Documentaries

Documentary Review – Welcome To Death Row

Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: Xenon Pictures

For a while, I have been considering reviewing documentaries. I have done album reviews (Though I should also review more albums from groups and artists), as well as movies with rappers in them, and I also plan to write about a few biopics in the future, and there are so few of those (I guess I should also include the TV movies like the one about Hammer and the one about TLC, as well as others).

What I am going to talk about right now is “Welcome To Death Row,” which is the documentary on, you guessed it, Death Row Records and how it rose to the top of the rap game and fell from grace.

This film documented everything well, from how Dr. Dre and Suge Knight had started the label, to bringing in Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, to people talking about how Suge was a nightmare to work with, and also to Tupac Shakur’s arrival to the label and everything else that lead to its downfall.

I remember having watched it on, I think, Encore or Starz a long time ago and ended up watching it from the part when it talked about Suge and Dre forming the label but trying to find a parent label to back it, all to the way to the end. So I got to see from the start, when it talked about when Dre was with N.W.A. and how he met Suge when he was a bodyguard for the group. Also, how Dre was still sort of in connection with Priority Records, which backed Ruthless Records, the label Dre was a part of when he was in N.W.A., which was a point in the whole feud between him and Eazy-E.

Now I am not going to summarize the whole story about its rise and fall. What I am going to touch on are the documentations of the events during the label’s reign. I have my read my share of stories about the shady dealings that the label went through, like how Suge had some fellow gang members work security for him or work for him at some other capacity in the label. Each of the interview footage that was shown told a lot of detail about what some people had gone through during their time working there or at least working WITH the label. It seemed like only a few people were interviewed around the time this documentary was being shot. The ones who I saw were recruited during that specific time were Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Jewell (Not, I repeat, NOT to be confused with Jewel Kilcher, the folk and country singer; this artist had that extra L in her name and it was pronounced “ju-ell”) and others who were journalists, publicists, rappers, and so forth. However, some other interviews were archived footage that were edited into the film, particularly the ones from Dre and RBX.

The only thing that was distracting regarding the interview footage was that some of the editing and camera work relied too heavily on odd camera angles and closeups. Sure, some of the footage was fine when it shot the interviewees from a standard angle and a minor closeup was fine. But it didn’t need to get to a point where one guy was talking, but you could see the majority of his face but not his mouth.

Also, being that I watched this on Xfinity On Demand, it seemed that this was an updated version as right at the end, it documented what had happened in recent years. It even mentioned about how Jerry Heller was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in “Straight Outta Compton,” which released 14 years after this had come out. It also even talked about how Death Row was acquired by WIDEawake and eOne, which had happened later, also.

I also must add that there has been talk in the past about how some people want to do an actual movie about Death Row one day, especially after the success of “Straight Outta Compton.” Personally, I am not even sure how they would do it. If they do it, should they cast different actors to play certain guys? The reason I wonder is because with “All Eyez on Me” coming out not too long from now, I wonder who could play Tupac. The guy who played him in AEOM? Or the guy who was seeing for a few seconds in SOC? Or even the guy who played him in that Michel’le TV movie, “Surviving Compton”? Also, would the guy who played Dre in SOC be brought back? That is a good question. Don’t get me wrong, the movie makes for a good story even on a cinematic level, but it just seems hard to cast some parts when there have been a couple of films that came out in recent memory with different actors playing certain people and one coming really soon and having other people play those same people. Though there are some exceptions. Suge Knight was played the same guy in both “Straight Outta Compton” and in “Surviving Compton,” while Biggie in “All Eyez on Me” was played by the same guy who played him in “Notorious.”

Anyway, this documentary gets a pass.

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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – The Fast and The Furious

Year of Release: 2001

Record Label: Murder Inc Records/Def Jam Recordings/Universal Music Group

It is amazing how far the Fast & Furious franchise has gone as it has existed for nearly two decades. Nobody I know, including myself, would have ever thought that it would have gotten to eight films as of this year. Not to mention that it had evolved from a story that was grounded in reality, with a few over-the-top elements, to a big movie franchise with even more over-the-top elements.

Each film had a soundtrack album to go with it. I will talk about the one that started it all, the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious.

The one that I have always wondered about this album is why Ja Rule was featured on the cover. He didn’t have that big of a role in the film, despite having been promoted in the trailers way back in the day. It almost seemed like his presence in the film was made to plug the soundtrack. I will also point out that only a few songs from this compilation were actually in the film itself. I still remember actually seeing a trailer on TV back in 2001 that even promoted the soundtrack artists. It should also be noted that on Amazon back in those days, many consumers rated this so low because they were expecting a bunch of techno and house music that was in the movie. First off, they should have read the back cover, and second, they also should have looked at the list of artists on the front cover. Of course being the hip-hop head that I am, I was right at home with this album.

I had theorized that one reason that Ja Rule’s face was on the cover of this album was because he actually appeared in five songs on this album. But make no mistake about this, a few of those songs were previously released, but the majority of those songs actually appeared in the film. If you remember seeing the trailers or the TV spots from back in the day (You can always watch them on YouTube if not), one song that was used in the promotion was “Furious” from Ja Rule, Vita, and 0-1. Actually, the song was originally called “Fuck You” on the Rule 3:36 album, but to be fair, the beat actually gets you revved up and goes with the tone of the film itself, while Vita provided a good portion for the chorus and 0-1 actually did a good job in his verse. One thing that I must note is that a clean version of this exists with some lyrics changed a bit. I can’t find a video to show it, but it is heard in the credits of the film and I believe that the video was included as an extra on the DVD for the film.

The rest of the songs from Ja had on this album were decent. I liked the “Good Life Remix” with Faith Evans, along with Caddillac Tah and Vita. “Life Ain’t a Game” had a good beat from Damizza. I also kind liked the collaboration with Tank on “Race Against Time, Part 2.” It seemed that it was more Tank’s song here as he sang more verses whereas Ja only provided one verse. Of course, it’s not unheard of as many years later the roles switched between the two parts of “Love The Way You Lie” from Eminem and Rihanna as the first one appeared on Em’s album and the second one appeared on Rihanna’s album. However, I often wondered why the remix of “Put It on Me” appeared on here. My only guess is that because it got more radio airplay compared to the album version from Rule 3:36 and this version probably needed to get released on an album rather than just as a single. I can’t complain because I have always liked this version.

Regarding whether the rest of the Inc had a part in this album, there were only a few songs from some artists from that label as the rest were from people who weren’t on the label. One of my other favorite songs was “Pov City Anthem” from Caddillac Tah. I actually remembered seeing the video on TV back in the day and thinking it was a good song. It makes me wonder why for many years I skipped “The Prayer” from Black Child as that one was actually a good track on this album. Meanwhile, regarding other songs from Murder Inc members, the other two was a hit and miss. The hit would probably Ashanti’s “When a Man Does Wrong.” While it was out of place for an album like this and I really don’t remember hearing it in the film (Along with other tracks on here), it is still worth a listen. However, I can’t really say much about Vita and Ashanti’s cover of the Madonna song, “Justify My Love.” To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know that there was a video for this song until now.

I can see that the video was similar to the video of the original. I can give credit where it’s due, but it is still kind of odd to listen to.

As for the rest of the album, a lot of them were decent, if good, but in a lot of ways I questioned why they were put in. Now I liked “Hustlin” from Fat Joe and Armageddon, as well as “Suicide” from Scarface, but I saw no reason for “Freestyle” from Boo & Gotti. I will listen to it, but it just seems out of place like it could have been put on a mixtape, with the uses of the beats from two Dr. Dre songs, “The Watcher” and “Fuck You.” Also, the inclusion of the rap version of “Rollin'” from Limp Bizkit was probably added in to go with the fact that it was a hip-hop compilation. A few seconds of the original version were heard in the film, but I guess Def Jam needed the hip-hop song to fit on here. I can’t complain as I was never a big fan of Limp Bizkit, not even when they were popular when I was in junior high (Although there are a FEW songs that I like of theirs).

It may seem that what was written in the previous paragraph that I didn’t think much of this album. Not the case. In fact, I actually like this album, but in hindsight, I can kind of agree with some people when they complained about how a lot of songs on here weren’t in the movie. As a hip-hop fan, this album is still a good one in my eyes, but at the same time it just made me wonder if Irv Gotti had a lot of creative control over this album and just included some other songs just because. I guess that explains why Universal and Island Records put out “More Music from The Fast and The Furious” much later on, which included some of the techno songs, but even I looked online and much of the songs on there weren’t in the movie, either. Not to mention that a lot of complaints surrounding that album had to do with it being copyright-protected and how it couldn’t be played on certain players. In many ways I am glad that I didn’t actually buy the CD of that. Regarding this album, one song that would have been great to be included was “Say Ah” from Shawnna, but it wasn’t. It’s such a shame because I liked what I heard. I can understand why “Area Codes” wasn’t in it as that was used for the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack, which came out that same year.

Overall, I recommend this album mainly if you are just looking for a decent rap compilation, not a soundtrack to the film itself.

3.5/5

NEXT UP: 2 Fast 2 Furious soundtrack

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Furious
  2. Pov City Anthem
  3. The Prayer
  4. Hustlin’
  5. Good Life Remix
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Soundtrack Albums

Movie Soundtrack Review – The Wash

Year of Release: 2001

Record Label: Aftermath Entertainment/Doggystyle Records/Interscope Records

When The Wash came to theaters, there was no denying that with who the two lead actors in that film were that there would be a soundtrack album to go with it. As I had noted in my review for that film, there was some heavy plugging for the soundtrack. But just how good was the soundtrack? Well, let’s see about that.

There was a time when you would see that if a recording artist had a part in a movie, whether the person was playing a character role or appearing as him or herself, there was a good chance that the artist would be featured on the soundtrack. In the case for this film, there is a lot of influence from both Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg on this album, with Aftermath and Doggystyle respectively having their labels imprinted on the artwork for the cover and disc.

Both Dre and Snoop had a couple of tracks on this album, “On The Blvd” and the titular track called, well, “The Wash.” Not to mention that they were the first and last tracks on the album, respectively. Both tracks have their merits, with Kokane doing his bit on the chorus of “On The Blvd” and the beat definitely has the right feel when you would go out cruising, especially in a low-rider and hydraulics bumping in the process. However, “The Wash” stands out more in comparison. This song felt like an unofficial sequel to “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” from “The Chronic.” There were some parts of the beat that were similar to that song, as well as the mixing of other parts of Leon Haywood’s “I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You,” which was also sampled in “Nuthin’ But A G Thang.”

Those songs weren’t the only contribution that Dre had on this album. While he had some influence on the production of some other tracks, he had heavy influence on a couple of that songs that featured then-newcomer Knoc-Turn’al. “Bad Intentions,” which also featured Dre as a rapper, had an awesome beat with a good flute sample to go with it. Also, Knoc-Turn’al provided some good lyrics to go with it. However, “Str8 West Coast,” the other song with Knoc-Turn’al on there, showed more of what he had to offer as a rapper, with a good beat to go with it, too.

As far as the other tracks go, it’s sad to say that so few actually stood out in comparison to the aforementioned songs. While the songs like “Blow My Buzz” from D12 and “Bubba Talk” from Bubba Sparxxx are decent, they were already out from their respective albums that were released the same year. They were played in the movie, yes, so maybe that may have given them a pass. The same could kind of be said about “Holla” from Busta Rhymes, as that was also on “Genesis,” but that album didn’t get released until a month after this one. On the other hand, Xzibit had a standout track in “Get Fucked Up With Me.” It felt like he went back to his roots with the Likwit Crew with this one. It is definitely a good song to drink and/or smoke to.

Then you also had the original tracks from the rest of the artists on this album. Now I can’t complain too much about all of them, because some of them had their own qualities to them. For example, longtime DPG affiliate, Soopafly, did a decent job in “Gotta Get Dis Money, but the chorus gets annoying fast. Bilal had a good song on there, too. I remember when he had quite a presence during those days. Then you had some of the no-names on here. Out of all of the less-than-well-known artists, there were only a couple of tracks that stood out. One was the R&B track, “Everytime” from Toi, or I should say LaToiya Williams. She has a very soulful voice and the song can really get you in the mood for some alone time with your S.O., and also a good sample from J. Dilla’s beat to Slum Village’s “Get Dis Money.” The other is “Riding High” from Daks and R.C. Daks had some good rhymes to go with the beat by Focus. The one track that I kind of put in the middle is “Benefit of the Doubt” from then-Aftermath singer, Truth Hurts, along with rapper Shaunta (Not to be confused with Shawnna from DTP). Truth Hurts didn’t do a bad job on the song as she sang well, and Shaunta did fine on her part, but the beat felt a bit out of place. It felt like something you would hear at a Baptist church on Sunday with the organ sample. I was not big on the rest, though. “Don’t Talk Shit” from Ox had a good beat, but the rapper sounded like he tried too to emulate Busta Rhymes. While “No”from Joe Beast got old fast, but the beat was also nice. Then you had “My High” from R&B singer, Yero, who is not a bad singer, but the whole song sounded too much like something Musiq Soulchild would have done back then. Shaunta sounded too much like she tried to emulate Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown with her song, “Good Lovin’.” I don’t mind dirty rap, but she tried a little too hard with this one.

I remember that I had gotten this album as a Christmas present way back when. Now I don’t mind listening to it, but it definitely has not held up over time. The odd thing about this album is that the standout songs on here were from the more known artists. The rest had more to be desired. It was an average album in hindsight.

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The Wash
  2. Bad Intentions
  3. On The Boulevard
  4. Str8 West Coast
  5. Everytime
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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – How High

Year of Release: 2001

Film Studio: Universal Pictures/Jersey Films/Native Pictures

When I wrote my review of The Wash, at the end of it I had noted about a much funnier movie that came out a month after that one, theatrically, I mean, I actually meant that it was indeed a funnier movie. The funny thing about these two movies is that they came out around the same time, with The Wash having come to theaters in November of 2001, while How High, the movie that this review is about, was released in theaters in December of that same year. So basically they both came out at roughly the end of that year.

A little personal history note, I remember having gone to see How High in theaters with my uncle. I was 15 at the time and being that I was already a big hip-hop head, I figured why not see this considering how I thought the movie looked funny and that I wanted to see Method Man and Redman on the big screen. I also remember being on my winter break at the time, not to mention it was also a few days before Christmas when I saw it.

One thing that will be said is that this film was a riot all the way through, in fact, in comparison to The Wash, it was not only funnier, but it also has a much different tone, which actually worked in this film.

There really isn’t much of a story in this film. It’s pretty basic, really. The story is about Silas (Method Man), a marijuana grower, and Jamal, a stoner, getting into Harvard and changing the Ivy League institution around and trying to get an education, but odds are against them in uptight Dean Cain (I wonder if that was intentional by the writers), played by Obba Babatunde. How they got there was through a spiritual source, if you know what I mean. Silas’s friend, Ivory died earlier on in the film, but because Silas had put his ashes into the soil of a cannabis plant, once he and Jamal smoked the Ivory weed, his ghost appears and helps them get through school. Of course, there is a romantic subplot as Silas becomes enamored with Lauren, played by Lark Voorhies (aka Lisa from Saved By The Bell), who is the girlfriend of secondary antagonist, Bart (Chris Elwood), the typical rich guy who looks down on Silas and Jamal.

Apart from the plot summary, this film is a straight-up stoner comedy that is similar to old Cheech & Chong films, as well as another stoner comedy cult favorite, Half-Baked. The title of the film is also named after the hit song of the same name from the two lead actors. Also, the tone of the film felt like a lowbrow¬†comedy with very little to no ounce of seriousness in it. One part in the film that in another film would be a little more serious didn’t even take out anything humorous.

Also, unlike The Wash, Method Man and Redman had a lot more comedic chemistry than Dre and Snoop did. The thing about this film is that Meth seemed like the closest to being the straight man of the duo while Redman was more of the comedic sidekick. However, Meth had shown some comedic talent in some scenes. Even a few other supporting characters were also funny, like the character of Tuan. He had some excellent comedic timing in his lines. Also, Spalding Gray (RIP) had a hilarious scene as the Black History professor. Check out this scene below:

Also, being that this is a stoner movie, a lot of the references to weed were clever. While there were scenes of the two lead characters smoking and passing blunts and bongs, one of the weed references that was clever was the name of the exam that is needed to get into a good school. It was called “Testing for Higher Credentials.” Put the three first letters of those words together. Also, I noticed one character that wore a hoodie that said “Ivy League” on it and it had a cannabis leaf on it. I would wear a hoodie like that.

I also have to say that Lark Voorhies did a good job in her role as the love interest for Method Man’s character. I don’t think I have seen her in too many films that were given theatrical releases, yet this was one of them. The only other one I can think of is How To Be A Player, but she didn’t have a lot of screen-time in that film. It is a shame of what she has been through over the years and it doesn’t help that people will always see her as Lisa from Saved By The Bell. Plus, she did provide some eye candy in the film. In fact there were a lot of attractive women in this film, including the ever-so-lovely Essence Atkins.

Also, there was a brief cameo from Cypress Hill, who also performed in this film.

On the DVD of this film, there is an audio commentary track from both Method Man and Redman. It was funny to hear these two talk about the film and about certain scenes. Also, it seemed like Method Man was stoned at the start of the commentary. Maybe he actually was. It sure seemed like it. However, as time progressed, the duo really touched on a lot of things about the film. One of the parts that stood out was when Meth talked about Lark Voorhies’s performance, like how she made him think that she actually liked him. Also, there was a part where Meth talked about how he admits that he and Redman aren’t that great of actors but they did what they could in the film, given what they worked with.

How High is definitely a good example of a silly stoner movie done right. Now I am not surprised that this was given some negative reviews at the time of its release. It is really not a movie for everyone. This movie is basically on the same level as Half-Baked in that it had similar humor, not just the fact that there was a lot pot-smoking in the movie. Both films had a lot of crazy shit going on. I know I had mentioned The Wash at the start of this review, but when comparing those two films, How High wins this one. Now I don’t mind The Wash, even though I do believe it was not a good film, this film got a lot more laughs out of me. Both Meth and Redman had a lot of chemistry on-screen and there were plenty of funny moments even from some of the supporting cast, including one of the antagonists of the film. I also forgot to mention that Anna Maria Horsford was in this film as Jamal’s mother, which is funny considering how a few years after she played Meth’s mother on Method & Red (Note to self: Must get back to writing Method & Red episode reviews). Overall, in a nutshell, this was a hilarious movie.

Recommended, especially to hip-hop fans and those who also like to toke.

NEXT UP: The soundtracks to The Wash and How High, but I also have some other ideas in mind.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – The Wash

Year of Release: 2001

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films/Lithium Entertainment Group

When I first thought about reviewing “rap movies,” as I like to call them, I had initially thought about mostly doing reviews on these low-budget, straight-to-video releases that had a good amount of rappers in the cast, or at least ones that have a few in starring roles. A couple of examples that I did were Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz, one movie that I fell out of love with yet still get a bit nostalgic over. The other being a film that I would rather use as a torture technique to punish someone who wronged me. However, I had also thought about the films that starred rappers that still managed to make it to theaters. Of course I had done a couple already that were given theatrical releases, Bones and Half Past Dead.

What is funny about all of this is that there are a lot of movies that have rappers in them, yet I am unsure on which ones to do and what not to do. Of course, at the moment I have a few in mind that I want to do, at least for the time being. One of those films is 2001’s The Wash.

This film was basically a starring vehicle for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. These two have a lot of chemistry when it comes to music. Hell, those two had collaborated a lot dating back to their days with Death Row. But the question is do they also have that kind of chemistry on screen? Well, that is REALLY good question.

Both men in their roles feel like they are playing themselves. Also, Dre’s character, Sean, is basically the straight man to Snoop’s Dee Loc, who is the wisecracker. In some ways it feels like when Ice Cube played Craig to Chris Tucker’s Smokey in the first Friday film. However, those two had amazing chemistry in that film. In this film, that comedic chemistry is lost on Dre and Snoop, despite having worked well together in music.

I have to also note that Dre and Snoop also have production credits in this film, among a few other people. Which I am like “Huh?” I can only imagine that only so many people can help the production of this film. But where the main thing lies is in the writer/director, DJ Pooh (For those who don’t know, his name is actually Mark Jordan). Of course, this film is not DJ Pooh’s first film credit. He had done some of the writing in Friday (And also played a character in that film) and also had written and directed 3 Strikes, a film that I also must revisit. Not to mention he also had a role in this film (More on this later).

Regarding the film’s story and writing is another part that shows how flawed this film is. In a nutshell this movie is about how Sean got fired from a job and ends up getting a job at, well, The Wash, which is the name of a car wash that has the employees¬†washing cars for customers. So it isn’t one of those car washes where people can drive into and the car gets clean by the machinery. Nor is it a car wash where people can do it on their own with the use of hoses and brushes. It seems like a then-modern-day spin on the 1976 cult classic, Car Wash, but with more of a hip-hop/gangsta twist and no Rose Royce soundtrack to back it but rather rap tracks from Snoop and Dre, along with other hip-hop and R&B artists from Snoop’s label and Dre’s label. However, it seemed to have told three different stories in one film (along with a few subplots), which was one of the film’s problems. It even noted the different plot points on the back of the DVD case.

In the film, part of the plot had Sean, Dre’s character, becoming assistant manager to Mr. Washington (George Wallace), who was also called “Mr. Wash” as a nickname. Being that Sean tried to be an honest and responsible employee, he had gotten on the case of Dee Loc, Snoop’s character, for dealing and smoking weed while on the job and slacking. Of course, this rubbed Dee Loc the wrong way enough that it set up some conflict between the two. I must add that those two started off as friends at the beginning of the film who were also roommates. But then later on another subplot takes over the story which showed how flawed the writing was. The other plot of the film involved a kidnapping by Slim, played by DJ Pooh, who was the film’s antagonist, but he didn’t even show up until much later into the film. It was almost the storyline involving him was shoehorned in.

There were some subplots that seemed rather confusing and some that just finished at the snap of a finger. One example for the latter is a romantic subplot involving Sean and a female customer who he hit on at the car wash under the guise of an insurance salesman, when he happened to have stolen a customer’s jacket to hide that he worked at the car wash. Then of course that subplot was dropped not too long after it was revealed that he lied to her. That subplot was not needed at all and it would not have made a difference if it were out of the movie completely. On the plus side, she was never seen again, so there was no predictable part with her coming back and trying to give their whole thing another chance. As for another subplot, I totally wondered what the deal was with Eminem’s role in the film. He played a character who was fired from the car wash, but all he did was just call Mr. Wash and just threaten him. This was before 8 Mile, by the way, and it seemed like he was doing his Slim Shady persona when doing this film. Although I will say that he got some laughs out of me during his appearances.

One thing that annoyed me is that there was a lot of heavy plugging for the film’s soundtrack and also actually saying that the artists who did some songs were from Dre and Snoop themselves, the film’s lead actors. Okay, I get that they played characters, but it just seems odd how even the actors who played the characters exist in this universe as rappers. I don’t recall the Friday movies making reference to Ice Cube albums or ads with Craig present. In one scene, Tray Deee, one of Tha Eastsidaz and also one of Snoop’s boys from the DPG, was even referred to by his stage name and was acting as a character in this film. So he was basically playing himself and hanging out with a few moronic gangbangers? I didn’t understand it either.

Another thing about the soundtrack, and this is a minor spoiler here, is that in the credits, the video of “Bad Intentions” from Dre and Knoc-Turn’al was shown. It was an uncensored version, by the way, and the actual censored version was an extra on the DVD.

There were also some cameos by Ludacris, Pauly Shore, Shaquille O’Neal, and Xzibit. Also, one of the female characters was played by Truth Hurts, a singer who was on Dre’s label, Aftermath, at the time, but was credited by her real name, Shari Watson. One small note, but there was an appearance by Shawn “Solo” Fonteno, who is best known for playing Franklin Clinton in Grand Theft Auto V. He played Slim’s right-hand man. I also must add that DJ Pooh was the DJ for the West Coast Classics station in GTA V as well. This movie came out 12 years before that game did, but I just thought I’d mention that.

Anyway, this is not a good film, but I don’t hate it. I remember people had told me that it was not good when it came out, especially because I wanted to see it in theaters. According to some sources, it didn’t do well. It was shot on a $7 million budget but only made $10 million in the box office. I wonder if that was domestically. The first time I watched it was when I rented it when it came out on DVD. I had bought the DVD for this film much later and I had recently found it after having lost it. This film is more or less a time-waster or a movie that you can have on as background noise while doing other tasks. It is not a bad way to spend a boring Saturday or Sunday or any other day-off for that matter when you have nothing to do. You can do better but you can do a lot worse, too. I think it is mostly “meh,” if bad in some areas, but then again, a much funnier movie came out a month after this that starred rappers, which I will cover soon.

NEXT UP: HOW HIGH.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Bones

bones_movie_poster

Year of Release: 2001

Production Company: New Line Cinema

As part of my October special, I was conflicted on what to start with. For a while I wanted to review some soundtrack albums to horror films and also some horrorcore rap albums. However, I decided to kick this off with a review of a horror film that came out many years ago and happened to have starred a rapper.

Horror movies come in different shapes and sizes. In fact, a lot of movie genres do. When it comes to horror movies, you have your tales of the supernatural, you have your slasher movies, you have your vampire movies, you have your stories related to the undead. I could go on. The genre itself has quite a following. I am not usually a fan of such films, but I will watch them and I do find myself enjoying them at times.

I will say that I am a movie buff and while this blog is not geared towards movies in general, “Bones” is a movie that I wanted to touch on because it starred Snoop Dogg. In fact, this came out the same year as two other movies in which he had played a big role in, which were “Baby Boy” and “The Wash.” Come to think of it, “Bones” came out in between those two other films and the difference between this one and the other two is the Snoop had top billing in “Bones.” I must add that I know that he had appeared in “Training Day,” which also came out that same year but he was only in one scene, so that doesn’t exactly count (Or does it?). I am not sure if this movie was made with Snoop in mind as the titular character, but with him being a big-named rapper, maybe it was meant to be star vehicle for him.

The plot of the film goes like this: In 1979, Jimmy Bones (Snoop), a well-respected gangster and philanthropist for his neighborhood, was murdered in his home. However, more than two decades later, some people decide to buy his house to make a dance club out of it. What the people don’t realize is that the place is haunted with Bones’s spirit and a lot of people from that neighborhood tell them to avoid going into that place. Of course the people don’t and still go ahead with the development of their club. All of a sudden, Patrick (Khalil Kain), one of the DJ’s who is involved in the development, meets Cynthia (Bianca Lawson), the daughter of Pearl (Pam Grier), who was Bones’s lover when he was alive. Pearl advocates everyone to stay away from the building. One other thing is that Patrick is the son of Jeremiah (Clifton Powell), who was Bones’s friend and right-hand man. So things are connected for the most part.

According to some sources, this movie was shot on a $16 million budget, but it made only half of the money at the box office. I am not sure if that was only for the United States or if it was the worldwide gross, but it is safe to say that this movie was a bomb when it came out. I didn’t first watch this in theaters, by the way. I watched it on cable and for what it was, it was an okay time-waster. It’s funny to see some of the effects that were done for blood. Rather than use blood squibs, a lot of the blood looked like watered-down paint. Well, at least they tried to keep it practical as opposed to using CGI-blood. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall seeing too many fake effects that were used. It seemed like a lot of effects were physical. For example, the wall of the spirits of the dead seemed rather physical to me. So I can’t complain too much about the effects, even with the use of maggots towards the end, no matter how disgusting that was.

However, I see a lot of problems with the writing and acting. First, I will talk more about the writing. Now I am not so sure what the writers were trying to go for. I read how a lot of scenes were lifted, paid homage if you will, to past horror films. A friend of mine told me that the maggots bit at the club landing on the food was done in “The Lost Boys” during a dinner scene with people eating rice. It’s been a while since I have seen that film, so I might have to see that for myself. Well, I don’t have a problem with lifting elements from other films. But I might have to talk about some other problems with the story.

There will be a few spoilers right here, so read at your own risk.

While it was said that Jimmy Bones was a gangster who was well-respected and gives back to the community, I don’t necessarily see what kind of activity he was involved in as he was against pushing drugs. It didn’t exactly say what he did, just that he was loaded and was against drugs. Also, he was murdered by bent cop Lupovich (Michael T. Weiss), who also played a big role in the story, along with Eddie Mack (Ricky Harris), as well as Jeremiah. So Bones wants revenge on those who had wronged him. I get that, but why go after the people who had nothing to do with his death as well? I will get to that, but it almost seemed like we were supposed to root for him at that point in the film, like he was the good guy. It was almost confusing whether he was the villain or hero during that point of the film. I must point out that Patrick and his crew, along with Cynthia decided to sleep over at the house to test out the place. One of the creepiest scenes in the movie involved Cynthia sleeping and during this sequence, she gets molested by the ghost of Jimmy Bones and alongside that sequence, she has a dream of her getting covered in blood. I know that it was shown to be the spirit of Jimmy Bones haunting those who disturb him and in what used to be his house. However, what I find disturbing is that later on Cynthia was revealed to be Jimmy’s daughter with Pearl. *GASP* Okay, I understand that Jimmy and Pearl were a couple very much in love and she had conceived her right before Jimmy was killed, but that was revealed a bit later in the film, sometimes AFTER the spirit harassed Cynthia in her sleep. Also, I still don’t understand the ending of the film that Cynthia possessed by Bones’s spirit and maggots came out of her mouth. I wonder if there was a plan for a sequel back then.

Also, he went after Patrick and the crew because they weren’t wanted in his house and bought his property, so I guess he went after them because of it.

End spoilers.

As for the acting, well it seemed like the more believable performances were done by Harris, Grier and Powell. Ricky Harris did well playing an aging pimp and drug pusher. Grier also had a good performance in her role, whether it was as a concerned mother and also girlfriend to Bones. Also, I can never complain when I see Clifton Powell on screen, even in duds like “Hot Boyz.” Snoop, on the other hand, just seemed to be playing himself in the movie, or at least his hip-hop persona as how it was done at that point. He was not playing a gangbanger type but rather a well-suited gangster. He was a little intimidating when he was in the form of the ghost. Plus, I liked the makeup that was used on him towards the end that made him look more evil and scarier. Now what about the other characters? Bianca Lawson had little emotion in some scenes that she was in. The only time I saw her express anything in her role was during the scene when she was sleeping. Khalil Kain did alright in his role. So I can’t complain about the acting too much, except maybe from Snoop.

One thing I will point out is that I noticed something funny about the wigs and hair in some scenes. In some scenes when Bones was in his dark spirit form, I can tell Snoop wore a wig because of the length and it looked a bit fake. His hair was a bit shorter during that time and it was about the right length during the flashback scenes and when Bones was with Pearl towards the end. I also noticed that it seemed like certain scenes were filmed at certain times because Pam Grier’s hairstyle was an afro during the flashbacks and towards the end when she wore the dress while dancing with Snoop. Whereas when she saw her reflection, it was the present day version with the dreads. At least they kept with how she was supposed to look.

Eh, I will say that despite a lot of the movie’s problems, I can think of other movies that might be worse than this one. Looking back I am surprised at how this movie was even in theaters. Was it because the producers thought that Snoop Dogg would draw crowds? Nobody knows. Other than that, it was a bit fun, okay if you will. Good? Far from the case, but like I said, I have seen worse.

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