Friday, March 19, 2021

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Streaming Services: Cheapest Option: Google Play - $9.99
Movie Name/Year: Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Length: 88 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: JD Entertainment, Landafar Entertainment, Landmark Studio Group, Saturn Films, Movie Cloud, Pegasus Co., Blitz, Eagle Pictures, Foresight Unlimited, Madman Entertainment, Myndform, Nos Lusomundo Audiovisuais, SF Norge A/S, Screen Media Films, Signature Entertainment, Splendid Film, VVS Films
Director: Kevin Lewis
Writer: G.O. Parsons
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Beth Grant, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Kai Kadlec, Caylee Cowan, Jonathan Mercedes, Terayle Hill, Christian Delgrosso, David Sheftell, Jiri Stanek, Jessica Graves Davis, Taylor Towery, Chris Schmidt Jr., Christopher Bradley, Duke Jackson, Billy Bussey, BJ Guyer, Émoi, Mark Gagliardi, Abel Arias, Madisun Leigh, Kamia Arrington
Blurb from IMDb: A quiet drifter is tricked into a janitorial job at the now condemned Willy's Wonderland. The mundane tasks suddenly become an all-out fight for survival against wave after wave of demonic animatronics. Fists fly, kicks land, titans clash -- and only one side will make it out alive.

Selina’s Point of View:
There isn’t a gamer alive that didn’t think of Five Nights At Freddy’s when they saw the trailer for Willy’s Wonderland. This is not, however, and adaptation of that. In fact, there’s a Five Nights at Freddy’s adaptation in the works – with Chris Columbus at the helm.
Still, the stories are extremely similar. Talking about Willy’s Wonderland to friends, I would describe it with a ‘what if’:
What if the protagonist of Five Nights at Freddy’s was a mute psychopath with a military background?
If you take that question at face value, you will expect exactly what you get.

Nicolas Cage (The Humanity Bureau, Color Out of Space, The Croods: A New Age) is in rare form here. He’s over-the-top, but manages to express a lot in his performance without speaking a single word. I didn’t even need most of the other characters. A couple of them did serve a purpose… but the production team could have saved some money by cutting the rest.
Willy’s Wonderland was ridiculous and brutal, which is exactly what I wanted from it. I didn’t need a movie to make me think or a super in-depth story. Just a lot of bloody B-movie fun.
It was the perfect mood boost for a rough week.

Cat’s Point of View:
Animatronics never cease to be creepy for me.
My daughter and I have been waiting with bated breath for the Five Nights at Freddy's (2014- ) video game to be adapted. While we pine for Freddy Fazbear’s eerie laughter, Willy’s Wonderland seemed like it would be a great warm-up for the main event. Seriously, you can’t ignore the similarities between the FNAF property’s general plot and what transpires at Willy’s.
This was one of the very rare and few horror movies that my teen actually wanted to watch with me. She doesn’t typically like the genre. She absolutely adores the FNAF games, however.
Unfortunately, this didn’t add up to her expectations and she was rather disappointed – only because she felt it paled in comparison to the FNAF plot. She doesn’t play the game much – it freaks her out – but she does watch quite a lot of YouTube streamers playing it and is well versed in all of the lore.
I guess the take-away for hardcore fans of the Fazbear is that you can’t expect this to be an early version of your beloved game story. This film is decidedly different, in spite of all the similarities. If you watch with carbon-copy expectations, there’s no way you’ll avoid disappointment. Let’s face it – this production likely wouldn’t have made it to the screen if that were even the case. They’d likely be stuck in litigation over copyright infringement.

What it boiled down to for me was a simple question – was I entertained? The answer was, ultimately, yes.
The production value was decent. One of the characters was clearly a person wearing a head-piece, however. That was a little distracting, but the performer did their best to be a robot. The janitor character, played by Nicolas Cage, was quite interesting. In spite of his total lack of dialogue, Cage effectively conveyed enough about his character to get a gist of what made him tick.
I laughed a lot. Horror comedy is my favorite subgenre. It wasn’t as gory as I expected it to be. That might have been a factor that helped my daughter make it all the way through. Blood and oil were everywhere, but the lighting and environmental effects kept the grisly bits harder to see. It left a bit more to the imagination.
There were a few hokey parts, but that’s to be expected from a story like this. There were also a few horror tropes regarding teens that I think they could have done without.
In the end, though, Willy’s Wonderland was a solid experience. I feel that it will likely get overshadowed as soon as the FNAF film is released, but it was effective in heightening my anticipation for that next film.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 65%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – 44/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.9/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Slaxx (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Slaxx (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 77 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: EMA Films, Entertainment Squad, The Horror Collective, Filmoption International
Director: Elza Kephart
Writer: Elza Kephart, Patricia Gomez
Actors: Romane Denis, Brett Donahue, Sehar Bhojani, Kenny Wong, Tianna Nori, Jessica B. Hill, Erica Anderson, Hanneke Talbot, Stephen Bogaert, Jonathan Emond, Elizabeth Neale, Aris Tyros, Pritha Mazumdar
Blurb from IMDbWhen a possessed pair of jeans begins to kill the staff of a trendy clothing store, it is up to Libby, an idealistic young salesclerk, to stop its bloody rampage.

Selina’s Point of View:
I have been looking forward to Slaxx since the moment I heard it was coming out. As soon as we had access to the screener, I snapped it right up.
A film like this will always be unique. Whether it turns out to have a weird-as-hell (almost surreal) story, like in Rubber (2010); a terrifying classic source, like in Christine (1983); or a plot so awful it’s laughable, like in Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) – there’s never a reason to feel like watching was time wasted.
Killer inanimate objects are just put out so infrequently that the tropes utilized are less known and they wind up feeling less overdone.
Movies about creepy dolls can technically be included in the whole ‘inanimate object’ sub-genre, but I don’t like to compare the two. Creepy dolls are their own thing.
One thing most deadly object films have in common is that they’re ridiculous. Every single one of them requires a huge suspension of disbelief. In fact, most of them don’t take the serious route at all, even if they have something to say.
So, that’s what I figured Slaxx would be.
In the beginning, it seemed to meet my expectations. It was silly, bloody, and completely bonkers. What immediately caught me off guard, though, was the production quality. I wasn’t expecting the quality to be as high as it was, and I remember thinking it was strange for something from this sub-genre.

Three quarters of the way through, I found out why.
It turned into a real movie, with something to say, and I was not prepared.
Whatever goofiness was attached to the idea of killer pants melted away into a scathing review of retail and corrupt business practices. It got seriously bleak… and the ending was no where near what I thought it would be.
Slaxx was good. Not just for its sub-genre, but for a horror film in general. As much as I was looking forward to seeing it, that’s not how I thought it would go.
It was brilliant.
See it for yourself on Shudder March 18.
If you don’t have a subscription, now’s the time to get one. Slaxx is a must-see.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to giggle when I say out loud that I have watched a movie about killer pants – the murderous variety rather than red hot fashion. The entire premise for this horror movie is hilarious. Dare you to say it with a straight face. “These jeans are to die for.” (I’m not sorry.)
Corny humor aside, I went into this movie with an open mind, as I mentioned in this month’s Top 20 article. I expected a ludicrous premise and campy horror tropes everywhere. I anticipated a ‘so bad it’s good’ sort of experience.
What I got was something unexpectedly different.
Slaxx gives its audience a peek into retail store hell. I think anyone that’s worked in clothing retail will appreciate this film on a whole other level. I haven’t, personally, worked in a store like the one in the movie but I have had enough friends vent to me about their experiences that I felt I could relate.

I really enjoyed the build-up here. There’s some blood and gore, but it’s not gratuitous and the film draws you in and immerses you in the story before things go haywire. This is something I thought I’d never say about possessed pants going psycho.
There’s an actual story here and a meaning behind it. It didn’t feel contrived or hokey, either. I mean… what?
Further, the production value was actually pretty good. The store set was amazing and the ‘behind closed doors’ warren of halls in the back felt really authentic. Nothing felt super cheesy or shoestring budget. Even the effects for the pants were well done – I mean… for animated pants.
I wasn’t expecting the ending. I thought it was quite fitting, however. (Pun intended.)
Kudos once more to Shudder for this gem. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Slaxx has made it onto my list of favorite horror comedies. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone that enjoys the genre.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
P.S. Some scenes during the credits, and one after-credits.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, March 15, 2021

Yes Day (2021)


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Yes Day (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Family
Length:  86 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Entertainment 360, Grey Matters Productions, Netflix
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writers: Justin Malen, Justin Malen, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Tom Lichtenheld
Actors: Jennifer Garner, Edgar Ramírez, Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla, Tracie Thoms, Fortune Feimster, Nat Faxon, Arturo Castro, Hayden Szeto, Megan Stott, Alana Baer, Yimmy Yim, Graham Phillips, Wolf Fleetwood-Ross, Adam Faison, James Kyson, Leonardo Nam, Naomi Ekperigin, James Calixte, Alek Cole, William Samiri, Ruy Iskandar, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Joanna Strapp, Brent Morin, Cass Buggé, Lynn Andrews, K.C. Clyde, Katie Baker, Ava Allan, Cameron Johnson, Snowden Grey, Romyn Smith, Aliyah Starr Torres, Danielle Jalade, Rafael Boza, Tyler Riggin, H.E.R.
Blurb from IMDb:  A mom and dad who usually say no decide to say yes to their kids' wildest requests with a few ground rules on a whirlwind day of fun and adventure.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been looking forward to watching Yes Day since I watched the trailer the first time. I am, overall, very happy with its placement in my Top 20 list for March 2021.
The pandemic has been stressful for so many. Not only has it kept people isolated, but it has also kept families together under one roof for an extended amount of time. It’s draining for so many – whether it’s lack of contact or overstimulation and getting ‘underfoot,’ so to speak, every time you turn around. This movie felt like a little bit of balm for the soul. I was extra excited because my daughter wanted to watch Yes Day with me.

Sure, the story was generally predictable and you could guess that things were bound to go awry along the way. I don’t think that’s so bad here in this context. I say this because I noticed a few of the critic reviews as I was getting the film’s scores from Rotten Tomatoes. I was baffled why it scored so low – then it hit me. Oh, right, it’s a fun family movie with both mayhem and life lessons – such wholesome fun is sure to be panned. One even called it ‘banal.’ Really? You’re taking it (and yourself) way too seriously my dude.
I wish I’d heard of Yes Day sooner. I hadn’t even realized that this was based on a book until I saw Jennifer Garner (Miracles From Heaven, Wonder Park, Llama Llama) promoting the film on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014-). This has been a bit of a pet project for her – and she discussed how she uses ‘Yes Days’ with her own family. It’s a phenomenal concept, really.

Aside from that, I resonated with the film on a whole other level. I tend to be ‘the mom that always says no.’ It is a dynamic that sucks; and, while I really hate feeling like ‘the bad guy,’ I know I have to do right by my kid. It was somewhat cathartic to experience this movie and feel like maybe some of the message will rub off on my teenager. Every time I get eye-rolls or an ‘ugh, mom’ I pray that deep down my daughter realizes that our rules are because we love her – not just to spoil her fun.
All told, Yes Day was a refreshing and welcome addition to my day and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my parent friends for their families – and anyone else who enjoys family comedy in general. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 43%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 59%
Metascore – 46%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
P.S.: There are a couple short scenes during the credits.
Movie Trailer: