Friday, June 21, 2024

Agent Recon (2024)

Movie Name/Year: Agent Recon (2024)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Length: 1h 25min
Rating: Unrated
Director: Derek Ting
Writers: Derek Ting
Actors: Derek Ting, Marc Singer, Chuck Norris, Sylvia Kwan, Jason Scott Jenkins, Matthew Ryan Burnett, Nikki Leigh, Teo Briones, Christopher Showerman, Yarett Harper
Synopsis: A covert military task force tracks a mysterious energy disturbance at a secret base in New Mexico that is suspected of experimenting on alien technology. Once there, the team encounters an unknown being of extraordinary strength and speed, and the ability to control an army of mindless warriors. The trio must fight through the unstoppable hordes to prevent humanity’s demise.
Derek Ting (Star/Writer/Director) as Jim Yung in the Action/Sci-Fi, AGENT RECON, a Quiver
Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.
Cat’s Point of View:
When Selina and I watched the trailer for Agent Recon, we had a similar take on the production – it was either going to be a fun B-Movie experience featuring the legendary Chuck Norris (Sidekicks, Walker: Texas Ranger, The Expendables 2), or it was going to be ...well, awkward. I adore Chuck Norris and the trope-filled films and shows throughout his career. I giggle at every meme involving him. We're talking the man who was a meme-worthy legend before memes were even a thing.
I wanted Agent Recon to work on at least some level rather desperately. I didn't want to be the dream-dasher and the thief of joy. I longed to be able to give a thumbs up and say that it was what I'd hoped for. Unfortunately, it was more like what I'd dreaded. Underwhelming would be the better word.
Derek Ting (Star/Writer/Director) as Jim Yung and Chuck Norris as Alastair in the Action/Sci-Fi,
AGENT RECON, a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.
With action veterans such as Norris and Marc Singer (Eagle Eye, Arrow, The Undertaker's Wife) involved, I had really hoped for better. I get that neither are spring chickens in their mid 80s and 70s respectively, but there were ways to utilize their talent better that simply weren't explored.
I tend to enjoy movies that don't spoon-feed me all the world-building through constant exposition or monologue, but there has to be something there giving the story depth beyond moments glimpsed on the screen. I don't want to be monologued at, however, I do like to understand some basics about what is happening in the narrative. The narration provided in Agent Recon did help here, a little, but I still felt a little lost as events unfolded. At the same time, there were some pacing issues that wore at my ADD a bit. It was hard to stay focused. It felt like this was one single scene within a bigger story – that just ran on forever.
Marc Singer as Colonel Green in the Action/Sci-Fi, AGENT RECON, a Quiver Distribution
release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.
I think that there was a nugget of a good idea somewhere buried in Agent Recon, but that it suffered for trying to do too much at once, and some questionable camera-work. Then there was the Street-Fighter (video game) sort of Hadouken stuff going on that felt wildly out of place. I just don't even know how to address that part. It was quasi-explained, but it just left me saying “what?” and giving my screen some serious side-eye.
Unfortunately, I'd have to say that if you watch the trailer for Agent Recon, you're going to see all of the best bits from the movie in the most concise presentation available. I watched the full movie twice to ensure I didn't miss anything from nodding off, and still prefer the trailer. Still love Chuck Norris, even if this wasn't my favorite within his filmography.
Agent Recon released on June 21st and is available through On-Demand and Digital.
Derek Ting (Star/Writer/Director) in the Action/Sci-Fi, AGENT RECON, a Quiver Distribution
release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – PG-13
 Movie Trailer:

Friday, June 14, 2024

Exhuma (2024)

Streaming Service: Shudder 
Movie Name/Year: Exhuma (2024)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller 
Length: 2h 14min
Rating: Unrated
Director: Jang Jae-hyun
Writer: Jang Jae-hyun
Actors: Kim Go-eun, Choi Min-sik, Lee Do-hyun, Jung Yun-Ha, Yoo Hae-jin, Hong Seo-jun, Jeon Jin-ki, Kim Jae-cheol, Yeong-ran Lee, Lee Jong-goo, Park Ji-il, Kim Tae-Joon-Iii
Shudder Blurb: When a renowned shaman (KIM Go-Eun) and her protégé (Lee Do-hyun) are hired by a wealthy, enigmatic family, they begin investigating the cause of a disturbing supernatural illness that affects only the first-born children of each generation. With the help of a knowledgeable mortician (YOO Hai-jin) and the country’s most revered geomancer (CHOI Min-sik), they soon trace the affliction’s origin to a long-hidden family grave located on sacred ground. Sensing an ominous aura surrounding the burial site, the team opts to exhume and relocate the ancestral remains immediately. But as something much darker emerges, they soon discover what befalls those who dare to mess with the wrong grave.
Cat’s Point of View:
I was really excited about getting a chance to watch Exhuma this month. While it might have appeared otherwise, based on my personal Top 20 list for June, I can assure you that it wasn't absent for lack of anticipation or any early judgement on quality. The trailer made it clear that something interesting and ominous was going on in Exhuma. The only question for me was whether or not the Korean traditions, beliefs, and rituals would “translate” well to an un-initiated “western” audience.
To the credit of the entire production team from writing/directing all the way through set, cast, crew, and subtitle-writers. I had no trouble following along, even when events delved into matters I was unfamiliar with. Let me tell you, that was a lot. I knew next to nothing about Korean burial customs and any related rituals, beliefs, or superstitions before watching Exhuma. Of course, this story is about things going extremely awry, so it was, understandably, far and away from a normal situation. I found the insight into Korean traditions fascinating, and I forgot I was reading subtitles as I was watching.
As a related aside, the actors portraying shamans in Exhuma worked with their real-world counterparts to train in preparation for this movie, and the real shamans were available for consultation during production. This information has been made known through various sources and interviews, backing up the trivia nuggets on IMDb. I found one such article here, where a viewer interviewed an authentic Korean shaman to establish the legitimacy of the acted practices shown within the film. (Note, there are mild spoilers in that article so maybe check it out after you watch if you don't want to learn things that might give elements of the movie away.)
Exhuma's story was framed in what could essentially be called chapters, as if the movie was giving us a visual novel. The suspense and unease was palpable, and I appreciated how the supernatural was portrayed without need for enormous amounts of CGI. There were so many subtle layers involved.
I also appreciated how Exhuma explored a bit of generational trauma as it impacts individual people as well as a culture on the whole.
While Exhuma didn't have the edge-of-your seat action of Korean horror classic Train to Busan (2016), it was still a gripping tale worthy to be known as a significant offering to the genre from that region. If you're a fan of ghost stories from other cultures with a sprinkling of history involved, I'd recommend giving Exhuma a shot.
Exhuma released today, June 14th, 2024 on Shudder.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 90%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 7.4/10
IMDB Score – 6.9/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating   - PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 3, 2024

Top 20 Movies to Look Out For In June (2024)

 According to: Selina

20 – Under Paris (6/5)

Director: Xavier Gens
Writer: Sebastien Auscher, Yannick Dahan, Xavier Gens, Maud Heywang, Yaël Langmann, Olivier Torres
Actors: Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Anaïs Parello, Iñaki Lartigue, Léa Léviant
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 41min
IMDb Blurb: Sophia, a brilliant scientist comes to know that a large shark is swimming deep in the river.
I simply cannot get enough sharksploitation. I tend to even enjoy the bad ones, and this one seems more in the mid-range. Never-the-less, I’m the target audience.
19 – Daddio (6/28)

Director: Christy Hall
Writer: Christy Hall
Actors: Dakota Johnson, Sean Penn, Marcos A. Gonzalez, Shannon Gannon
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Length: 1h 41min
IMDb Blurb: A woman taking a cab ride from JFK engages in a conversation with the taxi driver about the important relationships in their lives.
Movies starring mainly two people are a rough sell. Those two actors need to be enough to hold the attention of the audience. There are some successful flicks, but a lot of them do wind up falling flat. When it comes to Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn (Asphalt City, Flag Day, The Gunman), I blow hot and cold with both. I need to see which way the wind goes before I commit to anything higher than 19 for Daddio.
18 – The Present (6/13)

Director: Christian Ditter
Writer: Jay Martel
Actors: Shawn Balentine, Jaden Betts, Bryan Billy Boone, Iman Crosson, Michael Daruler, David Eisen, Isla Fisher, Ryan Guzman, Symera Jackson, Mason Shea Joyce, Greg Kinnear, Madeline Logan, Sarah Jane MacKay
Genre: Comedy
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 26min
IMDb Blurb: A brilliant boy discovers that he can manipulate time using a family heirloom. He soon teams up with his siblings in returning to the time of their parents' separation, with hopes of changing the outcome.
I might have had The Present up higher on my list if it was last year. It looks quirky and fun, full of fantasy. Seeing the same thing from the perspective of kids with parents going through a separation is a bit too close to home for me now, but that doesn’t change how good the film looks.
17 – Ghostlight (6/14)

Director: Kelly O'Sullivan, Alex Thompson
Writer: Kelly O’Sullivan
Actors: Keith Kupferer, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Tara Mallen, Dolly De Leon, Hanna Dworkin, Dexter Zollicoffer, H.B. Ward, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Alma Washington
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 1h 50min
IMDb Blurb: When a construction worker unexpectedly joins a local theater's production of Romeo and Juliet, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life.
It’s important in a coming-of-age flick to get the parents just as right as the kids or it feels like there’s something missing. It looks like Ghostlight does just that; giving the parents some things to work out alongside the kids. That opens it up to being relatable to people of all ages.
16 – Tuesday (6/14)

Director: Daina Oniunas-Pusic   
Writer: Daina Oniunas-Pusic      
Actors: Arinzé Kene, Lola Petticrew, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Leah Harvey, Ellie James, Taru Devani, Jay Simpson
Genre: Fantasy
Rated: R
Length: 1h 51min
IMDb Blurb: A mother and her teenage daughter must confront Death when it arrives in the form of an astonishing talking bird.
This trailer took a hard left turn. What I thought was just going to be a heartbreaking drama suddenly became a fantasy, and it caught my attention. A decent cast with a unique concept, I think Tuesday is going to be a fantastic watch – even if we do need a ton of tissues.
15 – Am I Ok? (6/6)

Director: Stephanie Allynne, Tig Notaro
Writer: Lauren Pomerantz
Actors: Dakota Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jermaine Fowler, Kiersey Clemons, Molly Gordon, Whitmer Thomas, Sean Hayes, Tig Notaro, Odessa A’zion
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated: R
Length: 1h 26min
IMDb Blurb: Lucy and Jane have been best friends their entire lives. Only when Lucy embarks on a personal journey, will she face a test of her friendship, and her sense of self, on a path she may not be entirely ready to take.
Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Social Network, Madame Web) is getting a ton of work lately. Am I Ok? Would look more cringey without the way she plays the lead role in the trailer. Instead, it winds up feeling more endearing. There’s always the possibility that the trailer shows all her best moments, but I think that won’t happen here. Am I Ok? Is exactly the kind of movie Johnson could elevate.
14 – The Watchers (6/7)

Director: Ishana Shyamalan
Writer: Ishana Shyamalan, A.M. Shine
Actors: Dakota Fanning, Georgina Campbell, Olwen Fouéré, Siobhan Hewlett, Shane O’Regan, Hannah Howland, Oliver Finnegan
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 42min
IMDb Blurb: A young artist gets stranded in an extensive, immaculate forest in western Ireland, where, after finding shelter, she becomes trapped alongside three strangers, stalked by mysterious creatures each night.
The trailer for The Watchers is interesting. It’d be higher up on my list, except M. Night Shyamalan’s (Old, Split, The Last Airbender) name doesn’t carry the weight it once did. That’s unfortunate, because I don’t know the first thing about his daughter, Ishana Shyamalan (Servant).
I’m interested in what she can do with this concept though.
13 – Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 (6/28)

Director: Kevin Costner
Writer: Jon Baird, Kevin Costner
Actors: Kevin Costner, Abbey Lee, Sienna Miller, Jena Malone, Dale Dickey, Isabelle Fuhrman, Will Patton, Tom Payne, Jamie Campbell Bower, Sam Worthington, Michael Rooker, Thomas Haden Church, Giovanni Ribisi, Luke Wilson, Danny Huston
Genre: Drama, Western
Rated: R
Length: 3h 1min
IMDb Blurb: Chronicles a multi-faceted, 15-year span of pre-and post-Civil War expansion and settlement of the American west.
I know. A western film on my top 20 is damn near unheard of. I’m notorious for absolutely despising western films. They all feel roughly the same to me – unless they have another genre woven in, like with Serenity (2005). In fact, the only single genre western I’ve ever enjoyed is 3:10 to Yuma (1957). Even then, there were parts that made me roll my eyes.
In the case of Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1, I can’t deny the efficacy of the trailer. It would still take a lot for me to actively sit down and watch it… but just having the desire to is strange for me. Deserves to be noted.
12 – Trigger Warning (6/21)

Director: Mouly Surya
Writer: John Brancato, Josh Olson, Halley Wegryn Gross
Actors: Jessica Alba, Mark Webber, Anthony Michael Hall, Alejandro De Hoyos, Tone Bell, Jake Weary
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 46min
IMDb Blurb: A skilled Special Forces commando (Jessica Alba) takes ownership of her father's bar after he suddenly dies, and soon finds herself at odds with a violent gang running rampant in her hometown.
I’m a fan of Jessica Alba (Idle Hands, Honey, Sin City) from way back in her Dark Angel (2000-2002) days. I’m always happy to see a new flick with her in it. In this case, the trailer looks decent. A solid action. I’m just hoping they didn’t show all the exciting parts in the coming attractions.
11 – Bad Boys: Ride or Die (6/7)

Director: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
Writer: Chris Bremner, Will Beall, George Gallo
Actors: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jacob Scipio, Melanie Liburd, Tasha Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Joe Pantoliano
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: R
Length: 1h 50min
IMDb Blurb: When their former captain is implicated in corruption, two Miami police officers have to work to clear his name.
Bad Boys is a series I’m always going to be interested in. Even though Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Men in Black, King Richard) is slapping comedians and Martin Lawrence (Martin, The Soul Man, Death at a Funeral) is definitely too old for this shit. It’s just an iconic series that I couldn’t not want to watch the next one of.
I hope it’s worth it.
10 – The Bikeriders (6/21)

Director: Jeff Nichols
Writer: Jeff Nichols
Actors: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon, Mike Faist, Boyd Holbrook, Norman Reedus, Damon Herriman, Beau Knapp
Genre: Crime, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 1h 56min
IMDb Blurb: After a chance encounter, headstrong Kathy is drawn to Benny, member of Midwestern motorcycle club the Vandals. As the club transforms into a dangerous underworld of violence, Benny must choose between Kathy and his loyalty to the club.
I got a very Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014) vibe from the trailer for The Bikeriders. The blurb even reminds me of a story arc from the show. I’m all for seeing a flick that brings me back to that feeling.
There’s a fantastic cast involved, and it’s written/directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Loving, Mud) – a man that has not made a dud film yet. I have absolute faith that The Bikeriders is going to be incredible.
9 – Trim Season (6/7)

Director: Ariel Vida
Writer: David Blair, Sean E. DeMott, Cullen Poythress, Megan Sutherland, Ariel Vida
Actors: Bethlehem Million, Alexandra Essoe, Ally Ioannides, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Juliette Kenn De Balinthazy, Jane Badler, Ryan Donowho, Cory Hart
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rated: Unrated
Length: 1h 40min
IMDb Blurb: A group of young people go to a remote marijuana farm where they hope to make quick cash. But, they discover the location's dark secrets and now must try to escape the mountain on which they are trapped.
I am not the wake and bake type. I usually wind up ignoring most media that revolves around marijuana. I have nothing against it, or people who use it, but I know I’m going to miss a lot of the references and some of the humor will be lost on me. At least, I assume it will be. I was ready to write Trim Season off as ‘not for me’ because of that.
The trailer made that impossible.
If you ask me, most movies could take a cue from Trim Season’s trailer. It left me with a bunch of questions that I want answers to. That’s what a trailer is meant to do, and what a lot simply don’t. As a result, I’m super interested in seeing something that I would have written off immediately if it had weaker coming attractions.
8 – Kinds of Kindness (6/21)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer: Efthimis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos
Actors: Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie, Hunter Schafer
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R
Length: 2h 44min
IMDb Blurb: A man seeks to break free from his predetermined path, a cop questions his wife's demeanor after her return from a supposed drowning, and a woman searches for an extraordinary individual prophesied to become a renowned spiritual guide.
I love anthologies. Give me some nicely framed short stories all put together by a genius director – which Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is – and I’m a happy girl. In this case, there’s also an insane cast. Emma Stone (La La Land, Poor Things, Cruella), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog, The Irishman, Civil War), Willen Dafoe (Spider-Man, The Lighthouse, The Florida Project), Margaret Qualley (Kenzo World, Novitiate, Poor Things), Mamoudou Athie (The Get Down, The Boy and the Heron, Black Box), Hong Chau (The Whale, The Menu, Asteroid City), and Joe Alwyn (The Favourite, Harriet, Mary Queen of Scots) are all fantastic additions to a flick like this.
The best part of an anthology? If you don’t like one story, the next one could always be better.
7 – Hit Man (6/7)

Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater, Glen Powell, Skip Hollandsworth
Actors: Adria Arjona, Glen Powell, Retta, Austin Amelio, Molly Bernard, Mike Markoff, Bath Bartley
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Rated: R
Length: 1h 55min
IMDb Blurb: A professor moonlighting as a hit man of sorts for his city police department, descends into dangerous, dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to a woman who enlists his services.
When Richard Linklater (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Bernie) comes out with a new movie, you must take notice. Most of his stuff is relatable and humorous. He very rarely goes to a place of cringe or something over-the-top. It’s almost a given that anything he puts out will be a fun watch.
Hit Man in general has a cute concept, and even the trailer made me laugh. It’s going to be a good one.
6 – The Exorcism (6/21)

Director: Joshua John Miller
Writer: M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Actors: Russell Crowe, Ryan Simpkins, Sam Worthington, Chloe Bailey, Adam Goldberg, Adrian Pasdar, David Hyde Pierce
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rated: R
Length: 1h 33min
IMDb Blurb: A troubled actor begins to exhibit a disruptive behavior while shooting a horror film. His estranged daughter wonders if he's slipping back into his past addictions or if there's something more sinister at play.
Just about every cinema fan knows the behind-the-scenes stories that follow certain kinds of horror flicks. Like the trailer suggests, movies like The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) have a ton of horrific stories of things that have happened on set.
Trust the Dice has seen plenty of movies that play with the idea, my favorite probably being The Cleansing Hour (2019). That film goes into what happens when a fake exorcism becomes real. I thought, even watching that flick, that a movie depicting those kinds of behind-the-scenes stories would be fantastic. I’m pretty sure Cat and I had a whole conversation about it. Probably on stream. And here it is.
I am hoping we’ll get to see The Exorcism this month when it comes out, because I’m absolutely loving the trailer.
5 – Thelma (6/21)

Director: Josh Margolin
Writer: Josh Margolin
Actors: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Chase Kim, Richard Roundtree
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 37min
IMDb Blurb: When 93-year-old Thelma Post gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, she sets out on a treacherous quest across the city to reclaim what was taken from her.
June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt, Godmothered) is a national treasure. I’ve said it before and I’m positive I’ll be saying it again. Seeing her in this outstandingly adorable trailer was so much fun that it’s impossible to not look forward to the movie.
It’s going to be hilarious.
4 – Ultraman: Rising (6/14)

Director: Shannon Tindle, John Aoshima
Writer: Shannon Tindle, Marc Haimes
Actors: Christopher Sean, Rob Fukuzaki, Hiro Nakamura, Gedde Watanabe, Tamlyn Tomita, Keone Young
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Rated: PG
Length: 1h 57min
IMDb Blurb: Ken Sato, a superstar baseball player who returns to Japan to become the latest hero to carry the mantle of Ultraman. However, he is compelled to raise a newborn kaiju monster, the offspring of his greatest enemy as his own child.
Ultraman, as a hero concept, lends himself phenomenally to the animation medium. In this specific case, I can’t get passed just how clean the art looks. I’m a huge fan of the art style chosen. I would watch just about any animation film in this style.
Ultraman: Rising has the added benefit of looking cute. I can see my daughter actually agreeing to watch it with me, making it fun for the whole family.
3 – Latency (6/14)

Director: James Croke
Writer: James Croke
Actors: Sasha Luss, Alexis Ren
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Length: Unknown
IMDb Blurb: When Hana, a professional gamer who suffers from acute agoraphobia, receives new equipment that enhances her game, she begins to wonder if it is reading her mind - or controlling it.
I was immediately intrigued by the plot of Latency.
I’ll admit that the whole ‘stuck in a video game’ idea isn’t exactly unique. We’ve seen it done quite a few times since Tron (1982). Latency seems to take that idea and crossbreed it with that psychological, ‘is anything really happening’ thriller tension that I love.
Latency isn’t usually the kind of film that finds itself this high up on one of my Top 20s. What intrigues me most about it is the inclusion of writer/director James Croke (Shift, The Mirage, Australian Summer).
Although this is Croke’s full-length feature debut, he’s shown some serious success as a production designer for shorts. Not one of which has below a 7.0 on IMDb. That’s insane. I’m dying to see what he can do with something like Latency.
2 – A Quiet Place: Day One (6/28)

Director: Michael Sarnoski
Writer: Michael Sarnoski, John Krasinski, Bryan Woods, Scott Beck
Actors: Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou, Alex Wolff, Lupita Nyong’o, Thea Butler
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 40min
IMDb Blurb: A woman named Sam must survive an invasion in New York City by bloodthirsty alien creatures with ultrasonic sound hearing.
The Quiet Place movies are super tense. I love the way the story unfolds and the characterizations. Obviously, A Quiet Place: Day One is going to be slightly different, but I imagine it’s going to have the basic general feel.
It’s missing key actors like Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau) and Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstuck, Bumblebees, Andy Mack), but gives us absolute powerhouses in the form of Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Us, Little Monsters) and Djimon Hounsou (Gran Turismo, The King’s Man, How to Train Your Dragon 2). It’s a fair trade off.
Not only that but seeing how the actual invasion started is going to be interesting.
1 – Inside Out 2 (6/14)

Director: Kelsey Mann
Writer: Dave Holstein, Meg LeFauve
Actors: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Tony Hale, Liza Lapira, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, Paul Walter Hauser, Kensington Tallman, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Yvette Nicole Brown, Bobby Moynihan, Paula Poundstone, John Ratzenberger, Flea, June Squibb
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG
Length: 1h 40min
IMDb Blurb: Follow Riley, in her teenage years, encountering new emotions.
Showing sarcasm as a literal chasm is my favorite thing ever. I found it so much funnier than I probably should have. I had to step away from YouTube and calm myself down. It was just such a perfect dad joke.
The original Inside Out (2015) had some icon moments. None more-so than that one Bing-bong moment that became an audio file on TikTok. People who’ve never seen the film can still quote it. With that kind of staying power, it’s impossible to not look forward to the sequel.
Movies to Look out For
According to: Cat
Wild Eyed and Wicked .20
 Tuesday .19
Agent Recon .18
Daddio .17
 Ultraman: Rising .16
 Under Paris .15
Thelma .14
Horizon: An American Saga Chapter 1 .13
 Kinds of Kindness .12
 A Sacrifice .11
 Bad Boys: Ride or Die .10
Firebrand .9
 The Bikeriders .8
Trigger Warning .7
 The Exorcism .6
 Latency .5
 The Watchers .4
A Quiet Place: Day One .3
 Inside Out 2 .2
 Hit Man .1
          What makes a movie eligible for Trust the Dice’s Top 20?

Friday, May 24, 2024

Atlas (2024)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Atlas (2024)
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure
Length: 1h 58min
Rating: PG-13
Director: Brad Peyton
Writers: Leo Sardarian, Aron Eli Coleite
Actors: Jennifer Lopez, Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, Gregory James Cohan, Abraham Popoola, Lana Parrilla, Mark Strong, Briella Guiza, Adia Smith-Eriksson, Logan Hunt, Jared Shimabukuro, Ashley J. Hicks, Paul Ganus, Zoe Boyle
Metacritic Blurb: Atlas Shepherd (Jennifer Lopez), a brilliant but misanthropic data analyst with a deep distrust of artificial intelligence, joins a mission to capture a renegade robot with whom she shares a mysterious past. But when plans go awry, her only hope of saving the future of humanity from AI is to trust it.
Cat’s Point of View:
Atlas was my #3 pick on May's Top 20 list. Needless to say, I've been eagerly anticipating its release. My daughter and I woke up and watched this movie right away while enjoying some waffles. We both had a blast taking in all of the explosive sci-fi action, connecting with the emotions of the main character, and giggling with the moments of levity sprinkled throughout.
This Netflix original packed quite the emotional punch while still delivering a solid sci-fi glimpse at a possible future. Atlas painted a picture of a different version of an A.I. uprising than the likes of The Terminator (1984) and the wrath of Skynet.
Atlas took us on quite the emotional rollercoaster ride, yet it still felt reasonably balanced between action and the personal story. The humor was most appreciated in breaking some of the tension, and felt natural to the story rather than forced jokes. Even in the face of crisis, sometimes you just have to shake your head and chuckle at some things. That was a sentiment I certainly related to.
While I was preparing for this review, I stumbled upon an article by chance – it flashed a headline on my phone from a news app, actually. It was describing what seems to be the current critic consensus regarding Atlas. It pissed me off a little.
Atlas wasn't meant to be a drama doing a hard-dive into the existential crisis that A.I. presents. Nor was it in need of excessive exposition or B-roll scenes explaining how newer A.I. assistants integrated into a post-Harlan and A.I.-terrorist world. That would have amounted to essentially time-wasting filler.
Atlas set up its world-building on a more subtle level where it required a little reading between the lines. The audience got a cross-section glimpse of the A.I. integrated world, and, really, that's all that was needed. The core focus of the plot was how a brilliant woman had to come to terms with a life-long repressed heartbreaking trauma, anxiety, and panic attacks in order to learn how to let go and trust again. Trial-by-fire therapy in a distant world combat scenario – with a heavy focus on combat.
We didn't need in-depth character development on any other character than the titular one. This wasn't meant to be something like The Avengers (2012) where every character had an amazing back-story and whole movies dedicated to their growth. While I would have liked to learn more about the relationship between General Boothe, played by Mark Strong (Kingsmen: The Secret Service, 1917, Nocebo), and Jennifer Lopez's (Hustlers, Marry Me, The Mother) Atlas, we were presented with what we needed to know during the course of the film. Sterling K. Brown's (The Rhythm Section, This Is Us, American Fiction) character, Colonel Banks, did have a small arc of growth also – as much as the pacing of the plot allowed.
Were there some “hammy” moments? Sure. Were there common tropes involved with the plot of Atlas? I agree there, too. Here's the thing, though. It worked. There was something familiar and comfortable underneath what would otherwise be a rather scary concept that fills most people with existential dread. A.I. is the source of debate, trepidation, and litigation these days – but it is also a wonder that, if handled responsibly, could elevate our world. I found hope in the center of Atlas' story through most of what they didn't spell out on-screen.
If you're a lover of sci-fi and action, I would ask that you but give Atlas a chance and decide for yourself how you feel about it. I, for one, would enjoy watching it again.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 16%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –56%
Metascore – 38%
Metacritic User Score – 5.3/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 20, 2024

Die Hart (2023)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Die Hart (2023)
Genre: Action, Comedy
Length: 1h 24min
Rating: TV-MA
Director: Eric Appel
Writers: Tripper Clancy, Derek Kolstad
Actors: Kevin Hart, John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jean Reno, Josh Hartnett, Kenneth Trujillo, Eric Mainade, Joshua Lamboy, Brandon Quinn, Milana Vayntrub, Stephan Jones, Jason Jones
IMDb Blurb: Kevin Hart - playing a version of himself - is on a death-defying quest to become an action star. And with a little help from John Travolta, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Josh Hartnett - he just might pull it off.
Cat’s Point of View:
I will say, right out of the gate, that I am a huge fan of Kevin Hart (DC League of Super Pets, The Man from Toronto, Lift). My whole family is. His comedic timing feels effortless and I also appreciate his more serious side – which this whole movie underscores (to the degree that satire allows). I will, generally, watch anything he's featured in. Selina and I often express this sentiment by saying we'd watch our favorite actors read the phone-book. Hart would find a way to make even that mundane task hilarious.
I now have an image of that in my head that's making me giggle. It's not too far of a digression, however, because the thought leaves me with the feeling that concept would have been a more successful series for the Quibi platform than the story for the Die Hart movie – the focus of this review.
Why Quibi? What is Quibi? If it doesn't ring too many bells or only feels like a vaguely familiar term, don't feel too out-of-touch. Quibi was an extremely short-lived subscription streaming platform that lasted roughly 6 months in 2020 from launch to shutting down. It offered “Quick Bites” of content in segments of 10 minutes or less. Die Hart (2020) was originally a series on the Quibi platform. Following Quibi's shuttering, Roku aquired the failed streamer's content and Prime worked out a deal to turn a condensed version of the Die Hart show's run into a movie. So here we are, offering the proverbial “2 cents” on that end-product.
Now that we're all caught up to speed, let me first say that I enjoyed my experience watching the action-comedy Die Hart. It wasn't the best movie or even general comedic work by Kevin Hart, but I think that was supposed to be the point. I'm not sure. Director, Eric Appel (Son of Zorn, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Afterparty), was at the helm of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022), as well. I feel like this caricature of Hart was probably supposed to be over-the-top in a similar way.
The concept was interesting and slightly meta – the whole “movie within a movie” angle helped give a little grounding to the entirely bonkers events. The key to enjoying this movie was just to lean in and roll with it. Die Hart wasn't entirely as nutty as some comedic parodies and satirical romps of the past such as Top Secret! (1984) or Airplane! (1980). I think this might have left Die Hart somewhere in the middle where audiences were expecting a more typical action-comedy. This film, while full of familiar tropes, definitely wasn't typical.
Die Hart had some excellent casting going on. Jean Reno (Da 5 Bloods, The Doorman, Lift) was an excellent choice for an eccentric filmmaker. John Travolta (The Poison Rose, Mob Land, Cash Out) was also a great fit for the seemingly psycho action-star training camp guru. He's had plenty of experience playing both unhinged characters and over-the-top movies. I loved seeing Nathalie Emmanuel (The Invitation, Fast X, Arthur the King) in the more action-oriented scenes here, too. I've seen her in a lot of more dramatic roles where she hasn't had much opportunity to show off those skills. I was also excited to see Josh Hartnett (Wrath of Man, Ida Red, Oppenheimer). More often than not, he's in such serious roles. I love to see him in the occasional project where he can just cut loose, such as Die Hart or Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (2023). In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there's an interesting similarity to Kevin Hart's character here and Hartnett's character in Operation Fortune – on a strictly coincidental surface level.
While I “get” where Die Hart was coming from, and I had fun watching it, the movie just didn't have the zing that I had hoped for. If you're a fan of Kevin Hart, or even any of the other cast members, I'd encourage you to give this one a watch and see for yourself how you feel about it.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 43%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –28%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5
P.S. - When Roku obtained the Quibi programming, a second season was created on the new platform. This “sequel” series was also given the condensed cinematic treatment and released via Amazon Prime as Die Hart 2: Die Harter (2024), and is available to watch now.
Movie Trailer: