October 23, 2009, - 12:37 pm

Weekend Box Office: “Good Hair’s” Racism, “Cirque du Freak: Vampire’s Asst,” Boring “Amelia,” “Astro Boy”

By Debbie Schlussel

None of the new movie releases, this weekend, are particular scintillating, but the best of the bunch is a creepy vampire movie aimed at teen and 20-something guys.



*  “Good Hair“:  This Chris Rock documentary about Black American women’s obsession with hair–relaxers and weaves above all else in their lives–is entertaining, funny, and weird (though growing up and living in a Black community most of my life, I didn’t learn anything new).  But then it devolves into an Al Sharpton diatribe on how Asian-Americans and White people are racist because they dominate and own the majority of the Black haircare industry.  And, I guess, it’s wrong that Indians make a lot of money off of selling Blacks hair extensions because, hey, it’s just a formality to Sharpton that most of that hair comes from India, as the movie shows in detail.

The movie asks a lot of questions it doesn’t really answer, like where Black women–many of whom are on public assistance or in low-paying jobs as teachers and secretaries come up with the money for weaves of $1,000 to $3,500 that last only a month or two.  Rock does ask Black women waiting for their weaves at a salon, and they don’t really answer.

He also asks Black men about the added cost of supporting Black women because of  the high costs they must pay for their weave.  In a recent interview on ABC’s hag-fest, “The View,” Rock half-joked that it costs a Black man an extra $5,000 a year to date a Black woman as opposed to a White one.  And he’s come under fire from part of the Black community for a scene in the movie where he asks Black men at a barber shop whether they’d rather date White women because of the hair issues.  One Black guy answers, yes, very enthusiastically, and goes on and on about how the hair is a symbol of how White women will let you do things Black women don’t.  Not surprisingly, the many women in the mostly Black audience at the screening I attended weren’t laughing at this part (the men were).  But in the end, this urban audience loved the movie.

If you don’t care about Black hair, you’ll probably find this entertaining anyway, as it shows the ridiculous lengths people will go to to look good.  I must admit that Rock–of whom I’m no fan after he urged the wilding beating of Congressmen for impeaching Bill Clinton–is a better documentary maker than Michael Moore, for instance.  But not by much.  He’s definitely more honest than Moore.  The movie goes all over the place and isn’t cohesive or consistent.  He goes back and forth from Black hair issues to a very weird Black hair show put on by a company called, Bronner Brothers.  Plus there was the ridiculous Al Sharpton stuff.

Still, it was entertaining, and he’s not afraid to show the absurd in his own community . . . something an outsider (read:  White guy) couldn’t do without being called a racist.  And that brings up another point:  Rock shows a White, very “flamboyant” male hairstylist, Jason Griggers, who is good at doing Black women’s hair and making it grow long naturally.  Many of the movie’s interviewees mention that most White stylists can’t do Black people’s hair, and that Griggers is an exception.

It reminds me of the time, several years ago, when I had a minor home hair-coloring accident.  I found only one salon near my home that had an opening to take me right away to fix my mistake.  When I got there, I realized it was a Black salon–all of the stylists were Black, as were all of the customers . . . except me.  But, rather than be called racist for canceling my appointment and leaving, I wimped out and sacrificed my hair.  Two hours, lots of damaging processing, and $200 later, my hair was a swamp water green dead color, and I had to spend more money at a “White” salon to fix it.  My hair is still recovering.

But I, sadly, didn’t have the guts to leave the salon, lest I be called racist (that won’t happen again, I assure you).  The Black people in this movie aren’t afraid to say what they think of White stylists because they can get away with what I couldn’t.

And, to me, that’s the bottom line message I took away from “Good Hair.” Not something I didn’t already know in spades. Still, an entertaining flick.


*  “Cirque du Freak:  The Vampire’s Assistant“:  I liked this fun, very creepy, hilarious dark comedy/thriller about two high school boys who get mixed up with a Vampire and his enemies, the “Vampanese.”  But it went on a little too long and became a jumbled mess later on.  While it was aimed at teen boys and is the antidote to the sappy chick flick “Twilight” vampire genre, it’s a little too creepy, graphic, and bloody for young boys.  For later teens, it’s fine (though beware there are a few swear words).  If you want to see Salma Hayek as a bearded lady, this is your flick.

The movie centers around two teen boys in high school.  Darren is the goody-two-shoes smart kid valedictorian type who’s likely to get into the dream college of his choice.  Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is a derelict kid and a bad influence.  But the two are best friends.

One night, they attend a freak show filled with strange performers, includings a snake man, a woman who can regenerate any amputated limb, weird creatures, the bearded lady (Hayek), and a magician (the hilarious John C. Reilly) who performs his act with a magic red, white, and blue giant spider.  Steve, who loves vampires, recognizes magician Reilly as a famous vampire from the early 1800s, whom he’s seen in one of his vampire books.  Darren is obsessed with spiders and steals the magician’s spider.

Soon, the spider escapes, biting Steve and sending him to near death.  In order to save him, Darren agrees to become a half-vampire and leave his life to become the magician vampire’s assistant.  And he goes to live with him along with the freaks from the freak show.  Steve, who dreamed of becoming a vampire, joins the rival Vampanese, and they fight each other.

It’s a better movie than it sounds.  And, though very creepy, it’s enjoyable and entertaining.  But keep in mind that this aimed at teens and, perhaps, 20-somethings.  It’s really not an adult movie.


*  “Amelia“:  Wow, Hillary Swank starring as a masculine, butch woman in a boring feminist movie.  Gee, I’ve never seen that before.  What a novel idea.

“Hank” Swank, as Mike Church (on whose Sirius Patriot Channel 144 show I do movie reviews every Friday Morning) calls her, plays pilot Amelia Earhart, who broke barriers as a female fliers.  Her feminist faux-“milestones” are not enough on which to base a whole two hour movie.  But they made one anyway.  And it’s a snooze-fest.  I was so bored, I kept thinking, “Just Disappear Already!”  Earhart’s 1937 mid-air disappearance aboard her plane couldn’t come soon enough for me.

Two hours of Swank and Richard Gere (as  her husband, George Putnam) in really phony-sounding affected accents was annoying.  Not to mention the total lack of a plot or story.  There wasn’t anything offensive  here.   It’s just that there wasn’t a point.  And who wants to pay ten bucks for cinematic sleeping pills?

Was Swank a lesbian or bisexual?  Without coming out and saying it, the movie makes it a point to tell us that Earhart likes to wear only pants (she’s in skirts only at the very beginning), acts “like a guy” in her relationships (a character comes out and tells her that, noting her loveless extra-marital affair), and is extremely mannish-looking and acting.

I couldn’t care less about the answer to this question.  And this movie made me care even lesser about Earhart.  Guys, if your female significant other makes you take her to this feminist chick flick, be sure to drink gallons of caffeine-laden coffee first. Boring as heck.

ONE-AND-A-HALF MARXES (For Sheer Boredom)

*  “Astro Boy“:  This re-imagining of the 1960’s animated TV series of the same name is fine for  your family, great to take your young kids to see.  But, while there’s nothing bad about it, what was a new, fascinating story in the ’60s seems “been there, seen that” more than four decades later.

The animation is fine, as is the story–about a scientist in the future who creates a human-like robot to replace his son.  But those bent on destroying the robots pose a danger for him and his devoted human father.  The message–that robots are people, too, or can become “real sons” a la Pinocchio–is old hat.  The setting is in the future, where the residents and government officials want to kill or eliminate all robots or use them for sport in Roman-like gladiator fighting events.  The “updates” are the voices of current big-name actors (Nicolas Cage, Kirsten Bell, Samuel L. Jackson) as the animated characters.  Also cute and funny, a group of revolutionary robot worker radical types who want to “rebel” and fight for their rights.  (Can’t wait until the PETA version of this movie.)

Like I said, fine to take  your kids and whole family to see.  And not bad, overall (terrific for kids).  But nothing to write home about.


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10 Responses

Chris Rock has a long history of honest commentary on the Black community. I don’t understand why he gets away with it, but Cosby and others get crucified.

Jewish Marksman on October 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm

They spend that much for those hairstyles??!?! I know that Black hair can be more involved to style, etc., but wow!

As an arachnophobic, I thank you for mentioning the spider in The Vampire’s Assistant. Spiders that big give me nightmares of epic proportions. (I had to close my eyes though the lab scenes in Spiderman.)

cirrus1701 on October 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I dig the ‘fro’. I say keep it real & natural 🙂

docilej on October 23, 2009 at 3:26 pm

First of all I walked into a black barber shop on accident in my neighborhood. I should’ve known something because it was painted purple where as it used to be white(seriously). When I walk in there was unmistakable air of “HUH?. I looked around and there were about 7 guys and a child waiting. I don’t wait well anyway so…. I asked for the charge for a cut and was told 15.00. I Got mine cut at Rex’s on Ford rd and Telelgraph for 7.00 + 3.00 TIP. I told him I paid $7 at Rex’s and left. Watching my back. He said to me before I left that he’d do it for $10 but I told him no thanks (trust him to cut in good? No.) Just the looks on their faces were enough to cause me to turn around. I ended up driving to Rex’s but that was before I got tired of getting my hair cut by a nasty chick that talked to her friend of her great Lebanese boyfriend and her numerous bar adventures.

