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

Standard
Rap Movie Reviews

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

Standard
Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Half Past Dead

half_past_dead

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Franchise Pictures

I have not really been keeping up with this lately, but because I have plans to write about the Murder Inc compilations in February, I figured that this would be a good place to start. It is not just because Ja Rule is in this film, and also Kurupt, but also because there is a good amount of songs from The Inc on the soundtrack, and also other stuff from non-Murder Inc performers.

I will add that I have also been on a Steven Seagal kick lately, probably thanks to a YouTuber who I follow named Ramboraph4life as not too long ago he had done a Seagal marathon where he reviewed and ranted on films that he starred in. I still have Exit Wounds to do, and I will cover that one in the near future along with its soundtrack, but that will be for my Andrzej Bartowiak’s martial arts hip-hop trilogy marathon which also consists of Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 The Grave, along with the soundtracks to those films.

Anyway, I am here to talk about Half Past Dead, the last movie that Steven Seagal starred in that was given a theatrical release, which also has Ja Rule in a starring role. This movie came out nearly two years after Exit Wounds, which was a surprise hit and that was also another movie that Seagal had done with a rapper, who was DMX. For many years I had heard that this film was the last straw for Steven Seagal as a leading man in theatrical movies because afterwards he had starred in a slew of direct-to-video films. I think another reason was that this film was a critical and box office flop. A lot of people disliked the film and it did not make a lot of money. Of course, I decided to see it for myself.

Some of my synopsis may contain spoilers.

The film’s story in a nutshell is about this undercover FBI who is infiltrating a prison because a criminal plotted to interrogate a prisoner about stolen gold and where to find it. The film’s title has to do with how Seagal’s character was declared dead at the beginning of the film, only to be revived. Seagal played Sasha, the FBI agent who was undercover in a criminal operation with his friend, Nicholas, played Ja Rule. Of course, Ja’s character did not know that he was undercover at first. The opening sequence was more of a prologue as Sasha was shot and the main plot takes place eight months after those events. The villain, who is called 49er One (don’t ask), played by Morris Chestnut, leads a team of criminals, also codenamed 49ers with a number after that. For example, the second-in-command, played by Nia Peeples, is named 49er Six. My only guess is because the film took place on Alcatraz and being that they are after gold, it is rather clear as to why they are named that. In some ways this feels like The Rock, with Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris, but with elements from The Matrix thrown in.

In regards to whether this film was bad is entirely subjective, but I personally didn’t mind it. Would I call it good? No, but there was some fun to be had. The thing that really got me were the acting from parts of the cast. I can’t really say much about Seagal’s acting considering how he has admitted that he is not much of an actor and how in a lot of movies he basically plays the same type of character, or is he playing himself? I can never tell. Ja didn’t do a bad job in his role but I have not seen enough roles of his to really say if he is playing himself. I know he was in a movie with Pras (From The Fugees) called Turn It Up, but I have never seen it. He was only in The Fast and The Furious for a few minutes and the only other film that I have seen with him was The Cookout, but that was a long time ago and I mostly remember that being a cheesy comedy. As for Morris Chestnut, his performance as the villain felt like he went through the motions. I couldn’t buy him as a bad guy. I felt that he was more convincing as a criminal-type in the movie Confidence, which came out sometime after this one. He didn’t really convince as a bad guy in this film and he is usually such a good actor. Nia Peeples didn’t have much to work with except be the femme fatale who wore tight leather and did martial arts. Also she reminded me too much of Trinity from The Matrix in this. She even wore a trenchcoat in some fight scenes.

As for others, Kurupt basically played the comic relief in this film. He was actually pretty funny in some scenes, one of which included comedienne, Mo’Nique. I can’t say he acted much before this except for one small scene in The Wash, but that was it.

As for action scenes, this movie was chock full of explosions and pyrotechnics that I think it would make Michael Bay blush. The film was already over-the-top, but it just felt like firework show in some sequences. There was a lot of ridiculousness in some other sequences like one that had Seagal and Ja driving a car and Ja totally flew out of a car or when Kurupt fired a rocket launcher and was sent flying. Those scenes got a laugh out of me for the absurdity in both scenes. Not to mention when a gun got caught in an elevator door and Seagal flipped it over to have it point at the bad guys. Also, I could not help but laugh during the climax when two guys jump from a balcony and start firing their guns. I mean, come on, how could the bullets not hit the other guy who jumped as well?

Of course, I can’t complain about the fight scenes, even though some involved doubles for some people. Although Peeples’ character was a total knock-off of Trinity, she impressed me a bit in her fight scenes. I can’t say that I am surprised because she had done a lot of fight scenes when she was in Walker, Texas Ranger.

Acting and action scenes aside, the complaint I had for the most part were some songs from the soundtrack. I wonder if this movie was edited and initially supposed to be rated R. This was PG-13, and I believe it is Steven Seagal’s only PG-13 film. The reason for my complaint is that a lot of the songs were edited. This film came out around the same time as the compilation, “Irv Gotti Presents The Inc” and a number of songs from that compilation appeared on the soundtrack. The film started with “Gangstafied” from a few Murder Inc artists (Including Ja) and it was distracting to hear parts of the lyrics censored. The same can be said about the use of “I’ma Bang” from DMX. It was just weird to hear it censored when it said “Do My Motherfucking Thing.” If the movie was rated R, the lyrics would all be intact.

I also must add that the song in the credits, “The Pledge (Remix)” contained clips from this film in the music video for it.

End spoilers.

Half Past Dead is more flash than substance, however, the film is still fun to watch for some reason. I don’t think this is a good film, but it is entertaining in some areas. I found myself laughing with and at some scenes, especially at a little Sony product placement with an inmate playing PS2 in a cell. The film also didn’t take itself seriously which was one reason that I had fun with it. I also must add that there is a direct-to-video sequel that stars Bill Goldberg and from what I understand, Kurupt reprised his role in that film. I might watch that and review it one day because judging from the DVD artwork it appears that Kurupt has a bigger role in that one than in this one. I am also curious about Bill Goldberg’s performance being that I am mostly used to seeing him in his wrestling persona. I’ll check it out one day.

Standard