Friday, May 14, 2021

Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

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Streaming Services: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Film Rites, NOS Audiovisuais, New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, HBO Max
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Writer:  Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Actors: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Jon Bernthal, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Jake Weber, Medina Senghore, Tyler Perry, Boots Shoutherland, Tory Kittles, James Jordan, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Howard Ferguson Jr., Ryan Jason Cook, Laura Niemi
Blurb from IMDb: A teenage murder witness finds himself pursued by twin assassins in the Montana wilderness with a survival expert tasked with protecting him -- and a forest fire threatening to consume them all.

Selina’s Point of View:
The trailer really made Those Who Wish Me Dead seem epic. On top of that, I haven’t really seen many Angelina Jolie (Maleficent, Wanted, Changeling) flicks in a while, and Jon Bernthal (The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Punisher, Baby Driver) is always a bad-ass. So, I was looking forward to it.
By about 30 minutes in, I thought there was a bit of a bait and switch thing happening.
After a couple of really powerful scenes to start with, it felt like nothing was happening. When something engaging did happen, it was based around an oft-repeated flashback. Which is a problem for me.
Whenever a movie replays a single flashback as many times as this one did, it feels heavy-handed. Like the creators just don’t trust the audience to get what they should have from it, so they need to force it a bit more down their throat. I don’t like that. It immediately turns me off.
However, the film does pick up.

After the slow burn of the first half (no pun intended), the rest of it is non-stop intensity.
The main characters face the elements, antagonists, and even each other. I no longer felt the passing of time as I watched.
I was completely invested in how the story would turn out for everyone involved. I felt my chest tighten with nerves, I was relieved where there was success, and grief-stricken with the failures. I felt just about everything the creators wanted me to feel as the credits rolled.
The acting was as great as I expected it to be – maybe better. Aside from Jolie and Bernthal, there was Nicholas Hoult (The Banker, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Favourite) and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, Project Blue Book, Peaky Blinders) – both respected actors that absolutely killed their antagonist roles (still no pun intended). I REALLY loved the arc that Medina Senghore (The Three Way, Happy!, Keeping Company) got to play out, and she was absolutely flawless in it. Even the teen actor, Finn Little (Reckoning, Angel of Mine, Storm Boy), was on point.
I think this film will stick with me for a bit. I do think it could have been cut by about 15 minutes, but the end product is still decent.

Cat’s Point of View:
The world tends to be on fire a lot these days. It was only a matter of time until flames became the backdrop for mainstream media productions with more regularity. This particular movie is an adaptation of the 2014 book by author Michael Koryta. It’s Koryta’s first adapted work, but there are more on the way, it seems.
Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with this author, and so I am unable to offer insight as to whether or not the film sufficiently or successfully brought the story to life. What I can tell you is that I was intrigued.
One of the big draws to this story was the cast involved in bringing it to the screen.
Angelina Jolie got to tap into quite a bit from the spectrum of her range here – motherly protector, bad-ass, and tragic heroine – specifically.  I was absolutely here for it. Aidan Gillen was in his comfort zone as a slimy and ruthless character, and Jon Bernthal absolutely brought what I was hoping for to his character. My only disappointment in this department was that Tyler Perry had such a small blip of time on the screen in comparison. It was effective, sure, but let me down a little. When a name that big is associated with a film, you tend to expect an expansive role to showcase their talent.

The fire effects were very realistic. I felt hot just watching this as if the screen could radiate the intensity of the forest fire blazing through. The action was really solid, too. The story had a few holes but nothing was too big to prevent the enjoyment of the movie, at least.
Overall, the story was fairly basic where it comes to a ‘being chased by assassins’ sort of plot. The fire and a few twists along the way did elevate it a bit, but not by a huge margin.
I did appreciate the redemption aspect involved. Don’t get me wrong, though. I enjoyed it. I am just unsure if I’ll remember all the details after time passes a bit. It just didn’t hit me as hard or resonate as deeply with me as other fire-themed movies of the past have – such as Always (1989) or Backdraft (1991).
Even so, I’d still have no problem offering a recommendation for Those Who Wish Me Dead. It’s a solid bet in the entertainment department. HBO Max also makes it easily accessible to anyone with a subscription, if theaters aren’t available in your area yet.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 60/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.6/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Reckoning (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Reckoning (2021)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Fourth Culture Films, BondIt Media Capital, Buffalo 8 Productions, Moviebar Productions, ADS Service, Best Film, Capelight Pictures, Cinemundo, Eagle Entertainment, Italia Film, Metropolitan Filmexport, Njutafilms, RLJ Entertainment, Shudder, Storm Pictures Korea, Vertigo Releasing, Volga
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, Edward Ever-Swindell, Antony Jones
Actors: Charlotte Kirk, Sean Pertwee, Steven Waddington, Joe Anderson, Suzanne Magowan, Ian Whyte, Callum Goulden, Sarah Lambie, Leon Ockenden, Emma Campbell-Jones, Mark Ryan, Bill Fellows, Oliver Trevena, Indianna Ryan, Emma Holzer, Cal MacAninch, Rick Warden, Jordan Long, Maya Chityll
Blurb from IMDb: Evelyn, a young widow haunted by the recent suicide of her husband Joseph, is falsely accused of being a witch by her Landlord after she rejects his advances.

Selina’s Point of View:
My first thought is that The Reckoning was a little messy.
I was worried that it might be formulaic going in. It wound up not following any one recipe too close, but the path it took was still not great.
The scene at the beginning of the film ran so much longer than it needed to. It failed to bring any emotion up in me other than boredom. It was just a bunch of flashbacks and melodrama that didn’t really mesh into anything remotely watchable.
That was kind of the theme of the flick: melodrama. Everything was just so over-exaggerated and shoved down the viewer’s throat. It was unnecessary.
The movie also repeated a lot. There was the same sex scene flashback shown several times. By the time it meant anything, it already felt gratuitous. The torture scenes also felt mostly pointless. I get why they were included, they were used to show the main character’s resolve, but they weren’t done well.

The Reckoning would have benefited from a bit more editing. About 30 minutes of it could have been left on the cutting room floor and the only side effect would have been a better product.
It wasn’t all bad, though.
It did pick up a little near the end.
Although the conclusion felt too neat for the story they were telling, I kind of liked it. It was accidentally campy, but if I remember anything from The Reckoning it’s going to be those final parts.
There’s nothing more to say, really. The Reckoning just wound up being pointless.
Let us know if you disagree. You can find it on Shudder, this May 13th.

Cat’s Point of View:
As the credits rolled for The Reckoning, I was left with a feeling of somber satisfaction. This was not quite the movie that I was expecting. In this case, however, that wasn’t disappointing. I was surprised, sure, but I think we got a better movie as a result. Anyone who is dead set on watching a tale of supernatural horror, however, might find themselves disgruntled. The trailer seems to tease that it might be an element involved, so it would be easy to expect something like that – especially from a Shudder release. I know I did.
This story comes across as a mix of the book The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1908–1994), Arthur Millar’s (1915-2005) play The Crucible (which has had several cinematic adaptations), and Braveheart (1995).
The narrative in this film was strong and fully encapsulates the time period of the Black Plague in Europe; as well as the sweeping atrocities of The Burning Times as panic, superstition, and zealotry gripped the land. People – especially women – were persecuted and killed just for being different, because someone didn’t like them, or because of unfortunate coincidental circumstances.
It resonates with the climate of the world today. People are still persecuted for being different, even though there have been great strides taken towards equality and acceptance of diversity – it just isn’t nearly enough. It only takes a little to spark a conflagration of finger-pointing and mob mentality – it was true then, and it is still true today. We can still stand to learn some lessons from this time period. People might not be burned at the stake anymore, but the modern-day equivalent can feel so much worse and do as much harm.

I could rattle on about that for hours, but I’ll spare you. Studying the witch trials and the like has been an interest of mine dating back many years to when I first heard the phrase “Burning Times” – which is another long story for a different day.
I digress…
I absolutely adored the strong female lead here in Charlotte Kirk (Vice, The Depths, Oceans 8). I haven’t paid close enough attention to her in previous work she’s been in. This movie caught my attention, however, and she has a new fan. I’m looking forward to her future work. I loved the steel in her eyes and how she threw herself into this role.
The settings were phenomenal, the effects were well executed, and the music was gorgeous.
The Reckoning is one of those movies that makes it well worth having a Shudder subscription and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys period drama or tales about a woman with grit and substance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 21%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 37%
Metascore – 31/100
Metacritic User Score – 4.7/10
IMDB Score – 4.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: