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.
Ahead of its October 25 Netflix release, DolemiteIsMyName introduced itself to critics this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. Seen as a comeback role for Eddie Murphy, early reviews suggest it’s just that. Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, who was instrumental to ushering in the blaxploitation genre of the 1970s with his title character. Craig Brewer, best known for helming Hustle&Flow, directs with a supporting cast including Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg, and T.I.
In 2006, Eddie was seen as the front runner in Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls. He was upset by Alan Arkin’s work in LittleMissSunshine. This has been eyed as his first chance at Academy attention since. The issue could be significant competition in a Best Actor derby that appears stacked already.
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote the original screenplay and they’ve specialized in highlighting colorful entertainment figures in EdWood, ThePeoplevs. LarryFlynt, and ManontheMoon. Once again, they could face trouble nabbing nods as that writing race is jam packed.
So while Dolemite should succeed in garnering the kind of praise its star hasn’t seen for some time, awards chatter might be elusive. There could be one noteworthy exception. Ruth Carter’s costume design has been noted in numerous write ups. Just last year, she became the first African-American to win that category for BlackPanther. She could find herself in the mix again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
A convergence of current and former NBA stars and comedians gather for UncleDrew, out next weekend. The sports comedy that comes with prosthetic makeup aplenty is based on a title character first seen in Pepsi commercials with Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving playing him. Other basketball notables in the cast include Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, and Lisa Leslie. On the funny side – Lil Rel Howery, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish, J.B. Smoove, and Mike Epps. Charles Stone III, perhaps best known for making Drumline, directs.
UncleDrew hopes to bring in a sizable African-American crowd and lovers of the game it humorously covers. The pic could certainly achieve sleeper status with a gross in the high teens. It actually has a somewhat similar opening weekend range as Sicario: DayoftheSoldado, which debuts against it. The two newcomers should battle for third place between JurassicWorld: FallenKingdom and Incredibles2.
For now, I’m giving Drew a slight edge with a forecast between $16-$17 million.
UncleDrew opening weekend prediction: $16.4 million
For my Sicario: DayoftheSoldado prediction, click here:
Bruce Willis is back on the big screen next weekend with Death Wish, a remake of the 1974 action pic that starred Charles Bronson. Coming from director Eli Roth, the pic costars Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise, and Mike Epps.
Willis will be in full vigilante mode and those familiar with Death Wish know it spawned numerous sequels of highly questionable quality. The star of the proceedings has been a bit of a stranger to multiplexes in recent years as many of his films have gone the direct to VOD route.
Competition is certainly there with Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow debuting against it and also making a play for R rated genre fans. That said, if Den of Thieves could pull in $15.2 million in January, I believe this could put up fairly similar numbers and perhaps a bit higher.
Death Wish opening weekend prediction: $16.6 million
In the near future, comedian Mike Epps could see a real turning point in his film career when he portrays Richard Pryor in an upcoming biopic directed by Lee Daniels and costarring Oprah Winfrey and Eddie Murphy. In the meantime, Meet the Blacks opens this Friday in theaters and it appears unlikely to do much for anybody’s careers.
Debuting on a fairly low reported 1000 screens, Blacks is a low budget parody of The Purge franchise. Epps headlines with Zulay Henao, Gary Owen, George Lopez, Mike Tyson, and Charlie Murphy among the supporting players.
Meet the Blacks seems unlikely to break out and the minimal number of screens doesn’t help. If this were to get roughly the same per screen average as A Haunted House 2 from two years ago, that would give it less than $4 million. That sounds about right.
Meet the Blacks opening weekend prediction: $3.7 million
Reteaming with his same cowriter and director from the two A Haunted House pics from 2013 and 2014, Marlon Wayans is back in spoof territory with Fifty Shades of Black, out next weekend. In case you couldn’t tell, the timely sendup satirizes last year’s smash hit Fifty Shades of Grey, which debuted to $85 million over Valentine’s Day 2015. Kali Hawk, Mike Epps, Jane Seymour, and Fred Williard costar.
Three years ago in January, the aforementioned A Haunted House surprised predictors with an $18.1 million debut and a $40 million overall gross. Its 2014 sequel didn’t fare nearly as well with just an $8.8 opening and $17 million eventual take. What could assist Black is the timeliness of the film it’s making fun of.
Still, I’m not convinced that means it tops what Marlon and company did with the first House. I’ll project that Black debuts in the mid teens before what should likely be a quick fadeout.
Fifty Shades of Black opening weekend prediction: $16 million