Second of all I never realized that black chicks were prone to charging the fee of a “date” to the cost of their hair and nails. I’ve had several of them approach me where I used to work with offers of sex for hair and nails! They were right up front with it. How could I refuse such a great offer? I don’t date prostitutes. These were women that were in their late 30’s and with kids. Their friends were on board with the whole business too. The rationale was that a guy should pay for the wear and tear on their “equipment”, seriously. Listening to these brainiacs talk about their maintainance costs was torture for an 8 hr shift. They’re so dam loud about they bidness.

Joe on October 23, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I saw Good Hair in New York last weekend, and I agree almost 100% with your review. However, I thought Rock was unnecessarily gratuitous when he showed Condoleeza Rice with the voice-over about some women are infamous. It was juvenile and uncalled for. But I must say not one person in my theater laughed at that moment. Also, I hated that Al Sharpton played such a large role in the film (although there was a funny moment with him talking about meeting Ronald Reagan).

Stephen on October 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Great story about your haircut experience. $200 for swampwater green, LOL. I travel a lot and like you I have walked into a barbershop or salon and then regret it. I like to have my hair short but not too short then it is like a porcupine. I have been surprised by good and bad on my haircuts. I too went to a black salon and went through with the cut. I admit I was apprehensive because I don’t know how much experience blacks salons have with straight coarse hair. I have gone to SuperCuts, had black stylists before and they have much experience with straight hair. I figured if it is bad, I can wear a hat for a couple weeks. She was real nice and sweet and did a terrific job. I gave her a big tip.

CaliforniaScreaming on October 23, 2009 at 5:11 pm

As a side note, Chris Rock was dropped from a pending biopic on Richard Pryor after he “jokingly” (yeah, right) defended Michael Vick and his dog-fighting business on “The Jay Leno Show,” commenting, “What the h— did Michael Vick do? Pitbulls ain’t (sic) even real dogs! Dogs have never been good to black people!” Pryor’s widow, who runs an animal rescue group, was justifiably outraged, and ensured that Rock would lose that movie job.

ConcernedPatriot on October 23, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Rock started his career making fun of his own people then he turned on whites. Funny debate between him and Larry Elder on Youtube. Elder eats his lunch.

Joe on October 24, 2009 at 10:55 am

Regarding Astro Boy: this is a well-made and entertaining movie. However, it does have more than its share of left-wing themes. For example, the surface of the earth is so polluted, only a few stragglers live there. Also, the Robot Revolutionary Front are good guys (if incompetant) as they seek to liberate enslaved and abused robots. Are the robots stand-ins for ethnic minorities? Not sure.

The president of New City is a thinly-disguised Republican who wants to use technology only for violence in a cynical “wag the dog” reelection strategy. He abuses civil rights, gives tax breaks to his rich friends, and in the end launches a coup of sorts. This is right out of the Bushitler fever swamp. The bad president’s campaign slogan is “No Time For A Change.” Could this reference be any more obvious.

The seemingly friendly (white) father figure to the surface-dwelling orphans turns out to be a real robot-abusing creep. The orphans naively do his bidding. There is an almost pedophile-like quality to this character.

Also, Astro’s creator (ie, the dead boy’s father) rejects Astro. So, three white men are bad guys. The only good white guy is an Einstein-like Jewish “type”, a brainy and empathetic grandfatherly type.

It sometimes pains me to take my kids to these films. I guess you’ve got to take the good with that bad.

adam on October 24, 2009 at 11:54 pm

It seems like almost every time you review films that highlight issues of the black community you have to indulge in some sort of bizarre racist commentary. You don’t have to portray yourself as a full-on racist circa 1835 to stick it to the PC culture. I mean, you state that GOOD HAIR is a documentary about “Black women’s obsession with hair-relaxers and weaves-above all else in their lives” and then state that of course, you already knew this “fact”, having grown up in a black community. So black women place hair above all else in their lives? You know full well that the doc doesn’t make this claim, but you say that it does so that you can insert your personal beliefs about what black women’s priorities are and not seem off-topic for the movie review. You used a similar technique in the Precious review. As a member of Mensa, you certainly are quite able to discern that one of the major themes of the movie is that the welfare lifestyle is profoundly damaging to communities, families, and individuals. Yet a review about a movie with black actors just wouldn’t be complete without a rant about the inferior nature of black cultural contributions, so you purposely mischaracterized Precious as being based on a book of the “gangsta lit” genre so that you could attack the movie as glorifying welfare and go off on how ghetto and distasteful you think the artistic works of blacks are. It makes me sick when I hear some obnoxious progressive blithely spouting the most condescending, racist garbage and then in the next breath calling conservatives racist. Unfortunately, though, some of your movie reviews give these liberal idiots ammunition.

mb on June 11, 2010 at 4:51 am

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