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)

The Addams Family Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (10/10): My estimate has risen from $21.7 million to $26.9 million

Snapping into theaters over a half century after the TV series and over a quarter century after the two film versions of that show, an animated version of The Addams Family debuts next weekend. Originally based on the Charles Addams comics, this iteration of the macabre clan sounds like something Tim Burton should have his fingerprints all over. And indeed, he was once attached to direct it. However, it’s Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan (who last made the R rated Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg toon Sausage Party) shepherding the project. Voices of the family include Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara and Bette Midler, in addition to Allison Janney and Elsie Fisher.

Attempting to reach a kiddie audience pre Halloween (and a week before Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is out), it could be a somewhat tough sell for youngsters unfamiliar with the source material. That applies to the small screen 1960s version and the 1990s big screen one. In fact, this may not hit the $24 million achieved by 1991’s first live action Addams out of the gate (1993 sequel Addams Family Values didn’t fare as well).

I do envision this managing a debut of over $20 million, but perhaps not by much. That would likely put it in third place behind Joker and Gemini Man.

The Addams Family opening weekend prediction: $26.9 million

For my Gemini Man prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/01/gemini-man-box-office-prediction/

For my Jexi prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/02/jexi-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Dolemite Is My Name

Ahead of its October 25 Netflix release, Dolemite Is My Name 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 Little Miss Sunshine. 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 Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. 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 Black Panther. She could find herself in the mix again. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Beach Bum Box Office Prediction

Director Harmony Korine brings his drug fueled comedic sensibilities to the screen next weekend with the release of The Beach Bum. The Kids and Spring Breakers maker’s latest casts Matthew McConaughey as a stoner poet named Moondog. The supporting cast includes Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, and Martin Lawrence.

There’s a niche market for Korine’s product and more solid reviews may have assisted. However, when Bum debuted at the South by Southwest Festival, it did so to mixed reaction. It currently has a 55% Rotten Tomatoes score.

It was only recently announced that this is being rolled out in wide fashion on Friday. A screen count could change my estimate, but as of now I’ll say it’ll be lucky to reach $2 million.

The Beach Bum opening weekend prediction: $1.6 million

For my Dumbo prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/20/dumbo-box-office-prediction/

For my Unplanned prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/unplanned-box-office-prediction/

For my Hotel Mumbai prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/03/24/hotel-mumbai-box-office-prediction/

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

Top Ten Summer Music Hits of 2006: A Look Back

Today on the blog, we look at the top ten tracks that were monopolizing the airwaves ten summers ago. Last week, I gave you the top tunes from 1996 and two weeks ago – from 1986. You can read those posts here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/26/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1986-a-look-back/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/06/07/top-ten-summer-music-hits-of-1996-a-look-back/

As I did with the previous posts, I’ll rate the song on a scale of 1 (summer bummer) to 10 (seasonal masterpiece) and answer the most important query: is it on my iTunes?

Let’s get to it!

10. “Snap Yo Fingers” by Lil Jon feat. E-40 and Sean P.

The middle of the previous decade was heavily dominated by club bangers when it came to hip hop. “Snap Yo Fingers” is basically, well, another one with Lil Jon’s signature shouts and a solid assist from Bay Area legend E-40. For what it is, it’s decent.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes? No

9. “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by The Fray

I’ll be totally honest here. I completely forgot about this song – the debut single from the Colorado based rock group. Verdict? Pretty good, though it probably says something that I forgot its existence.

My Rating: 6

Is It On My iTunes? No

8. “Unfaithful” by Rihanna

Written by Ne-Yo , this slow track from Rihanna’s second album shows off her fine vocals. It’s not at the very top of her slow tempo ballads, but it’s memorable.

My Rating: 8

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

7. “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls feat. Snoop Dogg

With an assist from The Doggfather, The Pussycat Dolls had a smash hit here. It’s no “Don’t Cha”, but it’s catchy.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes: Yes

6. “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone

The Houston rapper had a phenomenon with the most smooth ditty ever about the issue of racial profiling. I’ll give it a 7 and a half. It might deserve more, but it really wore out of its welcome.

My Rating: 7 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No (but it would’ve been in 2006)

5. “It’s Goin’ Down” by Yung Joc

Atlanta rapper Joc had a club smash here. Like “Snap Yo Fingers”, it belongs in that danceable, yet easily forgettable sub genre of hip hop.

My Rating: 5 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

4. “Me & U” by Cassie

Bad Boy artist Cassie had her only major hit here with this club friendly and pleasing track. No more, no less.

My Rating: 6 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? No

3. “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley

Who knew a collabo between Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green would mark one of the most fantastic pop creations in years? It might have been overplayed, but this song is a masterpiece.

My Rating: 10

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

2. “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean

Columbian singer/dancer Shakira had her largest hit (and her best) with this instantly dance-worthy creation with an assist from Wyclef.

My Rating: 9

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

  1. “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado

Timbaland was at the top of his game in 2006 and it shows with his production here on Furtado this groovy Furtado song.

My Rating: 9 and a half

Is It On My iTunes? Yes

And there you have it! This list will return next summer with 1987, 1997, and 2007…

 

 

Dre Day

For a hip hop fan like myself, I recognize that I’m lucky to have grown up in what I consider the golden age of the genre: the early to middle portion of the 1990s. It was a time of Wu Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. It’s when Outkast and Jay Z and Nas started their careers. It’s also the unforgettable era of Death Row Records – with its notorious co-founder Suge Knight. It is, of course, the label that gave us Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound. Most notably, it’s other founder is Dr. Dre, the beat maker behind legendary rap group N.W.A. That rap quintet will be the subject of Straight Outta Compton, out August 14th. The pic is already generating positive buzz.

Speaking of positive buzz, the first release on the Death Row label was The Chronic, released in late 1992. It is a Dre solo album, though none of his works actually are. It featured a smorgasbord of guest stars that Dre allowed to shine – Snoop, Kurupt, Daz, Nate Dogg, Lady of Rage and more. It gave us classics like “Ain’t Nuthin But a G Thang”, “Dre Day”, “Let Me Ride” and more. The funk drenched gangsta rap epic is often called the finest rap album of all time. I don’t disagree.

Flash forward to 1999. Dre had left Death Row three years prior amid issues with Suge and formed new label Aftermath. The long wait between Dre albums had been made easier with his production work in between – on Snoop’s brilliant debut Doggystyle, Pac’s All Eyez on Me album and others. Chronic 2001 came in late 1999 with a difficult charge to keep – holding up compared to his first “solo” work. It did. Chronic 2001 was another masterpiece, complete with assists from Dre’s new protégés Eminem and Xzhibit, as well as Snoop. Singles like “Still DRE”, “Forgot About Dre”, and “What’s the Difference?” tore up the charts.

And then… The music stopped. Sort of. While rap’s most ingenious producer kept putting out hits from Eminem works to Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” to 50 Cent’s anthem “In Da Club”, the music community kept waiting for Dre’s promised album Detox. And waiting. And waiting.

Detox was announced as his first final solo album. Official word of its eventual release was first discussed in 2001. Known as an extreme perfectionist, fans just assumed he was taking his time. A lot of time. Finally it late 2010, it seemed Dre’s long gestating project was finally coming to fruition. A first single featuring Snoop – “Kush” – was put out. A follow up track “I Need a Doctor” with Eminem quickly followed. And then radio silence again.

In recent years, Dre has been known more for his successful line of headphones that’s made him a billionaire. The hope of a new album with his name on it seemed unlikely at best. And then… some news broke over the weekend from the Doctor himself. He has made a brand spanking new album called Compton – The Soundtrack, inspired by the film out in two weeks. It features, among others, previous collaborators like Snoop, Ice Cube, and Eminem. And after 16 years of anticipation – Dre casually announced that it’ll be out Friday. As in THIS Friday, August 7th!! For hip hop lovers, it’s tough to properly describe how exciting this news is.

I’ll sort of try. The first two Chronic albums are essentially the rap version of the first two Godfather movies. They’re untouchable and pretty much perfect master works that hold up as well today as when they were released. For many who proclaimed hip hop a fad and “not real music”, Dre provided a prescription of stunning production that made their argument tougher to make. The Godfather comparison is not one I would make lightly, but the comparison is deserved.

And the news that we are at last getting another album from this certified genius was music to my ears. We shall learn Friday if it’s worth the wait. The Godfather comparisons continue. Sixteen years passed between the release of part II and the much lesser received Part III. It will be coincidentally be the same passage of time between Chronic 2001 and Compton. I am hopeful the Doc has some more wonderful work left in him. Frankly, he rarely disappoints. Therefore, I will be his willing patient on August 7. Friday, to be sure, will be Dre Day.