MOVIE REVIEW: “Breakin’/Breakin’ 2: Electric Bugaloo” – Undeniable Hip-hop classics!

[In light of Alfonso Quinones’ recent passing I decided to write a review for these movies – Jay Dubb]

30-SECOND REVIEW:

Considered ‘softer’ compared to their edgier New York counterparts, both movies have since achieved cult-classic status.  Yes, the dialogue is cheesy and the plot paper thin – but the Breakin’ legacy is undeniable as the moment hip-hop culture burst into the mainstream! The characters Ozone and Turbo are forever immortalized as B-Boy icons!

FULL REVIEW:

It’s hard to imagine now, but back in 1984, B-Boy/breakdancing culture was written off by critics as a ‘passing phase’ LOL –  a fad similar to disco. Boy were THEY wrong! The ‘street dance’ subculture that started in the boroughs of New York (and eventually the West Coast) took the world by storm and became what is now a Multi-Billion dollar industry!

The early days of Hip-Hop movies (late 1970s) were nothing more than a collection of documentaries and underground videos. Eventually, these grainy videos creeped into pop culture, culminating into FOUR main movies:

Wild Style.

Breakin’ 1 & 2

Beat Street

Krush Groove

Of the Four, Breakin’ was given the most ‘Hollywood’ treatment but gained the highest exposure. Breakin’ was initially criticized as being too ‘cheesy and colorful’ – featuring a white female lead in Lucinda Dickey (Kelly/Special K).

The movies were billed as ‘urban musicals’, with large dance numbers featuring a LOT of Not-breakdancing (ballet, jazz). It bypassed the IRL violence of the times and replaced with flashy dance battles. Unlike the equally classic (but grittier) Beat Street – which took place in the underbelly of New York – Breakin’ showed us the Bright, sunny beaches of Los Angeles during the New Wave Punk-Funk/Pop-Locking Era.

In New York, B-Boys were all track suits, hoodies, and Adidas sneakers. Here in LA, hip-hop was Chuck Taylors and outlandish outfits – spiky collars, bracelets, tight leather, colorful bandanas, flamboyant characters and gender-mixed expressionism.

BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, Adolfo Quinones (center), 1984. ©TriStar Pictures

The decision was a stroke of brilliance and the musical gamble paid off! Sure, Breakin’ was accused of lacking that self-important, hardcore ‘street cred’, but Dammit the KIDS LOVED IT! We ’80s kids loved it to the tune of a shocking $34M box office run! Made on a shoestring budget ($1.6M) Breakin’s box office success paved the way for its rushed sequel… and LITERALLY EVERY OTHER urban dance movie to this day.

[Save the Last Dance. Step it Up. Bring it On. Stomp The Yard. You Got Serve – all owe their existence to Breakin’!]

Despite all the criticism, Breakin’ worked thanks to the undeniable star power of  Alfonso ‘Shabba Doo’ Quinones (‘OZONE’ , Rest in hiphop Heaven!), and Michael ‘Boogaloo Shrimp’ Chambers (‘TURBO’) .

Shabba Doo/Ozone, a seasoned dance veteran from Soul Train days, was the Prince of Pop-Locking. He brought a tremendous Swag before ‘swag’ was a Thing. Like a Ghetto Superhero, Ozone was all flamboyant masculinity in the vein of Errol Flynn… a dashing  Black Zorro of sorts.

Ozone’s younger counterpart, Bugaloo-Shrimp/Turbo, was an otherworldly breakdancing Boy Wonder! A Robin to his Batman. As a kid growing up during this Era I will tell you….EVERY KID in the hood during the 1980s wanted to look like and dance like Turbo! True to his namesake, Turbo was a Transformer come to life! An energetic, body contorting, animated stop-motion dancing machine!

And of course, that groundbreaking BROOM SCENE!

The plot to both movies are simplistic and the dialogue is at times, PAINFUL. Lucinda Dickey was the only trained actor of our beloved trio (she had ZERO hip-hop background). But the formula paid off in terms of exposure and box office. Breakin’ was the movie that families and young people could watch together. It ignored IRL street violence of East LA for the pure joy of dancing.

Fantasy? – Yes. Smart decision? – ABSOLUTELY.

 – SO how do we RATE the Breakin’ movies? –

Well there’s a level of truth to everything said. It WAS the softer, friendlier version of the early hiphop movies… But the legacy is undeniable. Breakin‘ pushed B-Boy culture intot the mainstream and introduced Hip-Hop to a worldwide audience. It’s influence goes far and wide, as the characters Turbo and Ozone became household names. Shabba-Doo and Boogaloo-Shrimp were featured in everything from music videos to movies. Pop stars like Lionel Richie, Madonna, Paula Abdul, Chaka Khan (and some guy named Michael Jackson) incorporated B-Boy dancing into their performances.

I absolutely love BOTH movies and I admit my review carries bias; but if I HAVE to rate these fairly they both carry two separate ratings. Film quality vs. legacy.

Original Breakin’ as Film: C+

The culture takes a backseat as the movie was really about white jazz dancer Kelly trying to land a dancing gig. A recycled Hollywood plot that featured too much of everything EXCEPT breakdancing. We all wanted MORE breakdancing! lol

Original Breakin’ as Legacy: A+

It gave the world Ozone and Turbo. ’nuff said!

Electric Boogaloo as Film: D

There was nothing ‘electric’ about it and It felt like an ABC Afterschool Special. It was admittedly rushed into theaters and failed to bring anything NEW. Plus, the plot about saving Miracles was ahead of its time in terms of gentrification and Missed a golden opportunity!

Electric Boogaloo as Legacy: C

Only our heroes Ozone and Turbo made this movie worth watching. It DID manage to show the Latino side of the culture and that is worth mentioning!

All that being said, I RECOMMEND watching the original Breakin‘ at least ONCE to celebrate the characters Turbo, Ozone, and Kelly (TKO) and to celebrate the Culture. If you never watch Electric Boogaloo – trust me, that’s fine lol. But If you are a child of the 1980s like me, you should own both these movies for nostalgia alone! 😀

TRIVIA

Lucinda Dickey (Kelly) had zero breakdancing knowledge and had to learn 2 weeks before filming.

Yes, that is Ice -T! in full funk-punk mode! Before he became known as a gangster rapper.

Adjusted for inflation, $34M in 1984 is the equivalent of $100M as of this writing (2021)

YES- that is a very young Jean-Claude Van Damme in his film debut lol!

That was also Lela Rochon’s (Boomerang, Waiting to Exhale) film debut as background extra. She was married to Shabba Doo at the time.

The recreation center used for Miracle’s is still there to this day (2021).

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REVIEW: ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ – Chadwick Boseman’s epic final perfomance!

30-Second Review:

Chadwick Boseman gives an ELECTRIC performance before his untimely death. ‘Ma Rainey’ is a snapshot of a Day in the life for an influential Southern Blues singer taking her talent up North into uncharted (pun intended) territory. Viola Davis give a stunning performance and completely disappears in the title role; thats a good thing!

FULL REVIEW:

Watching this is bittersweet, as we now know that Chadwick Boseman (aka Black panther) suffered from advanced cancer while filming this movie. It is reported he lost nearly 40lb. And you can see it. Nevertheless, supreme actor that he is, he mustered all his remaining strength and delivered a Tour de Force acting performance!

‘Black Bottom’ is about Southern Blues singer Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) traveling from Georgia to Chicago for a recording session. The label wants to get her unique music on mainstream charts – BUT-  Tensions rise as Ma Rainey clashes with both White music execs AND her overly-ambitious young horn player, Levee (Boseman).

This movie REALLY shines because it captures a single moment in history while showcasing struggles on different levels:

Racism in America

Musical Integrity (Old vs New)

Female Rights

Artist vs. industry.

You should know that ‘Black Bottom‘ is based on a stage play by August Wilson and the movie has minimal set pieces (like a stage play). It stars off with brief snippets of Ma Rainey performing on the chilin circuit in the Southern States (where she’s at her most rambunctious best), before moving onto the main focal point of the movie – recording a hit album with a white record label in Chicago.

Thanks to the expert hand of Director George C. Wolfe, ‘Black Bottom’ does A LOT in little time and space, without feeling rushed or cluttered. I say that because the cast is sparse and the tension starts early and gradually increases throughout. Each character gets just enough time to share their story. We learn who is who, and their motivations.

Ma Rainey herself is a powerful force, but she struggles to embrace a fast-changing world. Levee is an amazing young talent with little to no patience for development. The two clash while Levee wants a more upbeat/updated Sound (big band jazz), while Ma refuses to change her Deep South, slow grind style, despite what is popular.

And of course, the White music executives look to capitalize on Black talent without giving fair share to the artist.

What I found fascinating is that Many of these problems still exists for musicians to THIS DAY. Reminded me of Prince back in the 1990s, feuding with Warner Bros Records over retaining his rights. (He literally changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol!)

Now imagine THAT as a large, loud Black Woman in the 1920s during Segregation and Jim Crow.  ‘Black Bottom’ is a powerful movie filled with heart and emotion. It has both Highs and Lows, both triumph and tragedy – which, in itself is the Story of Black America. There are so many LAYERS to this movie that it needs a 2nd viewing to fully take it all in!

I RECOMMEND this movie as something to watch with your family, for kids 14 and older. If nothing else, you HAVE to watch Chadwick Boseman’s final performance. I predict he will win a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

RATING

4.5/5

 

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‘BRIDGERTON’ – Perfect Guilty Pleasure to end the year 2020!

30-Second Review:

‘Bridgerton’ is THEE Guilty Pleasure event to end the year 2020! Netflix delivers a home-run hit by stealing Shonda Rhimes from ABC (Your loss, Disney!) and cranking out this addictive Romance/Dramedy. For a guy like me who doesn’t care about stuffy British period drama or Romantic stuff, I have to admit this was very entertaining. I breezed through the entire series in a few days! Check it out, I dare you not to like it 😉

OFF THE RIP – WHY DID I EVEN CLICK ON THIS in the first place?? 😆

I saw the trailer and immediately thought, “Hold up….I see wealthy Black PEOPLE!” – then I was like,

“Hey…is this Black dude about to seduce this little white chick??” 😲😆

Yes, I admit the racial intrigue is what lured me in…but the story is what kept me.

‘Bridgerton‘  has all the Shonda Rhimes elements – witty dialogue, Sex, drama, intrigue, mystery, sex, humor, scandals, sex…you get the point lol

The series takes place in early 1800s England, a time of Regents and Romance, where young  Daphne Bridgerton (played by the IRL British hottie Phoebe Dynevor) is making her society ‘debut’. She’s to catch the eye of a Lord and land a worthy husband. Daphne is the eldest daughter of 8 Bridgerton siblings and is the Prize of the current ‘Season’. Daphne is seen as flawless, grabbing the attention of Queen Charlotte, played perfectly by Black actress Golda Rosheuvel (yes, this Queen had a historical African heritage).

Daphne basically has her CHOICE of any man she wants – her only problem is, she falls for the Wrong Guy!

Enter: Simon, the Duke of Hastings.

Played by Rege’ Jean Page, Simon is the Dashing, womanizing Guy that you don’t take home to mom (‘A rake!’). Of course, this is who Daphne falls for. What Should be a cut-n-dry story…beautiful young girl marries handsome wealthy Duke. Nah! lol The whole courtship is a big sham and a hot mess…filled with a LOT of drama and some LOL moments.

But the CHEMISTRY between actors Rege’ and Phoebe is undeniable. The two of them together make for some serious sexual tension. (and eventually some serious sex scenes) 🔥🔥🔥

Besides all the drama and intrigue and romanticized modern music (Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish) – I have to give major props to the casting. Bridgerton is a REFRESHING blend of racial integration displayed fully in London High Society. Not so much as a whiff of Jim Crow racism or segregation.

Revisionist history? – Sure. But I must say it was a joy to watch Black folk in this context! All too often, Black faces are cut from history unless they are slaves, maids and butlers. NOT A CHAIN OR WHIP IN SIGHT!

Here, Black faces held court in all aspects of society – from royalty (the Queen herself), to the leading man Duke Hastings, to the other Debutants and Regents…and even the subplot involving a distant cousin. And you know what? I loved it. It looked right and it FELT right. And of course….

MY FAVORITE CHARACTER Lady Danbury! She who looked glamorous and dapper and basically stole every scene she was in! Andjoa Ando was an absolute treasure to watch and commanded each of her moments. I would like to see her get a Support nomination for this role.

All of this, plus the ever-present mysterious Gossip Writer ‘Lady Whistledown’ (voiced by Julie Andrews), who is basically the one-woman Social Media of that Era, reporting on EVERYTHING… with hilarious results!

Finally….As for the so-called controversial sex scene? 

GET OVER IT, CANCEL CULTURE. 🙄 it was a non-event. Especially for 19th Century noblemen (and women) – who had an OBLIGATION to breed and keep the family line going. Daphne was naïve and misinformed….and only did what she felt was her literal duty at the time. Obviously in the year 2020,  the Court of Public Opinion, the fake-outrage mob of Me-Too era calls this a ‘toxic relationship’ – but really, its no more or less tragic than a few dozen Shakespearean love affairs. ‘Toxic’ didn’t exist in 1820. It was simply Life as usual. 

‘Nuff said about that.

Overall, Bridgerton is a wicked little guilty pleasure and a great way to send off the dreadful year 2020! It is pure escapism with plenty of twists and turns, great costumes, witty repartee and steamy sex Scenes (very realistic, I might add). I’m pretty sure it will win a number of Oscar’s. My predictions for nominations and winners as of 12/31/2020 are below:

Nominations:

Best Dramatic Series – (this will probably to The Queen’s Gambit)

Best Costume Design – WINNER

Best Lead Actress in Drama (Phoebe Dynevor) – this will go to Anya -Taylor Joy for The Queen’s Gambit

Best Supporting Actress in Drama (Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte)

Best Supporting Actress in Drama (Adjoah Andoh as Lady Danbury)

Best Lead Actor in Drama (Rege’-Jean Page as Simon)

RATING:

4.5/ 5 stars

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