Film Review: Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Also known as: Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle (VHS title)
Release Date: March 20th, 1987
Directed by: Robert Townsend
Written by: Keenan Ivory Wayans, Robert Townsend, Dom Irrera (uncredited)
Music by: Udi Harpaz
Cast: The Hollywood Platers (Robert Townsend, Anne-Marie Johnson, Craigus R. Johnson, Helen Martin, Starletta DuPois, David McKnight, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Lou B. Washington, Brad Sanders, John Witherspoon, Eugene Robert Glazer, Lisa Mende, Dom Irrera, Damon Wayans, Kim Wayans, Rusty Cundieff, Steve James)

Conquering Unicorn, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 78 Minutes, 81 Minutes (Ontario cut)

Review:

“There’s always work at the post office.” – Bobby Taylor

Man, I hadn’t seen this movie in a few decades. I think the last time I watched it was when I was a teen in the ’90s working at a video store. It sort of washed away with time but it was on the Criterion Channel for about a month, so I figured I’d revisit it before it vanished.

Robert Townsend is a talented guy and he was one of my favorite comedians and entertainers in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I loved his short-lived sketch comedy show on Fox, as well as his superhero film Meteor Man. However, this is probably the best thing he’s made.

Sure, this was his directorial debut and he would go on to have a lengthy, fruitful career but there’s just something superb and honest about this movie. Plus, it displays his, as well as Keenan Ivory Wayans’, immense creativity and great sense of humor.

This film almost feels like an anthology, as it is primarily a series of skits and sequences. However, there is a main story that ties everything together. The presentation style of it feels a lot like Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF. It also feels very ’80s but that kind of just adds to the charm of it, looking at it all these years later.

Hollywood Shuffle is a parody and commentary on how black talent was being used and exploited in Hollywood. It was a tongue-in-cheek, humorous critique on how Hollywood viewed blacks but told from the black perspective. Strangely, thirty-three years later, a lot of what’s here still rings true.

While I feel like there have been definite strides since 1987, Hollywood is still a cesspool of assholes and deluded dipshits that only make changes when decades of white guilt pushes them into thoughtless platitudes and declarations that don’t actually fix the system and only expose it being out of touch, pompous and so high on its own farts that it needs to wear a helmet to walk down the hall.

Anyway, enough with the imbeciles running the system, Hollywood Shuffle just justifiably puts them on blast and does so quite well. It just sucks that seeing this, all these years later, only kind of reinforces the points that are cleverly made in the film. Sure, Hollywood thinks its doing better now but so does the heroin junkie that woke up next to some spare change in the dumpster behind Del Taco.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the early films of Robert Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans.

Film Review: Movie 43 (2013)

Also known as: Truth or Dare (working title)
Release Date: January 1st, 2013 (Russia)
Directed by: Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Baker, Damon Escott
Written by: Steve Baker, Ricky Blitt, Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Claes Kjellstrom, Jack Kukoda, Bob Odenkirk, Bill O’Malley, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonathan van Tulleken, Jonas Wittenmark
Music by: Christophe Beck, David J. Hodge, Leo Birenberg, Tyler Bates, Miles Moon, William Goodrum
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Emma Stone, Jason Sudekis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Will Sasso, Seth MacFarlane, Mark L. Young, Fisher Stevens, Beth Littleford, Julie Ann Emery, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Kieran Culkin, Bobby Cannavale, Patrick Warburton, Seann William Scott, Stephen Merchant, Snooki, Emily Alyn Lind, Julianne Moore (scene cut), Tony Shalhoub (scene cut), Bob Odenkirk (scene cut), Anton Yelchin (scene cut)

Relativity Media, Virgin Produced, GreeneStreet Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, I’m gonna go do some Batman-ing.” – Fake Batman

I never wanted to see this movie and that was before I heard how bad it was when it came out. Also, the few people who seemed to like it were people that have historically had terrible recommendations in not just movies but just about everything in life.

Recently, I was told to watch it and I kind of just said fuck it because part of me was curious and wanted to know if this was as bad as I had heard it was.

It’s worse.

In fact, I can confidently say that this is the biggest waste of talent I have ever seen in a motion picture.

It’s so bad that it’s beyond atrocious. So much so, that I find it not just baffling that this film attracted so many big stars but I find it really unnerving.

Who greenlit this fucking thing? And how many terrible agents are there in Hollywood? Fire all of them!

Anyway, I had to start asking myself some questions while trying to work this film’s existence out in my brain:

  1. Is everyone in Hollywood actually insane?
  2. Do the Hollywood elite want all of us to commit seppuku?
  3. Do the Hollywood elite think that sucking their own assholes is a good use of time?
  4. Did this movie somehow leak over from a parallel dimension where Earth actually is Hell?
  5. Did all of these “artists” commit some unspeakable crime and this was secretly some sort of punishment for said crime?
  6. Did all of these people lose a bet?
  7. Was this movie actually the result of a writing contest for mental patients?
  8. Is this what people mean by “anti-humor”?
  9. Did the person who put up the money have some sort of Brewster’s Millions deal where they had to throw away money to get their full inheritance?
  10. Was this produced to debut on an earlier, failed attempt at CBS trying a streaming service?

I mean, those are all legitimate questions. In fact, I’d say that they’re more legitimate than this film.

This is the worst movie I’ve seen that was made for less than thirty dollars.

The film was full of crude jokes, none of which landed, and it offered up a bunch of gross out moments that just come across as Hollywood trying so hard to be edgy when in reality, they haven’t had their fucking balls in a long time.

Honestly, seeing how “politically correct” and “apologetic” the Hollywood elite have become since SJWs emerged and Cancel Culture took hold, this film feels like them desperately trying to get all the edgy shit out of their system before they all started their “I’m sorry, I’ll strive to do better” world tour.

Additionally, none of these gross out moments are all that effective if you’ve been a fan of ’70s and ’80s horror. Go watch Society and try again. Better yet, you shouldn’t have tried at all.

I think that film critic Robbie Collin said it best in his review of the movie:

“I was immediately overcome with a sudden rush of emotion: not amusement, anger or even mild irritation, but a profound and faintly tragic sense of pity.”

Speaking of reviews, let’s look at what all the big sites think. IMDb gives it a 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 5 percent from critics with 24 percent from the audience, Metacritic gives it an 18 percent and Richard Roeper referred to it as “the Citizen Kane of awful.”

In closing, I’ll simply state:

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: bad cavities and genital warts.

Film Review: Fear of a Black Hat (1993)

Also known as: The Trial of N.W.H. (working title)
Release Date: January 24th, 1993 (Sundance)
Directed by: Rusty Cundieff
Written by: Rusty Cundieff
Music by: Jim Manzie, Larry Robinson, N.W.H.
Cast: Rusty Cundieff, Larry B. Scott, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Kasi Lemmons, Faizon Love, Deezer D, Kurt Loder, Lance Crouther, Monique Gabrielle (uncredited)

Incorporated Television Company (ITC), Oakwood Productions, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 88 Minutes

Review:

“The black man was the first sensitive man, long before Alan Alda.” – Tone Def

Fear of a Black Hat was a pretty critically acclaimed film when it came out but unfortunately, it bombed at the box office. But it also didn’t get into a lot of theaters.

I think part of the problem was that the story was very, very similar to Chris Rock’s CB4. And while CB4 beat Fear of a Black Hat to mainstream theaters, Fear was actually made first and was on the festival circuit when Rock’s comedy film hit cinemas.

Looking at the timeline, it’s actually possible that Chris Rock lifted the idea for his film from this one. But whether or not there was thievery involved or it’s just a crazy coincidence, I enjoy both movies and for very different reasons.

That being said, this is the better film of the two. The humor is smarter, I like the authentic documentary style of this one and this movie had more original music created for it, all of which was pretty fantastic even if this was parody.

It’s written and directed by Rusty Cundieff, who also starred as one of the three rappers in the film. He had success later with Tales From the Hood but he also worked on Chappelle’s Show and acted in the films Hollywood Shuffle and School Daze.

Cundieff is a witty writer though and he also had a knack for picking the right actors to star alongside him. Specifically, the other rappers, played by the underrated Larry B. Scott and Mark Christopher Lawrence. I also really enjoyed Kasi Lemmons as the documentary filmmaker that was chronicling the lives of the main characters.

The story is that this is a documentary about a notorious gangsta rap group that are an obvious parody of N.W.A. The film deconstructs what was the rap industry at the time and it’s honestly, a pretty brilliant critique on it. I feel like this hits more points than CB4, which is more of a standard comedy film. Both movies are fun but this one seems to cover more ground and is written in a way that just seems like it was better thought out. Plus, this feels more genuine and real. And I don’t want to sound like I’m knocking Chris Rock’s CB4, it’s just hard to talk about either film without comparing them and discussing, the strengths and weaknesses between them.

Fear of a Black Hat is certainly much more indie feeling and less polished but that is also why it feels more realistic and better in tune with the industry it was examining.

At the end of the day, if you’re going to watch one of these two films, you might as well check out both.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the film that possibly borrowed a lot from this one: CB4.

Documentary Review: Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

Release Date: February 7th, 2019
Directed by: Xavier Burgin
Written by: Ashlee Blackwell, Danielle Burrows
Based on: Horror Noire by Robin R. Means Coleman
Music by: Timothy Day
Cast: Robin R. Means Coleman, Ashlee Blackwell, Rusty Cundieff, Keith David, Ernest R. Dickerson, Ken Foree, Richard Lawson, Kelly Jo Minter, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Paula Jai Parker, Jordan Peele, Ken Sagoes, Tony Todd, Rachel True

Stage 3 Productions, Shudder, 83 Minutes

Review:

I’ve seen quite a few documentaries on the history of horror as well as ones on blaxploitation and grindhouse movies. What makes this a unique film is that it examines the history of black horror, specifically.

This is well organized, fabulously presented and the thing that really gives this a lot of life is all the people that they were able to bring in and chat about the subject matter.

Also, this was told from the perspective of black people. We were able to see how certain things in movie history effected them, which is refreshing when most documentaries that cover black cinema usually feature a lot of white voices trying to interpret what they assume black people were feeling.

I think that this film gave a lot of clarity to the cultural impact of certain horror tropes regarding minority characters, as well as Hollywood tropes about race in general.

Most importantly, this honors the films it features, as well as all the talent that worked behind the scenes and on the screen.

This is a Shudder exclusive but between this, the new Joe Bob Briggs show and all their great horror film selections, you should already be subscribed. Plus, it’s cheaper than all those other streaming services.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other retrospective documentaries on horror and blaxploitation cinema.