Friday, December 3, 2021

'Tis the Season - The Advent Calendar (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Advent Calendar (2021)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 104 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Sombrero Films, Siddhi Films, Frakas Productions, Zed, Universal Pictures Video, Cinécap 3, Sofica Manon 10, Palatine Etoile 17, Canal+, Ciné+, Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC), Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF), VOO, BE TV, Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge, Casa Kafka Pictures Movie Tax Shelter Empowered by Belfius, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Alba Films, Splendid Film, Shudder
Director: Patrick Ridremont
Writer: Patrick Ridremont
Actors: Eugénie Derouand, Honorine Magnier, Clément Olivieri, Janis Abrikh, Cyril Garnier, Vladimir Perrin, Fabien Jegoudez, Jérôme Paquatte, Laura Presgurvic
Blurb from IMDb: Eva, an ex-dancer, is now living in a wheelchair, unable to walk. when her friend Sophie gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar before Christmas, she realizes each window contains a surprise that triggers repercussions in real life: some of them good, but most of them bad - Now Eva will have to choose between getting rid of the calendar or walking again - even if it causes death around her.

Selina’s Point of View:
I cannot express how happy I am that we’re not starting our ‘Tis the Season event with something from Hallmark or Lifetime. I’m prepared to watch the big city girl leave it all behind and learn the magic of Christmas from the plaid-clad farm-boy, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to it.
Let’s be honest here. I’m not the biggest fan of French cinema. We’ve reviewed a few projects from France, and there haven’t been many of those that have spoken to me. There’s a cultural gap that I have trouble bridging. I don’t entirely understand what puts me off about them, but there is definitely something.
That’s not to say French movies are objectively bad. It’s a very personal choice. Cat tends to loves them. Unfortunately, she’s sick this week.
It says a lot that, despite my usual preferences, that I found this movie awesome.
I lost myself in it. Forgot that I was reading the subtitles, even. I did remember once in a while when something written appeared on screen, though. There were no translations for those bits and I had to pause to look them up. Every time that happened, I did get sucked out a little, but that’s more on Shudder than it is on the actual film.

The Advent Calendar mixes the truth or dare sub-genre with a dash of ‘be careful what you wish for’ and hands in something more unique than you’d expect. It even highlights some Christmas magic.
What I really enjoyed about The Advent Calendar was that it relied so little on jump-scares. After viewing the trailer, I was certain it was going to be revolving around your basic jump-scare tactics. Instead, it’s super tense. You go on this journey with the main character as she fights to fulfill a ton of orders from some mystical box, and it winds up working.
I need to add that there are some very triggering scenes. In a film like this you expect blood and sacrifice, but there are also more sensitive situations explored in relatively graphic ways. I do believe it works in the story, but not everyone will have the ability to sit through it.
If you’re looking for something to watch, and you are just as sick of the Hallmark/Lifetime holiday variety as I am, this is a wonderful start.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 71%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 51%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In December (2021)

According to: Selina

20 – Mixtape (12/3)

Production/Distribution: Netter Productions, Reunion Pacific Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Valerie Weiss
Writer: Stacey Menear
Actors: Julie Bowen, Jackson Rathbone, Nick Thune, Kiefer O’Reilly, Gemma Brooke Allen, Audrey Hsieh, Anthony Timpano, Olga Petsa, Russell Roberts, Diego Mercado, Ken Godmere, Lucas Yao
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Rated: Unrated
Length: 93 minutes
IMDb Blurb: When a young girl accidentally destroys the mixtape that belonged to her mother, she sets out to track down each of the obscure songs on the cassette.
I really enjoy the premise of this film. I love the references to Y2K, the mixtape central theme… it’s nostalgic. Sure, a lot of my interest comes from the ‘member-berries, but it’s also got a decent cast and some room for real heart-warming.
Stacey Menear’s involvement confuses me a bit, though. Having been responsible for The Boy (2016) and Brahms: The Boy II (2020) this feels like a bit of a departure for her. Not to mention the discrepancy in quality between both films. Does it speak well for her writing or not? I don’t even know.
There’s also the fact that it’s Netflix. Quality can’t be assured there, either. They give a lot more leeway to directors than traditional production companies. They also have different qualifications to meet when picking up films to distribute.
There are a lot of ways Mixtape can go wrong, but I’ve always been fond of a little randomness in my choices.
19 – Portal Runner (12/10)

Production/Distribution: Terror Films
Director: Cornelia Duryée
Writer: J.D. Henning, Tallis Moore
Actors: Elise Eberle, Brian S. Lewis, Denny McAuliffe, Shaunyce Omar, Carol Roscoe, Matt Shimkus, Sloane Morgan Siegel, Roy Luke
Genre: Sci-Fi
Rated: Unrated
Length: 72 minutes
IMDb Blurb: 15 year old Nolan is blessed with the ability to travel to parallel worlds-- and cursed to be chased through them by a monstrous Evil. When he gets stuck in a parallel world, with a sister he's never met, he must make allies and dig deep to destroy the creature-- before it destroys him.
Portal Runner has a premise that could carry it to places many of the bigger films I passed up just wouldn’t get to. The plot is a huge draw for me. I love films that have a bit of that ‘different world’ fantasy to them, and you get that here.
Including it on this list is absolutely about faith in the plot, but there are other green flags to consider. Not the least of which is that the trailer does not try to hide the acting.
Other lower-budget flicks tend to have schlocky, unconvincing performances. As a result, you get a lot of B-roll and misdirection in the trailers. In the case of Portal Runner, the trailer focuses almost solely on the actors. It feels transparent. Like they’re not trying to hide anything faulty. That’s huge. Acting can make all the difference in how it’s perceived. It’s the difference between a Disney movie, and a Disney Channel movie.
If you know, you know.
I think Portal Runner will have the opportunity to become a cult film, as long as people take a chance on it.
18 – Death of a Telemarketer (12/3)

Production/Distribution: Datari Turner Productions, Kasomo Productions, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA)
Director: Khaled Ridgeway
Writer: Khaled Ridgeway
Actors: Lamorne Morris, Jackie Earle Haley, Haley Joel Osment, Alisha Wainwright, Woody McClain, Matt mcGorry, Gil Ozeri, David So, Starletta DuPois, Gwen Gottlieb
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 88 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A smooth-talking telemarketer finds himself at the mercy of the man he tried to swindle.
Death of a Telemarketer feels like a hilariously thrilling ride. In fact, there’s more comedy in the trailer than thrills. Normally, that would make me nervous, but I’m very ok with it here.
Lamorne Morris (How it Ends, Valley of the Boom, Human Discoveries) is a great comedic actor. He’s got amazing timing. Anyone who’s seen New Girl (2011-2018) knows how right I am. It’s less known that he’s also got chops for other genres. I think a comedy/thriller is the best way for him to showcase that.
Besides, who doesn’t hate telemarketers?
17 – Mosley (12/10)

Production/Distribution: Huhu Studios, China Film Animation, Mosaic Public Relations, Paramount Home Entertainment, Saban Films, Top Film, Eagle Films, Grindstone Entertainment Group, Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Movie On Pictures & Entertainment, NOS Audiovisuais
Director: Kirby Atkins
Writer: Kirby Atkins
Actors: Lucy Lawless, Temuera Morrison, John Rhys-Davies, Rhys Darby, Lara Macgregor, Kirby Atkins, Irene Wood
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family
Rated: PG
Length: 100 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A species of creatures known as "thoriphants" rebel against their life of servitude and embark on a treacherous journey to find the fabled city of Uprights.
I love this. It’s an animated kid’s film that introduces the idea of extinction and evolution while still being entertaining. I’m here for it.
In general, it looks like a decent movie, not overly-special, but still decent.
For me, the design of the creatures just feels a smidge off-putting. That’s what’s keeping me from being more excited for it. That bit is more of a ‘personal taste’ thing than any kind of objective take, though.
I am really looking forward to hearing the voice of Lucy Lawless (The Spine of Night, Ash vs Evil Dead, The Changeover) again. I grew up with Xena, and Lawless was a role model for me. It’s hard for me to ignore any project she takes part in.
16 – A Journal for Jordan (12/25)

Production/Distribution: BRON Studios, Columbia Pictures, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Escape Artists, Mundy Lane Entertainment, Outlier Society, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: Dana Canedy, Virgil Williams
Actors: Tamara Tunie, Michael B. Jordan,
Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, before he is killed in action in Baghdad, authors a journal for his son intended to tell him how to live a decent life despite growing up without a father.
I always crave holiday films at the end of the year, but I cannot express just how much I detest the Hallmark/Lifetime variety. When we do ‘Tis the Season every December, where we review only holiday films, I do my best to step out of my preferences to review those flicks. I put more effort into finding creative movies for the schedule, though.
With A Journal for Jordan, I believe we get something a bit more on the creative side. It’s heartfelt, but doesn’t fall on the saccharin side of things. It’s got a great director in Denzel Washington (Unstoppable, The Magnificent Seven, Fences), as well.
Plus, it’s Michael B. Jordan (Fahrenheit 451, Black Panther, Creed). That’s always a huge benefit.
The only reason it’s so low on the list is because it still has that possibility of being basic. I think this one will be what I’m hoping for, but there’s a bit of an opening for the writers to take the road most traveled – and that makes me nervous.
15 – Mother/Android (12/17)

Production/Distribution: 6th & Idaho Productions, Miramax, Hulu
Director: Mattson Tomlin
Writer: Mattson Tomlin
Actors: Chloë Grace Moretz, Steve M. Robertson, Oscar Wahlberg, Raúl Castillo, Algee Smith, Liam McNeill, Owen Burke, Kate Avallone, Jared Reinfeldt, Kiara Pichardo, Tamara Hickey
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: Georgia and her boyfriend Sam go on a treacherous journey to escape their country, which is caught in an unexpected war with artificial intelligence. Days away from the arrival of their first child, the couple must face No Man's Land, a stronghold of the android uprising, in hopes of reaching safety.
Apocalypse is my favorite flavor of sci-fi. I don’t normally lean toward the robot-uprising type, but this one looks pretty good.
Chloë Grace Moretz (Shadow in the Cloud, Gaslight, Suspiria) won me over all the way back in Kick-Ass (2010). I adore her, and I tend to follow her through all her projects – even without meaning to. They all just usually look great to me. Maybe it’s because of her acting in the trailers, or because she’s got decent taste in the scripts she accepts (for the most part). Either way, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be paying attention to anything she’s a part of.
That said, I can’t put it any higher on my list than this. The trailer has two of the most telling red flags of all of them: there’s a LOT of B-roll, and there are a lot of scenes that don’t match up with what’s being said.
Explaining the B-roll issue is simple. Many trailers that use the B-roll strategy do so because the films just don’t have enough interesting scenes completed in time for the trailer. Sometimes it could be a setting issue, other times it’s bad CGI. Either way, it’s a hint that something’s wrong.
As for the scenes not matching up with what’s being said, that could be two things. Either there’s not enough marketable dialogue in the script, or there are script issues.
Neither red flag means that the movie will definitely be bad. They are, however, concerning.
I’m still going to watch it when it comes out.
14 – Diary of a Wimpy Kid (12/3)

Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Bardel Entertainment, Color Force, The Walt Disney Company, Twentieth Century Animation, Twentieth Century Fox Animation, Disney+
Director: Swinton O. Scott III
Writer: Jeff Kinney
Actors: Cyrus Arnold, Braxton Baker, Erica Cerra, Lossen Chambers, Ethan William Childress, Christian Convery, Brenda Crichlow, Chris Diamantopoulos, Hunter Dillon
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama
Rated: PG
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: Greg Heffley is an ambitious kid with an active imagination and big plans to be rich and famous. The problem is that he has to survive middle school first.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a no-brainer for this list.
As kids’ books, the series is well-respected. It’s won a huge-amount of Kids’ Choice Awards. All but 2 of the awards it’s been nominated for, actually. It’s also been on the New York Times Best Seller list. For a period of time, even before I had a kid of my own, it was inescapable.
The adaptation cannot be ignored.
That said, it does look like a pretty good adaptation. Not only because the trailer is fun, but because the writer of the books, Jeff Kinney (Poptropica Worlds, Adventure Pig), is also the writer of the screenplay for this flick. I always find that to be a great sign when it comes to book adaptations.
This is going to be a great flick to flip on for the kids.
13 – Don’t Look Up (12/24)

Production/Distribution: Bluegrass Films, Hyperobject Industries, Netflix
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Adam McKay, David Sirota
Actors: Timothée Chalamet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Melanie Lynskey, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Mark Rylance, Michael Chiklis, Tyler Perry, Himesh Patel, Rob Morgan, Paul Guilfoyle, Kid Cudi, Hettienne Park
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 145 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.
A giant catastrophic event is about to affect the whole world and the powers-that-be decide to ignore scientists specializing in what’s happening? Hits so close to home that it’s almost painful. In fact, Netflix uses the blurb, “Based on real events that haven’t happened – yet,” on YouTube to describe the trailer.
The claim might feel a little ballsy for any other plot, but this one I believe.
Even if I didn’t find the story fascinating, the cast is impossible to ignore. Just about every face in Don’t Look Up is recognizable, if not a household movie-staple.
Of course, it is Netflix. Quality is not definite, but I’ve got high hopes for this one.
12 – The Tender Bar (12/17)

Production/Distribution: Big Indie Pictures, Smokehouse Pictures, Amazon Studios
Director: George Clooney
Writer: J.R. Moehringer, William Monahan
Actors: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Daniel Ranieri, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton, Max Casella, Sondra James, Michael Braun, Matthew Delamater, Ivan Leung, Danielle Ranieri, Kate Avallone
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Length: 104 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A boy growing up on Long Island seeks out father figures among the patrons at his uncle's bar.
I fell in love with this trailer the moment I saw it. Kid of a single mother grows up to be a writer while replacing his father figure with an uncle? God damn that sounds familiar.
It’s almost impossible to ignore a movie that you feel like you relate to. It doesn’t matter who stars in it, who wrote it, who directed or produced it. You feel that little twinge of relation and it’s almost a given you’ll watch it.
Although it gives it that added draw, there’s no doubt that the annoyance will be grand if it doesn’t live up to expectations.
This film comes out on a limited-bases in the US on 12/17, but it will release on streaming 12/22.
11 – The Tragedy of Macbeth (12/25)

Production/Distribution: A24, IAC Films, Apple TV+
Director: Joel Coen
Writer: Joel Coen, William Shakespeare
Actors: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Alex Hassell, Bertie Carvel, Brendan Gleeson, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling, Miles Anderson, Matt Helm, Moses Ingram, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ralph Ineson
Genre: Drama, History, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 105 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland, and his ambitious wife supports him in his plans of seizing power.
I’ll admit, I’m I little Shakespeare’d out at the moment. If this were just another Macbeth adaptation, it probably wouldn’t have even made my list. In the case of The Tragedy of Macbeth, though, there are a lot of things that make it stand out.
This film is the first time Joel Coen (True Grit, Fargo, The Big Lebowski) has directed anything without his brother, Ethan. In fact, they are so in sync with each other that it’s rare to hear their first names. They’re usually just referred to as the Coen brothers. It’s fascinating to see that Joel’s taken on a solo project.
As a solo director, Joel has taken the interesting risk of shooting The Tragedy of Macbeth almost completely on a soundstage.
That’s interesting because it puts this story of Macbeth in a more familiar setting for it. It’s more like a play and less like the blockbuster adaptations we’re used to.
Even the cast is a huge draw. With Lord Macbeth being played by Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand (Nomadland, The French Dispatch, Burn After Reading) behind Lady Macbeth, it’s impossible to underestimate the leads. The awards between them are staggering.
The Tragedy of Macbeth is almost definitely going to be worth a watch, even if you don’t tend to gravitate toward Shakespeare adaptations.

10 – Licorice Pizza (12/25)

Production/Distribution: BRON Studios, Focus Features, Ghoulardi Film Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), United Artists Releasing, United International Pictures, Universal Pictures Argentina, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Universal Pictures
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Actors: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Will Angarola, Griff Giacchino, James Kelley, Bradley Cooper,
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated: R
Length: 133 minutes
IMDb Blurb: The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.
This looks like a solidly funny romantic drama.
I’m not overly familiar with the leads, but Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia) as writer/director is a big deal. He’s got some serious classics under his belt, and a film like this seems like it would make an amazing addition to his collection.
You can see small clips of his sense of humor woven throughout, none of which seems to cut off the drama that’s offered up.
I think Licorice Pizza is as safe a pick for movies to look out for as there ever was.
9 – Wolf (12/3)

Production/Distribution: Feline Films, Head Gear Films, Kreo Films FZ, Lava Films, Metrol Technology, Focus Features, Front Row Filmed Entertainment
Director: Nathalie Biancheri
Writer: Nathalie Biancheri
Actors: Lily-Rose Depp, George MacKay, Paddy Considine, Terry Notary, Martin McCann, Fionn O’Shea, Lola Petticrew, Eileen Walsh, Senan Jennings, Karise Yansen, Darragh Shannon
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 98 minutes
IMDb Blurb: A high-concept arthouse drama about a boy who believes he is a wolf.
The trailer for Wolf looks huge, and it’s got a decent cast on top of it.
I’ve been following George MacKay (The Trick, Been So Long, Nuclear) to all his projects ever since I saw 1917 (2019). He was glorious in it, and I refuse to miss another performance by him. The stills for Wolf lead me to believe he’s putting in his 100%. If the film rest on his shoulders, then it’s going to be successful.
There are some discrepancies in the reviews that have come out of the Toronto International Film Festival, though.
On IMDb, it has a 4.1 rating (out of 10). Whereas on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s sitting at 83%. I don’t know what would cause this kind of spread in its ratings. It concerns me, but not enough to leave it off my list.
Besides, reviews are fine – but I think it’s always important to make your own decisions. Use reviews as suggestions, guidelines even, never as fact.
8 – Swan Song (12/17)

Production/Distribution: Anonymous Content, Apple, Concordia Studio, Know Wonder, Apple TV+
Director: Benjamin Cleary
Writer: Benjamin Cleary
Actors: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Glenn Close, Awkwafina, Adam Beach, Lee Shorten, Dax Rey, Nyasha Hatendi, JayR Tinaco
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 116 minutes
IMDb Blurb: In the near future, Cameron Turner is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Presented with an experimental solution to shield his wife and son from grief, he grapples with altering their fate in this exploration of love, loss, and sacrifice.
A lot of sci-fi films have been coming out with premises similar to Swan Song. They feel like lengthy episodes of Black Mirror (2011-2019). I’m not complaining about it. My interest in sci-fi tends to lean toward this kind of thing. Heightened scientific advancement that takes place on our planet, in our timeline (often in secret), speaks to me more than stories revolving around aliens and other planets.
What makes this one special to me is the cast. Mahershala Ali (True Detective, Hidden Figures, Luke Cage), Naomie Harris (Rampage, Moonlight, Spectre), Glenn Close (Father Figures, The Wife, The Girl with All the Gifts), and Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) are absolute masters of their craft. I think they can take a plot like this and elevate it to such a level that it stands out among the others we’ve seen.
To a lesser point, I saw JayR Tinaco (Another Life, Space Force, Drown) in one scene of Always Be My Maybe (2019) and I remember them killing it so hard, that I pointed it out in my review. It’s not often that a relatively unknown actor, in a bit part, is that memorable. Not only for it to be worth noting in my take on the film, but for me to remember it over a year later? They’ve clearly got something special in them. I cannot what to see what they do here. Even if it winds up being another super-small part.
7 – Nightmare Alley (12/17)

Production/Distribution: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Double Dare You (DDY), Searchlight Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Forum Hungary, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan, William Lindsay Gresham
Actors: Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Paul Anderson, Mary Steenburgen, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, Tim Blake Nelson, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, Clifton Collins Jr., Jim Beaver, David Hewlett, Lara Jean Chorostecki
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 150 minutes
IMDb Blurb: An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.
Nightmare Alley was originally attractive to me mostly because of the cast, but then I saw Guillermo del Toro’s (The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak) name.
How could anyone see Toro’s name attached to a project and not immediately want to see it. Sure, his movies are often plagued with bad luck, but the finished products simply work. He must have amazing crisis management and ability to adapt. Seriously, look up the shit he’s gone through with his directed films. 90% of his projects are cursed, despite being top-shelf work.
The trailer also looks pulse-pounding. There’s no doubt in my mind that this flick is going to be more than any of us could have possibly hoped for.
6 – The King’s Man (12/22)

Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Marv Films, Marv Studios, Forum Hungary, HKC Entertainment, Ukrainian Film Distribution (UFD), Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Matthew Vaughn, Karl Gajdusek, Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Actors: Gemma Arterton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Stanley Tucci, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Rhys Ifans, Daniel Brühl, Olivier Richters, Charles Dance, Tom Hollander, Djimon Hounsou, Harris Dickinson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Alison Steadman, Neil Jackson, Robert Aramayo, Branka Katic
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: R
Length: 131 minutes
IMDb Blurb: In the early years of the 20th century, the Kingsman agency is formed to stand against a cabal plotting a war to wipe out millions.
I’m a fangirl of the Kingsman films. I know they are a bit campy and often ridiculous. I don’t care. They are so much fun to watch. In fact, I like them because they’re campy and ridiculous.
Some people may have already gotten sick of this franchise, but not me. I’ve been looking forward to seeing The King’s Man since before they started casting for it. I’ve always been all-in.
It’s hard to ignore the red flags, though.
Sequels don’t tend to rise in quality, and the second film did follow that trend. This one is a prequel, however. Sometimes those go by different rules.
There were also delays that weren’t Covid-related. That can sometimes point to issues with the film itself. Now, sometimes, those delays do fix things. Most of the time, that’s not the case. I’m hoping The King’s Man is one of the flicks helped by it.
Either way, I’m still here for it.
5 – Sing 2 (12/22)

Production/Distribution: Illumination Entertainment, Cinemundo, Toho-Towa, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures Argentina, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Universal Pictures, Netflix
Director: Garth Jennings
Writer: Garth Jennings
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Kroll, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Bono, Eric André, Pharrell Williams, Letitia Wright, Chelsea Peretti, Garth Jennings, Angelo Arce, Adam Buxton, Katherine Kelloway, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Ayden Soria
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 112 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Buster Moon and his friends must persuade reclusive rock star Clay Calloway to join them for the opening of a new show.
The first Sing was pretty good. It doesn’t stick out too much in my mind, but I do remember having a basic enjoyment of it. The trailer for Sing 2, however, feels like a completely different beast.
I got feels from it. Actual feels. From a trailer.
Maybe I was a little hormonal or something. The most feeling I get from good trailers tends to be the occasional goosebump, or jump-scare. Actual, wet-eyed, feels? Not really. That alone makes Sing 2 stand out.
Sing 2 looks epic. I think, if the trailer wasn’t overly manipulated, we might be looking at a rare series where the sequel is better than the original.
It’s a big statement, I know. But I definitely didn’t catch these feels from the first movie, let alone the trailer. That says a lot.
4 – Silent Night (12/3)

Production/Distribution: Maven Screen Media, Marv Films, Distributors, BfParis, AMC+, Altitude Film Entertainment, Husky Films, Madman Entertainment, RLJE Films
Director: Camille Griffin
Writer: Camille Griffin
Actors: Annabelle Wallis, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Lily-Rose Depp, Lucy Punch, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Roman Griffin Davis, Trudie Styler, Holly Aird, Sope Dirisu, Rufus Jones, Davida McKenzie, Dora Davis, Gilby Griffin Davis, Hardy Griffin Davis
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror
Rated: Unrated
Length: 92 minutes
IMDb Blurb: Nell, Simon, and their son Art are ready to welcome friends and family for what promises to be a perfect Christmas gathering. Perfect except for one thing: everyone is going to die.
As the trailer starts, it’s easy to mistake Silent Night for a typical family comedy Christmas film. When they start talking about resting in peace – it’s almost like a slap-in-the-face wake-up call.
The way it’s framed and advertised, the genres… I have no IDEA what to expect from this flick. Is it a doomsday cult? Is it the start of an actual apocalypse? Is it some kind of trick they’re playing on the kids? Is it a social commentary on global warming?
I can’t even explain how rare it is for a trailer to give a satisfying hint at what’s going on in the plot of a film, without making me feel like I already know exactly how it will play out. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen any coming attraction that has struck this kind of balance. Not even in Marvel, and they’ll out-right lie in their marketing material.
I have significantly high hopes for Silent Night, but even if it turns out to be mediocre, it’s guaranteed to surprise – which is more of a guarantee than most movies have.
The one aspect that makes this more of a dark horse than a sure thing, is that it’s the full-length feature film debut for writer/director Camille Griffin (Say Sorry, Confused, Feeder). She’s done some work with shorts, however, so she’s not completely inexperienced.
I’m looking forward to seeing this original tale told by a brand new voice.
3 – West Side Story (12/10)

Production/Distribution: Amblin Entertainment, Amblin Partners, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Studios, Forum Hungary, HKC Entertainment, Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner, Arthur Laurents
Actors: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Mike Faist, Josh Andrés Rivera, Iris Menas, David Aviles Morales, Sebastian Serra, Ricardo Zayas, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Ricky Ubeda, Andrei Chagas, Adriel Flete, Jacob Guzman, Kelvin Delgado, Carlos Sanchez Falu, Julius Rubio, Yurel Echezarreta
Genre: Crime, Drama, Musical
Rated: PG-13
Length: 156 minutes
IMDb Blurb: An adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
West Side Story is a classic. I have a friend that doesn’t even like musicals, and the original West Side Story is his favorite movie ever. With good reason. It was one of the first musicals I ever fell in love with. These days, it’s easy to look back and acknowledge the problematic casting, but it was revolutionary back then. It told a story about race that made people who’d never thought about it, start.
Remaking this film is a mine-field.
You couldn’t ask for a more experienced director than Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One, Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan), in most cases. It’s easy to forget that this will be his first musical direction. How his talent with traditional films translates is anyone’s guess.
I also have a minor issue with the cast. Although Ansel Elgort (Paper Towns, Baby Driver, The Goldfinch) is a decent actor, I have trouble seeing him as Tony. I don’t think he has the right feel, or look. Of course, no one expected Heath Ledger (The Brothers Grimm, I’m Not There, The Four Feathers) to pull off the Joker. Anything is possible.
Regardless of the pitfalls that could trip up this remake, I cannot wait to see the story updated for 2021 audiences. If done well, it could become a classic for a whole new generation.
2 – The Matrix Resurrections (12/22)

Production/Distribution: Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., HKC Entertainment, Roadshow Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, HBO Max
Director: Lana Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksander Hemon, Lilly Wachowski
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Christina Ricci, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ellen Hollman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Daniel Bernhardt, Eréndira Ibarra, Lambert Wilson
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Rated: R
Length: 148 minutes
IMDb Blurb: The plot is currently unknown.
I saw all the original Matrix films in theaters. I remember loving the first one, and watching the cinematic landscape change in the years that followed. I didn’t know that’s what I was watching at the time, but it’s hard to miss now. The Matrix (1999) changed a lot about film. It even changed people. It was, and is, an important film.
The sequels that followed? Not so much.
Doesn’t change how much I want to see The Matrix Resurrections. I’m sad that Lana Wachowski (Sense8, Jupiter Ascending, V for Vendetta) handled this one on her own, but I get it. She opted to resurrect Neo and Trinity as a way to cope with her parent’s death – while Lilly Wachowski (Sense8, Jupiter Ascending, V for Vendetta) couldn’t do the same. People grieve differently. Even sisters.
I hope this was the catharsis that Lana was looking for. If it was, this has the potential to be as good as the first. When a creator puts that much emotion into a project, enough to help them work through even the death of both their parents, it has a tendency to elevate the project. Substantially.
I’ll be seeing The Matrix Ressurections in theaters.
1 – Spider-Man: No Way Home (12/17)

Production/Distribution: Pascal Pictures, Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Columbia Pictures, HKC Entertainment, Sony Corporation of Japan, Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina, Sony Pictures Releasing International, Sony Pictures Releasing, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI), Disney+
Director: Jon Watts
Writer: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Actors: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, J. K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, Angourie Rice, Alfred Molina, Jamie Foxx, Jacob Batalon, Paula Newsome, Benedict Wong, Martin Starr, Tony Revolori, Hannibal Buress, Thomas Hayden Church, Rhys Ifans
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated: Unrated as of 11/29/21
Length: 148 minutes
IMDb Blurb: With Spider-Man's identity now revealed, Peter asks Doctor Strange for help. When a spell goes wrong, dangerous foes from other worlds start to appear, forcing Peter to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
There is not a Marvel fan on this planet that isn’t looking forward to Spider-Man: No Way Home. The multiverse is open, Tom Holland’s (The Devil All the Time, Chaos Walking, Onward) contract is up, and there have been rumors flying for months about interesting castings. Out by me, tickets sold out for the first couple of days within an hour (or so) of being on sale.
Anyone who didn’t see this movie coming in at #1 has been living under a rock.
Instead of defending my choice, I’m going to talk about some of the rumors. Let’s start with the villains.
The trailers have been confirming for a while that Alfred Molina (There Used to Be a Me, The Water Man, Don’t Let Go) would be back as a digitally de-aged Doctor Octopus. In following coming attractions we’ve seen other returning villains from various Spider-man films, such as: Jamie Foxx (Soul, Project Power, Just Mercy) as Electro, Willem Dafoe (Siberia, Motherless Brooklyn, The Lighthouse) as Green Goblin, Thomas Hayden Church (Hellboy, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Max) as Sandman, and Rhys Ifans (Misbehaviour, Last Call, Snowden) as The Lizard.
It looks like a decent set-up for the Sinister Six. There’s only 1 villain missing to round it out. So, we can be pretty sure, that we’re going to see one more surprise baddie pop-up - even if it’s in the after-credit scene. My personal belief is that it will be Michael Keaton’s (The Protégé, Worth, American Assassin) Vulture – since we don’t actually see a villain from Tom Holland’s universe just yet and Tom Hardy’s (Dunkirk, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lawless) Venom isn’t really set-up to go down that road.
Now, for the other heroes.
Rumors have been flying for YEARS that Tobey Maguire (Labor Day, Brothers, Tropic Thunder) and/or Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, Silence, Mainstream) would be reprising their web-slinger roles for this flick. The whole time, everyone’s been denying it. None of the trailers seem to be insisting that the rumors hold any water at all.
If another Spider-man does show up, I think it will be a new live-action one. Maybe a Miles or a Gwen.
Now, granted, Marvel has been known to lie their asses off in order to protect their spoilers. That said, I believe that if Maguire or Garfield were actually going to take part in this film, it would be a hard secret to keep. SOMEONE would have gotten a picture. Especially with how hard people were pushing the narrative that they wouldn’t be there.
Speaking of Marvel lying about their films, there’s another rumor that’s been debunked that I DO still have hope for.
Charlie Cox (King of Thieves, Kin, The Theory of Everything) was rumored to be returning as Matt Murdock. People got the idea that he was going to be playing Peter’s defense lawyer. A few months back, Cox seemed to deny it. That said, I’ve found a record of who’s playing the prosecution – but there doesn’t seem to be any notice of who’s playing defense.
I’m looking forward to seeing what goes down in Spider-Man: No Way Home. At the very least, I think there will be some extremely unexpected twists and/or reveals. If you can’t see it the day it comes out, be careful on social media until you can.
Remember, although the US release date is 12/17, it comes out as early as 12/15 in other countries.
Movies to Look out For
According to: Cat
The Last Son .20
Single All the Way .19
Twas the Night .18
Encounter .17
The Game’s Called Murder .16
A Journal for Jordan .15
Portal Runner .14
The Tragedy of Macbeth .13
Mother/Android .12
 Mosley .11
The Tender Bar .10
Back to the Outback .9
Nightmare Alley .8
The King’s Man .7
Silent Night .6
Don’t Look Up .5
West Side Story .4
Sing 2 .3
The Matrix Resurrections .2
Spider-Man: No Way Home .1
          What makes a movie eligible for Trust the Dice’s Top 20?

Monday, November 29, 2021

Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)


Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Hutch Parker Entertainment, Disney+
Director: Dan Mazer
Writers: Mikey Day, John Hughes, Streeter Seidell
Actors: Aisling Bea, Ally Maki, Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper, Katie Beth Hall, Kenan Thompson, Max Ivutin, Pete Holmes, Rob Delaney, Timothy Simons, Devin Ratray, Catherine Cohen, Jayne Eastwood, Cara Ricketts, Tristan D. Lalla, Jordan Carlos, William S. Taylor, Jimmy Caspeur, Nick Allan, Eddie G.
IMDb Blurb: A married couple tries to steal back a valuable heirloom from a troublesome kid.

Cat’s Point of View:
I must admit, I have been fairly chomping at the bit to experience what holiday mayhem Home Sweet Home Alone would have in store for audiences. I rounded up the whole family and we all settled in for the shenanigans. I think they had just as much fun watching my reactions as they did watching the movie. I digress.
Home Sweet Home Alone landed at #17 on my Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in November 2021 list, winning its spot over another Home Alone (1990) remake featuring dogs. (I’m not kidding. That was released this month, too.) I was intrigued by the twists incorporated into this continuation of the original 2 movies that started it all.

I feel I need to be transparent here and come clean that I have not watched any of the other Home Alone sequels 3-5. At least, I’m pretty sure I haven’t. I really haven’t been interested until now. Home Sweet Home Alone is the 6th installment to this holiday franchise.  Devin Ratray’s (Chicago Med, The Tick, Hustlers) cameo reprising his character Buzz, as well as all the other little nods to the original film were part of what sold me on this sequel. I was definitely satisfied with all the little homages sprinkled through. Each gave me a little giggle.
Archie Yates (Jojo Rabbit, Wolfboy sand the Everything Factory, Amphibia) had captivated my attention in the trailers and did not let me down in the movie. I adored his cheeky humor in the banter with his mother and how over-it he was with his chaotic invading relatives. He reminded me a little bit of the character Ralphie in A Christmas Story (1983) at some points. The production’s use of sharing memories and the main character, Max’s, imagined scenarios really drove home that nostalgia, as well.

I spent a good chunk of Home Sweet Home Alone conflicted, however. I found myself in the odd position of not wanting to root for the kid for a little bit – and thereby more horrified than amused at his clever and dangerous booby traps. I think that may have been a bit of a brilliant decision on the part of this production team, however.
Home Sweet Home Alone flips the story sideways a bit. The burglars weren’t professionals and they were trying to recover something. The story put the moral dilemma of their situation in full spotlight. I found myself rooting for the couple in a few places. Elle Kemper (The Office, The Secret Life of Pets, The Stand In) and Rob Delaney (Deadpool 2, The Hustle, Bombshell) were amazing in their roles. The story of this film was actually just as much theirs as the boy alone at home – if not more so.

I also appreciated the common thread between the two families regarding entitled and thoughtless relatives. The familes on each respective side were well fleshed out so that they didn’t come off as afterthoughts or window-dressing to the rest of what was going on. They were part of the driving force behind the action, and I felt participated in the story more here than in the first two movies.
Without giving spoilers, I can at least assure you that I found the ending satisfying. There were even twists that I should have seen coming but didn’t.

Critics are ripping Home Sweet Home Alone a new one, but I think (as usual) they’re missing the point. The audience scores I’m seeing, unfortunately, echo the pros. Home Sweet Home Alone does exist in a space where it doesn’t have to. The tale has been told so many times, and most of the retellings pale against the original. This sequel was decidedly not better than the original. It did, however, stand-alone on its unique twists. Home Sweet Home Alone is a quirky love letter to the McCallister family that started it all. It didn’t feel like the soulless cash-grab some are making it out to be. Further, it didn’t come across as an attempt to restart the franchise under the Disney helm, either.
If you have access to Disney+ this holiday season, Home Sweet Home Alone is actually a sequel worth catching. At the very least, give it a chance and see for yourself.
(It probably goes without saying, but I feel it bears repeating that the trap stunts within Home Sweet Home Alone could be lethal or cause serious injuries if people did them without movie magic that works on cartoon logic and physics – so don’t try these at home!)

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 18%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 13%
Metascore –35%
Metacritic User Score – 1.6/10
IMDB Score – 3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer: