Friday, May 6, 2022

Crush (2022)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Crush (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Length: 1h 33min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Animal Pictures, 3 Arts Entertainment, American High, Depth of Field, LD Entertainment, Disney+, Hulu
Director: Sammi Cohen
Writer: Kirsten King, Casey Rackham
Actors: Rowan Blanchard, Auli’i Cravalho, Isabella Ferreira, Tyler Alvarez, Teala Dunn, Rico Paris, Aasif Mandvi, Michelle Buteau, Megan Mullally, Addie Weyrich, Jes Tom, Addyson Tabankin, Ty DeMoya, Zoe Gandolfo, Samsara Leela Yett
Blurb from IMDb: An aspiring young artist joins her high school track team and later discovers what real love feels like when she finds herself falling for an unexpected teammate.

Selina’s Point of View:
When I saw the rating for Crush, I was concerned. The MPAA has this absolutely obnoxious habit of rating projects R or MA whenever there’s a queer storyline. I have, several times, noted my frustration about that bullshit. I’ve seen too many film that should have been PG-13 cross my screen with ratings preventing teens from seeing them. Teens that would have benefited from seeing themselves in a homosexual lead role.
I prepared myself for some serious annoyance.
Luckily, I was wrong. The rating was well-earned.
There’s a dental dam scene in the beginning that immediately made me think things were going to go in a much more mature direction. As the film went on and there were several inferences to sex, tons of innuendo, drug use, and over-drinking – I found myself agreeing with the TV-MA rating.
I will say that I believe it would still be ok for a mature 16/17-year-old to watch, though it might have to come equipped with some discussion over drinking and drug use. Nothing about the sex was overly graphic.
That said, teen movies have certainly changed since I was a kid.

I don’t know what high school is like these days, but if it’s like this film – I’m here for it. Crush showed a complete acceptance of personal identity and a lack of the mean girls/bully trope. Honestly, it gave me hope for my daughter’s generation.
I was impressed by the story on it own, and how it related to the world it portrayed. I was especially happy with the LGBTQ+ plot that had nothing at all to do with coming out. In my opinion, there’s not enough of that. In fact, the story would have been almost exactly the same if the characters in it had been straight. Maybe things would have been said a little differently here and there, but otherwise it would have been identical. Movies should do a whole lot more of this: normalize all different identities.
Going into it, I knew people like Megan Mullally (Will & Grace, The Disaster Artist, Bob’s Burgers), Michelle Buteau (Always Be My Maybe, Happiest Season, The Tick), Aasif Mandvi (Evil, Blue Bloods, The Dictator), and Auli’i Cravalho (Moana, Acting for a Cause, All Together Now) would make things fun to watch, but I’ll admit that I didn’t go into this as the biggest fan of Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World, A World Away, The Goldbergs). Her performance in Crush altered the way I see her, though.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that this was a part that Blanchard was passionate about, because she BECAME Paige. There were scenes when her expressions were so believable that it was impossible to not feel a connection to her. I will know to expect more from her in the future.
Crush really elevated itself above other teen rom-coms of the same era. I think it’s worth a watch.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 71%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 87%
Metascore – 56%
Metacritic User Score – 5.6
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Free Guy (2021)

Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: Free Guy (2021)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Length: 1h 55min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Berlanti Productions, 21 Laps Entertainment, Maximum Effort, Lit Entertainment Group, TSG Entertainment, Feelgood Entertainment, Forum Hungary, Kinomania, NOS Audiovisuais, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+, The Walt Disney Company Iberia, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn
Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rey Howery, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Taika Waititi, Channing Tatum, Aaron W. Reed, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, John Krasinski, Chris Evans, Alex Trebek, Lara Spencer, Matty Cardarople, Jonathan De Azevedo, Tyler Blevins, Destiny Claymore, Imane ‘Pokimane’ Anys, Lannan Eacott, Seán McLoughlin, Daniel Middleton
Blurb from IMDb: A bank teller discovers that he's actually an NPC inside a brutal, open world video game.

Selina’s Point of View:
This was not my first time seeing Free Guy. I highly doubt it’ll be my last, either.
Going into it, I knew what to expect – having seen it before. What I didn’t know was that it wouldn’t lose anything in the rewatch. Knowing everything that was coming, I still laughed out loud constantly. I even still caught feels every time it was required.
Free Guy isn’t for everyone. I don’t think those of us who adore it realize that at first look. Instead, it feels like a 2-hour inside joke for gamers. Sure, there are other pop culture references that would work for just about anyone, but the people getting the most out of it are going to be those of us completely immersed in gaming culture.

Another thing I think people don’t expect: the story does require brain usage. This is, by no means, a dumb turn-your-brain-off flick. It uses that kind of silly, ridiculous, humor to paint an actual picture. The argument over whether significantly developed AI is considered life is one that’s posed in a lot of creations. The most recent game I can think of that touches on it would be Detroit: Become Human. Of course, Free Guy doesn’t use any of that storyline, but it does bring the idea of humanity from AI into a Grand Theft Auto, or Saints Row, style game.
It questions digital violence against the possibility of sentient NPCs. It just wraps it all up in some epic action sequences and Ryan Reynolds (Life, Deadpool, The Adam Project) style humor.
On the second watch-through, I also noted more foreshadowing than I caught the first time through. There’s a technique in the writing that makes it a lot more subtle than anything else is portrayed.
I absolutely adore Free Guy. It’s a must-see.

Cat’s Point of View:
I had the opportunity to see Free Guy on the big screen when it was first released. I’ve actually watched it multiple times at this point. I think the large screen experience for this movie was the best to let this fantastic digital world shine, but it’s awesome in whatever format you can see it in.
Free Guy was absolutely amazing.
You don’t even have to be a hardcore gamer to get a lot of the references here. If you are, though, I imagine you’d feel like a kid in a candy shop with all the Easter Eggs that litter this film. I’d say that Free Guy is to the gaming experience what Ready Player One (2018) was for pop culture and cinema. It was a love letter to video games and gamers alike. It even railed against money-grubbing companies out for the profits over everything else. 
I didn’t expect Free Guy to get as deep and emotionally involved as it did. I expected action vibes and Ryan Reynolds to employ his wit and banter with a side of romance. Free Guy delivered on all of that but then also went deeper. It explores friendship, the need to feel fulfilled in life, and the existential questions that swirl around AI. I got misty-eyed at one point. I didn’t expect this production to make me cry. I mean, what the hell?

I loved every single minute of it.
The cast was bananas, too. Jodie Comer (The White Princess, The Last Duel, Killing Eve) kicked ass in her lead role and I loved the dichotomy of her character between action lead and her programmer persona. Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, The Mandalorian, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain) is so likable, and yet his character in Free Guy was so vile. Lil Rel Howery (Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Photograph, Deep Water) was the perfect pairing for Reynolds’ as his character’s best friend. Joe Keery (Molly's Game, Spree, Stranger Things) continues to impress me in his roles outside of Hawkins. 

Oh, and I thought I was going to do a spit take when I saw Channing Tatum’s (Foxcatcher, Logan Lucky, Dog) character.
I think Free Guy has a little bit of everything in it and would appeal to a wide range of viewers. I would recommend this one in a heartbeat and will probably be watching it again soon because my husband and daughter loved it too.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 80%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 94%
Metascore – 62%
Metacritic User Score – 7.0
IMDB Score – 7.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Twin (2022)


Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Twin (2022)
Genre: Horror
Length: 1h 49min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Don Films, Shudder, RLJE Films, Bir Film, Dutch FilmWorks, NOS Audiovisuais, Nashe Kino, Nordisk Film, Notorious Pictures, Falcon Films
Director: Taneli Mustonen      
Writers: Aleksi Hyvärinen, Taneli Mustonen
Actors: Teresa Palmer, Steven Cree, Tristan Ruggeri, Barbara Marten, Ergo Küppas
Shudder Blurb: Following the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, Rachel and husband Anthony relocate to the other side of the world with their surviving son in the hopes of building a new life. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces attempting to take hold of him.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was genuinely intrigued by the psychological horror teased by the trailer for The Twin. It really captured my attention and stirred my curiosity. I also absolutely adore Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge, Berlin Syndrome, 2:22) so I’m glad to snap up any chance to watch one of her films. I wasn’t disappointed.
While on the topic of the cast, I found it interesting that The Twin acted as a bit of a mini-reunion for the cast, as Steven Cree (Outlander, Terminator: Dark Fate, Martyr's Lane) and Barbara Marten (Making Noise Quietly, Sanctuary, The Turning) also appeared with Palmer in the show A Discovery of Witches (2018-2022). I digress…

Let’s get to unpacking The Twin, shall we?
It is the highest of tragedies when a parent should have to bury their child – and it’s even more gut-wrenching if their lives were cut short in their youth. We get a taste of that here with The Twin after there’s a horrible accident and the child Nathan died. It’s palpable how the strain of grief has affected this family.
The Twin kept me guessing throughout its runtime. I chased the red herring and completely bought what the story was selling. The Twin really leaned in hard to where I started to question reality a bit, myself. I appreciated the dream symbolism as the story unfolded and events began to unravel.

This is one of those movies that you really appreciate more in hindsight once you learn the ultimate message revealed in the climax. So many things make more sense in retrospect and there are so many hinted layers and nuances leading up to it that were easy to miss at first blush. 

If you don’t speak Finnish, it’s easy to sink into the mother’s perspective. Subtitles weren’t available on the early release screener I watched – but I hope that it stays that way for the final copy hitting Shudder this week. I could only imagine what the Finnish residents were talking about and it made things feel more ominous. Though considering The Twin is getting a theatrical release in Finland, I am crossing my fingers that the dialogue doesn’t give anything important away.

The Twin was eerily atmospheric and I really enjoyed the various settings that were employed to bring this story to life. Most of the movie is set in Finland, though filmed in Estonia. It added to the isolated feeling from the mother’s perspective and I loved the architecture.
If you’re looking for a good psychological horror that keeps you at a simmer until it nukes you at the end, The Twin would be right up your alley. I enjoyed this experience as a benchmark of halfway to Halloween.
The Twin will release on Shudder on May 6th.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Parental Guidance Rating – PG-13
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer: