Friday, November 12, 2021

Ankle Biters (2021)

Movie Name/Year: Ankle Biters (2021) [aka Cherrypicker]
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Flax Films, Warehouse Film Distribution, Dark Star Pictures
Director: Bennet De Brabandere
Writer: Bennet De Brabandere, Zion Forrest Lee
Actors: Colin Mochrie, Matia Jackett, Marianthi Evans, Zion Forrest Lee, Jani Lauzon, Lily Gail Reid, Evert Houston, Rosalee Reid, Marienne Castro
Blurb from IMDb: Four adorable little girls plot to murder a hockey player after they mistake an act of lovemaking as an attack on their mom.

Selina’s Point of View:
Although Ankle Biters is labeled as a comedy horror, there wasn’t much I found funny.
All the humor was based on the shock value of 4 young children being psychopaths. The idea itself does have some merit. I’ve seen it play out successfully before. It just has to be done right. Ankle Biters never quite got there.
What I wound up watching was a disturbing thriller. I think, if they’d leaned into the horror aspect a bit more – completely abandoning all hope of comedy – Ankle Biters could have wound up being the kind of film you don’t watch with the lights off. With a few actors recast, and some script tweaking, it could have even been outstanding.

Unfortunately, it was like a first draft that someone gave up on and sent to the presses anyway.
Ankle Biters is not what I’m looking for in my comedy horrors.
If you want to see for yourself, it releases November 16 on demand and DVD.

Cat’s Point of View:
My skin is crawling. Everything is just creepier with kids.
Ankle Biters was definitely successful in bringing horror to the table, but I’m not entirely sure about the comedic element. I spent the duration of the film on a rollercoaster of cringe and horror, with the occasional face-palm. I just didn’t find where I was supposed to be laughing. It didn’t even find the dark comedy lane that has you feeling guilty for your laughter. Not even a chuckle, I tell you.
Part of what took the wind out of the proverbial comedic sails in those moments was that I already knew what was going to happen. The audience doesn’t have to guess because the framework of the story gave it away. It’s easier to find the humor in dark comedy if there’s a glimmer of hope that things might be ok when all is said and done. Ankle Biters was a bit bleak in that regard since the film was spent primarily in flashback. We’re learning how and why something happened. The outcome was a foregone conclusion.

There was just something…off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it while watching, and I am still struggling.
The cast performances ran a bit hot and cold for me. Some of the dialogue and action felt a bit bumbled. In other moments, I was buying what the cast and scene were selling. The little girls, who are all sisters in the real world, were actually pretty amazing – terrifyingly so. They were the high point of Ankle Biters.
With all that said, I’m still on the fence. I don’t think I hated it, but I can’t say that I loved it either. If you have the opportunity to watch it, give it a shot and see how you feel when the credits roll.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Dune (2021)

Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Dune (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Length: 155 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Warner Bros., Legendary Entertainment, Villeneuve Films, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, HBO Max
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, Frank Herbert
Actors: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Chen Chang, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Zendaya, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun, Benjamin Clémentine, Souad Faress
IMDb Blurb: Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

Selina’s Point of View:
The first thing I have to say about Dune is that it is absolutely gorgeous. Everything from the cinematography to the costumes is on point. I regret not being able to see it in theaters, but I have a cold. If I get better before it’s out, I’m definitely going to give myself the benefit of seeing it on a big screen.
Now, although I’ve read the first three books of the Dune series, it’s been a LONG time. Not only that, but I had a lot of issues with the books. There are a great many chapters dedicated to political drama and there are few things I have less interest in. My ADHD made processing those chapters insanely difficult. I would read a paragraph, retain nothing, and have to re-read it. The reading that normally might have taken me a few days (to a week), took me a few months.

Still, I pushed through that first three books. (I only stopped there because I didn’t realize there was more until these past couple of years.) If I had that much trouble, though, why even bother to keep reading?
Sure, the story is amazing. I could use that as my reason. But that wasn’t it. For me, it was the world-building.
When I write fiction, I can spend literal years on world-building. Religions, languages, customs, visuals, maps, etc. That’s where the fun in writing is for me. As a result, it also means a lot to me as a reader. It helps me pictures things. Especially in science fiction or fantasy.

I’ve never seen the Dune mini-series, but I did see the 1984 movie. Not only was this one a huge upgrade in basic quality and adaptation, but it felt like the upgrades in technology allowed the world-building to be better appreciated.
As I watched, everything fell back into my memory from the story. It was like greeting an old friend who’d had age remarkably well. I couldn’t have hoped for anything even remotely as good as how this turned out.
I will say that I did have one issue. Lady Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson (The Snowman, Life, Cold Night).
Nothing was wrong with Ferguson’s acting. That’s important to note. That said, the way the creators interpreted her character didn’t work for me. In the book, Lady Jessica is a master of a Bene Gesserit. She has iron-fisted control over her emotions, which allows her to be completely stoic in even the roughest times. In this adaptation, you see a bit too much of her fear and anxiety – none of which is meant to be visual. She’s meant to suffer silently while repeating her mantra: “fear is the mind-killer.”

I do get why the creators wrote the character this way. People who haven’t read the books, might not have picked up on that control and may have believed the acting to be poor. I don’t think any non-readers who watch the film will have any issues with her portrayal.
Dune is the first part. I’m not sure exactly how many films will be used to tell the full story, but I’m glad they’re stretching it out. I believe the reason the 1984 version was confusing because the creators were forced to tell more than one book of story in a single flick. They had to cut too much, and non-readers were left baffled. That shouldn’t be an issue here.

Dune is available on HBO Max and in theaters. I highly recommend going to see it if you are safely able to do so. Otherwise, streaming is fine.

Cat’s Point of View:
Where do I even begin?
I love Dune. I have adored it since the 1984 adaptation. I was far too young to appreciate the books at that time. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit that it took me until I was in my 30s to actually read Frank Hebert’s sci-fi epic. Like this movie, however, it was worth the wait.
It was absolutely clear with every meticulous shot within Dune that this adaptation was Denis Villeneuve’s (Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) love letter to Hebert’s masterpiece. I’ve read that Villeneuve has long wanted to bring this story to life with the sweeping cinematic treatment that it deserved – and that he intentionally put off the project until he’d worked with sci-fi enough he was comfortable he could pull it off. Case and point, he spent a whole year working on the sandworm design to make sure it was right. Bravo, good sir. Job well done all-around. (By the by, the sandworms were terrifying.)

When I first heard of the cast attached to Dune, I knew that there was potential for something really special. It would take someone truly inept to squander such a magnitude of combined talent. Every performance was on point. I couldn’t fault even nameless supporting characters in the background. Everything came together that well. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, The King, The French Dispatch) really nailed the role of Paul Atreides. He actually seemed to fit the character’s age and demeanor a bit better than in the prior adaptation. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Triple Frontier, The Card Counter) and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Doctor Sleep, Reminiscence) were a dream come true as his parents. I wanted more of Jason Momoa’s (Braven, Frontier, See) character, Duncan. Josh Brolin (Everest, Flag Day, Deadpool 2) was perfect for Gurney, and his line featured in the trailer had me giggling.
Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Euphoria, Malcolm & Marie) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, Mother!) embodied the essence of the Fremen, while Stellan Skarsgård (Cinderella, Chernobyl, Last Words) and Dave Bautista (Hotel Artemis, Stuber, Army of the Dead) were dripping malevolence at the forefront of the Harkonnen. I could keep rambling about the cast. There were just so many that stood out for me, but I’ll spare you.

I do feel I need to mention that Charlotte Rampling (The Forbidden Room, Broadchurch, Red Sparrow) excelled as Reverend Mother Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit. She exuded the essence of the secretive and lofty order of interstellar political puppeteers. Dune managed to give a good taste of those machinations and layers within the story. I was very relieved that this aspect of the books was handled well.
From a cinematography standpoint, Dune was absolutely stunning. Every world that appeared on screen was rich and well represented in the visuals. Of course, Arakis got most of the screen-time. The vast deserts seemed just as endless as one would expect, and the visual representation of the spice in the air was also a nice touch. From wide shots, all the way down to individual costumes and sets, the production team for Dune was at the top of their game.

It also says something about a movie when award-winning composer Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave, Dunkirk, Army of Thieves) turns down blockbuster projects to work on a score. That was the case here with Dune. Zimmer is one of my favorite Hollywood composers, having breathed life into the music from several of my favorite movies and significantly impacted my own personal cinematic landscape. His work with Dune added another exquisite layer to immerse you into this world of sand and turmoil.
Dune may be a bit on the long run-time, and there’s a good bit of scenery between plot moments – however, I didn’t notice or perhaps didn’t care that this experience was longer than your typical movie. Once I got sucked in, there was no turning back. I was sad when it ended. You can bet that I am chomping at the bit for Part Two to be released. Alas, as it’s still in pre-production at the moment, that’s not going to be for a while yet. That gives plenty of time to re-watch Part One, however.
While some may have been unhappy that Dune ran simultaneously on HBO Max with its theater release, I am very grateful for its availability. I still can’t get out to theaters much, so it would have been a long and grueling wait for me, otherwise. If you do have the ability to safely attend a theater screening of Dune, however, please do. This film would be best viewed on the most massive screen possible – IMAX if you can. Either way, Dune is a definite must-see for sci-fi fans.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 90%
Metascore –74%
Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10
IMDB Score – 8.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, November 8, 2021

Great White (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Great White (2021)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Thrills & Spills, Altitude Media Group, Chop Shop Post, Cornerstone Pictures, Filmology Finance, Piccadilly Pictures, ProdigyMovies, Truth or Dare, Golden Village Pictures, Just Entertainment, RLJE Films, A Contracorriente Films, EuroVideo, Synapse, Shudder
Director: Martin Wilson
Writers: Michael Boughen
Actors: Aaron Jakubenko, Jason Wilder, Kate Jaggard, Katrina Bowden, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Patrick Atchison, Tatjana Marjanovic, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Tim Kano
IMDb Blurb: A fun filled flight to a remote atoll turns into a nightmare for five passengers when their seaplane is destroyed in a freak accident and they are trapped on a raft, 100 miles from shore with man-eating sharks lurking beneath the surface.

Cat’s Point of View:
Great White originally came to our attention while working on our Top 20 Movies Coming Out in July 2021 article. It made my list at #20. This seemed right at home in the summer blockbuster season and just in time for the annual shark-centric content shown on both Nat Geo and Discovery Channels. 
The trailer for Great White was well done and gave me a sense of the drama and thrills in store. It didn’t try to promise anything sensational that the actual movie couldn’t deliver. That’s a huge pet peeve of mine. If it’s in the trailer, an audience will expect to see it. I am still irked, to this day, about a scene in the original trailer for Twister (1996) that wasn’t in the actual film. It was a gotcha moment meant to jump-scare the audience and draw them into the theater, but apparently was left on the cutting room floor when it came to the final edit. I digress… The point is, what the trailer offers, the production delivers.

There were a few points that made Great White stand out to me over the usual shark movie tropes. It’s not often you see a shark vs. plane scenario that’s realistic. We’re not talking Air Jaws (2001) type action or anything as corny as that. It was a well-thought moment within the story that made sense, given the situation.
Another tidbit that grabbed my attention was the fact that Great White was being handled by the same Executive Producers as 47 Meters Down (2017). That was a fantastic shark horror-thriller full of dread and stellar shark action. It gave me hope that we’d see mostly accurate depictions of the massive sea predators. I’m happy to relate that this was generally the case. There were a few moments that the sharks made sounds that the actual live animals simply do not make, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the moment or the film.

The production for Great White got a lot of bang for their effects bucks. I believed the sharks on the screen. They felt a natural part of the scenery and interacted with their environment. No cheesy effects here, folks! I particularly appreciated how the different views provided insight into the sharks vs the human castaways – whether by aerial or underwater shots.
Great White’s cast was firing on all cylinders. There were some dramatic nuances that layered into the story beyond the whole ‘oh no we’re stranded and being hunted by sharks’ plot points. Without that extra bit of character development, it would have made it harder to get through the lulls in activity. Critics seem to be beating Great White up over said lulls, saying that it made it boring. I have to disagree. While there wasn’t a lot of action through some scenes, the tension remained high because when you couldn’t see the shark, you didn’t know when it would strike. It highlighted the natures of the humans and how they dealt with the crisis and each other. Everyone gave a really solid performance.
All told, Great White might not be the most innovative or flashiest shark movie of all time, but it was entertaining and definitely worth the watch if you have a Shudder subscription.
Great White premieres on Shudder November 11th, 2021. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score –42%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –20%
Metascore –45%
Metacritic User Score – 4.3/10
IMDB Score – 4.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: