Friday, March 18, 2022

Windfall (2022)


Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Windfall (2022)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: High Frequency Entertainment, Mutressa Movies, Netflix
Director: Charlie McDowell
Writers: Justin Lader, Charlie McDowell, Jason Segel, Andrew Kevin Walker
Actors: Jason Segel, Jesse Plemons, Lily Collins, Omar Leyva
IMDb Blurb: A man breaks into a tech billionaire's empty vacation home, but things go sideways when the arrogant mogul and his wife arrive for a last-minute getaway.

Cat’s Point of View:
Windfall was both exactly what I expected; and, at the same time, took a route I didn’t see coming.
Fans of pure drama and nail-biting tension would be head over heels for the atmosphere that steeped this production. Windfall was a slow burn, though. If you’re into action and faster-paced thrills, this might not be something that would hold your interest.
I was worried that my squirrely attention level would make parts of Windfall hard to watch. Somehow, I managed to remain riveted to the screen and afraid to tear my eyes away lest I miss some sudden burst of plot that might unfold. The whole movie felt like that. It kept you on the edge of your seat, fairly holding your breath because the shit might just hit the fan in the next second.

Windfall took great advantage of the property they filmed on. It both illustrated the characters’ lifestyle and the disparity with their perceptions of the ‘antagonist’ intruder. I was immensely relieved that they didn’t keep everything confined to one small set of rooms. I believe this cast could have handled something like that, but it would have made it harder to swallow.
As I mentioned in my #18 entry in March’s Top 20 list, this is one of the rare instances that the character who would normally be ‘the antagonist’ – namely, the home invader – was someone I was actually rooting for. I was literally crossing my fingers for the thief. Jason Segel (Despicable Me, This Is the End, Dispatches from Elsewhere) really drove his character home, even within the constrained circumstances available. I appreciated the intelligence and emotion the character was afforded within the story and how Segel evoked every nuance of it.

I have a lot to say about the other characters and their respective actors. Unfortunately, every time I begin to write something, I found myself dangerously skirting the line with spoilers.
Windfall wasn’t one of those movies that I’d want to revisit at another time. While I thought it was well done, and delivered what it had advertised in the trailer, that much-prolonged tension without action or more levity to break it up is just hard for me to do. Especially once I already know what’s going to happen. The payoff would lose most of its sting on a repeat viewing.
All told, however, I don’t regret watching this new Netflix release at all. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 64%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%
Metascore – 51%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Turning Red (2022)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Turning Red (2022)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+, Feelgood Entertainment, HKC Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director: Domee Shi
Writer:  Domee Shi, Julia Cho, Sarah Streicher
Actors: Rosalie Chiang, Sandra Oh, Ava Morse, Hyein Park, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Orion Lee, Wai Ching Ho, Tristan Allerick Chen, Lori Tan Chinn, Mia Tagano, Sherry Cola, Lillian Lim, James Hong, Jordan Fisher, Finneas O’Connell, Topher Ngo, Grayson Villanueva, Josh Levi
Blurb from IMDb: A 13-year-old girl named Mei Lee turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited.

Selina’s Point of View:
Turning Red was… a lot. I think it’s going to be a few days before I fully finish digesting what I just saw. It went very deep into some big subjects.
I’m kind of surprised Disney put this out, actually. It’s pretty blunt for something they produced. Disney’s never shied away from big subjects, of course. Loss and death are central themes in most of their projects. When it comes to puberty, though… they tend to take things down a more subtle route. Insinuating things through easily swallowed songs or anthropomorphized creatures/toys. Granted, we’ve got a human-transforming red panda here, but there was no beating around the bush.
There was frank discussion about menstruation and a blooming interest in boys. I’m trying to remember if there’s a PG Disney flick in the past that utilized the word ‘sexy’. I don’t think there is.
I don’t have a problem with any of the aforementioned aspects of Turning Red. I think PG is a fine rating for it, as well. That said, I don’t believe that it can’t be fully appreciated by children below puberty age. Kids that are starting to really separate from their parents and find themselves are likely the ones that are going to relate enough to enjoy this film. Their parents will find some good in it, too.

I love that it speaks to us as well as the kids. There are some very loud messages in Turning Red geared directly to parents. There are reminders that it’s normal for kids to rebel at a certain age, and that respecting your kid’s identity is more important than forcing them to conform to tradition.
As someone who rebelled early, and hard… it’s not something I forget. I know a lot of adults that do, though. I think the reminder is necessary.
Turning Red was a lot of fun. I get why it went straight to streaming instead of theaters and quality is not part of that. I think Disney might have been a little concerned with how people would take the blatant lessons within the story.
It’s worth a watch, but there are some cringy parts that adults might go get snacks during. While younger teens might have trouble watching other parts with their parents sitting right next to them.

Cat’s Point of View:
Oh, Turning Red – to paraphrase The Bard, how much do I love you? Let me count the ways… Actually, no. That’s not a good idea. We’d be here forever. You’d guess correctly at this point if you think my answer is some version of “a lot.” It’s an understatement, but it’ll do.
Turning Red is so much more than a coming-of-age story. I felt Mei Lee’s inner struggle to try to please her family and fulfill duty causing her to struggle with her growing desires for independence as she entered her teens.
Mei Lee and her ‘ride or die girls’ were absolute squad goals. I loved their friendship dynamic, and I got all sorts of nostalgic reminiscing about the circle of girls I was close to in High School. I didn’t quite find the same feeling with a group of friends like that again until much later in life. I digress…

I really loved everything about Turning Red. The animation was certainly up to Pixar standards, and I really wanted to be on the screen with the characters giving the giant red panda a big hug. The depiction of Mei Lee’s family culture was rich and nuanced. I loved all the details about the temple and their ancestors. It was presented in a way that felt organic and didn’t leave me out of the loop because I ‘didn’t fit’ that particular mold. 
I was also a bit giddy that Turning Red takes place in Toronto. That’s the only city out of the U.S. that I’ve been able to visit, thus far. It was fun to recognize landmarks like the C.N. Tower.
The cast performed as well as I imagined they would after watching the trailer. I do have to say, though, that Rosalie Chiang (Clique Wars, The Interns, Soiled) nailed it. She has a bright future ahead of her, and I can’t wait for her next project.
Turning Red was everything I wanted it to be and then some. I was completely on board with this emotional rollercoaster that had me laughing one moment and shaking my head in concern the next. If you don’t already have Disney+, Turning Red would be one of many excellent reasons to get it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 72%
Metascore – 83%
Metacritic User Score – 6.4
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 5/5
P.S. Short after-credits scene. The credits, however, are 18-minutes long. It’s not really worth it.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, March 14, 2022

The Bunker Game (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Bunker Game (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Eagle Pictures, Kador, Place du Marché, Shudder
Director: Roberto Zazzara
Writers: Manuela Cacciamani, Francesca Forristal, Davide Orsini, Kt Roberts, Roberto Zazzara
Actors: Gaia Weiss, Lorenzo Richelmy, Mark Ryder, Tudor Istodor, Makita Samba, Amina Smaïl, Nicolo Pasetti, Felice Jankell, Léa Rostain, Serena de Ferrari
IMDb Blurb: After several mysterious accidents, A Live Action Role Playing game is interrupted and the players leave the bunker while the staff remains behind to investigate the disappearance of Greg, the mastermind of the game.

Cat’s Point of View:
The trailer for The Bunker Game intrigued and excited me on many levels. I’ve been looking forward to watching this one since we first viewed the teaser in prep for the March 2022 Top 20 list. How much, you ask? Well, it landed within my Top 10 – albeit, at #9. Still, with everything releasing this month, that’s saying something.
The Bunker Game felt like it was bringing something fresh to the table. It lived up to that promise, as it brought a new twist to a classic horror genre.
There were points within the film that I thought I had things figured out. I was pretty certain what was about to happen – and then the story threw me a curveball. Some bits fell into place as expected, but the way events unfolded was quite satisfying.

Of course, part of what drew me into the story was the fact that it focused on a LARP event. Live-Action Role-Playing can be lots of fun. I’ve enjoyed a bit of it myself, in the past. It was fun to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while as I played a character. Given, I was playing a vampire, werewolf, or changeling fairy and not a Nazi. I’m a little worried that element of the tale might turn people off of the movie. It’s worth mentioning that this story does not glorify Nazis in any way. The story that the LARPers were playing out was an alternate reality scenario. Alas, that’s as much as I could clarify without giving spoilers. I digress…
Sometimes it’s possible for people in these situations to get too swept up in the story and forget themselves. The Bunker Game keeps you guessing as to whether or not that has happened or if there was something else going on.

It was intriguing to view this story through the lens of a documentarian. This seems to be the full-length fictional film debut for director Roberto Zazzara (Leonesse, Transumanza, Claustrophonia). His shorts seem to explore his desire to tell other stories. I’d have to say this foray into the realm of the fantastical has paid off for him so far. I’m interested in what he might do in the future, though it doesn’t look like English films are his usual medium.
I quite enjoyed the cast. They fit their roles well for the meta-like scenario of playing LARP actors. Gaia Weiss’ (Vikings, Overdrive, Meander) performance here has me convinced to watch another of her films that I’ve been ‘meaning to’ but hadn’t gotten around to yet.

Most of all – how cool is it that the production was able to film in an actual bunker network in Italy?! There was some real history there and the setting was absolutely perfect for this story. I’m not sure how much of the props and set dressing within the bunker were added for the movie, but the location was very real and not created on a sound stage.
Shudder has picked a good one with The Bunker Game. If you enjoy horror that’s lighter on the gore and heavier on the suspense and tension, you’ll want to check this one out.
The Bunker Game releases on Shudder on March 17th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.8/10
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer: