Dolemite Is My Name Movie Review

There are plentiful amounts of F bombs thrown out in Dolemite Is My Name. They are the kind that you associated with Eddie Murphy years ago. The F no longer stands for the family fare he starred in that bombed at the box office. Think Pluto Nash. Or Meet Dave. Or Imagine That. No, this belongs in a small sub genre of pictures where some of the players here have had involvement before. Dolemite tells the true story of a man breaking into the movie business with wide eyed spirit and contagious tenacity. The quality of the material produced is secondary.

Murphy is Rudy Ray Moore, who’s working at a record shop in L.A. when we begin. He has dreams of stardom, but the general consensus is that his time has passed. Rudy just won’t let that happen as he develops a comic persona that is one part rhyming (he ended up being a huge influence in the hip hop community), one part glorious 70s outfits of the era, and all parts raunchy as hell.

He achieves success in the underground comedy world where his records sell, but a screening of the Billy Wilder pic The Front Page gives him another idea. Rudy doesn’t see humorous material on the screen for the black audience and he’s going to be the one to give it to them. Obtaining financing (even at the height of the blaxploitation genre) is next to impossible so he’s creative in his methods.

Surrounding Rudy is a colorful (especially the clothes) and eclectic group of collaborators who aren’t entirely sure what they’ve gotten themselves into. They include actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes, having a ball). He never fails to remind others that he had a big part in Rosemary’s Baby and only joins the picture when he’s allowed to direct. Keegan-Michael Key is the screenwriter who thinks he’s making the kind of serious drama he writes for the stage. When kung fu and set shattering sex scenes take precedence, that notion is dispelled. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a scene stealer as Lady Reed, Rudy’s stand-up partner plucked out of a Southern bar.

Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander have travelled this road before with Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Murphy gave one of his finest performances 20 years ago in Bowfinger, where his costar Steve Martin was a director with unbridled and naive enthusiasm. The Disaster Artist with James Franco mined similar territory. So while Dolemite does feel familiar in its beats, it has its own brand of passion for its unlikely star.

We have the headliner to thank for it. This is Live From Netflix and is indeed Eddie Murphy’s show. The performer seems more inspired than he has in some time. It might help if you’re a Dolemite devotee (Murphy and many of the cast members are). Yet this is an entertaining watch either way as we watch a legend in his element.

***1/2 (out of four)

Arctic Dogs Box Office Prediction

Entertainment Studios is hoping that family audiences warm to their animated comedy Arctic Dogs next weekend. Budgeted at around $50 million, it risks being a costly flop. From director Aaron Woodley, Dogs voice cast includes Jeremy Renner (who’s been experiencing bad publicity involved with his personal life), Heidi Klum, James Franco, John Cleese, Omar Sy, Michael Madsen, Laurie Holden, Anjelica Huston, and Alec Baldwin (pulling double duty with new releases along with Motherless Brooklyn).

The pic marks the first animated effort from the relatively new studio, which has only found success with its 47 Meters Down shark tales. I suspect they won’t find much profitability with these talking animals.

Double digits seems like an impossibility here and it could struggle to reach $5 million.

Arctic Dogs opening weekend prediction: $4.5 million

For my Terminator: Dark Fate prediction, click here:

For my Motherless Brooklyn prediction, click here:

For my Harriet prediction, click here:

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist begins with filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Kevin Smith and actors Adam Scott, Danny McBride, and Kristen Bell extolling the strange virtues of The Room. That terrible movie became one of the most unlikely cult hits of the 21st century. The rest of the picture details its strange maker Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and the process to bring it to a midnight theater showing near you.

Just as The Room was Wiseau’s warped vision all his own, this is clearly a passion project for Franco. I suspect many of the other well-known actors who turn up in parts large and small are devotees of the unintentionally hilarious 2003 film that Franco is recounting. Like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, this is a good movie about a bad director. Not as good, but it’s an entertaining watch that doesn’t probe too far into its subject’s real story. Truth be told, maybe we don’t really wanna know.

Tommy Wiseau wouldn’t want it any other way. We first meet him in San Francisco circa 1998 as he pours his heart into Marlon Brando’s monologue from A Streetcar Named Desire at an acting class. His rendering is quite awful, but it’s his devil-may-care attitude and blind commitment that gets the attention of Greg (Dave Franco). He’s a fellow student who’s more reserved. Tommy is too, but in a much different way. His age is a mystery and he’s not about to tell it. A European accent (where in that continent… who knows?) counters his contention that he hails from New Orleans. Most interestingly, Tommy seems to have a limitless supply of money and no one knows why.

His new pal Greg manages to ignore those puzzling personal aspects and they road trip it to L.A. to move in together and pursue their dreams. Although he seems to have some prospects, Greg can’t catch a break. Tommy’s overall bizarre vibe is an immediate red X to casting agents. The only solution is to finance his own feature.

And The Room is birthed throughout a long shooting process with a director who has no clue what he’s really doing. We see Wiseau torment his cast and crew because he read somewhere that’s how Alfred Hitchcock did it. Those who know The Room will revel in revisiting Wiseau (who casts himself as the romantic lead) and his humorously questionable line readings. There’s his screenplay that inexplicably brings up cancer subplots that go nowhere and sex scenes that would be deemed too horrible for 2am Cinemax play.

Franco, who also serves behind the camera, is obviously enamored with getting his portrayal of Tommy’s mannerisms and his journey to make this project as accurate as possible. Even if you’re not familiar with Wiseau’s cinematic opus, one YouTube viewing of an interview with him and you’ll know Franco nails it. The star/director, in addition to casting his brother, finds roles for Dave’s real life wife Alison Brie and his frequent costar Seth Rogen as a perpetually bemused script supervisor. Yet just as the real Tommy made his personal relationships and the shooting experience all about him, so is the case with The Disaster Artist.

That devotion from Franco is enough to make this a worthwhile experience. If you’re looking for any insight into what really made Tommy who he is, you won’t find it here. The ultimate irony is that Wiseau did end up succeeding in a town where that’s nearly an impossible feat. He didn’t know that the earnest drama he thought he was making would result in Rocky Horror Picture Show style late night screening madness. What kind of man could achieve this? We may never know, but it’s a fun question for Franco and others to ponder.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Just over a decade ago, Joel and Ethan Coen finally broke through with Academy voters via No Country for Old Men. Premiering in Venice today is their latest effort The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Originally conceived as a six-part Netflix series, the brothers Coen chose to combine this tale of violent Western vignettes into a feature film. Its cast includes Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, Tyne Daly, and Brendan Gleeson.

Reviews overseas indicate that Ballad contains great moments and some uneven ones. I wouldn’t expect this to be a contender in Picture or Director. As for its actors, Neeson and Waits have been singled out. Yet again, their inclusion is Supporting Actor could be a reach.

Ballad does stand a better chance at possible recognition for Original Screenplay (depending on strength of competition) and its cinematography.

Bottom line: Ballad could factor into down the line races, but don’t expect this to play in the largest prize pool.

Following an expected theatrical release, Scruggs debuts on Netflix on November 16. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Kin Box Office Prediction

Labor Day weekend brings the sci-fi pic Kin, which hopes to bring in a family and teen audience that have had plenty to see this summer. It’s not based on a YA novel, but it could pass as such an adaptation. That may not be great news as the genre seems to be dwindling.

Jonathan and Josh Baker direct with a cast including Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, Zoe Kravitz, Carrie Coon, Dennis Quaid, and James Franco as a crime lord (the guy is certainly eclectic).

The Lionsgate release seems to be flying well under the radar and the Labor Day release date doesn’t inspire much confidence in its prospects. This is typically a slow time of year on the box office calendar and I’m getting a bit of a Darkest Minds vibe here.

That means I foresee a holiday debut in the mid single digits.

Kin opening weekend prediction: $3.9 million (Friday to Monday estimate)

For my Searching prediction, click here:

For my Operation Finale prediction, click here:

For my Ya Veremos prediction, click here:

For my The Little Stranger prediction, click here:

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Ridley Scott is now nearly 40 years into his Alien franchise which started with his 1979 classic and preceded Alien: Covenant with the often confounding Prometheus from 2012. Scott has now made half of the six series entries. In many ways, this latest one is the least effective of all. It’s not bad and I’d say none of them have been (middling, yes). Covenant, however, lies in a strange place. The dark visual splendor and occasional jump horror scares are present at times. Memorable characters are not and that’s different than when we were rolling with Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and others. The film is indeed a sequel to Prometheus, which was more of an existential exercise about where we come from and not a traditional xenomorph flick. Covenant wants to cover that territory, as well as bringing H.R. Geiger’s famed creature more in the frame.

There’s another crew in deep space and they’re on a colonization mission occurring a decade after the events of Prometheus. The membership of this crew (the Covenant) differs from previous ones in that they’re married couples. When a malfunction on the ship wakes them from their long slumber, they must deal with that quickly. A longer term problem is an unexpected xenomorph presence onboard which soon causes a growing widow population.

Katherine Waterston is Daniels and she’s basically new Ripley, but not as interesting. Danny McBride brings a little gravitas to the party as Tennessee, the ship’s pilot. Billy Crudup is the anointed captain. Yet it’s a Prometheus holdover that gets the most attention. Michael Fassbender is back as David, the android who stood out in the predecessor. When the crew must land on a planet they weren’t supposed to, they find him. Finding out what he’s been up to since the end of Prometheus takes up plenty of screen time. Fassbender doubles his time as he also plays Walter, a newer model droid that part of the Covenant crew. Their dynamic is somewhat intriguing in moments, but I never got over one big issue. I simply wasn’t begging for the unanswered Prometheus questions to be filled in, as that picture didn’t ultimately warrant the curiosity.

The talented Mr. Ridley never struggles to master production design and visuals. True here. And he strives to bring the gory action that we previously expected from this franchise. It’s here, but the mayhem is inflicted upon characters we won’t remember for long and with a xenomorph who’s popped out of better written people before.

** (out of four)

2017 Oscar Nominations Reaction

And they’re out!

The nominations for this February’s Academy Awards were revealed this morning by Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish. As always, there were some surprises and my months long quest for prediction perfection fell short. Of the 109 nominations, I correctly guessed 78 of them and that works out to 71% (a bit lower than previous years, but oh well).

Here I’ll break down every category and tell you how I did with a bit of analysis:

Best Picture

Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 7/9

Analysis: OK, lesson learned. When in doubt, predict NINE. The Best Picture category can fluctuate between 5 and 10 nominees, but that seems to be the magic number. I had The Florida Project in, but it was 8th out of my 8 predictions in likelihood so no big surprise there. Also not surprising is Darkest Hour getting in. A bit more so is the inclusion of Phantom Thread, which did far better this morning than I or almost anyone else figured.

Best Director

Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: As mentioned above, the surprise here is Anderson’s nod for Phantom. Hard to believe but this is Nolan’s first nomination for direction. I had Martin McDonagh’s work in Three Billboards included. Worth noting: it’s happened, but it’s rare for a movie to win Best Picture without their maker being recognized. This could fuel even more talk that The Shape of Water is the front-runner in the big race.

Best Actor

Nominees: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: One of the major questions going into this morning is whether recent allegations could prevent James Franco’s nod for The Disaster Artist. We may never know the answer to that fully, but it was expected he’d be a safe inclusion until then and he missed out. In his place – Mr. Washington, nominated for the second year in a row. In short: this is Oldman’s race to lose and it’s highly doubtful he will.

Best Actress

Nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: For quite some time, this has seemed like the five for Actress and it panned out that way.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Plummer got in for his highly publicized role after taking over for Kevin Spacey at very short notice over my prediction of Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: The Phantom love continued with Manville’s inclusion over my prediction for Hong Chau in Downsizing.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game, Mudbound

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: In a bit of a surprise to me, Logan became the first superhero flick to get a writing nomination. I had Wonder in instead.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I went with I, Tonya over The Big Sick, but this certainly was no shocker. Unlike several prognosticators, I did correctly leave Sick out of the Best Picture race and this marks its sole nod.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: People love that Boss Baby apparently. It got in over my projected The Girl Without Hands. This is an easy winner to predict – Pixar’s Coco. 

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: A Fantastic Woman, The Insult, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Golden Globe winner In the Fade and Foxtrot (which some saw as a potential winner) missed the cut. In their place: Soul and Square.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island

How I Did: 2/5

Analysis: Welp… there always seem to be that category where I whiff and get 2 out of 5 (last year it was Production Design). This year it’s the docs, where Jane (which many saw as a front-runner), City of Ghosts, and Long Strange Trip missed out in favor of Abacus, Aleppo, and Island. 

Best Film Editing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Dunkirk, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 5/5

Analysis: Besides Actress, this is my only other perfect category.

Best Cinematography

Nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound, The Shape of Water

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Rachel Morrison made some Oscar history by becoming the first female nominated in this category for Mudbound. I predicted The Post over Darkest Hour.

Best Production Design

Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Wouldn’t you know it? Here’s one race where I had Phantom Thread in and it didn’t make it. Beauty got in instead.

Best Costume Design

Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Victoria and Abdul

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: I went with Murder on the Orient Express, but Darkest Hour prevailed. This should be a rather easy victory for Phantom (and perhaps its only).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul, Wonder

How I Did: 2/3

Analysis: Victoria over I, Tonya. Look for Gary Oldman’s transformation to Churchill in Darkest Hour to be the victor.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: Dunkirk and The Shape of Water were my misses with Guardians and Kong filling in.

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: Turns out I should have predicted The Shape of Water in both sound categories. I had War for the Planet of the Apes instead here.

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: The sound races matched this year with Star Wars in over my predicted The Greatest Showman.

Best Original Score

Nominees: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

How I Did: 3/5

Analysis: I expected John Williams to be recognized, but for The Post instead of Star Wars. Also had Darkest Hour here and not Three Billboards.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “Mighty River” from Mudbound, “The Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, “Remember Me” from Coco, “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

How I Did: 4/5

Analysis: “The Mystery of Love” got in over “It Ain’t Fair” from Detroit. 

And that leaves the final official breakdown of films and number of nominations to this:

13 Nominations

The Shape of Water

8 Nominations


7 Nominations

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

6 Nominations

Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread

5 Nominations

Blade Runner 2049, Lady Bird

4 Nominations

Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, Mudbound, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

3 Nominations

Baby Driver, I, Tonya

2 Nominations

Beauty and the Beast, Coco, The Post, Victoria and Abdul

1 Nomination

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, All the Money in the World, The Big Sick, The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, The Disaster Artist, Faces Places, A Fantastic Woman, Ferdinand, The Florida Project, The Greatest Showman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Icarus, The Insult, Kong: Skull Island, Last Men in Aleppo, Logan, Loveless, Loving Vincent, Marshall, Molly’s Game, On Body and Soul, Roman J. Israel, Esq., The Square, Strong Island, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder

I’ll have a post up either later tonight or tomorrow with my initial round of predicted winners! Until then…