Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bones, or: Dog Eat Dogg

Renovating an old home can be a nightmare even when your main concerns are restoring the original hardwood flooring, replacing the ugly formica countertops, or finding vintage pieces that perfectly capture a feeling of rustic country charm. But DIY-ing a home haunted by the spirit of a wrongfully murdered man that may hide a direct connection to hell in the basement? Truly a situation where home renovation…can be murder. Which is a missed opportunity for this film’s tagline IMHO, though perhaps lacking some of the dog/Snoop Dogg puns central to this week’s film.

The Film:


The Premise:

After his mysterious death in the late ’70s, the spirit of local legend Jimmy Bones returns seeking vengeance on those responsible.

The Ramble:

In a once-thriving neighborhood, drug deals go down regularly, cops patrol the streets, and a black dog terrorizes the residents. Longtime resident of the neighborhood Shotgun narrowly escapes the dog’s jaws, but witnesses the dog turn its attention on two frat boys hiding from the cops after a drug deal. Could there be something…supernatural about this dog’s appearance? That’s a definite yes.

A graffiti-ed van is parked on the street in front of a 2-story brick house with a Gothic facade.

The dog seems to operate in and close proximity to the creepiest house around (naturally): an abandoned Gothic-style house that has fallen into disrepair. When young Patrick buys the property in the hopes of transforming it into a trendy nightclub along with his siblings and bff, the group may get much more than they bargained for.

As it turns out, the last owner of the property was one Jimmy Bones, played by none other than Snoop Dogg. In 1979, he was a legend in the neighborhood, even earning a song about his tough but fair protection of his own. What went wrong to leave the house in shambles and the angry ghost of Bones in the form of a dog haunting the neighborhood?

A group of four young people crowd around a spot on the floor of a dark, dusty room.

Though Patrick and his friends remain clueless, they can sense something isn’t quite right about the house. Neighbor Pearl (Pam Grier), a psychic, conceals her connection to Jimmy Bones, warning the friends to no avail while cautioning her daughter Cynthia to keep her distance. Of course, Cynthia pays no mind, especially since she finds Patrick quite charming.

A woman with an afro and a feather boa holds hands with a man wearing a wide-brimmed fedora and pinstripe suit.

When Patrick, Bill, Tia, and unofficial member of the family Maurice announce the big news at home, it doesn’t go over well. Father and head of the household Jeremiah once lived in the very neighborhood of Jimmy Bones but has long since traded it all in for a comfortable life in the ‘burbs. Clearly disdainful of the ‘hood culture he believes has corrupted the old neighborhood, Jeremiah discourages his children from having any association with that part of town. Could Jeremiah be hiding a terrible secret related to the fall of Jimmy Bones?

Meanwhile, corrupt cop Lupovich and drug dealer Eddie Mack seem to have run the neighborhood since Bones has been out of the picture. Do they have an unsavory past to hide as they seized control?

A young man rests on a bed, eyes closed, headphones on, as shiny black hands surround him.

The moral of the story here is that the house holds a secret that no one wants to surface…especially since the body of Jimmy Bones has the power to reanimate as his vengeful spirit dog consumes flesh.

However, the only thing that becomes increasingly clear throughout our story is that Jimmy Bones will be back, and he will very definitely seek out those who did wrong. And he’s absolutely dedicated to dramatic entrances that involve maggots and fire raining from the sky.

Will anyone survive Jimmy Bones’s revenge?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Okay, there were never going to be any Oscar nominations for this film. But it’s so entertainingly pulpy and over the top, with some unexpectedly relevant commentary on Black neighborhoods with a bad reputation. Drug dealers and law enforcement earn our disdain here, but so do members of the Black community who seek middle-class respectability at the expense of their friends and neighbors.

Of course, having a cast that includes the onscreen pairing of Pam Grier and Snoop Dogg, which I never knew I needed, doesn’t hurt. Plus Katharine Isabelle gets a supporting role, and I will never complain about that.

Even though the film is very much a tribute to campy B horror and blaxploitation, it’s truly creepy at times. There are effects that look incredibly low-budget, but there are also genuinely gross scenes with maggots and rotting flesh that are truly horrifying. Director Ernest Dickerson pulls no punches here, condemning several characters to grisly deaths and an eternity in hell.

But in a fun way?

Would my blog wife light a candle in this one’s memory or condemn it to hell for all time? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Shaft, or: We Can Dig It

Going into this week’s film, the only thing I could’ve told you for sure is that it has an incredibly catchy theme. Can the film Shaft keep up with its theme song…and will I ever be able to return to a time when its melody isn’t echoing in my brain?

The Film:

Shaft (1971)

The Premise:

A 1970s private eye searches for the missing daughter of a local mobster while trying to uncover the truth about a brewing race war.

The Ramble:

As the theme song tells us right off the bat, Shaft is a Black private eye, sex machine, and all-around bad mother. Currently, Shaft is watching his back as a couple of so-called cats from Harlem have been trying to track him down. Add to this a relationship with the police that oscillates between peace and hostility, and the situation is downright precarious.

A Black man with a small afro and large moustache walks while talking to a white detective in a trench coat.

It turns out there have been quite a few violent clashes between gangs lately, but the police have been unable to determine what exactly is brewing. When Shaft catches up with Flashy Plaid Coat and his partner, who have been tasked with tracking him down, it becomes clear that local mobster Bumpy Jonas is involved.

Because he sent one of Bumpy’s guys hurling through a window, Shaft is pressured by the police to find out what he can and fill in the details for them. At the same time, he’s an independent investigator and wants to maintain distance from the cops whenever possible.

Two Black men talk to another Black man who is seated in a cushioned office chair, smoking a cigar.

The pieces start to come together when Bumpy arrives at Shaft’s office and pleads for his help. As it turns out, Bumpy’s daughter has gone missing. Bumpy suspects Black Power activist Ben Buford is involved…though, of course, his whereabouts are unknown.

After finally locating Ben, Shaft is followed, and a shootout ensues. Five of Ben’s allies are now dead, and he believes this was all orchestrated by Shaft. However, it turns out Shaft was the target of the attack. Teaming up with Ben to find out the truth, Shaft learns that a race war between rival Black and Italian gangs is building…and that Bumpy knew all along Ben had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

A Black man covers the microphone end of a phone as he talks to a white woman next to him.

More sleuthing happens, Shaft shares a steamy shower scene with a random white lady, and our leading detective takes out his fridge gun for a final confrontation with the kidnappers. Can a complicated man save the day, prevent a race war, and still find time to be a sex machine?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

To be honest, the plot and supporting characters aren’t doing a lot to earn points for this film. However, it’s impossible not to enjoy the iconic theme, the film’s groovy ’70s feel, and Richard Roundtree in the now classic role. The music, the clothes, the hair, everyone calling each other “cat”–it instantly immerses us in the ’70s.

One of the few Blaxploitation films with a Black director, Shaft is refreshingly confident and cool. Watching the film now, nearly 50 years after its release, it’s clear how ready Black audiences must have been for the character of Shaft. Proud of his Blackness, able to slip between Black neighborhoods and white police detectives with ease, and shooting down racist taunts with clever comebacks, the character is one of a kind. There’s never any doubt in our minds that Shaft is going to coast through any and all trouble that comes his way.

I will admit this is certainly not a feminist masterpiece. There are love scenes with two different women, both of which exist to show what a sex machine Shaft is. And he is constantly trading banter about his love life and plans to get laid, which gets pretty tiresome. I guess “sex machine to all the chicks” makes for a catchier verse than “treats his sexual partners with respect and recognizes when discussions about relationship expectations are needed.”

Does my blog wife agree this one is a bad mother or think it would cop out when there’s danger about? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Proud Mary, or: They See Me Rollin' on a River

There’s an odd comfort in a mob war movie. Possibly because they’re all taking similar cues from The Godfather or dispensing a brutal but simple version of street justice. However, at the moment, I think the main comfort is seeing a danger that’s easily dealt with and dispensed…which is decidedly not true for the global pandemic and health emergency we’re currently facing. Plus Taraji P. Henson kicking ass is never a bad idea…right?

The Film:

Proud Mary

The Premise:

A hit woman for the mob runs into complications after taking out a target whose young son is in the next room.

The Ramble:

The titular Mary is an assassin for the mob in Boston, with an aim that is precise and unwavering. After many years of efficiently killing for her father figure, Benny, Mary is disturbed one evening when she kills a man whose young son is playing video games in the next room. Wracked with guilt, Mary keeps tabs on the boy, Danny.

An African-American woman sits at a desk, stirring a cup of tea she is holding.

The next year doesn’t go particularly well for Danny. With both parents out of the picture, Danny becomes an errand boy for Uncle, a member of another Boston crime family. Though transporting significant amounts of drugs and cash back and forth, Danny sleeps rough on park benches and is in constant danger from the mob and others lurking in the sketchier parts of town.

A woman wearing a leather jacket walks next to a preteen boy wearing a hoodie as they walk through a park, the cityscape of Boston behind them.

Because Mary has been looking out for Danny, she helps him when he eventually passes out in an alley after receiving a nasty head wound. Suspicious when he wakes up in a stranger’s apartment, Danny is keen to take his backpack and leave. However, Mary first decides to pay Uncle a visit to remind him of his manners. Predictably, things go horribly wrong, and Mary knocks off several members of the rival gang.

Should anyone discover Mary is responsible for the killings, it will spell trouble for both her and her adopted family. To cover her tracks, Mary immediately starts casting doubt around fellow mob member Walter, who has beef with the other family. The only problem is her ex (and Benny’s son) isn’t buying this, but Mary manages to get the ok to take out Walter.

An older African-American man sits in an office chair, wearing a suit. He looks serious and has worry lines across his forehead.

Meanwhile, an attack on Benny and his crew reveals the rival gang’s commitment to escalate the mob war regardless of what happens to Walter. Tom also finds out that Danny is living with Mary and becomes suspicious of this entire arrangement. At Benny’s insistence, Mary and Danny attend a birthday party for his wife. Because her character is written as an idiot, Mary reveals to Benny that she plans to get out of the mob, despite his status as her boss/father figure. Extremely bad idea.

I’m not sure how much more detail I can go into without my eyes rolling into the back of my head. Suffice it to say, things escalate further. The rival mob is a problem, Benny is a problem, and Mary’s assassination of Danny’s father is a problem.

Also an issue? How disappointingly bad this film is.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Oh my god, every single character in this film is insufferably stupid. Considering two of them are played by Taraji P. Fucking Henson and Danny Glover, this is unforgivable.

This film is almost immediately bad, as things are set up in a way that makes it difficult to care about any of the characters. First, it’s difficult to understand why Mary feels so much guilt about this particular murder of Danny’s father. Surely she’s killed other men in their 30s before, and statistically at least some of them had children? It’s also an odd choice for Mary to intervene only after Danny has experience a head trauma; his life in the entire year leading up to this wasn’t exactly a cake walk. Throughout the film, it seems like Mary has a special connection to Danny, i.e. is secretly his mother(?!?!?!), but this is never a revelation that happens. There needs to be some reason Mary feels connected to Danny–but there never really is, so their relationship, which should be the driving force here, falls miserably flat.

The relationships between the other characters are also incredibly underdeveloped. One: since Benny has been like a father to Mary, you’d think these two characters would know each other better. However, they don’t seem to know each other at all, and have to seriously spell out their exact thoughts and feelings to each other in awfully written dialogue. The same is true for Mary’s relationship with Tom, which used to be romantic, yet now she describes as brotherly? Gross gross gross.

The motivations are also super stupid for all of the characters, and Mary’s eagerness to leave the mob life behind seems to come out of nowhere. We’re given no sense of what’s going on in her brain throughout the film, so her decisions almost never make sense.

On the bright side, we do get a rather nice ass-kicking scene set to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” But it takes us a really long time to get there, and it ends up being too little too late.

Would my blog wife spare this film or unhesitatingly pull the trigger? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Coffy, or: Cream & Sugar

I can’t believe this free blogging month is nearly over–though, of course, October is truly the most wonderful time of the year on the Blog Collab. The challenge this year will be out-doing a film featuring Pam Grier with a shotgun; honestly, should we just call it a day and try again in 2020?

The Film:


The Premise:

A woman seeks revenge against the drug ring responsible for her sister’s heroin addiction.

The Ramble:

If you can’t handle a ‘70s vibe, get out of this kitchen, as this is possibly the most ’70s film you will watch.

Outside of an extremely retro nightclub, a junkie waits for the big time drug dealer inside.  She will do anything to get a hit—a rather more appealing prospect to the dealer when it turns out the junkie is Coffy, played by Pam Grier.

Upon retiring to a private apartment, Coffy reveals she’s had an ulterior motive all along:  rather than a junkie, she is a woman seeking vengeance against those she holds responsible for her sister’s addiction to heroin.  Both the dealer and his driver fail to live past this night.

A nurse by day, Coffy visits her sister in rehab every week–not the typical stone-hearted killer. Though in a relationship with Howard, a hopeful for an upcoming congressional race, her boyfriend is keen to keep their relationship out of the public eye. Perhaps his reasons for the secrecy move beyond commitment issues? (Hint: they totally do.)

After her ex-boyfriend cop, Carter, is put in a coma, Coffy has added incentive to take down the drug dealers, police officers, and political insiders victimizing the black community. When she confronts a sex worker, Coffy gains intel about the local drug ring and the role of dealer and pimp King George–aka the most stereotypically ’70s pimp to ever grace the silver screen.

Posing as a sex worker, Coffy uses her connection with King George to root out the creeps at the top of the pyramid. Though she has things all sorted out to take care of dealer Vitroni (including gun smuggled in a child’s stuffed lion), Coffy’s plan is foiled when Carter’s partner, a corrupt cop, recognizes her and tips off his boss.

Out of her depth and with no friends to be found, how will Coffy manage to save the day and take down a massive drug ring all by herself?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ll start with the jarring elements of the film: there is a LOT of nudity here that feels EXTREMELY male gaze-y. The standouts here are the cringey cat fight between Coffy and one of the sex workers, as well as the gross scene after Carter is beaten where one of the assailants rather casually attempts to rape Coffy.

As a blaxploitation film, there are some ways in which race is addressed well…and others that feel incredibly problematic. A leading contributor to this is the weirdness of a mostly black cast in a film written and directed by a white man. The way King George meets his end, being dragged behind a car with a noose, is the absolute worst. And while the film’s message isn’t to endorse racism, it does have a voyeuristic feel that makes me wonder if there are people today who genuinely enjoy this scene.

However, the film is very much ahead of its time in its anti-drug themes, and the way it connects these to structural racism in politics and law enforcement. It’s truly tragic the way these ideas will be completely ignored during and in the aftermath of the war on drugs.

The real highlight is, of course, Pam Grier. She succeeds in being a tough but tender lead who is as comfortable wielding a shotgun as caring for her sister. Additionally, she’s a genius at hiding sharp objects in her ‘fro.

I give maximum points for this film’s tagline:   “They call her Coffy, and she’ll cream you.”

Would my tough as nails blog wife give this one a cuddle or bring on the shotgun? Read her review here to find out!