Friday, January 15, 2021

Outside the Wire (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Outside the Wire (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 42, Automatik Entertainment, Inspire Entertainment, Leeding Media, Netflix, Pioneer Stilking Films
Director: Mikael Håfström
Writer: Rowan Athale, Rob Yescombe
Actors: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Emily Beecham, Enzo Cilenti, Michael Kelly, Kristina Tonteri-Young, Brady Dowad, Henry Garrett, Velibor Topic, Pilou Asbæk
Blurb from IMDb: In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack.

Selina’s Point of View:
Outside the Wire was a typical war movie with a dash of science fiction thrown in. The problem is that the sci-fi aspects were just as typical.
A drone pilot disobeys orders and launches a missile that kills 2 marines, so he’s sent to work under a snarky, not-quite-normal, captain. Oh, and that captain happens to be the first android in existence – which is a classified fact.
Honestly, I enjoyed the synopsis and the trailer. I knew there would be tropey aspects, but I still thought it had entertainment value. Which, it did.
I was surprised with how dark the story got. It didn’t shy away from showing the atrocities of war. It showcased mass graves, burnt corpses, and the weight of collateral damage.
For a lot of the film, I was on the edge of my seat. There was enough sugar to make the pill easier to swallow, and there was an underlying message to the whole thing. Unfortunately, I feel as though they didn’t have the balls to finish what they started.

It had a decent twist, one that made me think they were going to take the risky path. In fact, the risky paths for the ending outnumbered the safe.
As we neared those last moments, I hoped it would go in any of those risky directions. It would have elevated the movie and really slammed the point home. Instead, it left me frustrated.
The message felt like little more than a red herring. Nothing changes in the end. The world keeps on keeping on.
A lot of the negative reviews go into that. Normally I rake critics over the coals when they attack an otherwise entertaining flick, but I kind of see their point here. It was a decent mindless action movie, but it tried to be more and it failed so spectacularly at that attempt that it’s really hard to ignore.
If you need something action-based to turn your mind off to, it’s really not bad. Just don’t go into it with philosophical questions. Especially not if you expect answers.
So much lost potential there.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been eagerly anticipating Outside the Wire, as I mentioned in this month’s Top 20 list. After watching the film and then re-reading my thoughts based solely on the trailer, I realize that I misunderstood the movie’s general plot.
The good news is that it didn’t matter. I still enjoyed it.
In addition to a really solid and plausible sci-fi story, Outside the Wire brings us thought-provoking concepts and poses some hard questions. How much collateral damage is acceptable when seeking peace? When combat becomes machine vs. machine, is there really a deterrent to warfare? There are some deep concepts threaded through the plot of this fast-paced action flick.

Anthony Mackie (Triple 9, Point Blank, Altered Carbon) is at the top of his game here. I was all-in on his performance as a top-secret prototype android. Some of his action sequences were insane and amazing. A movie like this just gets me even more excited for Mackie’s next projects in the MCU.
I haven’t seen a lot of Damson Idris’ (Megan Leavey, The Commuter, Snowfall) work, though I think he did a bang-up job with this role. I really appreciated the depth that he brought to his character’s journey from joystick jockey to boots-on-the-ground combatant.
Honestly, there’s very little that I could fault with this film. The pacing was good, the twists and turns were exciting and interesting, and I’ll reiterate that the action was outstanding. I enjoyed seeing a drone pilot's perspective, as well. It’s an aspect of the modern military that isn’t really shown much in cinema.
All told, if you like sci-fi, action, and movies with lots of combat, then Outside the Wire is going to be right up your alley. I wouldn’t hesitate to give this film a recommendation.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 41%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 27%
Metascore – 48/100
Metacritic User Score – 2.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
Movie Trailer:

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Promising Young Woman (2020)


Streaming Services: N/A
Movie Name/Year: Promising Young Woman (2020)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller 
Length: 113 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: FilmNation Entertainment, Focus Features, LuckyChap Entertainment, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures International, Universal Pictures, The Searchers
Director: Emerald Fennell
Writer: Emerald Fennell
Actors: Adam Brody, Carey Mulligan, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Alli Hart, Loren Paul, Bo Burnham, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Alison Brie, Gabriel Oliva, Bryan Lillis, Francisca Estevez, Lorna Scott, Connie Britton, Casey Adams, Vince Lozano, Molly Shannon, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell
Blurb from IMDb: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.

Selina’s Point of View:
When I first saw the trailer for Promising Young Woman, I expected it to be more like what Hunted wound up being. In fact, some parts made me think it might even go even further, into torture porn areas.
That is not what it was.
It definitely dipped into that ‘revenge’ kind of plot, but it goes a different – more realistic – route. If anything, I’d call it psychological.
Normally, that kind of misrepresentation in a trailer would annoy me. This time it doesn’t. I don’t think there was any other way to serve up a summary of the film without spoilers. And, if there’s one thing I hate more than misrepresentation in a trailer, it’s ruining the entire movie.
So, in this case, I find it acceptable.

Everything about this film was on point. The acting was amazing, and the characters felt real.
The plot was not nearly as one dimensional as I expected. There was so much more to it. After I watched, I had to sit quietly for about an hour just to digest it. There was one twist I saw coming from a mile away, but the ending practically redefined risky.
I was shocked to learn that this was Emerald Fennell’s (The Danish Girl, Chickens, Vita & Virginia) first time writing, or directing, a full-length feature film. I saw a lot of inspiration taken from Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket) in the settings/shots – a reliance on symmetry.
The script also felt more experienced than it apparently was. I need to see more from her.
Promising Young Woman was a great movie, but it will make you think. It’s not the type of thing to put on after a long day of work to just turn your brain off to. This is an unforgettable piece of cinema.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 89%
Metascore – 71/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.4/10
IMDB Score – 7.4/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Hunted (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Hunted (2021)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Charade Films, Kidam, Savage Productions, Wrong Men North, Longride, Shudder
Director: Vincent Paronnaud
Writer: Vincent Paronnaud, Léa Pernollet, David H. Pickering
Actors: Christian Bronchart, Lucie Debay, Ciaran O’Brien, Jean-Mathias Pondant, Kevin Van Doorslaer, Gilles Vandeweerd, Dianne Weller, Arieh Worthalter
Blurb from IMDb: "The company of wolves is better than that of man." Once upon a frenzied time, Woman meets Man. Woman dances with Man. Man kisses Woman. Man grips Woman. Woman escapes Man. Man chases Woman - nothing new. Or is there?

Selina’s Point of View:
Based on the trailer, I thought this would be a retelling of Red Riding Hood. The story and the costumes all supported that. Instead, Hunted was more of a revenge tale.
I recently saw Promising Young Woman (2021) – which you can read about tomorrow – and, although it has a very different plot, Hunted explores some of the same societal issues. It really digs in deep on how women get treated when they are deemed vulnerable.
Hunted was a lot more heavy-handed and straight-forward, which is saying a lot. Promising Young Woman wasn’t exactly discrete about the message.

I feel like a lot of what was explored here was muddied by the content. It was extremely graphic at times, at least in script, and had some pacing issues that made it both overwhelming and boring at the same time.
The main antagonist was creepy, but felt a bit depthless. I get what they were going for: that sadist-for-sadism-sake kind of thing. I know that it occurs in real life, but when it’s not depicted right on screen, it just feels like lazy writing. I don’t believe it was done right, here. I feel as though giving him some depth would have helped.

Then there was this strange addition of a mother-son duo in the beginning. She was telling him tales of, essentially, what was going to happen. When they appeared again later in the film, I thought there might be an interesting place for them, but they were little more than red herrings.
There were parts I enjoyed. Revenge stories are entertaining to me. When Eve was beating on the Accomplice, that was definitely fun. When she rose up to protect herself, also a good moment – it led to a decent climax.
I don’t think this is the movie I would seek out for a revenge fix. There are better flicks for that.
If you want to see Hunted for yourself, it comes out tomorrow on Shudder.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 50/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 11, 2021

Breach (2020)


Streaming Services: Apple iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Fandango Now, VUDU, Microsoft Store, Redbox, DirecTV, Xfinity
Movie Name/Year: Breach (2020)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Length: 89 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 308 Ent, Almost Never Films Inc., Aloe Entertainment, Film Mode Entertainment, Dutch FilmWorks, Saban Films, Signature Entertainment, Storm Pictures Korea
Director: John Suits
Writers: Edward Drake, Corey Large
Actors: Cody Kearsley, Bruce Willis, Rachel Nichols, Kassandra Clementi, Johnny Messner, Corey Large, Callan Mulvey, Timothy V. Murphy, Johann Urb, Ralf Moeller, Thomas Jane, Angie Pack, Swen Temmel, Elicia Davies, Alexander Kane, Robert Laenen, Adam Huel Potter, Mitchell Baker
Blurb from RottenTomatoes: Fleeing a devastating plague on Earth, an interstellar ark comes under attack from a new threat -- a shape-shifting alien force intent on slaughtering what's left of humanity.

Cat’s Point of View:

My expectations for Breach were relatively high, as I noted in my Top 20 Movies article for December 2020. I listed this film at #7 at that time and went as far as to say ‘shut up and take my money’ as part of my enthusiastic endorsement.
I have rarely been as disappointed in a film as I was with this one. I was so eager to watch this sci-fi thriller that I didn’t mind paying nearly $8.00 to rent it from my cable provider’s On Demand service. If this had been one of the $19.99 rentals, as many of these movies releasing to stream concurrently with theater runs have done, I would have been very upset. In this case, I at least got my money’s worth by watching it more than once.

You might wonder why I viewed this production multiple times if I was that disappointed in it. My answer is that my lackluster response to the film was exactly why I viewed it about two and a half times. I fell asleep during my first late-night viewing. I wondered if it was just a fatigue thing since that happens to me frequently, or if it was the movie that acted as a lullaby.
My second watch-through proved to me that fatigue had been the likely culprit, but also only furthered my frustration with the movie. My third watch-through was just to ensure I wasn’t getting it wrong. Was it really that bad? Was I really seeing what I thought? Unfortunately, my disappointment had merit.
Why was I so let down by Breach? Where do I even begin?

Let’s start with the thoughts I put forward with my Top 20 article in the film’s #7 listing. I was expecting something that blended elements from the Alien (1979) franchise and the Syfy channel TV series Helix (2014-2015). I’ve seen a lot of buzz surrounding the movie also compare it to elements from The Thing (1982). I can see where that comes from, but I don’t believe it borrows quite enough. That’s really neither here nor there.
I was excited to see Bruce Willis (Glass, Trauma Center, Hard Kill) and Thomas Jane (Standoff, 1922, The Expanse) sharing the screen together. They’ve both had experience with both action and space-themed projects in the past. This project did not utilize their full potential. It seems like Willis had some fun shooting this one if the candid production photos are to be believed… but this clearly wasn’t his best role. Jane barely had any screen time and the direction he received for what little time he had was apparently lackluster.

There were so many faults with this film that it was extremely hard to look past them. I really try very hard to find something positive to say, and I’m really struggling here. Probably the best thing I could offer was that Breach posed an interesting premise. If it had been treated correctly, this had the potential for being great… or at the very least far better than the film that was released.
The writing and some of the character interactions (which I imagine were direction-driven) were awkward and just odd. The situation on Earth just wasn’t adequately explained, and there were many plot holes that were large enough to swallow a bus. I’ve seen movies with shoestring budgets get far better bang for their buck than exhibited here. The effects were bargain basement, the shaky cam was annoying, and I couldn’t suspend disbelief for the creature effects. It felt like a poor rubber suit was lumbering around, or extremely amateur CGI. Don’t even get me started on the guns vs. lasers used in the fire-fights. The lighting and hazy settings were strange, and rather than otherworldly they came across nauseating.
Other elements bugged me as well, but in spite of my chagrin and disappointment, I am loath to spoil the film for any curious enough to watch it for themselves.
There are far better films out there. If you absolutely can’t stay away from this one, maybe wait until it appears on a subscription service you already pay for, rather than shelling out for it On Demand. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 20%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 46%
Metascore –  None
Metacritic User Score – 0.9/10
IMDB Score – 3.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5
Movie Trailer: