Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Above the Shadows (2019)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Above the Shadows (2019)
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Length: 1h 51min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: HIPZEE, BondIt Media Capital, Boundary Stone Films, Myriad Pictures, ACE Entertainment, Elite Filmes, Vie Vision Pictures, Özen Film, Gravitas Ventures, Pacific Northwest Pictures, Studio Hamburg Enterprises
Director: Claudia Myers
Writer: Claudia Myers
Actors: Olivia Thirlby, Alan Ritchson, Jim Gaffigan, Megan Fox, Tito Ortiz, David Johansen, Owen Campbell, Pawel Szajda, Fina Strazza, Alex Gemeinhardt, Lauren Hartman
Blurb from IMDb: A young woman who has faded to the point of becoming invisible must find her way back with the help of the one man who can see her.

Selina’s Point of View:
Above the Shadows was put on our schedule after I came across it on Tik Tok. Scrolling through my FYP, a scene from the movie popped up. I get those kinds of videos a lot, but it’s usually stuff I’ve seen. This one didn’t look at all familiar, so I stopped to check it out.
I figured it was some hallmark crap, but I looked it up on IMDb anyway. When I saw it had a relatively positive rating, I thought: ‘Why not?’
I don’t know how Tik Tok designed their algorithm, but it’s better than any other social media’s. I usually don’t even go for romantic dramas. I have no idea how Tik Tok knew this would be the exception. The way I related to the main character in this flick was frightening.
That feeling of invisibility is something known by too many people. I’d guess the number who relate has only gone up since the pandemic. Too much trauma in too little time with too little support will do that.
Despite going into Above the Shadows knowing the response of critics was generally positive, I still didn’t expect it to be all that phenomenal. I expected cheesier acting and a script to match. Instead, I got something that may have opened me up to a whole new genre (for me). Sure, I don’t see rom-drama as a non-starter (the way I see westerns), but it would never be my go-to. Now, I see it as more of an option.

I’m not ashamed to say that I ugly cried a bit. The last scene in Above the Shadows stabbed me right in the heart.
Jim Gaffigan (Troop Zero, Bob's Burgers, Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania) and Megan Fox (Night Teeth, Till Death, Jennifer’s Body) were the only actors I was overly familiar with. Both were, predictably, very good in their parts. It was Olivia Thirlby (Dredd, The Wedding Ringer, Goliath) that really stood out. She embodied the very nature of this invisible girl trying to heal herself from old traumas. If she hadn’t been such a good choice for her part, that last scene wouldn’t have hit me so hard.
There was also one scene with Justine Cotsonas (Sneaky Pete, The Code, Tell Me a Story) that brought the ugly tears. It was the final scene she was in, and her character was talking about generational trauma, and that’s where the waterworks started.
Above the Shadows was my first introduction to a Claudia Myers (Fort Bliss, Kettle of Fish, Below the Beltway) film and it speaks volumes to the quality of her writing and directing. I’ll be looking up the rest of her filmography.
Above the Shadows is streaming on Hulu, and it’s a must-see.

Cat’s Point of View:
Above the Shadows hit my screen with just the right timing. It brought with it a refreshing change of pace from all the emotion and thrills of the more recent fare that I’d watched. It offered a chance for me to sit back and just enjoy. Well, for the most part – Above the Shadows wasn’t without its own emotional moments, but I’ll get to that.
I’ve mentioned before that sports movies generally aren’t my thing – and yet, I’ll end up watching and enjoying them anyway. In the case of Above the Shadows, it has a heavy concentration of UFC and/or MMA content; however, it’s ultimately a bit of a tale of fantasy. This is the way I appreciate sport-related productions: a genre-fusion that incorporates my preferred genres.
While on the topic of sports, let’s get that out of the way, shall we? I don’t really follow UFC, but I’m not entirely unfamiliar with it or some of its more well-known competitors. The fact that Tito Ortiz (Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, Silencer, Robot Apocalypse) was involved in this movie offered a bit more grounding to the story. Ortiz was, after all, a multi-time light heavyweight champion in the UFC octagon. His involvement with the film offered some realism and believability with the action.
I had to remind myself that Alan Ritchson (Dark Web: Cicada 3301, Titans, Reacher) wasn’t an actor that had come from a sports competition background such as Ortiz. He just nailed the part that well. I appreciated that his character was presented as a multi-faceted person rather than plot-driving eye candy. I’ve had a few of his other projects on my watch list. I feel like I need to bump a couple of those a little closer to the top after watching this performance.

