Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead 2

Year of Release: 2007

Production Companies: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

For my review of the first film, click here.

I often wonder how sequels get green-lighted, even though there is little demand for them or how something can get warranted. I have touched on this in my reviews of The Man With The Iron Fists 2 and also How High 2. Let’s not forget on my review of I Got The Hook Up 2, especially when wondering how long Master P had wanted to get that off the ground. The list goes on, especially when seeing that some movies didn’t do so well enough in theaters, unless it sold a good amount of units in home media. I mean seriously, there are a lot of sequels to Bring It On, as well as a few sequels to Death Race, which I may cover on my movie blog. But in this case, I really wonder if there was a demand for a sequel to Half Past Dead.

I think I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me tell you how I first discovered that there was a sequel to it. I remember going to Walmart and noticing on one of the DVD racks that there was a copy of Half Past Dead 2. When I saw it, I was like “Huh?” This was in the late-2000s, by the way. I think it was 2008 when this happened. Then I saw who was on the cover. It was none other than Bill Goldberg and also Kurupt. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think. Now I didn’t watch the first movie until early 2017, when I went through a Steven Seagal kick. I will note that I was familiar with it, as well as knew that Kurupt was also in it. But when I saw Bill Goldberg on it, I didn’t know what to say.

Some of you may have probably figured out by now that I am a fan of professional wrestling. I have made some references here and there in past reviews and stuff. However, I am also aware that Bill Goldberg had starred in some films like Santa’s Slay and stuff. I heard that it was bad, but being that I actually enjoy watching “bad” movies sometimes, I think I might give it a go sometime. So I wasn’t sure what to say. Then when I saw Kurupt on the cover, it made me see that he was possibly one of the only returning actors from the previous film to appear (Let me remind you that I really mean “one of” in this case, as I will get to that).

Which brings me the topic at hand. So basically the story is that Twitch (Kurupt’s character) gets transferred from New Alcatraz, the prison from the first film, to another prison somewhere in Missouri. It turns out that his girlfriend Cherise (played by Angell Conwell) lives there, but there is more to it than that. Immediately he becomes acquainted with one of the prison gangs, as well as gets antagonized by another prison gang, led by the main antagonist Cortez. Then he cross paths with Burke (Goldberg’s character), a loner who doesn’t like associating with people, but has love for his daughter Ellie (played by Alona Tal). But then trouble arises when a riot erupts in the prison, leaving Cherise and Ellie trapped when it goes into lockdown. Problems escalate from there.

Which now brings me to how this is linked to the previous film, especially when more often than not, straight-to-video sequels are only “sequels in name only,” although that could be a factor in this film as aside from returning characters, the title doesn’t really relate to the plot. Basically, Twitch gets promoted from a supporting character to one of the leads and the only other character who returned was El Fuego, played by Tony Plana, who was the warden from the first film, and was only featured in two scenes in this film. I also must note that there were some story elements, as well as passing references that somehow needed to be told in order to link the two films together, but even in some ways it felt like there had be rewrites to the script. Not to mention some continuity errors here and there. The same could be said about the lighting used for some action scenes.

Also, I really wonder if Steven Seagal was even approached to even star in this at all. At this point, he was already doing a bunch of straight-to-video movies, but I guess with his large ego, he probably thought he was too good for this. I mean, seriously, you know that there is a problem when your comic relief side character somehow gets promoted to main character in the sequel.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film. This is the real kicker. I didn’t dislike the movie at all. Yes, it does have its issues and all, but I found it to be somewhat of time-waster that you could just watch if you have nothing else going on. I enjoyed the movie okay. I wouldn’t call it good, and it would be wrong if I said that I loved it. It was really more average, maybe even halfway decent at best. I will note that I liked some of the songs on the soundtrack. Kurupt even provided a couple of songs of his in this film, one of which was a Dogg Pound song, even though it was his verse that was heard. It was still entertaining despite all of its issues.

This movie was definitely an example of an unnecessary sequel. I guess that was why it was straight-to-video. I mean, seriously, a couple of years prior, Steven Seagal was in a movie with Treach from Naughty By Nature. Speaking of Treach, I wonder if I should cover Art of War III as well. I may do Love and a Bullet one day. But also in reference to Seagal, I will get to my long overdue write-up of Exit Wounds, but that will be for a marathon that will include Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave. I like to think of those three as a trilogy. But overall, if you were to watch this, don’t expect too much and you might enjoy it. It may be overridden with cliches, but a lot of films are. I mean the first film wasn’t great either, but it was still entertaining.

2.5/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – I Got the Hook Up 2

Year of Release: 2019

Production Companies: RLJ Entertainment/Urban Movie Channel/Genius Minds Pictures

(Takes deep breath) I am going to do my best here to try to explain and review this movie. I never thought I would say this, but after sitting through this, I actually believe that I would give How High 2 a repeated watch before I would even give this a second watch.

Let me make a note here before I go any further. I know I should have covered the first I Got the Hook-Up before I did this, but I must find a way to watch it first. I haven’t watched that movie in years, probably haven’t given it a full viewing since the early 2000s. I remember catching a glimpse of it on BET a few years ago. Though I will say that I don’t understand why BET needs to stretch their programs out to a lot longer than necessary. I get that they need to turn a profit for all the ads that they show, but there is no reason that a 90-minute movie should be stretched to three hours when it is shown on basic cable.

I plan to cover that movie someday, along with the other No Limit films (I found ways to watch the Bout It movies, while I may need to find ways to watch Foolish, Lockdown, even stuff like Da Last Don or Da Game is the Be Sold…). But now I should get right on to this.

I am going to say this. I found out about this movie last summer when I found a trailer for it on YouTube. It made me so confused as to how or why a sequel to I Got the Hook-Up came about. I don’t just mean after more than 20 years, but when looking at how the first movie was given a theatrical release and did a bit decent even for its budget, I guess Master P wanted to do a sequel.

I can only assume that Master P wanted to do a sequel for many years but it just couldn’t get off the ground. It’s the same story as to how Ice Cube has been trying for years to get Last Friday off the ground, but I still hold onto hope for the fourth and final Friday film. After seeing this film, I know that Last Friday will be much, MUCH better.

Okay, I am sure you already see that I am already saying that the movie is bad. Just how bad is it? Well, you’re about to find out.

This movie is totally all over the place that you really wonder what the plot really is. In fact, even when there are sequences related to a subplot or anything similar, you still have trouble figuring out what is going on. In fact, there were so many sequences that were unrelated to each other, with characters we know nothing about nor were introduced and showing some random sequences involving them.

Even though Master P and AJ Johnson reprised their roles as Black and Blue, respectively, they are barely in the movie. Okay, they have big enough roles, but there weren’t a lot of scenes. Some of the scenes involved DC Young Fly and some actor, rapper, or comedian I have no knowledge about and their involvement in the story (if you can call it that).

Also, Black and Blue no longer run a little shop that sells bootleg items or anything. They have gone legit and opened up a restaurant and want to get their business off the ground. Also, for some reason, Romeo Miller (Master P’s son, formerly known as Lil’ Romeo, who was also credited as Executive Producer) has a role in the movie as Detective Johnny Miller, who happened to be Black’s nephew, because another one of P’s sons played Black’s son, Cashmere. As a matter of fact, it turned out that Master P got all of his kids in this movie, including Cymphonique Miller (Best known for playing Kacey Simon on that Nickelodeon sitcom, How to Rock).

There is just no way to describe the plot because there really isn’t one. I mean, sure, a couple of guys get into some trouble with a Mexican gangster (I’m not even generalizing here, as I am Mexican myself and being that this movie is set in Los Angeles, it’s likely that the gangster was Mexican). Then came somewhat of rehash of the predecessor’s plot involving cellphone chips. But unlike the first film, these types of chips enhance wi-fi connections and such. That was the biggest problem of this movie. With there being five writers for the script, that really says a lot.

Also, there were so many forced attempts at humor that I wasn’t sure what was supposed to be funny. I will admit that I got at least a chuckle out of this film, but that was it. AJ Johnson was actually funny in some sequences. But some of the sequences that I found unbearable were with DC Young Fly (I just hope that his stand-up is much better, because I found him unbearable in this film and How High 2) or even some sad attempts at humor when it involves gay panic, negative stereotypes, even some guys obviously drooling over an attractive woman. Also, how do these bits relate to the main story? Oh, I forgot, there wasn’t really a story to it. It didn’t help that when some returning characters appeared that there had to be some elements to connect the first film to this, even though two decades had passed up until the events of this film.

Okay, I have to hand it to Master P for involving his kids, as well as getting a lot of people to come back in this film, as well as credited for this film. Because seriously, the extras just had to be credited (end sarcasm). But really, some characters from the first film returned and also the actors playing them. For example, John Witherspoon (RIP) returned as Mr. Mimm. Tom “Tiny” Lister returned as T-Lay. Even a few other characters returned, but I won’t name them because they aren’t known. Not to mention that these characters only returned for one scene each. I think I also saw P’s brother Silkk in one sequence, though no appearances for C-Murder because he is still locked up.

I wonder if P had tried to contact Gretchen Palmer to return as Lorraine, who was Black’s girlfriend in the first film. The fact that there were multiple writers who wrote the film likely had to find a way to write her out of the script, because I can only guess that she declined to return. Personally, I know Palmer is no spring chicken, but having seen her on social media, she looks great for her age, but even then, she said no to returning. If that’s the case, I don’t blame her.

Part of me wishes that I had covered the predecessor earlier on. I don’t know if, or even think that the film holds up now. Though I am certain that it won’t because while I enjoyed it at one point, I was only 14 when I first saw it. I do plan to cover it, but my gut is telling me that it won’t hold up (if it even would at all). But as someone who doesn’t mind watching bad movies, whether it’s to laugh at, or to just see what the problems are (it’s not the same as hate-watching, by the way), I will cover it sometime, maybe even soon. I’m certain it will look good in comparison to the sequel, but at the same time, I am also sure that my teenage memories will just go down the drain. I’ll be prepared.

There is really not a lot more that I can say about this film. It’s obvious that I really did not like it. Like I said before, after sitting through this, I would very much give How High 2 another watch before I even give this another watch. Don’t get me wrong, How High 2 was bad. It really was, but this movie was bad that it made How High 2 looked good in comparison, and that’s really sad. I have to give Master P props for trying to get the movie off the ground, but at the same time, the execution just failed. When I get to other No Limit Films (and really, this can’t be considered a No Limit film because that company doesn’t exist anymore), I will see how they hold up and how they are. Some have said that some can be entertaining despite the budget and the bad acting. But this wasn’t one of those films.

Rating: 1/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – How High 2

Year of Release: 2019

Production Companies: Universal 1440 Entertainment/MTV/Smith-Garr Productions

For my review on the first film, click here.

Like I had noted in my review of The Man with the Iron Fists 2, straight-to-video sequels (or TV, for that matter) are far from a novel concept. What’s funny (as in strange) is that I have seen my share of some, whether they follow a story or are simply rehash of a predecessor, or even just a film with the name slapped on it to draw viewers. I have noted that there are some that I enjoy. There are also some that I didn’t enjoy, like this film that I am about to cover here.

Let me just make one thing clear here. Comedy is definitely a subjective taste, as well as a hard thing to write and produce. Add to the fact that there are different forms of comedy out there. Whether you’re talking about slapstick, dark, romantic, and sometimes even dumb/silly comedy, which doesn’t always mean that it’s unfunny. Really, dumb/stupid comedy can sometimes have its charm because while the comedy may be a bit over the top, some of the time the humor can actually draw some laughs, as well as what could work is chemistry among the leads. Stoner favorites such as the first film, Half-Baked, Friday, and of course, the Cheech & Chong films (particularly Up in Smoke) have their charm because of the chemistry of the leads and good writing.

This film, How High 2, while it had its moments in some areas (I’ll admit that I chuckled a tad at times), it was just downright bad. There, I said it. But how bad was it? Before I get into my review, let me talk about some background info that some of you may need to know.

For starters, one of the main things is that for years, a sequel with Method Man and Redman was considered. In fact, it had been considered since the late-2000s, right around the time Red and Meth were recording Blackout 2. However, Universal didn’t want to fund the movie, according the IMDB tribune. In late 2015, Redman had stated that Danny DeVito signed him and Method Man back onto the film and a script was being written. In early 2017, the script had been rewritten because Red and Meth didn’t like the earlier drafts. They had hoped that the film would start shooting in late 2017 to early 2018. Even around that time, Redman had stated that the script had been rewritten once again, as he had also said that he and Method Man would not return if the script was not funny. Then the script was rewritten yet again in mid-2018 and Universal 1440 teamed with MTV.

At that point, in September 2018, both Method Man and Redman were unaware that Universal went ahead with the production of How High 2 and that they didn’t bother to contact them until the beginning of production. When they got contacted, they declined after production began with Lil’ Yachty and DC Young Fly. So in other words, Universal went ahead and started production on it without their knowledge. Also, it had been said that Meth and Red were supposed to reprise their roles and Yachty was supposed to be Method Man’s character’s younger brother.

So what does this say about the film? Now I’m getting to that, and note, this will contain spoilers.

This film starts off with Roger, played by Lil’ Yachty, working the night shift at a fast food restaurant and then comes across a couple of rich girls, whom he smokes weed with, only to be robbed by them. Then we are introduced to his cousin Calvin, played by DC Young Fly, who I believe was an Uber driver or something of that nature. He was getting high with a co-worker. The two cousins live in Roger’s mother’s basement. Then suddenly, they come across “The Weed Bible,” which not only introduces them to some powerful weed, but also they encounter Baby Powder (Mike Epps) and his sidekick, played by Teresa Topnotch and she is only credited as “Sidekick.” I kid you not, and yes, Mike Epps reprised his role as Baby Powder from the first film (I will get to another appearance, just wait, as well as some sad attempts to link the two films), but this time he wasn’t a pimp who was trying to get his hookers back. No, this time he played a spiritual figure whom only Roger and Calvin see, almost like a ghost or spirit to give them advice. I really did not understand what they did with this character. I really didn’t, especially when his character was just a pimp who slapped people in the face with baby powder (which he also did in this film, and that’s not even the first sad attempt at trying to link the films!). So Roger and Calvin try to sell the weed, only to find that it went missing and then they go around Atlanta to search for it.

Okay, I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be. I have to hand it to the writers for not making this a complete rehash of the first film’s plot, but in a lot of ways, I saw a lot of elements from Half-Baked, Pineapple Express, as well as a reference to one of my all-time favorite films, Back to the Future.

So what exactly was wrong with this film? This film was also full of cliches that you have seen before. For example, an illicit video coming up when trying to expose someone, a typical inspirational sequence by telling the lead that it was all him and not something that got him far, etc. Okay, I will admit that one bit involving the embarrassing video got a chuckle out of me, as well as some sequences with DeRay Davis, but that was about it. But then there’s the typical “marijuana is like LSD” trope that’s been played out for years. Weed is not that powerful. I mean, sure, a joke like that was done in Half-Baked, but it was justified in the plot as the weed that was being used was supposed be “the good shit,” if you know what I mean.

Another thing that was bad was that there was a forced romantic subplot involving Roger and Alicia, who I believe was an old school crush or girlfriend. It was obvious that she and Roger would end up together, but then she finds herself involved in the plot. Okay, I could hand it to the actress playing the girl as she was trying. But then there were bits in the plot with Roger somehow revealing to her that he sort of lied about some stuff. But you know what, it didn’t matter to her. Duh! Plus, I couldn’t buy those two as an item, and why she would even choose him, especially with a guy with that kind of hair.

As for the sad attempts at trying to link the two films, only one other actor from the first film appeared and that was Al Shearer, who played I Need Money (Yes, that was his name). He appeared in this film as I Got Money. I am not even sure if they were supposed to be the same character (Seriously, same actor, but the difference between “need” and “got” could only mean that the guy had improved himself), but don’t even get me started on the forced bit involving his teeth being shown (Yes, that was done in this movie, too). Also, another sad attempt was taking a puff and seeing the ghost of someone. *sigh* WHY?! At least in the first film, the reason for that was because the dead guy’s ashes were mixed with the marijuana seeds and it was what caused the character of Ivory to come back as a ghost. So it made more sense as it was explained in the plot.

Okay, regarding performances, I had already talked about the love interest, but regarding the leads, I had a hard time trying to take Yachty seriously as the straight man of the group. DC Young Fly, on the other hand, well, I am not familiar with his comedy, but it felt like he was trying to be like Chris Tucker or Kevin Hart. He tried too hard. I mean I am not going to crap on these two because I can see that they were trying, but with what they worked with, it just didn’t work for me.

In a lot of ways, Method Man and Redman had dodged a major bullet by not appearing in this movie. I love that movie. I remember seeing it in theaters when it came out. It was definitely a film that holds up now, even if it’s almost 20 years old. This film, on the other hand, when you have it debut on MTV, that really says a lot about it. I found it on Netflix, so I had to see it for myself. I didn’t even go in with high (no pun intended) expectations. Like I had noted, it had a few moments, particularly with DeRay Davis and another bit, but overall, this was just bad. I mean BAD.

Then again, I still wonder about I Got the Hook-Up 2, and yes, that movie does exist. I will cover that one when I see it, even though I need to cover some of the other No Limit films (Including the first I Got the Hook-Up, which I haven’t seen in so long).

Rating: 1/5

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Movie Review – Caught Up

Year of Release: 1998

Production Companies: LIVE Entertainment/Artisan Entertainment (Later acquired by Lionsgate)

I’m back and I will try to update this more and I have also been contemplating starting my movie blog, which I will link to this one at some point. Also, it’s December, so I may post some Christmas-related stuff soon.

Like in many other reviews that I have done, I give a little personal history lesson and this will be no exception, because this film is something that I never thought that I would revisit. For starters, I actually remember seeing TV spots of this film on BET and/or MTV in early 1998. This was definitely a film that I sense didn’t do so well at the box office as sources had stated that it only made $6.754 million overall. There really wasn’t a lot of advertisement for it, though I remember seeing ads for the soundtrack around that same time, which I also plan to cover.

The other thing is this: In my Hot Boyz review, I had noted that I initially had this movie as part of a 4-pack of movies that I bought for $5 at Walmart way back when. I later sold it, especially considering my feelings towards Hot Boyz (Though I may cover Phat Beach soon, as well as Foolish if I get my hands on it or find a way to watch it). However, this film somehow came crawling back, as I wasn’t fond of it when I first saw it.

What happened was that a local new/used bookstore, which also carried DVDs, in my area was closing sometime recently. It was on its last few days, so I went in and bought a lot of movies. When I saw that this was one of them (As well as another I wasn’t a big fan of), I went ahead and bought them considering the deal I would be getting. I mean what was the harm, right?

Then came an itch of me wanting to give it a re-watch recently, probably because I was listening to the soundtrack. For some reason I had the temptation to watch it. I mean I know I didn’t like it, but then I thought about covering it for this website. As said before, what was the harm?

So I gave it a re-watch and now here comes my take on it. Oh, and how this film relates to it being hip-hop, I will get to that.

Okay, so the movie surrounds Daryl Allen, played by Bokeem Woodbine, a man who just got out of jail after a five-year stretch for being linked to a robbery that his troublemaker friend got him involved in. Before he went through all of that, it hadn’t been long since Daryl’s initial release. That’s right, he went back to jail not long after getting released. It wasn’t like he planned on being involved in the robbery. After his release, he meets a woman named Vanessa, played by Cynda Williams, who looks dead-on like Daryl’s ex-girlfriend Trish (They were played by the same actress). Vanessa turns about to be a tarot reader and foresees Daryl’s future, which shows him getting caught up in some stuff. Hence the title of this film.

Right when you put this on, it’s obvious that this film was shot on a low-budget. Even for late-1990s standards, this film has the feel of a low-budget film, especially with the production company behind it. LIVE/Artisan Entertainment weren’t known for putting out films with a high budget. In fact, I think one of their highest budgeted movies that they released was Ringmaster, that Jerry Springer film (In some ways, I would watch it for shear curiosity, as I have a thing about watching “bad” movies), as it was only shot for $20 million.

Back to this film, what was shown about its budget were the effects and the fact that there were no name actors in this film. Sure, Bokeem Woodbine might have been among the better-known actors, as in recent memory he was in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But if I were to guess, this film was probably among the very few, if only lead roles he has had. Sure, he had billing in The Big Hit, which came out that same year, but that was among the likes of Mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips. As for his performance, I think he did a decent job, especially at displaying emotion during certain sequences. Cynda Williams did a good job in her role, even though her role as Trish only came during so few sequences but all of the dialogue was done for the Vanessa character. Plus, I never complain seeing Clifton Powell on screen, as he did a good job with his character.

The problem with this film was that so many things went on that it was hard to keep track what the plot really was. Sure, Daryl wanted to go straight but then got caught up in some mess. One story element had him get chased by some guy trying to shoot him. It was mostly forgotten about until the every end and when you see what it really was about, it was mostly a revenge thing with a character you knew so little about from the start. But regarding anything else, I wouldn’t have expected some twists to occur, which I have to hand to the writers for coming up with that.

Also, Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J had cameos in this movie. While Snoop was just in a scene with Daryl driving him around, LL’s cameo had relevance to the plot. Plus, both guys were listed in the credits as special appearances, so they weren’t just walk-on roles.

One thing that got me was the camera-work and editing in some scenes. For example, during the film’s love scene, I found it funny how the camera circled around the two actors, while some sequences faded into other shots. It definitely had the feel of something that came out during that time.

All I can say is that I wouldn’t call this film good, but it grew on me a little bit since the last time I saw it. While the film does have its problems, it’s not as bad as I remember it. Some parts got me laughing a bit for the wrong reasons. I was also entertained more this time around. Also, I liked Basil Wallace in this film as Ahmad, one of the film’s antagonists. He also reminded me of the character he played in that Steven Seagal film, Marked For Death. This was one of those moments where the film got better on repeated viewings. What amazed me is how it went to theaters, but it probably didn’t take long until it was pulled. It’s one of those films that you would probably watch if you have nothing to do, like during the days when local channels would show movies on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, or even when USA used to show movies at 1 or 2 in the morning. You could do better, but you could do a lot worse, too.

Rating: 3/5

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Movie Review – All About the Benjamins

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cube Vision Productions

Here I am trying to update this a little more often and because I had just watched this, I thought why not? I am also considering doing separate blogs related to other things, one being movie-related, but this review still pertains to hip-hop, as Ice Cube not only starred in the movie, but also produced it.

And yes, I have also been including films that were given theatrical releases, but it mainly pertains to how big a rapper’s role in the movie is. A little fun fact, I even considered doing a review of the 2009 film, Whip It, because Eve was in it, but her role was not big, so that will go in another one that I will do in the near future. It probably would be more appropriate if I cover the Barbershop films, which not only Eve was in and had a bigger role, but also Ice Cube produced and starred in them.

Anyway, onto the main subject at hand. It had been quite a while since I’ve watched this film. I remember seeing a trailer for this film in front of Rat Race back in 2001. Something tells me that this film was delayed. Now I can’t confirm anything, but Rat Race was released in August of that year, but All About the Benjamins was released in March of 2002, which is a 7-month gap. Usually those gaps with trailers pertain to big releases with hype, but this film was just an action-comedy that didn’t have a high budget and had a limited audience, particularly any fans of the Friday series. Not to mention that this film came out the same year as Friday After Next, as it was released in November of that year.

The first time I saw this, I remember renting it at Hollywood Video. I liked it a lot back then but it took me years to revisit it, sometime after I bought a 4-pack of films, which included the Friday films. Funny thing is that I can kind of compare this to Class Act, the 1992 Kid N Play film, as it was not a part of the House Party series, all of which I will cover one day.

Why do I compare it? Because Ice Cube and Mike Epps had done Next Friday and Friday After Next, but this film came in between those two films, just like Class Act came out between House Party 2 and 3. So this is kind of like that, as this film is unrelated to the Friday series, but has the same two leads.

With this film not being connected to the Friday series, it goes like this: Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter named Bucum, who wants to start his own private investigation firm, but is stuck doing jobs catching bail-jumpers. Mike Epps plays Reggie, who is a fugitive and has had run-ins with Bucum, as he missed court dates and such. When Bucum was trying to catch Reggie, he stumbles upon a deal with some shady figures and a rich man involving expensive diamonds. He stows away in a van with the gangsters and gains knowledge about this. So the bad guys go after him, but Bucum finds out about this, and tries to protect Reggie and his girlfriend Gina (Eva Mendes). Of course, Bucum and Reggie have the standard bickering but they end up growing on each other as they work together. You’ve seen this plenty of times.

Cube and Epps have shown that they have great chemistry and it showed here. With Cube playing the tough guy who is no-nonsense, while Epps was the goofy sidekick. There were plenty of funny moments when these two were on screen together. If anything, these two make the movie. As well as Tommy Flanagan’s role as the villain, who totally played it straight. It’s not the first time you’ve seen an action comedy where the villain was playing it straight, though had moments of mild levity, so he didn’t have a dark vibe like, say, the main villain from Bad Boys or even the biker gang leader from 21 Jump Street.

Another standout was the visuals. It had some pretty good shots of Miami, especially the overhead shoots of the boatyards and also shots of the city. This film also had moments of freeze-framing before cutting into another scene, which worked in some ways, as well as closeups and a few slow-motion sequences. It was sort of flashy and cool without trying to be.

This film was definitely an underrated action-comedy. Great visuals, funny scenes with the usual banter between the two leads, as well as an intimidating villain. Plus the action scenes were interesting, as well as a good soundtrack. It’s such a shame that this film flopped at the box office. You would think that with the first two Friday films being hits that this would have done better. I wonder if it was because it was released in March or maybe it wasn’t promoted much. I mean I sense that this film was delayed a few times. I swear that this was originally supposed to be released in late 2001, or even in January of 2002. I swear that I remember seeing a release date for January on IMDB back then, but I can’t confirm it.

Either way, this is definitely recommended. I might cover the soundtrack one day, but I just need to get my hands on it.

4/5

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Rap Movie Review – I Tried

Year of Release: 2007

Production Companies: Interscope Records/Codeblack Entertainment/Sunset Editorial

Sometimes there are moments when you didn’t know the existence of something. I mean I was well aware of some other “rap movies” that I have covered and plan to (Some I have not posted, but will). But it turns out, even some things are out there that you only find out about its existence just out of the blue, like this movie called “I Tried.”

“I Tried” is a movie that touches on what things would have been like had Bone Thugs-N-Harmony not meet Eazy-E (RIP) and what fate would have led them to. This is an actual movie, by the way, with the lead actors playing characters, even though they are referred to by names related to their real life personas and they even use names that are references of their real names. For example, Krayzie Bone’s character is named Ant, as a reference to his real name, Anthony Henderson. Even Layzie’s called Steven and even had his last name, Howse, mentioned. Wish Bone is called CeCe, which I am not sure if that is his nickname in real life, but I know his real first name starts with a C, so it’s possible. His real name is Charles Scruggs, by the way.

But despite all of that, they are all fictionalized and the film has a story to go with it. As noted before, it shows what their lives would have been like if they hadn’t gotten into the rap game.

What’s noticeable about this is the absences of Bizzy Bone and Flesh-N-Bone. Being that this was released in 2007, this was during the time when Bizzy was out of the group and the group was just a trio. This was likely filmed during the time when “Thug Stories” and “Strength & Loyalty” were recorded and/or released, so Bone Thugs was a trio during that time. Flesh was still in jail during that time, but even he wasn’t mentioned. I’m sure plenty of Bone fans would have known what a character was talking if they mention Steven’s brother Stanley, being that Flesh is Layzie’s real life brother. But anyway, back to the main topic.

So basically the film tells the stories of Ant (Krayzie), CeCe (Wish), and Steven (Layzie) and the paths they went through. Steven has become a cop, while Ant and CeCe are struggling with their lives. CeCe has a daughter and wants to make a better living for, even it’s through illegal means. Ant, on the other hand, while he had turned to a life of crime, wants to try to go legit and be a rapper, but he couldn’t get out of the life, if you know what I mean.

For a low budget movie, this isn’t bad. I mean I have seen plenty of these low budget rapper movies and while I know that they aren’t exactly great cinema, they’re passable, but then you have some that are just downright bad. Out of all the performances, Layzie actually impressed me. Being that he was playing a detective with a bad past, he had to deal with issues of people from his past, as well as deal with a crooked cop on the force. He actually showed some emotion in his scenes, so it made me wonder if he had any other roles besides this one.

But what stood out was the performance from Hassan Johnson as one of the drug dealers. I had seen him in other things, but he actually did a good job in his role as a drug dealer who doesn’t play. He was rather intimidating in his role.

Fun facts: I noticed that Darris Love and the late Nispey Hussle in this movie. Darris Love is someone who I will always remember from a show I watched as a child called “The Secret World of Alex Mack.” I know that this movie was from 12 years ago, but I had no idea that he was still acting. As for Nispey, he looked really young, as he had to have been 20 or 21 when this movie was done. It’s a real shame what happened to him, but that’s a topic for another day.

I don’t really have much else to say except that this movie wasn’t terrible, at least depending on the standards of what one considers good. It may seem like a typical crime story, but the story wasn’t bad. Sure, the ending was rather sad, but it basically went with the “what if” scenario that the plot was telling. It was not a bad way to pass an hour and a half. I wouldn’t call it great, but it’s passable.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – All Things Fall Apart

Year of Release: 2011

Production Companies: Hannibal Pictures/Cheetah Vision Films

You know, I can’t really say that I have seen a lot of films with 50 Cent in them. I don’t have a problem with 50 Cent as a rapper, but as an actor, I have noticed that he had been in a bunch of straight-to-video stuff. What amazes me about all of this is that when he had been in films that had theatrical releases, he had a supporting role. You would think that at one point with him being a rap star (and he was rather big at one point, and I don’t mean his physique, and more on that later) that he would have gotten lead roles. I think that “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” (The movie, I mean) affected his chances of being a leading man in Hollywood, as it didn’t do well. I haven’t seen it, though I will one day and I plan on covering it.

What I am going to talk about is what seemed like 50’s passion project, as he not only starred in the movie, but also had a credit in writing the script and producer. For those who don’t know, back in the early 2010s, in fact it was exactly in 2010, there were pictures on the internet that showed 50 Cent looking emaciated. He looked rather sickly. It turned out he had lost a lot of weight for a role. For years, I wondered what movie it was that he went through that weight loss. Fast forward to this year, when my question was finally answered. My mom had told me about this movie and how she watched it one day and she thought it was good. I ended up giving it a watch one day when it happened to be on.

The movie’s plot deals with Deon, played by 50 himself, who is a star running back at his college. He is so good that that he will be a surefire shot in the top 10 draft picks for the NFL. He is also supported by his mother, played by Lynn Whitfield, his mother’s boyfriend, played by Mario Van Peebles. However, his brother Sean, played by Cedric Sanders, is constantly living in his shadow. Being that Deon is quite a ladies man, when Sean wanted his brother to talk to a girl he liked, Deon ended up getting the girl instead. In fact, Deon had no problem getting women into bed. But then a big change occurs. One day in the locker room, he passed out and it was revealed that he had a cancerous tumor that is only a centimeter away from his heart. But the question on the parents’ mind was if he could still play football in spite of his condition. From that point on, things fall apart from there.

Okay, I must note that I admire 50 Cent’s commitment to this. According to IMDB, he had lost a friend to cancer, so in a lot of ways this film is a tribute and based on a true story. Plus, the weight loss was a definite sign that he was committed to the role. So in a lot of ways, he earns my respect for this. But there were a lot of problems with this film.

I have to hand it to 50 Cent for trying to give a convincing performance when he was at the height of his collegiate football career and when he was in his ill state. He needs to work on it more, but it wasn’t bad. The problems with the film were the writing and the portrayals of certain characters. When Deon was revealed to have cancer, all of a sudden he becomes a burden on everyone else in his family, with his mother having to work multiple jobs to pay off the medical bills. Sean ended up getting the girl, but still resents Deon and looks at him as a burden. Eric, the mother’s boyfriend (later ex), seemed more concerned about whether Deon could play, rather than his condition. In fact, I felt no sympathy for the other characters, except for maybe the mom. One part that stood out for the wrong reasons was when Deon, who was working as a janitor at the college, saw this woman jogging on the grounds and tried to talk to her, except that she no longer recognized him. She was seen earlier in the film, by the way, as another notch on Deon’s headboard. They met in a gym and then spotted him and they worked out together, both literally and figuratively. Hell, the last appearance before that particular scene had implied that those two likely slept together.

What made things even worse was that suddenly, because Deon could no longer play, the university had to revoke his scholarship, during his senior year, no less. Even more ridiculous, he went to a counselor, who said something that “there used to be a star running back with that same name,” then was dumbfounded that they were one and the same.

Did I mention that Deon proves that he could be a car salesman more than halfway and that at the end, there was a celebration with tents and set on the football field with no clear reason? Also, did I forget to mention that Ray Liotta had only three scenes despite being on the cover/poster art? Liotta has a role in this film as the doctor who tells Deon about his condition. So he basically just tells him what he should do, but doesn’t give any medication to help treat his illness.

The film ended with Deon leaving the party, so that he could run down the field and raise his arms in victory for one last hurrah, in a freeze frame, as well. It wasn’t clear what the meaning behind that bit was. Did he want to die on the field? Was it so that he could relive his lost glory that was taken from him? It was vague.

I will say that this is one of those films that I can give credit where it’s due, but at the same time, it just wasn’t that good in the end. 50 Cent had a lot of commitment for this role, but regarding the screenplay, it would have been much better if he had pitched the story and hire a screenwriter to write the script. It would have made the film much better than it was. I also had trouble buying 50 Cent, who was in his mid-30s at the time this was film, playing someone in his early-20s. Usually college athletes are in their late-teens to early-20s, and it would make sense for 50’s character to be around that age, but I couldn’t buy him as someone at that age. He didn’t even look that young to be convincing. That dreadlocks wig didn’t convince me, either.

In the end, I can only admire 50’s commitment and effort for it, but the movie as a whole could have been a lot better.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Friday After Next

Year of Release: 2002

Production Companies: New Line Cinema/Cubevision

It has been said by many people that when a third film comes in a franchise, more often than not, it’s considered the weakest link. A lot of the time, people are right about it, but then you have ones that are better or as good. In the end, it’s really subjective and it boils down to what the viewer thinks.

Friday After Next is the third film of the Friday franchise. Now I know what you might be thinking. Why am I covering the third film when I haven’t done reviews on the first two yet? Well, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout because I am telling you why. I am sure that last sentence was a good indicator why I am doing this first. If not, the explanation is that it’s December and it’s Christmas-time, and this film in particular takes place around that time and it had a Christmas-theme.

I promise that I will cover Friday and Next Friday, as well as the soundtracks eventually. I might even cover the short-lived animated series one day (Yes, it existed and I have seen a few episodes). But in the meantime, I am going to talk about this film.

The film’s takes place on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Friday (Because for some reason, this film series NEEDS to have it set on that day; more on this later), and it starts with Craig, Ice Cube’s character who appeared in all three films, waking up in the middle of the night and finding a burglar dressed like Santa Claus. Santa was seen robbing Craig and Day-Day’s (Mike Epps) Christmas presents and the one thing that was even more important: rent money. So that’s basically the main part of the plot, though like the previous two films, there were other subplots and such that went on. After all, this film DOES take place in the span of a day.

So Craig and Day-Day get jobs as security guards at a strip mall to try to get money to pay the rent to the guys’ repulsive landlord, Ms. Pearly. Oh, and she has a son named Damon, played by Terry Crews, who just got out of prison and has developed an interest in men over time. Did I mention that Craig also gains an attraction to Donna, the girlfriend of Money Mike, played by Katt Williams? And that Craig and Day-Day are throwing a wild Christmas party in the evening? Like I said, so much goes on in a one-day period.

What I could say about this film is that it was the weakest of the three, but really, this film got better after multiple viewings. I actually remember seeing this in theaters when it came out. I remember having minor chuckles here and there, but there were some other things that left a lot to be desired. However, after subsequent viewings, it kind of grew on me. Another thing of note is that it had the same tone as the second film, which was different from the first. Keep this in mind, the first film was funny film, but it felt a little more serious and straight in tone in comparison to the second and third films, as they felt a little more wacky and over-the-top with some slapstick in the mix. It wouldn’t surprise me if the film’s opening credits done in an animated style went with it, but at least it was kind of interesting. I also found it funny that Mike Epps played another character in this film as a shotgun-wielding old man.

I liked that they made some links to the previous films, as the series’s other mainstay, Willie (John Witherspoon) made his return once again, along with Elroy from the second film. I noticed that Anna Marie Horsford reprised her role as Craig’s mom, but the gripe that I had was that she didn’t really have a lot to do in this film. The one part that I can think of was when she confronted Mrs. Pearly about coming onto Willie towards the end, but overall, she didn’t have a lot of lines in the film. I think I can count on one hand about the lines of dialogue she had. Now that I think about it, I really wonder if the producers even approached Regina King for her to return as Dana at any point. She wasn’t in the film, obviously, but it felt like she was the forgotten character of the Jones family (Okay, maybe not as she was featured in the animated series, but that’s a topic for another day). I read on IMDB that Chris Tucker was asked to reprise his role as Smokey, but he declined. Another thing of note was that Roach was supposed to return as an earlier draft of the script had him appear, but it was scrapped because the actor who played him died.

As far as links to the previous films go, I noticed that Tom “Tiny” Lister didn’t return as Debo, but I suppose that Ice Cube wanted to change things up a bit and not have that character return as an antagonist.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know until today that there was an alternate ending to the film, and this film has been out for 16 years. The alternate ending showed Santa Claus (and I mean the villain of the film, as in the burglar) in a sympathetic light. It turned out that he was homeless and had only stolen some presents to give his children a good Christmas. Sure, there was some humor thrown in there, but it changed the tone up a tad as it showed the true meaning of Christmas at the end. While I like the original ending in that it showed that the villain was defeated, I thought that the original ending was well written and I actually like it more, but in another perspective, it probably would given the viewers a tonal shift.

Just a minor nitpick. It was said that movie took place on Christmas Eve that fell on a Friday. I am sure I am among a small percentage who would really pay attention to say something like this, but if Christmas Eve in this movie was on a Friday, it sure wasn’t set in 2001 or 2002. Because if Christmas Day fell on a Saturday, it would probably be in 1999 or 2004 because of this 5 or 6 year (Depending on a leap year falling in between) pattern that has certain dates go back to a certain day. It was just an observation. But then again, it was only said that it was Friday at the beginning of the film. It was not mentioned after that.

Other than that, this film was enjoyable to pass an hour and a half, especially during the Christmas season. It had some funny gags, especially with the bits involving Damon and Money Mike. What’s weird is that prior to seeing this movie in theaters, I had only known of Terry Crews through this show called Battle Dome, which was similar to American Gladiators with a few elements of professional wrestling thrown in. I didn’t even know that he was actually a funny guy at the time until I saw this movie. It’s the weakest of the series, but it had some fun moments and it’s far from the worst movie.

NEXT UP: Friday After Next soundtrack

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Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Mid90s

Year of Release: 2018

Production Companies: A24/Waypoint Entertainment/Scott Rudin Productions

For those who grew up in the 1990’s, it’s weird to look at period pieces or movies and shows from that era and see how things have changed since then, no matter how many people say that things are the same now as they were then. Sure, you can compare how much of a change between the 1980’s and 1990’s, and so forth, but when watching a movie like this, it really shows how things were different, especially in this day and age with people’s faces glued to their cellphones and the internet being huge. What’s funny to me is that I have read an article in the past about how no one could make a period piece about the 1990’s that is similar to “Dazed and Confused” and “American Graffiti,” but this may have proved that guy wrong (I can’t find the article, but if I do, I will update and link it).

The movie tells the story of Stevie, who is played by a young actor named Sunny Sujic. Stevie goes through life living through the physical abuse of his older brother Ian, played by Lucas Hedges, as well as living with their mother. Stevie looks up to his brother as he has a collection of rap CD’s from that era, ranging from Wu-Tang to Mobb Deep to Cypress Hill. At some point, Stevie linked up with a group of skaters at a skate shop and then started hanging out with them, trying to find his place.

Did I mention that this film was also the directorial debut of Jonah Hill? Well, he did not just direct this film, he also wrote it. It was clear that this movie was inspired by some other films, namely 1995’s “Kids,” as well as 1993’s “The Sandlot.” A lot of story elements come from the former, like how Stevie hung out with a group of skaters and getting into trouble, as well as doing things like smoking weed and drinking 40’s. How it compares to “The Sandlot” is that it focused mainly on the perspective of Stevie, as he was this film’s version of Smalls. However, unlike “Kids,” this movie is nowhere near as sinister, even though there was some sexism here and there, but if anything, it showed how kids were during that time, add to the fact that it really showed that certain elements would not fly in today’s world. Sure, some characters were not likable in this movie, but then you also had some cool guys and also while you may not like a certain character, you feel for him and also see that he has a softer side than previously let on.

One of the things that stood out about this movie was that it was shot on 16mm, so it was mainly in fullscreen with a 4:3 ratio. Part of me felt that this was intentional as widescreen was not really that much of a thing during that era, so maybe it was done to capture the feel from that time period.

Another that amazed me was that it was a short movie with a lot of story to be told and did not need to be stretched out for everything to understand the main events of it. This movie ran at 84 minutes, but it did not need to be longer to be better. Plus, many of the story elements had some resolution by the film’s end. What was also great was the soundtrack for the movie, as a lot of songs that were played were from a lot of great rap acts such as Cypress Hill, The Pharcyde, Wu-Tang Clan, Jeru The Damaja, Gravediggaz, etc.

On a personal note, I found myself relating a lot to Stevie as I had gone through some of the stuff that he had gone through. The main thing that reminded him of me was when he would go through his brother’s CD collection, as when I was a kid (preteen and also teenager), I used to go through my youngest uncle’s CD collection as he had a lot of what came out around that time. I have been a hip-hop fan for as long as I can remember, and I saw myself in Stevie, though I never suffered any sort of abuse. Also, another thing that made me relate to him was that I had trouble fitting in at times. I mean, yes, I had friends, but if you saw me during lunch breaks, I either kept to myself or would just hang out in a classroom with a friend of mine.

Jonah Hill really impressed me with his direction for this film. Sure, a lot of people may dismiss him for having done a lot of those crude comedies like “This is The End,” “Superbad,” ” The Sitter,” “Get Him to the Greek,” etc. but he has shown that he has talent, and that includes writing and directing. According to IMDB, he had to talk with some well-known film directors such as Martin Scorsese and Ethan Coen on the filmmaking process. Directing a movie seemed quite a step for him, but after seeing this movie, I wonder what he could do next. It really felt like a passion project for him, as it seemed like he put a lot of effort into making this movie work. Overall, this film was definitely worthy of an hour and a half of my time.

5/5

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Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Blindspotting

Year of Release: 2018

Production Companies: Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate Films/Codeblack Films/Snoot Entertainment

It can be said that there are times that a certain film that you watch that can make you feel uncomfortable, but it a positive way rather than a negative way. There are plenty of films that can and will do that to the view, and Blindspotting is definitely no exception.

This film not only stars Daveed Diggs, who starred in 2015’s Broadway Musical, Hamilton, and Rafael Casal, but this film was a passion project for these two as they had also written the film. The duo were the film’s leads, though most of the focus was on Diggs’s character, Collin, who was on his final few days of a year-long probation for a crime he committed. Casal played Miles, Collin’s hot-headed best friend who embraces the “thug life” and showed quite a disdain for the gentrification of Oakland, Calif., where this film was set and shot.

The story plays out with Collin trying to keep himself out of trouble for those last few days as he lives in a probationary home and has a curfew. However, one night while he was at an intersection, he saw a young black man running from cops and also witnessed the young man’s murder. For those last few days, he has to deal with what he witnessed, and try his hardest to keep himself out of trouble. On the positive side of things, he has his ex-girlfriend Val, played by Janina Gavankar, showing him that sometimes loyalty to toxic friends can lead to trouble. While Miles feels that he always has something to prove, with him being a white guy in a not-so-good area.

Prior to seeing this film, I had read that it was one of this year’s must-see films at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie had a really low budget, as it was obvious that it was actually shot around some rough areas in Oakland, but what really captured me when watching it was the direction and the fact that it knew when to shift its tone during the right time. This film mixed humor and drama that some of the humor came from some quirkiness, but even some of the quirkiness blended in with some of the film’s more serious moments. I also liked the director’s style when transitioning into other scenes by taking a closeup of something happening before making a cut into another sequence.

Also, one thing that I had noticed is that the film’s two leads are also rappers themselves. There were some moments in the film when they would start rapping a capella and the subject matter in the rhymes really described some of the hardships of living in a rough neighborhood. I won’t spoil anything, but there was one powerful moment when Diggs’s character started rapping about some hard-hitting subject matter. The delivery and the flow of Diggs made me want to see if he had recorded some music as well. It turns out that he has done an album before called Small Things To a Giant, which I am curious about checking out sometime. Maybe I will download it soon. I also found out that Diggs and Casal had done an EP based around the Collin character, and may release two more in the near future. Now I will need to check these out. The duo had done a video for one of their songs, and I usually don’t say this, but this is FIRE!

I don’t own this video, by the way.

Overall, this film really deserved all the praise that it got. Maybe it’s because I am a sucker for indie films, but I really thought that this movie was that good. As noted before, this made me a bit uncomfortable at times, but there were reasons why when watching it. However, it was good that it didn’t push boundaries when one could have thought it would go somewhere when watching a particular scene. I won’t say what it is, but if you watch it, you’ll know what I mean. I highly recommend it.

5/5

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