Friday, September 6, 2019

Dave Chapelle: Sticks and Stones (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Dave Chapelle: Sticks and Stones (2019)
Genre: Comedy
Length:  65 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Netflix
Director: Stan Lathan
Writer: Dave Chappelle
Actor: Dave Chappelle

Blurb from IMDb: Dave Chappelle takes on gun culture, the opioid crisis, and the tidal wave of celebrity scandals in a defiant stand-up special filmed in Atlanta.

Selina’s Point of View:
I heard that this comedy special was controversial, but I think that was an understatement. 

My personal sense of humor is versatile. I can enjoy the innocent punny stuff, but I can also go really dark. So, the rumors about how controversial Sticks and Stones was didn’t make me nervous. No one can argue Dave Chappelle’s timing, or iconic persona, so I was looking forward to seeing this. 

I wasn’t five minutes in before I realized how on point the rumors were. 

He went beyond dark. The controversy started right out of the gate and didn’t let up at all. There was no taking a breath between horrifying subjects.

The thing is, and it’s something critics seem to have forgotten, Chappelle is genius and more self-aware than most people on this planet. This is a man that walked away from a profitable show so that he could travel to South Africa and live a life less in the spotlight. He canceled his own show because executives wanted him to sanitize his work and he refused to give in on pressure.

Now we’re living in a time where a single tweet from a decade ago can get a comedian ‘canceled’.

I think that Chappelle purposely went as far over the line as he possibly could. I’m almost positive the tone of his show is directly related to how ridiculous – and cherry-picking – cancel culture can be.

I understand the reviews. Normally, I see a large difference between the critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes as a failure on a critic’s part to fully consider the entertainment value of a project. In this case, I consider it a success on Chappelle’s part. The 99% audience score comes from the understanding of why he was pushing the limit so far. It’s an appreciation of his rebellion.

The 33% critic score, however, doesn’t surprise me. The dark places Chappelle touched on, were examined through an even darker perspective. There was no way in hell that critics were going to enjoy it. They failed to see the satire in it, or just had a stick a little too close to puncturing their lower intestine.

I’m not going to lie, there were several jokes that fell flat with me. My sense of humor just doesn’t go to those places – but I’m not entirely sure I was the demographic he was speaking to. It’s hard to appreciate a joke you just can’t relate to. That said, I honestly see Sticks and Stones as more of a statement on cancel culture than a comedy special anyway.

It comes down to the fact that if a smaller, less iconic, less admired, comic had made any single one of the comments that Chappelle made – the collective ‘audience’ would seek to ‘cancel’ them. Chappelle knows this, and I think he’s using that knowledge to shine a light on the problem.

Nobody cancels Chappelle. He’s long-since proved to Hollywood and the world that he’s the only one who can say if he’s cancelled. I think this is his reminder to other comedians that they can take the same control.

Cat’s Point of View:
In the spirit of disclosure, I didn’t go into this viewing entirely blind. This is mostly due to the fact that you can’t avoid hearing people talk about this particular show unless you’re not plugged into any sort of media outlet whatsoever. The family-friendly radio talk-show that my daughter & I listen to as I take her to school in the mornings was even talking about this polarizing program.

Frankly, I am on board with what one of the radio personalities said – she watched about 15 minutes of the special and then bailed. Had I not been watching Sticks & Stones for a review, I would have responded similarly. I didn’t like it. I didn’t find it funny for about 98% of the show.

I did, however, find the epilogue entertaining. My score for this production is as ‘high’ as it is because of that alone.

Many of Dave Chappelle’s (Crank Yankers, Chi-Raq, A Star is Born) topics were in poor taste, relatively insensitive, and seemingly delivered for shock value. That being said, I am not going to be one of the many that are railing against the comedian and Netflix. If he wants to use offensive language, make light of serious topics, and flaunt the taboo – that’s his prerogative and right under the First Amendment. He makes a point during the special. If you’re watching the special on Netflix, you ‘clicked his face.’ It’s a choice, and with the thousands of titles available on the streaming service, you can simply choose to avoid the show like the plague if you are offended by it.

Do I agree with his position on all of the topics he discussed? Not particularly. Would I let my daughter watch this with me? Absolutely not. (The TV-MA rating here is a well-warranted hard R equivalent at the very least.) Should it be pulled from Netflix? No. If we start censoring stand-up comedy for controversial content, we might as well try to sanitize all the horror movies, too. A very silly spiral begins from there.

At the same time, he did make a few valid points on topics such as how swift we’ve become, creating a new cultural norm, to go dig up old mistakes and fling them at high-profile public personalities as if they define them in current context. I can’t tell you how glad I am that social media – and really the full-blown internet in general – wasn’t a thing when I was growing up. At the same token, the point is also valid how the public has a bit of a double standard – because not everyone with past or even current issues gets dirt thrown in their face and pitchforked mobs.

I think the title of the special sets it up well. Sticks and Stones, from the old nursery rhyme. It’s both Chappelle’s dare to his audience to give him their worst if they’re offended – because the words will bounce off of him, and a reminder about that very choice I mentioned before – to watch the show at all. He’s throwing some sticks and stones. This special’s audience needs to dodge them, or they’ll feel the hurt. Ultimately, however, this production won’t end the world - in other words, no bones are really being broken here.

Stepping down from my soap-box, all I can say is that while I will not be recommending this program, I can only hope that it provokes some constructive conversation and awareness regarding some of the topics within Chappelle’s content. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 30%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 99%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score None
IMDB Score – 8.6/10
CinemaScore – None

P.S. – Pictures are shown during the credits.

P.S.2 – If you let the credits play out without interruption, a 23 minute-long epilogue will automatically play. In the credits from this post-credit Easter egg special, photos are displayed featuring people discussed during the epilogue.

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

St. Agatha (2018)

Movie Name/Year: St. Agatha (2018)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 103 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Dragon Blood Holdings, St. Agatha, The Outside Writers, Uncork'd Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, Clint Sears
Actors: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson, Trin Miller, Seth Michaels, Hannah Fierman, Lindsay Seim, Shaun Fletcher

Blurb from IMDb: In the 1950s in small-town Georgia, a pregnant young woman named Agatha seeks refuge in a convent.

Cat’s Point of View:
At first blush, St. Agatha reminded me somewhat of the convent season of American Horror Story (2011- ). That soon passed, however, and gave way to a more visceral brand of horror – the sort you think could possibly happen.

I was raised Catholic and attended parochial school for most of my life. When I was really little, the elementary school I attended was primarily staffed by nuns. This was also back in the day where corporal punishment was still a thing. The fear of the paddle was very real. Of course, most of them were really nice and when I got sent to the principal’s office for talking too much we had lovely chats. Every batch of apples does tend to have a bad one now and again, though. I do remember one sister that struck fear into the hearts of every student because she was just that strict. I imagine that a fever dream of one such as her on a power trip could end up something like this movie.

The narrative felt like it was bringing some sort of urban legend to life. While I can’t recall any that specifically revolve around convent practices in this film’s particular era, it isn’t a giant leap of imagination to picture this sort of scenario as the deep-seated fear of any young girl pregnant out of wedlock and faced with the possibility of being sent away to such a place for the duration.

This movie gave a whole different spin on the concept of feeling hopelessly trapped by your own decisions. 2018 seems to be the year that concept was popular since Unsane (2018) explored a similar theme with a more modern take. I think St. Agatha could have given it a run for its money, though, had it been similarly promoted.

When watching this film, keep in mind that it was directed by Darren Lynn Bausman (The Devil's Carnival, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Abattoir) – the storyteller behind three of the Saw (2004) franchise movies. There’s some fairly disgusting body horror here. I’ll admit that some of it had me gagging. That being said, I liked the fact that the insidious nature of events in this movie was driven by mundane means rather than supernatural. That aspect sets this film apart from most that deal with horror and the clergy.

All told, St. Agatha was fairly successful at keeping me on the edge of my seat. I wouldn’t have any problem recommending it. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 61%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 42%
Metascore – 63/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.8/10
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating –  R

Movie Trailer:

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Movie Name/Year: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Avi Arad Productions, Lord Miller, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Sony Pictures Releasing, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Finland theatrical release only), United International Pictures (UIP), Feelgood Entertainment, InterCom, Big Picture 2 Films, B&H Film Distribution, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Walt Disney Studios Sony Pictures Releasing (WDSSPR) (Russia theatrical release only), Amazon Prime Video, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Writer: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Actors: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Live Schreiber, Chris Pine, Natalie Morales, Edwin H. Bravo, Stan Lee, Jorma Taccone, Joaquín Cosio, Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III, Lake Bell, Post Malone

Blurb from IMDb: Teen Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man of his reality, crossing his path with five counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat for all realities.

Selina’s Point of View:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was flawless.

I didn’t get to see it in the theaters. In fact, it took a while for me to find the time to sit down and watch it in general. With it hitting Netflix, however, I had the chance to put it in the running for the blog. So, I did.

As much as I was looking forward to seeing Miles Morales in a full-length feature film, I was worried. The hype was insane. Every person I knew who watched this movie talked it up so much that when I finally got to see it, I was almost certain I was going to feel let down just because my expectations were super high.


Every single bit of that hype was deserved.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just the best animated superhero film I’ve ever seen, it’s not even just the best Spider-Man film I’ve ever seen. I’m fairly certain it’s the greatest comic book movie ever made.

When I placed Into the Spider-Verse as my number one pick for the Top 20 Movies to Look Out for in December 2018, it was with the caveat that the inclusion of Spider-Ham might have been an issue. I was worried it would take away some of the story’s validity. I have to say, even that porky little spider felt right.

Every line of the script hit its mark. Every actor involved felt like the embodiment of their character. The animation embraced Spider-Man’s comic book roots and it was gorgeous – quite possibly the most visually impressive animated film.

I don’t believe I could come up with anything about this movie that I disliked and, honestly, I’m not gonna try. I’m going to sit here in awe for a little while, maybe watch a few of my favorite scenes again. Then I’m going to hit Amazon and buy the blue ray.

If Sony follows the path it created with Into the Spider-Verse then we still have hope for Tom Holland’s (Avengers: Infinity War, The Lost City of Z, Edge of Winter) Spider-Man.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 93%
Metascore – 87/100
Metacritic User Score – 8.7/10
IMDB Score – 8.4/10
CinemaScore – A+

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5

P.S. There’s a Stan Lee quote thrown on screen for a minute or so in the middle of the credits. Stay til the end of the credits. There’s an extra scene.

Movie Trailer: