Friday, February 26, 2021

Space Sweepers (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Space Sweepers (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Length: 136 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Bidangil Pictures, Merry Christmas, Netflix
Director: Sung-hee Jo
Writer: Sung-hee Jo
Actors: Song Joong-Ki, Kim Tae-ri, Seon-kyu Jin, Hae-Jin Yoon, Richard Armitage, Ye-Rin Park, Mu-Yeol Kim, Ji-Yeol Oh, Hyang-gi Kim, Nas Brown, Kevin Dockry, Daniel Joey Albright, Dae-han Kim, John D. Michaels, Carla Fernanda Avilla Escobedo
Blurb from IMDb: Set in the year 2092 and follows the crew of a space junk collector ship called The Victory. When they discover a humanoid robot named Dorothy that's known to be a weapon of mass destruction, they get involved in a risky business deal.

Selina’s Point of View:
My heart hurts.
The ending of Space Sweepers just hit me like a tsunami. I ugly cried through the last 15-minutes. Every time I started to come out of it, something else happened.
This film was exactly as good as I thought it was going to be. It was flawlessly gorgeous with a rich universe. I can’t think of any other movie that has showcased as many languages as this one.

Due to the way the universe evolved in this dystopia, technology became a simple tool for translating speech, so people just spoke whatever they spoke. Netflix notes that Space Sweepers is in Korean, but I heard English, French, Russian, Spanish… and other languages, dialects, and accents. It may seem like such a simple, random thing for me to latch onto, but it felt like a fact that brought the world-building to a whole other level. It was a reinvention of the wheel where the dystopian sub-genre is concerned.
The plot was gripping, but a little complicated to unpack. There are some familiar tropes utilized, but it all seemed to represent something. It all had a specific purpose. There was the obvious statement on how “trustworthy” media is when it’s linked politically to someone. There was the corruption in world leaders, the question of morality in a caste-based society, sacrifice, and growth.

I did not feel time move as I watched. It turned from day to night while I was glued to the screen, but it still feels like no time has passed.
Aside from the depth, there was so much to enjoy on the surface. There were large-scale space battles and plenty of humor.

I will say that some of the comedy felt like it was right out of an anime, but I enjoy that. It worked well for me.
I’ve never seen, or heard of, anything else by writer/director Sung-hee Jo (Phantom Detective, A Werewolf Boy, End of Animal). I’m going to be actively seeking out the rest of his work. I was thrilled to find out this was a fully original story.
Space Sweepers was phenomenal. I will definitely be watching it again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 64/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Dark and the Wicked (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Dark and the Wicked (2021)
Genre: Horror
Length: 95 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Traveling Picture Show Company (TPSC), Unbroken Pictures, Shotgun Shack Pictures, Inwood Road Films, Gusto entertainment, Paradise Group, RLJE Films, Shudder
Director: Bryan Bertino
Writer: Bryan Bertino
Actors: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki, Michael Zagst, Xander Berkeley, Charles Jonathan Trott, Ella Ballentine, Mel Cowan, Mindy Raymond, Chris Doubek
Blurb from IMDb: On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family.

Selina’s Point of View:
I think Bryan Bertino (The Blackcoat's Daughter, Mockingbird, The Monster) made something out of the box here. 
Upon watching the trailer, I thought it looked decent – if a little typical. I’m not mad at the coming attractions, because I don’t think they could have done better without spoilers.
The Dark and the Wicked must have been incredibly hard to advertise, because it was subtle.
In a basic bitch horror there are enough jump scares that don’t involve plot points, allowing for a scarier trailer. This film didn’t have any that wouldn’t have directly spoiled the entire story. I love that. That means that the high-pitched musical note indicating fear has nothing to do with a cat tipping over a garbage pail or something.

That’s not the only way The Dark and the Wicked was subtle. There were still high-pitched notes and jump scares, I just think they were utilized very well. On top of that, a lot of the scares involved a psychological twist that made it difficult to tell if anything had really happened.
My only issue is that, because it wasn’t as in-your-face, it could sometimes feel a little slow. Still, whenever my attention started to stray, it was like the movie knew. That’s precisely when something would happen to draw me back.
I think The Dark and the Wicked is a solid horror flick.
It premieres on Shudder February 25th.

Cat’s Point of View:
Bryan Bertino has written, directed, and/or produced some seriously creepy and noteworthy horror over recent years. His debut film was The Strangers (2008), after all, which has taken on a cult following. Seriously, he hit a home run and really hasn’t looked back. Right away I anticipated for something that was going to be intense.
The Dark and the Wicked certainly delivered that in spades.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I startle easily. One of my husband and teen’s favorite pastimes is finding ways to scare the crap out of me when I least expect it. Jump scares can really get me sometimes. There were a few here. The movie wasn’t without some of the standard horror tropes, but it didn’t use them as a crutch. That wasn’t everything the production had to offer. I am thankful for that because getting startled every 30 seconds is not my idea of a fun time.
I also appreciated how the setting was utilized to its maximum potential. The farm felt like it was carved out of time with its austere structures, things like land-line corded phones, the remoteness, and isolation. It layered brilliantly into the desperation and plight of the characters. Kudos to the production team for deciding to use the director’s family farm for this purpose. It was clear that they maximized his intimate knowledge of the location to its best effect.
The plot was interesting. It felt a little familiar, but I couldn’t quite say that I’ve ‘seen it before,’ even if elements within the story weren’t entirely unique. The cast also delivered solid performances for the most part. 

Marin Ireland (The Family Fang, Sneaky Pete, The Empty Man) and Michael Abbott Jr. (Mud, In the Radiant City, Shifting Gears) meshed well as siblings trying to cope with heartbreaking and baffling circumstances. When you throw something supernatural into family drama such as this, it can make for a hell of an emotional ride. I was almost in tears in some places.
Of course, then there were the moments where I actually shouted at my screen, said ‘oh God!’ and covered my eyes. It happened more than once. The film was outright unflinchingly brutal in places.
The Dark and the Wicked left me with a seriously unsettled feeling. There are some bits that didn’t play out as well for me, but overall, this was a serious horror contender.  Exhaustion had to claim me before I could get to sleep after watching this last night.
I love watching horror movies in the dark – especially when there’s a lot of actual literal darkness in a film. It makes it easier to see when I don’t have to fight light-glare on my screens. Some part of me wishes I’d tried in the light of day instead. I’d say that makes this a success.
If you’ve got a Shudder subscription and you’re looking for some dramatic horror, this would certainly fit the bill.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%
Metascore – 72/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 22, 2021

Flora & Ulysses (2021)


Streaming Services: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Flora & Ulysses (2021)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Pictures, Netter Productions, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+
Director: Lena Khan
Writers: Brad Copeland, Kate DiCamillo
Actors: Matilda Lawler, Alyson Hannigan, Ben Schwartz, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Danny Pudi, Darien Martin, Anna Deavere Smith, Bobby Moynihan, John Kassir, Nancy Robertson, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Micucci, Christine Lee, Jesse Reid, Javier Lacroix, David Milchard, Kyle Strauts, Victoria Katongo, Emma Oliver
Blurb from IMDb:  The adventures of a young girl and a squirrel with superpowers.

Cat’s Point of View:
I fell in love with the trailer for Flora and Ulysses when we were determining February’s Top 20 list. To say I had eager anticipation for the movie’s release would be a monumental understatement. I figured that it would be adorable and a feel-good family adventure. I am happy to say that this film exceeded my expectations by far more than a whisker.
The timing of this release to Disney+ couldn’t have been better. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented winter amidst a global pandemic – at least in my neck of the woods. Things have looked pretty bleak recently. I’ll spare you the long story that goes with that. The point is, however, that the message of hope delivered by this production just hit home in all the right ways.

I’ve always had a soft spot for squirrels. In fact, as I’m writing my review there’s one sitting on the post of my deck just outside my bedroom window, and another prancing all over the bench swing in the backyard. We have a family of them living in the pin oak behind our house. They’ve been great amusement for me when I’ve been laid up at various points in the last several years. I do understand that they’re no joke when it comes to electrical grids and sometimes like to chew their way into places they don’t belong – but we’re not talking about those sort of mischievous squirrels. Our squirrels are well-behaved… for wild animals, that is. I digress…
It’s that sort of whimsy that everyone needs right about now. The world has been captivated by cinematic stories of comic superheroes – the Marvel universe especially. Flora and Ulysses draws on that, respectfully, and finds its own niche within the genre for the little red, furry fledgling hero.
This tale is more than just a superhero origin story, however. It’s a beacon projecting a message of hope wrapped in the experiences of a family that could desperately use some. It is laughter, tears, and the relatable rollercoaster ride that many families of this age know too well. The family isn't perfect - in fact, far from it. There's no saccharine-sweet perfection here. They're quirky, sometimes awkward, and often can't see how they get in their own way. 

Aside from the engrossing story, the cast was also pretty amazing. Matilda Lawler (Evil, Good Grief, The Block Island Sound) and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (Emmerdale Farm, The Recycling Man, The Haunting of Bly Manor) are two young actors to look out for. They each had an amazing screen presence, though Lawler stole the show for me. The adults weren’t all that bad either. You can’t go wrong with Allison Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother, You Might Be the Killer, Fancy Nancy).
If I had to pick one thing that bugged me about this film, I’d be hard-pressed to give an answer. I could still provide one, though – it was a CGI cat. There was something off about the way it was done that just evaded my ability to ignore that it was a computer rendering. The scenes it was involved in were great, however, so I’m entirely willing to look past it. The animation team did a spectacular job with Ulysses, and that’s what really mattered.

I was even geeking out over the soundtrack. There’s one song in particular that plays in a scene about ¾ through the movie. Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” was a staple of my youth. It was a song that got played often while riding in the car with my mom. Aside from the nostalgia that particular track provided for me, it underscores the message of the story very well and was excellently placed. The song goes through a whole gauntlet of horrible things that could hypothetically happen to the singer – and then he gives an upside of each instance. For example, the lyrics pose the notion that if he ever lost his legs he wouldn’t complain about it – he just wouldn’t have to walk everywhere anymore.
Flora and Ulysses is a special movie, one of my new favorites, and well worth the cost of the Disney subscription. This is one squirrelly tale that you’d be nuts to pass up. (Yes. Yes, I did. Not Sorry!)

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 70%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%
Metascore – 65%
Metacritic User Score – 4.0/10
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S.: Short mid-credit’s scene.
Movie Trailer: