Friday, September 9, 2022

The Alternate (2022)

Movie Name/Year: The Alternate (2022)
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Length: 1h 27min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Bursell Productions, Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Alrik Bursell
Writer: Alrik Bursell
Actors: Ed Gonzalez Moreno, Natalia Dominguez
Blurb from IMDb: Upon unlocking a portal to an alternate dimension where all his dreams have come true, struggling filmmaker Jake is forced to confront his idealized self.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve heard some buzz about The Alternate, not a lot, but the quality of every word was sky-high. The people who have been talking, have been saying that it was a damn good film. When I realized it was a screener I had access to, I jumped on the chance to see what the fuss was all about.
Upon doing a bit of research, I found that there was a crowdfunding element to it. There’s a profile for The Alternate on Seed & Spark and it raised just over $20,000 in a month.
I think investors should be proud.
The Alternate is worth more than the buzz it’s already getting.
This project is a good example of why it’s worth supporting new voices. Writer/director Alrik Bursell (Brother, The Rage, High Stakes) has a few shorts under his belt, but this is his full-length feature film debut. Using The Alternate as an introduction to him, I think we can expect some good thing.
He does characters right. Although the main character is a bit on the obnoxious side, his frustration at having to ‘sell out’ is relatable. Anyone who chooses a creative career know the depth of crushing self-doubt that’s portrayed. Because he has this very human aspect to him, it makes it easier to take the strange ride alongside Jake as he spirals.
It would have been very easy for Bursell to fall into a hole with Jake as a main character. If a character is too obnoxious, with nothing to tie viewers to them, that’s pretty much the end of the film. People stop caring almost instantly.

The concept of The Alternate is not a new one. I’m reminded of VHS: Viral (2014), specifically the segment: “Parallel Monsters.” The base idea of finding a different version of oneself in a portal is typical, that’s just the latest flick that comes to mind. I could point out any number of early 2000s TV shows that use the idea for an episode or two, as well. I don’t think it’s an idea that would land on an ‘overused’ list, but it’s common.
What then elevated The Alternate?
If you read my 2017 review of VHS: Viral then you know I hated it. With one of the segments sharing a concept with The Alternate why wouldn’t that have brought up my score for Viral?
I’d say the acting is comparable, the setting is, as well.
The difference is in seeming small things. It’s the accurate reaction Jake initially had to finding the portal. It’s how the character of the wife is so different between dimensions that it’s almost hard to see her as the same actor. It’s the bold, and suddenly horrific, ending. It’s Bursell’s voice in the script.
The way the film is shot, and the feel of the dialogue, takes The Alternate from being a basic recipe to rising above.
I am not familiar with the rest of Alrik Bursell’s work, but I’m thinking I should be.
The Alternate will be available on DVD and Digital September 13.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 8.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S. Some short scenes during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Uncharted (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Uncharted (2022)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Length: 1h 56min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Arad Productions, Atlas Entertainment, Ayuntamiento de Madrid, B&H Film Distribution, Big Picture 2 Films, Columbia Pictures, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Naughty Dog, PlayStation Productions, Sony Computer Entertainment America, Sony Pictures Entertainment Iberia, Sony Pictures Filmverleih, Sony Pictures Releasing, Sony Pictures Releasing Argentina, Sony Pictures Releasing Australia, Sony Pictures Releasing Canada, Sony Pictures Releasing International, Sony Pictures Releasing Italia, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Art Marcum, Rafe Judkins, Matt Holloway, Amy Hennig, Jon Hanley Rosenberg, Mark D. Walker
Actors: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Patricia Meeden, Sarah Petrick, Jesús Evita, Steven Waddington, Tiernan Jones, Pingi Moli, Rudy Pankow
IMDb Blurb: The story is a prequel to the games, starring Holland as a younger Drake, showing us details of how he came to meet and befriend Sully.

Cat’s Point of View:
Both Selina and I were seriously excited to see Uncharted hit the big screen. It was, in fact, the #1 pick for my personal Top 20 Movies Coming Out in February 2022 – and it narrowly missed the same distinction on Selina’s list, landing at #2.
I should probably begin with a disclosure that I haven’t ever played the Uncharted games. I have, however, had a general understanding of their premise and a gist of what made them tick. As a fan of the Action-Adventure genre, this sort of treasure-hunting tale has always been right up my alley. I’ve been hooked ever since seeing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) in the theater when I was little. I’m down for stories that are even slightly in the same vein. I generally don’t even care if they’re derivative and rehashing common tropes and clichés – this sort of movie is just plain fun for me so I enjoy the brain candy and gloss over the things that drive the critics bananas.

There are cases where that hasn’t worked in the past - especially with video game adaptations. Yes, we’re looking squarely at you, Monster Hunter (2020). Thankfully, Uncharted didn’t fall into that category.
Uncharted was successful on many levels. I honestly don’t understand what soured the naysayers on it – but they’re entitled to their own opinions (even if they’re wrong). There were a lot of things working in this production’s favor.
Let’s start with the cast.

I absolutely adore Tom Holland (Spies in Disguise, Onward, Spider-Man: No Way Home). His comedic timing is outstanding, he is capable of doing his own stunts – and more often than not actually does as much as he can get away with. He also can dance and sing, and generally evokes the feeling that he would be the best little brother one could hope for. I think he worked within the part of Nathan Drake brilliantly. He’s even a big fan of the games and was dedicated to doing the source material justice. Uncharted is even somewhat based on his favorite game in the series. This was a passion project for him to the point that he signed on as an Executive Producer for this film, and was the first time he has done such.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that the movie had the figurative stamp of approval from none other than the voice-actor for the role of Nathan Drake in the games, Nolan North (Love Death & Robots, Rick and Morty, Star Trek: Lower Decks). He, in fact, appears as a cameo in Uncharted and interacts briefly with Holland’s Drake character.

I’ve seen a lot of bashing of Mark Wahlberg (Spenser Confidential, Father Stu, Me Time) in the role of Sully. I couldn’t say that this was his best performance ever, but I think he worked well with what he was given in this production. Sometimes a lot of his characters come off as one-note, but I still end up invested in them every time all the same. I assure you that has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been following his career ever since he was touring with The Funky Bunch.
The ladies were kicking some bootay as well, here. Sophia Ali (Truth or Dare, Grey's Anatomy, The Wilds) and Tati Gabrielle (The 100, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Owl House) were serving all sorts of fierceness in their respective roles.
I couldn’t omit Antonio Banderas (The Laundromat, The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, Code Name Banshee), either. I was getting some of the same intensity and vibes that I got from his character in Assassins (1995), way back in the day, and I was excited about it.

Director, Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Venom, Superstore), did a bang-up job with this adaptation, really. Some of the scenes were so iconic – and holy crap the whole sequence with the boats. I’m not going to get any more specific than that because spoilers – but if you watch it, you’ll see. I had a good feeling about this project while it was still in the works, considering this was the same director that brought us the Zombieland (2009) movies.
Overall the production value for Uncharted was great, as well and there were plenty of little Easter Eggs throughout the movie as well as its soundtrack for fans of the games and their developer.
Uncharted was the sort of movie you might expect to have premiered in late spring or early summer rather than February. I enjoyed it thoroughly and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others. (In fact, I pestered my family until they watched it with me while it was On Demand before it landed on Netflix.) Grab some popcorn and settle in for an adventure. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 41%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 90%
Metascore – 45%
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
PS – There are 2 extra scenes at the end of the movie – one is immediately after the movie is over & the other is post-credits.   
Movie Trailer:

Monday, September 5, 2022

Saloum (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Saloum (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 24min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Lacmé, Rumble Fish Productions, Tableland Pictures, Ev.L Prod
Director: Jean Luc Herbulot              
Writer: Jean Luc Herbulot, Pamela Diop
Actors: Yann Gael, Evelyne Ily Juhen, Roger Sallah, Mento Ba, Bruno Henry, Marielle Salmier, Babacar Oualy, Ndiaga Mbow, Cannabasse, Renaud Farah
Blurb from IMDb: 2003, three mercenaries extracting a druglord out of Guinea-Bissau are forced to hide in the mystical region of Saloum, Senegal.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was excited for Saloum. I’ve never seen a Senegalese film, so I knew I was about to see something completely new to me.
Whenever you delve into the cinema of a different culture, you can’t possibly know what to expect. Culture greatly influences movies because it involves different perspectives. A filmmaker from the USA will not have the same experiences to draw from as one from Africa would. That means there are different tropes in play and different forms of interaction.
When Saloum got started, I thought it was going to go down a gangster/heist route, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. It switched sub-genres at one point, and I never had any clue what was going to happen next.

Everything flowed so smoothly, though. The mid-flick flip didn’t feel forced or out of place at all. In fact, I forgot I was reading subtitles at times.
The dialogue was pure. The writers clearly had the right mindset to keep it realistic, even as the scenes grew more extreme. The characters, and the way they’re meant to be perceived, also changed throughout the flick. All of which was backed up by subtle foreshadowing.
I loved Saloum. It had a soul to it that many horror/thrillers just don’t have.
It’s not going to be for someone looking for easy scares and a turn-your-brain-off kind of night. It’s based around more elevated thrills. So, make sure you watch it when you have the concentration to give it the attention it deserves.

See it for yourself on Shudder, September 8th!

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 76%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: