Friday, April 14, 2023

Hunger (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Hunger (2023) 
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Length:  2h 26min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Song Sound Production
Director: Sitisiri Mongkolsiri
Writer: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee
Actors: Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Kenneth Won, Nopachai Chaiyanam,
Gunn Svasti Na Ayudhya, Bhumibhat Thavornsiri
IMDb Blurb: A woman running her family's noodle restaurant receives an invitation to join the fine-dining industry under the tutelage of an infamous chef.
Cat’s Point of View:
Hunger caught my attention while we were looking through trailers for movies releasing in April. I tend to watch a lot of culinary shows. I like a wide variety from productions such as Chopped (2007-) and MasterChef USA (2010-) to the seasonal baking competitions and the like. They tend to blend education and entertainment for me, making them some of my current favorites. 

The point I’m getting to is that the dictatorial chef in Hunger struck me as a fictionalized Thai version of Gordon Ramsay’s (Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, Next Level Chef) hard-line persona. While Hunger wasn’t a comedy at all, that internal comparison I couldn’t help making with that first impression made me giggle a little and certainly whet my palate for wanting to watch this movie. 

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between Hunger and The Menu (2022). While I have to agree that there’s a level of similar social commentary between the two films, it’s not quite in the same ballpark. Hunger did have an undercurrent of darkness in it, but it came from a more psychological standpoint and a look at what becomes of the choices made on the protagonist’s journey to join the ranks of top echelon chefs. Hunger explored the sacrifice of self in order to fit a mold while also taking a harsh glance at class disparity and personal moral compass. 

Hunger took the story to some places I didn’t expect, while playing out generally how I anticipated it would. It might be more of a thrilling and shocking experience for those not that familiar with the culinary world and the level of sacrifice its professionals make in their personal lives. 

The set pieces were well done and there were some outright gorgeous moments of cinematography. The story and cast delivered some real gut-punch moments within this solidly acted production. 

I don’t really have any negatives to offer regarding Hunger, and yet - apropos to the titular theme of the movie - somehow it still left me wanting a little more. 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 78%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 62%
Metascore – none
Metacritic User Score – none
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Kids vs. Aliens (2023)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Kids vs. Aliens (2023)
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Length: 1h 15min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Yer Dead, Shut Up & Colour Pictures, Bloody Disgusting, Cinepocalypse Productions, Studio71, RLJE Films, Shudder
Director: Jason Eisener
Writer: Jason Eisener, John Davies
Actors: Dominic Mariche, Phoebe Rex, Calem MacDonald, Asher Grayson, Ben Tactor, Emma Vickers, Isaiah Fortune, Jonathan Torrens
Blurb from IMDb: An all-time rager of a teen house party turns to terror when aliens attack, forcing two warring siblings to band together to survive the night.

Selina’s Point of View:
Kids vs. Aliens was almost everything I was hoping for. It was weird, gritty, and still somewhat endearing.
I’ll be the first to admit that it wouldn’t be for everyone. You need to have a love for these kinds of films. I, personally, have that love. I grew up with it. Most 80s kids did. For us, this kind of flick is almost nostalgic. Kids vs. Aliens lives up to what those older science fictions, and creature features, made me feel.
The campy acting and familiar teen stereotypes made me smile – right up until some ballsy choices were made. Most flicks would have gone in much more predictable directions. Taking that hard left with certain characters felt new. You have to respect that.

I was hoping for a bit more comedy – but that’s on me. It’s not marketed as any kind of comedy. That’s just my personal preference. I do also think that it would have been better if the aliens had been more of a surprise. If they weren’t in the title or the marketing, there could have been a bit more mystery around what was going on. You don’t actually get aliens until the middle of the film (except for a short scene in the beginning with unrelated characters). The movie was taken more seriously than played for laughs, so I think that hold-back would have upped the tension ten-fold.
The climax was still pretty badass.
I think Kids vs. Aliens is worth streaming. It will be available through Shudder on April 14.

Cat’s Point of View:
The premise of Kids vs. Aliens seemed to promise a ludicrous romp through alien invasion horror. I expected it to fall into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category.
The story painted a picture of protagonists you wanted to root for, and set up a foundation for events well before the aliens even entered the picture. It felt like the old-school “kids on bikes” sort of throwback adventures… but put into a blender with graphic horror content. Don’t forget the aliens. (I know I won’t.)
Let’s talk a little bit about the effects used in Kids vs. Aliens. Sure, the production had a bit of a low-budget feel, but I think they did a great job. The aliens were really creepy and clearly managed with practical effects. The setting was great to facilitate the story. Even the kids’ movie props were believable and fit what I would expect from the sort of scenario depicted in the movie. There was really only one creature on the alien team involved with the film that took me out of things a bit and had me saying “really??” out loud as I was watching. It generally worked anyway and didn’t entirely disrupt my enjoyment of the movie as a whole.
When we watched the trailer, we had discussed the trivia tidbit that Kids vs. Aliens was an expanded adaptation from the short segment “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” from V/H/S/2 (2013). The writing partnership of John Davies (Hobo with a Shotgun, V/H/S/2, The Luckiest Most Unlucky Man in the World) and Jason Eisner (Treevenge, The ABCs of Death: Y is for Youngbuck, Dark Side of the Ring), with Eisner at the directing helm, was also responsible for the short this film was based on.

I’m glad they re-visited that story. I didn’t really like any of the characters in the short. There wasn’t anyone to root for – except the poor dog. It’s no wonder the pooch got top billing for the segment. With Kids vs. Aliens, we got to see a reimagining of the story with a bit more character development and a peek into a more of the alien shenanigans. There’s even a bit of a twist that I should have seen coming and surprised me all the same. It wasn’t even given away by the trailers (and the scenes in the trailers gave away quite a bit).
The post-credits scene had me cheering.
I see that it’s getting a lot of divisive reviews due to the “coarse language”, and I think critics really just need to suck it up and realize that a film doesn’t have to watch its Ps and Qs to be fun. I think they should have taken a note from the tagline on the poster that says “F*ck Space” and watched with that understanding.
Was Kids vs. Aliens ground-breaking cinema expecting awards and accolades? No, not hardly. It was, however, a fun experience and I wouldn’t say no to watching it again with my 19-year-old once it releases.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 56%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 69%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –6.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4/5
P.S. After-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)

Streaming Service: Starz
Movie Name/Year: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Length: 1h 47min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Burr! Productions, Embassy Films, Lionsgate, Saturn Films, Starz
Director: Tom Gormican
Writer: Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Paco León, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Mo Sheen, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Katrin Vankova, Ike Barinholtz
Blurb from IMDb: Moviestar Nick Cage is channeling his iconic characters as he's caught between a superfan and a CIA agent.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It’s in the top 5, easily.
I have never seen anything like it, and yet it also managed to reference just about everything. I expected plenty of Nic Cage (Willy’s Wonderland, The Rock, Pig) references, but Paddington 2 (2017)?
I digress.
Even with the cringe comedy moments, which I usually cannot tolerate, I found The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent to be just about perfect. Even in the marketing. The trailer managed to tell the absolute truth about the film, without a single spoiler. Not just that, but the movie itself shifts into something completely unexpected.
I never knew what was going to happen next. Even when I could predict a twist, the WAY it happened was still completely out there. Yet, believable. The foreshadowing was second to none.

As for Nicolas Cage, he gives his best performance ever. Before now, my favorite Cage movie was probably Face/Off (1997) – bit of a basic choice but we all have our favorites. Now it’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and I cannot conceive of anything that could dethrone it. Even if he amazes in something else, the part won’t be nearly as tailor fit for him. He plays a version of himself that’s so well done, in both script and performance, that it feels more like Nic Cage than any of his live interviews.
Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, The Last of Us, The Bubble) has become a darling of Hollywood for a reason. He’s got a very down-to-earth feel to him, even though he’s a bit on the looney side in this flick. That tweak to his usual performances works when pair with Cage. There’s more chemistry there than between any two actors in any other movie I’ve seen.
Long before The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was made into a film, it was listed as one of the best unproduced manuscripts ever written. Now that I’ve seen it, I get it.
The dialogue is so clean. Even when characters are completely bonkers, it still feels right. Like if it’d been written any other way, it would have hurt the entirety of the project. There was only one possible script that would make this idea successful, and the writers made every correct choice.
I cannot recommend The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent more. It is exactly the movie we needed.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 87%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 87%
Metascore – 68%
Metacritic User Score – 7.3
IMDB Score –7.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Movie Trailer: