Friday, January 12, 2024

Good Grief (2024)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Good Grief  (2024)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length:  1h 40min
Rating: R
Director: Dan Levy
Writers: Dan Levy
Actors: Dan Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans, Celia Imrie, Arnaud Valois, David Bradley, Mehdi Baki, Emma Corrin, Jamael Westman, Kaitlyn Dever, Yoli Fuller, NoƩ Besin, Cyrielle Debreuil, Nigel Lilley, Gabriel Marc
IMDb Blurb: When his husband unexpectedly dies, Marc's world shatters, sending him and his two best friends on a soul-searching trip to Paris that reveals some hard truths they each needed to face.
Cat’s Point of View:
Good Grief landed at the #19 spot on my Top 20 Movies to Look Out For list this month – only because I wasn’t sure, at the time I wrote the article, how ready I was to process the emotions this dramatic comedy would entail. Loss is a tricky topic to work with and often filmmakers dive deep into the dark places and mine the feelings of sadness and that void left behind in the wake of the tragedy.
One of the reasons I didn’t hesitate too much about rooting for Good Grief was the fact that the trailer made it clear that this wasn’t going to be solely focused on the sadness. I’ve had Murphy’s Law come knocking too much – as have we all, really in this post-pandemic age – to be dwelling on pain and I actively tend to avoid films that do. Dan Levys (Schitt's Creek, Happiest Season, Haunted Mansion) feature directorial debut promised some levity and a story about friends being there for each other. It appeared to be a good example of how our relationships with our friends provides us a support network regardless if we, or our friends, are ourselves dysfunctional. I think the beauty of this is that it is because this can be so in spite of that very fact, as well.
I was very happy that Good Grief delivered exactly what I expected and wanted it to.
Sure, it was still a sad story, but it didn’t end while adrift on those feelings. Good Grief left me with a feeling of hope, and affirmations about how real true friendship can flourish even if the friends, individually can be messy in their own lives. Further, it realistically reflected how sometimes our lives can both get messy by our own doing because of our own choices, but also in the face of all of our best efforts to avoid such. At its heart, Good Grief was primarily a friendship drama touching on how those relationships can be impacted by the way we process grief.
It resonated on a really profound level.
I loved the cast, the story, and the visuals were stunning. (Not to mention that the variety of accents present was a feast for the ears.) Honestly, Good Grief didn’t even feel like a nearly 2 hour movie. I was easily invested enough that I just lived in that story and simply didn’t feel the passage of time. That’s saying a lot for my fidgety ADHD self.
I want to see more of Levy’s work hitting the screen. I have long admired his comedic delivery and thought it was about time his character went from being the best friend in the wings to center stage.
Even if you haven’t seen his work before, if dramedies are your thing, I’d recommend giving Good Grief a chance.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 77% 
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 74% 
Metascore – 60% 
Metacritic User Score – 6.4/10 
IMDB Score – 6.4/10 
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5 
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Barbie (2023)

Streaming Service: Max
Movie Name/Year: Barbie (2023)
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
Length: 1h 54min
Rating: PG-13
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Actors: Margot Robbie, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Dua Lipa, Ritu Arya, Nicola Coughlan, Emerald Fennell, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Scott Evans, John Cena, Michael Cera, America Ferrara, Ariana Greenblatt, Helen Mirran, Will Ferrell
Blurb from IMDb: Barbie and Ken are having the time of their lives in the colorful and seemingly perfect world of Barbie Land. However, when they get a chance to go to the real world, they soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was a bit confused when Barbie was marketed with a PG-13 rating. It’s such a kid-friendly concept based on a kid’s toy, after all. After watching it, I have no doubt that they made the right choice. Barbie wasn’t talking to kids. It was talking to us.
Fifteen minutes into the film I was having fun and getting into it, but I still thought it would be a basic, silly, comedy. I was lost in the dreamworld concocted by the creative team. Once the titular character stepped foot into the real world, however, it became very clear that Barbie was going to be the kind of movie that spoke to deeper issues than a child’s toy usually does.
Getting a movie like this that speaks on the issues of inequality, especially in a time when we are moving backwards, was amazing. I don’t think I blinked throughout most of it. It was an extremely intense watch, that left me sitting in silence when it was over. Even with the mounds of comedic relief piling up throughout, the weight of the lessons within it took some time to digest.

If you’ve heard of anything about Barbie, you’ve definitely heard about America Ferrara’s (How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming, End of Watch, Ugly Betty) speech. Where her character breaks down how it feels to be a female in our society. How overloaded it can make one feel. Hearing that was something unlike anything I’ve ever felt before when watching a movie.
A whole lot of Barbie made me feel seen. I thought it would be a fun film, and it was, but it wasn’t JUST that.
That’s part of the problem that was pointed out in the movie. It was a female run project, based on a toy aimed at little girls, filled with a cast of women… and it felt like it would be just fun. Just a popcorn flick. The depth shouldn’t have been so surprising, especially with the PG-13 rating, but it was. Yet, if it was a superhero flick with an R-rating, we wouldn’t have had any doubt that the rating was earned in some way.
Barbie makes you look for the problems woven into our society, but also within. It deserves every single drop of praise it’s gotten.

Cat’s Point of View:
The first trailer for Barbie had me hooked. Right out of the gate, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the movie everyone was expecting when it was announced that the iconic Mattel toy of so many childhoods was getting a full-length live-action movie. (I mean, really, who didn’t do a double-take at that announcement. Barbie was getting a real movie treatment that wasn’t some silly animation or something cutesy that would appear on a kids’ network.)
I went with a group to the theater, and my daughter and I giggled at the giant pink toy boxes people were waiting in line to take their pictures inside, as if they were a life-size Barbie doll too. It was a whole thing. We might actually have done so, but the lines of pink-clad people were just too long, and we didn’t have that kind of time.
Barbie blew me away. It defied all my expectations and gave us a really deep thought-provoking story. Sure, there was still a lot of silliness – but if there wasn’t, it really wouldn’t have been a movie about toys come to life. There was so much nostalgia steeped into every Barbie-land set piece and individual Barbies and Kens, too. I was going through a mental checklist at some points trying to figure out which themed Barbies were represented on screen. This was quite the roller-coaster from giggles to misty eyes.
This cast was ludicrously stacked with talent. Everyone wanted to get in on this girl-power movie. You could have a mini game based around picking out who was playing who. I’m still just noticing people that were in this film. I hadn’t realized ‘til just last week that Ncuti Gatwa (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Sex Education, Doctor Who) played one of the Kens. 

I nearly had a spit-take because of Weird Barbie, played by Kate McKinnon (The Spy Who Dumped Me, Bombshell, DC League of Super Pets). I think most of us that had Barbies inevitably had one doll that ended up like her. (I gave Malibu Barbie a mullet because for the longest time I didn’t have a Ken, so I’m guilty as charged, too.) McKinnon was perfect for that role, and I couldn’t envision anyone else with that part. That, of course, brings me to Margot Robbie (Neighbours, Amsterdam, Babylon). This film simply wouldn’t have worked on any level without her at the helm. Equally, I struggle to envision anyone other than Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys, First Man, The Gray Man) as the lead Ken. (The behind-the-scenes story of why he eventually accepted the role is actually really funny and sweet, too.)
All the visuals were on point, and I loved how the bridge between how kids play with Barbies and the movements of the actual living figures was represented. The soundtrack was also a wild and wonderful trip from Billie Eilish’s song “What was I made for?” (which broke my heart) to Spice Girls and a Nicki Minaj collab of “Barbie World.”
Overall, Barbie was a feast for the eyes and had good messages, both full of feels and thought provoking. I just roll my eyes at anyone complaining that the movie was a feminist fever dream. Greta Gerwig (Nights and Weekends, Lady Bird, Little Women) is a genius. She was the perfect writer/director to take one of the most culturally significant toys ever to the big screen and create such an iconic movie that has, itself, become a cultural touchstone.
I would watch Barbie many times over and can only encourage any doubters to give it a chance.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore – 80%
Metacritic User Score – 5.1
IMDB Score – 6.9/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 5/5
P.S. Max also has a sign language version of Barbie.
Movie Trailer:

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.