Friday, November 19, 2021

tick, tick...Boom! (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: tick, tick...Boom! (2021)
Genre: Biography, Drama, Musical
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: 5000 Broadway Productions, Imagine Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Writers: Steven Levenson, Jonathan Larson
Actors: Andrew Garfield, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Bradley Whitford, Joshua Henry, Judith Light, Tariq Trotter, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Alex D. Jennings, Ben Ross, Beth Malone, Danielle Ferland, Gizel Jimenez, Joanna Adler, Joel Grey, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Kate Rockwell, Laura Benanti, Mason Versaw, Micaela Diamond, MJ Rodriguez, Noah Robbins, Richard Kind
IMDb Blurb: On the cusp of his 30th birthday, a promising young theater composer navigates love, friendship and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City.

Cat’s Point of View:
Tick, tick...Boom! was a feast for the senses.
I got everything I hoped for from this production, and then some.
Bravo to Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns, His Dark Materials, Duck Tales) for absolutely smashing it with his directorial debut. It was kismet that he came together with this particular project to bring us a window into the world of the late, great Jonathan Larson. It was absolutely clear that this was a labor of love and came from a place of deep resonance and understanding.

The story slipped between stage and ‘the real world’ so seamlessly, and the music integrated in such an organic way that you didn’t feel that slight pause as a typical musical’s cast is about to launch into the big song and dance number. If there was dancing, the movement felt natural and part of the scene rather than random people popping out of the woodwork for some choreography.
Of course, a lot of that genius is to the credit of Larson, himself, given that tick, tick…Boom! was originally written as a one-man-show. It was expanded to 3 people for its actual stage run, but then this movie just blows that out of the water.

I felt so connected to all the characters, and felt I could identify with them on some level – none moreso than Larson’s character specifically. Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go, Hacksaw Ridge, Under the Silver Lake) was an absolute dream in this role. He had such wonderful chemistry with all of the supporting cast – from his girlfriend, played Alexandra Shipp (Straight Outta Compton, Tragedy Girls, Endless) to his best friend, played by Robin de Jesus (Hair Brained, Law & Order: SVU, The Boys in the Band). It was like watching pieces fall into place – and people into parts – in a great composition coming together.
Other stand-out performances included Vanessa Hudgens (Powerless, Rent: Live, My Little Pony: A New Generation) and Joshua Henry (Winter's Tale, American Renegades, See) as Larson’s friends that work with him on his rock-musical  and revel with him outside of stage work. Everyone’s voices were on point, and the music was soaring.

I could babble on forever, really. Tick, tick…Boom! surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Let’s face it – I knew it was going to be good and I knew it would be enjoyable. I just didn’t anticipate how much it would connect with me and how much of a positive feeling it would leave with me in spite of some of the sad subject matter.
Tick, tick…Boom! celebrated not only the connection between the characters and the message of making the most of the time you have – but it also brilliantly underscored the creative process. I can’t tell you how much I identified to Larson’s writer’s block as he struggled to compose a key song for his musical. The show makes sure you get it that things aren’t always glitzy parties with champagne. Larson wasn’t shy in sharing every rejection he had to push through and keep working beyond to attain his dream.
I think that tick, tick…Boom! has a lot to offer a wide spectrum of movie-goers and streamers alike, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to offer my recommendation.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 87%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 94%
Metascore –73%
Metacritic User Score – 7.8/10
IMDB Score – 8.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Red Notice (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Red Notice (2021)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Length: 115 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Bad Version, Flynn Picture Company, Legendary Entertainment, Netflix, Seven Bucks Productions
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Ritu Arya, Bobby Blish, Bradford Norris, Brandon Parker, Brenna Marie Narayan, Chris Diamantopoulos, Christopher Cocke, Daniel Bernhardt, Ivan Mbakop, Jay Romero, Jeramie Julian, Kazi Maubert, Melissa Kennemore, MWW Michael Wilkerson, Noah Bain Garret, Pascal Petardi, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Robert Tinsley, Sebastien Large, Seth Michaels, Shane Berengue, Tom Choi, Victoria Paige Watkins, Vincenzo Amato, Yasmine Habib, Yosef Podolski, Zach Catanzareti
Metacritic Blurb: When an Interpol-issued Red Notice — the highest level warrant to hunt and capture the world’s most wanted— goes out, the FBI’s top profiler John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is on the case. His global pursuit finds him smack dab in the middle of a daring heist where he’s forced to partner with the world’s greatest art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in order to catch the world’s most wanted art thief, “The Bishop” (Gal Gadot).

Selina’s Point of View:
Red Notice was everything I expected and hoped for.
Upon seeing the trailer, I knew exactly what kind of film Red Notice would be. A hilarious, turn-your-brain-off, action-filled, heist flick. I didn’t expect it to change the cinematic landscape, but I knew it would be fun.
As per usual with this kind of film, critics missed the point.
Look at the Rotten Tomatoes scores. Critics are bringing it to an abysmal 33%, but audiences are riding the hilarity all the way to a 91% (as of 11/16/21). I’ve mentioned how I feel about discrepancies that wide.
It’s like critics forget what being a casual movie fan is.

There’s nothing wrong with a movie that exists just to entertain. That’s what Red Notice does. You get the sass of Ryan Reynolds (Free Guy, Deadpool, Life), mixed with the wit of Dwayne Johnson (Jungle Cruise, Rampage, The Fate of the Furious), and a dash of Gal Gadot’s (Wonder Woman, Criminal, Ralph Breaks the Internet) class. It WORKS. I spent the majority of the near 2-hour runtime laughing my ass off. There isn’t a critic in the world who could convince me that’s wrong.
To go a little deeper, though, I didn’t just enjoy Red Notice for the comedy. The action sequences were great, the fight choreography was satisfying, and I thought there was some significantly good writing involved.

A lot of media utilizes foreshadowing in an awful manner. Every mention, or twist, can become predictable so easily. That didn’t happen in Red Notice. The foreshadowing was a lot more subtle. I’ll admit, they went a little over-the-top in the end. Those last couple of twists were a bit convoluted. It brought the story to a ridiculous place, but it still felt more ‘caricature’ than full-on parody.
It would bother me, but I think that was the aforementioned point that the critics are missing.
I feel like Red Notice is meant to be a caricature of heist films. Not unlike the way Shaun of the Dead (2004) is a caricature of the zombie sub-genre, and The Cabin in the Woods (2011) is of the… well… cabin-in-the-woods sub-genre.
Red Notice is worth it if you’re looking for a fun, easy watch. If you’ve had a rough day (work sucks, the pandemic sucks, politics sucks), and you just want to chill – turn this on. It should raise your spirits.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been looking forward to Red Notice since I learned the movie was in production. I’m happy to say that this comedic and action-packed heist flick was definitely worth the wait. My 18-year-old even watched with me, and we were both thoroughly entertained.
Red Notice is another movie where you have to wonder if the critics were watching the same film. I just don’t understand all the hate that has been lobbed in Red Notice’s direction. Seriously. Ignore all the professional stiffs and take a gander at the audience reviews. The overwhelming majority appreciated what a fun ride Red Notice was.
Hats off to writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (We're The Millers, Central Intelligence, Skyscraper) for delivering a laugh-a-minute adventure with everything you would expect from a blockbuster action film, while also providing such a visual treat. Some have complained about the CGI backgrounds and the like. I was so engrossed in the entertainment of it all that I didn’t even really notice. The swooping drone-shot footage didn’t even put me off. Seriously, though, a good chunk of the film was actually shot in Georgia, USA. I couldn’t tell the difference between those sequences and the international locations.

I absolutely adore this cast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m sure.
If you were craving more of the banter and interaction between Ryan Reynolds (Criminal, The Hitman's Bodyguard, Pokémon Detective Pikachu) and Dwayne Johnson (Moana, Rampage, Ballers) along the lines of their brief bits together in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019), Red Notice is pretty much a whole movie that captures the essence of that vibe.
That being said, Gal Gadot (Triple 9, Keeping Up with the Joneses, Ralph Breaks the Internet) was no slouch and certainly wasn’t an afterthought. She excels in the role of femme fatale – though, no one really seemed to experience anything actually fatal in this production. We’ll come back to that. Gadot’s character worked well as a driving force to keep Reynolds and Johnson’s characters on their toes and moving forward. Red Notice did well to highlight everything she’s well-known for, and then some.

Let’s return to bullets without a bloody body count – I was actually a bit impressed. Just picture a bunch of Star Wars (1977) stormtroopers out of uniform and in an Indiana Jones movie. No one really hits anything even though people are shooting everywhere. I loved it.
By the way, I both heard and saw what you did there Red Notice. The homage was duly noted and greatly appreciated.
There were so many great little quotable quips, and the story took plenty of twists and turns. I didn’t see most of that ending coming at all. There were layers and nuance beneath the laughs and action. I will likely watch this again just to see if I can catch all the little clues scattered throughout.
When you get right down to it, contrary to popular critic belief, Red Notice was most certainly not just a 200 million dollar commercial for Dwayne Johnson & Ryan Reynolds’ respective alcohol brands. Netflix delivered a blockbuster-worthy original that lived up to the fun and action promised by its trailers and promotion. Red Notice was 100% worth my time and subscription, and I sincerely hope that this means that this trio will deliver more streaming gold for us in the future.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 35%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 91%
Metascore –37%
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 6.4/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
P.S. There are no post-credit scenes, however, there is a single spoken line by Gal Gadot at the end of the credits. Also, the IMDb trivia tidbit that mentions the QR code on an invitation shown within the movie is correct. If you scan the QR code, it will lead you to a video of bloopers from Red Notice.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, November 15, 2021

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Patriot Pictures, Eleven Arts, Baked Studios, Boos Boos Bang Bang, RLJE Films, Untitled Entertainment, XYZ Films, Bitters End, Umbrella Entertainment, The Searchers, Shudder
Director: Sion Sono
Writers: Aaron Hendry, Reza Sixo Safai
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Canon Nawata, Charles Glover, Grace Feeney, Jai West, Jeffrey Rowe, Narisa Suzuki, Nick Cassavetes, Saki Ohwada, Tak Sakaguchi, Takato Yonemoto
IMDb Blurb: A notorious criminal must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl who has mysteriously disappeared.

Selina’s Point of View:
When you hear that Nicolas Cage, himself, considers a project the “wildest” movie he’s ever made – you know to prepare yourself.
I thought I was ready.
There’s just no real ‘getting ready’ for Prisoners of the Ghostland. It’s what you get when you mix the samurai and western genres, then put them against an apocalyptic Mad Max (1979) kind of setting. Just based on that, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. Then you add in Cage at his strangest and a surreal/creepy script, along with performances worthy of portraying the shadiest cults.
No. I was definitely not ready.

Here’s the thing. I know I’ve made it sound incredibly unique, but aside from a couple of minor surprises – the progress of the plot was super basic.
It was like watching actual Martians, with mouths growing in the wrong place, sitting down to eat at a McDonalds. I knew what was going to happen, but I had to know how it managed to get there.
For the most part, I wound up invested, if only because it was visually original. The ending felt off, though. Some characters did things that contradicted decisions they had just made, while others didn’t seem to do anything realistic to what they were. It was poorly thought out. Like they wanted to force a particular conclusion but didn’t know how to get there so they faked it.

It felt like Bran Stark winning the Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
I’ve seen mixed reviews for Prisoners of the Ghostland. Rotten Tomatoes shows that critics loved it and audiences hated it. Normally, I can pick a side, but this time I think they’re both right.
Prisoners of the Ghostland has all the camp, and unintentional humor needed to become a cult film. That said, it is NOT for mainstream audiences. Not in the least. I imagine anyone searching for something more mainstream will turn it off somewhere in the first hour.
Personally, I doubt I’d be part of the cult – but I could understand why someone else would be.
If you want to see for yourself, Prisoners of the Ghostland moves to Shudder, November 19.

Cat’s Point of View:
Bananas. What I just watched was bananas.
I’m having a bit of Deja Vu, I’m afraid. I have found myself in a very similar position as when I tried to find the words to describe my interest in Prisoners of the Ghostland as part of the Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in September 2021 article. The film landed at my #16. In hindsight, with the credits from Prisoners of the Ghostland now in my rearview, I don’t regret putting the film on my list.
My sentiment now echoes what I felt then – “where do I even start with Prisoners of the Ghostland?”

The production effectively captures a post-apocalyptic dystopian world – or at least a forgotten corner of it – where chaos reigns. It appeared to be only loosely held back by what seems like a combination of the code of the Old West, some sort of skewed samurai, and appeal to the carnal nature of man. At least, that applies to the ‘safety’ within Samurai Town. All bets were off in the Ghostland. Outside the ‘protection’ of civilization was much like Mad Max (1979), but with less driving.
The visuals here were gorgeous and bleak. This was definitely a movie where I wish I knew how to read Japanese. I’m dying to know what appeared on some of the signage within the film. It was clear that there was meaning behind everything – regardless of how chaotic things seemed. Beneath the insanity was a distinct story about a journey to redemption and how choices and actions ripple out from us to affect others. It’s actually pretty deep. I was surprised, really, to find such connection beneath everything that was so bonkers, but I’m glad I did.

I could see why Nicolas Cage (Color Out of Space, Willy's Wonderland, Pig) called this the “wildest movie [he’s] ever made.” Wild might even be an understatement.
The fight choreography for the battle-royale style fighting was well done. Tak Sakaguchi (Kingdom, Red Blade, Crazy Samurai Musashi) really stood out with his role. Even if the plot hadn’t singled him out, he still would have grabbed my attention. I haven’t seen his work before, but sword fighting is clearly ‘his thing.’
Prisoners of the Ghostland is one of those movies that dares you to take it too seriously. It’s meant to be a crazy trip that you just have to hold on to your seat and let yourself get swept away with. It’s creepy, dark, violent, grimy, surreal, and even threads in a little sprinkle of comedy here and there. Its very essence makes you look at the world sideways. Things were definitely askew, and gloriously so.
All told, Prisoners of the Ghostland was absolutely crazy but, at the same time, thoroughly entertaining. It isn’t going to be for everyone, however. If you’re a Cage fan, though, you definitely want to experience this one. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 26%
Metascore –53%
Metacritic User Score – 4.1/10
IMDB Score – 4.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: