Saturday, January 6, 2024

Top 10 Favorite New Discoveries We Reviewed in 2023

According to: Selina

[Note: These are the best films that we reviewed on Trust the Dice in 2023 that were released in previous years.]
2023 was a bit of an odd year for movies. Although we got some extremely memorable flicks, like Barbie and Oppenheimer, we missed out on a lot of other titles. Some got delayed while others were released during a time when we refused to talk about them. As a result, the majority of what we watched and loved was from previous years. We had an issue whittling it down to only 10, but this is what we came up with.
10 – Honor Society (2022) 

Reviewed on: June 19
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Rated: TV-MA
Length: 1h 38min
Selina’s Rating: 4.5
Cat’s Rating: 3.5
IMDb Blurb: Honor's sole focus is getting into Harvard. Willing to do whatever it takes, Honor concocts a plan to take down her top three competitors, until things take a turn when she unexpectedly falls for her biggest competition.
Honor Society looked so much like a basic teen rom-com at first, that my hopes were just about non-existent. I knew I liked a couple of the actors, but I had my doubts that there’d be anything else going for it.
And then that big twist hit and, goodness, did that change things.
No one could have predicted that late-in-the-film flip. It came out of seemingly left field and made me audibly gasp. It also made Honor Society extremely rewatchable. I’ve since gone back to it a few times to check for all the little bits of foreshadowing I missed.
9 – Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) 
Reviewed on: June 23
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror
Rated: R
Length: 1h 39min
Selina’s Rating: 4
Cat’s Rating: 5
IMDb Blurb: Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family.
Trust the Dice is a zombie-loving blog. Cat and I are both big fans of the undead horror creatures. We’re also fans of horror with comedy. I don’t remember what took us so long to get to Zombieland: Double Tap, but it was always destined to get a decent score from us.
Zombieland: Double Tap was fun to watch. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but that’s hardly unusual for a sequel.
8 – Smile (2022) 

Reviewed on: January 11
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 1h 55min
Selina’s Rating: 3.5
Cat’s Rating: 5
IMDb Blurb: After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, a psychiatrist becomes increasingly convinced she is being threatened by an uncanny entity.
January is a film desert. Everyone’s broke from Christmas, no one’s spending money on the theater, and all the production companies just mass-release the worst – or riskiest – of their new projects. That’s why we tend to rely on releases from previous years in that first month. Smile was one of the first flicks we watched in 2023.
I’ll admit, I didn’t absolutely love it at first. I gave it a 3.5, which is not bad, but I couldn’t understand Cat’s perfect 5. Until I sat with it for a little while.
Smile grew on me. There are some scenes that were so creepy that they stayed with me, clear in my memory, for an entire year. The ending also had time to sink in a bit and, as a result, I’d say that I’d amend my score to a 4.5.  
7 – Glass Onion (2022)

Reviewed on: January 18
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 2h 19min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 4
IMDb Blurb: Tech billionaire Miles Bron invites his friends for a getaway on his private Greek island. When someone turns up dead, Detective Benoit Blanc is put on the case.
Knives Out (2019) was an insane film. I watched it, and forced others to watch it, about a hundred times since it’s release. Needless to say, I was ready for the sequel.
Glass Onion turned out to be exactly what I wanted it to be. A whole new Benoit Blanc mystery with hijinks and intrigue enough for all. The cast was outstanding, and the setting was just as unique as the Blanc character. Glass Onion has its critics, but we’re not among them.
6 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) 
Reviewed on: June 2
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13
Length: 2h 4min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 5
Growing up in the 80s there was no escape from the Ghostbusters (1984). No one saw it as a bad thing, either. It was a hell of a movie, with a fun follow up. It was enough fun for people to continue falling in love with the original right up until now. Even the original attempt at a remake didn’t kill the Ghostbusters for people.
Now, Ghostbusters: Afterlife wasn’t a reboot/remake of any kind, it was a sequel. It followed someone related to one of the original Ghostbusters and it kept the feel of the original 80s flick. We even got to see the original actors.
Although we understand that some of our love for Ghostbusters: Afterlife might be member-berry related, it’s still a flick that stuck with us.
5 – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) 

Reviewed on: February 10
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Rated: PG-13
Length: 2h 41min
Selina’s Rating: 4
Cat’s Rating: 4
IMDb Blurb: The people of Wakanda fight to protect their home from intervening world powers as they mourn the death of King T'Challa.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a great film. The only reason it’s so low on our list is because of how heartbreaking it is. It was a cinematic funeral for the beloved Chadwick Boseman and it felt like it.
I rewatch the original Black Panther (2018) occasionally, I don’t see myself doing the same with Wakanda Forever. Simply because of that heart-wrenching feeling I get when I do. It’s a movie we’d recommend any Marvel fan watch once.
4 – The Menu (2022) 
Reviewed on: January 9
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 1h 47min
Selina’s Rating: 4.5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: A young couple travels to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises.
Did anyone really see The Menu coming? The trailers were intriguing, but there was no way anyone predicted the depth of what it could be in the full run-time. It was thrilling, brilliantly written, and acted to absolute perfection.
The moral behind it all just elevated it.
I love it even more the longer I sit with it.
3 – Bullet Train (2022)

Reviewed on: January 25
Genre: Action, Comedy, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 2h 7min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 5
IMDb Blurb: Five assassins aboard a swiftly-moving bullet train find out that their missions have something in common.
Although the lack of good new movies is what drives us to watch releases from previous years, it’s also when we like to catch up on the movies from the year before, or that were released in the December that just passed. It’s why so many of our favorite new discoveries are from 2022.
We were extremely interested in Bullet Train when it came out, but we had no idea it was going to be such a gold mine for banter. It’s one of my favorite banter films of all time now. Is it a no-brain popcorn flick? Yeah, with great fight choreography and a script that’ll hold your attention for the entire 2 hour run time.
2 – Clerks III (2022) 

Reviewed on: May 12
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 1h 40min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 5
IMDb Blurb: Dante, Elias, and Jay and Silent Bob are enlisted by Randal after a heart attack to make a movie about the convenience store that started it all.
I cannot say enough about Clerks III.
I’m a Kevin Smith fan-girl and I’ve been following him for a long time. Clerks (1994) was the first movie I watched by him and seeing where it’s gone since then has been incredible. Even ignoring the spin-offs.
The complete Clerks trilogy is like a timeline of who Smith is as a creator. You can see his growth as a writer/director throughout all three of them. The first Clerks was him just showing a bit of his life and trying to add anything to make it interesting. The second film was right around when he was starting to admit he was done with Hollywood. He was disillusioned and just pushing to every limit that comedy would allow. It leaned hard into the ridiculous.
Clerks III was done by an older, settled, post-heart attack, Kevin Smith. He told his story in a more honest way. There was a more down-to-earth, if very meta, plot. And the ending was just that. It was the completion of a trilogy told through decades of rising through ambition, disillusionment, and – finally – comfort. The difference between 1994 Smith and 2022 Smith is insane, and beautiful.
From start to finish, behind the scenes, Clerks is a story of growth we can all identify with.
1 – The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) 

Reviewed on: April 10
Genre: Action, Crime, Comedy
Rated: R
Length: 1h 47min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: Moviestar Nick Cage is channeling his iconic characters as he's caught between a superfan and a CIA agent.
With how long it took to get The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent made, it’s insane that it was as good as it was.
The script appeared on the 2019 Black List, which is a list of adored scripts that have no source of production. It was delayed a few times, rumored long before it was finally picked up and, when it was, it was rumored that Nicolas Cage would NEVER play himself in a film.
When it finally came out, we were all salivating to see it.
It was the best movie we saw in 2023, I think. There’s room for argument, movies are ultimately subjective, but in my opinion I had no more filmy fun than I did while watching The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.  

Friday, January 5, 2024

Top 10 Best New Movies of 2023

According to: Cat
[Note: These are the best new movies of the year that we’ve reviewed on Trust the Dice. If it wasn't reviewed on the site, it's not eligible.]
Reviewed on: Monday June 12, 2023
Genre: Drama, History, Horror
Rated: Unrated (Our recommended rating was R)
Length: 1h 32min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: Five military veterans, best friends since childhood, gather together to support their troubled host, and the metaphoric ghosts of their past become all-too-literal.
Brooklyn 45 is one of the very few movies we weren’t mad at for a misleading trailer. It set us up to expect a generic séance movie, and yet Brooklyn 45 was so much more than that.
As I mentioned in our review, the narrative delves so far deeper than a group of friends gathered to help one of their own deal with the tragic and senseless loss of his wife. It was steeped in the emotional aftermath of war (WWII) and the risks when prejudice meets zealous ideals. There were so many nuances layered into this tale. 
The psychological aspect laced with paranoia woven into the expected paranormal took this film to a place we just didn’t see coming, and that says a lot. We watch so many movies that it’s pretty easy to tell how things will play out more often than not. We really enjoy when productions throw our expectations to the wind (in a way that makes sense).
In the time since our review, it seems that critics have warmed up to Brooklyn 45 more and audiences have been a little less impressed. We can only implore that if this genre is your cup of tea, and you have a Shudder subscription, that you give this one a chance.
9 – Hunger
Reviewed on: Friday, April 14, 2023
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Rated: TV-MA
Length: 2h 26min
Selina’s Rating: 4.5
Cat’s Rating: 3.5
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. 
Selina and I both agreed that Hunger was a really solid dramatic feature. When we had watched the trailer initially, we had felt that there might be a little more of a thriller aspect involved. That wasn’t the case but it didn’t do any disservice to the film.
Of course, there were some serious comparisons made between Hunger and The Menu (2022). While the latter does also lean in to the fanatical executive chef, some class aspects, and the moral compass of the characters; these two movies couldn’t be more different in tone.
If you’re not familiar with the culinary industry and the drive required to succeed on a high level, Hunger provides an eye-opening glimpse into that world and the sacrifices quite a few professional chefs make for success.
We didn’t have any negatives to offer for Hunger, and if you enjoy dramas and are interested in the culinary world – this is definitely going to be right up your alley. It was released as a Netflix original and should still be available on that platform.
 8Cocaine Bear
Reviewed on: Monday, May 8, 2023
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 1h 35min
Selina’s Rating: 3.5.
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.
Where do I even start?
Cocaine Bear was the crazy creature feature that no one saw coming this past year. Even crazier that it was actually GOOD. (Not to mention based very loosely on some true events. RIP Pablo Escobear.)
This insane drug-fueled woodsy roller-coaster ride checked all of our horror-comedy boxes and also offered some touching aspects on the side. It was as out-there as one would expect, and yet also very grounded. The general black bear nature facts employed were even legit (how fast they can climb, how you react to one vs. a brown bear, etc) …you know, except for the whole cocaine thing. The graphics were also actually pretty outstanding, all things considered.
We were impressed by the story, direction, and cast – and this was also one of the final performances of Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams, Shades of Blue, The Many Saints of Newark) before his passing.
Cocaine Bear has become one of my new go-to movies if I need a horror-comedy fix and I’m not looking for anything heavy or serious.
At the time of this article, Cocaine Bear is available with a Prime subscription as well as rentable on many digital platforms.
Reviewed on: Monday, February 20, 2023
Genre: Adventure, Biography, Drama 
Rated: TV-PG
Length: 1h 49min
Selina’s Rating: 4
Cat’s Rating: 4
IMDb Blurb: The story of Australian teenager, Jessica Watson, the youngest person ever to sail solo, non-stop around the world.
Neither Selina nor I expected to enjoy a movie about a girl in a boat quite this much. We don’t always have the attention span for dramatic biopics. Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised by how much the story of the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo by sailboat not only held our attention but left a lasting impression.
The themes regarding perseverance and mental health awareness are just the sort of messages that the world needs right now. It’s OK to not be OK. We have to put one foot in front of the other and push through as we tackle one problem at a time. It also goes a long way towards shining a light on the way that teens tend to be discounted when pursuing their dreams, and we need to take a harder look at that, as a society.
True Spirit had a lot of heart and impact.
This movie released as a Netflix original and at the time of this article is still available on that platform. 
6 – Unlocked
Reviewed on: Friday, February 17, 2023 
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Rated: TV-MA
Length: 1h 57min
Selina’s Rating: 4
Cat’s Rating: 4
IMDb Blurb: A woman's life is turned upside-down when a dangerous man gets a hold of her lost cell phone and uses it to track her every move.
I’m going to be honest. I hadn’t watched Unlocked yet prior to working on this Top 10 list with Selina. I could only go by her experience with this movie and how good it was … until today. (It had released in February and that is always a crazy month for me with Mardi Gras & my birthday so she had reviewed this one alone at the time.)
Holy crap that was terrifying.
I see now why she commented on how it lingered with her and how she’s become almost paranoid about forgetting her phone anywhere. I know I would be pretty lost without mine, but Unlocked was pretty eye-opening about just how dangerous these devices can be in the wrong hands.
Unlocked was unnerving, unsettling, and you can bet that the next time I can’t find my phone I might just have a panic attack.
I was on the edge of my seat and didn’t even care that I couldn’t read any of the script on the screen that wasn’t translated by subtitles. (The movie is available dubbed in English.)
Unlocked was released as a Netflix original and at the time of this article is still available on that platform.
Reviewed on: Friday, November 17, 2023
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 49min
Selina’s Rating: 3.5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: A troubled security guard begins working at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. During his first night on the job, he realizes that the night shift won't be so easy to get through. Pretty soon he will unveil what actually happened at Freddy's.
This is the movie that fans of the Five Nights at Freddy’s game franchise have been waiting for.
I just had a giggle that it ended up at the #5 spot on this list, and while this is where it just landed when Selina and I were discussing the movies we liked the best from 2023, it fits in some coincidental trippy way. I digress…
We both agree that there were some aspects that the film could have leaned into a bit more, and the rating restrictions left some good horror bits on the proverbial cutting room floor. Even so, this Five Nights at Freddy’s introduction into cinema off of the game screen was a really good start. It left us wanting more that can be delivered in future installments. There are multiple games, after all.
(As a side note, Selina also mentioned that there are videos out there of some of the scenes that were cut to meet the PG-13 rating requirements. If you want to see those bloody out-takes, they should be out there somewhere… or probably on the DVD/Blu-ray as extras.)
Five Nights at Freddy’s was a love letter to the fans of the gaming experience from the players to those that offer content on streaming platforms, and it was a pretty solid movie at the same time.
We loved the cast and we had a great time. This is a great movie to watch with friends, as well. We can’t wait for the next one. (Please let there be a next one!)
Five Nights at Freddy’s is currently available with a Peacock subscription and also on many rental platforms.
Reviewed on: Friday, February 24, 2023
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family
Rated: PG-13
Length: 2h 6min
Selina’s Rating: 4.5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
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. 
The closer we get to the “top” of this list, we’re really just splitting hairs on why one movie “out-ranks” another one here.
Both Selina and I just absolutely adored We Have a Ghost. We both scored this one as a 4.5/5, though, in retrospect I wish I’d give it a full-on 5 at review time.
Selina put it well the other day when we streamed our sorting process by saying that she thought it would just be silly and cute and it was that – but had some serious feels too. That pretty much sums it up. When I think about We Have a Ghost I just get warm fuzzies.
The whole cast for the most part did a great job here – though David Harbour (Stranger Things, Violent Night, Gran Turismo) was just absolutely amazing. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite actors of all time.
We Have a Ghost released as a Netflix original and is still available on that platform at the time of this article.
3 – Cram
Reviewed on: Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Genre: Fantasy, Horror 
Rated: Unrated (Our Recommended Rating was R)
Length: 44min
Selina’s Rating: 4
Cat’s Rating: 4
IMDb Blurb: We all do what we gotta do to pass - except Marc. Desperate to somehow finish his final final paper, he struggles to cram all night in the library. But the library has other plans for him.
Cram was a bit of a phenomenon for us this year. We were surprised when we were approached to screen this film and we were even more surprised when it blew us away. It’s even 4 minutes shy of not even being eligible for us to review based on movie length... yet, here it is defying the odds.
Selina and I resonated with Cram on a profound level. We both reacted in a fairly visceral way to this tale and the storytelling. This is a great example about what it’s like to live with ADHD and the executive dysfunction that more often than not goes with it. I can’t tell you how many times in school I was cramming and pulling long nights at the last minute because my brain just wouldn’t let me get it done any other way. I didn’t even know back then why. While the film’s creator didn’t originally intend to provide that message with this fantasy horror project, they appreciated that we took away something that was a lasting impression.
Selina mentioned that she has thought of this movie literally every day since she watched it.
If you have ADHD or you have a loved one that has it, this should generally be required viewing. Just saying.
At the time of this article, Cram is available on Tubi (with ads) and some digital rental platforms.
Reviewed on: Friday, June 16, 2023
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 2h 2min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 4.5
IMDb Blurb: After barely surviving his grievous wounds from his mission in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tyler Rake is back, and his team is ready to take on their next mission.
Selina and I both agree that when you put a stunt coordinator in the director’s seat and they have the drive and storytelling ability, you have the perfect recipe for excellent action movies.
We just can’t get enough of the Extraction films. The visuals were on point, the action was fast-paced, and the fight choreography was top notch. The amazing moments shown in the trailer such as the riot shield on fire during the fight were not even the best action scenes in the movie.
We didn’t even mind that, as Selina put it, they “yadda yadda’d” around the ending from the first movie to allow Extraction 2 to happen. We’ll gladly watch as many as they want to put out there, to be honest.
If you like good action, amazing stunt work, and good story you can’t go wrong with Extraction 2.
This movie was released as a Netflix original and is still available on that platform at the time of this article.

Reviewed on: Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13
Length: 2h 14min
Selina’s Rating: 5
Cat’s Rating: 5
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.
While I’m tempted to write “duh” as my reasoning for listing Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves as our #1 for 2023, I don’t mind expanding on that. Selina and I were unanimous in our desire to list this at the very “top.”
These days, D&D is more common-place. Everyone has at least heard of it, and it’s not something we have to hide in the basements anymore. Finally, society has generally come to the conclusion that playing the game isn’t trying to summon real devils, after all.
My geeky heart is happy that this story-driven game has reached mainstream. It teaches long-form storytelling, leadership, teamwork, strategy, resource management… and so much more. I’ll step down from my soapbox to focus more on the movie, though…
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was everything we hoped it would be – and then some. It was great as an introduction to lore for those unfamiliar with the tabletop role-playing game, and it was steeped with references and Easter eggs for those who have enjoyed the game and its sundry offshoots for years. 
It had a little bit of everything in it.The cast was phenomenal, the visuals were stunning, and the story was zany and perfect as if it was a campaign come to life on the screen. This is one of those movies that I wouldn’t mind watching over and over again. Each time I have, I’ve found a new little nugget to appreciate.
At the time of this article, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is currently available on Prime Video, Paramount+, and MGM+ with subscriptions as well as several rental platforms.