I appreciated the chemistry among the cast members. It wasn’t just the leads. Everyone fit in the story as they should, for the most part. While I didn’t recognize everyone, that didn’t matter. I was just along for the ride. I do know I want to see more of Olivia Thirlby in the future. Also, this found Jim Gaffigan playing a “serious” role rather than the comedy he’s generally known best for.
Ultimately, Above the Shadows wasn’t as much of a popcorn-flick as it initially seemed. There were some deep themes explored that had me a bit misty at points. I can relate to feeling invisible at various times in my life. It hit a bit harder than I thought it would.
Grief can sometimes become a tar pit that sucks you in and mires you down, locks you within your own head. I thought this particular approach to the topic was an interesting new take on visualizing the process.
OK, yes, there was a bit of romance involved, too. It wasn’t over-the-top, or cheesy, so I appreciated that, as well.
I guess you could say that I really enjoyed the time I spent in the proverbial ring with Above the Shadows. I wouldn’t mind watching it again or striking up a conversation about it with friends that are more UFC-inclined.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 70%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 65%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –6.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Monday, September 19, 2022

Raven's Hollow (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Raven’s Hollow (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Length: 1h 38min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: 828 Media Capital, Cinevilla Studio, Creativity Capital, Raven's Hollow, Planeta Inform Film Distribution, Shudder
Director: Christopher Hatton
Writers: Christopher Hatton, Chuck Reeves
Actors: Callum McGowan, Callum Woodhouse, David Hayman, Kate Dickie, Kyle Rowe, Mathis Landwehr, Melanie Zanetti, Michael Guest, Oberon K.A. Adjepong, William Moseley
IMDb Blurb: West Point cadet Edgar Allan Poe and four other cadets on a training exercise in upstate New York are drawn by a gruesome discovery into a forgotten community.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was hooked the minute we watched the trailer for Raven’s Hollow leading into September’s Top 20 list. There really was no question in my mind that this movie would make the cut, it was merely a decision of where to place it in the order of selected productions. When you tell me you’re offering a plausible origin story for one of the classical masters of the horror genre, it’s honestly a shut up and take my money situation. In this case, the AMC Network group has already done that because Raven’s Hollow is set to be released on Shudder. I’ll come back to those details. Let’s talk movie.
As I mentioned in the Top 20 article, I wasn’t entirely familiar with the works of the writing and directing team for Raven’s Hollow. The production team was really onto something with this story concept, though, so I am curious about their projects moving forward.

The raven imagery is something that is practically synonymous with the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Raven’s Hollow took that and ran with it in a spectacularly gruesome and intriguing direction. If nothing else, this film played out as a love letter to some of the most memorable of Poe’s works with a smattering of veritable Easter eggs throughout the themes, dialogue, imagery, and even the audio of the movie.
I think they really nailed the atmosphere of Gothic horror that Poe was known for. The muted tones, grey skies, mysterious woods, funeral atmosphere, town aesthetic, and shady characters all came together quite well to immerse viewers in the nightmare that unfolded on the screen.
While Poe is one of my favorite authors, I admit that it’s been quite a while since I studied his background information in any detail. It wasn’t until after I’d watched Raven’s Hollow that I was inspired to dig around and see how much of this story could have fit with the master of macabre’s history. The answers I found only brought me to appreciate this tale of terror even more.

Raven’s Hollow showed a young Poe with his group of West Point cadets out in field training when they stumbled across the titular hamlet and the horrific mystery contained within its borders. It is factual that Poe was, indeed, a military man. He served as an enlisted in the Army for a couple of years and advanced as far as he could for a non-commissioned officer before he opted to attend West Point to upgrade his officer status. He ultimately chose his passion for the written word over a military career, however, and intentionally got himself court-martialed and discharged by failing to attend required activities like formations, classes, and church.
With that in mind, the story here has that kernel of plausibility that all good works of historical fiction origin stories require.
I was sucked right into this grisly who-done-it with its suspense and supernatural shenanigans. Words such as gruesome and grisly are quite literal for this production, as there is quite a lot of gore depicted on the screen. There’s one scene, in particular, that was so disturbingly graphic that my brain really didn’t want to make sense of it for a moment. Raven’s Hollow was not a gratuitous splatter-fest, however. The blood and body bits that appear on-screen have a purpose and are woven into the story well. Needless to say, this movie would not be for children or the squeamish.

William Moseley (Friend Request, The Royals, Saving Paradise) delivered a compelling performance as cadet Poe. The on-screen chemistry of the cast worked really well together. I couldn’t really point out any particular flaws in performance or dialogue.
Fans of Poe's work would likely get quite a lot from the tale of the cursed township of Raven’s Hollow. I will likely be watching this again soon to try and see just how many Poe references I can pick out along the way.
Raven’s Hollow will release for streaming on Shudder on Thursday, September 22nd.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 7.0/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: