Friday, November 18, 2022

Slumberland (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Slumberland (2022)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length: 1h 57min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Chernin Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: David Guion, Michael Handelman
Actors: Jason Momoa, Marlow Barkley, Chris O’Dowd, Kyle Chandler, Cameron Nicoll, Antonio Raine Pastore, Weruche Opia, India de Beaufort, Chris D’Silva, Yanna McIntosh
Blurb from IMDb: A young girl discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland, and with the help of an eccentric outlaw, she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again.

Selina’s Point of View:
The first thing I need to say about Slumberland is that everything is gorgeous. Every bit of the CGI was on point and the settings were larger than life.
That said, Slumberland was not without its flaws.
One of my issues in the first half was the pacing. The problem wasn’t that it was slow. There was always something happening, always something to hold my attention. The issue was in the transitions. It made the pace seem choppy and a bit disjointed. The trailer made it clear to expect the story to bounce between the real world and dreams, but the method they used made those transitional moments between fast-paced scenes seem out of place.
It did take me out of the story a bit. Enough so that I didn’t really get emotionally invest until about an hour in.
There were also some portrayal issues with the characters – particularly the girl’s uncle. He turned out to be well-rounded, but up until half-way through he seemed annoying and 1-dimensional. They spent several scenes focusing on him and painting him as a nebbish. I eventually felt for him, but not until that half-way point.

That second half of Slumberland, though. It had me in the second half.
Once the twists were twisted and the transitions petered out, the feels got involved. There were some funny scenes that happened, but they didn’t overwhelm the depth of the character’s emotions. It was well-balanced and had me choked up for a substantial amount of time.
Slumberland was obvious about the theme of grief. From the beginning, it was very in-your-face. It goes deeper than just losing a parent, though.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but just in case I’m going to issue a minor spoiler warning here.
The movie really focused in on what it’s like to lose something you could have had, but didn’t. In this case the relationship between brothers. There’s something devastating about losing someone who loved you, when you didn’t know that felt that way until they were gone. I had something similar happen in the past few years, and the way Slumberland handled that was spot on.
I can understand why critics have been hard on Slumberland. There’s a part of me that agrees with a lot of the criticism. That said, I also understand why it’s getting a high score from audiences. I think this flick is unsuccessful in a technical category, but in entertainment it shines. I will probably watch it again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 38%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 88%
Metascore – 37%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –6.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Wonder (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Wonder (2022)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 1h 48min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Element Pictures, Element, Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland, House Productions, LSG Productions, Netflix
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writers: Emma Donoghue, Sebastián Lelio, Alice Birch
Actors: Florence Pugh, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Abigail Coburn, Brían F. O'Byrne, Carla Hurley O'Dwyer, Darcey Campion, David Wilmot, Dermot Crowley, Elaine Cassidy, Josie Walker, Juliette Hurley O'Dwyer, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Ruth Bradley, Tom Burke
IMDb Blurb: A tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

Cat’s Point of View:
Let me tell you, it pained me that The Wonder didn’t make it onto my Top 20 Movies to Look Out for this month. It was by only the narrowest of margins, however. When I watched the trailer, I was captivated by the fact that it appeared to be a period piece set, and filmed, in Ireland. Oh how I do love the lilt of an Irish accent. When I got into the actual movie, I found they were actually speaking Gaelic occasionally. I was quite giddy. I digress…
I probably should mention, before I continue further, that I have not read the novel upon which this movie was based. Alas, for that reason I am unable to advise how true this screen adaptation was to the source material. Considering that it appears that the book’s author seems to have been involved in writing the screenplay, It would probably be safe to say it’s probably a fair version.

Another factor that drew me to The Wonder was the cast. With Florence Pugh (Outlaw King, Midsommar, Don't Worry Darling) as the lead and the likes of Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, A Boy Called Christmas) and Ciarán Hinds (Woman Walks Ahead, The Terror, Belfast) also involved, I felt that this would be a quality production, at the very least.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The opening and closing of the film were odd, and seemed out of place with somewhat of an intentional 4th-wall break of sorts. Once I got past that slight oddity and experienced the story in the middle, everything sorted itself out.

While The Wonder bears the genre label of ‘thriller,’ I think it should be pointed out that it is not an action-packed thrill-ride. This narrative is rather a slow burn and full of suspense as the mystery unfolds on-screen. I’m not sure that I agree with the ‘psychological thriller’ moniker, either. Either way, I was fully invested in the plight of the young girl being observed for lack of eating – and the nurse tasked to keep watch over her.
When everything came to a head at the film’s climax, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor a bit. I didn’t see the twist coming – and yet, I did catch a bit of the foreshadowing. I just didn’t connect the dots until I needed to facepalm.
As the weather starts to turn ever colder, The Wonder is a great dramatic movie to enjoy snuggled up with blankets and a hot beverage. It was a great movie on the part of Netflix releasing it in November. If you have a subscription, The Wonder is absolutely worth a shot if you enjoy period dramas. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 85%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 74%
Metascore – 70%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –7.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, November 14, 2022

Slash/Back (2022)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Slash/Back (2022)
Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi
Length: 1h 26min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Good Question Media, Mixtape VR, Red Marrow Media, Scythia Films, Stellar Citizens, RLJE Films, Mongrel Media, Shudder
Director: Nyla Innuksuk
Writer: Ryan Cavan, Nyla Innuksuk
Actors: Tasiana Shirley, Nalajoss Ellsworth, Chelsea Prusky, Alexis Wolfe, Rory Anawak, Niviaq Mike, Paulette Metuq, Shaun Benson
Blurb from IMDb: When Maika and her ragtag friends discover an alien invasion in their tiny arctic hamlet, it's up to them to save the day. Utilizing their makeshift weapons and horror movie knowledge, the aliens realize you don't mess with girls from Pang.

Selina’s Point of View:
Slash/Back seemed like a fun watch from the moment I saw the trailer. We missed our trailer stream last month, unfortunately, because I had a pretty severe case of RSV – but we watched them all individually. It made my list at #12. It had a very fast-paced flow to it, the character interactions were endearing, and it made me feel like I needed to know exactly what was going on. It was a well-crafted trailer.
The movie is successful, especially as a low-budget film. The effects were much better than I expected, and there were a few effective scares. There was also an interesting look at the lives of a group of indigenous kids living in Pangnirtung.
Before watching Slash/Back I didn’t have very much knowledge of Pangnirtung or the Innuit people. I was introduced to a whole new culture that I’m going to have fun researching. I love using films as a jumping off point to learn new things.

The young actors did show some promise. They could absolutely do with a bit more training, though. The script was also a little clunky, even cringy, in places.
Despite the minor issues, Slash/Back was still watchable. I enjoyed the antics of the kids, and how they managed to overcome their alien issues.
Slash/Back is a great full-length feature film debut for Nyla Innuksuk (Stories from Our Land Vol. 2: Finding Home, Breaths, Future History). You can tell it’s a first for her, but it shows raw talent. I’d like to see more from her in the future, as she grows in experience.
If you’d like to see Slash/Back for yourself, it premieres on Shudder this Friday, November 18.

Cat’s Point of View:
The trailer for Slash/Back pitched an interesting story about a group of Inuit girls facing off against alien body snatchers. IMDb’s movie trivia page for this film offered a comparison with a mash-up of Attack the Block (2011) and The Thing (1982). I’d have to say, now that I’ve watched Slash/Back, that was a pretty apt connection. Just picture that combination mixed up with a little slice-of-life coming-of-age teen drama, and it would give you a generally accurate idea of what to expect.
The territory of Nunavut is just about as North as you can get for civilization on the North American continent. This region returned to Inuit control and self-governance back in 1999, though it does seem to still technically be a part of Canada. Areas of the world such as the little hamlet of Pang generally don’t get much mainstream attention. I was surprised, frankly, when I recognized the name of the territory at all. Then I remembered that the first season of Ice Road Truckers (2007–2017) from the History Channel was filmed there before branching to other regions of Canada’s Arctic Circle ice crossings, Alaska, and beyond in subsequent seasons. I digress…
The point I was getting to is that life in the Arctic Circle is already somewhat alien to most of us – especially if we live in the “lower 48” of the U.S. Some of these communities in the far North get cut off from the rest of the world for months at a time and are only reachable by boat or plane in certain weather conditions. If an alien species were to find its way to earth in an area like that, it’s not too far-fetched an idea that a group of kids would be the ones spotting it first.

I actually adored Slash/Back. The kids were cheeky and felt real. Their struggle of wanting to fit in with the mainstream and embrace modern things pitted against the pull of Inuit tradition and the superstitions of the older generations was something you didn’t have to be from that area to understand. Of course, the fact that the young actors were cast directly from the area where the production was taking place really helped. If these kids want to pursue further acting careers, there’s a bright future for several of them.
Writer and director Nyla Innuksuk’s understanding of the land and its people really shone through. There’s something to be said for drawing on a background of documentary work while crafting a work of fiction. There were also undercurrents subtly referenced regarding the Inuit people’s struggle to reclaim their land and culture, and the prejudices they face a lot of the time. It was brilliantly woven into the framework of the film so that it didn’t feel preachy at all, and still made the point clear.
If I had to pick a weak point for Slash/Back, it would be regarding the aliens directly. There really isn’t a lot to explain the creatures, their origin, or how they even work. Though, they did get a lot of great usage from practical effects. The CGI was minimal. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something felt missing. All the same, the creatures and the resulting horrific mayhem were seriously creepy.
If you’re looking for a break from the holiday rush, and definitely if you want to get a peek at the austere and impressive region featured in this movie; pull up Shudder and give Slash/Back a chance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 45%
Metascore – 68%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13
Movie Trailer: