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Brewster's Millions Review


Good
A guilty pleasure from my childhood, Brewster's Millions is based on an ancient novel. In fact, it's at least the fifth adaptation of the old novel by the same name -- only the spending money is more and more each time.

What money is that? Oh, just $30 million, left to Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) by his sole relative. The catch? The real inheritance is $300 million -- and if Monty wants it, he has to spend the $30 million in 30 days, and at the end of that time he can't have any assets to show for it. Oh, and he can't tell anyone what's going on, either.

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Lady Sings The Blues Review


Good
Billie Holiday experts have lots of quibbles with Lady Sings the Blues, but this melodramatic biopic has plenty of emotional payoffs, even if they're slightly obscured by the triumph-and-tragedy clichés of the heavily fictionalized screenplay.

Credit Miss Diana Ross for her guts. In this, her first screen performance, she tosses all vanity aside, kicking things off by wearing a straitjacket and writhing around on the floor of an asylum (that writhing earned her an Oscar nomination). What has brought Billie Holiday to this lowly state? The flashbacks will tell us.

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Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling Review


Good
Richard Pryor, phone home. In this terribly autobiographical tale, we see Pryor as ghost/angel, looking back on his life -- working his way through the seedy clubs, making it big on Ed Sullivan, and self-destructing on booze and drugs. Of course, the real Pryor never set himself on fire... In any case, Jo Jo Dancer is certainly a heartfelt and cautionary tale a la Gia, but it lacks much in the way of plot development, action, and a reason to care about Jo Jo one way or the other. I fell asleep more than once.

Superman III Review


OK
The third entry in the Superman series stands as one of history's most infamous cautionary tales about the danges of computers, and it's also one of the silliest. Not only does Richard Pryor engineer a way to steal all the rounded half-pennies from his employer, he manages to synthesize kryptonite (using tobacco tar as an ingredient where needed) and design an artificial intelligence system that "wants to live." No Lex Luthor this time out; Pryor's employer is Robert Vaughn -- a corporate mogul trying to use technology to cause world disasters and profit from them. There's barely any Lois Lane either -- she's on vacation -- so Superman/Clark Kent finds himself with his highschool crush, Lana Lang (Annette O'Toole), who is about twice as much fun as Margot Kidder ever was.

Wattstax Review


Good
1972's Wattstax concert was, in no uncertain terms, the black Woodstock. Peace and love, for sure, but based in L.A. to commemorate the 1965 Watts race riots instead of on a New York farm to celebrate drugs, mud, and hippie tunes.

Just as Wattstax the event was a serious social event that just so happened to include a little music, Wattstax the movie is much less a concert film (a la Woodstock or The Last Waltz) and much more a talking head documentary with musical interludes. Depending on your frame of mind, that can be a good or a bad thing. But director Mel Stuart (who made Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory two years earlier) is probably not the perfect person to take a camera into Los Angeles to ask black residents how things have changed (or not) since the riots seven years earlier. There's frankly just not a lot of insight to be gained from the poorly shot man-on-the-street footage.

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Blue Collar Review


Very Good
Funny and depressing look at infighting and conspiracy in a fictional American auto union. A cult classic from the writer of Taxi Driver.

The Mack Review


Weak
Scraping the bottom of blaxploitation is this cult classic, The Mack, featuing Max Julien as an ex-con straight outta the slammer and looking to re-take his place at the top of the Oakland pimp scene. Good God, for two hours this dribbles on, filled with big hats, elaborate canes, and tons and tons of hos. While Richard Pryor's appearance threatens to elevate The Mack above pure crap, the tired and incredibly offensive story merits virtually no attention.

California Suite Review


Very Good
This Neil Simon tragicomedy features four groups of people who converge on a L.A. hotel on the eve of the Oscars. Three stories are pretty funny -- especially Walter Matthau's unfaithful husband to Elaine May, but it's the Fonda-Alda weep-fest that opens the movie that almost ruins the show completely. Still, it's salvagable, something of a Four Rooms... still not done quite right.

Moving (1988) Review


Good
As Richard Pryor non-concert comedies go, Moving is pretty much at the top of the list. That may not be saying much, but Pryor's incredibly put-upon performance makes it mostly worthwhile. The movie follows Pryor as his life bottoms out in New Jersey, only to be renewed by a dream job in Idaho. The relocation process takes center stage, as everything that can go wrong, does. Cute and harmless.

Which Way Is Up? Review


Weak
Decades before Eddie Murphy made his career comeback by playing a handful of different characters in The Nutty Professor, Richard Pryor showed how it was done in Which Way Is Up? And this isn't some kid-friendly piece of fluff like Murphy's recent productions. This is typical Pryor -- full of foul-mouthed trash talk that definitely had people cringing back in 1977 and still has them doing the same thing 25 years later.

Unfortunately, a pioneering performance idea and raunchy dialogue doesn't actually make the movie any good. The story follows a migrant farm worker named Leroy Jones (Pryor), who accidentally becomes selected for a management job and along his ride to the top he makes enemies of his former co-workers and friends, and finds his formerly sex-starved life filled with options. And wouldn't you know it, the only one which satisfies him is the local reverend's wife.

Continue reading: Which Way Is Up? Review

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Blazing Saddles Movie Review

Blazing Saddles Movie Review

Blazing Saddles isn't the funniest Mel Brooks movie (that'd be The Producers), but it's by...

Blazing Saddles Movie Review

Blazing Saddles Movie Review

Blazing Saddles isn't the funniest Mel Brooks movie (that'd be The Producers), but it's by...

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