Friday, January 27, 2023

The Invitation (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Invitation (2022)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 1h 45min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Screen Gems, Mid Atlantic Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Writer: Blair Butler
Actors: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Carol Ann Crawford, Alana Boden, Stephanie Corneliussen, Courtney Taylor
Blurb from IMDb: A young woman is courted and swept off her feet, only to realize a gothic conspiracy is afoot.

Selina’s Point of View:
As radiant as Nathalie Emmanuel (Army of Thieves, Game of Thrones, F9: The Fast Saga) was, she felt completely out of place in The Invitation. It wasn’t good enough for her.
Emmanuel acted her ass off, but the rest of the film dragged lazily behind. It offered nothing really for her to work with. It was barely even a romance up until the climax when things started happening, and then it was all predictable.
Sure, there were a couple of horror scenes up until then, but they were so cut and paste that it wasn’t worth it.

I will say that the spa day scene was pretty good. It had a lot of suspense, and I was on the edge of my seat. Like Nathalie, it felt like it should have been part of a much better film.
The idea behind The Invitation wasn’t bad. I also liked how it touched on the dehumanization of service workers. I feel like we’ve been getting a lot of class warfare flicks lately, and it’s not very hard to guess why. A lot more could have been done with those concepts.
I’m also a little angry at the trailer. It had me believing that The Invitation was going to be the next Ready or Not (2019). Instead, it had all the thrilling parts of the film, leaving nothing left to surprise audiences during the full runtime. I’d rather be told too little in the coming attractions, than too much.
As much as I wanted to like The Invitation, it just didn’t work for me.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 29%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 59%
Metascore – 45%
Metacritic User Score – 3.2
IMDB Score –5.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 1.5/5
P.S. There’s a rated R version available on DVD. This review is only for the PG-13 version.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Bullet Train (2022)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Bullet Train (2022)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Length:  2h 6min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 87North, CTB Inc., Hill District Media, Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Columbia Pictures, Netflix, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kôtarô Isaka, Zak Olkewicz
Actors: Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Joey King, Zazie Beetz, Karen Fukuhara, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Bad Bunny, Masi Oka, Andrew Koji
IMDb Blurb: Five assassins aboard a fast-moving bullet train find out their missions have something in common.

Selina’s Point of View:
Bullet Train was absolutely bonkers, in the best possible way.
It had all the twists and turns of Glass Onion (2022), with some insane fight choreography. Once the movie starts, there’s no time to look away for even a second. Each fight is so tightly constructed that it’s like a dance, but with the added bonus of being some of the most brutal I’ve seen.
There’s an art in how flawlessly the action is balanced with comedy. There’s a fight in the movie that you see a decent chunk of in the trailer, where both parties take a break to let an attendant get her stuff together. The entire thing is hilarious in context. From the interactions during that awkward break to how they pick it all up again. It’s perfectly done.

There were also ridiculous cameos and Easter Eggs that remind me of Brad Pitt (The Lost City, Babylon, Ad Astra) showing up for a split second in Deadpool 2 (2018). Equal parts pointless and hilarious.
It very much had the fight choreography feel of Kill Bill (2003-2004), with the over-the-top caricaturing of Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), along with the fun-matters-most aura of Deadpool (2006). It’s not meant to be serious. It’s supposed to be a grand fantasy without the actual magic. And it succeeds.
I’m going to have to read the book it was based on.
Listen to the audiences about this one. Critics never seem to get the joke with movies like Bullet Train.

Cat’s Point of View:
The trailer for Bullet Train had me in stitches. The fight scenes promised to be spectacular and the action-comedy combo rarely fails to deliver (well, when this caliber production is involved at least). I couldn’t wait to watch it; and, in fact, checked my On-Demand listings frequently until it turned up available for me to stream. That makes this my second watch-through, and I am just as chuffed now as I was the first time around.
I absolutely adored Bullet Train. It was hilarious, hard-hitting, and everything that I hoped that it would be.
Of course, when a director has had as extensive a background as David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) has with the stunts side of productions, the action they deliver invariably raises the bar. Bullet Train was right up the alley of combat as seen in classic Jackie Chan (Railroad Tigers, The Foreigner, Bleeding Steel) movies. Even in a simply ludicrous situation, the realism of grabbing objects nearby to utilize for defense or as improvised weapons during combat was fantastic attention to situational detail.

Bullet Train fostered an atmosphere where somehow comparing personality types to characters in Thomas and Friends (1984-2021) while on a speeding train made perfect sense. I feel crazy for acknowledging that last statement, but I will make my stand on that hill.
Here’s the thing. If you go into watching Bullet Train expecting serious action like in a James Bond movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you anticipate the level of violence blended with banter as you might see in a Tarantino movie, you’d be setting yourself up for a better time.
This was a laugh-filled ride full of thrills, cameos, and excellent Easter Eggs. I was giddy over the casting choices, and no one disappointed. All told, I would be down to watch Bullet Train many times over.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 54%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 76%
Metascore – 49%
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
P.S. – There is a scene during the closing credits.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Lair (2023)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: The Lair (2023)
Genre: Action, Horror
Length: 1h 36min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Rather Good Films, Scarlett Productions Ltd., Ashland Hill Media Finance, Ingenious Media, Highland Film Group (HFG)
Director: Neil Marshall
Writer: Charlotte Kirk, Neil Marshall
Actors: Charlotte Kirk, Jonathan Howard, Jamie Bamber, Leon Ockenden, Troy Alexander, Harry Taurasi, Mark Strepan, Hadi Khanjanpour, Kibong Tanji, Mark Arends, Adam Bond, Alex Morgan
Blurb from IMDb: When Royal Air Force pilot Lt. Kate Sinclair is shot down over Afghanistan, she finds refuge in an abandoned underground bunker where deadly man-made biological weapons - half human, half alien - are awakened.

Selina’s Point of View:
I have heard some bad accents in my day, but none of them come close to what I heard in The Lair. It was almost impossible for me to concentrate on the script because the accents were basically parodies. Can’t call the movie a parody, though.
The Lair took itself seriously. They clearly wanted to deliver a full-on monster film for the ages. When it comes to the design of the creature, you could tell there was a ton of effort. There are very few flicks with the kind of monster featured in The Lair that succeed at creating a design that’s horrific, but still realistic. I can absolutely appreciate that.
The monster they built was every bit of what they were going for. It looked phenomenal in the underground scenes, but it also looked good when the scenes were brighter. That’s not easy to accomplish, even for much bigger productions. There needs to be credit given there.

Unfortunately, that amazing creature was dropped right into the middle of some serious bullshit.
There were not only tropes used, but straight-up stereotypes. It caused even the best acted character to feel hollow and unnecessary. There are also some attempts at comedy, but those moments are so out of place that they just feel awkward. Unintentionally cringey, even.
If you watch The Lair, do it with the lights off – so that you can get the full view of the glorious creature effects – and with a group of drunk friend who like bad movies. That would be the best way to get enjoyment out of it.
The Lair will be available for streaming on Shudder this Thursday, January 26.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 38%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 39%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –4.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 2/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer: