Tag Archives: Ice Cube

Fa La La Land

The High Note

by George Wolf

Since rising to fame on Black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross has apparently been biding her time, patiently waiting for the right vehicle to showcase her talents as a singer. It isn’t hard to understand the apprehension.

Oh, look, another TV star trying to sing. And this one just wants to ride her mother’s (Diana, FYI) iconic coattails!

Ross chooses wisely with the endearing The High Note, absolutely killing it as Grace Davis, a modern brand of pop diva.

Davis still basks in the glow of worldwide fame, but it’s been a minute since she scored a big hit. Grace’s longtime manager Jack (Ice Cube, with more proof of his maturation as an actor) wants her to ink a long-term residency in Vegas, but Grace isn’t sure she’s ready to be pushed onto the “greatest hits” circuit. And there’s a small but potentially mighty voice in Grace’s corner.

It belongs to her personal assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson, flashing a winning mix of naïveté and ambition). She’s been lobbying for new Grace Davis music, which would carry some weight if everyone only knew how great a producer Maggie could be if they’d just give her the chance!

If this sounds like something for the Hallmark Channel, did I mention Maggie has stumbled across David (the impressive Kelvin Harrison, Jr., with his own vocal chops), a talented musician who could use an L.A. music producer and maybe even a girlfriend?

Sure, you can guess where most (but not all) of this goes, and in other hands it might have been a tone deaf stiff. But director Nisha Ganatra (the underseen gem Late Night) runs Flora Greeson’s debut screenplay through the filter of an endlessly charming cast to craft an extended mix of finger-snapping smiles.

Look beneath those layers of what may feel like fluff, and you’ll even find a sometimes awkward but still refreshing look at two women gracefully navigating the path to controlling their own destinies. Nice.

Don’t discount those finger snaps, either. In a music business movie the music should mean business, and the tunes in The High Note sound like something a producer might actually get excited about, especially when Ross lets it rip.

She makes Grace a determined diva that’s spoiled but still worth rooting for, infusing her big numbers with the expressive vocal power of an actor and a character who are both seizing their moment.

The first single from the soundtrack, Ross’s “Love Myself,” is already looking like a hit. The High Note sounds like one, too.

Readin’, Writin’, Teacher Fightin’

Fist Fight

by George Wolf

At Roosevelt High, it’s the last day before summer break, and the school’s online newspaper gets a breaking story:


Seems the meek Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day) snitched on the scary Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube), and you know what they say about snitches. They get their asses beat on the playground while the whole school watches…and they will most likely require stitches at some point.

Fist Fight is often contrived and ridiculous, and has those funny bloopers ready to roll as soon as possible, but ya know, it fills the class with enough likable clowns to get a pass.

The two leads aren’t asked to venture beyond their respective comfort zones, but do display some nice comic timing that bolsters their easy chemistry. Cube pushes his menacing persona and steely glare for all they are worth while Day does the same with the naturally funny pairing of his diminutive stature and high-pitched wheeze. The conflict of their characters is grounded just by these two actors sharing the same frame, giving the film a comic foundation from the start.

Then you have the always weird and welcome Jillian Bell as a guidance counselor who’s really fond of drugs and “that tenis” (teenage penis), Kumail Nanjiani’s by-the-book school security officer and Tracy Morgan dispensing wisdom as Coach Crawford (“You can’t run away! Who is you, Seabiscuit?”) for a steady stream of nuttiness.

Director Richie Keen makes his feature debut after years of TV episodes (including Day’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), keeping the pace lively and the mood raunchy. He even shows a little theatrical flair once the students’ start spreading rumors of Mr.Strickland’s murderous past, and the fantasies play out with hilarious excess.

Fist Fight offers violence, plenty of sex-fueled gags and the obligatory foul-mouthed grade-schooler. It’s an adult education, for sure, and just funny enough not to skip.




Thanks Anyway, I’ll Walk


by George Wolf


In 1982, a young Eddie Murphy made his film debut in 48 Hours, a funny,  action-filled cop caper that instantly launched him toward household name status.

Ride Along feels like an attempt to rewrite that film, and that history, to the benefit of Kevin Hart.

Okay, so Hart is hardly a newbie, and he’s proven himself to be a very funny guy through numerous supporting roles and one documentary/ concert film (Laugh at My Pain, 2011). But here, though he gets most of the screen time as part of a wannabe action/comedy, he’s on his own more than Murphy’s Reggie Hammond was in that redneck bar

Hart plays Ben, a security guard in Atlanta who has ambitions of being a police officer. When he finally gets accepted to the academy, Ben thinks it’s time to pop the question to longtime love Angela (Tika Sumpter, in a role that’s little more than eye candy.) Trouble is, Angela’s brother James (Ice Cube) is already a street-smart cop, and he thinks Ben isn’t worthy of his sister or a badge.

The answer is a “ride along,” and Ben jumps at the offer to join his future brother-in-law on his duties for a day, in hopes of convincing James to give the marriage his blessing. Ladies, maybe one day you’ll be able to get hitched without a man’s approval, but today is not that day!

The script comes from a committee of writers, with various credits including Employee of the Month, The Tuxedo, and last year’s R.I.P.D.

Wait, didn’t they all suck?

Yes, they did, and Ride Along would be equally bad, except for the efforts of Hart.  Director Tim Story‘s main strategy comes straight outta Cleveland in the LeBron days:  just go trough the motions and wait for the star to bail everybody out. Hart tries his best, and single-handedly delivers a few good moments of physical comedy, but it’s not nearly enough.

Kevin Hart may still get his trip to household stardom, but Ride Along is too lazy take him there.