Friday, April 15, 2022

Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Kung Fu Yoga (2017)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 107 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/DistributionABS-CBN Film Productions, Baidu Nuomi Pictures, Beijing Herui FIlm Culture, Beijing Idea Media, Beijing Taihe Zeruo Culture Investment, China Film, China Film Co., Ltd., China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), Clover Films, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, Golden Network Asia, Golden Screen Cinemas, Golden Village Pictures, Hero Productions, Huace Pictures, Huaxia Film Distribution, Icon Film Distribution, Kadokawa, Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment, Kashgar J.Q. Media & Culture, Khorgos Taihe Digital Entertainment Cultural Development, Koch Media, Long Shong Entertainment Multimedia Company, Nextainment Pictures, Phars Film, Prosperity Pictures, Rui Off, Shanghai Taihe Pictures, Shanghai Taopiaopiao Film Culture, Shinework Pictures, Sparkle Roll Media, Taihe Entertainment, Tanweer Films, TOABH Talent Management, Top Entertainment, Well Go USA Entertainment, Xi'an Qujiang Film & TV Investment, Youth Film Studio
Director: Stanley Tong
Writer: Stanley Tong
Actors: Jackie Chan, Yixing Zhang, Miya Muqi, Disha Patani, Aarif Rahman, Amyra Dastur, Sonu Sood, Paul Philip Clark, Yuxian Shang, Jiang Wen, Eric Tsang, Guoli Zhang
Blurb from IMDb: Two professors team up to locate a lost treasure and embark on an adventure that takes them from a Tibetan ice cave to Dubai, and to a mountain temple in India.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m not going to judge Kung Fu Yoga as a mainstream flick. I don’t think that’s what they were aiming for. Instead, it seems to me that it falls into the sub-genre of caricature parody.
If you look at Kung Fu Yoga as a real kung fu, mainstream, movie… you’re not going to enjoy it. The script was not great, everything was super campy, and there were a few CGI scenes that felt straight out of an early 2000s video game cut-scene. Once you accept that it’s a parody, however, it’s not all that bad.
You pretty much know what to expect when Jackie Chan is in the credits. Especially when it’s not meant to be a serious film. The fight choreography was hilarious, even when it didn’t 100% make sense. That’s his bread and butter. No one does silly comedic impressive fighting quite like Chan.
As a parody, it still had flaws, though.

I mentioned already that the script was bad. That almost feels like an understatement. However, I think only part of that quality can be attributed to the script itself. A lot of the flaw was with the delivery.
I have to assume the acting was intentionally bad. I mean, I’ve seen a few of the actors in other projects and they don’t strike me as bad in general. That possibility lends to my belief that it’s a caricature.
There were also some other genre anomalies.
Kung Fu Yoga seemed to blend bits of Chinese film with Bollywood aspects, there was even a bit a Westernization thrown in. I think there’s something to be said for the diversity in that. It did lead to some confusing switch ups, and a wholly unsatisfying ending, though.
The bottom line was that it did have qualities that I would describe as ‘so bad it’s good’. It definitely wouldn’t be for everyone, but I’m glad I watched it for the fight scenes alone.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 48%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 35%
Metascore – 50%
Metacritic User Score – 4.7
IMDB Score – 5.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Metal Lords (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Metal Lords (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: R 
Production/Distribution: Bighead Littlehead, Netflix
Director: Peter Sollett
Writer:  D.B. Weiss
Actors: Jaeden Martell, Adrian Greensmith, Isis Hainsworth, Noah Urrea, Brett Gelman, Analesa Fisher, Michelle Mao, Phelan Davis, Austin Huynh, Joe Manganiello, Teddy Van Ee, Aroon Nagappan, Kieran Thomas, Christopher M. Lopes, Rachel Pate
Blurb from IMDb: Two friends try to form a heavy metal band with a cellist for a Battle of the Bands.

Selina’s Point of View:
It’s hard for me to ignore some of the parallels between Metal Lords and my favorite film of all time.
SLC Punk (1998) was a love letter to the punk lifestyle and the music that birthed it. As a budding punk in high school, it spoke to me on a whole other level than most films. (I didn’t see it when it came out, it was a few years later.) It covered how the main characters got into the music, where that chaos took them, and where they ended up. On a more general level, it went into the very heart and soul of what punk was.
Metal Lords does the same thing for its music genre. There are some definite differences though.
For one, the characters are younger in Metal Lords. That means the R-rating represents the language a little more than anything else. There’s a touch of nudity, but anything sex-related is, thankfully, insinuated. 

Because the characters are younger, there’s also a lot more cringe involved. The teens are fighting their own emotions and causing a different kind of unintentional chaos. As a result, it feels like it’s for a younger demographic – although it’s really not.

That was the big thing that kept me from enjoying Metal Lords on the same level as SLC Punk. I hate cringe. I cannot stress that enough. Those parts of this movie really were not for me.
That said, the movie wasn’t made for me. I could never be classified as a metalhead. I do like my music loud and fast, but with a bit less structure and some base-level politics thrown in. I like to sing-yell at specific things, not just into the void. Though, I have nothing against metal either. There’s a little Pantera on my list, and I had a Sepultura phase.
Still, even without tapping into the nostalgia some of my friends might get out of this flick, it was decent. Just because it’s not unseating SLC Punk as my all-time fav, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.
A lot of moments really subverted expectations. Even in the end, when it looked like Metal Lords might take the road most traveled, it had a last ‘fuck you’ ready. I can appreciate that.
It was a love letter to all things metal. As a result, metal fans might enjoy it best – but there’s enough in there for people just looking for a coming-of-age story.

Cat’s Point of View:
Let me tell you – Metal Lords made my inner metalhead very happy.
I adored this story from beginning to end and found myself relating with the characters on multiple levels. Honestly, I don’t think you have to be a die-hard fan of the heavy metal genre to connect with this movie. Though, if you are – it’s that much more fun of a ride. The heavy metal music homework list that is featured in Metal Lords is a well-deserved shout-out to some classic hard-hitting tracks.
Metal Lords was one of those movies that made me wish I knew how to play real drums rather than the imaginary air variety. I just wanted to jam out.
There were elements of a coming-of-age tale, dealing with dysfunctional family dynamics, and the struggle of high school and finding your voice all woven into a slamming tapestry of sound and laced with humor.
The cast didn’t disappoint, either.

I was absolutely astonished that Metal Lords was the breakout role for Adrian Greensmith, who plays the role of Hunter. This was one hell of a debut and I hope he keeps up this impressive level of work. Isis Hainsworth (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Emma., Misbehaviour) really captured my attention with her performance as well. Jaeden Martell (The Book of Henry, Knives Out, Defending Jacob) was a solid choice and captured the heart of Metal Lords’ essence with his journey.
Oh, and then there’s Joe Manganiello (Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Archenemy, Koati). His scenes were more than just a cameo from a trendy actor that could fit the intimidating character. Metal Lords capitalized on his wry humor to drive home its message. Metal-loving kids aren’t fucked up just because they like noisy music. There’s more to that but I don’t want to give away spoilers.
Hats off to the production team as a whole, seriously. I loved the care that was put into everything. Even the posters on the wall were epic. Costuming was on point. There were so many nuances that helped this flick hit all the right notes.
Just keep in mind that while this story does focus on the teenage experience, there are bits that might make it problematic for younger audiences - primarily the language content. That’s really the only overtly explicit element.
I can’t wait to watch Metal Lords again with my family. (My husband is a bigger metalhead than I am.) I am certainly not regretting listing this on my personal Top 20 Movies Coming Out in April - I just wish I'd listed it higher than #12.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 61%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore – 57%
Metacritic User Score – 7.1
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Cellar (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Cellar (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Epic Pictures, Hail Mary Pictures, Savage Productions, Wrong Men North, RLJE Films, Shudder, Wildcard Distribution, Front Row Filmed Entertainment
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Writer: Brendan Muldowney
Actors: Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken, Aaron Monaghan, Abby Fitz, Andrew Bennett, Chris McHallem, Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady, Marie Mullen, Michael-David McKernan, Seán Doyle, Steve Gunn, Tara Lee
IMDb Blurb: Keira Woods' daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new house. She soon discovers there is an ancient and powerful entity controlling their home that she will have to face or risk losing her family's souls forever.

Selina’s Point of View:
At the start of the film, The Cellar seemed like it would be a bit basic. Just about any haunted house-style flick could have started the exact same way. Many have.

I got excited when it seemed as though there might be a little something more underneath. What had originally felt like a paint-by-numbers horror suddenly seemed to be sliding down a mystery/thriller route. I was here for it. If it had kept going at that, I would have been much happier with the final product.

That said, it still wasn’t that bad.

The ending of the film was up my alley. It was foreboding. I’ve always been a fan of that kind of down ending. Even now when I tend to lean more towards escapism.

There were some unique puzzles, and the focus of the plot did stray from expectations a little. Some of that intrigue was lost on me because I can read a very little bit of Hebrew. As a result, I did see approximately where it was going. People without that ability might get sucked in a bit easier, though.
I do think that they did a great job by not showing too much of the creature involved. In fact, I wish they’d kept that up, even through the ending. Leaving that kind of thing up to the imagination brings tension up so much higher.

The Cellar wound up being an acceptable, if mostly ordinary, horror film. I wish it had taken some of the other roads I saw as options, but it’s still alright for casual viewing.

Cat’s Point of View:
One of the odd bits of knowledge not many realize about Louisiana is that basements, or cellars as the case may be for this movie, are extremely rare in residences. We’re so close to sea level and the water table is so high that it’s generally not structurally feasible without prohibitive expense.
That being said, I generally view these subterranean spaces with a mixture of awe and trepidation. They’re just foreign to me and only exist in large commercial buildings and places like my college campus. (That’s where the laundry room was in my dorm building. Fun, right? No. Scary.)
When I saw there was going to be a new horror movie with the title of The Cellar, I was already intrigued before I even saw the trailer. Sign me up.

I wasn’t entirely familiar with writer and director Brendan Muldowney’s (Savage, Love Eternal, Pilgrimage) work, however, I am a fan of Elisha Cuthbert (24, Goon: Last of the Enforcers, The Ranch) and Eoin Macken (The Forest, Nightflyers, La Brea) so The Cellar already had something going in its favor. When you add in the Ireland setting, that was just icing on the cake.
The fastest way to harness my rapt attention is to speak to me in any sort of Gaelic accent. I digress.
Trailers all too often give away too much these days. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m on the fence about whether or not that happened with The Cellar. The sneak peek reveals quite a bit but without all of the context so the viewer might not realize. I suppose it would give a decent litmus test as to whether or not someone might enjoy the production, itself. If you watch and like the trailer – you might just like the expanded version of the story. The opposite could also be true.

I loved the eerie and suspenseful atmosphere that built within The Cellar. The background score wove me into each scene with a tapestry of sound. There was even a piece of music during the end credits that will haunt me much like some of the soundtrack from The Omen (1976) franchise.
The house used as the primary setting was also fascinating, and I really enjoyed how it played a part in the larger story. I’ve always been enamored of hidden rooms and secret passages within houses like that.
There are a few of the usual tropes one would expect from a movie such as The Cellar, but they weren’t over-used. The jump-scares were even kept to a minimum. I was also a fan of the fact that they didn’t shy away from technology or modern concepts such as social media.

At the same time, The Cellar didn’t dive too far down the rabbit hole. The story remained focused so that it didn’t have loose ends lying about when the credits rolled. I didn’t see that ending coming. That was a pleasant, if unsettling, surprise.
Overall, The Cellar met my expectations for this flavor of horror movie.
The Cellar will release to theaters as well as streaming on Shudder starting Friday, April 15th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 32%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer: