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

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

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 Review – Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror

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Year of Release: 2006

Film Studio: Xenon Pictures/Social Capital Films/Bloodworks/Snoopadelic Films

Another Snoop Dogg horror film review? Huh? I know, it’s kind of odd considering I was unsure if I would even do this, but I managed to find a way to watch it and figured why not. What separates this film from “Bones” is that this was not a wide release as according to IMDB this film had a rather limited release before coming out on DVD. Another that separates this from “Bones” is that “Hood of Horror” is an anthology film that has three different stories told, a la “Tales From The Crypt” and “Creepshow.”

However, what I will also say is that when it comes to horror movies with Bigg Snoop Dogg, I actually prefer “Bones” in this case. Why? I will get to that. But in the meantime, I am going to give a synopsis about each of the stories that were told.

The first story was about this girl named Posie, played Daniella Alonso, who has a problem with three gangbangers and they have a problem with her too for having tagged on their turf. At some point Posie meets a derelict, played by Danny Trejo, who gives her a tattoo on her arm, which also indicates that she was given a power to be able to eliminate people. It’s like that saying, with great power comes responsibility.

The second story was about this racist couple inheriting a home from the father of the husband. In their inheritance, they have to live in the home with four African-American Vietnam vets, whom also served with the late father of the new landlord. The couple, however, don’t respect the vets and use them as slaves and also harass them in the process, which infuriates the group greatly.

The third and final story is about a rapper who gets famous and is then confronted by a mysterious woman who shows him about his rise to fame and what happened to his friend and how some things are more important than fame.

Now I am about to break down about what I thought regarding these stories. The first thing that I will say that is all stories ranked from worst to best in the order they were shown.

The moment the first story started, the thing that irritated me the most was the acting. As great as Daniella Alonso is to look at in this film, her acting was just unbearable, as was the acting from some of the other actors, especially Noel Gugliemi. Regarding Gugliemi, I am aware that he is typecast as a gang member in a lot of movies, and I have read that he has been down that road before, so I can’t complain about him. Alonso, however, hammed it up in the scenes she was in. I haven’t seen her in a lot of other things, so I can’t comment on her acting as a whole but she just did not do well in this film. As for Danny Trejo, well I am used to seeing him play Danny Trejo, even though he came off as menacing in his role. The story also did not make sense in the end and I thought the ending didn’t convey the message that it tried to tell.

The second story was a mixed bag for me. The villains, played by former “Baywatch” babe Brande Roderick and Anson Mount, who I mostly remember seeing in that Britney Spears star vehicle, “Crossroads,” did not really give me much reason to hate them. Yes, they were total jerks in the movie but they didn’t really make me hate them enough to want to see them get theirs. Ernie Hudson, who played one of the vets in this story, actually saved it for me. I can never complain about seeing him on my screen as I have always respected him as an actor and I like some roles of his, like in “The Substitute” and “Ghostbusters.” However, I cannot say anything about the writing. While the story was predictable, I have to hand it to the writers for coming up with something a bit original towards the end of it. It was a lot better than the first story, but at the same time it suffered from predictability and hammy acting.

Now the movie kicked it into a higher gear with the third and final story. I have to say that this one was the most interesting of the bunch as I will admit that I felt a slight chill in my spine when I watched it. Aries Spears of MADtv fame appeared in this story as Quon, the best friend of the rapper Sod, played by Pooch Hall. While Hall was the main character of this story, Spears was the secondary main character of this one. I am mostly used to seeing him do comedic roles. That isn’t to say that he wasn’t funny in this, he was but in a really creepy way. I also didn’t mind the performance from former professional wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page. However, there wasn’t really much story to be told considering how short it was and we didn’t really see how Sod rose to the top of the rap world. At first we see when he was a nobody and then a year later we see him at the top of his game. If it were made into a full-length movie, it would have been better.

Now where did Snoop fit into all of this? Well he was the narrator of the film and played what appeared to be the devil in the story. He would appear in between stories talking about what happened and then would talk about the next story. He basically like he always does, and it is not that different than his performance in “Bones.” I will say that when he had two gorgeous woman by his side, it somehow reminded me of the video to Coolio’s “Too Hot.” If you’ve seen that video, you will know which part I am talking about. Also, he has a few on the soundtrack, one of which was played in the credits. I also must add that there were animated sequences that happened in between. The animation reminded me of “The Boondocks” and “Afro Samurai,” which was among the very few positive qualities about this film.

Now why do I prefer “Bones” to this movie? Here’s why: I actually got a little more scares from that one than I did this and it had a better story. The only story from this movie that I actually would give a pass to is the third one and even there was not a lot of time to develop it. The second story didn’t have enough to keep me into it with the exception of Ernie Hudson. The first story was just bad. When it comes to horror anthology movies, I very much prefer “Tales From The Hood,” which is an underrated movie in my personal opinion. This movie just failed on some levels for me. Despite a few somewhat positive qualities, I think that this movie failed on multiple levels.

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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – Bones

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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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Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review: Hot Boyz

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Year of Release: 2000

Film Studio: Artisan Entertainment/PM Entertainment/No Limit Films

So it has come to this. I decided to do a review on not just one of the worst movies that I have seen that starred rappers, but also one of the worst movies that I have seen in general. I made a mention of this movie in my review of Thicker Than Water in that I have seen worse movies than that film. Make no mistake about this, but despite what I wrote about that film, it’s still more watchable than this worthless piece of shit that I am about to write about right now. In the future I plan to do more of the movies that No Limit had put out, like I Got The Hook-Up, I’m Bout It, Foolish, maybe even that short film, MP Da Last Don. In the meantime, I will talk about Hot Boyz, a film that Master P not only wrote but also directed, which starred his brother, Silkk The Shocker, as the lead character.

Why I chose to write about this movie I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I wanted to talk about it before other rap movies that I want to do. However, I remember catching this on UPN when I was a lot younger and watching a good amount of it. I remember enjoying it back then, but this isn’t like Thicker Than Water when I had that as one of my favorite movies during that time. In some ways I get a little nostalgic over that, even though that still has a lot of problems and I fell out of love with that movie. This movie, on the other hand, I have no nostalgia over it except just watching it on network TV one time. I caught it on BET every now and then, and then one day I bought a 4-pack of DVD’s that included this movie, along with Foolish, Phat Beach and Caught Up. Not that the other three were good movies at all, but with this set being sold at $5, I just went ahead and purchased it. Boy, do I regret that now, and even though movies like Caught Up and Phat Beach are shitty themselves, they are more watchable than this and that isn’t saying a lot (I would give Foolish a slight pass for Eddie Griffin’s stand-up scenes). I no longer have that set as I will also note that having sat through Caught Up, I said “fuck this shit” and sold it. However, being that I wanted to write about Hot Boyz, I had to find some way to watch it because there was no way I was going to pay to watch it and I was not about to wait for Netflix to put it back on there, nor was I going to wait for it to come back to Starz or Showtime On Demand. Lucky for me, I found that it was online on Vimeo. The sad part about this was that I told myself that I have to watch it again in order to remember a lot of stuff.

The first thing I will address is that Silkk The Shocker should never be allowed to act ever. I know he also appeared in that movie called Corrupt with Ice-T before this and I heard that movie is way worse than this, but I can’t imagine how bad it could be compared to this abomination. Also, Master P should never be allowed to write a script or direct a film either.

Without further ado, I am now going to talk about the film. By the way, there will be spoilers in this review, that way you won’t have to watch this.

The film starts off with a car chase with police cars rushing the spot of a deal gone wrong and then suddenly a sports car just starts racing off, with the driver, Kool (Silkk), hoping to evade the authorities. The thing that got me about this scene was not just that it went up to five minutes but also the editing. It seemed that there were different angle shots of where the cars were going as you had one shot of it from the right, then from the front, then from the left, you get the idea. It takes a long time for this sequence to end as you have no idea what is going on until it drives right off a dock and right at the freeze-frame, Kool starts narrating about what he got himself into. So we cut to a sequence at a barbecue, with Kool hanging out at a table with his crew that included the likes of Snoop Dogg, C-Murder, Mystikal, and also AJ Johnson, who basically played the crew’s butt monkey that everyone liked to crack jokes on. Kool starts spitting a rap while hanging out because he is an aspiring rapper. He also has a devoted girlfriend named LaShawna, who is heading off to college and has a mother who obviously disapproves of her daughter’s relationship with Kool. It’s a cliche, but it gets even worse  (I’ll get to that). Because this was supposed to be a neighborhood barbecue, we see a couple of characters interact with one another whom we don’t know at first. One is a cop and the other is a gangster who just happened to be in the neighborhood. Why this scene was in there I don’t know. This is only the beginning of some sequences like this. There could have been a proper introduction to the cop. Although the gangster, Saint (Clifton Powell), does play a role in the story later on, and the cop, however, appears a few other times.

So we get some scenes that show Kool and LaShawna’s love for one another, and then all of a sudden we see another sequence with a couple of guys who weren’t seen in the film before talking about a drug deal with an undercover cop. These two guys seem like they are involved in organized crime. One guy is white, the other is black. But like the previous scene with the gangster and the cop, this is another introduction to a character who will play more of a role and it happens not too long after because it’s a crucial point to the plot. You see, after LaShawna leaves Kool’s place to go home, she stumbles upon the drug deal with the UC getting stabbed. So she goes right up to the dying cop to help him, and then we see the white guy from earlier looking on. It turns out he is a dirty cop, so he made a deal with the drug dealer. The dirty cop looks on in the distance and then suddenly cops pull up. They were called in pretty fast, huh? And what does LaShawna do? She decides to run from the cops, all the way home, in fact. The stupid thing about all of this is that the cops who chased her down were quick to arrest her and charge her with murder one, and then she gets imprisoned so quickly. It also did not help that she didn’t follow procedure when the cops initially told her to put her hands to the wall. I don’t know how the justice system works usually, but it certainly doesn’t move that fast for her to get charged within an arrest and get put in jail within an hour. It’s bad that she ran, but the cops did not bother to question her. Also, the dirty cop starts stalking LaShawna.

Did I mention that Kool is also a black belt in Kenpo? Well, there were a couple of sequences with Kool in his class, with his master played by Jeff Speakman, who has a billed role in this despite appearing in only a handful of sequences. I think that these scenes were to show what Kool had going for him and he used his prowess in some fights later on, but these scenes did not need to be in the movie at all.

Anyway, with LaShawna in jail, Kool undoubtedly wants to get her and decides to work with a cop played by Gary Busey. Busey has Kool go work undercover to help take down Saint, the gangster from before, by having him get into the operation. It gets predictable as it goes on. Kool gets in, and does some work and then a bust goes down. One sequence has Kool go into the club where Saint is and has him use a recorder. I get that they were trying to do a sting, but is this a universe where using a wire doesn’t exist? The funny part, and I mean a sequence that got a chuckle out of me, was when Kool showed Busey the audio footage and all you hear is “Hooty Hoo” from TRU, which was played at the club.

Afterwards, during a visit from Kool, LaShawna tells him that she is pregnant. In this scene, I have to give Silkk a bit of credit for trying to act, as he is trying to project emotion into it.

So with the dirty cop now stalking LaShawna, he finds her at the prison and decides to brutally interrogate her because he happened to look in the distance when she helped out the dying cop from earlier. She knew nothing, of course, but that did not stop him from attacking her, both verbally and physically. She was then hospitalized. When Kool went to go see her, she dies in the hospital bed. Now I did not get this at all. I understand that she was pregnant and she said that she had lost the baby, but the dirty cop basically laid a few punches and kicks in her. She was bruised, yes, but he didn’t beat her badly to the point that it would be fatal. Also, it was supposed to be the day when she got out. How convenient. (End sarcasm)

Then came LaShawna’s funeral. Everyone was there paying their respects. What cracked me up was Snoop’s character standing in the distance as opposed to being where everyone else was. When LaShawna’s mother saw Kool, she immediately slapped him in the face and blamed him for her death and called him trash. Gee, where did I see THAT before? Oh, that’s right, Boyz N The Hood, which is MUCH better film than this. I wonder if Master P lifted that part from that movie. Oh, and the dirty cop decides to pull a drive-by on the funeral. Now this REALLY got me. How in the FUCK did he know it was her funeral and what did he have to gain in killing the poor girl’s loved ones? Oh, that’s right, to show that he was bad news. It then escalates into a car chase, with Kool driving a hearse of all things. The car chase had some funny camera work as there were closeups of the cars swerving and crashing into other cars. Once Kool got to the evil cop, he rear-ended a him a few times and because there was a conveniently-placed gas can in the back of the van that the bad cop drove, it lead to a cliche explosion that Kool somehow survived and for some strange reason, the van flipped right onto its wheels in the standard position, despite being badly damaged. Of course, the evil cop wasn’t so lucky.

You would think that is the end of the movie after that, huh? Oh no, not quite, and it got worse, too, as it felt like an entirely different film right after that. You see, in the story, Kool felt that there was no way of getting justice, so he decided to form a gang and rise in the criminal ranks, and they call themselves the Hot Boyz, which explains the name of the film. So let me get this straight. After a bent cop causes harm to someone and decides to shoot up a funeral, the only motivation Kool now has is to become a criminal? It went from being a crime drama to a wannabe gangster movie. What’s bad about is that this happens an hour into the film and in the final 20-30 minutes of it. We get a montage of their rise to power as Kool and his boys start shooting up the competition with so much ease that I wondered how in the hell did a gang of four just gun down hundreds of guys with little effort. Oh, and Kool managed to afford a mansion in the process. How? I don’t know, probably took it over after taking out a crime boss. Another scene had them hang a guy after they interrogated him, which then led to another interrogation scene with a cop, played by C. Thomas Howell, interviewing a thug played the film’s writer and director, Master P. I suppose P felt he needed to have at least one scene in the film where he was told about a guy he knew was hung. I don’t see what the point of that scene was. Number one, the guy who was hung was no one the audience knew as he had no other scenes beforehand. Second, Master P was never seen again after that despite being on the poster/box artwork.

Next we have another cliche in gangster films with a turncoat character wanting to work for the competition as Pee-Wee, AJ Johnson’s character, turns to Saint to help bring down the Hot Boyz. At this point, Saint was forgotten about and the last time he was seen he was busted by the cops. I wonder how much Clifton Powell made for his contribution to this film. He may not be a name actor, but he is a good actor and I respect him for all of his work. He just seemed like he was slumming right here. Anyway, Kool gets suspicious of Pee-Wee’s behavior and then comes a part where he grills him for double-crossing him, which led to Snoop shooting him. Then finally we have the big climax scene with the cops and Saint’s men coming in to kill Kool and his small gang and a big shootout starts. I must say that it’s funny to see the badly done edits for this climactic sequence. I must add that the song in the background just did not go with the sequence, either (More on this in a bit). Finally it leads to that car chase that was seen at the beginning and Kool did fall into the water after driving off the dock. Surprisingly enough, he survived, was arrested, sentenced to 30 years, but only did five because that good cop from the beginning helped him out. He started evaluate how his life turned out and that after all the shit that he went through, he thought that things were about to be different, how he wanted a life with LaShawna and their child, blah blah blah. You get the drift.

I forgot to mention this before, but there was a funny sequence with Saint being chased by the cops, he evaded them by zip-lining and falling into water. This, too, also had the multiple camera angles and edits, not to mention that if you look closely, the double for Clifton Powell was wearing glasses whereas Powell wasn’t wearing any when the camera closed in on him.

*Sigh* It will be said. I had planned to do a write-up of this film, and despite the fact that I detest this movie, I bit the bullet and decided to watch it so that I can address each and every fucking problem this movie had. The last time I watched this fully was more than four years ago, so it was not fresh in my mind for me to do it. One of the most ridiculous things that I noticed about this movie was its overabundance of the soundtrack. I get that it was a No Limit film and a lot of songs from No Limit Records were used in the film, ranging from Master P to Silkk to Mystikal, you name it, but it just sounded fucking ridiculous to hear some songs played during an action sequence. When there was a tender moment, you would hear stuff from their R&B acts like Mo B. Dick, O’Dell and Porsha. Hell, I thought that it was too much to hear C-Murder’s “Concrete Jungle” more than once. I don’t mind the music, I even have some albums from the No Limit label myself, but hearing the soundtrack was kind of overkill. Not to mention the drastic change in story in 2/3 of the way. Did Master P feel that the movie was too short for it to end with the car chase at the end? Who knows.

On the plus side, I have to hand it to Snoop Dogg for playing it straight in this film. In comparison to Mystikal and C-Murder, both of whom can’t act worth a shit, Snoop basically was just calm and cool throughout the entire film. I sort of laughed how in the final shootout, right when he was shot, he didn’t agonize in pain. He just looked down and saw the bullet wound in his chest like it was nothing. As far as other rappers from the No Limit label go who were in this movie, Mia X had a small role as a receptionist at the police station. That was mainly it.

After reading all of this, it is not hard to see how bad I felt this movie was. It was not “so bad it’s good,” it was not even “funny bad.” It was just plain bad. I may have criticized Thicker Than Water in my review, but in a lot of ways I would not mind revisiting it despite its problems. That was a bad movie, yes, but I don’t hate it, and it is MILES BETTER than this piece of shit. Even Gary Busey didn’t make this movie somewhat watchable. I don’t recommend it, although there are people out there who liked this movie, and that is fine, too. However, this movie can be a good torture technique when you want to punish someone.

As stated before, I plan to write about the other No Limit films in the future. Thanks for reading.

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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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