New Web Series: That’s Racist! with Mike Epps

Posted on February 1, 2015 at 8:00 am

I’m a big fan of Mike Epps, and am excited about “That’s Racist!,” his new web series on AOL. It is a provocative look at racism and stereotypes. Are Asians bad drivers? Are Jews cheap? Do African-Americans all like fried chicken? These and other stereotypes are explored by experts and people inside and outside of the groups who confront the assumptions, both positive and negative.

And here’s the first episode:

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Internet, Gaming, Podcasts, and Apps Race and Diversity

The Hangover

Posted on December 15, 2009 at 8:03 am

When things go wrong for us, it’s tragedy. When they go wrong for someone else, it’s funny. As Alan Dale says, comedy is a man in trouble. This comedy gives us four men in a lot of trouble following a debauched, drug-fueled bachelor party in Las Vegas who wake up with no recollection of what happened and no idea what has happened to one’s missing tooth, another’s missing mattress, and, most significantly, no groom. The one whose wedding is being celebrated, the one whose wedding is taking place the next day, has disappeared.

Meanwhile, there are some items in the trashed hotel room with the still-smoking chair that no one recalls having seen before, including a chicken, a tiger, and an infant. At the beginning of the evening, they toasted “to a night the four of us will never forget.” By the next morning, the three remaining guys cannot remember anything that happened, and the rest of the movie has them racing all over to figure out where they went, what they did, and how the groom managed to disappear without a trace.

In one respect, it’s just a cheerfully outrageous comedy, with much of the humor coming from our discovering along with the hapless trio of boy-men chafing at the bonds of civilization just how appallingly they have violated every possible standard of appropriate behavior and good taste. It’s your basic best of both worlds comedy where we get to see our most childish wishes fulfilled and then get to see the characters on screen suffer the punishment for it. But it is also a whacked-out variation on “The Wizard of Oz,” with characters in need of a heart, a brain, and courage going on a journey to an exotic land and learning that there’s no place like home.

Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to get married and so his two best friends take him to Las Vegas for one last bachelor blow-out. They are Phil (Bradley Cooper), a teacher who is married with a son and says that he hates his life in need of a heart, and Stu (“The Office’s” Ed Helms) an uptight dentist who is about to propose to his controlling, unfaithful shrew of a girlfriend, who needs some nerve. That leaves Alan (comedian Zach Galifianakis) who is lacking brains. He’s along for the ride because he is the bride’s brother. And the gorgeous mint-condition Mercedes convertible is what they are riding in, thanks to what is inevitably going to be shown to be a very foolish gesture on the part of the prospective father-in-law. The wicked witch part, of course, is shared by nearly every woman on screen.

Cooper is a comic actor trapped in the very appealing body of a leading man and Helms (who gamely had his fake tooth removed for authenticity) provides able counterpoint as the conflicted Stu. Galifianakis looks like a cross between a Hobbit and a garden gnome and a little of him goes a long way, but he manages to be less obnoxious than expected. And they run into an engaging variety of characters along the way including an emergency room doctor, a drug dealer (Mike Epps), an effeminate gangster, an earthy wedding chapel manager, and of course an “escort” with a heart of good (a very game and, as ever, alluring and adorable Heather Graham).

The film’s most disappointing element is its casual sexism. Aside from the escort, all of the women come across as shrewish and narcissistic. But other than that, like predecessors “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” the movie has an essential sweetness that disinfects its raunchiest moments.

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Next Day Air

Posted on September 16, 2009 at 8:00 am

I was plenty offended by “Next Day Air’s” contempt for its characters. But the racism and sexism of this vile movie about dumb crooks and dumber would-be crooks and even dumber people who get mixed up with the first two groups is not as offensive as its contempt for its audience. It isn’t just insulting; it is boring. The ten zillionth time someone on screen said “Know what I’m sayin'” or “That’s what I’m sayin'” I wanted to stand up and yell, “No one has said anything!” Richard Pryor and David Mamet can make profanity into poetry, transforming a few simple explicatives into infinite varieties of expression. But the script here is slack and listless, throwing four-letter words, shotgun blasts, “what is he/she doing in this movie” moments, bad judgment, insults, and drugs around as if they are all inherently funny. Trust me, if you ever thought that might be true, this movie will prove once and for all that it is not.
Leo (“Scrubs'” Donald Faison) is a pot-smoking deliveryman for an overnight package service who has messed up so many times that his manager — who is also his mother — says he just one more complaint and he will be fired. So he immediately tokes up again and delivers a package to the wrong apartment. It should go to Jesus (Cisco Reyes) — who prefers to have his name pronounced the English way — and his girlfriend Chita (Yasmin Deliz). Instead, it is delivered to three failed bank robbers across the hall, one who sleeps through almost all of the movie, and his roommates, Brody (Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris). They think they’ve hit the jackpot when they open it up to discover — guess what! drugs! So they call in Brody’s cousin Shavoo (Omari Hardwick) and his no-name sidekick to monetize their new asset. Meanwhile, big old meanie drug lord Bodega (Emilio Rivera) is very interested in getting his product back and every bit as interested in hurting anyone who might be in the way of achieving that goal. Mayhem ensues, and it feels like it takes forever.
Every single character is a grotesque stereotype, from the Latina spitfire who does the salsa as she cooks and calls her boyfriend Papi to the evil drug dealer, the dopey crooks who think they’re all that, and the shiftless package delivery guy and his angry black woman mother. Watching it is an excruciating experience. And then, to add insult to injury, the mindless comedy turns into a mindless shoot ’em up. Mark this package delivery refused.


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Comedy Crime

All About the Benjamins

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

“All About the Benjamins” is to Ice Cube what “Crossroads” is to Britney Spears, a vanity vehicle designed by a star who has very little sense of how people like the characters in the movie (or the people in the audience) behave in real life. This is like a smudgy copy of a copy, bits and pieces of other movies put together so that the star can pretend to shoot and throw a couple of punches.

Ice Cube, who produced the movie, apparently decided that he would enjoy playing a bounty hunter, and not just any bounty hunter but one who (yawn) doesn’t get along with his boss and refuses to take on a partner.

And who does he chase down but the jive-talking con man (Mike Epps). Then they both get mixed up with $20 million in stolen diamonds and an even more valuable missing lottery ticket.

All of this is just an excuse for showing off with some smart-alecky comments and shoot-outs. Ice Cube and Epps are able performers with a nice rapport, but they can’t do much with this lackluster plot, like the umpteenth re-tread of a reject from the “Beverly Hills Cop” series.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely bad language and very violent shoot-outs. A man is shot point blank in the arm and later tortured. A stun gun is applied to a man’s crotch. There are sexual references and situations, including overheard sex. Characters drink and there is a joking reference to drug use.

Families who see this movie should talk about why it was important for Bucum and Reggie to learn to trust each other and what they did to earn each other’s trust. Do you agree that it “sounds like a female” to talk about feelings? What do you think they will do next?

Families who enjoy this movie should see Ice Cube’s fine performance in Boyz N the Hood.

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