Friday, August 13, 2021

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021)

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video
Movie Name/Year: Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021)
Genre: Animation, Action, Drama
Length:  154 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Khara Corporation, Toho Company, Toei Company, Amazon Prime Video
Directors: Mahiro Maeda, Katsuichi Nakayama, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Hideaki Anno
Writer:  Hideaki Anno
Actors: Megumi Hayashibara, Megumi Ogata, Yûko Miyamura, Akira Ishida, Fumihiko Tachiki, Kotono Mitsuishi, Maaya Sakamoto, Motomu Kiyokawa, Yuriko Yamaguchi, Anri Katsu, Hiro Yûki, Mugihito, Kôichi Yamadera, Koki Uchiyama, Mariya Ise, Miki Nagasawa, Miyuki Sawashiro, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Takehito Koyasu, Sayaka Ôhara, Tetsuya Iwanaga, Junko Iwao, Tomokazu Seki, Akio Ôtsuka, Felecia Angelle, Sean Burgos, Mary Faber, Joe Fria, Tiffany Grant, Allison Keith, Deneen Melody, Daman Mills, Spike Spencer, John Swasey, Bijou Vann, Amanda Winn
Blurb from Metacritic:  Shinji Ikari is still adrift after losing his will to live, but the place he arrives at teaches him what it means to hope. Finally, the Instrumentality Project is set in motion and [will he] make one last grueling stand to prevent the Final Impact.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’m afraid I’m a bit at a loss for words. It’s a rare thing. I am usually capable of rambling on forever about things. It’s not helpful, however, when they elude me as I attempt to offer a review of the alleged final movie for a well-loved anime franchise.
I suppose I should begin with a disclaimer. I have only watched a little bit of the Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996) series and it was quite a while ago. The narrative is far from fresh in my mind. For that reason, please take my impression of Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time with a grain of salt.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time does, however, begin with a story recap montage at the beginning of the film. It inundates the audience with a rapid-fire set of scenes to set up the beginning of this final installment of the story. Even with that, I feel I was woefully ill-prepared to keep up with what was going on.
As things slowed down here and there, I did appreciate the scenes of character growth. For the most part, however, Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time is stacked with lots of fight scene action. Explosions, laser light shows, and colliding Eva units abound. The pacing was actually rather dizzying at times.

The animation for Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time was breathtaking throughout the majority of the production. I also appreciated how the styles switched depending on the scene. The tone was also set by a gorgeous musical score. Though, I was a slight bit confused as the tune to a Christmas song appeared in one of the scenes in the last half of the movie.
Fans of the Evangelion franchise that have kept up with it over the years will get a lot more out of this movie than I did, I’m afraid. I got the gist of what was going on most of the time but a lot of the technical jargon that was tied to the universe this story unfolds in just went right over my head. The emotional journey of the characters was clear, however, and brings the tale to a fitting conclusion.

I just have one final note for parents. This film might not be appropriate for the very young. Most of the violence is shoot-em-up in the way anime does best – with giant robot things. However, there are some moments featuring human characters that are graphic and disturbing.
I completely understand why Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time has received rave reviews across the board from critics and viewers aside. It was definitely worth the 8 years of waiting.
For those that haven’t experienced any of the Evangelion franchise, my suggestion is to watch some of the earlier productions before viewing Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time. The recap at the beginning might not be enough to bring someone entirely unfamiliar up to speed. For those that are familiar with all things Evangelion – you’re in for a treat.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 92%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 8.8/10
IMDB Score – 8.3/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Fantasia 2021: Kakegurui (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Fantasia 2021: Kakegurui (2019)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 119 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Language: Japanese
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa
Actors: Minami Hamabe, Mahiro Takasugi, Elaiza Ikeda
Blurb from IMDb: Hyakaou Academy is an institute where the academic ranking is based on the pupils' gambling winnings. Yumeko is new to the academy. Her pretty enchantress looks are only surpassed by her voracious appetite to gamble it all and win it all.

Selina’s Point of View:
The moment I saw Kakegurui (2019) on the Fantasia Festival schedule, I was drawn to it. Something about the movies poster and description spoke to me. I knew it was going to be good.
I can’t honestly say it met expectations, though. I’m not entirely sure why, but I thought it would have a Battle Royale (2000) flair. Instead, it felt more along lines of Video Game High School (2012-2014). The difference between reality and my unwarranted expectations did not hinder the quality of Kakegurui at all.
It was incredible.
Kakegurui takes place in a world where academics and athletic ability are not what make a student. Instead, it’s gambling that sets the hierarchy. That kind of setting can easily become too ridiculous to care about, but that is absolutely not what happened.
It was definitely silly, don’t get me wrong. Most of it had that over-dramatic style that animes have, but it also leaned hard into the darker aspects of the story. I’d say it struck a lovely balance between light-hearted and dark. You’d think the silliness and purposeful over-acting would drown out any other emotion woven throughout. Instead, there’s a real sense of epicness and intensity involved.

That nutty comedy just made the devastating moments more unpredictable.
That’s the best way I can think of to describe Kakegurui: unpredictable. I love when I can say that about a film, because it doesn’t happen often, and I love to be caught completely off guard.
I am aware that this is based on, or adapted from, an anime series of the same name. I need to stress that I can’t speak to how good of an adaptation it is, because I’m unfamiliar with the series. I can only speak from the perspective of seeing the movie as a stand-alone. That said, I’m going to be hunting down the series the moment I finish posting this review.
Kakegurui is not going to be for everyone. I’d say you have to be an anime fan to really appreciate it – despite the fact that it’s live-action. The comedy aspects are very specific to the genre and can seem overbearing to people who tend to avoid Japanese animation.

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Kissing Booth 3 (2021)


Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Kissing Booth 3 (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length:  112 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Clearblack Films, Komixx Entertainment, Picture Loom
Director: Vince Marcello
Writers: Vince Marcello, Jay Arnold, Beth Reekles
Actors: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Molly Ringwald, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Meganne Young, Stephen Jennings, Carson White, Morné Visser, Bianca Bosch, Camilla Wolfson, Zandile Madliwa, Judd Krok, Sanda Shandu, Hilton Pelser, Frances Sholto-Douglas, Evan Hengst, Joshua Daniel, Eady, Trent Rowe, Michelle Allen, Nathan Lynn, Byron Langley, Chloe Williams, Cameron Scott, Bianca Amato, Daneel Van Der Walt, Nadia Kretschmer, Matthew Dylan Roberts, Maria Pretorius, Peter Butler, Colin Moss, Michael Kirch, James van Helsdingen, Megan du Plessis, Lincoln Pearson, Michael Miccoli, Chase Dallas, Lya du Toit, Kingsley Pearson, Jesse Rowan-Goldberg, Caitlyn de Abrue, Juliet Blacher

Blurb from IMDb:  It's the summer before Elle Evans is set to head off to college, and she has a big decision to make.

Cat’s Point of View:
The first thought that came to mind at the end of The Kissing Booth 3 was ‘thank goodness that’s finally over.’
Did I hate the movie? No, I just had a laundry list of issues with it that goes back to The Kissing Booth 2 (2020). The endcap of this trilogy was fine but largely unnecessary.
The first thing I feel I must share is that while the trailer flows rather smoothly through the elements that comprise this sequel, the film, itself, does not get right to the point. The Kissing Booth 3 is twice as long as it should have been. It feels like everything was – or could have been – settled in the second installment.

I feel I must add as a disclaimer, however, that I have not read the book that this trilogy was based upon. That being said, I am unable to objectively state whether or not the first 2 movies covered all of the important plot points for the novel’s story. Maybe there was a call for a third installment based on something there. Audiences watching only the Netflix Originals, however, wouldn’t necessarily know that.
Though, just like the main character drags her heels in making her decisions, The Kissing Booth 3 takes a meandering route to its conclusion. Somewhere along the way it also lost a bit of the more comedic tone that the first 2 installments had. Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of epic scenes here and there that had me laughing – but it was pretty firmly a romantic drama as a whole.

Somewhere along the way, it felt like the story lost the elements that helped me identify with the production’s protagonist way back in the beginning. With that kinship missing, it was hard to view the narrative as anything other than extraneous exposition that you might find in a basic romance novel –sans the graphic steam. These characters lived entirely in a fantasy world where money was no object and the pandemic didn’t exist.
I get that it wasn’t a factor in the book, and the first 2 films were developed before Coronavirus was a household word. I simply can’t help it that the overall experience dramatically impaired my ability to suspend disbelief.

While I am generally satisfied regarding the conclusion to this trilogy, it feels like this is one of those times that the sequels didn’t do the original any favors. If you’ve been following along through the first 2 movies, then I can only urge you to go ahead & finish it up with The Kissing Booth 3, if only for some closure.
If you haven’t started this Kissing Booth journey yet, perhaps weigh your decision to watch accordingly.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 13%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 21%
Metascore – 35%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
P.S. There are some bloopers and outtakes during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, August 9, 2021

Bleed With Me (2020)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Bleed With Me (2020)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length:  120 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Epic Pictures
Director: Amelia Moses
Writer: Amelia Moses
Actors: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros
Blurb from IMDb:  During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood.

Cat’s Point of View:
The credits have rolled for Bleed With Me and I am reminded of a scene from The Princess Bride where the evil count has Westley in his clutches in the ‘Pit of Despair’ and claims to have sucked one year of his life away. This movie might not have taken a whole year, but Bleed With Me did strip 2 hours of my life away that I can neither unsee nor get back.
I can’t remember the last time I was so bored by a film. It was a legitimate struggle for me to pay attention. I soldiered through it – but it definitely felt like work rather than an enjoyable cinematic experience.

We’ve talked before about how movies with an extremely small cast and limited settings create a greater challenge for a production. It raises the bar for everyone involved from writing and directing to cast performances. Everything has to be nuanced and on point to keep the audience’s attention. There have been a few movies Trust the Dice has reviewed before that have succeeded. The first couple that comes to mind would be Malcolm and Marie (2021) and Scenic Route (2013).
Bleed With Me fell far short of being successful.
Everything was paced so slowly. I get the likely reasoning that things were out of focus for so much of the film, but it annoyed me. It did not actually offer substance to the mental state of the characters.  The tense and dramatic soundtrack felt like it was building up to something that the story never really delivered on. Overall, everything just felt disjointed and awkward and I couldn’t get into it.

Hey, maybe that was the point?  I’m sure that there are some looking at this from an artistic perspective that might think it’s brilliantly avant-garde or something like that. Probably not the cup of tea mainstream audiences were looking for, though.
The only lasting burning question I have in relation to Bleed With Me was whether or not there was intended symbolism with the rabbits. I do, indeed, have bunnies on the brain lately so the rabbit wallpaper in the cabin put together with other story elements has me wondering. Alas, it’s likely something I’ll never have an answer for. I’m okay with that.
If you’d like to give Bleed With Me a whirl to judge for yourself, it premieres on Shudder starting Tuesday, August 10th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.0/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 1/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: