Friday, May 12, 2023

Clerks III (2022)

Streaming Service: STARZ
Movie Name/Year: Clerks III (2022)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Length:  1h 55min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: View Askew Productions, BondIt Media Capital, Destro Films, SModcast Pictures, Eagle Pictures, Fathom Events, Lionsgate UK, Lionsgate, Metropolitan Filmexport, STARZ
Director: Kevin Smith
Writers: Kevin Smith
Actors: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Rosario Dawson, Amy Sedaris, Austin Zajur, Bryan Johnson, Ben Affleck, Danny Trejo, Ernest O'Donnell, Ethan Suplee, Fred Armisen, Harley Quinn Smith, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Justin Long, Lisa Hampton, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Michael Belicose, Michelle Buteau,  Mike Zapcic, Ming Chen, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Scott Schiaffo, Trevor Fehrman, Walter Flanagan
IMDb Blurb: Dante, Elias, and Jay and Silent Bob are enlisted by Randal after a heart attack to make a movie about the convenience store that started it all.

Selina’s Point of View:
Kevin Smith is my favorite writer/director. As much as he’s known for his fart and dick humor, there’s more to it for me.  
My cousin gave me the VHS of Clerks (1994) one year for Channukah. I don’t remember what year, but I know I was entirely too young for it. I remember saying a polite ‘thank you,’ and then making a face when he wasn’t looking because I couldn’t understand why he’d given me some lame black-and-white movie.
The first time I watched it wasn’t even off of that VHS tape. It was sitting in the basement of a friend’s house with a Colt 45. A beer I was, also, way too young to be drinking. As bad as that sounds to an adult ear, we weren’t doing anything worse than that. We sat down there watching movies, spitting quotes at each other, and just kind of existing together.
At a time when I felt very much alone, bonding with those people over Clerks is one of the best memories of my teen years – and I don’t have a lot of those.
It’s not easy to discuss, but I’m pretty sure without Kevin Smith – and those people from the basement – I wouldn’t have made it to now.
I told Kevin Smith about it once, and he gave me a letter in response. I’d rather keep the contents of that letter to myself, but I’ve never lost track of it. I’ve moved across the state since then. Lost more things than I can count, but I know exactly where that piece of paper is.
Clerks was a life-changer for me. Clerks II didn’t have the same intense effect on my life, but I still enjoyed it. I’ve watched it a few times over the years, but I file it with most of Smith’s other works. Right alongside Mallrats (1995) and Dogma (1999).
I expected Clerks III to be a bit of a different beast. The trailer showed exactly how meta it was going to be – pulling from Smith’s heart attack and his experience making the original Clerks. I was super excited for it and ready to see it in theaters.
My daughter started pre-school though, and my entire family has had some form of the plague since. Most of the time we haven’t been fit for public consumption. So, I missed it’s run and then had to wait for streaming.

I could not have prepared myself for what I just watched.
Not only was it on the same level as the first Clerks, but it benefited from everything Kevin Smith has learned since he started his career. Randall’s heart attack was harrowing, and I haven’t ugly cried at a movie as much as I did at the end in a long time. I do think my personal history with the series was part of what caused that, but it was just as much the movie itself.
Clerks III was the perfect way to end the Clerks story. It paid homage to the original while still evolving into its own thing. I’m sad that I missed it in theaters, but maybe it was for the best – the ugly crying was truly a sight.
I do think that the people who would get the most out of Clerks III are fans of the original. It’s not the kind of sequel you can just jump into without watching what came first. You need that established relationship with the characters of the story.
If you do choose to watch Clerks III, you should watch the other two first. You can find Clerks on Paramount+ and Hoopla. Clerks II can be found on PlutoTV. Of course, all of them are available on Amazon for a fee.

Cat’s Point of View:
My family and I have long been big fans of Kevin Smith’s work We’ve seen every “Jay and Silent Bob” related movie and show - and some of those multiple times. I could babble on for quite a while but I will spare you most of my geek-out. (I’m practicing for when the Core-4 of the Clerks (1994) trilogy comes together with a few others from the Askewniverse family at Geek’d Con this summer. I will be working at the convention and doing my best to be a literal professional fangirl.) I digress…

I remember the first time I watched the original Clerks, it took me a minute to adjust to the black-and-white. I was worried my TV was busted or that I’d accidentally used the wrong setting or something like that. Was I even watching the right movie? My now-husband, who was sharing one of his favorite VHS tapes with me at the time (circa 1998), assured me that it was quite on purpose and urged me to hold on because it was going to get good in a minute. Shortly after that, I - much like when I watched an actual black-and-white TV when I was little - forgot that it wasn’t in color and I just enjoyed the story. 

Watching all the movies that have come after has been one of our “things” throughout the years. As soon as our daughter was old enough for the content, we shared our love for these movies with her as well. It was no wonder that I listed this as my #1 pick for September 2022’s Top 20.

I expected Clerks III to bring this trilogy full circle, as well as the legion of cameos involved. What I didn’t anticipate was the massive rollercoaster of feels that this story would take me on. I didn’t expect the tears. So many tears. I was ugly crying, there at the end. I felt like someone needed to shout CLEAR before the punch to the heart. 

This was a beautiful, hilarious, and poignant bookend to this saga. 

Clerks III took a deep dive into our own expectations for our life as we get older and assess what we’ve accomplished - and haven’t. We take a step back and see how some things have changed and also some remain the same. It questions what possibilities could lie ahead, as well as keeping its core focus of ride-or-die friendship, while also exploring the navigation of existential crisis and loss. Yeah. All of that in a Clerks movie while at the same time being damn funny.

It’s clear how Kevin Smith’s own life experiences colored this deeply personal story arc that tied together the first and last movies and even wove in the middle (as well as some of the other side-quests). He’s been very vocal about how his own heart attack changed his outlook on life and even has recently been speaking openly on the topic of mental health. (We need to normalize this, folks, and strip away the stigma. You can watch his YouTube video posted on People’s channel here.)

For anyone that hasn’t watched any of the Clerks movies yet, you’ll want to at the very least get the first 2 under your proverbial belt before taking on the final movie of this trilogy. For the completionists out there who want to be able to pick up every Easter Egg and reference to the View Askewniverse movies featuring Jay and Silent Bob, Screenrant published an article with a good chronological list. 
Of course these movies - and particularly this trilogy are about so much more than just Jay and Bob. Brian O'Halloran's Dante, Jeff Anderson's Randall, Rosario Dawson's Becky, and so many more new and old friends come together in this glorious finale, and I loved every minute of it.

Anyone who is already a fan will definitely want to watch Clerks III ASAP, if they haven’t already. This was my 2nd viewing - and I still cried just as hard - and it might not be my last. I feel like I owe a massive thank you to Kevin Smith for this crazy ride, and while this saga is seemingly ending - I can’t wait to see the stories he wants to tell next.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 62%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score –93%
Metascore – 50%
Metacritic User Score – 4.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
P.S. - There isn’t a mid or post-credits scene, however, there is a roughly 3 minute audio segment from Kevin Smith voiced over the end of the credits. In this segment, he offers an alternate ending and an epilogue to the story.  
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Fresh (2022)


Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year:  Fresh (2022)
Genre: Horror, Romance, Thriller
Length:  1h 54min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Searchlight Pictures, Legendary Entertainment, Hyperobject Industries, Disney+, Hulu, Star+
Director: Mimi Cave
Writers: Lauryn Kahn
Actors: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Alina Maris, Andrea Bang, Brett Dier, Charlotte Lebon, Dayo Okeniyi, Jojo T. Gibbs, Lachlan Quarmby, William Belleau
Rottentomatoes Blurb: FRESH follows Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who meets the alluring Steve (Sebastian Stan) at a grocery store and -- given her frustration with dating apps -- takes a chance and gives him her number. After their first date, Noa is smitten and accepts Steve's invitation to a romantic weekend getaway. Only to find that her new paramour has been hiding some unusual appetites.

Cat’s Point of View:
Fresh has generally flown under my radar thus far. I honestly don’t remember what I had thought of its trailer back in 2022 when it originally premiered. I went into this viewing essentially blind and, as a result, was blindsided by the experience. 

I didn’t see this take on the utter grind of modern dating going in the direction it went at all. I’m actually a bit frustrated as I try to put coherent thoughts together that don’t spoil the big reveal.

Fresh was as intriguing as it was nauseating. I have questions that may never be answered, and I’m generally okay with that. I have guesses, at least; as the story gives enough clues for the audience to draw their own conclusions on some fronts. That being said, while the gore was relatively high - there was far less blood and guts than I would expect for this sort of film. I feel that was actually a rather brilliant choice, though, to the credit of the story. Too much precision was required to maintain the cogwheels turning for this particular narrative.
I’m impressed that this was the feature directorial debut for Mimi Cave (Vessel, Danny Brown: When It Rain, I'm Happy I Promise). Fresh also describes her take on this sort of genre as well as the meaningful title name. 
This is the first time I can think of that I’ve seen a movie’s title card and opening credits appear 33 minutes into the film. It was a little jarring when it happened. I had entirely forgotten by that point that it hadn’t already occurred. 

Daisy Edgar-Jones (Albion, Where the Crawdads Sing, War of the Worlds) and Sebastian Stan (The Last Full Measure, The 355, Ghosted) were also great in their respective roles. I believed their screen chemistry, and still have a little bit of mental whiplash from the direction their story took. Jojo T. Gibbs (Good Trouble, Something From Tiffany's, Past Lives) was also a great casting for the ride-or-die bestie of the main character, Noa. 

When all is said and done, Fresh was a solid movie. I can’t say that I’d want to watch it again, but only because of the nature of the story itself. I’m satisfied with a one-and-done viewing scenario here. There were a few moments that were a little bizarre to me but didn’t take away from the general experience. Fresh isn’t for the faint of heart (or stomach for that matter) but it wasn’t a waste of nearly 2 hours. 
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 82%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 81%
Metascore – 67%
Metacritic User Score – 6.3/10
IMDB Score – 6.7/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 8, 2023

Cocaine Bear (2023)

Streaming Service: Peacock
Movie Name/Year: Cocaine Bear (2023)
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Length: 1h 35min
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Universal Pictures, Brownstone Productions, Lord Miller, Peacock, Studio Distribution Services (SDS), Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE)
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Jimmy Warden
Actors: Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ray Liotta, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Brooklynn Prince, Christian Convery, Margo Martindale, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Kristofer Hivju, Hannah Hoekstra, Ayoola Smart
Blurb from IMDb: An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists and teens converge on a Georgia forest where a huge black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.

Selina’s Point of View:
Cocaine Bear seemed like it was going to be insane and chaotic. There was definitely a lot of that, but there was also more plot than I expected.
The beginning did little to make me think there was going to be anything more to it than I initially thought. It had a bit of a story based on a little girl that wasn’t comfortable with her mom dating and a sad drug dealer. The sad drug dealer thing got old quickly, too. To be honest, I was already feeling a little disappointed.
Once it picked up, everything got more interesting.

It was brutal and the story evolved into something worth watching. Not only that, but as LOOSELY as it was based on that true story (I’d say more inspired by than based on), the bear facts used tended to be more on point. Things like: how fast they can climb trees, how to respond to a black vs a brown bear, etc. I found that more interesting than if they would have played as loose with the nature aspects as they did with the story facts.
It was interesting to see a ridiculous B-style creature feature mix with a more mainstream crime-comedy feel. I understand now why they released it to theaters.
If you do watch Cocaine Bear understand what you’re getting. It doesn’t take itself as seriously as something like Jurassic Park (1993), and so the graphics aren’t as on par. But it’s also not as ridiculously unbelievable as something like Sharknado (2013), so the script and acting is still well done.
I would watch it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
Cocaine Bear came out of left field. When my family and I first saw this trailer before an in-theater movie, we watched with jaws dropped. The premise was ludicrous - and at the same time utterly mind-blowing. Especially since it was supposedly loosely based on real-world events.
That’s right. There was a very real (if unfortunate) Cocaine Bear in Kentucky, who apparently lives on in taxidermied infamy somewhere and nicknamed “Pablo Escobear.” Of course, the real bear was male, and this fictionalized account gives a flipped gender take on the scenario - well… aside from the fact that the real bear didn’t maul anyone in a drug-induced frenzy before passing due to the cocaine it ingested.
The story that fueled this cinematic fever dream was loosely based on a portion of the narrative within the book “Bluegrass Conspiracy.” I’ve never read it, but I don’t need to. This was a highly fictionalized version that took a true portion of the tale and warped/expanded on it.
Needless to say, the moment we were able, my 19-year-old and I streamed Cocaine Bear and enjoyed (in horror, mind you) the whole rollercoaster ride it took us on. The characters were all interesting and the comedy-horror blend was on point, doling out laughs as well as edge-of-seat pulse-pounding moments like candy at Halloween. We’re talking about a story about a bear mauling its way to its next fix, here. The concept should have been clown-shoes, but it worked!
I must applaud director Elizabeth Banks (Brightburn, Pitch Perfect 2, Charlie's Angels) for taking this one out of the usual Hollywood cookie-cutter box here. Not only did Cocaine Bear successfully spin this man vs. nature story, but the way various people get caught up in the situation felt organic rather than forced. I was worried that the human element of the story would feel more cobbled together to just support the bear’s bender. I’m glad I was wrong.

The cast here was also firing on all cylinders. Ray Liotta (Field of Dreams, Shades of Blue, The Many Saints of Newark) had just finished recording his post-production work for this film before his unfortunate passing, and this was a stellar performance for him. I loved loathing his character, and he played those role types so well.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Untraceable, Modern Family, Ivy + Bean: Domed to Dance) and Keri Russell (Free State of Jones, Antlers, The Diplomat) in this sort of movie. Though, I couldn’t help but giggle seeing Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones, Downhill, The Witcher) because this is just the sort of quirky project I would expect from him. Alden Ehrenreich (Beautiful Creatures, Running Wild, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and O'Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton, Den of Thieves, Obi-Wan Kenobi) were the glue that held the core of the story together where family, drugs, and forest met in the middle. Even the child actors really held their own.
I’ve also got to say that the production team did a pretty damn good job on that bear. There were a few points that I looked at it a little cross-eyed, but generally, I would have believed that somehow there was a real bear romping around on the screen. A+ for that successful rendition.
If you haven’t seen Cocaine Bear yet and enjoy the horror-comedy genre blend, my recommendation is to watch this one as soon as you can. You might even find you’ll want to more than once.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 71%
Metascore – 54%
Metacritic User Score – 5.3
IMDB Score –6.0/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4.5/5
P.S. Some scenes during the credits and sounds at the end of the credits.
Movie Trailer: