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(Almost) Everybody Loves Chris Rock

(Almost) Everybody Loves Chris Rock (photo)

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When Chris Rock’s young daughter asked him one day why she didn’t have “good hair,” the comedian extraordinaire began thinking about the issues surrounding African-American women and their tresses — or rather, their painstakingly and expensively straightened or even artificial hair. Directed by Rock’s Emmy-winning collaborator Jeff Stilson (“The Chris Rock Show”), the hilarious and occasionally horrifying new doc “Good Hair” investigates beauty salon culture and the lengths black women go to for the sake of self-esteem and societal pressures.

Rock himself acts as our guide, interviewing scientists about the toxicity of sodium hydroxide relaxers, schoolteachers and other working-class people who overspend on weaves (hair that comes from heads in India, another stop on Rock’s journey), and celebrities like Ice-T, Maya Angelou and the man who modeled his mane after his buddy James Brown’s: Reverend Al Sharpton. Framing the whole investigation is a stop in Atlanta for the Bronner Bros. Hair Show, an annual trade industry event whose headline attraction is a wild, avant-coiffure showdown between the top stylists of black hair. I sat down with Rock and his small entourage (his make-up woman was applying powder that can’t be appreciated here!) to talk ‘dos, don’ts and the $5 million lawsuit against the movie that was reported mere hours before our chat.

Are you tired of talking about yourself today?

You know what, doing press for this movie isn’t that bad because it’s not talking about me that much. The topic’s actually bigger than me. Even the stuff I’m in, it’s just me, so it’s not like I have to make up this bullshit talk about a character: “What would the character do?” [laughs]

Then let’s talk “Good Hair.” You’ve obviously been familiar with African-American hair your whole life, so what specifically did you learn from this project?

What did I learn? The money aspect of it, especially when you’re talking about someone without money, how much they spend on their hair was mind-boggling. You know that relaxer burns, but you didn’t know it could eat through a can. Little stuff like that.

The film could be called an exposé. What do you hope audiences will take from this?

Art, to me, is a break from reality. I never looked at art as changing reality, [unless there’s] an accumulative effect. If there were nine of these movies, I guess it might change something, but I don’t know. What I look for is for people to laugh and have a good time, and hopefully, they’ll remember the last time they laughed at me. “Hey, I laughed at him before! This guy really makes me laugh.” This is what I hope to achieve. [laughs]

10082009_chrisrock4.jpgIt is funny when you point out the ridiculousness, but you also bring up significant issues since many people will spend their last dollar to not have “bad hair.” Could that be considered an addiction?

I think the whole country has an addiction, spending beyond their means. That’s quite evident by what’s been going on the last few years, with this housing stuff and what-not. Hair is not exempt from that. You could do an exposé on TVs and the amount sold to people that couldn’t afford them last year. Did you need the flat screen? Americans have an addiction of too much anything, and hair is just one of those things.

You still point to the possibility of a cultural reversal. In the ’70s, Pam Grier made natural hair cool and sexy, but now celebrities like Beyoncé have their fashion product deals, which perpetuate the problem. Would it take role models like her going natural to create a sea change?

Halle Berry was pretty natural, and that didn’t seem to affect anything. I don’t know, things are just a style. Natural will be back, because everything comes back. It’s just not coming back right now. I keep saying this movie will end weaves and relaxers like “We Are the World” ended world hunger. You make an attempt.

Trump Funny or Die

Art of the Spoof

Watch Johnny Depp, Jack McBrayer, Patton Oswalt and More in Funny or Die’s Donald Trump Biopic

Johnny Depp just got very classy.

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Photo Credit: Funny or Die

We’re barely halfway through February, but this year’s Too Many Cooks Award for the most bizarre comedy project is already a lock. Blindsiding the world with greatness without any warning, Funny or Die released a 50-minute Donald Trump parody starring an unrecognizable Johnny Depp as Donny.

Ron Howard introduces this “lost” 1988 TV movie adaptation of Trump’s how-to manual The Art of the Deal produced with the retro quality of a Wendy’s training video. Along for the big hair and shoulder pads flashback are Patton Oswalt, Alfred Molina, Todd Margaret‘s Jack McBrayer, Andy Richter, Rob Huebel, Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and Michaela Watkins as Ivana — as well as many Reagan-era surprises like a cameo from that loveable cat eater ALF and a theme song by Kenny Loggins.

Much like Eric Jonrosh of The Spoils Before Dying and The Spoils of Babylon fame, “Trump” writes, directs, and narrates his own epic tale of real estate wheelings-and-dealings. Check out the trailer below, and head over to Funny or Die to watch the full Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal movie before the real Donald sics his army of lawyers on Will Ferrell and company. (For more bizarro Johnny Depp characters, be sure to catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this month on IFC.)

C’mon, Get Unhappy

C’mon, Get Unhappy (photo)

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This week’s releases arrive draped in a pervasive air of dissatisfaction — Chris Rock’s daughter is unhappy with her hair, a ’70s feminist movement is unhappy with their options, and Jason Ritter and Jess Weixler are unhappy with each other. Elsewhere, British cultural icons are talked up while global corporate interests are torn down.

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“After The Storm”
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Oscar-winning filmmaker and activist James Lecesne’s decision to bring a production of the Off-Broadway musical “Once on This Island” to the storm-ravaged city of New Orleans was both obvious and inspired, with an extra layer of resonance provided in the casting of local kids affected firsthand by the disaster. Captured by director Hilla Medalia, this documentary takes us behind the scenes of the production to follow 12 young actors as they build characters on stage and rebuild their own lives offstage.
Opens in New York.

“Adventures of Power”
Ever since the explosion in popularity of “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” the act of enthusiastically pretending to play instruments that you really can’t isn’t only socially acceptable, it’s actively considered cool. Which might serve to negate a little bit of the absurdist humor in this underdog tale of an air drummer that was written and directed by Ari Gold, who also stars as the central bumpkin mineworker who uses his dad’s union’s copper mine strike as motivation to win the air drumming contest in New Jersey. Adding to the absurdity, Adrian Grenier joins his fictional “Entourage” agent’s namesake in a supporting cast that also includes Jane Lynch and Michael McKean.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on October 16th.

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The Five Worst Films Based on Comedy Sketches

The Five Worst Films Based on Comedy Sketches (photo)

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When it comes to the family of films based on comedy sketches, “Saturday Night Live” is Don Corleone, though in terms of quality, a more apt analogy might be Fredo, as the venerable late-night staple is responsible for some of the most inept cinematic yukfests of the past two decades. In the ’90s alone, a slew of spin-offs helped expand the show’s brand to movie theaters with negative results, with the movies often so awful that the show’s once-unimpeachable status as a comedy innovator slowly gave way to a new reputation as a program dedicated to creating recurring characters fit for lame celluloid treatment. As the only comedy show on TV with the clout to get its gossamer-thin bits blown up for the big-screen, “SNL” naturally dominates our roundup of the worst sketches turned into films, though Lorne Michaels can take minor solace from the fact that the one non-“SNL” film to make this dubious list stars a comedian who wouldn’t be appearing “Live from New York” until some years after its production. [You can find a list of the best films based on comedy sketches here.]

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