Friday, July 16, 2021

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)


Streaming Services: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
Genre: Animation. Adventure, Comedy
Length:  115 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Warner Bros., Warner Animation Group, SpringHill Entertainment, Aero Mock-Ups, Proximity, Warner Bros. Animation, HBO Max, Karo Premiere, Kinomania, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore
Director: Malcolm D. Lee 
Writers: Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordon, Celeste Ballard, Timothy Harris, Steve Rudnick, Herschel Weingrod, Leo Benvenuti
Actors:  Juel Taylor, Tony Rettenmaier, Keenan Coogler, Terence Nance, Jesse Gordon, Celeste Ballard, Timothy Harris, Steve Rudnick, Herschel Weingrod, Leo Benvenuti
Actors: Anna Sofie Christensen, Bob Bergen, Bryan Scamman, Cassandra Starr, Cedric Joe, Ceyair J Wright, Charles Barkley, Chiney Ogwumike, Daria Johns, Derrick Gilbert, Don Cheadle, Eric Bauza, Erin Flannery, Flanagan John, Fred Tatasciore, Gabriel Iglesias, Gerald 'Slink' Johnson, Greice Santo, Harper Leigh Alexander, Harrison White, J. Michael Tatum, Jalyn Hall, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Bergman, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Julyah Rose, Kath Soucie, Katie McCabe, Khris Davis, LeBron James, Lil Pump, Martin Klebba, Nicole Kornet, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Peter Cornell, Rob Paulsen, Rocio Vidal, Shawn Bradley, Skyler Bible, Sonequa Martin, Stephen Kankole, Tacko Fall, Tress MacNeille, Whitney Coleman, Xosha Roquemore, Zendaya
Blurb from IMDb:  
A rogue artificial intelligence kidnaps the son of famed basketball player LeBron James, who then has to work with Bugs Bunny to win a basketball game.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have to tell you, I was fairly giddy as I sat down with my daughter to watch Space Jam: A New Legacy. I feel a little old, though, considering I was approximately her age when the original Space Jam (1996) hit screens. I look back on the original with fond memories. Looney Tunes + beloved basketball icon Michael Jordan (NBA Hardwood Classics, The Last Dance, Bugs Bunny's 80th What's Up, Doc-umentary!) was the equation for box office gold back then.
Of course, I don’t remember a lot about the plot aside from the fact that Jordan and some of his fellow players were abducted by aliens and forced to play basketball. I don’t remember what was at risk if Jordan’s team lost. It’s really not all that important. The point is that Space Jam was a fun movie with a cute premise and a great soundtrack. No one went to see that film expecting an Oscar run from it (though, I’m sure the studio was hoping the Academy would throw them a bone for the mix of live-action and animation).

The stakes were higher in this sequel. They always have to be, otherwise what’s the point right? Space Jam: A New Legacy was obviously a passion project for LeBron James (Future of Flight, More Than an Athlete, Legends of the Court) and a love letter to the Warner Brothers cinematic landscape. I’m not sure how much of that came from James, the writers, or director Malcolm D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Girls Trip, Night School), but I applaud it.
Space Jam: A New Legacy had a story full of heart with a good family movie message, wrapped in a fun-filled blend of digital wizardry and tried-and-true cartoon tropes. It felt like a warm hug, and it was a fun ride. I adored all the homages to the various productions that have spanned the near-century of Warner Brothers Studios. My daughter and I had a blast picking out the various cameos. I felt just about as giddy as when watching the big battle scene in Ready Player One (2018).

I adored the premise used to bring the Tune Squad together, and the fact that the adventure took us through the 2D cartoon world just as much as it explored the digital graphics for both setting and the 3D character renderings. The animation was actually better than I was anticipating. I could honestly babble on forever about how elated I was experiencing Gabriel Iglesias’s (The Nut Job, Coco, Ugly Dolls) performance as the underrated Speedy Gonzales or the sinister charisma of Don Cheadle’s (Flight, Kevin Hart: What Now?, No Sudden Move) villain – among many other things. I’ll spare you, though.
If anyone watched Space Jam: A New Legacy expecting to see a master class in acting or the like, they were watching the wrong movie. This was a pure and simple medicinal dose of fun that the world is needing at the moment. Critics might be trashing Space Jam: A New Legacy left and right, but I think they’re missing the point. Big Time.
In any other ‘regular’ month, Space Jam: A New Legacy would have scored higher than #5 on my Top 20 list. Unfortunately, there’s just a lot of blockbuster-level competition releasing around the same timeframe. I think Space Jam has a bit of an advantage in that it’s streaming on HBO Max as well as hitting theater screens. I would recommend this one to everyone. Even if you don’t like sports movies, it is well worth the price of a ticket and the two hours spent.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 34%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 36%
Metacritic User Score – 2.9/10
IMDB Score – 3.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5 
Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Shortcut (2020)

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Shortcut (2020)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Horror
Length: 80 minutes
Rating: R 
Production/Distribution: Play Entertainment, Camaleo, Sternenberg Films, Mad Rocket Entertainment, Regione Lazio, Darkland Distribution, Gravitas Ventures, Minerva Pictures, WOWOW Cinema
Director: Alessio Liguori
Writer: Daniele Cosci
Actors: Jack Kane, Zander Emlano, Zak Sutcliffe, Sophie Jane Oliver, Molly Dew, David Keyes, Terence Anderson
Blurb from IMDb: A mysterious creature terrorizes five teenage friends after their bus takes a shortcut on a desolate road in the wild.

Selina’s Point of View:
Although I enjoyed the score of Shortcut, that’s the only nice thing I really have to say.
Shortcut is The Breakfast Club (1985) vs. evil.
This is a familiar trope. Projects like this go for a PG-13 rating, with very identifiable stereotypes (nerd, goofball, rebel, jock, virgin), low gore, and decent – but toned down – visuals. Many of the flicks that follow this recipe can be great. They wind up making for decent beginner horror films for teens just becoming old enough to enjoy the genre.
The thing is, Shortcut forgets its audience.
It’s rated R, first of all, which keeps the people who might enjoy it from actually being allowed to see it. It has a decent antagonist twist, early on, but then also tries to inject various tropes from other sub-genres without backing up the scenes.

For example, a character has a premonition at one point. I don’t consider this a spoiler, because it is never brought up again. Even he doesn’t mention it. It just happens, and then life moves on like it didn’t. Why bother wasting the time?
There are quite a few scenes, along those lines, that don’t matter. There’s some forced emotional bonding, some unnecessary backstory about a guy that’s not part of the plot, and some sequel baiting at the end that winds up keeping the conclusion from delivering the message it seemed to have.
I like monster movies. I wanted to like Shortcut. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t.
The creators made a film for an audience that they then barred from watching it. I thought maybe that meant they were new to directing and writing, but they’re not. It was an inexcusable oversight.
If you are looking for a starter horror flick for your 14/15-year-old that’s just starting to show interest in horror, this is not the worst start. There’s no sexual content and there’s minimal gore. It’s a soft R at most. If you’re an adult, don’t waste your time – there are better monster films out there.

Cat’s Point of View:
I feel like I just watched another movie that was misnamed. The title definitely clashes with what actually happens in Shortcut. If anything, this was a bit of a long meander rather than the brevity that the name suggests. I was surprised when I saw this was only 80 minutes long. It felt like forever.
Let me backtrack a little here and explain what I think Shortcut did right (or at least decently), before I begin the laundry list of things that irked me.
Monster movies can be great fun – especially when the critter in question is horrifying. There were some moments of real tension and horror as the shadowy figure was teased initially. I’d even go so far as to say there were flashes of the creature that were even terrifying. The rest of the time, I was simply looking at it and pondering what it was really supposed to be. That took a bit of the edge off, unfortunately. I do appreciate the fact that the production achieved the big-bad with practical effects, though. I’m afraid the majority of the tense moments and fear (using the word generously here) I experienced during this movie were at the hands of human characters.

I loved the old bus that served as a good chunk of the setting for the first half of Shortcut. It’s really neat. I’m fairly sure, however, that it can reach speeds significantly higher than shown in this film. I felt like it could have been pushed faster in some scenes. The snail-like pace of the vehicle made everything feel like it dragged on slower. It’s unfortunate, really. Iconic vehicles like that can add so much to a horror film. Take the creeper’s truck in Jeepers Creepers (2001) for example. Every time I see a truck that even remotely resembles that thing, I get chills. Of course, the two films are not in the same category when it comes to the caliber.

Sadly, the more I think about it, I am finding that every aspect I did enjoy with Shortcut had a rather dismal side to it. The story had some real potential but seemed to lose its way. There were elements that were played up to a large degree at the beginning that never saw follow-through. Some of the acting was phenomenal, and yet at other times, there was a bit left to be desired.

I thought it might be possible that the disjointed quirkiness of Shortcut could be chalked up to a difference in vision between the writer and director. When I looked at IMDb, however, I found that this particular writing and directing duo have been working together for the better part of a decade. The chances of the pair failing to envision the story as intended are slim.
In short, I had hopes for Shortcut that this movie took the long way around in order to dash.  That being said, considering the film is light on gore and has a teen-centric plot, it wouldn’t be a bad movie to have on in the background for that age group during a sleepover or something of that nature where something “scary” is desired but will largely be ignored anyway. The R rating clearly came from language, rather than the usual more grisly or explicit reasons that are common to the horror genre and yet lacking in this production.
Shortcut is not likely to remain very memorable for me, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to actively steer anyone away from it. There are far better monster films out there, though.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 59%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 24%
Metascore – 26/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Call (2020)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Call (2020)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 97 minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Single Malt Productions, Appreciated Films, BondIt Media Capital, Kalispel Tribal Holdings, Buffalo 8 Productions, Cinedigm Entertainment Group, EuroVideo, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Première TV Distribution
Director: Timothy Woodward Jr.
Writer:  Patrick Stibbs
Actors: Lin Shaye, Tobin Bell, Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Judd Lormand, Randy J. Goodwin
Blurb from IMDb: In the fall of 1987, a group of small-town friends must survive the night in the home of a sinister couple after a tragic accident brings them to the couple's door.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Call was not nearly as good as I hoped it would be.
When you see names like Lin Shaye and Tobin Bell starring in a horror flick together, it’s easy to expect magic. They’re both well-known for their horror careers. Putting them together should have been a winning combination.
Don’t get me wrong, they were both incredible. Shaye and Bell were just way too good for this movie. Any scene they were in, was heightened. When it was just the teens, though… it fell apart.
I had absolutely no sympathy for any of the protagonists. That’s a problem, because they experience some serious torture. It was essential to give a fuck. I didn’t.

If the entire story had been shown from Shaye’s character’s perspective – it would have been amazing. I would have loved to experience everything with her at the front. It would have put her and Bell right in the heart of every scene, and the other characters would be the set dressing they already were – but it would have been acceptable.
I will say, there were a few good scares. Nothing really blew me out of the water, and there were more plot holes than I can possibly sum up in a single article – but it wasn’t painful to watch. It was what it was – which was mediocre.
If you want to watch The Call, and see for yourself, it will arrive on Shudder, July 15.

Cat’s Point of View:
For those wanting to watch The Call, I have two initial suggestions for you. First, don’t sit too close to the screen if you have an issue with motion sickness. There’s a bit of shaky-cam going on periodically. It wasn’t the jolting found-footage variety, but everything bobbed and weaved a lot. Secondly, I would recommend not listening to The Call through headphones – so much screaming. I had to double-check that my ears weren’t bleeding by the time the credits rolled. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little but yikes all the same.
What it all boils down to is that I honestly don’t know if I liked The Call or not.
There were many spooky and mind-bending elements to appreciate within the movie. Several of the jump-scares got me for sure. I appreciated the late ‘80s nostalgia, and I was getting the vibe that there was some sort of homage to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) put in a blender with Saw (2004). I’m a fan of both franchises and respected the attempt. I’m just not sure it worked.

When you have horror powerhouses such as Lin Shaye (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gothic Harvest, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) and Tobin Bell (The Flash, The Sandman, Gates of Darkness) involved with a production, it sets certain expectations. It might be a bit unrealistic and somewhat akin to judging a book by its cover, but I can’t help it. I was excited to see The Call based on their involvement and the trailer.
Unfortunately, the story felt a bit disjointed. The Call had a strange and slow start that felt awkward at times. When the supernatural shenanigans began, things were definitely picking up steam in the thrills department. I still managed to be a bit underwhelmed. There was a moment in one of the carnival scenes that an extra walking through took me completely out of the story for a moment. Their over-acting was so cloying that I sat surprised for a moment that the segment hadn’t hit the cutting room floor during editing.

Not to be punny by making a Jigsaw (2017) reference – but it felt like some of the pieces of this particular puzzle that made up The Call were missing when someone put it together. It seemed like a few pieces snuck in that belonged to a different picture and were crammed in anyway.
I will admit that I’ve been running on fumes in the energy department lately. Maybe that became a factor in my enjoyment – or lack thereof – here. I’d be interested in hearing what others think about The Call. Check it out on Shudder and let us know.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 53%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 72%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: