Friday, January 24, 2020

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Biography, Drama
Length: 118 minutes
Rating:  R
Production/Distribution: Netflix, Davis Entertainment
Director: Craig Brewer
Writers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Actors: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg, Chris Rock, Ron Cephas Jones, Barry Shabaka Henley, T.I., Luenell, Tasha Smith, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Aleksandar Filimonovic, Ivo Nandi, Michael Peter Bolus, Kazy Tauginas, Bj Bingham

Blurb from IMDb:  Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been looking forward to this movie since I saw its first trailer. Both Selina and I listed Dolemite Is My Name within our Top 20 for October 2019. Speaking for myself, I am certainly glad I did – and wish I’d listed it higher in my rankings. It was, however, the month of Halloween and the urge to stack more horror than other genres was a temptation I couldn’t escape.

After watching this comedy biopic, I can safely say that Netflix gave us a decidedly good treat, and there were no tricks.

Eddie Murphy (Shrek Forever After, Tower Heist, Mr. Church) was absolutely perfect in the role based on the very real Rudy Ray Moore (Shaolin Dolemite, The Watermelon Heist, Vampire Assassin). I honestly can’t think of anyone else that could have done the titular character justice. I’m excited that a new generation has a chance to experience a classic Murphy performance like this.
Though, my inner 80’s baby, who is still rocking out to Axel-F from the Beverly Hills Cop (1984) soundtrack, is a bit on the fence with the upcoming sequels planned to both that franchise and Coming To America (1988). Part of me is excited, and the rest is worried about sequelitis. I digress…

Dolemite was a comedic legend as a larger-than-life character. It didn’t matter if the movies were cheesy or campy – that was part of their charm. It was fitting that the star-studded cast of today assembled to pay homage to the beginnings of a legend.

Seriously – this film was stacked with comedic genius and personalities that are deeply woven into our pop culture of today. Keegan-Michael Key (Lets Be Cops, Tomorrowland, Keanu) and Craig Robinson (Table 19, Ghosted, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot) might as well have had one of those time machine tubs, because they helped bring us back to the ‘70s. Mike Epps (Girls Trip, Acts of Violence, Uncle Drew) and Wesley Snipes (The Expendables 3, Chi-Raq, Armed Response) were among the notables as well. The latter portrayed a character far removed from his usual action style – and nailed it.

Of course, one couldn’t forget Snoop Dog’s (What Are the Chances?, Future World, The Beach Bum) presence in this film. Moore appeared as his Dolemite character in one of Snoop Dogg’s music videos, so this makes sense as a tribute to the lauded ‘godfather of rap.’

That wasn’t even the full list of notables participating with this production!

I appreciated the care that the production team took in staying faithful to the character and story of Moore’s journey. It paid off with many laughs and a satisfying feeling as the credits rolled.

I would recommend this movie in a heartbeat to anyone that is a fan of comedy. I’ll probably be watching this one again soon, in fact. 

P.S. There are additional scenes during the credits, some of which show a comparison between original Dolemite movie scenes and this one. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 97%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 91%
Metascore – 76%
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

Streaming Service: Amazon Prime
Movie Name/Year: Brittany Runs A Marathon (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Length: 104 minutes
Rating:  R
Production/Distribution: Material Pictures, Picture Films, Amazon Studios, Amazon Prime Video, DCM Film Distribution, Diamond Films, Elevation Pictures, The Searchers
Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Writers: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Actors: Jillian Bell, LilRel Howery, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock, Alice Lee

Blurb from IMDb:  A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.

Cat’s Point of View:
I remember being interested in this movie when it was up for consideration for our August 2019 Top 20. It wasn’t quite clear to me whether this was going to have more of a dramatic slant or would delve further into comedy. It didn’t quite make the final cut for our lists, though now I’m wishing that it had.

Jillian Bell’s (Goosebumps, Fist Fight, Rough Night) quirky brand of comedy is generally on point. I love the juxtaposition her characters find themselves in where her actions or dialogue is unexpected in comparison to her demeanor. You just don’t expect her to say half the things that come out of her mouth sometimes.

My initial reaction was worry that this film would become something along the lines of a fat-shaming lampoon or an overly in-your-face ‘respect everyone’ preach fest. I am very glad to report that neither was the case. I am, frankly, shocked that this is the first full-length feature for Off-Broadway playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo (MacGyver, LFE). He captured the essence of these characters in a very relatable and honest way. The comedy laced throughout felt organic and seamlessly flowed, avoiding the common pitfalls of obvious schtick.

Of course, it likely helped that this tale was based on the journey of self-discovery of the writer/director’s good friend and former roommate.

I had a rather intense reaction to this film. I’ve struggled with my weight pretty much since middle school. It is not a fun roller coaster to be on. I recognized every moment of doubt and trepidation the titular character experiences. Bell’s performance was riveting. It was as if I was right there with her, looking at myself in the mirror with all the little negative voices that accompany not liking what you see. I felt the gut-punch from the attitude and lack of support from others and how hard it is to ask for or receive help on even the most basic levels.

There were so many meaningful moments throughout this film, and yet it wasn’t too heavy. It was gracefully balanced with humor so that it kept things light enough that you just knew there’d be light at the end of that proverbial tunnel. I was further impressed to learn that this film was the first non-documentary to film during the actual New York Marathon.

I would certainly recommend this movie, even though I may not be able to watch it again for some time due to the level I emotionally relate to it. It was phenomenal. 

P.S. - During the credits, images are shown of the marathon journey of the real-life Brittany whom this story was based on. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 87%
Metascore – 72%
Metacritic User Score – 5.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5
Movie Trailer: