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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Ice Cube

Fist Fight (2017)

Honestly, I myself would have just wanted to brawl with one of my teachers.

It’s the last day of school, and for most people, they’re just worried about getting pranked and having to remember the shame for the rest of the summer. But for Andy (Charlie Day), he’s just worried about getting his ass kicked or not. See, it all started when Andy ran into Ron (Ice Cube), the history teacher who is a bit of a hot-head and not the nicest guy around, and accidentally ratted him out to the principal (Dean Norris) for doing something extremely bad. Ron doesn’t like snitches, so he challenges Andy to a brawl, in the parking-lot, right after school. Everyone hears about it, which leads to many people getting in Andy’s head, messing with him, and driving him even further to madness than ever before. Which is an issue for Andy, especially on a day like this, where he actually has to be at his daughter’s talent show by the end of the day and, you know, not worrying about getting his ass kicked.

Don’t look, Charlie. He’s about to quote an two-decade’s old NWA song.

There’s something to be said for most mainstream comedies out there in the world today that feel as if they were written with a paintbrush. Most of them just have a plot, have a few characters, and other broad spectrum of the story, but for the most part, don’t really have much else filled. It’s almost as if they’re just written for the sake of being written, so that big stars can sign onto them and the projects can get funding, made, and released to the world to see.

What happens in between, honestly, is all up in the air and made up on the spot, and that’s feel like what happens with Fist Fight, another studio comedy that relies heavily on improv, but ultimately, doesn’t have that many jokes to sustain its already overlong run-time and premise. That said, there is some humor to be found, which is mostly always the case when you have reliable comedy talents in it like Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, and, uh, Christina Hendricks? Believe it or not, everyone’s pretty funny here and adds a few zingers every so often to make it seem like the movie isn’t just one lame joke, over and over again.

That’s typically the case with improv: Some of it is good, some of it isn’t. But most of it is, and can be, entertaining to watch.

“Something, something, drugs. AHAHA!”

That said, Fist Fight also feels like the kind of comedy where there isn’t all that much else to it, except funny people, playing around, collecting a paycheck, and trying to make the most of it. It’s not even that it feels soulless, as much as it just feels a bit boring, because you know that there’s really nothing in this that makes these talents want to work their hardest and best; Bell is a perfect example of this, as she literally starts off the movie, saying that she wants to bang a student, but that she’s also on meth. Sure, Jillian Bell is always funny, and is definitely funny here, but when you start the movie off with those two extremes, it’s a little hard to fall back on anything else.

And oh yeah, the plot, too. See, one of the interesting things about Fist Fight is that there is, believe it or not, some interesting commentary to be had about the school-system and how, in ways, it will literally drive two respectable, likable teachers, to the brink of madness and feel as if they have to beat the hell out of each other, just to keep their jobs. It’s a bit of an extreme example, for sure, but it also helps Fist Fight seem like more than just a lot of jokes and some story.

Which is, essentially, what it is.

And no, I’m not crapping on Fist Fight for not having more interesting ideas, or better yet, even more plot to work with; it’s a comedy and by default, has to be funny. If that’s the case, then yes, Fist Fight is a serviceable comedy that has laughs to offer. But like I said, not much else.

Consensus: Even with a solid cast who can handle goofy material like this well, Fist Fight also feels a bit underdeveloped and like every other studio comedy ever made.

5 / 10

Someone do something. Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Friday (1995)

I guess the hood ain’t such a bad place to live after all.

Craig (Ice Cube) spends most of his days doing nothing, staying unemployed, and just trying to get by in life, constantly chilling with his boy Smokey (Chris Tucker). However, the day that comes between Thursday and Saturday hits and for some reason, there’s something different about the day that isn’t like every other one.

By the mid-90’s, the hood subgenre of film became a bit of a joke. The themes, the violence, the stereotypes, etc., had all been played-out so much so that by a point, there was even a Wayans spoof on it all. What once had been a reliably sad and effective genre of film-making, soon became a bit of a stale product, that only seemed to get worse with each and every attempt at creating something close to resembling Boyz N the Hood.

Every neighborhood’s got a dude like this.

Which is why, at the time, and of course, now Friday is such a breath of fresh air.

Sure, is it a “hood film”? Yeah, it is, but it’s a different kind of one. It doesn’t really try to lay down some life-altering message about getting out of the hood and making a better future for yourself, nor does it ever seem to try and ever take itself too seriously. If anything, it’s just a smooth, relaxed, and downright silly comedy about one day in the hood, where some good stuff, some bad stuff, and some wacky stuff happens in, of all places, the hood.

And yes, Friday works because of that; it’s a very chilled-out kind of movie that doesn’t rush itself, doesn’t have too much of a plot to really get going with, and it sure as heck isn’t running too long with its barely 90-minute run-time. And none of this is a bad thing, either – most comedies, like John Waters always says, should barely be 90 minutes and Friday works well for that reason. A lot of the gags are so quick and random, that they somehow just work and come together, because the movie doesn’t harp on them too much, just like it doesn’t slow itself down with jokes, either. And it all matters, too, because, well, the jokes are actually pretty funny in and of themselves.

Which is why it’s hard to go on and on about Friday without talking about the one and the only, Chris Tucker.

Gotta get down on….

I think it goes without saying that Tucker makes Friday as funny as it can get. He’s often the scene-stealer, using his high-pitched squeal and delivery to make any joke land, as well as seeming like the funniest guy in the room, amongst a pretty funny crowd. It’s not really known how many of his lines were scripted, or how much everyone involved just trusted him to do his thing, but whatever it was, it works and it’s because of Tucker that even when Friday seems to meander a bit too far away from itself (which it often does), it still comes together in the end.

Which isn’t meant to take away from everyone else here, but yeah, when compared to Tucker, it’s hard not to notice. For instance, Ice Cube plays the straight-man, and seems to be having fun, even though often times, his role seems to just be used as the protagonist we see everything through. John Witherspoon is also a lot of fun as his daddy and kept me laughing every single time he showed up but also provided a lot of insight into how daddy’s usually are with their older, bum-like children. Nia Long is also nice as, once again, the romantic love-interest in a hood flick, while such comedic-greats like Michael Clarke Duncan, Faizon Love, and Tiny Lister, and oh, of course, Bernie Mac, all show up, do their things and remind us why they’re so funny in the first place.

But where Friday doesn’t hold up for me (and granted, I have seen this movie about four-to-five times now), is that it’s direction is a bit sloppy, however, with good reason. At barely 25 years of age, F. Gary Gray took over Friday and seemed like he didn’t have to do all that much, but somehow, the movie is still a bit messy. The best aspect of the movie is how, for the longest time, there’s really no plot and nothing needing to drive it by, but by the end, all of a sudden, there’s a plot, there’s a serious conflict, and there’s a, unfortunately, message that we’re all supposed to learn from. If anything, it feels lame, tired and annoying, and it seemed to only happen because Gray was just getting started and needed to get his foot in somewhere.

Thankfully, he did.

Consensus: Even with a slightly amateurish direction, Friday still works because of its odd gags, relaxed, yet pleasing tone, and of course, the exciting cast, led by a stand-out performance from Tucker.

8.5 / 10

Damn, indeed.

Photos Courtesy of: Filmaholic Reviews

Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016)

No more haircuts. Just do them at your own house, dammit!

A little over a decade after we last left him, Calvin (Ice Cube) has now found his long-loved barbershop molded together with the beauty salon. Most of this is to keep alive and well in today’s economic times, but this also brings along some more unneeded craziness and drama, like with customers and co-workers. But for the most part, some of the same faces are back, along a few new ones like Rashad (Common), who is currently married to Terri (Eve), even if he can’t keep himself from flirting with co-worker Draya (Nicki Minaj); there’s One Stop (J.B. Smoove) who uses the barbershop as a front for all of his shady and underground dealings; and Dante (Deon Cole), someone who is there for sassy remarks. There’s plenty more where that came from, but for the most part, it’s the same old gang together, bickering and joking around like the old days. Except that now, there’s a new threat on the rise, what with gang violence become more and more relevant on the streets of Chicago. This leads the barbershop to think about how to address it, while also maintaining their sense of community and respect for one another.

The paw prints are back, but hidden beneath corporate America? No!!

The paw prints are back, but hidden beneath corporate America? No!!

There’s more laughs in the Next Cut than there are in either of the other Barbershop movies. While that isn’t to say that those movies aren’t “funny” to begin with, but here, while watching this, there felt to be a greater amount of laughs, in a row, as opposed to the other movies where they feel like their laughs a whole lot more scattered. That may have something to do with the direction and pace, as well; as opposed to the first two other movies, director Malcolm D. Lee feels like he’s in a more frantic mood to tell this story, these characters, and give us all the subplots imaginable.

That’s both good, as well as bad for the Next Cut.

By getting rid of the carefree, easygoing, and breezy feel of the first two movies, we now have a much broader, more obvious comedy than ever before. But what’s interesting is that the movie actually gains more laughs by doing this. There are certain tangents by Cedric the Entertainer that start, and hit their mark, whereas there’s other characters on the side who may not seem like they matter much in the grander spectrum of things, but still bring a little something to the movie with a laugh or a chuckle, as small as it may be. In fact, most of the laughs of the movie come from when everyone’s chiming in on a subject, allowing for their voices to be heard, making whimsical statements, and overall, reminding the audience that they’re characters in this movie, that they have a personality and hey, maybe remember them when all is said and done.

And because this is all taking place in a barbershop, yeah, it makes sense that people would actually get into some heated discussions about race, sex, gender, love, violence, gentrification, and all of that fine and fun stuff. Sure, the dialogue isn’t nearly as clever or as smart as it thinks it is, but is there is such a problem with that when it’s actually funny? Nope not really, which is why it was hard for me to really get on the Next Cut‘s case.

Even if, yeah, they kind of flub the ending a bit.

I admire those involved with the Next Cut in making it more than just your average, run-of-the-mill comedy with dirty jokes. Instead, the movie’s following the same them as the two others where it’s trying to be more about the importance of community and having a sense of feeling apart of something, especially what with all of the gang violence erupting in Chicago. It’s an interesting angle that the movie discusses and shows to great lengths (even if the gang scenes with Tyga are unintentionally hilarious and reminded me a lot of Gran Torino‘s equally laughable Hmong gangs), while also reminding us that it has a point and is trying to address something.

Red, white and phew!

Red, white and phew!

But at the same time, it doesn’t know what to do with that message, nor does it know what to say with it. To state, “hey, we need to stop the violence, guys,” isn’t enough. I know a movie like the Next Cut isn’t trying to be a piece of solutions-oriented journalism, meant to change the world for the better, but what it seems like the people behind it felt like if they just brought up gang-violence, talked about how bad it is to sweet, wholesome families still trying to make a life in Chicago, add a gimmick where the barbershop is now advertising some sort of a Cease Fire, and not really explain why the violence is happening, or explain to even further lengths on how to stop this sort of violence, then they’d be fine.

Hey, so long as they showed people that they knew about it, right?

And sure, you could make the argument that the Next Cut is showing us how to exactly stop the violence in the first place (what with the Cease Fire and all), you could also make the argument that it’s not really doing anything at all. In pure Hollywood terms, a Cease Fire is the cheap, easy and simple way of getting past actually answering issues of violence and gangs, without ever trying too hard to actually solve them to greater lengths like, in real life, they have to be. Also, it’s a little hard to take a movie like the Next Cut so seriously with its anti-violence stance, when it seems all involved with Nicki Minaj’s booty, who Common is banging, and whether or not if one character in the barbershop may be gay. All of this is fine to have as just subplots for your broad comedy, but when you try to plaster it together with a hard-hitting, heavy statement against drugs, violence and gangs, then it all seems too odd.

Next time, just stick with the dirty sex jokes. They tend to seem to work better.

Consensus: Even if its the funniest of the franchise, the Next Cut also feels like the messiest, with a statement about gang violence that deserves to be said, but perhaps in a much better, smarter and less messier movie.

6 / 10

It's West Coast vs. East Coast all over again! Except, not really. Everything's all good.

It’s West Coast vs. East Coast all over again! Except, not really. Everything’s all good.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)

Sometimes, when you’re getting a buzz, you just want to be left alone in peace.

Nearly two years later and guess what? The South side Chicago barbershop is still up and running, mostly due and thanks to Calvin Palmer Jr. (Ice Cube), who decided that it was up to him to keep the legacy alive and running. And along for the continous ride with him are his lovely, loyal and entertaining employees – Isaac (Troy Garity), Terri (Eve), Ricky (Michael Ealy), Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) and the newly-employed Kenard (Kenan Thompson) who may or may not have any clue on how to cut hair. Each and everyone of them have their own personal and workplace problems, and now, it’s only going to get worse, what with a new barbershop called Nappy Cutz moving in across the street. As Calvin tries to change the character of his business, Nappy Cutz, as well as gentrification become a threat to the surrounding community. However, Calvin also knows that it’s up to him, as well as those that love and support him to keep the spirit alive and well of the barbershop and not to let a little business-rivalry get in the way of a good thing.

Yup. Those paw prints will get a man for sure.

Yup. Those paw prints will get a man for sure.

Like I’ve said before, Barbershop was in no way, shape, or form, a solid, comedic masterpiece. If anything, it was just a fine and funny piece of comedy that didn’t ask for too much, and didn’t expect much in return; it just wanted to make the audience laugh, have a good time, and hey, if they learned a thing or two at the end of the day, then guess? All is well and right with the world.

And that’s one of the main problems with Barbershop 2 – it sort of loses that same heart and edge that made the first so lovely in the first place. As is the case with most sequels, there’s a lot more of everything that made the first movie such a joy to watch. That means, more characters, more subplots, more messages, more time spent, and most importantly, more jokes, no matter how hard they fall, or how much they may miss. Sequels in and of themselves have a bad rap, but comedy-sequels usually tend to be even more hated as they overdo almost everything and just become grating.

While I wouldn’t necessarily call Barbershop 2 “grating”, I wouldn’t call it the greatest 100 minutes I ever spent.

Most of this comes down to the fact that the movie isn’t really that funny, or better yet, nearly as funny as the first. A few jokes here and there, make their mark and bring out a chuckle, but plenty of them also come around, miss their mark and don’t really bring out much of any emotion. They’re just dull and plain jokes, for the sake of being told to remind people that this movie is, yes, a comedy.

And because of that, there’s maybe only at least 20 minutes where the movie’s actually funny. There’s one key sequence in which Robert Wisdom’s mayoral elect character comes into the barbershop for shameless advertising and propaganda purposes and it’s the funniest scene of the whole movie. I won’t spoil it here, but it constantly builds and builds and builds to an extreme where it’s almost too crazy to not laugh at, and it’s what every comedy should be like. A situation gets placed, the characters are set, and then, we watch it all play out in front of our eyes, waiting for the laughs to start hitting.

Beauty Shop > Barbershop.

Beauty Shop > Barbershop.

Eventually, they do, however, they don’t always last.

It’s a shame, too, because everyone here seems to be back, ready, and excited to have an even better time with the material here. Cube does his best to remain our eyes and ears of the story, which is fine, because he does it well; Eve is sassy and smart, as expected; Michael Ealy and Troy Garity’s characters still don’t get along and always seem to battle it out over something we don’t really care about; Kenan Thompson brings an added-level of zany fun that’s nice to see; Queen Latifah shows up, essentially, just to plug and prep us all for Beauty Shop, but is such a charming presence that it almost doesn’t matter; and yeah, there’s plenty more to choose from.

However, the one who gets the real time and dedication of Barbershop 2 is Cedric the Entertainer’s Eddie and with good reason. Not only was Eddie the best, most funniest part of the first movie, but Cedric himself is just so damn exciting and funny to watch, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in almost everything he has to do or say, even if it seems like he’s doing a whole bit of improv. Either way, Eddie gets more of a backstory that has to deal with the history of the barbershop and it’s a bit dull. Mostly, this is due to the fact that a lot of what we see is just flashbacks that, yes, build this character and this barbershop a bit more, but really, doesn’t do much but take time away from the other characters here, as well as add-on more minutes to an already rather long movie. Of course, Cedric is funny. Nobody’s denying that, but all of the backstory with his character seemed to go on for so long that, after awhile, I felt as if they were prepping us all up for Eddie’s own movie.

Surprised it never happened, but I can’t say that I’m too upset about it, either.

Consensus: Like the original, Barbershop 2 features a bunch of charismatic performers in nice roles, but doesn’t know how to use them as well, with so much going on, and nothing actually being all that funny.

5 / 10

Ice Cube just don't care anymore. He's cut way too much hair by now.

Ice Cube just don’t care anymore. He’s cut way too much hair by now.

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Man Jackson

Barbershop (2002)

Everybody likes to have a little conversation while getting a trim.

On the south side of Chicago. Calvin (Ice Cube) runs a barbershop that he inherited from his deceased father. Since it’s been struggling for the past few years with funding and whatnot, Calvin himself views the shop as nothing but a burden and a waste of his time that he absolutely can’t wait to get rid of so that he can go on and move on with his own life for a change. Granted, there’s other people in the barbershop who may be upset or disappointed with seeing it gone and dead, but Calvin is just thinking for himself and his own life. And now, after selling the shop to a local loan shark, Calvin slowly begins to see his father’s vision and legacy and struggles with the notion that he just sold it out for nothing more than pure selfishness. However, on this one fateful day, a lot of other stuff that happens that begins to affect the others who work in the barbershop, as well as those who come to it, day in and day out, expecting a fine cut, some good conversations, and a greater feeling that they did something right for their community.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Barbershop isn’t, by any means, a stone cold classic in the comedy genre. It is, if anything, a small, simple and easygoing comedy that has a nice, breezy pace, doesn’t ask the hard questions, doesn’t demand the hard answers and, at the end of the day, also doesn’t forget to make its audience laugh. Sure, you could say that’s the deal with a lot of other comedies just like it, but there’s still a special feeling with Barbershop that, even after all of these years, makes me feel like it’s legacy may forever live on, just by how good-natured it is.

Once again, does that make it “a classic”?

Nope, but it does make it a perfectly watchable and fun movie.

This mostly all comes down to the talented cast and the fact that, a lot of them, all seem to get along and have a nice bit of chemistry between one another, even if their characters don’t always get along or seem like the best of friends. Ice Cube, for one, shows that he can be an awfully charismatic and fine lead when he isn’t glowering over those around him as Calvin, giving us a good enough character that we at least identity with him, but not too much of a presence to where he takes over the whole movie and makes us forget about everybody else. In a way, Cube is perfectly fine playing the straight man in this cuckoo’s nest of wild and crazy characters, and that’s why he deserves extra brownie points here.

If anybody is the one who steals the show away from everyone else, it’s Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie. Cedric is doing a lot of hamming it up here and while his character can definitely be taken in for small doses, those doses, as meager as they may be, are still fulfilling and healthy enough that they keep him funny, and the movie going at a fine pace. Much has already been said a lot about the tirades and rants that Eddie goes on and on with about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and more famously, Jesse Jackson, and with good reason – not only are they very funny, but they also prove to be some of the smartest comedy bits that Cedric has ever done (with the exception of everything he had to do or say in the Kings of Comedy).

Of course, some of that could have definitely been improved by Cedric and it would have been perfectly fine, but yeah, it doesn’t matter that he sort of steals the show. Everyone else here is still fine and charming enough that they at least make their presences known, even if they don’t take over the whole film. Peeps like Troy Garity, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, and plenty more all show up, do their things and remind us why they matter in a story like this.

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Even if, you know, the movie itself sort of jumbles them around a tad too much.

Because Barbershop is such a small, relatively contained comedy, it almost feels like a disservice to the rest of the characters that there’d be so much plot and twists and turns that are, for the most part, as predictable as they come. It’s as if director Tim Story didn’t trust his comedy enough to move and tide things along, that he felt the absolute need to have a whole robbery-angle and a love-story to accommodate it. Sure, these things are fine to have if you’re trying to build up characters, but it can also hurt when it’s taking away from some real moments of fun and laughter. If anything, it just breaks up the joy that everyone’s having and making them all realize that, oh yeah, there’s something of a story here that’s supposed to be told and yeah, it’s kind of lame.

But at the same time, Barbershop isn’t trying to light the world on fire, so even if it does take a few pratfalls here and here, at least it gathers itself back up, brushes off the leftover hair from the ground and continue on with itself, as if it’s not fazed and just having fun.

Or yeah, something like that.

Consensus: Though its over-reliance on plot can become a bit much, Barbershop is still a funny and enjoyable enough movie to get through, if mostly because of its charming cast.

6.5 / 10

I'd take a seat in that chair.

I’d take a seat in that chair, provided laughs were involved.

Photos Courtesy of: Youtube, Qwipster’s Movie Reviews, Superior Pics

Ride Along 2 (2016)

Cops are so silly when they’re handling high-profile cases sometimes!

After the events that transpired two years ago, in which Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) went on a ride along with his soon-to-be-brother-in-law James Payton (Ice Cube) and basically solved a case, the two are still together, but not always getting along. Ben still annoys James, and James doesn’t have a single sense of humor to where he actually wants to give Ben a shot, even though, sooner or later, he’s going to be married to his sister (Tika Sumpter). But after much reluctance, James takes Ben to Miami to follow up on a lead that’s connected to a drug ring, and possibly, some heavy-duty drug smugglers. In Miami, Ben and James meet two important people that will help solve their case: a homicide detective (Olivia Munn) who has been looking after this case for quite some time and a computer hacker (Ken Jeong) who reveals evidence that implicates a respected businessman (Benjamin Bratt), who may also be doubling as a violent, sinister drug smuggler. Now, with these two people’s help, Ben and James will now try and solve this case, while also getting to come closer as friends and, well, family.

Are those real? Not the guns, but the cops.

Are those real? Not the guns, but the cops.

Say what you will about the first Ride Along, it wasn’t a great movie, but it at least had some laughs. Sure, most of that was definitely because it gave absolute free reign to Kevin Hart to do whatever he oh so pleased, and therefore, created some laughs, but hey, it sort of worked for me. It was the kind of January movie that didn’t do much, ask for much, nor try to be anything ground-breaking or life-changing – it just wanted to offer up some fun, some laughs, some action, and a possibly solid duo between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.

For that, it worked.

And in every way imaginable, that’s why Ride Along 2 doesn’t come close to working.

I don’t know what happened, either. It seems like with Ride Along 2, director Tim Story’s idea was that he’s got a bigger budget to work with, he’s in Miami, and his movie’s a sequel, so that means everything has to be bigger, louder, over-done, and more action-packed than before. After all, the first movie did have a few impressive action set-pieces that took me by surprise. However, here, it just feels like the movie’s reliance on constant explosions, bullets and violent deaths get to be a bit overwhelming; after awhile, you may, or may not, begin to wonder, “Hey, where’s the comedy at?”

Well, I too wondered the same thing probably throughout the whole entire hour-and-40-minutes of Ride Along 2. You could say that there was maybe one or two chuckles to be had throughout the movie, but really, that’s pushing it. In all honesty, sitting down and watching Ride Along 2, I wondered just where any of the laughs where, especially when their seemed to be some actually funny people involved. Granted, a lot of the movie is just Kevin Hart flailing around, yelling, and asking for other people’s approval and love, but he does that in almost everyone of his other crappy movies.

Surely, that has to bring out at least one laugh, right?

Well, that doesn’t happen. Instead, a lot of the scenes with him just run on too long, or feel as if there was no script at all to be found, so instead of even trying, they just gave Hart a mic and let him do his thing. Except that it doesn’t fully work this time and mostly feels like it’s taking away from the rest of what the movie/actors, have to do and offer. After all, people like Ice Cube, Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, and yes, even Benjamin Bratt, have all proven themselves to be charming and funny before, so why on Earth are they not given anything even remotely funny to work with? Is it because the movie cares less about them, and more about the fiery and explosive action-sequences that, yes, look nice, but happen way too often?

Or, is it just the Kevin Hart Show and everyone else can suck it?

Kevin Hart: Mall Cop

Kevin Hart: Mall Cop

Honestly, I don’t know which one it is, but what I do know is that Ride Along 2, for what it’s worth, doesn’t work. It doesn’t work as a comedy; it doesn’t work as an action movie; it doesn’t work as an action-comedy; and it sure as hell doesn’t work as a buddy-comedy. If anything, it just works at showing us further why Kevin Hart will continue to kick ass at the box-office, even if his movies suck, and his talent constantly goes wasted.

And everybody else’s talents go wasted, too. Cube doesn’t have much to do except just growl, stare and look like somebody just tooted; Olivia Munn shows up as the possible love-interest and may be an interesting character to work with, except that she’s in Ride Along 2, a movie where no one cares about character-development, especially that of a female character; Ken Jeong tones it down a smidge, but yeah, still isn’t very funny, with the exception of maybe one scene he and Hart share in the back of a car (but seriously, I’m grasping at straws here); and Benjamin Bratt plays the villain, who may or may not be a vicious human being, except that he’s in Ride Along 2, where the movie cares more about how Kevin Hart’s character uses video-games to relate to real life, actual crimes where the life or death consequences are as realistic as they can be.

But hey, who cares about realism or anything of that nature? Just have Kevin Hart yell, scream and holler some more! *snorts line of cocaine off of hooker’s rump

Consensus: Though it didn’t have much to live up to in the first place, Ride Along 2 is still a mess of a movie that wastes the talents of everyone involved, but will most definitely get a three-quel in another year, so be prepared.

1.5 / 10

Two black guys and a half-Asian chick. Somewhere, there's a punch-line.

Two black guys and a half-Asian chick. Somewhere, there’s a punch-line.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

No Detox, but hey, at least we get a musical biopic!

Growing up as just a bunch of young bucks in Compton, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.), all wanted to make a difference as the hip-hop group N.W.A. Sure, they wanted to rap, make money, party hard, and have a great time, but what they really wanted from life, was to have their voices be heard and, in some ways, maybe even change the world. Well, when music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) gets ahold of them, that begins to happen. With the release of their seminal album, Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. became one of the most notorious and controversial groups; most of it had to do with the fact that they’re songs were great, but also because they were so racy, that they attracted plenty of attention from law enforcement who didn’t appreciate their songs about police brutality and violence. But even though they were on top of the world and absolutely loving it, too, personal problems began to come into the fray where certain members weren’t getting as much money as they were promised, respect, or wanted to do something else with their careers.

"Yo Dre?"

“Yo Dre?”

Basically, what happens to every band ever formed.

Everything about Straight Outta Compton is as generic as you can get with a musical biopic. The rusted, ragged roots; the first taste of fame; the money; the expensive cars; the lavish mansions; the wildly kick-ass bangers; the tension between members; the idea of “selling out; the break-up; and of course, the eventual reconciliation are all fine points of the musical biopic that are covered here and even then some. In other words, Straight Outta Compton is nothing more than a dramatization of a Behind the Music episode and while that sounds terrible, director F. Gary Gray surprisingly keeps it away from being so.

I say “surprisingly” not because it’s hard to make a musical biopic enjoyable; in all honesty, all you really need is good music, good acting, and a good pace, and everything’s all fine and dandy despite the conventionality of it all. But the reason I say “surprisingly” is because having seen Gray’s past movies, I’m surprised to see that he didn’t lose any sort of conviction with this story and how it handles each and every bit of it. While it would have been easy to just end Straight Outta Compton as soon as N.W.A. breaks up and fill-in the blanks with post-script (as most musical biopics do), Gray takes it one step further and focuses on what happened to each and every member after the break-up. It’s a wise choice on Gray’s part because half of the story of N.W.A. is how they went from being the best of friends, to openly dissing and ripping one another apart in harsh, but legendary diss-tracks, that nobody in their right minds would ever forgive somebody over.

And this is all to say that the movie is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and honestly, it does not need to be.

Though, the interesting aspect behind the long-winding run-time is even though it’s clearly long and definitely needs to be trimmed-down, the movie moves so quickly and enjoyably, that it’s hardly noticeable. There were plenty of moments in the later-half of the movie where I felt like they could have definitely wrapped things up more efficiently than they did, but all in all, the movie never had me checking my watch. Gray keeps the story moving and constantly interesting, even if it does seem to cover the same ground and get a little phony after awhile.

But like I said, it’s a musical biopic that went through all of the same hoops and holes that most others do, and still, it felt fresh, if only because it was actually fun. Even when the hearts and emotions get heavy by the end, the movie still never loses its sense of entertainment; which is to say that it’s a treat for anyone who has been clamoring for this story to be brought to the big screen. There are the occasional flip-ups where its obvious that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube had some influence over which light a certain occurrence was shown in, but overall, it seems to paint a full picture that makes you feel like you know why this group was so important to the world of music, why they didn’t last, and why their own respective members deserved to be praised until the end of time.

"What up, Cube?"

“What up, Cube?”

Hell, it’s even better than some documentaries I’ve seen.

And while I’m sort of on the subject of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube producing this, it should be noted that they did a nice job of getting a good cast in these roles, even if none of them really have to stretch themselves too hard. Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., is an absolute spitting-image of his daddy that you may have to wipe your eyes every so often to remind yourself that it isn’t actually Ice Cube up there on the screen, but his living, breathing, walking, talking and rapping sperm. Corey Hawkins is also a good fit as Dre, not because he looks a little like him (even with a slight hint of Asian), but because he handles the material well when we see the “true” Dre come out. And then, as Eazy-E, the heart and soul of the group, Jason Mitchell is very good and perhaps the most impressive of the young fellas, showing a huge level of depth to a person who would sometimes be classified as a “goof-ball” and all around “lady’s man”.

But whenever these guys are up on the screen next to Paul Giamatti, there’s almost no comparison. Clearly, Giamatti’s the most skilled actor out of everyone here and he shows that off, each and every scene he gets, because he’s constantly evolving into a human being you don’t want to believe exists, but sadly does. All problems with Jerry Heller aside, the movie paints him in a portrait that’s fair; Heller himself has even on occasion spoke of how he’s “just a man for money”, but the movie never makes him out to be sniveling, evil person that most of these movies like to paint the manager as being. He’s just another guy in California trying to make a quick and easy buck, no matter at what costs; sometimes, he’s nice about it, sometimes, he’s not. But he’s a businessman through and through, and Giamatti plays every side of that perfectly.

But poor Suge Knight! What did that guy ever do!

Consensus: Conventional and overlong, Straight Outta Compton feels like it could fall apart at the seams, but somehow, director F. Gary Gray keeps it all together in an entertaining way that makes it feel like the story of N.W.A. is, once and for all, complete.

7 / 10

"We've got somethin' to say."

“We’ve got somethin’ to say.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

22 Jump Street (2014)

The override of debt and loans may be a pain, but hey, at least you’re hanging out with C-Tates and J-Hill!

After “successfully” blending in as high school students and busting a major drug-ring, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) are looking for their next mission, however, their commanding-officer (Ice Cube) thinks that they look too old to blend in with the young adolescents. Instead, he devises up a plan to send both of these guys to college, where they’ll be looking to infiltrate another drug-ring that may have also been the major influence in a student’s recent death. Automatically though, there are problems both Jenko and Schmidt run into as soon as they walk onto campus – some recognize that they are too old; Schmidt can’t fit in as well as he did in high school and finds himself “in” with the art crowd; Jenko finds himself buddy-buddy with a fellow footballer (Wyatt Russell); and plenty more distractions that keep both Jenko’s and Schmidt’s eyes off of what they were sent to college to do in the first place. To make matters even worse, Schmidt gets jealous that Jenko has a new best-friend that he can hang around and party with, leading to something even more serious than the idea of the mission falling apart: The dissolution of their friendship.

To be honest, even though I terribly enjoyed myself with 21 Jump Street, I for one was definitely not looking forward to a sequel of it. Not just a sequel to 21 Jump Street, but just a sequel in particular because, as we all know, sequels are the cash-cow of the movie business that Hollywood loves stuffing down our throats. It doesn’t matter if its a re-tread of the same story that was done so well before, or even if it improves upon the original in any way whatsoever – all that matters is that those in charge make money, and a whole bunch of it, too.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don't know if I believe it either.

Ooh. Channing Tatum as a football player? Yeah, don’t know if I believe it either.

However, every reason I just gave for not looking forward to most sequels of most kinds, is the exact reason why 22 Jump Street, the sequel to 21 Jump Street, works as well as it does: It knows what it’s set out on this Earth to do and rather than trying to hide behind it with flashy special-effects, car-chases and explosions, they attack it head on. Maybe moreso than they should have, however, a funny meta-sequel is better than a meta-sequel that isn’t funny, and it makes me happy to know that Hollywood still has some creative minds out there that can do something cool, fun, and different with the same formula, no matter how many times it’s been done before.

And yes, even though this story has only been done once on the big screen in the past decade or so, something could have easily gone awry here where it feels like it’s the same jokes said, same plot-threads covered, and absolutely no character-development whatsoever. But, like I’ve been mentioning, this sequel is very different from those others out there that do exist and show up maybe ten-to-fifteen times a year.

Because, for starters, this movie is downright funny. Everybody in the movie seems to be having a wonderful time with the material, and considering that both co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller place this story in college, rather than in high school, there’s more ground to cover. Personally, I don’t think this movie goes as deep into the state of modern-day college as well as it did with high school in the first movie, but the fact still remains that it’s a funny movie that makes the best use of its premise. Most of that credit deserves to be given to the more-than-able cast, but a good handful does deserve to go to Lord, Miller and the screenwriters (Michael Bacall and Oren Uziel) who keep this movie crackling full of humor whenever it sees fit.

Still surprised? Don’t worry, because it gets better.

Also, with this sequel, something happens that I didn’t see coming, which is that we get more rich development for our main characters that we fell so in love with before: Greg Jenko and Morton Schmidt. Obviously what was so great about the first movie is that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, despite seeming like a terribly-placed, odd-couple of some sorts back two years ago, worked so well together, that it was easy to not only believe in them as best-friends, but fuel the movie’s emotions a bit more once you saw their friendship start to deteriorate because of certain problems stemming from one being considered “cooler” than the other. They explore that same idea here, but it’s done so in a way that isn’t hacky and at least brings us to seeing why Jenko and Schmidt are such great movie-pals in the first place.

And heck, if you told me that C-Tates and J-Hill truly were the best of friends in real life, I would not doubt you for a second, because here, it totally shows. Their chemistry never wains and you can always tell that each one knows exactly what the next one is going to say, or do, at any given moment. Watching them pal around with one another and bounce joke-after-joke off of each other’s public-personas is an absolute blast, but what makes them so great together here, especially this time around, is that you can see why it matters so much about them being friends.

Though their different in terms of physical-build and social-cliques, they both have the same kind of personalities that they even each other’s out; Jenko is more impulsive, whereas Schmidt likes to think about what move he’s going to make next, whereas Schmidt is smart about life and in touch with his feelings, Jenko likes to blanket things underneath having a good time and not worrying about the small stuff that he considers “crap”, or “meaningless”. Though they have some differences, they still definitely appreciate each other’s company, because they’re both clearly good at their job and want to have a great time while doing it. Sure, they may not always agree on whatever step the other one takes, for whatever reasons that may be, but not every person agrees with another person on everything, especially not a best-friend.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

College truly is an experimental time for anybody.

I know it may seem like I’m going into this deeper than I probably should, but I only do that because the movie itself clearly does its own fair share of digging into the friendship of these two just as much, if not more. Jenko and Schmidt are clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and while they may not be the only amusing, or even most interesting aspect about it all, they sure as hell are the aspect that keeps it conscience clear, its heart in the right place, and ourselves placed firmly behind these two, hoping they complete their mission, happy and together. And yes, if that sounds at all homosexual, that’s on purpose.

Trust me.

Like I said though, these two aren’t the only amusing aspect of the movie, because saying so would only be an injustice to just about everybody else who shows up here and throws in their own two cents to bring in more fun. Ice Cube is a whole lot funnier and well-rounded than he was in the first one, and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that he’s downright hilarious; Wyatt Russell (child of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell) is a fine-fit as the bro-ish frat dude that Jenko begins hanging out with more often than he should, but the two create a wonderful chemistry that it comes almost close to challenging the same one Tatum has with Hill; Jillian Bell plays a character that has it out for Schmidt the first day she meets him for looking too old and is very funny, even if she herself does look a tad too old to be pushing books and staying in dorms; and Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle all return to bring in some much needed reminders of how great and truly awesome the first one was. And while this one definitely rivals that movie, it’s clearly the better of the two. However, to have comedy-sequel in the 21st Century still be just as good as the first, truly is saying something and makes me optimistic for whatever sequels they have lined-up for this.

Just watch and you’ll get the joke. Trust me.

Consensus: 22 Jump Street may not be better than the original, yet, still comes pretty closer to doing so because of its tongue-in-cheek humor that never stops being hilarious, and the heightened relationship between its two main characters, played perfectly once again by both Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like my Spring Break, except not at all.

Sort of like this past Spring Break for me, except not at all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Ride Along (2014)

More reasons as to why we shouldn’t trust our current police-force.

Ben (Kevin Hart) is a fast-talking, very eccentric and slightly goofy that longs for the day he gets his chance to be in the Police Academy. He thinks he is able to do so, all because of the constant video-games he plays on his XBOX, and also because his girlfriend’s brother, James (Ice Cube), also happens to be a cop, and a pretty bad-ass one at that. So if there’s any problems Ben may have, he can always count on his girl’s big bro. Then again though, no he can’t, considering that this said brother doesn’t particularly like Ben, nor even think he’s “man enough” to be the man who takes his baby sister’s hand in marriage. That’s when James gets the bright idea that he’s going to take Ben out on what the task-force calls a “ride along”l which means that the two are going to spend a whole day together where they try and solve crimes, maintain peace and basically, get done all the jobs a normal policeman would normally do. However, there is this case that’s been eating at James for quite some time and it’s starting to all make some sense to him now with Ben around, the only problem is that he may be a bit too in over his head.

Take last year’s the Heat, get rid of the two female leads, as well as their skin-color, and you have Ride Along.

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

And there you have it. That’s all there is to know about this movie and that’s all that you need to know, in order to judge whether or not you should see this flick. Personally, I like a good, old-fashioned, buddy-cop flick when it’s done right, and I thought that with the inclusion of both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, that things would be a lot better.

However, they aren’t, they’re just mildly acceptable, which is fine, especially considering that we’re in the month of January and, as we all know, the movies released during this uneventful month usually suck terribly. While I definitely would like to say that this movie is “absolute garbage”, I can’t help but think that there were a few times that I actually laughed, and more often than not, had a nice, measly chuckle to go along with the fun as well. For me, that’s all I want in a comedy and if that’s good enough for me, then hell, I think it ought to be good enough for you.

But like I was saying before, this movie definitely isn’t great nor should it be recommended for those who are looking for something that’s going to re-invent the wheel, or even throw them a few surprises they weren’t expecting to see from something that looked as conventional as this. There are a whole bunch of twists concerning certain characters that are easy to pick out right from one of the movie’s earlier-shots; and hell, even the biggest surprise this movie may have had to offer (a cameo from a certain, well-known “someone”) is practically spoiled to us when we the person’s name pops-up in the opening-credits.

And aside from those issues, the plot doesn’t really make much of a difference, because even at an hour-and-40-minutes, the thing still does seem a bit long and lag very, VERY heavily in the middle. It actually lagged so much, that I caught myself dozing-off a few times and barely woke-up from my slumber, despite a crowd of 50-somethings laughing their assess off like hyena’s around me. Almost rarely ever happens to me, hence why I’ve took the time out of this review to make a very big note of it. May not happen to you out there, but it definitely happened to me and it reminds me why coffee comes in so much handy before these types of movies. That, or the fact that the movie itself that I am watching has to be even remotely entertaining.

I wonder why there's so much focus on these guys in the first--half of the movie............

I wonder why there’s so much focus on these guys throughout the movie…………

What’s strange though is that even though I did doze-off during this movie, which would usually kill any other one from getting even the slightest recommendation, this flick had just enough charm and energy about it to where I didn’t mind that it put me to sleep for, oh, I don’t know, say seven or eight minutes. Which means that most of the praise for this movie has to go to both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, who seem to perfectly placed together as the type of buddy-cop duo we usually see. Cube is very stern, serious and dismissive most of the time; whereas Hart is wild, crazy, energetic, always able to have fun and even take some chances. Together, they make for a very entertaining dynamic, in which you can actually see Cube try his damn near-hardest not to crack a smile whenever Hart is around and doing his thing. And while Cube himself may not be acting his ass off or really lighting the screen-up with his charisma, he’s still fine keeping it as straight-laced as he can be, without ever seeming like a total square that doesn’t know how to have fun.

But as for Hart, the guy’s very fun to watch; although, I do have to admit that some of his screeching and hollering did get to the point of where it was over-bearing. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Chris Tucker in that way, but a lot smaller. And his size, as you could expect, does get a lot of jokes thrown at it from all ends, but Hart’s down with it enough to suck it up and let himself be on the butt-end of a joke. Actually, that’s how he practically is throughout this whole movie, constantly throwing himself everywhere and anywhere, desperately trying to get even the slightest hint of a chuckle out of the audience. Though some may see this as “annoying”, or “over-the-top”, it worked for me and showed me that when in doubt, just trust Kevin Hart to make some goofy, whiny noise to make you laugh. It may not always work and have you soiling your pants, but in the off-chance that it does work, you’ll laugh, you’ll hoot, you’ll holler and most of all, you’ll appreciate that there is a comedian like Kevin Hart out there who is more than willing to sacrifice life and limb for a laugh. Or, even a chuckle. He’ll take what he can get, run with it and leave us enjoying ourselves. True comedian, right there.

Consensus: Shouldn’t be your first, nor your second pick at the movies this weekend, but if worse comes to worse and you end up finding yourself sitting in the same theater that’s showing Ride Along, don’t be alarmed because it’s funny for what it is, without doing much else out-of-this-world. Aka, a typical January movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

He is from Philly, so the fact that he wouldn't be able to handle a gun correctly was just a totally unbelievable plot-point. At least for me it was.

Make a note that he knows how to hold that gun through “playing video-games”. Yup, definitely not a movie for the kids.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Best Man (1999)

Just so that I can rest assured my wedding will be awesome, I’m already making plans.

After not being with his boys back at home for many years, settling down with his girlfriend Robin (Sanaa Lathan) and writing a novel that’s all about the people he surrounded himself with back in the old days, and all of the crazy experiences they may or may not have had, Harper (Taye Diggs) is reunited with the old gang after he finds out that he’s to be the best man at his friend Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding. Not only will Harper get to hang out with the guys like he used to (Harold Perrineau Jr. and Terrence Howard), but he may even get to reconnect with an old flame of his (Nia Long). And hell, since his lady-friend won’t be around until the day of the wedding, well then Harper has plenty of time to commit any sort of adultery and dirtiness he oh so pleases to. But to make matters worse as if cheating on your heavily-devoted girlfriend wasn’t enough, it seems to be that Harper may have had a little thing with Lance’s fiance (Monica Calhoun) from way back when, which he’s kept away from him for so long, so why would he want to tell him now, especially on the weekend of his wedding? Well, he doesn’t want to, but since Harper has made a mention of it in his novel that Lance carries around with him, it seems almost like it’s bound to happen at any second, unless that is if Harper has anything to say about it.

It’s strange to think that a movie that did relatively well at the box-office almost 14 years ago, would actually get a sequel. However, it’s even weirder to think that the sequel would include almost every familiar face, name and/or creator that was attached to that same original either. Because, if you think about it, in the land and age of non-stop remakes, re-hashes, reboots, sequels, and so on and so forth, it seems like almost every star eventually gets tired of doing the same thing at some point. And if that is so, well then, all you have to do is wait 14 years and you’ll get the whole band back together, regardless of if that band was all that popular in the first place.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way more talent.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way better luck at nabbing the bridesmaids.

But all sequel talks aside about The Best Man Holiday, let’s chat it up about the original. See, I’ve never seen or heard anything about this original until a couple months ago, which is really odd to me because I definitely like to feel like I know almost any movie, that has ever been made, especially with such big names as the ones we have in here. However, all that trash aside, I pretty much went into this movie cold or totally unexpecting of what it was to expect, other than a bunch of black folk making me laugh, hanging out and having a good time. And hell, white folk or black folk, I’m down for a good time which is what I had here.

What writer/director Malcolm D. Lee does well here is that he doesn’t necessarily go down the same conventional-roads that most “wedding movies” of this same nature usually go down. Rather than giving us a look at the bride’s side, and all of the problems that she and her fellow gals are going through, we get a full-on glimpse at the groom and all of his buddies that support him through this decision, party with him the night before and give him their condolences on the day of, after all of the boozing, drugging and sexxing has been put to rest. Obviously for a sly guy like me, this approach was nice and made me connect with these characters a bit more, and while I do know some girlies out there will be pissed about how it pays attention more to the dudes of the story than the actual girls, well, that’s because it’s called “The Best Man.” Not, “The Best Woman“.

Like duh!

But no, seriously, all of those problems aside, the movie still paints a clear enough picture for both sides to where it doesn’t seem like Lee’s just playing favorites as he so pleases. Of course he likes to focus more of his attention on Harper and his problems, as well as his friends’ problems, but he also shows that the girls that inhabit this story go through the same dilemmas as well. Maybe the guys don’t fret too much about whether or not they look too fat in their suit or if their flowers match their dress, but they definitely do care about similar things like getting the ring, looking fresh to death and being able to actually go through with the decision, and getting past all of those cold feet problems most dudes go through on the day or days leading up to the wedding, much like the women do as well.

Not me though. I already knew I was making a mistake, and five marriages later, look at me now!

So, that’s why when people get on this movie’s case for presenting more of a dude’s point-of-view, it’s not really all that fair, and it’s kind of already know right before hand. Even then though, it doesn’t matter because the script gives each and every one of these character’s a personality, no matter how annoying or likable theirs may be. Of course in a movie like this, we just need to have the constantly nagging, snobbish girlfriend who never leaves her man alone and let him have a good time with the guys (Melissa De Sousa), but even then, her character still feels well-written to where you are annoyed of her no matter what she’s doing on screen, and yet, you sort of know that that’s the point behind her whole character, and therefore, you learn to embrace her. It also helped that De Sousa was mightily easy on the eyes, that’s for sure.

And everybody else to a certain extent is written the same way, except that they’re probably a lot better-performed by more-talented cast members. I’ve always had a soft-spot for Taye Diggs as I’ve always felt like, no matter what it is that he’s in, he’s the most charming thing about it. Hell, even when he is in a bleak piece of work like Equilibrium, the dude still couldn’t help but crack a joke or a smile to save his own life, so obviously he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back in a movie like this, where he’s practically called on to do that almost every second of the movie. That was fine for me because not only was it a blast to watch Diggs give us a cool, suave and charming guy like Harper, but to also show that he isn’t perfect, that he has made some mistakes, and will continue to make them because, well, he’s human, dammit. Humans make mistakes. Even humans named Harper.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

The other big name in this cast (at the time) was Nia Long who practically made a living, and still is to this day, of appearing in these African-American movies, sometimes, even with the same cast members continuously showing up besides her and confusing the hell out of viewers. Seriously, like how many movies did this chick do with Ice Cube? Or even Morris Chestnut for that matter? Anyway, she’s great here in giving us a female character that seems like she’s thinly-written to be nothing more than a hard-at-work gal that needs to get her bone jumped in the next 48 hours or so, by any means necessary, but after awhile, you do realize that she’s a cool gal, one that any dude would be lucky to end up with. That dude just may not be Harper, regardless of what it is that she wants, or heck, even what he wants.

Speaking of Chestnut (sort of), while I’ve always felt like he’s been a bit of a buzzkill in almost anything he shows up in, he was pretty damn good here as Lance, giving us the type of muscle-bound jock that we’re so used to seeing him play, and yet, somehow be able to show us a soft side of his that isn’t afraid to come out in the ugliest ways possible. Don’t want to go any further than that, but I think you feel where I’m going with that. But regardless, Chestnut’s performance here as Lance is definitely the best I’ve ever seen him give, which may not be saying much to begin with, but is still saying something. Same goes for both Terence Howard and Harold Perrineau Jr. who seem like they’re enjoying themselves quite enough to steal the show when they are given the chance to, even if they aren’t the lead characters. However, I think the times may have changed too much and now, all of these years later, the focus may be switched to where they got more attention and more time to do some great acting. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Doesn’t change the name-of-the-game when it comes to wedding movies, but The Best Man is still a fun, entertaining, somewhat insightful movie to see, especially if you’re wondering what it’s like when you want to get hitched, and what all of the people surrounding you will be thinking, saying or doing with one another. If you catch my drift?

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay everybody! Let's gather round and play the "whose life is going to be over next?" game!"

“Okay everybody! Let’s gather round and play the “whose life is going to be over next?” game!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

21 Jump Street (2012)

High school sucks.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as young and clueless police officers who go undercover at a high school to investigate a drug ring, effectively giving them the opportunity to relive their student lives all over again.

The idea of remaking an old TV show as a movie doesn’t seem too promising. However, all of those problems were gone as soon as I saw the hilarious Red-Band trailer for this one and then I got to see the actual film itself and it was so much better than I expected.

The whole structure of this flick is pretty simple: put two bros in uncomfortable situations, have them run into a problem, and then have a nice, but action-packed resolution. However, that structure doesn’t go down so easily here considering it doesn’t go for the cheap laughs and isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself in the meantime. This is one of the funnier flicks that I have seen in recent time because it has raunch that is deserved, jokes that hit the mark just about every time, and a bit of satire about how high school really is in today’s world which definitely hit a lot closer to home for me and seemed so true. Everything is so much different today from what it used to be and instead of the philosophical, softer kids being the ones you shoved in lockers, they are now all of a sudden the cool kids that find their ways as being hailed at the end of the year as “the one most likely to succeed and be uber cool”. It’s something I see in school today and even though I’m not really trying to complain about it, I just still find it funny that a film that takes place in high school is able to hit the mark so perfectly.

What’s really strange about this flick is that it’s actually from the directing duo of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, aka the guys behind the animated hit ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. It’s definitely a strange pick-up for these guys to go from kiddie flick about obesity to an R-rated comedy but they somehow are able to make transition work with their strange ideas to keep this flick moving. The film isn’t unpredictable by any means but there is so much here that seems so funny and original, that you wonder exactly why none of this hasn’t been done before and just why it’s so easy for these two dudes to do it and comedy director veterans still can’t hit the right marks. One funny example from this flick is the drug-montage scene they have here. Every flick that has to do with drugs in one way or another all have a weird montage, but this film takes that one step further and makes it so much more funnier than it had any right to be and that’s just one scene. There are so many more like them that made me laugh like crazy.

However (yes, there is always a however), as fresh as this flick may be, it does start to falter by the end as it dives more towards action and loses a bit of its comedic edge. I didn’t mind this as much considering the action is surprisingly very good but everything ends so predictably that it’s a shame considering this flick really had me thinking I was about to see a new and original twist on this type of formula, only I never got that. It also seemed a little strange that Hill’s character starts to get more and more attracted to Brie Larson’s high school character even though she’s a little too young for him. Then again, it could happen so don’t mind me.

The main reason why I was looking forward to this flick in the first place was because of the strange pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and they both deliver in their own little ways. Hill is once again hilarious here (in a slightly less fatter way) and makes it seem like comedy can come to him so easily no matter what the script demands. Then again, a lot of it does start to seem like it’s just improv, which is definitely a lot better for Hill considering he owns that. I was also incredibly happy to see my main man Channing, finally get a role that suited him with his action and comedic skills. Tatum was hilarious in the strange flick, ‘The Dilemma’, and it was great to see him show his comedic skills once again, this time playing up his meat-head look for laughs. Both of these guys play-off of each other perfectly every time they are on-screen together and it was such a blast to see these guys having a blast that I wanted more of them on-screen. So glad these guys were able to nail these roles considering Hollywood has been really finding it hard where to put them lately.

The supporting cast is also great and all play up their own comedic skills to add more to the flick. Ice Cube is funny as the predictable, angry black chief that always seems to be yelling and dropping the F-bomb every time the film focuses on him but he plays that up perfectly and hopefully this will get him back in doing better comedies than ‘Are We There Yet?’; Dave Franco has a funny performance here as the wise-ass high school kid, Eric, and reminded me so much of James Franco that it was too funny to be true; and Rob Riggle has his hilarious moments as the creepy gym teacher that always seems to be effing around with these kids. There’s also a totally memorable cameo at the end of the flick that’s perfect but I don’t want to give anything away because it is definitely something has to be seen to be believed.

Consensus: 21 Jump Street isn’t really doing anything to re-invent the buddy-action comedy wheel, but the chemistry between Hill and Tatum, the rapid fire humor, and the fresh and brutally realistic look at the present-day high school make this a comedy that actually will make you laugh consistently.

8/10=Matinee!!

Rampart (2011)

White men can’t jump, but they can certainly be corrupt cops.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is pretty much a huge dick-head. He has two ex-wives that he still somehow lives with, uses women like a new pair of shoes, corrupts the law, and has a past that is not the best track-record on any person, especially a cop. However, that’s all starting to come back onto him and he has to start taking it like a man, or at least just go crazy and drink.

Director and co-writer Oren Moverman is coming off of his debut-flick, ‘The Messenger’, which was one of my favorite films of the forgettable year of 2009 but somehow this one doesn’t hit that same cord here it did with me even though it’s also written by the same dude who did ‘L.A. Confidential’.

There have been so many “dirty cop” films in the past that it almost seems like a tired genre in and of itself but somehow this film stays away from the things we’ve seen before with a relatively interesting and different approach than we are used to. The film relies more on the actual guy, Dave Brown, rather than just showing us the non-stop gun fights, macho-man acts, and tiresome car chases, the film decides to show us how he is with all of the people around him such as the women in his life, his brother, and even the people that are trying to help him be a free and non-guilty man. It has a slight noir feel to it which was pretty cool because it’s never really been done before but I think that’s where my main problem where this film lied was.

The pace for this flick is incredibly slow for this type of material and as much as I don’t want to just sit here and rag on about how boring it was, I still couldn’t help the fact that I was checking the time about every 5 minutes at a lot of points. I would have liked a little bit more action, a little bit more mystery, and a little bit more drama to this film for me to actually have something that excited me but instead it was just very depressing to watch this dude’s life practically crumble in front of his eyes. The material isn’t something that’s all happy-go-lucky in the first place, but I still thought that there could have been a tad more done to this flick to spice things up.

The film also had some bright moments by the end but a lot of that shined away with another ambiguous ending that is becoming the next big trend in Hollywood but here it just felt like a cop out (pun intended) so they didn’t have to worry about disappointing audiences. There are many moments in this film where you think something is going to come to a dynamite resolution, but instead, the film backs off which kept me bothered especially for the contrived ending. Come on movie industry! Stop being so damn ambiguous!

Although the film’s story doesn’t do too much the film is actually very great to look at mainly because a lot of the unusual shots that Moverman takes here with this film. Sometimes the film will be up-close-and-personal on a character so much that you can see up their nostrils, sometimes the camera will be far away, and sometimes it will just be moving around the room to keep track of something happening. Either way the film has a lot of good camera-work here and a very random sex club scene is one that sticks out in my head the most. No, not because of the naked people ya pervs, but because it was actually shot beautifully. Duh….

The real reason to see this flick is one of the main and only reasons this film is being mentioned as much as it is, is because of Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown. Harrelson is a great actor and it’s taken awhile for him to actually have his own starring vehicle where he can just do what he wants which is where this film succeeds. Brown is a bigot, racist, homophobic, violent, and mean man that nobody wants to be around but how Harrelson can somehow make this guy likable by any means is a true testament to how great of an actor Harrelson is. There are also moments in this flick where Harrelson really lets out all of his emotions where you feel this character’s sadness but also his grief over all of the bad things he’s done over the years, even though he is still a mean spirit in the end. Harrelson should at least get nominated for an Oscar just because he is so incredibly good.

The rest of the supporting cast are all pretty good because they all get their moments to shine a little bit but having too many characters can be a little bother-some considering if you are just having them on-screen only when the main character talks to them. Nobody really felt fleshed out except for Brown, and maybe that’s the way the film wanted it to be so it definitely succeeded in that way.

Consensus: Dark, depressing, and very slow, Rampart will bother many people who just want a story but for some very good visuals, an interesting take on a premise that has been done time and time before, and a performance from Harrelson that is ruthless, terrifying, and beautiful at the same time is what makes it a real watch.

7/10=Rental!!

Three Kings (1999)

Not your average, sympathetic war film.

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube star as a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. When the three arguably wise men find a map they believe will take them to a huge cache of stolen Kuwaiti gold hidden near their base, they embark on a secret mission that’s destined to change everything.

The Gulf War just seems like a war that was basically a total joke. It only lasted for about a year, if not even that, and barely anybody got killed in it. So it was pretty cool to see a fun take on a war, that didn’t seem even energetic at all.

David O. Russell is a crazy mofo, but is a really great director. The one strength that Russell uses here is that he blends drama, action, and a little hint of comedy altogether but it doesn’t once get annoying like most films that blend genres do. The fact that this isn’t like any other war film is not the real reason it’s great it’s because of what this film does and actually talks about. Russell does some pretty innovative stuff here with his direction, whether it’s using a slow-mo shot to show the bullets hitting a person, or a moving image of the sky, or even an awesome image of showing what sepsis wound looks like. Russell is a very gritty director and he uses this to his ability, to bring out the real dirt and mud that was The Gulf War.

The real strength of this film is located within it’s script that Russell did himself as well. The real reason why this script works so well is because the drama is here and ways heavy on the story, there are still many moments of actual dark comedy that will probably have you laughing and wondering just exactly why you laughed here. The story starts off really quick and comedic with the sounds of The Beach Boys in the air, but soon changes into a very dark, haunting, and disturbing take on the war. You start to really get behind this story because the satire is there, and the political commentary which comments on the U.S.A’s involvement with foreign affairs will ring true and actually have you very angry as to where this story starts to take you. But this is also an action film and there’s plenty of enough thrills and spills to hold over any adrenaline junkie, but it’s more a political critique than an action/war film.

My only problem with this film is that sometimes I do feel like Russell get’s a little out-of-hand with the artistic side of his directing. I’m not going to lie, he does some pretty cool stuff here with everything he shows, but there are many times that I feel like he just gets a little too over his head with this artsy-fartsy crap he does. Also, by the end of the film it does get a little preachy, but I have to say this didn’t totally bother me, I just noticed it right away.

George Clooney and David O. Russell got in a huge brawl on-set during the filming of this film, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t turn in a good performance himself. Clooney basically plays the George Clooney he plays in every film but it always work because he has that cool vibe that always helps his character’s and is just totally sweet and smooth. He is all of that and a little more here as Archie Gates. Mark Wahlberg is amazing here as Troy Barlow because his character is a very human person that just wants to do what is right, and never wants to just kill anyone to kill anyone. Ice Cube is also great as the black grunt, Chief Elgin, and it’s kind of sad to watch this, knowing that this is his last film that actually showed that he any street cred left. Damn TBS! Spike Jonze is also very funny and good as the dumb hick, Conrad Vig, and it’s a very rare performance because now that Jonze has found his niche as a director, we may never see him in front of the screen again. This is a pretty strange head-lining cast but they all do real well with this very challenging material that gives them the opportunity to show their dramatic depths as actors, as well as their comedic timing too and they pull it off. The rest of the cast is very good as well with the likes of Jamie Kennedy, Judy Greer, and Mykelti Williamson aka Bubba.

Consensus: Though it gets a little preachy by the end, David O Russell’s Three Kings is still a smart and innovative blend of action, drama, war, and comedy that shows The Gulf War for the crap that it was and how we can all learn from our mistakes.

8/10=Matinee!!

Lottery Ticket (2010)

I wonder what would happen if this occurred in my “hood”.

Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), a young man living in the projects, dreams of having his life changed by winning the lottery — as do all his neighbors — but when Kevin finally hits it big, he must keep his good luck secret until he can claim the prize. Thrilled to be in possession of the $370 million ticket, Kevin endeavors to keep his scheming and sometimes hostile neighbors at bay.

Looking at this premise, it actually looks like Friday stretched out over an entire weekend, but sadly it’s nowhere close.

The one thing I must say about this film is that it does have some fun moments. The humor here is short and sweet, and it’s overall generally harmless. I didn’t find myself being offended by any of this (probably because I’m white), but if I was black, I don’t think I would be offended by this either.

My main gripe with this is its tone is all-over-the-place. The problem is that it’s social-political commentary isn’t very smart, it’s humor isn’t hilarious, and it’s drama isn’t thought-provoking. There’s a huge struggle with tone issues here because there’s some real shocking gritty realism, but then at the same time it still has that over-the-top ridiculous humor. For instance you can’t have a slimy preacher talking about some girl he thinks is hot, and then in the next scene talk earnestly about giving back to the community, just be a comedy.

Let’s not also forget the huge amount of stereotypes, and cliches that are within this script. This film is very shallow, showing these people walking around with guns as if it’s nobody’s business, everybody going crazy after this one kid for his money, and there’s actually a girl who just wants to be a baby daddy. I have no idea why there would be so many tired stereotypes in a film that tries to show that the hood isn’t such a bad place after all.

However, the cast is what really brought this film all together in the end. Bow Wow is not the best actor, but there is something magnetic about him on screen where he actually looks like he’s having a good time. This a more adult lead role for him, and I can see that he has got enough charm to carry a film. Ice Cube (who also produced) plays Mr. Washington, and makes a good acting choice as he brings out that distinct coolness about him, and he really commits to being this old man which I surprisingly bought. Naturi Naughton plays Bow Wow’s best friend, Stacie, and has one of the most endearing and likable performances of the whole cast. The rest of the ensemble is filled with plenty of stars such as Brandon T. Jackson, Keith David, Charlie Murphy, Loretta Devine, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy, Mike Epps, and the marvelous thespian that is, T-Pain. All do fine with their little jobs but are never fun enough, and aren’t really given much of a shot to be as hilarious as I know they can be. Still, they add a lot of fun to this film.

Consensus: There’s an amount of fun here that isn’t wasted, especially not on its cast, but Lottery Ticket suffers from a tipsy-turvy tone, non-stop stereotypes, and tired cliches. However, you will enjoy yourself if you’re looking for a fun story that all means well in the end.

5/10=Rental!!

Higher Learning (1995)

If this is what college is like, well I better start taking boxing lessons.

College is a battleground in the hands of writer-director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood). As several students make their way through school, they find themselves traversing a minefield of race and sexuality. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly and Michael Rapaport.

Higher Learning is a very underrated film for many reasons. One of the major reasons is the fact that it’s directed by John Singleton, who everybody considers a one-hit wonder, because of Boyz N the Hood. That is all bull-crap, because he does a good job here as well.

One of the best things about this film is that it’s script really is amazing. Singleton does a good job at combining all these little, inter-twining stories, that each show conflict in every way. There are always problems with sex, race, and heritage, everywhere we go, and we are shown that it can always lead onto something more serious than we originally think it will. Racism is never a good thing, and through this we see how both whites, and blacks, criticize one another, and how that leads onto more serious consequences.

The problem with this film is that Singleton’s direction kind of gets distracted by the middle, and you can see that he doesn’t know what to do with all of this story-telling in one movie. He has a strong message, no doubt about that, but he doesn’t know how to deliver it. He steps into way too much melo-drama, that seems misplaced, and handles bigger issues than he should be. I will admit, he keeps the film interesting, but there are parts in this film that just had my head turned sideways, and too cliche.

I did like Singleton’s style however. He’s a very energetic director in this film, and there are some nice shots that show emotion, like how dark this world can be. The campus he filmed this on seems so real, and adds a lot to the realism this film was going for, especially when you got all these young adults running around, drinking, having sex, and causing havoc.

The performances here are actually quite good. Omar Epps never shines away from being stunning at all. Ice Cube is good with what he does, but doesn’t show up enough, and literally is gone for about 30-minutes of this film, which is odd considering he has top-billing. Laurence Fishburne is very good here as Professor Phipps, and the character is very smart, witty, and true to himself, and Fishburne handles that pretty well. Kristy Swanson is good here, as the shy, naive school-girl, that just wants peace, and Jennifer Connelly kind of got annoying after awhile. She would show up at random times, and then we had no idea why her character was there in the first place. My favorite performance of the whole film was Michael Rapaport, who does a great, and strong job at playing this weird, lonely, and out-of-place dude, that soon follows in with the Neo-Nazis, and you see how he transforms into something more. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the tension, and presence within him, and it sucks that he doesn’t get much of a credit in today’s world, cause he knocks this one out of the park.

Consensus: It has its flaws, and problems, but Higher Learning has a great message, that is shown with its terrific script job, and acted so well, that you almost forget your watching a fictionalized film.

7/10=Rental!!

Beef (2003)

Made me feel so hood watching this.

Narrated by Ving Rhames, Beef provides a definitive look into the trash-talkin’ world of high-profile “beefs,” told by the artists themselves — the MC battle, hip-hop’s war of words, who’s the “illest” on the mic, and more. Features 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Nas, DMX, Snoop Dog, Tupac, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Ja Rule, Mack 10, Common, Cypress Hill, Russell Simmons, NWA and legendary battlers KRS-One, MC Chan, Kool Moe Dee, Busy Bee and many others!

I was asked by one of my friends, who yes is black, and told me I should check this ish out, because he says it shows that all rappers are fighters, and I couldn’t agree more.

For me I love hip-hop, but I also love all the artists that inhabit it and their “beefs” they all encounter with one another. Just to see how different each beef is, was great to see how much the game has changed. But its not just so much about the beefs as much as its about the way a rapper and any musician should be. Be cautious of what you say, and do cause you never know when somebody might take it the wrong way and act foolish.

I enjoyed listening to what some of the artists had to say but I thought their was too much commentary and not enough footage of the beefing artists. As a long time fan I wanted to see more of the actual battling and concerts uncut and without interruption. If you are a fan of hip hop then you will know who they are talking about and the references that are made, if you are new to hip hop you might not appreciate it as much.

Not every beef in the game is in here, and some major ones are left out, but that’s why they made 3 sequels, and that’s why I’m watching them next. Peace!

Consensus: Beef is an informative, energetic, and entertaining documentary on the world of hip-hops biggest rivalries, but needed less talky more action.

9/10=Full Price!!