Friday, June 18, 2021

Inside (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Inside (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Length: 87 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix
Director: Bo Burnham
Writer:  Bo Burnham
Actors: Bo Burnham
Blurb from IMDb: A new comedy special shot and performed by Bo Burnham, alone, over the course of the past year.

Selina’s Point of View:
People have been commenting on how much of a gut punch Bo Burnham’s (The Big Sick, Rough Night, Promising Young Woman) Inside is. It built up so much that I became unbearably curious.
I love comedy that comes with a message. George Carlin (Dogma, Mater’s Tall Tales, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) was insanely good at that kind of thing, and his specials are the ones I’ve always loved the most. Comedy specials that leave me thinking on deeper things are the ones I seek out. They help you swallow the truth with a spoonful of sugar.
There was a frightening amount of truth in Inside. It was extremely disturbing, incredibly relatable, triggering… and there was no real sugar to make it easier to swallow.
If someone asked me the genre of this special, I would call it an experimental stand-up comedy/horror. It’s something I’ve never seen before. It didn’t just leave me thinking, it left me sobbing – and there were times near the end that filled me with significant dread.
Nothing about this was expected. As much as I knew about the ‘gut punch’ aspect, nothing could have prepared me for what I watched. I really can’t stress that enough.
I think I’m going to be processing Inside for a very long time… but I don’t have that long to write this, so I’m going to have to work off of how I feel now. In this moment.

Bo Burnham created this special during 2020 – at the height of the pandemic. He filmed it in a room, alone, for a year. During that year he was intensely honest about his mental health. He highlighted how chaotically trapped the majority of us have been during this pandemic.
He started out by talking about systemic racism, global warming, and the uses of social and political causes to fuel capitalism. It was easy to trick myself into believing it was going to be one of his usual specials.
As the year started to pass, Inside showed how the isolation and the depression began to send him spiraling. The songs stop feeling like their goal was to make anyone smile. They begin to feel more like something he was doing to get the worst of it out. I don’t know if any of it was acted, but it feels like the whole thing was very genuine. It was a visual representation of how a lot of us have felt this past year.
Inside was brilliant… but it was not an easy watch. I will almost definitely never watch it again. I don’t think I could handle it.  
What’s worse is that the people who would benefit the most from watching something like this, never would.
All those people who didn’t take the pandemic seriously, who refused to wear a fucking mask, who played politics with peoples lives… they were responsible for dragging this whole fucking thing out longer than it ever had to be. They caused the silent casualties of COVID. The people who drowned in depression, sitting alone in their homes, trying to wait it out and do the right thing. If you’re anti-vaxxer, an anti-masker, or a science denier… the loss of those people is your fault. This could have been over in a month. Fuck you.

Cat’s Point of View:
I think everyone just about agrees on a singular fact: the last year has been rough. There’s so much division about everything else, but we can all come together over that one topic. I don’t want to digress into the divisiveness or anything else, though. That’s not the point.
In the face of all the wonky stuff in the world, I know quite a few of us have asked ourselves: Is it okay to laugh when so many are miserable? My answer is simple. Yes. It’s crucial to keep laughing and to find ways to help others find laughter. It could be the one bright spot that saves someone from the abyss of depression. You never know. It’s just good for you. It’s science!
What does that have to do with today’s review? Well, we’ve watched a comedy special – Bo Burnham’s Inside. It isn’t the first bit of comedy we’ve reviewed while the world’s been on fire, but it’s the first comedian’s solo special we’ve done in a while. 

It’s topical.
Burnham is also brilliant and this is the first comedy special he’s produced in years.
What I didn’t expect was for it to be cathartic. I related on another level to this production.

I didn’t laugh as much as I thought I would. Inside wasn’t devoid of comedic elements, but some were darker than others. Nearly everything hit on buttons pertaining to this whole pandemic quarantine crazy experience that the whole planet is gripped in.
The ultra-sensitive may not want to watch, but Burnham’s work really hasn’t ever been anything that catered to everyone. Further, anyone triggered by the discussion of suicide may want to give this special some careful consideration before watching. I don’t feel it’s a spoiler to explain that he didn’t spoof it, nor did he act like he was going to – there’s just some dark humor laced real talk about personal mental health and a window into the stir-crazy that quarantine could inspire.
Moving on!
Burnham is also quite musically gifted. One thing I always enjoy about his specials, regardless of my like or dislike of his content – the music is great and always entertaining. He has an amazing understanding of composition – which is evident in all aspects of this special.
It’s phenomenal that he also produced every last bit of this on his own at home – no crew or supporting staff at all. One element that stood out to me in this special was the lighting and how he played with it to shift perspectives and add effects.
I’d say Inside is definitely worth a watch, even though it isn’t for everyone – and certainly isn’t for young viewers. If you have Netflix, check it out.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 94%
Metascore – 98/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.4/10
IMDB Score – 8.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Dancing Queens (2021)


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Dancing Queens (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Length: 110 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Sweetwater Productions, Netflix
Director: Helena Bergström
Writer: Helena Bergström, Denize Karabuda
Actors: Molly Nutley, Christopher Wollter, Fredrik Quinones, Ann Westin, Claes Malmberg, Emil Almén, Marie Göranzon, Mattias Nordkvist, Max Ulveson,Rakel Wärmländer
Blurb from IMDb:  The story of Dylan Pettersson, a 23 year old girl from a small island in the Swedish archipelago with big dancing aspirations.

Cat’s Point of View:
 I love dance-oriented productions. I’ve seen, and adored, all of the Step Up (2006) movies and So You Think You Can Dance (2005-) is one of my favorite shows. I’m very sad that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented SYTYCD from filming this year, so you can imagine that I was pretty excited to be watching something that would scratch that itch – even in some small capacity. Dancing Queens may not have appeared on the main Top 20 list for June of 2021, but it did land as my personal #19.  
When Selina and I were watching trailers in preparation for our Top 20 list-making, we compared the vibe the trailer gave us to Save the Last Dance (2001). It felt like the plot of Dancing Queens would be something along those lines, but with a drag show twist. I was rather disappointed that the movie didn’t live up to that expectation.

I’m not entirely sure why Dancing Queens was labeled a comedy, either. I’m actually a bit baffled. The film wasn’t devoid of laughter for me, but it was more maudlin than anything. Dancing Queens deals with a young woman’s journey in pursuing her dreams in the wake of losing her mother. There weren’t really many comedic elements at all. Don’t let that label on IMDb fool you.
I can’t tell you how thankful I was that Netflix has an audio option to watch Dancing Queens dubbed in English. I don’t know if I would have made it through the whole movie with subtitles. It would have been too distracting. I don’t think this is one of those movies that would make me forget I was reading as events played out on the screen. I would have been all too aware of it.
Some of the pacing was odd, and there were bits thrown in here and there that could have been left out to make a more streamlined story. It felt just a bit on the long side.
There was a great opportunity here to give a voice to multiple aspects of the LGBTQ+ community, and it feels like Dancing Queens missed the mark. I wouldn’t go out of my way to steer anyone away from this movie, but I can’t see myself really recommending it, either.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 40%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.4/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5

Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
P.S. - There are additional scenes during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Superdeep (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Superdeep (2021)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 113 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Shaw Organisation, Volga, Lumix Media
Director: Arseny Syuhin
Writer: Samuel Stewart Hunter, Arseny Syuhin
Actors: Milena Radulovic, Sergey Ivanyuk, Nikolay Kovbas, Vadim Demchog, Kirill Kovbas, Nikita Dyuvbanov, Viktor Nizovoy, Albina Chaykina, Darya Shagal, Andrey Trushin
Blurb from IMDb: A small research team went down below the surface to find out what secret the world's deepest borehole was hiding. What they have found turned out to be the greatest threat in history. And the future of humanity is in their hands.

Selina’s Point of View:
I adore films featuring all manner of undead. Zombies, as oversaturated as they are, remain my favorite. The Superdeep delves into this kind of thing and still, even to me, manages to come up short.
The fact that I couldn’t like it is almost a feat all on its own. You can see where this film took inspiration from games like The Last of Us (2013) and movies like Resident Evil (2002) – which we all know was different than the game, I’m specifically talking about the flick – Alien (1979), and Slither (2006). If it didn’t pull inspiration from those sources, then it accidentally stumbled into their areas.
I’m a fan of all the projects that this one reminded me of. Still, I remained completely uninvested.

The script felt forced in just about every scene (though it’s an adaptation from Russian, so it might be better in its original language). The soundtrack included very little actual music and was just a bunch of obnoxious noises cobbled together. The acting was over-dramatized to an extreme, except when it was devoid of any emotion at all.
If I had to choose one good thing about it, it would be the design of patient zero’s infection. It was decent. If the entire movie was born from the same attention to detail and quality, this would be a much different review.
There’s just no part of me that can recommend The Superdeep. Everything is subjective, though. If you want to see for yourself, it releases June 17th on Shudder.

Cat’s Point of View:
I always have a feeling of excited anticipation when we are granted access to a screener for a movie. The Superdeep was no exception. This time, however, there was only a slight bit of trepidation involved because this film is Russian in origin. You never know if you’re going to end up with something dubbed or with subtitles. Thankfully, The Superdeep was dubbed in English for 99% of the production.
There was a slight concern in the first few minutes that this might just be a black and white movie shot in first-person, and I cringed on the inside. Thankfully, that passed quickly and the rest of The Superdeep was in a more palatable format. I’m not knocking black and white films by any means. I just prefer color features when at all possible. It was the found-footage-like first-person scenario that would have been more off-putting. I digress…

The Superdeep was an interesting sci-fi horror tale steeped in a tension-filled score and plenty of gore and body horror disgustingness. The effects were realistic and believable, and super gross. The production got a lot of bang for their practical effects bucks here. The CGI effects were blended in rather well, also, and weren’t over-the-top. I appreciated the use of sound to build the tension without a lot of direct shots of the big-bad. It made the situation far scarier in the moment.
I’m curious whether or not director Arseny Syuhin (Lockout, Stalingrad, The Crossing) will continue to work on projects that lean towards mainstream, or if his future projects will be geared more to his homeland. I’d be interested in seeing more of his work in the future. The Superdeep is Syuhin’s feature-length directorial debut. He has worked on another title that had international release lately with Iron Mask (2019), though as the action unit director.
If I had to summarize The Superdeep for someone, I’d have to say that it can be compared to throwing Doom (2005), Resident Evil (2002), and The Thing (1982) into a blender and setting the story in Soviet Russia. It made for a very interesting premise that I didn’t regret watching when the credits began to roll. If you’ve got a subscription to Shuddder, The Superdeep is a decent choice to stream for a night in.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.8/10 
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: