Harlem Nights

Release Date:  11/17/1989
Genre:   Drama/Comedy
Rating:  R
Director:  Eddie Murphy
Studio(s):  Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures
Running Time:  116 mins.

Cast:  Eddie Murphy (Vernest “Quick” Brown), Richard Pryor (Sugar Ray), Redd Foxx (Bennie Wilson), Della Reese (Madame Vera Walker), Danny Aiello (Phil Cantone), Michael Lerner (Bugsy Calhoune), Berlinda Tolbert (Annie), Stan Shaw (Jack Jenkins), Jasmine Guy (Dominique La Rue), Lela Rochon (Sunshine), Thomas Mikal Ford (Tommy Smalls), Vic Polizos (Richie Vento), David Marciano (Tony), Arsenio Hall (Reggie), Charlie Murphy (Jimmy), Robin Harris (Romeo), Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. (Man with Broken Nose).

Details:  Harlem Nights was written, executive produced, and directed by Eddie Murphy.  Murphy co-stars with Richard Pryor as a team running a nightclub in late-1930s Harlem while contending with gangsters and corrupt police officials. The film also features Redd Foxx in his last film before his death in 1991.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Story:  In 1918, small-time hustler Sugar Ray takes in seven-year-old orphan and errand boy Vernest Brown, who he nicknames “Quick” after the boy saves his life. Twenty years later, Ray and Quick, now wealthy gangsters, run a Harlem nightclub called Club Sugar Ray, with gambling and dancing in the front, and a brothel in the back that’s run by Ray’s old friend Madame Vera.

A white gangster by the name of Bugsy Calhoune, sends a corrupt detective to threaten Ray with having the Club shut down unless Colhoune gets a cut of the profits. Ray decides to shut down rather than pay, but makes sure his friends and workers are taken care of.  After Ray and Quick steal bets made by Calhoune’s friends and associates on an upcoming boxing match, Calhoune sends his mistress, Dominique LaRue, to seduce and kill Quick but Quick turns the tables and kills LaRue with a gun he had hidden under his pillow.

The championship fight begins. With Calhoune’s gang distracted, Ray’s men seize the opportunity to blow up Calhoune’s “Pitty Pat Club”. Vera, seemingly angry with Ray over a business dispute, visits Calhoune and tells him where to find Ray and Quick. Calhoune and his men go to Ray’s hideout, but they unknowingly trigger hidden explosives that kill them all.  Ray and Quick take one last look at Harlem, knowing they can never return and that there will never be another city like it. Despite this, the two, along with their associates leave for an unknown location as the credits roll.

Notes:  Harlem Nights was Eddie Murphy’s brother Charlie first film role.  The part of Dominique La Rue, played by Jasmine Guy, was originally cast with actress Michael Michele. Michele was fired during production because, according to Murphy, she “wasn’t working out”. Michele sued Murphy, saying that in reality she was fired for rejecting Murphy’s romantic advances. Murphy denied the charge, and the lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. 

Source(s):  IMDB; Wikipedia.  Photos/Gifs Source:  daarac.org.

Trailer:

Countdown to Halloween: Vampire in Brooklyn

Tagline
A Comic Tale of Horror and Seduction

Details
Year of Release:   1995
Genre:   Comedy/Horror
Rating:  R
Runtime:  100 mins.
Studio(s):  Eddie Murphy Productions, Paramount Pictures
Producer(s):  Eddie Murphy, Mark Lipsky
Director:   Wes Craven

Cast
Eddie Murphy as Maximillian / Preacher Pauly / Guido
Angela Bassett as Detective Rita Veder
Allen Payne as Detective Justice
Kadeem Hardison as Julius Jones
John Witherspoon as Silas Green
Zakes Mokae as Dr. Zeko
Joanna Cassidy as Captain Dewey
Simi Kali as Nikki

Synopsis

An abandoned ship crashes into a dockyard in Brooklyn, New York, and the ship inspector, Silas Green, finds it full of corpses. Elsewhere, Julius Jones, Silas’s nephew, has a run-in with some mobsters. Just as the two goons are about to kill Julius, Maximillian, a vampire who arrived on the ship, intervenes and kills them. Maximillian infects Julius with his vampiric blood, thereby turning Julius into a decaying ghoul, and explains that he has come to Brooklyn in search of the Dhampir daughter of a vampire from his native Caribbean island in order to live beyond the night of the next full moon.

Dhampir is NYPD Detective Rita Veder, who is still dealing with the death of her mentally ill mother (a paranormal researcher) some months before. As she and her partner, Detective Justice, investigate the murders on the ship, Rita begins having visions about a woman who looks like her, and starts asking questions about her mother’s past. Rita is completely unaware of her vampire heritage, and believes she is losing her mind like her mother.

Maximillian initiates a series of sinister methods to pull Rita into his thrall, including seducing and murdering her roommate Nikki, as well as disguising himself as her preacher and a lowlife crook. Max,  in these disguises, misleads Rita into thinking Justice slept with Nikki, making her jealous and angry with him. After saving Rita from being run down by a taxicab, Maximillian takes her to dinner. Rita is taken with Maximillian’s suave charm, and while dancing with her, he bites her.

The next day, Justice finds Rita in her apartment, having slept all day.   Justice informs Rita about Nikki’s murder, and vows to help understand her visions, as one correctly foretold Nikki’s fate. Rita forgives Justice, but she almost bites him in the neck during a passionate kiss before catching her disappearing reflection in a mirror, and realizes she is becoming a vampire. She confronts Max about the changes occurring within her, and deduces he is also responsible for the murders she and Justice are investigating. Rita further finds out that Maximillian was sent to her by her father; his death at the hands of vampire hunters was what drove Rita’s mother insane.

Max tries to convince Rita that she will be happier as a vampire instead of remaining in the human world. Justice plans to rescue Rita from Max, and seeks advice from Dr. Zeko, a vampire expert they visited earlier in the murder investigation. Zeko explains that he knew Rita’s mother while she did her research on the vampires of the Caribbean islands, and she surrendered to evil by falling in love with Rita’s father. To avoid becoming a vampire, Rita must refrain from drinking the blood of an innocent human victim; also, Maximillian must die before the next full moon. Zeko gives Justice an ancient dagger with instructions to either kill Maximillian or risk being killed by Rita.

When Justice reaches her, Rita is lying inside Max’s coffin, almost completely changed into a vampire, and threatens to bite Justice. Justice and Maximillian fight, at which time Justice loses Zeko’s dagger. Maximillian encourages Rita to kill Justice and complete the transformation, but she rejects life as a vampire and drives the dagger through Maximillian’s heart, causing him to disintegrate. Rita and Justice then embrace with a passionate kiss.

Meanwhile, Julius, now completely decayed, enters his master’s limousine. He finds Maximillian’s ring and puts it on, instantly transforming him into a fully intact member of the undead. Overjoyed, he tells Silas, “There’s a new vampire in Brooklyn, and his name is Julius Jones!”, as both of them drive off into the night to parts unknown.

 Notes

Stunt performer Sonja Davis was fatally injured performing a 42-foot backward fall.  Source:  Wikipedia; Giphy.com; syfywire.

Trailer

Dolemite Is My Name

Release Date:  September 2019 – Toronto International Film Festival; 10/4/19 – Netflix
Genre:  Biography
Rating:  R
Director:  Craig Brewer
Studio(s):   Netflix
Running Time:  118 mins.

Cast:   Eddie Murphy (Rudy Ray Moore), Wesley Snipes (D’Urville Martin), Keegan-Michael Key (Jerry Jones), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nick), Chris Rock, Craig Robinson (Ben Taylor), Tituss Burgess (Theodore Toney), Mike Epps (Jimmy Lynch), Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Snoop Dogg.

Details:   In Dolemite Is My Name, Murphy plays the comedian and singer Rudy Ray Moore, who was inspired to branch out and develop an alter-ego he could use on stage, a foul-mouthed pimp named Dolemite. When the character’s direction couldn’t take off on stage or in a comedy album, he took Dolemite to the screen and made a series of Blaxploitation movies starring his alternate persona.

“Dolemite is my name and f—in up motherf—ers is my game,” Murphy says while donning a garish suit and a afro wig.  The Dolemite character ended up appearing in three films, Dolemite from 1975, followed by The Human Tornado and The Return of Dolemite.  But this new biography specifically follows the rise of Moore as he struggled to bring the Dolemite character to the screen and make something that black audiences specifically could get behind.  Source:  The Wrap.  Photo Source:  IMDB.

Trailer:

Mr. Church

a/k/a Cook

Mr. ChurchRelease Date:  9/16/16; In Theaters
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  PG-13
Running Time:  104 mins.
Director:  Bruce Beresford
Studio(s):  Cinelou Films, Envision Media Arts, Shenghua Entertainment, Voltage Pictures, Cinelou Releasing, Warner Bros.

Cast:  Eddie Murphy (Henry Church), Britt Robertson (Charlotte), Natascha McElhone (Marie), Lucy Fry (Poppy), Thom Barry (Frankie Twiggs).

Story:  Eddie Murphy is back in his first live-action performance since 2012’s A Thousand Words with Mr. Church.  Rather than much of his past work, the film is not a comedy, but a drama concerning the titular Henry Church (Murphy), a talented cook with a love of jazz who is hired by a dying mother as help for her six year old daughter.  While the arrangement is set for six months, it develops into a 15-year journey of friendship and care.  Source:  The Film Stage; IMDB.

Trailer:

 

Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?

Richard Pryor

Status:  Development Unknown (as of 4/24/17)
Release Date: TBA
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Genre: Drama/Biography
Rating: Not Available
Director: Lee Daniels
Cast:  Mike Epps (Richard Pryor), Oprah Winfrey (Marie Carter), Taraji P. Henson, Eddie Murphy (LeRoy Pryor), Kate Hudson (Jennifer Lee Pryor).

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Update 10/6/16:   Indie wire reported that Lee Daniels will indeed be directing “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” Harvey Weinstein announced during a press conference on this date about the biopic, which Mike Epps is starring in and Jay Z is producing.

Daniels was previously attached to the project before apparently leaving it. “I can tell you that Jay is going to produce the Richard Pryor movie with Lee Daniels directing,” said Weinstein.  Jay Z chimed, saying that Pryor’s story “is an American story. You’ll understand how many lives he’s touched, from every single comedian to rappers like Biggie Smalls.”  In addition to Epps, Is It Something I Said will feature Eddie Murphy as Pryor’s father, Oprah Winfrey as his grandmother (who apparently ran a brothel) and Kate Hudson as his final wife.

Update 9/1/14:  On August 26, 2014, ET confirmed that Oprah will be playing Richard Pryor’s grandmother, Marie Carter, in Lee Daniels’ highly anticipated biopic on the legendary comedian.

Pryor, who died from a heart attack in 2005, had a notoriously complicated relationship with his grandmother. Pryor grew up in a house of prostitution run by Marie, when his mother Gertrude walked out on the family when he was 10 years old.

Based on an August 24th tweet from Director Lee Daniels as well as an Instagram post by Oprah it is confirmed that actor Mike Epps will play Pryor. Epps is said to have blown Daniels and the producers away with his audition. He beat out big names such as Nick Cannon (who in July hinted in a TMZ interview that he landed the role), Marlon Wayans and Michael B. Jordan (who was attached to star in the project before it changed producers) to play Pryor. Mike Epps also plays Pryor in Cynthia Mort’s still-unreleased Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana.

No word yet on who will play Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor, who’s also producing the film, though rumor has it that Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are both frontrunners for the role. Source(s): ETonline; Shadow and Act.

Update 7/22/14:   On this date TMZ reported:

“Richard Pyror was dying and mentally incapacitated when his wife duped him into signing over the rights to his name … so claims Pryor’s son, who’s trying to shut down a movie about his dad.

Richard Pryor, Jr. has fired off a cease and desist letter to Jennifer Lee Pryor, demanding she stop production of the Lee Daniels directed biopic immediately.

Richard Jr.’s lawyer told TMZ her client believes Pryor was in poor mental and physical health when he signed over the rights in 2005. Pryor died in December of that year.

Jennifer has been battling Pryor’s children over the film — including who should play Pryor.

On 7/17/14 TMZ posted a video of Richard Pryor, Jr. reporting that he has done a 180 and now feels Nick Cannon is the second most qualified guy to play his dad in the upcoming biopic … second to him.

Although Cannon hasn’t landed the role yet, he is lobbying hard to get it.  The Drumline star and America’s Got Talent host, mentioned he has had conversations about the film with reported director Lee Daniels.

Pryor Jr. and his sister Rain previously told TMZ … Cannon didn’t have the chops to pull off the role. They thought Marlon Wayans was the right guy.  But in the video, Pryor Jr. tells a TMZ photographer that Cannon’s passion for the role changed his mind and he now favors Cannon … certainly over his step mom’s choice, Terrence Howard.
Source(s):  TMZ, New York Daily News.

Details: On January 10, 2014 The Hollywood Reporter ran an exclusive that Lee Daniels is in negotiations to tackle an untitled Richard Pryor biopic as his follow-up to The Butler. The Weinstein Company, which produced and distributed Daniels’ hit about a White House butler, will fully finance the Richard Pryor project.

Michael B. Jordan, Marlon Wayans and Eddie Murphy are among the actors being eyed for the film, which has been in the works for years with different actors attached, including Wayans and Murphy. Sources say both are still in the mix, particularly Wayans, who at 41 years old is considered to be the right age for the project and whose screen test is said to have wowed Harvey Weinstein. But Jordan, who became a breakout star with The Weinstein Company’s Fruitvale Station, has emerged as the front-runner to tackle the life of the iconic comedian, who died in 2005 at age 65.

Pryor, who was hailed as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time, also had a troubled side. In 1980, he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine and suffered severe burns.

Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, is producing the film. She brings to the project more than 50 pages of Pryor’s personal journals, which offer a glimpse into his brilliant, but dark, mind.

The Pryor biopic has been attempted numerous times. Deadline previously reported in March 2013 that Forest Whitaker had taken over the nearly 20-year effort to bring the turbulent life of the stand-up comedy legend to the big screen under the title Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?

Another version had Bill Condon poised to direct Marlon Wayans in the starring role for Sony Pictures.  But everything took a back seat when Condon signed on to helm the final two Twilight Saga installments.  Other prior incarnations include a Martin Scorsese-directed drama to star Damon Wayans, this well before Pryor died in 2005. Later, there was a Showtime pic that was to star Eddie Griffin and another attempt at a feature that was to star Mike Epps with Kasi Lemmons directing. Condon’s first flirtation had Eddie Murphy briefly interested, and then Chris Rock was briefly in the conversation.

Pryor had an unbelievable life, from growing up in a brothel, rising to become comedy’s biggest stage star, pushing the envelope on an edgy TV show that was subversive and ahead of its time, transitioning to film stardom, and nearly dying when he accidentally ignited himself while freebasing cocaine. Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Comingsoon.

Check back for further details on the untitled Richard Pryor biopic as this story develops.