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: