Friday, June 10, 2022

Hustle (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Hustle (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sport
Length: 1h 57min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Happy Madison Productions, Kirschenbaum Productions, Roth Films, Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, SpringHill Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Jeremiah Zagar
Writer:  Will Fetters, Taylor Materne
Actors: Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah, Juancho Hernangomez, Ben Foster, Kenny Smith, Robert Duvall, Jordan Hull, María Botto, Ainhoa Pillet
Blurb from IMDb: A basketball scout discovers a phenomenal street ball player while in Spain and sees the prospect as his opportunity to get back into the NBA.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was absolutely right about what to expect from Hustle.
Although Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, Murder Mystery, Uncut Gems) was at the top of his game in the 90s and early 2000s, people expect the worst from him these days. When I mentioned Hustle in my Top 20 for June of 2022, I explained why that didn’t affect my expectations for this film.
Sandler’s a big kid. As one myself, I don’t see anything wrong with that. That said, his humor reflects it. He’s stayed stagnant over the years.
As our world evolved, it’s become almost unrecognizable to the past. Where Sandler’s comedy flicks are concerned, that can make them a little nostalgic, but mostly they’re just extremely dated. That does not translate to his drama work.
Adam Sandler is exceptional as a drama actor. I don’t think people have fully come to terms with that as a fact. Those of us growing up with his early works are still seeing him as the guy from The Wedding Singer (1998) or Mr. Deeds (2002). The younger generations know him more as the strange guy in Hubie Halloween (2020) or That’s My Boy (2012).
In both cases, it’s rough to transform expectations from that to heartfelt, sincere, dramatic actor.
I think it’s time to take that mental leap.

As a dramatic actor, he’s on par with people like Robin Williams. His characters are deep and empathic, with just enough humor to make them endearing. He should 100% stick to dramedies. That is where he does his best work.
Hustle really showcased that. It elevated him, and he elevated it. It was an absolute pleasure to watch.
Now, I don’t like basketball. I don’t know the first thing about it. I didn’t have to. Hustle worked as an emotional and absorbing watch anyway. You could have replaced basketball with any other sport, and it still would have been just as good.
There was a bit of humor, but it felt natural. There were no forced jokes. Some of it was sweet and, mostly, mature.
A great many basic sport film tropes were in use, but the way they were done was effective. If I had any complaints, it would be that the editing could have been tighter. Better editing could have brought the film down by about 10-minutes. It’s not that big a deal, though, because there’s no looking away once you start watching.
Hustle was everything I thought it would be. If anything, it should have been higher on my Top 20 list. Give it a shot. (No pun intended.)

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again a few more times: I’m not a fan of sports movies. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the hell out of some genre offerings over the years. I just don’t seek out sport-related films unless they’re about figure skating.
Simply put, I love a good story. I’ll end up liking a movie about the sports flavor of the moment if it gets me invested in spite of myself. It’s not that I hate sports or anything… I just tend to get bored easily and my ADHD brain doesn’t keep up with the stats very well.
I suppose the magic question here is: did Hustle grab my attention enough to enjoy it? Simple answer. Yes.
I’ll be the first to admit that it was my slight bias regarding the genre that had Hustle placed at #18 on my personal Top 20 list for June. Now that I’ve watched this movie, I wish that I’d given it a little more of a fair shot.
Hustle was entertaining and well worth the time spent. It took me on a journey and had me invested in the characters. I laughed and worried with them. I both mourned and celebrated with them. I didn’t recognize all the professional players on screen, but I didn’t have to. I really appreciated that.

Of course, there were quite a few real pros gracing the screen here so actual basketball fans might get a bigger kick out of that. Since I’m out of the baller loop, I didn’t realize that Juancho Hernangomez, who plays Bo Cruz in Hustle, was a pro player. (He is currently a member of the Utah Jazz and the national team of Spain.) Given his skills in this film, though, it stood to reason. Hustle is this power forward’s acting debut, and he did a damn fine job.
Adam Sandler tends to get a lot of flack for his comedic movies, especially in recent years. Don’t judge Hustle by that buzz. Leave your expectations for Sandler to the wayside when you press play on this one.
Sandler seems to be having a bit of a paradigm shift with his roles. He’s knocking more serious dramatic content out of the park, and Hustle is one more on that list. Of course, there were some laughs along the way but the film wasn’t bogged down with it and the funny elements were seamlessly and organically enmeshed with the story.
All told, Hustle is an entertaining basketball tale with a lot of heart and delivers a beautiful love letter to the sport.
My husband is the big sports fan in the household and hadn’t had a chance to watch Hustle at the time I viewed it for this review, so I can predict with relative certainty that I’ll be watching it again in the very near future. Here’s the real kicker – I’m looking forward to it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 91%
Metascore – 67%
Metacritic User Score – 7.4
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Offseason (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Offseason (2022)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Length: 1h 23min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Defiant Studios, Kodiak Pictures, Sunset Junction Entertainment, RLJE Films
Director: Mickey Keating
Writer:  Mickey Keating
Actors: Jocelin Donahue, Joe Swanberg, Richard Brake, Melora Walters, Jeremy Gardner, April Linscott, Jonathan Medina, Eliza Shin
Blurb from IMDb: After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare.

Selina’s Point of View:
The last movie we reviewed was Shadow in the Cloud (2020), which was another film with a drastic difference between critic and audience scores. In that case, I admitted that I wasn’t sure why it didn’t do well with audiences. Where Offseason is concerned, I understand the discrepancy a bit more.
I want to start off by saying I enjoyed Offseason. The setting was creepy, the burn was slow – but intense, and Jocelin Donahue (The Affair, Doctor Sleep, Insidious: Chapter 2) was exceptional at portraying micro-expressions.
There’s this one part in the beginning where she sees something that makes her character angry, and she perfectly embodied it with just a couple of muscle twitches. From that moment, the movie had me. I knew that no matter what happened, Donahue was going to be able to carry it.
It was just my luck that the story was Lovecraftian in nature. I enjoy that kind of thing.

My understanding in the discrepancy between critics and audiences is based solely on today’s horror market.
When you look at recent horror films, you see a lot of violence. When there is a psychological factor, there’s almost always a mystery factor involved that leaves you wondering if it really is all in their head. As a fan of horror films, I enjoy those types as well.
Offseason gives off a more old-fashioned vibe. The whole thing is a slow burn that keeps one foot consistently in that supernatural area, but it’s got all the subtlety of a brick. I feel like embracing that feel through black and white visuals, would have made it better. At the very least, it would have given audiences a bit more of an idea of what to expect.
I think horror fans should be giving Offseason a try. That said, remember that it’s not quite what one would expect from a current supernatural flick.
Offseason will be available on Shudder this Friday, June 10.

Cat’s Point of View:
The credits have rolled for Offseason, and I’ve found myself struggling to put my thoughts into words to describe what I just watched. On one hand, the trailer had me intrigued with the concept. Offseason certainly delivered what was promised with its teaser. The problem is that the trailer sums up the entire movie without having to watch it.
It’s likely that part of the film feeling ‘lost’ could be intentional so that the audience experiences some of the same emotions as the main character. A lot of it could be trimmed, however.
My main problem was that I couldn’t really buy in to the story in general. The ‘emergency’ used to bait the daughter to the island wasn’t solid enough to hook me. There were elements that defied my ability to suspend disbelief cropping up around every corner after I started to feel like maybe it was grabbing my attention after all, and it tanked my investment all over again.
The information drops sprinkled throughout the story would have been more effective if sold better by the cast. Quite a bit of the production just felt…hollow, for lack of a better word. It is entirely possible, given the context of this narrative, that it could have been a direction choice and not the fault of the actors. Unfortunately, it made the viewing experience frustrating for me because I struggled to retain focus on what was happening.

In full disclosure, I had to watch Offseason twice. I fell asleep in the middle the first time. I thought that I was, perhaps, just tired because I’m still experiencing an energy deficit from the last week and a half of being on the go. Unfortunately, my tiredness only contributed to my already flighty ADHD attention span. Alas, I had trouble staying tuned in. 
The one stand-out performance that I had no trouble at all believing was Richard Brake’s (The Death of Stalin, 3 from Hell, Tremors: Shrieker Island) bridge man. His character was at the peripheral of the tale and, honestly, I’m likely to remember him more than the primary characters.
Writer and director Mickey Keating (Pod, Carnage Park, Psychopaths) had an interesting vision of a new spin on a genre mash-up of zombies, possession, and cursed places. It’s still early enough in his career that he may be working on finding his voice and hitting the right stride.  

The best I can say for Offseason, however, is bless their hearts – they tried.  

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 68%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 18%
Metascore – 55%
Metacritic User Score – 3.6
IMDB Score – 4.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 2.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 6, 2022

Shadow in the Cloud (2020)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Shadow in the Cloud (2021)
Genre: Action, Horror, War
Length:  1h 23min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Four Knights Film, Rhea Films, Film & TV House, GEM Entertainment, Splendid Film, Redbox Entertainment, Signature Entertainment, Vertical Entertainment, Capelight Pictures, Cinemundo, Film1, Gravel Road Distribution Group
Director: Roseanne Liang
Writers: Max Landis, Roseanne Liang
Actors: Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Beulah Koale, Taylor John Smith, Callan Mulvey, Benedict Wall, Byron Coll, Joe Witkowski
IMDb Blurb: A female WWII pilot traveling with top-secret documents on a B-17 Flying Fortress encounters an evil presence on board the flight.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was excited to see Shadow in the Cloud, then disappointed when the reviews started trickling out. I tend to go with audiences over critics, and it caused me to delay in seeing it.
That makes this film a very strong warning that reviews can only take you so far.
I think the critics are right where Shadow in the Cloud is concerned. I’m not sure why audiences despised it so much, but I liked it. It had a few of the basic issues that a lot of action/horrors have. Lack of realism, dumb (but fun) stunts, and a whole lot of camp.
The pitfalls may have been a bit predictable, but the movie uses them well to move along the story.

Based n the plot, I assumed the flick would be dreadfully long, but it’s only about 80 minutes. The editing was so on point that there was barely any down time. Even though the majority of Shadow in the Cloud is just Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Let Me In, If I Stay) alone on screen, it never got boring. There was always something to draw the eye. That’s a tough task to accomplish in something meant to be this claustrophobic.
I don’t normally call out editors in my reviews, but maybe I should. I think editor Tom Eagles (Jojo Rabbit, The Harder They Fall, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) really helped this flick. I don’t know what he left on the cutting room floor, but I don’t think it matters. I don’t need any further explanation for anything, and – even with my ADHD – I never lost focus. That is a tough balance to strike. Eagles was probably worth more to the film than some of the actors. I hope he made a decent amount, otherwise, he should get a raise.
In the end, Shadow in the Cloud was a decent film. I know some of the reviews might be scary, but I strongly urge trying it out for yourself.

Cat’s Point of View:
I had high hopes and excited anticipation for Shadow in the Cloud when it was first released. It even landed as my #2 pick on January 2021’s Top 20 list. Needless to say, the moment I was able to watch Shadow in the Cloud, I did. When it came up on our schedule for review, I was happy to watch this movie again.
A lot of that falls to the strong performance by Chloë Grace Moretz (Brain on Fire, Tom & Jerry, Mother/Android). She drew me in and held my attention, keeping me on the edge of my seat with the tension of her character’s plight. I was hooked and my curiosity was piqued regarding the contents of the confidential and classified package she brought on board the plane. Once the big reveal happened, I was even more invested in what was going on and it ramped up the suspense, thrills, and horror factor.

I enjoyed the way that Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets, Flat3, Friday Night Bites) tackled this particular story. The action sequences were both crazy and spectacular. It was fairly easy to suspend disbelief and just hang in with what was going on – even though at times it was a bit bananas. Though, as a sci-fi geek at heart, it was all par for the course for me. I think some of the more out-there elements of this tale were set up quite nicely. I couldn’t help getting flashback feelings from the likes of
The Twilight Zone: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963). (That episode is, honestly, the only one out of that whole series that I remember in great detail – it struck that much of a chord with me.)
Shadow in the Cloud wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I believe I got more out of it with what actually transpired than what I had originally inferred from the trailer in 2020. In fact, I picked up on so many more nuances of this production with my 2nd viewing. I was still left wanting to know more about this story and what might have happened next.

I admired the feminist message underscoring this World War II tale, as well. There were actual female pilots that participated in the war, even if they were transporting planes rather than flying them into combat in most cases. It was a hard won victory as the military in general had to eventually admit that lady pilots were just as good as their male counterparts. It wasn’t implausible for a situation such as this to happen in that timeframe. Women weren’t confined to roles such as “Rosie the Riveter” during that conflict.
All told, Shadow in the Cloud was a great popcorn movie and I really wouldn’t mind even watching it again in the future. I absolutely don’t understand why it’s getting such mangled reviews by audiences so the best bet is to check it out for yourself and give it a chance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 77%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 32%
Metascore – 66%
Metacritic User Score – 3.6/10
IMDB Score – 4.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
P.S. – There are video clips from WWII showing women involved with aviation during the credits.
Movie Trailer: