Friday, July 29, 2022

Persuasion (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Persuasion (2022)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Length: 1h 47min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Bisous Pictures, Fourth & Twenty Eight Films, Mad Chance, Media Rights Capital, Netflix
Director: Carrie Cracknell
Writers: Ron Bass, Alice Victoria Winslow, Jane Austen
Actors: Cosmo Jarvis, Dakota Johnson, Doc Brown, Edward Bluemel, Henry Golding, Izuka Hoyle, Lydia Rose Bewley, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Nikki Amuka Bird, Richard E. Grant, Suki Waterhouse
IMDb Blurb: Eight years after Anne Elliot was persuaded not to marry a dashing man of humble origins, they meet again. Will she seize her second chance at true love?

Cat’s Point of View:
Persuasion was a refreshing change-up from the lineup of my usual fair. I’ve been leaning into action, sci-fi, and horror lately so a romantic drama period piece wouldn’t be the first thing I’d click on in my Netflix listings. I am glad, however, that this title did come up for review today. I rather enjoyed it.
I do feel a disclaimer is needed, upfront, as it were. I have not read the particular Jane Austen novel from which Persuasion was adapted. For that reason, I’m afraid I cannot attest as to whether or not this was a faithful retelling of that story or if it diverged from the original. I have read and enjoyed other Austen works, though; and Persuasion felt like it fit in well with what I would expect.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism for Persuasion based on comparison to the novel’s pacing and tone. I simply haven’t the frame of reference to offer a rebuttal. Thus, my opinion of Persuasion is based solely on my viewing experience.
Persuasion fit right in with the Regency romance sub-genre, which I do love to dabble in now and again. The production as a whole captured the period beautifully – from costume to the setting for each of the areas of England that the story visited. They made good use of these tools to transport me back in time as I watched the story unfold.

I do have to say, however, that I understood where some Regency romance purists might be a bit offended with Persuasion. Some of the dialogue was clearly spruced up a bit with more modern phrasing and idioms to relate to current-day audiences, rather than staying with the more period accurate vernacular. I couldn’t care less, to be honest. I had a moment when some of the dialogue hit me oddly as my brain was coming to terms with the anachronism of what had just happened, and then I was pleased as punch to follow where the film took me. The conversation flowed smoothly, made sense, and helped elevate the entertainment value of the movie, overall, and even likely helped trim the run-time due to the use of fewer extended flowery phrases.
Persuasion’s cast provided stellar performances. I couldn’t point out a single instance where I wasn’t buying into the emotions and story conveyed by each character’s verbal and non-verbal language. You could see the history between Anne and Wentworth in Dakota Johnson (Suspiria, Bad Times at the El Royale, The Lost Daughter) and Cosmo Jarvis’s (The Marker, Hunter Killer, Raised by Wolves) eyes and even micro-expressions.

I also enjoyed that Persuasion was a bit self-aware, and told from Anne Elliot’s perspective as if she were keeping a video diary of her life. Her to-audience narration and asides (even with the corny winks to the camera) sucked me in and I felt like I was part of the conversation. She was confiding her tale to me as if I was there at her side to experience it with her. These sidebars often added to the occasional levity sprinkled through the otherwise heavier story of unrequited love.
Are there better period piece dramas out there? Sure, but Persuasion was good. If you’re looking for something to take you back to “simpler times” and take your mind off of the dumpster fire that is going on both figuratively and literally in the world right now, Persuasion would be a decent choice. It’s fresh and not even one of the novels that have already been re-hashed a billion times over. If you have Netflix and enjoy the genre, I’d definitely recommend it.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 31%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 67%
Metascore – 42%
Metacritic User Score – 3.9/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

1UP (2022)

Streaming Service: Prime Video
Movie Name/Year: 1UP (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Sport
Length: 1h 22min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Buzzfeed Studios, CR8IV DNA, Just Entertainment, Leonine Distribution, Amazon Prime Video, Ascot Elite Entertainment Group, Lionsgate
Director: Kyle Newman
Writer: Julia Yorks
Actors: Aviva Mongillo, Hari Nef, Jordan Madley, Kyle Newman, Lolita Milena, Naomi Kyle, Nicholas Coombe, Paris Berelc, Ruby Rose, Taylor Zakhar Perez
IMDb Blurb: Follows a gamer who quits her college esports team due to sexism from her male counterparts.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was pretty excited about 1UP when I watched its trailer for the first time last month. It just barely missed landing in my top 10 in July’s Top 20 article, spawning in at #11. I hadn’t heard the buzz that had been circulating in the gaming community while 1UP was still in pre-production. I watched while blissfully unaware that there had been controversy bubbling.
What was the big deal that got people bashing the project before it had even started filming? Some were concerned that a comedic take on the likes of GamerGate was inappropriate. I can understand how the people directly impacted by the horrible events that happened during that time period would feel that way. Though, at the same time, the story of 1UP takes place in the present day – as having moved on beyond that point in time. We’re more than 5 years after-the-fact. If the story was trying to be a biopic about anyone involved in that actual original controversy, I’d agree that a comedy wouldn’t be the way to go. This story is only tangentially related by the themes of inclusion and anti-sexism in the gaming community, however. We need to remember that this is a thing that happened, and be respectful to those that experienced it – but it’s time to move on, too.

Sadly, the ratings I’ve seen so far seem to be reflecting the fallout from the brouhaha. I don’t think that 1UP deserves a lot of the complaints and lopsided reviews that have been lobbed its way.
Was 1UP a perfect gamer movie? No, I wouldn’t say that – but it was a lot of fun.
When I watched the trailer, I noted that 1UP felt like it was following a similar recipe to Pitch Perfect (2012), and I wasn’t that far off. There were definitely some vibes that reminded me of the a capella singing movie – and then it diverged.

I believe that 1UP accomplished what I feel it’s core objective was – to introduce more people to the fact that eSports are a legit thing in this day and age, that we still have a long way to go, and provide solid entertainment along the way. Some of the humor was a bit cringe-worthy, but overall I appreciated the levity woven into the story. I also have a deep appreciation for all of the retro and classic games and systems that were both mentioned and seen in 1UP.
The cast seemed to be having a lot of fun with their roles, as well, and that’s something I love to see in a movie – if the cast is having a good time, it really shows on the screen. In this case, the chemistry between the characters all felt real and I really bought-in.
All told, I found 1UP entertaining and video game fans with an Amazon Prime subscription might get a kick out of it, too. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 2.2/10
IMDB Score – 2.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

P.S. - There are a couple additional scenes that play during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, July 25, 2022

The Gray Man (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Gray Man (2022)
Genre: Action, Thriller
Length: 2h 2min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: AGBO, Netflix, Roth Films, Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, Stillking Films
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Mark Greaney, Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Actors: Alfre Woodard, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Callan Mulvey, Chris Evans, Dhanush, Jessica Henwick, Julia Butters, Rege-Jean Page, Ryan Gosling, Scott Haze, Wagner Moura
IMDb Blurb: When the CIA's most skilled operative-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Gray Man was everything I hoped it would be. It was loud, pulse-pounding, turn-your-brain-off escapism. It didn’t reinvent any wheels, but it used a beloved recipe to put out something worth watching.
From the beginning, I knew the people involved would be able to elevate The Gray Man. It had the possibility of going a slow, basic route, but with the Russo brothers (Avengers: Endgame, Community, Happy Endings) at the helm I knew that was very unlikely. Then you need consider the cast.
My favorite Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys, Crazy Stupid Love, Only God Forgives) type cast is as the sarcastic and laconic protagonist. The way he portrays his personality through short responses is such a recognizable characteristic of his, that I associate him with the style regardless of what actor is utilizing it. It’s an automatic reminder of him, and no one does it better. I think, in this case, it gave something unique to his character that would have been missing if he was played by someone else.
Chris Evans (Lightyear, Don’t Look Up, The Avengers) as a hero would have been easy. Even in Knives Out (2019), when he did play an antagonist, he was still charismatic. It’s rough to take Evans and makes him dislikable. Somehow, The Gray Man manages. There’s no way to sympathize with the psychotic Lloyd Hansen. He is the epitome of a bad guy. There’s no questioning if he might be in the right at any point, but you still enjoy seeing him on screen. It’s a good balance.

Ana de Armas (Deep Water, No Time To Die, Blade Runner 2049) has an innocence to her that works well to mask the bad-assery. Her on-screen sense of humor also has a sarcastic core. As a result, she works well with Gosling. She gives as good as she gets, and steals the scene in some cases.
Even supporting actors, like Danush (Karnan, Pattas, Atrangi Re), Jessica Henwick (Bus Girl, Moley, The Matrix Resurrections), Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath, 1883, A Million Little Pieces), Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, Mortal Engines, The Sandman), and Alfre Woodard (Fatherhood, Clemency, Luke Cage) owned the screen at various moments. Just about every actor felt like a giant at some point.
There were a few laughs, but not enough to start pushing The Gray Man toward comedy. The humor was used sparingly in the script and gave just enough relief that it never felt out of place.
In the end, it was such a joy to watch, that I forgot to take notes. There was never enough time to look away from the screen to jot things down even if I had remembered. It was 2 hours of heavy-action fun.
I hear it’s going to be made into a series, and I will be watching everything that comes next. 

Cat’s Point of View:
I was excited enough about The Gray Man to list it as my #2 on July’s Top 20, and this easily could have been a #1 pick – if not going up against an MCU movie. Netflix got the most literal and figurative bang out of every single one of the $200 million-ish that they spent on this production. It was impressive from start to finish.
When I watched Ryan Gosling’s interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014-) the other night, I really just thought they were being silly when they joked about how much action was packed into The Gray Man. It went without saying that there was going to be a lot going on. This movie was set up to be Netflix’s summer action blockbuster, after all. They weren’t just being tongue in cheek when they said " about action, on top of action, on top of action, and then more action!..."
Every sequence had my pulse pounding and scooting ever closer to the edge of my seat. The fight choreography was insane. The chase scenes were on par with something you could expect from The Fast and the Furious (2001) saga, or a 007 movie. There were shoot-outs, explosions, and crashes – you name it. I didn’t really have a moment to catch my breath.
Of course, a movie full of action could still fall flat if there isn’t a good story, believable characters, and interesting dialogue to go with it. The Gray Man had all of those things.

I am still laughing every time I think of some of the banter from Gosling and Chris Evans. I was happy that the bits shown in the trailer weren’t the only gems the production boasted.
Let me tell you, Evans is outright terrifying as a villain. Lloyd of the ‘trash stache’ in The Gray Man might be a wise-cracking sociopath that was easy to laugh with – but Evans sold that character in a way that sent chills along my spine at a few points.
Ana de Armas was also an absolute badass here. Her role was just as physically challenging as the male leads and she utterly killed it. Honestly, I can’t think of a single questionable performance in the entire project. I adored Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton was on point, Jessica Henwick didn’t disappoint, and Regé-Jean Page was gloriously insidious.
While the book that The Gray Man was adapted from is part of a series, I’m gathering that there are no clear plans at this time for a sequel. The Russo Brothers have gone on record, however, saying that they approached this movie as if it were part of a franchise – so there could potentially be a chance for a return to this world of CIA operatives in the future. I sincerely hope so.
In the meantime, I’m likely going to be watching The Gray Man several more times – before the summer is even over. If you have access to Netflix, this is definitely one to add to your watch list ASAP.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 48%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –90%
Metascore – 49%
Metacritic User Score – 6.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating –5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer: