Friday, February 9, 2024

Skeletons in the Closet (2024)

Streaming Service: Shudder 
Movie Name/Year: Skeletons in the Closet (2024) 
Genre: Horror, Thriller 
Length:  1h 38min 
Rating: R 
Director: Asif Akbar 
Writers: Al Bravo, Joshua A. Cohen, Terrence Howard, Mira Pak Howard, Koji Steven Sakai 
Actors: Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Udo Kier, Louis Mandylor, Valery M. Ortiz, Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez, Clifton Powell, Appy Pratt, Mona Arkin, Deena Bacon, Randall J. Bacon, Marco Bisbikis, Niko Foster, Sally Kirkland, Landa, Reno Reyes, Khaleesi Rivera, Rebekah Samuel, JT Tomangi 
IMDb Blurb: Haunted by a malevolent spirit since childhood, a desperate mother allows herself to become possessed in order to save the life of her terminally ill daughter.
Cat’s Point of View: 
When we were looking over movies releasing in February, I was drawn to Skeletons in the Closet first because of its cast. I mean, seriously, - Terence Howard (Empire, The Walk, Showdown at the Grand) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (The Butler, Machete Kills, Bayou Caviar) are not small names in the industry. Then I saw a flash of Udo Kier (Dragged Across Concrete, Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin, Hunters) in the trailer and I was intrigued. He always plays interesting and seemingly sinister characters. Call my curiosity solidly piqued.
I will be honest that there were moments of the trailer that gave me a couple red flags that led me to not include Skeletons in the Closet with my personal Top 20 for February. When we were offered an opportunity to screen the film, however, we were excited to give it a chance and see where the experience took us.
I wasn’t disappointed with Skeletons in the Closet, but at the same time I wasn’t blown away either.
There were just some moments where it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief.
Skeletons in the Closet could have benefited from a little tighter editing, as it felt like it drew a few things out a little longer than necessary. By the end, when I should have been at the edge of my seat as events ramped up to the conclusion, I was just fighting to keep my attention focused. I will add the caveat that my ADHD sometimes does that to me when I’m not immersed enough in a movie.
I don’t want to point any fingers at any of the cast or the story – there was a really solid idea behind Skeletons in the Closet. It probably just could have benefited from a little more tweaking in the execution. I have been excited for the recent surge of horror projects that bring other cultures to audiences. The fact that this story involved Santa Muerte was another interesting element that gave Skeletons in the Closet it’s potential.
By the time the credits rolled, I felt a bit like I had finished watching someone put a puzzle together and the picture looked right, but they had to hammer a few pieces in along the way that were maybe not quite in the right places; so it gave the overall end product a bit of an Uncanny Valley feeling.
Skeletons in the Closet wasn’t bad, per se. There are simply far better titles available on Shudder – but there are also far worse. If the concept of the exploration of the lengths a parent would go to in desperation to save their child, generational trauma and inherited curses, and cameos from Santa Muerte catches your attention… you might find Skeletons in the Closet at least intriguing.
Skeletons in the closet released on Shudder today, February 9th, 2023.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None 
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None 
Metascore – None 
Metacritic User Score – None 
IMDB Score – 5.0/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Restore Point (2024)

Movie Name/Year: Restore Point (2024)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi 
Length:  1h 55min 
Rating: Unrated 
Director: Robert Hloz 
Writers: Tomislav Cecka, Robert Hloz, Zdenek Jecelin
Actors: Andrea Mohylová, Matej Hádek, Milan Ondrík, Václav Neuzil, Karel Dobrý, Agáta Krystufkova, Katarzyna Zawadzka, Iveta Dusková, Jan Vlasák, Richard Stanke, Adam Vacula, Jan Jankovský 
IMDb Blurb: Set in central Europe during 2041, a female detective investigates the case of a murdered couple where a restoration team is able to bring one of them back to life.
Cat’s Point of View: 
I have to admit that I enjoyed Restore Point far more than I expected.
Let me back up a moment and explain that. I didn’t anticipate at any point that it would be bad. I just know my own attention span these days and sometimes I struggle with subtitled movies if I’m not invested enough. A film in another language needs to be one that I either understand some of, or just so engrossing for me that I forget that I’m reading the screen at the same time as I take in the actions of the characters. I have a tendency to fidget with things while I’m watching movies or TV, to help keep my ADHD busy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really mesh well with reading subtitles – causing me to miss important moments occasionally. While I find the Slavic languages interesting to listen to, I certainly don’t speak them so that was something I had to take into consideration when I worked on my personal Top 20 list this past month. (Selina listed Restore Point as her #5 entry.)
What all that boils down to is this: I didn’t have any problems keeping up with the story and quite liked the overall arc of Restore Point. I didn’t even feel the need to fidget to keep my attention glued to the screen.
I adore futuristic sci-fi. It’s always fascinating to see what someone envisions for the future of technology and society as a whole – whether it’s dystopian, utopian, or somewhere in between. I don’t necessarily think that Restore Point entirely fits into a particular category such as that, but perhaps is set in a time that could be potentially leading up to a dystopian situation. I really enjoyed all of the technological facets of life that Restore Point explored – even in the background. I also have to give extra points that the electric vehicles were quiet and electric-sounding, as well. I’ve seen too many issues recently where there’s supposed to be an EV on the screen and someone has layered in the vrooming noises of a gas engine shifting through its various gears.
I’ve heard that Restore Point has been compared to Logan’s Run (1976) and Minority Report (2002). I’d agree that there are elements that you could cherry pick from those films that would come close to what was within the Restore Point narrative, however, this film is not a derivative of either. If we’re making comparisons, though, I feel that Altered Carbon (2018-2020) also needs to be in the conversation. That being said, the Altered Carbon series explores that very dystopian future that could result from the technology explored here. Restore Point has some similar themes with backups and restoration, but that’s where you have to draw the line. This was a fresh story, and I appreciated that.
The visuals within Restore Point were also amazing. The futuristic architecture was stunning and gave a nice contrast to the historical structures that date back hundreds of years, even now.
Restore Point worked well as a futuristic crime procedural with elements of intrigue and an exploration of moral gray areas and existential crisis. The stakes were clear and the sense of urgency to solve the case before events caught up brought plenty of suspense. I thought the ending was well done and I was smiling when the credits rolled.
Restore Point will be releasing in theaters nationwide on Thursday, February 8, 2024.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None 
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None 
Metascore – 74% 
Metacritic User Score – None 
IMDB Score – 6.6/10 
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5 
Trust the Dice: Parental Rating –PG-13

Movie Trailer:

Monday, February 5, 2024

Sixty Minutes (2024)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Sixty Minutes (2024) 
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama 
Length:  1h 28min 
Rating: TV-MA
Director: Oliver Kienle 
Writers: Philip Koch, Oliver Kienle 
Actors: Emilio Sakraya, Dennis Mojen, Marie Mouroum, Paul Wollin, Florian Schmidtke, Aristo Luis, José Barros, Vassilis Koukalani, Janna Striebeck, Morik Heydo, Livia Matthes, Mehmet Atesci, Eniko Fulop, Bruno Salgueiro, Tatjana Sojic, Georg Blumreiter 
IMDb Blurb: Desperate not to lose custody, a mixed martial arts fighter makes dangerous enemies when he ditches a matchup to race to his daughter's birthday party. 
Selina’s Point of View: 
Sixty Minutes was so much better than it had any right to be.
The trailer for the film was fine. It looked like Sixty Minutes would be a solid action flick. Something along the lines of Run Lola Run (1998). Not bad footsteps to follow in, but usually those movies tend to be basic. They’re a dime a dozen and rarely have anything setting them apart from the others.
For that reason, I stuck Sixty Minutes in the 15th position of my Top 20. Not high, but respectable. 
In the interest of transparency, my ADHD was acting up, so I had to default to a dubbed version. Due to that, I won’t be talking about the script acting. I will say that there was nothing in the dubbing that interrupted my immersion. I was zoned into my screen the whole time, without fail.
Despite my personal issues, I found myself feeling everything I was meant to during the runtime. Instead of the cookie cutter, semi-solid action flick I was expecting – I got a pulse-pounding, character-driven, well-choreographed film.
When I say ‘well-choreographed’ I’m not talking about the John Wick (2014) style. Weapons, and creative use of the setting, is not really a factor. Nor am I talking about the Extraction (2020) method, where the cinematography becomes a character of its own in the battle. Instead, Sixty Minutes utilized a more realistic choreography. Everything that any character does is something a well-trained fighter could do. There was a touch of acrobatics, but it was mostly boxing/MMA. Fans of watching real fights would get a kick out of it.
I think realism is something that sets Sixty Minutes apart from its contemporaries. It allows for deeper immersion because nothing really comes out of left field. It’s all perfectly reasonable. The main character never seems invulnerable.
Sixty Minutes was amazing. It smashed through every single expectation I had for it and then some.
Cat’s Point of View: 
I remember being intrigued by Sixty Minutes when I saw its trailer last month. I am a big fan of action thrillers and this movie seemed to tick all those boxes on paper. I was initially a little concerned whether or not I would become invested in it enough that keeping up with subtitles and the action at the same time would mesh well, as the production was filmed in German. I was thrilled to discover this was one of the foreign films coming to Netflix that they had an English dub for, so that became a non-issue.
While I don’t generally follow MMA fighting, such as UFC, I do have a love of watching martial arts combat on the screen and a deep respect for the sport. That being said, the entire story of Sixty Minutes stems from the fact that the main character doesn’t make it into the ring for the scheduled fight. The structure of MMA matches and the octagon they take part in aren’t even a factor as the action flows organically through the whole city of Berlin. 

The stunt work here was crazy good and the fight choreography was on point. Sixty Minutes was an excellent vehicle for lead Emilio Sakraya (Warrior Nun, Tribes of Europa, One Night Off) to lean into his background of martial arts and parkour and really shine. Even the supporting cast in his proverbial corner were kicking serious ass. A stand-out for me was one Octa’s head trainers, Cosima, played by Marie Mouroum (Berlin Station, Black Panther, Tribes of Europa). She has an extensive background in cinema stunts and has worked on many heavy-hitting action pieces from Marvel Cinematic Universe to Bond films. She had a meatier role here where she got to show off her fighting chops and had a meaningful part to play as well.
The premise of this story didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles to it, but it didn’t need to. I was emotionally invested from the get-go and I could feel Octa’s pain and frustration as he embarked on this roller-coaster of MMA madness. I was right there with him feeling his emotional exhaustion as it seemed the whole world just wanted to get in the way of him achieving his all-important goal of saving his relationship with his daughter. I also appreciated that Sixty Minutes leaned into the realistic toll that the journey’s events took on his body and mental state -- keeping him human rather than the seemingly invincible hero trope that Hollywood often banks on.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced adrenaline ride with a lot of heart behind it, Sixty Minutes wouldn’t be a bad choice and I would encourage fans of the genre to check it out.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 60% 
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 78% 
Metascore – None 
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.7/10 
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4.5/5 
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5 
Movie Trailer: