Archive for Eddie Murphy

The Golden Child

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a temple in an unknown location in northeastern Tibet, a young boy with mystical abilities — the Golden Child — receives badges of station and demonstrates his power to the monks of the temple by reviving a dead bird, which becomes a constant companion. However, a band of villains led by a mysterious man, Sardo Numspa (Charles Dance), breaks into the hidden temple, slaughters the monks and abducts the boy.

Some time afterwards, a young woman named Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis) watches a Los Angeles TV show in which social worker Chandler Jarrell (Eddie Murphy) talks about his latest case, a missing girl named Cheryll Mosley. She seeks him out the next day and informs him of the kidnapping of the Golden Child and that he is the ‘Chosen One’ who would save the Child. Chandler does not take this seriously, even after the astral form of the Child and his bird familiar begin following him.

Soon Cheryll Mosley is found, dead from blood loss, near an abandoned house smeared with Tibetan graffiti and a pot full of blood-soaked oatmeal. Kee Nang reveals to him that this house was a holding place for the Child and introduces Chandler to Doctor Hong, a mystic expert, and Kala (a creature half dragon, half woman, who remains hidden behind a screen). The three track down a motorcycle gang, the Yellow Dragons, which Cheryll had joined, and Chinese restaurant owner Tommy Tong, a henchman of Numspa, to whom Cheryll had been ‘sold’ for her blood, used to make the Child vulnerable to earthly harm. Tong, however, is killed by Numspa as a potential traitor. Still not taking the case too seriously, Chandler is drawn by Numspa—whom Chandler begins to continuously call “Numsy”—into a controlled dream, where he receives a burn mark on his arm. Numspa also presents his demands: the Ajanti Dagger (a mystic weapon which is capable of killing the Golden Child) in exchange for the boy. Chandler finally agrees to help, and he and Kee Nang spend the night together.

Chandler and Kee travel to Tibet, where Chandler is apparently swindled by an old amulet seller, who is revealed as the High Priest of the temple where the dagger is kept hidden and, subsequently, Kee’s father (Chandler calls him “Monty Hall” or “Monty”). In order to obtain the blade, Chandler has to pass a test: an obstacle course in a bottomless cavern whilst carrying a glass of water without spilling a drop. With luck and wits, Chandler recovers the blade and even manages to bring it past customs into the United States.

Numspa and his henchmen attack Chandler and Kee. The Ajanti Dagger is lost to the villains, and Kee takes a crossbow bolt meant for Chandler, and dies in his arms confessing her love for him. Doctor Hong and Kala offers him hope, for as long as the sun shines upon Kee, the Child might be able to save her. Driven now by a personal motive, Chandler — with the help of the Child’s familiar — locates Numspa’s hideout, and retrieves the dagger with the help of Til, one of Numspa’s men converted to good by the Child, and frees the boy. But when Chandler attempts to confront Numspa, the latter reveals his true face as a demon from hell. Chandler and the Child escape the hideout, only to be tracked down by the demon in a warehouse. Chandler loses the dagger when the warehouse collapses, but Sardo is buried under a chunk of falling masonry. Chandler and the Child escape and head to Doctor Hong’s shop where Kee is being kept.

As the two approach Kee’s body, a badly injured but berserk Numspa attacks Chandler but the amulet the Old Man sold Chandler blasts the dagger from Numspa’s hand. The Child uses his magic to place the dagger back into Chandler’s hands, and Chandler pierces Numspa through the heart with it, destroying him. The Child then uses the last ray of sunlight and his powers to bring Kee back from the dead. As the movie ends, the three take a walk discussing the Child’s return to Tibet and (as Chandler jokingly suggests) the boy’s prospective fame as a stage magician.

REVIEW:

There seemed to be a point where action films could not be successful without an Asian child in the cast. Following in that tradition, we have The Golden Child, a forgotten Eddie Murphy flick that many assume it part of the Beverly Hills Cop franchise.

What is this about?

A fast-talking L.A. social worker goes through a series of traps and terrors to find a kidnapped Tibetan child with mystical powers.

What did I like?

Melting pot. They say that America is a melting pot of all races, creeds, colors, and religions (despite the fact that if you are something different from “the norm” you live in fear of the out of control cops). In a way, this film mirrors that mixture. It has elements of action, romance, drama, sci-fi, comedy, and fantasy. Not only that, but it mixes them in such a way that all are given ample screen to make them effective in the long term and not give the short end of the stick to the other genres. That, my friends, is good writing.

Charlotte’s web. There have been some truly beautiful women to grace the Silver Screen. Many have gone to be recognized as the total goddesses they are, and others have appeared in a film or two, only to then fade into obscurity. In this film, we have Charlotte Lewis, a total vision of beauty, who I think did stick around for a while, but this was her biggest project. Not only does she command the audience’s attention with her looks, but her character is intriguing. Not exactly one of those characters that dwells in the gray areas, we still wonder what her intentions are and what her relationship with Eddie Murphy’s character will ultimately turn into.

A Lannister always repays his debts. Any Game of Thrones fans out there? For many of the “older” actors and actresses on that show, we can be certain that they had a career, albeit not exactly the most stellar, before joining the cast. I was surprised to see Charles Dance, perhaps better known as Tywin Lannister, appear in this film. Again he is playing a diabolical villain, and he does it so well. Thing is, much like many of our favorite villains from the 80s, there is a higher power pulling his strings that we never see, but that doesn’t make him any less evil. Whilst keeping his cool, he manages to get into Murphy’s head and play mind games as he sleeps, as well as leave a mark on his arm. It isn’t until the climax that the guy loses it and shows his true colors. Personally, I would have liked for him to show more evil power, but you can’t deny this guy has a talent for bringing bad guys to life on the screen.

What didn’t I like?

Cop or not. The whole time I’m watching this film, I can’t help but wonder if this was originally meant to be Beverly Hills Cop II, the next 48 Hours, or something along those lines. I say this because of Eddie Murphy. Look, we all know this was the time when Murphy was at his best, but looking back at his films, he seems to be very one-dimensional. His characters all seems to be carbon copies of each other, at least the cops do. The same goes for this detective-type person he in this film. The only different between him and Axel Foley is that he seems to be more mature, but they still both crack jokes at every opportunity. I would have just liked to have seen more of a line a delineation between this guy and other in the similar field which Murphy has played.

Blue herring. The Golden Child is such a non-character in this film, he might as well have been a red herring, except that we actually see him, so let’s call him a blue herring, shall we? Nothing against the kid, he did what he had to do and I’m just fine with that, but to make such a fuss over him and then to not use him for anything more than some parlor tricks? What fun was that? Honestly, its like Murphy’s character say in the last scenes, maybe he should be a magician. They way they treat him in this film, he might as well have been. If he was the one meant to save the world, or whatever, I hardly believe they wouldn’t send more than just some random private dick to fetch him.

Behind the screen. A mysterious mystical woman behind a screen, and because this is some Asian stuff, surely she’s either old or not human. Well, she is revealed, but I won’t spoil what she is. I will take a couple of moments to say that for someone as wise and, I’m assuming, powerful, she sure was forgotten quickly after the reveal. I mean, as soon as the screen is removed, we see her for a couple of seconds, and that’s it. She’s never heard from again. Seems to me she would have at least had a few words to say about being revealed, but I guess I’m wrong.

The Golden Child is one of those pictures that Netflix just won’t stop bugging me about. I finally took the time to give it a go this afternoon and must say that I wasn’t disappointed in the outcome. Now, that is not to say that this is a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun little watch. Try pairing it with Big Trouble in Little China, which coincidentally, was directed by the man who was set to direct this picture. Do I recommend it? Yes, what harm can it do to watch a fun film? Just don’t expect anything life changing.

3 1/2 out of stars

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The Haunted Mansion

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Evers is a workaholic real estate agent whose continuous pursuit for new deals leaves very little time with his family. He misses his wedding anniversary with his wife Sara, but to make amends, suggesting going on vacation to a nearby lake. Beforehand, Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the Louisiana bayou. Eager to make a deal, Jim drags Sara and his children Megan and Michael to the mansion. They meet its owner Edward Gracey, his stern butler Ramsley, and other staff members Emma and Ezra. When a storm floods the nearby river, Gracey allows the Evers to stay the night, though everyone save Jim is unhappy with the idea. Ramsley takes Jim down to the library to have a talk with Gracey, but while he waits, Jim gets trapped in a secret passage.

Megan and Michael encounter a spectral orb and follow it up to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara. Sara herself talks with Gracey in the library, who explains his grandfather hanged himself after his lover Elizabeth Henshaw poisoned herself despite their plans to wed. Jim meets Madame Leota, a gypsy woman’s ghost whose head is encased in a crystal ball, but she scares him away. Jim runs into his children, Emma and Ezra, and returns to Madame Leota for answers about Elizabeth’s likeness to Sara. It is revealed everyone in the mansion are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth’s suicides and can only go to the afterlife when they are reunited, and Gracey believes Sara is his lover back from the dead. Madame Leota sends the Evers off to the mansion’s expansive cemetery to find a key which will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth’s unusual death. Jim and Megan venture into a crypt where they find the key, but disturb its undead residents. They escape with help from Michael. Madame Leota then instructs them to find a trunk in the attic, Jim unlocking it to find a letter written by Elizabeth to Gracey, revealing she wanted to marry, revealing she was murdered. Ramsley suddenly appears, revealing he poisoned Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and throws Jim out of the house, enchanting the house so Jim cannot break in.

Gracey and Sara enter the ballroom. He asks Sarah if she can recognize him which confuses her. Desperate, he insists to Sara that she is his beloved Elizabeth from long ago. The room fills with ballroom dancing ghosts of the past which causes Sara to flee from the room. As she runs up the stairs Gracey reveals his true ghost self to Sara begging her to understand and that she really is Elizabeth and that they can finally be together. She shouts that she is not Elizabeth and slams the door in his face. Gracey begins to believe that Sarah can’t Elizabeth because she doesn’t remember him. But Ramsley insists that it is her and that in time she will remember. Ramsley tells Sara to get ready for her wedding to Gracey. Sarah refuses but Ramsley blackmails her into marrying Gracey in return for her children’s safety. Encouraged by Madame Leota, Jim drives his car through the mansion’s conservatory, rescues his children, and stops Sara and Gracey’s wedding ceremony where he gives Elizabeth’s real letter to Gracey. Gracey confronts Ramsley, who rages at his master’s apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth, and summons wraiths to kill the group. However, a fiery dragon emerges from the ballroom fireplace and drags Ramsley down to hell for eternal damnation for his crimes. Sara suddenly collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding, only for the spectral orb encountered by the children to appear and possess Sara, revealed to be Elizabeth’s ghost. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite, and Sara is revived. With the curse lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the mansion’s deed and departs to the afterlife with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the other ghosts.

The Evers head off on a proper vacation, accompanied by Madame Leota, and four singing busts strapped to the back of their car. In a post-credits scene, Madame Leota bids farewell to the audience, inviting them to join the dead using dialogue from the Disneyland attraction.

REVIEW:

Anyone that has ever been to Disneyworld, or knows anything about Disney, is at least somewhat familiar with the fact that this film The Haunted Mansion, much in the same vein as the first Pirates of the Caribbean was an attempt to bring the ride to life on the big screen. However, it wasn’t the huge success that some assumed it would be, but why is that, besides not have a mega budget?

What is this about?

When Jim Evers, his wife and kids encounter a ghost while visiting a haunted house during a job interview, they get a crash course in family values.

What did I like?

Tragic story. Well, we can’t have a big haunted house without some tragic history, right? In this case, the well to do owner of the house has his beloved taken away from him through an apparent suicide that, from what I can tell, closed to door for all spirits to pass through on those grounds. Truly this is a tragic love story. Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara hung herself and Rhett Butler was heartbroken for centuries about her death. So much so, that he stays and searches for his lost love to be reincarnated.

Kneel before Stamp. Terrence Stamp can really play the stoic villain. Some forget that he was the iconic villain in Superman II, General Zod. This character calls for him to be a proper British butler and also a delusional ghost who takes his duties too far, I’ll leave it at that. This film isn’t known for being scary, but Stamp makes an attempt to add in a bit of haunting that it severely needed.

Ghostly appearance. I was gearing up to complain about the way the special effects in this film look a bit…unkept, but then I noticed something about the ghosts. They have the appearance reminiscent of the ride. Say what you will about this film, at least it is making an attempt to stick to its roots. Can the other films based on rides say that? Ok…maybe Tower of Terror, but that was specifically made as an advertisement for that particular ride. I have to tip my hat to the effects department for being cheap and having it work.

What didn’t I like?

Haunted? I know that this is a Disney film about a Disney ride and all that jazz, but should something that has the word haunted in the title, actually make you feel a little bit scared in a place or two? I’m not talking full-on horror, obviously (though with the stuff that comes out today, this might actually fit in), but rather something more along the lines of a jump scare here and there. Terrence Stamp was doing a good job with his random appearances scaring the family, but that wasn’t toward the audience. I would have liked for there to have been something more haunting about this haunted mansion.

Poker head. Jennifer Tilly has had quite the interesting career. However, these days she is known mostly for her distinctive voice. Can you imagine a film starring her and Joey Lauren Adams? Oh…and get Macy Gray to do the soundtrack! Ugh! That would kill us all! Anyway, Tilly’s voice is not the only thing that gets her noticed, as she has quite the attractive body. I don’t need to tell you that there are a couple of things that can’t help but be noticed. With that said, why take away Jennifer’s body and make her a head in a jar? Seems to me that her character could have conjured up a body to help with the ongoings in the climax, rather than stay in the crashed car trapped by an airbag. I’m just saying!

Eddie, oh Eddie. Many wonder where it is that we can pinpoint the moment that Eddie Murphy’s career started to take a downward spiral and he lost his way, so to speak. This is often considered that point. As far as performances go, yeah, this isn’t Murphy on the top of his game. I’ve long said that he belongs making comedies where he can just let f-bombs fly left and right. Since this is a family picture, he had to struggle to say “crap”. Personally, I don’t think this was the film for Murphy. He did an ok job, but someone more used to doing films like this would have fit in more.

The Haunted Mansion is one of those films that you forget exists because if so overshadowed by the success of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates franchise. Still, there were people who went out to see this. No, it wasn’t a huge blockbuster, but it did earn double the budget back. Will this make anyone want to go ride the ride? Perhaps, but I don’t see anyone having nightmares after watching the picture. Do I recommend this? With Halloween coming up next month, I am sure  you’re looking for something to show early on in your party. Well, that’s what this is for! That and background noise. Use in good health!

3 out of 5 stars

Eddie Murphy Delirious

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on July 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Comedian Eddie Murphy brings his proudly raunchy comedy act to a sold-out stadium and pontificates in his own vulgarly hilarious fashion on such subjects as sexual orientation, puberty, dating, disciplinarian mothers, ice cream trucks, and the personality traits of certain singers.

REVIEW:

Work has me a little busy these next couple of weeks, so how about something short that I’ve been putting off for a while, Eddie Murphy Delirious. Many have forgotten what a comedic genius Eddie Murphy was at one time, but these old stand up routines such as this and Eddie Murphy Raw have preserved the hilarity that he once possessed.

What is this about?

Flashing the wild stand-up comedy that made him a household name, Eddie Murphy unleashes uncensored observations and parodies in this 1983 live show. Murphy’s outrageous act varies from his vivid childhood memories to his classic impressions.

Since this isn’t really a film with a beginning, middle, and end, but rather a stand-up comedy routine, I can’t really review it that way I do everything else.

First thing that has to be mentioned is the red leather suit. Not only is it vintage early 80s and has become synonymous with Murphy, but apparently the ladies loved him in and guys wanted to have their own version of it. Personally, if it was still the style, I’d probably be in the market for one myself.

Murphy’s routine is vulgar and offensive, but above all it is hilarious. True, if he did this today, no one would come out smiling since everyone is so

thin-skinned now. However, back in the day, people could take a joke, and that is why this is such a successful flick.

Perhaps one of the best segments was the ice cream man vignette. I remember growing up and chasing the ice cream man around the neighborhood, so I could really relate to what Murphy was saying, even if his stories were much more amusing than anything I went through, obviously.

Much like Raw, this is filmed at a live event, this time in Washington D.C. The thing about live comedy tapings, especially for movies like this, is that you don’t really know how live they are. I think about the Steve Harvey segments from The Original Kings of Comedy and wonder if that “confrontation” was truly live or just staged. Nothing like that with Murphy, but a couple of times it felt like he was pandering to the crowd, rather than using his prepared material.

When all the dust clears and you have stopped laughing so hard, Eddie Murphy Delirious is quite hilarious, especially when you can relate to certain segments. I didn’t find it to be the most hilarious of Murphy’s stand-up routines, but you can see why this is the one that put him on the map after Saturday Night Live. Do I recommend this? Yes, but be warned, the F-bomb is dropped quite a few times. If you can get over that, then this is something you should check out, so give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Harlem Nights

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Harlem, New York, 1918, Sugar Ray (Richard Pryor) has a dice game. Nearly killed by an angry customer, Ray is saved when 7-year-old errand boy “Quick” shoots the man. Ray decides to raise Quick.

Twenty years later, Ray and Quick (Eddie Murphy) run a nightclub called “Club Sugar Ray”, with a brothel in back run by madam Vera (Della Reese). Smalls (Thomas Mikal Ford), who works for the gangster Bugsy Calhoun (Michael Lerner), and Miss Dominique LaRue (Jasmine Guy), Calhoun’s mistress, arrive. Smalls and LaRue have come to see the club and report to Calhoun. Later, Calhoun sends corrupt detective Phil Cantone (Danny Aiello) to threaten Ray with shutting the club down unless Calhoun gets a cut.

Ray decides to shut down, but first wants to make sure he’s provided for his friends and workers. An upcoming fight between challenger Kirkpatrick and defending champion (and loyal Club Sugar Ray patron) Jack Jenkins (Stan Shaw) will draw a lot of money in bets. Ray plans to place a bet on Kirkpatrick to make Calhoun think Jenkins will throw the fight. Ray also plans to rob Calhoun’s booking houses. A sexy callgirl named Sunshine (Lela Rochon) is used to distract Calhoun’s bag man Richie Vinto (Vic Polizos).

Calhoun thinks Smalls is stealing and has him killed. Quick is noticed near the scene by Small’s brother (Arsenio Hall) who tries to kill him. Quick kills him and his men. Calhoun sends LaRue to seduce and kill Quick. Quick realises he is being set up and kills LaRue.

Calhoun has Club Sugar Ray burned down. Sunshine seduces Richie Vinto and tells him she has a pickup to make. Richie agrees to pick her up on the way to collect money for Calhoun. Richie gets into an accident orchestrated by Ray’s henchman Jimmy (Charlie Murphy). Ray and Quick, disguised as policemen, attempt to arrest Richie, telling him that the woman he’s riding around with is a drug dealer. Quick attempts to switch the bag that held Calhoun’s money with the one Sunshine had placed in the car but two white policemen arrive. Richie explains that he’s on a run for Bugsy Calhoun, so they let him go.

The championship fight begins. Two of Ray’s men blow up Calhoun’s club, to retaliate against Calhoun for destroying Club Sugar Ray. At the fight, Calhoun realizes it was not fixed as he thought, and hears that his club has been destroyed. Quick and Ray arrive at a closed bank. Cantone arrives, having followed them. Ray’s crew seal him inside the bank vault.

Richie arrives to deliver Calhoun’s money, but tells Calhoun that the bags of money had been switched with bags of ‘heroin’, which turns out to be sugar. Calhoun then deduces that Ray was behind the plot. Vera visits Calhoun and tells them (as part of an act) where to find Ray and Quick. Believing her, Bugsy and his men arrive at Ray’s house. One of his men trips a bomb, killing them all. Ray and Quick pay off the two white men who disguised themselves as the policemen earlier. Ray and Quick take one last look at Harlem, knowing they can never return and that there will never be another city like it. They depart for an unknown location as the credits ensue.

REVIEW:

Back in the 80s, Eddie Murphy could do no wrong, whether it be wearing a leather suit on stage for a comedy stand-up movie, playing some kind of babysitter for a child emperor, portraying multiple characters in one of the best comedies of the decade, or playing a Harlem gangster, as he does in Harlem Nights. This is one of Murphy’s films that split audiences and critics in terms of reception. Critics hated it while audiences loved it, but what was the reason for the split? Why did critics get so up in arms with vitriol for this film? One can only but wonder.

What is this about?

Sugar Ray, the proprietor of an illegal casino in 1920s Harlem, must contend with mobsters and corrupt cops who want to put him out of business. But with the help of his promising heir, he pulls out all the stops to stay afloat.

What did I like?

Generations. Eddie Murphy has long listed his biggest influence was Richard Pryor who had said that Redd Foxx was his inspiration. All three are in this film. Seeing these three comedic greats in one film is something to be seen, especially considering that they have quite a few scenes together, playing off one another to great comedic effect. Never let it be said that there is a generation gap amongst comedians. Funny is funny! Reese’s. Della Reese manages to standout in this film full of great comedic talent. I attribute this to her initial entrance. Normally, I’m not a fan of loud black women, but the way she enters and just starts messing with everyone, including Eddie Murphy’s character is just hilarious, especially since it escalates into a fight out back that culminates in a shooting that is brought up many times for the rest of the film.

Drop me off in Harlem. I have two things to say about this being set in Harlem. First, there is plenty of use of Duke Ellington music that fits with the era in which this film is set. Second, for a film set in Harlem, this is not an exclusively African-American cast, there are some Caucasian characters, not something identified with Harlem. Still, it is something to be taken note of because, as we all know, had this been a Spike Lee joint, there would be little to no diversity in the cast, and the villain would be some super racist, rather just a businessman.

What didn’t I like?

Boxed in. Boxing is a dangerous sport that can lead to all sorts of brain issues. This is why it is no surprise they made the champion boxer suffer from a severe stutter. I actually had an English teacher in college who had a stutter that was even worse, but he wasn’t a boxer…as far as I know. So, what was my issue with the fighter? Clearly, it was used for comedic effect, but I think they may have gone too far. Now, I may be a little more sensitive than others when it comes to stuttering, as I have bouts of it myself, but I still think this could have been done more tastefully.

Booze, babes, and guns. Audiences flock to mobster movies for 3 factors, liquor, girls, and shootouts. There is plenty of liquor here, it takes place in a speakeasy, of all places. Girls, eh…Jasmine Guy (who is overrated and wooden…I’ll get to her in a second), and the gorgeous Lela Rochon, so that’s covered. Guns? The one shootout scene actually is one of the funniest scenes of the film, but doesn’t take place with any gangsters, but rather the brother of one of them wanting revenge, and crying the whole time. I would have liked for there to have been more of a gang war, if you will, but given the age of Pryor’s “mob”, it might not have worked out that well.

Not Princess Jasmine. Growing up, I was in love with Jasmine Guy when she was on A Different World. I think it was something about that Southern accent. Then, I started seeing her on other shows and in movies, like this one. I have come to the conclusion that the magic she used to create the characterization for Whitley on the show was a one-hit wonder, because this woman cannot act. With everything I see her in, she is wooden, uncharismatic, uninterested, and the adjectives can go on and on. Why Murphy cast her, I can only wonder, he should have taken any other the other cast members from A Different World *COUGH* Lisa Bonet *COUGH*, if that is where he picked her from. Surely, they would have brought life, vigor, and actually been the bombshell that this character deserved to be.

I can never say how much I love this era and films that are set in it. Harlem Nights is able to capture some comedic moments in a light gangster film. Why do critics hate this so much? I really don’t know. I guess because of all the cursing, but this is an Eddie Murphy flick, what did they expect? Actually, it is tame compared to some of his other films. As I read on a message board somewhere, “did they expect Out of Africa, Casablanca, or Citizen Kane?” Critics just don’t get it apparently. So, do I recommend it? Yes, this is a highly entertaining film. No, it isn’t one of the best of Eddie Murphy’s films and is often mistaken for another Harlem flick, A Rage in Harlem, but it is still worth a few viewings. Check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Distinguished Gentlemen

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A Florida con man named Thomas Jefferson Johnson uses the passing of the longtime Congressman from his district, Jeff Johnson (who died of a heart attack while having sex with his secretary), to get elected to Congress, where the money flows from lobbyists. Removing his first name and shortening his middle name he calls himself “Jeff” Johnson. He then manages to get on the ballot by pitching a seniors organization, the Silver Foxes, to nominate him as their candidate for office.

Once on the election ballot, he uses the dead Congressman’s old campaign material and runs a low budget campaign that appeals to name recognition, figuring most people do not pay much attention and simply vote for the “name you know.” He wins a slim victory and is off to Washington, a place where the “streets are lined with gold.”

Initially, the lucrative donations and campaign contributions roll in, but as he learns the nature of the con game in Washington D.C., he starts to see how the greed and corruption makes it difficult to address issues such as campaign finance reform, environmental protection, and the possibility that electric power companies may have a product that is giving kids in a small town cancer.

In trying to address these issues, Congressman Johnson finds himself double-crossed by Power and Industry chairman Dick Dodge. Johnson decides to fight back the only way he knows how: with a con. Johnson succeeds and exposes Dodge as corrupt. As the film ends, it appears likely that Johnson will be thrown out of Congress for the manner in which he was elected.

REVIEW:

On my Facebook page recently, a couple of my friends seem to be posting nothing but anti-Obama stuff. No worries, I won’t turn this into a political rant, but seeing all those negative postings made me question whether I should unfriend them or not and got me in the mood to watch a political comedy. First one that I thought of was The Distinguished Gentleman.

What is this about?

A small-time con man (Eddie Murphy) with a big name — Thomas Jefferson Johnson — decides to move from running a phone-sex scam to a more lucrative and legal operation. He sees his chance to weasel into politics when a congressman sharing his name dies unexpectedly in the midst of a reelection campaign. But while the junior lawmaker learns the political ropes, his interests move from money to romancing a beautiful lobbyist (Victoria Lowell).

What did I like?

Before the crash. Much has been made of how far Eddie Murphy’s career has fallen. This is far from best (or worst) work, but it is good to see him in his younger, funnier days. We even get that patented Murphy laugh a couple of times. Watching him makes you wonder what it was that caused his career to spiral downward, at least in terms of quality.

Hope. About halfway through the film, Murphy’s character makes a campaign promise that is eerily familiar to something Obama said when he was running for his first term. He was running on a platform of hope and change. I won’t say I liked or disliked this, but found it a bit of funny foreshadowing. Couple that with the other political slogans he was spurting out and I was laughing out loud.

Truth. If the last 10 yrs or so have taught us anything, it is that the people up in Washington are mostly corrupted individuals who think of nothing but money. Yes, there are a few good eggs, but the bad ones far outnumber them. This film brings to light how bad it was back in 1992. Some 20 yrs later, it has just gotten worse. I guess no one really paid attention.

What didn’t I like?

Quality. There is something about the quality of this film that didn’t quite sit right with me. It was like it was shot on sitcom style cameras, especially near the end, as opposed to movie quality cameras. I don’t know what the budget is on this thing, but if they couldn’t even afford decent cameras, then I really do question why they even bothered to make it.

Two times the not-so-fun. The first half of the film is a great, rambunctious, laugh riot, but when you get to the second half, it seem to get a bit too serious and changes tone. I guess that is what happens when you bring in a soap opera actress (Victoria Rowell). I’m not saying that she ruined everything, but it did seem that she came in and sapped all the fun out of the film.

Location. Is it me, or are all movie politicians from Florida or something Texas? This isn’t a flaw with the film, per se, but rather an observation that I had. Thinking back to something like Striptease, you will see what I mean. Maybe next politician in film will be from some random place like Idaho, perhaps?

If you’re looking for a film that will give you a couple of laughs on a Saturday afternoon, then The Distinguished Gentleman is right up you alley. I wouldn’t suggest it as your main event movie, though. There just isn’t enough to write home about. This isn’t a bad flick, just very, very average.

3 out of 5 stars

Eddie Murphy Raw

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , on November 21, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

After the initial sketch and into the live show itself Murphy begins by saying how various people he referenced responded to their mention in his previous stand-up show, Delirious, specifically Mr. T and Michael Jackson. Murphy also talks about a phone call he received from Bill Cosby in which he said that his son, Ennis, heard his profanity and requested that Murphy not say the word “fuck” on stage again, and began chastising him for his offensive material. Murphy then went on to say that he called Richard Pryor and told him about what Cosby said Pryor responded angrily, calling Cosby a “Jell-O-puddin’ eatin’ motherfucka”, and that if Murphy’s fans think it was funny, then Cosby has no business telling him how to do his act. Murphy also talks about how Pryor was an inspiration to Murphy. Bolstered by Pryor’s encouragement, Murphy stood up to Cosby in a profane manner, and as a result Murphy said that Cosby ‘got raw’, possibly the inspiration for the show’s title.

Murphy makes jokes about relationships; notably of the practice that developed during the 80’s of wives divorcing their husbands and taking ‘half!’, as well as about the faults of both men and women and how the opposite sex exploit those weaknesses, basing it on the message in the song “What Have You Done for Me Lately”. He jokes that he intends to go deep into Africa to find a ‘bush bitch’ who has no concept of Western culture in order to get a wife who (he hopes) will not divorce him. He also makes passing references to Japanese women who are supposedly very obedient to their husbands.

Murphy delivers a well-received segment on Italian-Americans, on their stereotypical behavior, especially how they behave after seeing a Rocky movie. He then talks about white people’s apparent inability to dance. He later talks about his experience in a nightclub where an Italian-American started a fight with Murphy, causing a large brawl, the end result of which saw Murphy getting sued for millions of dollars by all involved and even a few who weren’t.

Murphy also talks about his rude mother making him a biggest homemade onion-and-green-pepper hamburger that shaped like a meatball on Wonder Bread and an exaggerated account on how poor his family was, eventually going into a routine impersonating his father drunk, which follows on from the nightclub brawl segment.

REVIEW:

I think we all long for the time when Eddie Murphy was hilarious, right? Some of the younger generation I have talked to don’t even know of a time when he was anything but “this weird old guy who tries too hard”. Well, Eddie Murphy Raw is sure to take us all back and/or introduce new fans to the genius of Eddie.

What is this about?

Filmed live during two concerts at Madison Square Garden, this stand-up comedy classic showcases Eddie Murphy in a series of uproarious celebrity impressions, observations about the 1980s, remembrances of his childhood and much more.

Since this isn’t really a film with a beginning, middle, and end, but rather a stand-up comedy routine, I can’t really review it that way I do everything else.

Murphy’s routine had me cracking up from start to finish, especially the bit about Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. Being a fan of all 3 comedians, it would have been hard for me to not enjoy that bit. Maybe it is just a sign of the times, but this kind of humor probably would not work today, at least not as well.

In Murphy’s previous stand-up film, he wears a Michael Jackson-esque red leather suit. This time around he dons similar garb by wearing a Prince-esque paisley purple and black leather suit, complete with black biker gloves. I’m not really one to comment on a man’s fashion, but I have to wonder what was up with this choice of wardrobe. I suppose it could have been worse, though.

This routine had its ups and downs. It started off great, but the last couple of bits fell a bit flat for me. I think it might have something to do with the way he segues to them that didn’t work, but these sequences about his family almost garnered this film a lower rating.

Quick little tidbit, or warning…the word “fuck” is used 223 times in this film, which was a record for a full-length film for quite some time. So, for those of you that have issues with language, you have been warned. I do wonder why you’re watching an R-rated Eddie Murphy comedy routine from the 80s, though, if you’re that easily offended by language.

Eddie Murphy Raw is the perfect film for those of us nostalgic for the days when Murphy could make us laugh. Whatever this man has mutated into, it can’t be denied that he was hilarious back in the day. Certain people in this house hate stand-up comedy and were laughing harder than ever, so what does that tell you. I highly recommend this to any and everyone. If you don’t nearly die laughing, then you just don’t have a sense of humor!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

A Thousand Words

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) is a literary agent who uses his ‘gift of gab’ to get various book deals, and he isn’t afraid to stretch the truth to get them. While he is trying to get a book deal from a New Age self-help guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), the guru sees through his deceit and agrees to the deal, only to later deliver a five-page book. That night, a Bodhi tree magically appears in his backyard, with a thousand leaves. Dr. Sinja goes to Jack’s house and they both discover that for every word that Jack says, a leaf will fall off of the tree. When the tree runs out of leaves, the tree will die, along with Jack. In time, he finds that even written words count towards his limit; plus anything that happens to the tree will also affect Jack. When Jack tries to cut it down with an axe, an axe wound appears on him. When squirrels climb the tree, it tickles him. When a gardener tries to poison it with DDT, Jack gets high on the fumes.

With Jack forced to pick and choose his words, communicating with others becomes difficult and full of misunderstandings. These misunderstandings cost him two book deals, his job, and his wife Caroline (Kerry Washington). She walks out on him when she thinks his sudden silence is due to him not loving her anymore. When he tries to explain the tree to her, she doesn’t believe him. Only Jack’s assistant Aaron (Clark Duke) realizes he is telling the truth, and goes to Jack’s house to keep track of how many leaves remain.

With his life falling apart and the tree running out of leaves, Jack confronts Dr. Sinja and asks how to end the curse. The guru tells him to make peace in all of his relationships. With just one branch of leaves left, Jack tries to reconcile with Caroline, but she remains hesitant. He visits his mother (Ruby Dee), who lives in an assisted-living center and has dementia. She tells Jack, who she thinks is Jack’s late father Raymond, that she wishes Jack would stop being angry at his father for walking out on them when he was a kid. Jack, realizing that this is the relationship that needs the most mending, goes to visit his father’s grave. Jack expends the last three leaves of the tree with the words, “I forgive you”. With no leaves remaining, Jack suffers a heart attack and appears to have died. Jack’s cellphone rings, and it is Aaron. Jack, who is still alive, answers his phone. Aaron tells him that the tree’s leaves have magically reappeared and Jack can now talk freely again.

Jack and Caroline get back together, with Jack buying the family-friendly house Caroline asked for earlier, and the tree is in their front yard. He doesn’t get his job back (Aaron was promoted to Jack’s old position), but he writes a book about his experience, called A Thousand Words, and gets Aaron to make the deal (unfortunately for Aaron, his promotion caused him to be like Jack was, thus he gets his own smaller office tree.)

REVIEW:

I am a man of few words, so having to without communicating 1,000 words isn’t that big of a deal for me. Then again, I would have to stop writing e-mails, comments, and blogs, so that might be a bit of an issue. A Thousand Words gives us something that a few people have long wanted, a silent Eddie Murphy, but was that a mistake?

What is this about?

When he learns that his karma will permit him to speak just a thousand more words before he dies, fast-talking agent Jack must make every syllable count to make peace with his wife and his celebrity author client. But can he truly change his ways?

What did I like?

Success. Not since Boomerang can I remember seeing Eddie Murphy so in control, both in terms of his character and the film itself. Many people have been saying Murphy needs to get back to things that worked for him in the past. Perhaps this is a start. At least I hope so.

Sidekick. Clark Duke, in my opinion, is the next Jonah Hill. You can debate who is the bigger douche between the two, though. Here he is Murphy’s assistant and gets all the crap jobs that come with being an assistant, short of getting his coffee and wiping his ass after he takes a dump. He does all this without raising a fuss and, if one reads anything into the ending, it pays off.

Ruby. The great Ruby Dee plays Murphy’s mother who is in an assisted living home and suffering from dementia. While she may be a bit out there, she is still a sweet old lady and the love she shows for her son could not be any greater.

What didn’t I like?

Why? When Murphy goes to see the guru he comes across this tree and accidentally sticks himself with it. I suppose that is the reason it all of a sudden sprung up in his backyard and why he couldn’t say more than 1000 words (that number is never explicitly said). I don’t recall it being said why the tree has cursed him. As a matter of fact, they seemed just as lost as the audience was. If that’s not a bad sign, then I don’t know what is!

Voice and time. I read a review about this that questioned why you would take away Eddie Murphy’s voice. Truth be told, that is a valid question. Murphy isn’t necessarily known for physical comedy like say, Jim Carrey. Taking away his greatest asset was a big mistake. If that wasn’t bad enough, how about the fact that this was held in limbo for 4 years. The fact that they held it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It worked for The Cabin in the Woods, but this one should have either went direct-to-DVD, been released right away, or not been released at all.

Family drama. Films like this tend to have some kind of family drama. I’ve come to expect that, but they spread it on so thick that it changes the tone of the film. I lay that blame squarely on the beautiful shoulders of Kerry Washington. I hate to say this, but she drags the film down with her melodrama. I don’t know whether it is her fault or just the way her character is written.

A Thousand Words is not as bad as everyone seems to make it out to be, but the hatred people seem to have for this film is understandable. The plotholes that haunt this film are too big to ignore, though, as is the fact that it can’t decide between comedy and drama. I wanted to like this film, I really did, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I cannot recommend this film, but I won’t say stay away. Be warned, though, that this is not a great motion picture.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars