Monday, January 8, 2024

5 New Discoveries we Made in 2023 That We Wish We Hadn’t

According to: Cat
[Note: These are the worst films that we reviewed on Trust the Dice in 2023 that were released in previous years.]
As Selina mentioned in her Best New Discoveries Article, this was a weird year for movies and our reviews. We didn’t get to bring you as many reviews for various crazy reasons, and therefore our pool of rated films was a little more shallow than usual. For that reason, we have a Top 5 of the Bottom 5, as it were… and it was a real undertaking to get this many. Maybe that was a mixed blessing; given the theme of this particular list.
 5 – My Best Friend's Exorcism (2022)
Reviewed on: Monday, July 3, 2023 
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Rated: R
Length: 1h 36min
Selina’s Rating: 3
Cat’s Rating: 3
Rotten Tomatoes Blurb: The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act...different. She's moody. She's irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she's nearby. Abby's investigation leads her to some startling discoveries-and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?
As I just mentioned, we were hard pressed to get 5 movies together that had scores low enough that they qualified for the dubious recognition of this listing. For that reason, we have My Best Friend’s Exorcism placing… but only just barely. If this had been a more typical year for reviews, it probably wouldn’t have made this list.
Selina and I agreed that this was a solid 80’s retro genre flick with all the feels for those familiar with that decade to enjoy. It was a general possession/exorcism movie, and at the same time had a few new twists that made it interesting.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism was a book adaptation and a love letter to the decade of its setting. I know I resonated with this movie on an uncomfortable level, sending me back in time to my own awkward youth in 1988. Slumber party pranks were miserable for the recipients and all the rage. Trapper Keepers were in every locker and the amount of hairspray that was still depleting the ozone layer back then was ludicrous.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism was silly, campy, and a little cringe-worthy. If that’s what you enjoy with your horror or comedies in general, then this film could be a lot of fun. Otherwise, it might not be an audience’s cup of tea. (Quite a few of the major ratings site’s user scores would seem to agree.)
That aside, this is the only movie on this… distinguished… list that I would be generally happy with watching a 3rd time.
4 – The Invitation (2022)
Reviewed on: Friday, January 27, 2023
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Rated: PG-13
Length: 1h 45min
Selina’s Rating: 1.5
Cat’s Rating: 3.5
IMDb Blurb: A young woman is courted and swept off her feet, only to realize a gothic conspiracy is afoot.
I’ll be honest, when I offered my rating for The Invitation I was likely thinking of the Rated R version of this movie. There was a PG-13 release as well, and that was the one we were set to review. The milder rated offering of this film was too watered down, and every quibble that Selina offered in her review article was entirely justified. I much preferred the spicier version. Even then, it wasn’t anything to shout from the rooftops about.
I had heard so much about this movie and had eagerly anticipated its release. A friend even had a watch-party with me online before it was widely available to stream. I had to watch it twice, however. I fell asleep during that first watch-through. I will qualify that statement with the fact I do have chronic fatigue due to medical issues and we did try to watch this late at night… so there was that. My re-watch didn’t help though.
The concepts that The Invitation explored weren’t bad, but the final product just didn’t quite hit the mark. The sum of the performances paled in comparison to the effort of the lead and the rating requirements of PG-13 somewhat hobbled the end-result.
3 – Rogue (2020)
Reviewed on: Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Rated:  R
Length: 1h 45min
Selina’s Rating: N/A
Cat’s Rating: 2.5 
IMDb Blurb: O'Hara is a mercenary leading a squad of soldiers on their mission to rescue hostages in a remote part of Africa. Unfortunately, the mission goes awry and the team is stranded and forced to survive against the local rebels.
Selina didn’t get a chance to watch Rogue before we started compiling our Year in Review candidates. So we unfortunately don’t have her input for it.
My takeaway was that the primary ensemble cast was under-utilized, the effects were hit and miss, and it suffered in comparison to a similar movie of the genre that didn’t even need as many action bells and whistles to make more of an impact. Beast (2022) released relatively close to Rogue and pretty much pushed the 2020 movie into obscurity, in my book at least.
What Rogue did unquestioningly well, however, was raise awareness for the lion farming problem and also human trafficking.
While I don’t regret watching Rogue, I don’t intend to do so again.  
2 – Santa Games (2022)
Reviewed on: Monday, December 11, 2023
Genre: Comedy
Rated: Unrated (Our rating recommendation was PG)
Length: 1h 30min
Selina’s Rating: 1.5
Cat’s Rating: 2
IMDb Blurb: When the manager of a mall where Santa Charles work decides to replace him, he asks to find his replacement. When this ad goes viral, the interview process becomes a series of tasks and challenges leading to an all-out competition.
If anyone watched our stream where we discussed our Year in Review and set up the tiers for ranking these movies in order for all of our lists, you might notice that this is a little “out of order” from where Selina and I initially placed it.
Selina maintains that this was one of the worst movies she’s seen in quite a while. I hadn’t watched it yet prior to our discussion. (In my defense, I was sick pretty much the entire month of December and there were just some things I didn’t get around to.)
I finally watched Santa Games prior to writing this article, and it didn’t leave as much of a lasting negative impression on me as the new #1 movie did – so we revisited and swapped things up. We can meet in the middle and say they were tied for #1, but for the purposes of this list, one of them had to be the runner-up. I digress…
Santa Games appears to be a bit of a low-budget indie flick that didn’t have a marketing strategy. Seriously, there simply was no trailer. It just doesn’t seem to exist in any public capacity. (I even tried to get one of the AI web-bots to help me look for one. No dice.)
As far as the movie, itself, Santa Games was on the low end of ‘ok.’ On one level, the story focusing on family legacy, the spirit of Christmas, and keeping the concept of Santa inclusive for everyone had the potential to be good. There was a nugget of good-feels in there somewhere.
Unfortunately, Santa Games suffered from a mixed-bag of acting, a story a little all over the place, and a generally forgettable experience. Not all of the humor landed, some was simply too redundant, some of the comedic elements were absolutely ridiculous, and the over-all end product ended up being more of a drama than a comedy. There are definitely far better movies out there for the Christmas season – but there are also far worse.
1 – White Noise (2022)
Reviewed on: Monday, January 16, 2023
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror
Rated: R
Length: 2h 16min
Selina’s Rating: 2
Cat’s Rating: 2
IMDb Blurb: Dramatizes a contemporary American family's attempts to deal with the mundane conflicts of everyday life while grappling with the universal mysteries of love, death, and the possibility of happiness in an uncertain world.
For this one, I wish I could offer something in counterpoint to my impression of White Noise. Alas, Selina wasn’t able to offer anything additional to my review because she simply didn’t remember enough of the movie to have an impression.
That was likely because White Noise was generally structured to be the bane of existence for anyone who has ADHD.
I really loathe tearing down movies. I feel that there’s something positive to be said about even the bad ones, because people worked hard to bring these stories to life. I detest having only negative things to say. For that reason, I will interject that White Noise had an amazing cast that clearly delivered exactly what they were directed to do, and they gave it their all.
That being said, this movie was pretentious. The trailer was a bait and switch for the actual movie’s contents and I am still mad about it. I was expecting a lampoon-like horror dramedy of a family scrambling to avoid a chemical disaster, and not doing it well. What I got was so much different and it was so boring that it was at a soul crushing level. I struggled to get through this movie, and it was too long. I sincerely hope that the book it was adapted from was better than this.
I can’t get that time back. I’m also mad that this movie brings back flashbacks of that angst every time I now see Adam Driver’s (The Dead Don’t Die, Marriage Story, House of Gucci) face.

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