Friday, May 21, 2021

Army of the Dead (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Army of the Dead (2021)
Genre: Action, Crime, Horror
Length: 148 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: The Stone Quarry, Netflix, TriPictures
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer:  Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten, Joby Harold
Actors: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick, Ana de la Reguera, Theo Rossi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nora Arnezeder, Hiroyuki Sanada, Garret Dillahunt, Tig Notaro, Raúl Castillo, Huma Qureshi, Samantha Win, Richard Cetrone, Michael Cassidy
Blurb from IMDb: Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

Selina’s Point of View:
I love zombies. I love Zack Snyder. No force on earth could have kept me from watching this flick.
From the moment I saw the trailer for Army of the Dead I was ready. Although it’s not a sequel to the Night of the Living Dead (1968) series, I did initially make that mistake. It wasn’t that far out of the realm of possibility. Snyder did direct Dawn of the Dead (2004), and he also admitted that he would be utilizing some of the aspects of Romero’s work. I was a little surprised to hear it wouldn’t be a direct product of it, though.
The fact that it was an original story written, and directed, by Zack Snyder only intensified my curiosity.
I was thrown off a bit by the opening scene. The way he represented the soldiers felt off to me. I simply can’t imagine a single soldier moving at a snail’s pace if one of their superiors gave them an order to run as far away from something as they could. It hit me wrong. I get what he was trying to do, but I think the same thing could have been accomplished with a realistic reaction.
That said, things only got better after that.

I find myself having to ask something. Is this a new genre-hybrid we’re seeing? Zombie/Heist? This is not the first one I’ve seen. In fact, the catalyst for the plot was strikingly similar to what we saw in Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula (2020). That being: a few people who escaped the zombies once before are asked to return to the site of the outbreak in order to steal a huge sum of money.
It combines a lot of tropes from both sub-genres. For instance: during the opening credits, we have a full introduction to the crew. This is repeated in a more traditional manner during the actual story. From the zombie side of things, we see tropes like the team facing off with a previous member that was turned.
Just a side note, can we eradicate the fucking slow-clap trope? That’d be great. Thanks.
But I digress.

As trope-filled as parts of it seemed, there was a freshness to it. I imagine a lot of that is because what’s expected of one sub-genre, is not what’s expected of the other. So, you don’t know which direction the story’s going to take.
That said, Army of the Dead was not lacking in shock value. Snyder went SUPER far in some scenes. There were few things I’ve never see in any zombie film. They caught me completely off-guard. It wound up being one of those movies I HAD to watch on streaming, whether or not it made it to theaters, because I was too vocal to be in polite company.
As far as I know, this film had one of the longest (if not the longest) run-times of any zombie film that currently exists. My post today is late simply because I just didn’t expect it to be 2 hours and 28 minutes long.
Even at that length, I barely felt the movement of time.
It was just that good.

Train to Busan (2016) is still my favorite zombie flick. Night of the Living Dead follows, just because it was the movie that started it all. I think, now, Army of the Dead pulls into a close third – un-throning Anna and the Apocalypse (2017).
I can’t leave this off without noting Zack Snyder’s soundtrack choices.
In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, he introduced audiences to Richard Cheese – a lounge singer that covered “Down With the Sickness” by Disturbed. It was the first time I found I really had a soundtrack preference with any film. I just love that juxtaposition of slow, kind of poppy, music playing over a violent, bleak, apocalyptic scene. He pulled the same thing with this one. In fact, he used Mr. Cheese again. I’m so here for that choice.
I know that there are plenty of people who disagree with that assessment, but it just works for me.
I can’t recommend Army of the Dead enough. Especially if you’re a zombie fan.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 71%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 79%
Metascore – 57/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.4/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
P.S. There will be a (currently unnamed) prequel coming sometime down the line. We will also be getting an anime-style series called Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Woman in the Window (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Woman in the Window (2021)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Fox 2000 Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, TSG Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Joe Wright
Writer:  Tracy Letts, A.J. Finn
Actors: Amy Adams, Fred Hechinger, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, Jeanine Serralles, Anthony Mackie, Mariah Bozeman
Blurb from IMDb: An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors, only to witness a disturbing act of violence.

Selina’s Point of View:
I figured The Woman in the Window would be an obvious inspiration of Rear Window (1954). I didn’t mind though, I’ve seen plenty of films that take the idea and do something unique and interesting with it.
As it turns out, this is not one of those films.
Roughly 15 minutes into it, there was a lack of something in dialogue that spoiled a good portion for me. Not much later, during the death scene (most of which is portrayed in the trailer) the viewpoint was so ridiculously obvious, that it completed the equation. I knew exactly what would happen and how.
Predictability is not always the death of a film. There are movies that use your expectations against you. A great example would be Knives Out (2019). You think you know where it’s going from the beginning and, even if it didn’t have the twist at the end, there was so much good about it – that it wouldn’t have mattered. The ride would have still caused it to be a memorably good flick.
I can see that the creative team involved in The Woman in the Window tried to make the journey intriguing enough that the inevitable outcome could be forgiven. They showed this by including surreal aspects that served to distract from the plot.

Unfortunately, even those distractions were completely expected. They just didn’t succeed.
Amy Adams (Leap Year, Trouble with the Curve, Nocturnal Animals) did absolutely own her part. She needed a better script and something a little less basic to react to. Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight, Hunter Killer, Crisis), also, had some scenes that made me truly fear him. Anthony Mackie (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, The Banker, Synchronic) was a little wasted, though. He only had a few lines and they mostly had him off-screen for them. You just can’t waste Mackie like that. He’s too good.
I don’t think The Woman in the Window is razzie material, or anything. I just think it had nothing that made it stand out. Nothing that made it special.
It’s certainly not re-watchable.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was absolutely intrigued by the trailer for The Woman in the Window.
It’s not often that a movie completely blindsides me in the final act. I found myself in exactly that position – with my jaw agape as I stared at the screen. I didn’t catch the clues – and the ones I thought I had picked up on led me astray with my personal plot theories. Let me tell you when things fell into place, I got chills.
There are so many things I could babble about regarding The Woman in the Window; however, considering the nature of the mystery involved, I worry that I might spoil something. The moment of the big reveal involved here could be likened to that of another well-known movie… I just can’t even mention its name because I’m afraid it would give away the twist.
I can at least touch on cast and setting. The house where the majority of the film takes place is absolutely gorgeous with its old wood flooring and the winding central staircase. It’s utilized to great effect throughout the entire movie.

The cast did a phenomenal job in bringing this tricky story to life. I do feel I need to advise that I have not read the book which The Woman in the Window was based on, so I can’t advise whether or not it accurately or adequately captures the essence of the novel. I can, however, say that Amy Adams and Gary Oldman were in fine form. I felt their intensity and many moments left my pulse-pounding.
I will say that I was confused at first that I didn’t see Anthony Mackie on screen much. I mean, when you have talent like his available, why provide only minimal screen time? Though, when it happens, there’s a significant “oh” moment that brings it all together.
The Woman in the Window is a great movie to curl up with on a rainy night and sink into with a cup of hot tea or a glass of your favorite wine. If you have a Netflix subscription, I definitely recommend fans of the genre give it a whirl.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 25%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – 40/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.5/10
IMDB Score – 5.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Psycho Goreman (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Psycho Goreman (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi
Length:  96 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Dystopia Films, Raven Banner Entertainment, RLJE Films, Koch Films, La Aventura, Shudder, Umbrella Entertainment
Director: Steven Kostanski
Writer: Steven Kostanski
Actors: Nita-Josee Hanna, Owen Myre, Matthew Ninaber, Steven Vlahos, Adam Brooks, Alexis Kara Hancey, Kristen MacCulloch, Anna Tierney, Roxine Latoya Plummer, Alex Chung, Scout Flint, Robert Homer, Conor Sweeney, Matthew Kennedy, Rick Amsbury, Jayson Alexander, Kenneth Welsh, Asuka Kurosawa, Timothy Paul McCarthy, Stacie Gagnon, Rich Evans, Stuart Wellington, William O'Donnell, Jeff Derushie
Blurb from IMDb:  After unearthing a gem that controls an evil monster looking to destroy the Universe, a young girl and her brother use it to make him do their bidding.

Cat’s Point of View:
Psycho Goreman clocked in at #4 on my Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in May 2021 article. I anticipated quite the bonkers experience, and let me tell you – there was no shortage of insanity here. As you can imagine, I was extra excited to have the opportunity to view an advance screener of this film.
The good news is that Psycho Goreman lived up to the majority of my expectations. The movie is a love-letter to the low-fi horror movies of the 1980s, as represented through creature costuming and effects. Not only that, the film dabbles into the kids vs. monsters to save the world theme a bit – and then turns it on its head. Not to toot my own horn, but I was apparently on the nose when the trailer brought up thoughts of The Monster Squad (1987). The promotional materials we received with the screener listed that very movie as one of the inspirations for the type of film the production team was going for.

I have to say, this particular blend of comedy with horror and sci-fi worked really well for me. Understandably, this was more dark humor than anything. You couldn’t help but find amusement in the contrast of the world-destroying monster and the pair of kids that free him from his imprisonment. I was relieved that the trailer didn’t reveal all the best bits of banter.
Another comedic element that Psycho Goreman brings can be found in the costuming for both the titular character and the other monsters – both of his world and of his creation. The practical effects were intentionally hokey, it seems. Mouths didn’t move when creatures talked (or if they did, they didn’t articulate to match speech). Further, it was quite obvious in some cases where the prosthetics were made from rubber and latex, or something like that. I am sticking to the comparison that I made in the Top 20 article – the monsters reminded me a lot of the villains in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1996).

If not for the level of fake blood and gore – over-exaggerated or not (and there’s lots of it– throughout the movie, Psycho Goreman could easily pass as PG-13 geared to older kids and adults. There are some personal growth and life-lesson messages buried in all this that you would expect from a film geared to that audience. While there’s prolific use of the word ‘frig’ in its various forms, replacing the F-bomb as kids (and adults trying to watch their language) tend to do, there were very few actual uses of ‘fuck.’ I honestly can only remember one. Violence in threat and physical action, gore, and language are the points one should take into consideration for letting a younger audience watch.
All told, Psycho Goreman was quite the experience of laughter, shock, cringe, and satisfaction. I thoroughly enjoyed this zany experience, and can’t wait to watch it again to see what my 17 year-old daughter thinks of it. She’s not always a fan of horror, but the effects are imaginative and silly enough that I think she’ll be able to get through it. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long.
Psycho Goreman can be found on Shudder starting May 20th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 61%
Metascore – 69%
Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: