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

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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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Uncategorized

Other Christmas rap songs and Chronic commercials.

Hello, being that Christmas is near, and I mean NEAR, I decided to do a piece on a couple of Christmas rap songs that I like listening to around this time. I also want to touch on commercials for The Chronic, which came out in December of 1992. There are two songs that I will talk about, and they are “It’s The Holidaze” from Westside Connection and “Merry Muthaphuckkin’ Xmas” from Eazy-E, along with other Ruthless artists from that time. Now why on earth did I not do a review on the “Friday After Next” soundtrack instead, or even a review on Eazy’s EP, “5150: Home 4 Tha Sick”? Well I don’t own the “Friday After Next” soundtrack and if I get my hands on it, I will only do it around Christmas-time considering that film took place during the holidays. As for “5150,” I plan to do that one in the future. So without further ado, here are the songs.

NOTE: None of these videos are mine.

I have to say that the Eazy-E song is hilarious because it’s a total parody of Christmas songs with a bunch of violent, drug and sexual content added into the mix. One part that had always cracked me up was the spoof of “My Mom Kissing Santa Claus.” Same with Eazy’s bit when he spoofed “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Also, I later learned that a Will.i.am and Apl.De.App from Black Eyed Peas were once signed to Ruthless Records, but under different names. They were initially known as The Atban Klann and had recorded an unreleased album for Ruthless during that time. Unlike “High Fo’ Xmas,” this song is THE definition of a Christmas gangsta rap song. It is definitely not family-friendly, but it is good for a laugh, especially around the holiday season.

As for “It’s The Holidaze,” I remember watching this video many times throughout the years as it has become my own personal Christmas tradition to listen to it around this time of the year. I like how in the video with each verse, they all have the different color schemes that go with Christmas. Ice Cube’s verse has it all white, WC’s verse is all green and Mack 10’s verse is all red. Also, I noticed how the beats transitioned a bit to go with the flows of each rapper. My personal favorite verse of the song was WC’s.

Now here comes another part that is a little unrelated, but it goes with the holidays.

I know that Dr. Dre had released “The Chronic” during the holiday season of 1992, but what cracks me up about these ads is the Christmas tree looking like it was made entirely of hemp. Also, one of the ads had a female voice-over say “Dr. Dre’s got the chronic, so take a hit.” I really wonder where these ads were seen. I would only guess that they were mainly shown on The Box, MTV (When they still aired videos) and probably BET. Hey, at least Death Row knew what they were doing with their advertising during those days. It feels kind of dated now seeing album ads done that way, but it’s still fun to see.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review: Thicker Than Water

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Year of Release: 1999

Film Studio: Palm Pictures/Priority Films/Hoo-Bangin’ Films

So I basically had thought of something to delve into and that is “rap movies.” I don’t mean movies that had the likes of Ice Cube or Tupac Shakur playing characters and them being the only rappers in them. I am talking about those low-budget “rap movies” that went straight to video, or even ones that surprisingly made it to theaters. I might touch on hood flicks in the future, but this right here will be the start of a category I have been wanting to touch on.

If you lived in the late-1990s to the early-2000s, there is a good chance that you may remember that there were low-budget movies that had come out that starred rappers, and I mean a good amount of supporting characters played by rappers. It was a common thing way back when. What better way to start this column with a movie that I remember loving as a teen that starred Mack 10 and Fat Joe as the leads called “Thicker Than Water.” Now that I am older and wiser, does this movie this hold up? Or was I just too blind and naive as the 14-year-old boy that I was who thought it was the best movie ever?

The funny thing regarding how I found out about this movie was when I was in middle school I saw an advertisement for it for pay-per-view. I then remembered it when a relative of mine had the soundtrack and then I came across this movie on Showtime. Oh yes, I remember watching this a lot on Showtime back in the day. However, nostalgia can only cloud one’s judgment for too long, and when one day when I bought it at a store a decade after having seen it, some of those positive memories of having enjoyed something as a youngster have faded away.

The story’s plot is as cliche as it gets. What it dealt with was DJ (Mack 10) and Lonzo (Fat Joe) are rival gang members who decide to put their personal differences aside to get into the drug game. Did I mention that these guys are also budding music producers who are trying to pursue careers in music in hopes to get out of the hood? What’s weird is that these guys are getting deeper in the crime world than just gang-banging in hopes to make it in some legitimate business. Oh, and these guys also have girlfriends that serve nothing more than either as arm candy (Or eye candy to the audience), which also makes me see how sexist, if misogynist, this film is (More on that later). If anything, this movie is nothing more than a glorified rap video, and it was even shot like one.

Let me get into a lot of the ridiculous aspects of this film. We start the movie with Mack 10’s character, DJ, narrating about how life in the hood is messed up and how there may not be ways to get out. Next thing we see is a bunch of friends playing football in the park with music playing in the background. It’s supposed to look like a happy time, until a couple of women get into a scuffle. One of the women, Leyla, is supposedly “DJ’s woman” and going off on some girl because DJ had talked to her on the phone. She beats the woman up, and then she makes a snappy comeback only for Leyla to blast her with a gun right there. Next thing we see is Leyla dropping off DJ at his girlfriend Brandy’s house, and her giving him shit about how she “shot a bitch over him” and now she was dropping him to see another woman. I mean seriously, this was only in the first five minutes of the film, and I already see that a lot of the characters are portrayed in a negative light.

I must add that only the first 15 minutes of this movie take place within that day period, where during that time we also meet Lonzo, Fat Joe’s character, as he is first seen hanging out with his friends on his porch playing some word guessing game for some odd reason, one of whom was played by MC Eiht of Compton’s Most Wanted, and was more than likely in this movie because at the time this movie was made, he was signed with Hoo-Bangin’ Records, Mack 10’s label. Then when Lonzo’s girlfriend Kim called him inside, Lonzo’z boys just decided to rough up DJ because he happened to have been walking down the street where he was not welcome. It was funny to see considering the bad acting from these rappers, and there was plenty of bad acting in this movie, believe me.

After this host of sequences within the first 15-20 minutes of the film, we finally get to the crux of the plot. You see, with DJ and Lonzo aspiring to be music producers, they come across a few problems along the way. Lonzo was producing an R&B girl group, portrayed by real life group named Soultre, whom were signed to Hoo-Bangin’ at the time, and then went to go meet with a record company executive, only to see that the group had already met with him. The executive told Lonzo that he offered the group an exclusive deal to record for his label, which pissed off Lonzo greatly to the point where he pulled out a pistol and threatened him with it. The crazy thing about this was that Kim, Lonzo’s girlfriend, handed him the gun right before left for the meeting. I am sure he needed to be strapped for protection against rival gang members, but did he really need to carry the gun into the record company building? While DJ’s record equipment blew up on him during a session in composing the beats. So both men were fucked in that situation. So what are they going to do? They are going to put aside their personal differences and join forces to find a way to raise money by selling dope on the streets. Enter Gator, played by another rapper named CJ Mac, who is living large with his operations primarily based in New Orleans, La. but also had some influence in California. If anything, this guy was like the Tony Montana-type in this movie, with a mansion and everything.

So there you have it, the story is just them selling dope, and then of course we have some dissension in their operation along with them regaining their previous conflict. Not to mention that we had a stupid surprise twist at the end of the film that made little sense. I will not say what it was, but if you were to watch it, you would find the revelation to be stupid, too.

Another thing that I must add, the poster and DVD cover say that it starred Ice Cube, but that was far from the truth. Ice Cube appeared in the film, yes, but only for two minutes tops. He played DJ’s cousin who was a mechanic and gunrunner by trade. He was never seen again after that. We also had some other cameos by WC, Krayzie Bone, Flesh-N-Bone, Bad Azz, B-Real and Big Pun. No disrespect intended for the late Big Pun, but when I see the scene when DJ and Lonzo meet with him at the diner, I wonder how he managed to fit into the booth. He looked like he barely got himself in there, and then of course we see that he has a drug stash hidden inside a refrigerator.

I have to say that this film did not hold up from when I was younger. Not that I thought that this was a movie deserving of awards, but I still liked it then. Nowadays, I would only watch it if I want to get a good laugh because this movie was obviously shot on a low budget. The acting was horrendous, especially from the two leads, and the story was predictable. I also must say that I could only count any positive characters on one hand. One in particular was DJ’s mother, who tried to tell DJ about his life and his father, though that subplot was an afterthought because there were only two or three scenes that mentioned DJ’s father. Another positive female character was Brandy, whose character was that of a college student trying to make something of herself, but even she became an afterthought with the only scene she had any real dialogue was when her and DJ were talking about their future at the beginning of the film. The only other time she was seen was when DJ and her, along with Lonzo and Kim, went to a comedy club. She had very little to do in the film and I am sure that the writers only added her in at the last minute. The aunt seemed like the only other positive character. DJ’s stepfather was only seen in two scenes, and I will say that I thought that the exchange between him and DJ was kind of funny in one of those scenes. All the other characters made it hard for me to root for them, especially the two leads.

This was indeed a bad movie, no doubt, but I have seen worse, MUCH WORSE, and I plan to review them in spite of how I felt about them (*cough*Hot Boyz*cough*). In the meantime, thanks for reading this. Also, I will review the soundtrack to this film. Stay tuned for that.

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