Friday, March 24, 2023

Say My Name (2019)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: Say My Name (2019)
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Crime
Length:  1h 23m
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Electric Entertainment, Peacock
Director: Jay Stern
Writers: Deborah Frances-White
Actors: Alan Cox, Celyn Jones, Deborah Frances-White, Grant Crookes, Gwen Ellis, Jamie de Courcey, Laurence Dobiesz, Lisa Brenner, Mark Bonnar, Melanie Walters, Nick Blood, Peter Davison
IMDb Blurb: Mary and Statton's one-night stand at a hotel gets interrupted by a robbery, and the complete strangers are forced to help each other navigate the seedy underbelly of a sleepy Welsh island in order to get back their stolen property.
Cat’s Point of View:
I am always ready to watch anything that’s adjacent to British comedy. The story in Say My Name is set on a little island in Wales, so that’s definitely fitting the UK prerequisite! This production didn’t have a lot of slang, though, so it would be fairly easy for anyone to follow along without needing to google phrases. (I love the slang, to be honest, so I was missing a little more of that here.) 

One of the things I enjoy about the Brit comedies is the banter. We’ve talked about that before here at Trust the Dice a lot, I think. Banter can make or break a film depending on how it plays out. If it’s stilted or poorly executed, it can make the whole experience take a nose-dive. Here, with Say My Name, the back-and-forth exchanges felt natural and I enjoyed them. 
The situations that followed the interruption of the already rocky one-night-stand in progress were hilarious. Was it the funniest thing I’ve ever seen? Maybe not, but I was definitely entertained. The antagonists were interesting as they bumbled their way through their heist and the events that followed. There were a few moments of the story that I just didn’t quite expect. Then there was also the 5th Doctor, Peter Davison (Doctor Who, Gentleman Jack, The Larkins) showing up as a character, as well, that had me giggling to myself. 

That being said, there wasn’t anything that made this stand out as something I’m going to remember or be quoting in the future. It’s not a bad thing, as I had a fun time watching the shenanigans. 

I feel I need to make a slight disclaimer with my review of Say My Name

My area is under a “Red Weather Alert” today and the storms are moving in. My anxiety is ramping up a bit so I’m not sure if that has colored my perception of this movie or not. I’d like to think that it hasn’t, but storm days are funny that way. Sufficed to say, Say My Name is definitely worth giving a chance if you want to decide for yourself! 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –88%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.9/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

Movie Name/Year: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Length:  2h 14min
Rating: PG-13
Production/Distribution: Paramount Pictures, Entertainment One, Allspark Pictures, Hasbro Studios, Hasbro, Paramount Pictures International, United International Pictures (UIP), Universal Pictures International (UPI)
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writers: Michael Gilio, John Francis Daley, Chris McKay, Jonathan Goldstein
Actors: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Rege-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Alexis Rodney, Bryan Larkin, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head, Dan Poole, Edgar Abram, Jason Wong, Kenneth Collard, Lati Gbaja, Nicholas Blane, Sophia Eleni, Spencer Wilding, Bradley Cooper
IMDb Blurb: A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
Cat’s Point of View:
Where do I even begin? I have so many thoughts swirling through me in the wake of watching Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I am ecstatic to advise that none of them are patently negative. 

I suppose we should just roll initiative and start from the top. 

When I penned the Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in March 2023 article, I expressed my decidedly few reservations about watching this movie. I spent a long time debating with myself whether or not I felt I needed to make the proverbial stand because of Hasbro’s recent bad behavior or if there were more tick marks in the positives column after all. Then I read an announcement that Amazon Prime members were getting an opportunity for a special early screening of the film on March 19th. It was my husband’s birthday weekend and the excitement that our whole family had for that experience helped me make up my mind. 
For those die-hard D&D gamers, fans, and content creators alike who are aware of what happened with Wizards of the Coast and the Open Gaming License debacle, please understand that this was not a decision made lightly. Our family has deep-rooted ties to the D&D franchise dating back to its origins. My husband used to game at Gygax’s table and was the one that brought me into my love for the tabletop game. I was a fan, however, long before I rolled any dice due to the Saturday morning cartoon that ran from 1983-1985. It remains one of my favorites of all time. 

Those that love this framework that gives imagination flight and teaches long-form storytelling, group dynamics, and critical thinking deserved a movie that got it all right. There have been attempts in the past that fell short of expectations. It was about time that mainstream Hollywood took this corner of geek culture seriously. That was what got my attention the very first time I saw the trailer. It felt like the time had finally arrived. 

I was not disappointed. 

There are two primary facets to my review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The first is this - you don’t have to know anything about D&D to enjoy this movie. 

Anyone who simply enjoys the fantasy and action/adventure genres should find plenty to love within this production. There are heists, castles, dazzling action, gorgeous special effects with a liberal use of practical, interesting in-depth characters, and freaking dragons. There’s excellent fight choreography and skillful cinematography. The humor was on point, as well. Even the end credits had me giggling due to the animated segments reminded me of the style used by Monty Python. 

Then you add in this fantastic cast, and you’ve got a blockbuster movie by all accounts. Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins, Paddington 2, The Undoing), Chris Pine (Outlaw King, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, All the Old Knives), and RegĂ©-Jean Page (Bridgerton, The Gray Man, The Sandman) would be enough to lend weight to most films, but then their presence barely scratched the surface. Michelle Rodriguez (Widows, Alita: Battle Angel, F9: The Fast Saga), Justice Smith (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, Ron's Gone Wrong, Jurassic World: Dominion), Sophia Lillis (It, Gretel & Hansel, I Am Not Okay with This), and Daisy Head (Ophelia, Wrong Turn, Shadow and Bone) are recognizable in their own right for their excellent work. 

You don’t have to be someone who plays D&D to enjoy Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I promise. 

It does, however, add extra depth to this film for those that do. This section of my review is for all of you out there. 

This is the first time I’ve watched a D&D movie where I recognized creatures, spells, locations, and lore-based characters from the source material. The scenes with the owl-bear shifted druid, the mimic, and the gelatinous cube were everything I hoped they would be and then some. There are even more creature-related nuggets within this production, and so many Easter Eggs but I don’t want to spoil all of the “OOH!” moments. 

The chromatic dragons were represented accurately, as well as all of the other races they chose to depict within the melting pot of the Forgotten Realms setting. Well…except one. My ONLY quibble with the entire movie was the practical effects used for a single pair of background characters. It was a single drop of meh within an ocean of excitement and happiness. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves felt like I was watching a real campaign come to life on the screen. The cast worked so well within their roles - both within the story and as depicting their character classes. 

If there were faults within this movie, I was so giddy about everything as a whole that I didn’t notice and I honestly wouldn’t care. We need more of this, and I’m hopeful that this can be the beginning of a D&D based cinematic universe. The story within this film would allow for that, but even if not that - the vast volumes of source material out there leave things open to endless possibilities. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed. 

If you get a chance to watch Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, by all means please do so. It’s the fun and exciting time we all enjoy when we go to the movies, and it’s just the sort of balm for the soul while there’s so much negativity in the news and world at large. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves begins to hit theater screens with some sneek peek showings as early as March 26th, though its wide release date remains March 31st. No streaming information is available at this time, though since Paramount is one of the production companies involved, it’s likely to hit Paramount+ after the prerequisite theatrical run.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –None
Metascore – 76%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – None
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5

P.S. - There is a brief mid-credits scene, as well as animated vignettes during the beginning of the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, March 20, 2023

Boston Strangler (2023)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Boston Strangler (2023)
Genre: History, Drama, Crime
Length:  1h 52min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: 20th Century Studios, Langley Park Productions, LuckyChap Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Warner Bros., Hulu
Director: Matt Ruskin
Writer: Matt Ruskin
Actors: Keira Knightley, Carrie Coon, Chris Cooper, David Dastmalchian, Alessandro Nivola, Ivan Martin, Jon Lindstrom, Kris Sidberry, Mellanie Hubert, Morgan Spector, Owen Burke, Robert John Burke, Rory Cochrane
IMDb Blurb: Loretta McLaughlin was the reporter who first connected the murders and broke the story of the Boston Strangler. She and Jean Cole challenged the sexism of the early 1960s to report on the city's most notorious serial killer.

Selina’s Point of View:
Boston Strangler was an old-fashioned crime film.
Any unnecessary convolution, or heart-pounding action, that a modern crime story might have utilized was replaced by intrigue and tension. It reminded me more of the old black-and-white crime films than anything else. I was impressed. Boston Strangler took something that most filmmakers have left in the past and showed that there’s still a place for it in our current cinematic landscape.
I thought it was moving slow, but when I checked the runtime, I was actually about halfway through. Boston Strangler simply had a setup that I wasn’t entirely used to anymore.
I figured it would be a bit like a 2-hour episode of Criminal Minds (2005 -). Mostly mystery, with some high tension and a touch of police action. Instead, it reminded me more of Murder She Wrote (1984-1996). A slow burn that has more energy in the characterizations and mystery than anything else.
That kind of thing can be hit or miss for me. If there was even a little less quality to it, I would have lost focus. I never had that issue, though.
I think a lot of my interest came from just how well Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, Colette, Silent Night) portrayed Loretta McLaughlin. She was poised and intense. I followed the story as closely as I did because her curiosity was infectious.
My only complaint would have been the ending. I felt like it was a little anti-climactic. But that’s it.
I’m surprised by how good Boston Strangler was. I would absolutely recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:
I settled in with a blanket, a good beverage, and some burning curiosity as I began my viewing experience with Boston Strangler. It seemed like a perfect fit for this final gasp of winter cold snap that we’re having. I was just hoping that a low-energy spell wouldn’t send me snoozing before it was done. I’m happy to report that I was engrossed enough in this movie that fatigue could not pull me under. 

When I listed Boston Strangler in March’s Top 20, I mentioned part of my reasoning for placement was due to the fact that this particular piece of history doesn’t come up a lot. I’d only vaguely remembered that the Boston Strangler was even “a thing,” much less any details about the criminal cases. We hear so much about other historical travesties and their masterminds, yet this generally unsolved murder spree has slipped through so many cracks. It’s a deserving story with an important underlying message - don’t let anyone in your home that you haven’t vetted first; especially if you’re alone. 

Beyond that, this was a breakthrough for women in the workplace in journalism and otherwise for that era. 

Boston Strangler gave me a lot of crime noir vibes with its approach to the production. We just had a pair of intrepid reporters hot on the trail of this story instead of a smooth-talking gumshoe in a trenchcoat and fedora. There weren’t any flashy chase scenes or overtly grisly imagery, and yet the tale spun was still full of grit and tension. I became invested in the case and concerned for the well-being of these ladies. Everything was to the point, and very well executed. 

The cast really knocked this one out of the park, as well. Powerful performances drove Boston Strangler home and made what otherwise might be a dry procedural drama feel so much more intense. 

True crime tales have become a pop culture touchstone in recent years. Fans of that genre should likely appreciate Boston Strangler, but I believe that it could appeal to wider audiences as well. If you have Hulu, it’s definitely worth giving a chance. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 62%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 76%
Metascore – 60%
Metacritic User Score – 5.6/10
IMDB Score – 6.5/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer: