Friday, February 24, 2023

We Have a Ghost (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: We Have a Ghost (2023)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Length:  2h 6min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Legendary Entertainment, Temple Hill Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Christopher Landon
Writers: Christopher Landon, Geoff Manaugh
Actors: Anthony Mackie, Erica Ash, Jennifer Coolidge, David Harbour, Jahi Winston, Tig Notaro, Faith Ford, Steve Coulter, Tom Bower, Niles Fitch, Isabella Russo
IMDb Blurb: Finding a ghost named Ernest haunting their new home turns Kevin's family into overnight social media sensations. But when Kevin and Ernest investigate the mystery of Ernest's past, they become a target of the CIA.
Cat’s Point of View:
I have been super excited to watch We Have a Ghost ever since watching the trailer during our stream prior to February’s Top 20 list. Selina and I both had this film in our top 10 anticipated movies. 

It was well deserving of that placement. We Have a Ghost actually exceeded my expectations. There was so much more depth to the story than I picked up from the trailer. I went on a full roller-coaster of emotions while on this adventure - I even got a bit misty by the end. 

David Harbour (Black Widow, Stranger Things, Violent Night) was a great choice to play the ghost. It had to be a challenging part, considering that he had no speaking lines at all - but he was absolutely up to the task. I honestly couldn’t imagine anyone else filling those ectoplasmic shoes. The whole cast did well, really. The performances were spot on. I enjoyed the redemptive arc the family went through, as well. 

This wasn’t your average ghost story. We Have a Ghost found ways to make the whole ghostly experience relevant to today’s world by embracing technology, various modern media such as TikTok and YouTube, and the whole ‘content creator’ aspect. I had a real giggle over Jennifer Coolidge’s (Gravity Falls, Promising Young Woman, Shotgun Wedding) medium show. 

Writer and director Christopher Landon (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Happy Death Day, Freaky) has added one more to the list of why he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite storytellers. Of course, it ran in his family. His dad, Michael Landon (1936-1991), was the star of several of the shows I enjoyed in my youth such as Little House on the Prairie (1974-1984) and Highway to Heaven (1984-1989). I digress…

When dealing with paranormal-centric productions, there’s always the big question of whether or not the special effects surrounding the haunting, or what have you, are believable and well executed. We Have a Ghost didn’t disappoint there, either. While the properties of Harbour’s “Ernest” bucked some points of ghostly lore, overall the aesthetics worked really well. 

Over all, We Have a Ghost was a funny and heartwarming family story. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, and I’ll even be watching it again soon because my daughter wants to watch it with me again from the beginning. She had joined me halfway through my viewing for review and was as glued to the story as I was.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 39%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 61%
Metascore – 53%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Strange World (2022)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Strange World (2022)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation
Length: 1h 42min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, Disney+
Directors: Don Hall, Qui Nguyen
Writer: Qui Nguyen
Actors: Alan Tudyk, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, Jaboukie Young-White, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lucy Liu
IMDb Blurb: The legendary Clades are a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest and most crucial mission.

Cat’s Point of View:
I would have to admit that Strange World was, indeed, a bit strange. At the same time, it was a lot of fun. 

Before I go further, I feel that I really should give Disney a round of applause for the inclusion of the Clade family’s tripod dog, Legend. That slightly dim, yet heartwarming three-legged ragamuffin was low-key the glue that kept everyone together. I have to tip my proverbial hat to productions that underscore the fact that just because some pets have challenges or look different, it doesn’t make them less deserving of a loving home. 

Seriously, though, a lot of my giggles throughout Strange World came from something silly that Legend did. 

So much of Strange World felt relatable. Even though this family found themselves in a fairly alien landscape, they still had their own issues to work through - and on a generational level, at that. In addition to that, the not-so-subtle undertones of encouraging environmental stewardship were cleverly presented. I thought the trading card game was a nice touch. 

While the visuals were a bit odd, they made so much more sense on a second watch-through. My family and I had watched Strange World as soon as it was available on Disney+, so I was glad to give myself a refresher today. I found myself having quite a few lightbulb moments. I also giggled a little when I realized Dennis Quaid (The Pretenders, American Underdog, Blue Miracle) was playing the patriarch of the Clade family. He has a bit of a meta-connection to the plot that likely unintentionally occurred. Unfortunately, it would be giving extreme spoilers to explain. 

Strange World presents itself as a fairly diverse and inclusive tale of family, adventure, and environmentalism but doesn’t lose sight of the fact that it is, after all, an animated movie. I do feel the need to mention that some of the creatures depicted in Strange World might be a bit alarming for very small children. Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind giving this movie a recommendation for a fun family activity.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 66%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –72%
Metascore – 65%
Metacritic User Score – 3.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 20, 2023

True Spirit (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: True Spirit (2023)
Genre: Adventure, Biography, Drama
Length: 1h 49min
Rating: TV-PG
Production/Distribution: Resonate Entertainment, Martin Chase Productions, Sunstar Entertainment, The Rebel Fleet, Netflix
Director: Sarah Spillane
Writers: Rebecca Banner, Cathy Randall, Sarah Spillane
Actors: Anna Paquin, Cliff Curtis, Teagan Croft, Josh Lawson, Todd Lasance, Alyla Browne, Alice Tate, Bridget Webb, Freya Callaghan, Stacy Clausen, Vivien Turner
IMDb Blurb: The story of Australian teenager, Jessica Watson, the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop around the world.

Selina’s Point of View:
There are a lot of good messages in True Spirit.
Obviously, True Spirit was inspirational. That was the point of the whole thing. It was why people were drawn to Jessica Watson’s story to begin with. That idea of finding a dream and working tirelessly toward it until it’s successful is something a lot of people aspire to. It seems easy from afar, but no dream comes without risks and failures. It becomes easier to give up than to stick to it.
Stories like the one in True Spirit show what it’s like to have everyone telling you that what you are trying to do is impossible – even laughable. Then it shows what can happen when you go through with it anyway.
True Spirit also touches on how quickly adults are willing to discredit a teenager. At 16-years-old, a person is still a child, but it’s also entirely possible for them to have 10-years of experience in something. A lot of people start being interested in things as kids and learn as they grow. Although many do opt to go down different paths, there are those that stick with it for their entire lives. It does all of humanity a disservice to overlook that.

Just like adults, teens deserve to be judged based on their own personal accomplishments and hard work.
Then there’s the fact that Watson was dyslexic. I love how they showed her struggle with the numbers and positions of her boat.
My personal brand of learning disability is ADHD. When people aren’t outright trying to downplay it and tell me that it’s fake, they’re overplaying it and deciding it has something to do with my intelligence and capabilities. When I was in school, I actively avoided all help offered to me based on my ADHD because the school made damn sure I knew it came with strings. To this day, at least in my state, the schools will only agree to screen for things like ADHD and dyslexia if you agree to a lesser education.

Media, like True Spirit, helps to remove some of the stigma from learning disabilities. A true story where someone overcomes their difficulties to succeed is relatable. Relatable content makes a difference.
It would have been less effective if it wasn’t a decent flick on its own.
True Spirit was heartwarming and honest. It never felt overly Lifetime-esk, and it left me with goosebumps at the end.
I was really impressed by the climax. The creators of True Spirit did something most don’t. It took the true story and actually downplayed it a bit. Most films hype things up and make things more pulse-pounding. In the case of True Spirit, they played up the drama and toned down the action – which made more sense for the way the story was told. It hit harder. I think if they would have gone the action route, the movie would have suffered.
I also appreciated the clips from Watson’s real-life homecoming and blog that played at the end. Seeing the real Jessica Watson do the things she was portrayed as doing made everything stick a little more. It reminds me of the end of Selena (1997). It’s not something that always works, but when it’s done right, it’s memorable.
True Spirit was an inspiring watch, and I would absolutely recommend it. 
Cat’s Point of View:
I was entranced by the trailer for True Spirit when we watched leading up to February’s Top 20 list. It struck me as a heartfelt adventure story that could shine some hope into today’s bleak atmosphere - especially since it was based on a true story. Of course, I love the ocean and have always had a romantic notion about life at sea. In reality, however, I know nothing of sailing, and even being out on a cruise ship is slightly terrifying. I digress…
True Spirit was cast well and I adored the peek into Jessica Watson’s family as well as her journey. Teagan Croft (The Osiris Child, Titans, Woman of a Certain Sage) deftly captured the determination of the intrepid teen to pursue her dream of solo global circumnavigation. Really, the whole gauntlet of emotions Watson experienced was well depicted. 

The cinematography was stunning and gave us a great perspective on both the up-close and macro scales for Watson’s life at sea. The storm waves felt real and some shots of the ocean and sky were breathtaking. I’m not sure whether they used real footage or CGI in some places, to be honest. (Specifically speaking of a particular sunrise in the movie.)
Further, I really appreciated how True Spirit subtly handled the portrayal of Watson’s dyslexia. Not only did True Spirit show us that learning disabilities shouldn’t be a hindrance to our dreams if we work hard enough, but it also showed that there are ways to work through such challenges. I adored that this true adventure story underscored that it’s OK not to be OK. That resonates to a monumental degree. We’re all going through something right now – we just need to get to the other side because things can and will get better.
True Spirit is one of those movies that even people who are not really fans of biographies might enjoy. I was invested to the point that I forgot the passage of time while watching. This is one film that I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for something relatively family-friendly with a positive message that’s not a cookie-cutter repeat of everything else out there. 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 79%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –72%
Metascore – 50%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

P.S. - There are some scenes during the credits that show footage from the real journey of Jessica Watson that the movie is based on.
Movie Trailer: