Friday, May 28, 2021

Spontaneous (2020)


Streaming Services: Amazon Prime, Hulu, EPIX, DirecTV
Movie Name/Year: Spontaneous (2020)
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Romance
Length:  101 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Awesomeness Films, Jurassic Party Productions
Director: Brian Duffield
Writers: Brian Duffield, Aaron Starmer
Actors: Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer, Hayley Law, Yvonne Orji, Piper Perabo, Rob Huebel, Chelah Horsdal, Chris Shields, Clive Holloway, Danielle Kremeniuk, Dolores Drake, Doralynn Mui, Jason Tremblay, Kaitlyn Bernard, Laine MacNeil, Luvia Petersen, Marlowe Percival, Mellany Barros, Melody Niemann, Payton Lepinski
Blurb from IMDb:  Get ready for the outrageous coming-of-age love story about growing up...and blowing up. When students in their school begin exploding (literally), seniors Mara and Dylan struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m going to be upfront with you. I’m not sure I really gave Spontaneous a fair shake when we were working on the Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in October 2020. I’m glad to say that it wasn’t my turn to write the featured list of that month, so Selina’s placement of the film at #5 won out. I went back and looked it up – Spontaneous didn’t make my personal list. My notes indicate, however, that it was omitted only by a narrow margin. I digress…
Before I ramble too far off track here, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Spontaneous was probably one of the best teen romance – comedies that I’ve seen in a very long time. The fact that it’s a horror-comedy just adds so much more zest to that particular genre recipe and helped elevate it.

We watch a lot of movies every year – at least 150+ just for the blog. That doesn’t even take into consideration things we watch for fun outside of the productions we review. It’s safe to say we’ve seen a ton of these teen romance movies. They tend to be very formulaic and most are generally basic. Spontaneous is anything but basic. The mere concept of teenagers just randomly spontaneously combusting and that becoming a backdrop for a love story is incredibly unique.
There was so much to love about Spontaneous – from the cast, to the writing, and even the creative decisions made regarding the explosions themselves and the resulting gory mess. That’s an odd thing to think about, really – an appreciation for the splatter pattern of a teenager exploding. Taken out of context, a conversation about this movie might land you in an awkward situation! I’ve got the giggles just thinking about it due to a recent run-in a friend and I had with a nosy waitress butting in to our conversation about D&D and werewolf game characters. She had been nearly ready to call the loony bin for us. (I’m not kidding.)

I am digressing again, and yet it’s also still to the point. There are so many funny elements within this movie. Some of it is very dark comedy, and some feels far lighter than a moment in the middle of this story’s horrific situation should be entitled.
The feisty and punky attitude of Katherine Langford’s (13 Reasons Why, Knives Out, Cursed) character was so refreshing. I love that she was just a normal girl and not shone in the light of any particular clique, or even as the moody outsider. This certainly wasn’t a film directed at the high school social caste system. Charlie Plummer (Boardwalk Empire, All the Money in the World, Words on Bathroom Walls) was also fantastic in his lead role. I felt his character’s vulnerability and enjoyed the dynamic that Plummer and Langford brought to the story together. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Hayley Law (Riverdale, Altered Carbon, Echo Boomers) as the amazing best friend character. The banter, emotional exchanges, and the narrative of her character’s friendship with Langford’s are just as important to Spontaneous as the love story. (I also love her hair!)

One of my favorite scenes in Spontaneous is in the trailer so I feel safe talking about it specifically without spoilers. I adored the recreation of the quarantine scene from E.T. (1982). It endeared these characters to me even more because I could relate so deeply to them. The scene also underscores so many of the emotions within the film – the character connection, the gravity of their situation, spontaneous humor in the face of potential spontaneous tragedy… I could go on.
There are several ways to watch Spontaneous at the moment, though it will be leaving Amazon Prime Video’s ‘included with Prime’ status within 13 days of this article’s publishing date. If you have a chance, I urge anyone that’s good with some blood spray and enjoys romance, horror, and comedy to watch Spontaneous as soon as you can. I guess you can say that my opinion of the movie is explosively positive…and I also have another book to add to my ever-expanding to-read list.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 98%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 67%
Metascore – 78%
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Length:  113 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Sony Pictures Animation, Lord Miller, Columbia Pictures, One Cool Film Production, Netflix, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Directors: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe
Writers: Michael Rianda, Jeff Rowe, Alex Hirsch
Actors: Abbi Jacobson, Alex Hirsch, Beck Bennett, Blake Griffin, Charlyne Yi, Chrissy Teigen, Conan O'Brien, Danny McBride, Doug the Pug, Eric André, Fred Armisen, John Legend, Madeleine McGraw, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Obada Adnan, Olivia Colman, Sasheer Zamata, Skylar Gray
Blurb from IMDb:  A quirky, dysfunctional family's road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity's unlikeliest last hope.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was hooked on the premise of this movie the moment I watched the trailer. You can bet that I was fairly giddy as I sat down and told my voice remote to play The Mitchells vs. The Machines on Netflix. My daughter and I were on the edge of our seats to begin the experience. (My kid was sold on this movie the moment she saw a pug in the trailer.)
Our anticipation was not in vain and our expectations were exceeded.
I honestly can’t rave enough about The Mitchells vs. The Machines. From beginning to end, the whole movie was relatable and both emotional and hilarious at the same time. I saw myself in the main character’s shoes. I understood all too well the feeling of being misunderstood and longing for more of my own people. I didn’t find my true tribe of fellow geeks until I was an adult, really.

Everyone gets so caught up in the perfect Insta-families and those incredibly staged-to-appear-spontaneous selfies that litter social media. We compare ourselves without even thinking, and most of us, if we’re honest, likely feel as if we come up lacking. The Mitchells vs. The Machines was also unique for me in the way I connected to the mother character, as well as the teen. Families can be imperfect and somewhat dysfunctional but yet still full of love. We aren’t all postcard perfect. I think that’s touched on well here.

Sony Animation really did well in choosing this to be their first collaboration on a Netflix exclusive film. That wasn’t the only first here, either. The Mitchells vs. The Machines was also the full-length feature directorial debut, as well as feature writing debut, for the production team. While it might have been the first, I don’t think they were out of their comfort zone at all. 

These were the same guys responsible for the quirky, silly, and yet also intellectual, Disney animated series Gravity Falls (2012-2016). That may have been one of the reasons that the story style and overall feel for the movie felt warm and familiar to me. I swear I’ve seen every episode of that series probably 3 times or more over the years. My daughter has been known to just put Disney on for background noise sometimes. Our new bunnies also get a steady dose of mouse house TV to help keep them from getting anxious due to a too-quiet space when we’re not in the room.

I digress…

The casting choices were phenomenal, and I loved how the production team dove in with a few voice parts as well. I adored the visuals the film created as the story progressed. There were some really amazing sci-fi elements to this rise-of-the-machines story. I even got a bit silly over the Mitchell family’s car – it seems to have been modeled after the AMC Pacer. Not only is that a vehicle that has appeared in some prominent movies, it’s also the first car my family owned that I actually remember. Talk about a nostalgic road trip for me.
It never fails to happen, though – any time a family road trip is planned, something is going to go awry. Often it can happen in ludicrous ways. The Mitchells get to experience the more extreme end of that Murphy’s Law scenario and I was on board for every second of their wild ride. 

I highly recommend anyone with a Netflix subscription should hop in and buckle up to enjoy the experience, too. If you don’t have the subscription yet… well what are you waiting for? This movie, among many others, makes it definitely worth it. The Mitchells vs. The Machines has certainly landed on my list of favorites.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 98%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 89%
Metascore – 80%
Metacritic User Score – 8.3/10
IMDB Score – 7.8/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S. - The credits include real-life family photos of the cast and crew, as well as some animated doodles in the style of the main character. 

Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 24, 2021

Spiral (2021)

Movie Name/Year: Spiral (2021)
Genre: Crime, Horror, Mystery
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Twisted Pictures, Serendipity Productions, Dahlstar, Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC), 01 Distribution, ACME, BF Distribution, Belga Films, Bir Film, CatchPlay, Central Partnership, Corazón Films, DeAPlaneta, Eagle Films, Forum Film Slovakia, Independent Films, Leone Film Group, Lionsgate India, Lionsgate UK, Lionsgate, Meloman, Metropolitan Filmexport, Mongrel Media, Monolith Films, Paris Filmes, Shaw Organisation, StudioCanal Germany, StudioCanal, Ukrainian Film Distribution, Vertical Entertainment, Pris Audiovisuais
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer:  Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger
Actors: Chris Rock, Max Minghella, Samuel L. Jackson, Marisol Nichols, Dan Petronijevic, Richard Zeppieri, Patrick McManus, Ali Johnson, Zoie Palmer, Dylan Robert, K.C. Collins, Edie Inksetter, Nazneen Contractor, Thomas Mitchell, Carvin Winans, Leila Leigh, Chad Camilleri
Blurb from IMDb: A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter from the book of Saw.

Selina’s Point of View:
I remember seeing the first Saw (2004) in theaters. I went with a good friend of mine from college, and I was absolutely transfixed. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The traps, the story… and especially the twist at the end when Jigsaw just picks his ass up from the middle of the room like he was just taking a little nap the whole time.
It was glorious, and it shaped my expectations of horror films for YEARS after.
The series has had its ups and downs. It lost the interesting story and leaned hard into the ‘torture porn’ aspect. Most of the sequels just couldn’t stand up to the original.
Still, there are certain expectations one has when watching a Saw film. We all know it’s going to be hardcore horror, with extremely graphic – often gratuitous – traps, a social commentary-based motive, and Jigsaw.

This movie only had one of the four: a scathing examination of how a cop who ‘rats’ on bad cops is treated among their peers – and corruption among police officers.
Granted, there were still traps in Spiral. None of them felt like they went far enough, though.
The first of the film was the only one that really felt like a Saw-based trap. The rest of them felt uninspired. The creativity just didn’t hold a candle to the rest of the films – any of them.

In fact, it felt like Spiral didn’t really deserve a horror genre classification at all. If anything, I think it was closer to Se7en (1995) in both genre and feel.
Going into it with this Saw connection, and the idea that it would be horror, hurt my enjoyment.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like Spiral at all, but that's not really the case.
It was bad Saw film, but I would have thought it was good without that connection.

Even if they had just kept Spiral part of the same universe, but made the antagonist a completely different breed of serial killer, the flick would have benefited. They could have kept all their little mentions and Easter Eggs, but it would have still felt like some new and it would have been better all around.
I did like the ending. I’ll admit that it was far-fetched and had a ton of plot holes, but I enjoyed it. That last trap was absolutely brutal, and brought together the entire social commentary point of the film.
It wasn’t enough to save the whole thing, though.
I’m disappointed.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 77%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 34%
Metascore – 39/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.5/10
IMDB Score – 5.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2.5/5
Movie Trailer: