend this one enough.

5 – Little Monsters (2019)
I was pissed off when I saw the trailer for this film. I had no idea how it managed to slip by me when I collected the trailers for the Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in October for 2019. I knew it would have made my list just based on the trailer.
So, I added it to the schedule and I was not disappointed.
Lupita Nyong’o is a goddess. She brought the whole film to the next level, which was difficult because it already had a fun and engaging story.
I’ll admit, I barely remember the face of the male protagonist. He could have been played by anyone and it would have been fine. Nyong’o and Josh Gad stick out in my mind the most.

4 – A Quiet Place (2018)
As hard as it is to believe, I hadn’t seen A Quiet Place until 2020.
It’d been on the list of movies I wanted to watch, but you wouldn't believe how long that list is. I just never got to it.
I wasn’t overly surprised by the fact that I liked it. I just didn’t know how much I would.
The creepy, silent, settings… the shocking death in the beginning that told audiences that no one was safe, even the design of the aliens was absolutely spectacular.
Personally, I even liked the ending, which I’ve heard a few people crap on.

3 – Mayhem (2017)
Ah, Mayhem. The film in which I realized that I can 100% identify Samara Weaving by her scream.
Which still sounds creepy taken out of context.
Moving on.
I thought, at the most, that I would enjoy seeing Steven Yeun being badass. I had no idea how amazing the whole damn thing would be.
It was like a revenge fantasy gone mad. Who hasn’t hated their job enough to want to fantasize about something like this? A madness disease that lasts only 24 hours and causes people to act only on impulse with absolutely no consequences, so they destroy the company that they work for.
It was fun and bloody and fast-paced. There was barely any fluff. Every moment was action or story. There was even a wonderful chemistry between Yeun and Weaving.
I’ve forced a few friends to watch it since.

2 – Jojo Rabbit (2019)
I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not Jojo Rabbit should be eligible for this list. I decided to add it when I figured that it wouldn’t be eligible for the best movies of 2020. The thing is, I saw it in theaters at the beginning of the year (before COVID). So it feels more like a movie from this year to me.
Either way, it was amazing.
I did not know if Taika Waititi would be able to pull off the parody version of Hitler in a serious comedy World War II story. That just felt like a disaster in the making.
I had to see it for myself.
It was surprisingly well done. It didn’t feel offensive, or in bad taste at all. In fact, the lessons learned at the end felt right. Even the child actor did an amazing job.
There were scenes in this film that felt like they were from a drama holocaust movie. They are burned in my brain, and I will likely remember them until the day I die.
If you haven’t seen this one, I highly suggest you do. It’s a game changer.

1 – Ready or Not (2019)
This film is #1 not just because it was the best, but because it was also the most surprising.
Ready or Not was supposed to be a basic bitch, slasher film. The trailer looked decent, but it didn’t look like it would be all that special.
It smashed through expectations.
There was nothing basic about this flick. It was gorgeously written and directed. I never knew what was coming. When something happened that I did expect, it was immediately followed up with something shocking.
I feel like it had no flaws. At all.
In fact, I like to take one of the songs from it and play it in discord when me and my friends play hide and seek in Among Us.
It just works.