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2015 A Good Year – Happy Hols/New Year From Marlon Palmer (Kush Director)

Marlon Palmer




Greetings and salutations (Friends, Fans, Associates & Film Lovers),

It’s December (once again, LOL!) and almost time to end this year and bring in another New Year. Well after we have stuffed our faces, drank more than we can handle and immersed ourselves with family we both love and hate – well it’s got to be done!

This year from a film standpoint of view has been good, starting off with the January release of the much-talked about Selma and then Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ in May; two films we worked on. Paramount Pictures actually hired Kush Promotions & PR to market Top Five in 7 cities of the UK and allowed us to manage the budget. To allow us to manage the budget and nationwide-wide campaign was a justification of the 17 years of hard work and determination I have put in developing this business. After May PR work kind of dried up for us as the next big urban releases were from distributors who appear to have an issue with me/Kush; LOL! It appears I have told off the Head of International Marketing at both Sony Pictures and Universal over the years and I have not been forgiven TopFivePoster_smll(daam, I only told them the truth about their poor marketing of particular urban film) well seems like i’m “Blacklisted” – so be it – I will always speak my mind and tell the truth if some don’t like it, so be it! Was upset though, that we missed out on hip-hop films Dope and Straight Outta Compton; Sony & Universal film releases respectively.

Anyway the break away from Film-Marketing/PR was a Godsend (it was needed) as it allowed me to get back fully-focussed on the wide-ranging development of Kush Media. Something I wasn’t truly able to do for two straight years from October 2013 – May 2015 as Kush Promotions & PR became the go-to Specialist Independent PR Company marketing all black films month-after-month here in the UK (shhh! The remuneration was nice though). We also got to work on films like ‘Starred Up’ starring Jack O’Connell and The Maze Runner.

The breakaway allowed me to re-assess things and from that the ‘Kush Film Boutique’ was relaunched and in all that I do (even though it can be hard work) these days; I get the most satisfaction out of seeing the joy, dismay, shock, horror and amazement on patrons faces at our screenings – the wonders of film!

PR/Marketing work paid Kush well, and I strived hard to get to that position and be paid well but during the Top Five campaign earlier this year I realised that I wasn’t enjoying the work, it wasn’t why I started Kush Promotions back in 1998 and sitting in my office managing people (especially some of the difficult people I had to manage across the UK) became all so ‘Soulless’.

I had lost the joy of what I was doing daily and to wrap this part up – I believe in life to truly be successful you have to be fulfilling your life’s purpose and embracing daily the joy of all that you offer – once you lose that joy it’s time to reassess!

Anyway it’s going to be a very exciting end to the year with the massive impending release this week of Star Wars: The Force Awakens starring local Peckham Lad John Boyega whom we star-wars-force-awakens-posthankfully had time to meet whilst managing PR/Marketing for the film “Half A Yellow Sun” last year.

Straight away from speaking to John I knew he would be a star he was so down to earth, well-spoken and assured in his manner – definitely a star in the making and I said so at the time.

I can’t wait to see how well he exudes his persona off the big screen as the character ‘Finn’ in this massive blockbuster film; I’m sure he has done a fine job otherwise we would have heard already especially with all the earlier ignorant social media commotion about a “Black Stormtrooper”.

I won’t even go into that foolishness as it will bring down the tone of my newsletter and inveigle me into talking about dumb people from another galaxy!

Congratulations to rising star John Boyega and all the other British actors in the film (Daisy Ridley), and as a Star Wars fan it’s also great to see the old stars back; Harrison Ford as Hans Solo, Mark

John Boyega

Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and of course Chewbacca.

As you may have guessed I’m a sci-fi nut and love all films that expand our psyche to places unknown in the big ole galaxy. Bring on Superman vs Batman, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond (with Idris Elba) and daam give me Black Panther now!!

Don’t forget get your tickets for ‘The Force Awakens’ this weekend! I’ve Got Mine

Wishing you all a fantastic Christmas, a blessed Kwaanza and a harmonious Eid plus a totally great New Year.

Keep Believing and doing!
Marlon Palmer

Rising star Gabrielle Union definitely in our Top Five!

Written By Cheryl Rock


In over 20 years of TV and film career, Gabrielle Union has starred in many high grossing films ranging from ‘Bring It On’, Bad Boys 2 and the Think Like A Man franchise. She also stars on TV in the BET network, “Being Mary Jane” drama series. These hits, have all aided her to be in the respected position she is in now.

Gabrielle is currently staring with Chris Rock in the Comedy Romance, Top Five, as his soon-to-be married obsessed TV reality fiancé Erica Long. The film is about Andre Allen (Rock) who is a comedian/actor who became a star featuring in a film trilogy of action comedies as a talking Bear. But now wants to be taken as a serious actor. He is forced to spend the day with reporter Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) where he is forced to face his past and current demons.

The cast was given freedom to make their respective characters their own. She appreciated Chris Rock’s trust. “He’s not driven by his way, so it’s nice to have that collaborative effort and feel like I’m working with an artist,”

Union takes her film roles seriously. While being interviewed for Page Six, she shared that she almost went bald when she dyed her hair blonde. “Some people gain weight for a role, I practically went bald for a role. I lost so much hair!”

An interview on The Angie Martinez radio Show back in Dec 2014, Gabrielle stated that it is still challenging for black women to take on comedy roles in Hollywood. “There’s not a lot of smart comedies where they want a black woman. They want us shucking and jiving’ and cooning, that’s where they’re most comfortable having a black woman. So to get a role like Tina Fey, smart, edgy, more cerebral humour…no, they’re going to get Tiny Fey. They’re going to get Amy Poehler, they going to get Rashida Jones…that crew.”

Her biggest career accomplishment is being an Executive Producer on the Lifetime TV movie “With This Ring” which aired earlier on this year. She feels it is important to be able to employ and create opportunities for others, and if that isn’t the case then you really are not contributing anything, and Gabrielle Unionshe felt she wasn’t doing anything of substance, until she became a Producer.

That might be a little harsh on yourself Gabrielle. In 2010, Union launched Love & Blessings, a clothing line for plus-sized women and creating her own wine called Vanilla Pudding, which was launched 2014.

She is due to star in ‘The Birth of A Nation’ which is in pre-production. The biopic is about the infamous slave ‘Nat Turner’ who led a bloody slave rebellion in 1831. Having received religious visions, Turner and a team of approximately 70 rebel slaves, killed between 55 to 65 white people in Virginia — the most ever white folks killed in a slave uprising in America.

The film features Nate Parker, who wrote the script and will be his directorial debut. Aja Naomi King, Aunjanue Ellis, Armie Hammer, and Dwight Henry. Filming is due to start in May in Savanah, Georgia.

Coming Soon: Movie Preview May-June 2015

Written by Graeme Wood


As we head towards summer it’s that time of the year when distributors start the build up to what has traditionally become blockbuster season, full of often overblown special effects and family friendly releases. So let’s take a look ahead to some of these and the other notable big screen offerings coming up in the next week few weeks.

First up on the 1st May brings “BAD LAND: ROAD TO FURY”, director Jake Paltrow’s futuristic drama of a time when water is hard to find and a teenage boy sets out on a quest to survive the wastelands and protect his family. Starring Nicholas Hoult (X-Men), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel) and Elle Fanning.


Also opening on 1st May is Thomas Vinterberg’s interesting take of Thomas Hardy’s FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD starring Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge. For those who enjoy their period drama with an edge this Victorian tale of the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene and her suitors will provide sumptuous enjoyment.


The sequel to 2010’s sci-fi thriller “MONSTERS – DARK CONTINENT is also in cinemas from 1st May, set ten years after the original film and this time directed by Tom Green. The film stars Johnny Harris, Sam Keely and Joe Dempsie. It’s all out war this time around as Infected Zones have now spread worldwide and in the Middle East a new insurgency has begun. At the same time there has also been a proliferation of Monsters in the region forcing the Army to draft in more troops in order to deal with the onslaught.


Celine Sciamma’s “GIRLHOOD finally hits theatres on May 8th, the film saw a lot of interest at last year’s Cannes and BFI Film Festival’s. This dark thriller tells the story of Marieme and her search for identity in the suburbs of Paris Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school and future prospects Marieme joins an all-girl gang, falling under their influence she begins to make brave and foolish choices.


TV’s spy thriller Spooks gets this big screen treatment in this follow up to the decade long running series – “SPOOKS-THE GREATER GOOD”, directed by Bharat Nalluri. It stars Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), Peter Firth (Spooks), Jennifer Ehle and Elyes Gabel. When a terrorist escapes custody during a routine handover, Will Crombie (Harrington) must team up with disgraced MI5 head Harry Pearce (Firth) to track him down before an imminent terrorist attack on London. On general release from May 8th.


As you should know by now if you are a regular user of this site on general release from May 8th is the Chris Rock’s long awaited “TOP FIVE” movie, written and directed by Rock, this thoughtful comedy also stars Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, Tracy Morgan and Kevin Hart. A box office and critical smash in the US this should be worth checking out.

May 15th
sees the arrival of ‘LAMBERT AND STAMP a documentary film of the unlikely partnership of Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert. In the early ‘60s the aspiring duo set out to make a documentary about London’s dissatisfied youth, instead they discovered and mentored the volatile young R&B band that would later become The Who. Featuring contributions from the band themselves and historical footage this should prove a fine contribution to The Who’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and celebration of the duo who helped launch what many feel were the greatest rock’n’roll band who ever toured.


The sequel to 2012’s comedy hit ‘PITCH PERFECT 2’, directed by Elizabeth Banks, also arrives in UK Cinemas on May 15th and reunites most of the original cast, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow. The film sees the Barden Bellas enter an international a cappella competition that no American team has ever won before with, no doubt, hilarious consequences!


George Miller’s re-imagined “MAD MAX-FURY ROAD” hits IMAX 3D screens the same weekend starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, in which people fight to the death, Max teams up with a mysterious woman, Furiousa, to try and survive. With breathtaking New South Wales vistas and some impressive vehicles and hardware there should be thrills and spills aplenty but the film has a lot to live up to for those who enjoyed the original trilogy.


Superior 80s horror “POLTERGEIST” gets the reboot/remake treatment on 22nd May this time in 3D for added jump out of your seat frights. Directed by Gil Kenan the film stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jane Adams.


Heralding the start of summer blockbusters season comes Disney’s hotly anticipated “TOMORROWLAND: A WORLD BEYOND” on May 22nd, starring George Clooney, Britt Robinson and Hugh Laurie. This Sci-Fi adventure sees a curious teen and former boy-genius inventor unite to embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. The trailer doesn’t reveal much but is enigmatic enough to make want you to see more!


Also on general release May 22nd is director Shion Sono’s cult hit ‘TOKYO TRIBE, set in an alternate Japan where territorial street gangs form opposing factions, known as the Tokyo Tribes. When Merra, leader of the Wu-Ronz tribe crosses the line to conquer all of Tokyo – all out martial arts war ensues.


Rounding off on May 29th is the disaster movie “SAN ANDREAS” directed by Brad Peyton (Mysterious Island/Cats and Dogs) and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alexandra Daddario and Carla Gugino. In the aftermath of a massive Californian earthquake a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter.


June 5th brings the third chapter of the “INSIDIOUS” horror strand, this time around it’s a prequel set before the haunting of the Lambert family and following gifted psychic Elise Rainer as she uses her abilities to contact the dead. Directed by Leigh Whannell, the film starts Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott and Angus Simpson.


June 5th also finally brings Writer/Director Debbie Tucker Green’s “SECOND COMING” to general release. Starring Idris Elba and Nadine Marshall. Tucker’s feature film debut poses a bold question – what if a modern day, middle class British woman found herself miraculously pregnant? The film challenges the audience and boasts riveting performances from the cast particularly Francis Lewis as Marshall’s young son Jerome.


June 12th sees the hotly anticipated ‘JURASSIC WORLD opening, directed by Colin Trevorrow and starring Chris Pratt, Judy Greer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Ty Simpkins. This continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise is set 22 years after the original’s events and in a fully functional theme park but when visitor rates fall the corporate mandate to increase profits results in a hybrid attraction being created – naturally this backfires with disastrous results!


The ‘ENTOURAGE” movie arrives June 19th, picking up where the TV series left off, written by Doug Ellin and Rob Weiss and directed by Doug Ellin. The film reunites Adrian Grenier, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connolly together with an all star guest cast as Vincent Chase is back in business and back with his boys and navigating Hollywood’s cut-throat world.


The intriguing horror ‘KNOCK, KNOCK’ arrives on June 26th, from a screenplay by Eli Roth, Nicholas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo and directed Eli Roth. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Colleen Camp, Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo. Two nubile women reveal a sinister agenda after they spend the night with a married architect and proceed to turn his life upside down.

Read ‘A Conversation with Chris Rock’ talking about life & his new film Top Five

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
© 2015 Par. Pics.




QUESTION: What did you set out to write a movie about? What impulse did the story come out of?

CHRIS ROCK: I wanted to make a movie that felt like my stand-up, you know, with that kind of edge that made people laugh, and made people uncomfortable, and was sweet, and edgy at the same time. I hadn’t felt I’d done that yet—in the movies.

Q: Early on, did you know that you wanted the main character to be a guy who had done stand-up and acting?
CR: Early on I definitely knew I wanted to play a comedian. I always liked the Seinfeld show and I always liked Louis CK’s show, and I always liked “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and even the movie Lenny —which isn’t a comedy. When I looked at those guys with those TV shows, I thought—there’s an idea for a movie about a day in the life of a comedian. And, you know, we made it a high stakes day, but it’s still a day in the life.

Q: A high stakes day with a lot of flashbacks.
CR: Yeah, a lot of flashbacks. Weirdly—even today, I’ve been doing press since I woke up; today in my life is not a lot different from the day that the movie takes place. You know, I literally just left Charlie Rose, who interviewed me, and now I’m with you, and I gotta do something for BET later, so I’m living my own version of Andre’s day right now.

Q: What was the thinking behind having the movie take place all in one day, and in New York?
CR: You gotta write what you know, right? And anybody that’s ever made a movie knows there’s nothing like the Friday your movie comes out. It’s hard to describe—it’s like the Olympics in a sense, how two years, or five years, or even in some cases movies take ten years of your life—and all of that can be summed up in one day. In one day you literally know if success or failure’s gonna happen. That was the idea behind the events of the movie taking place in a single day. Do the Right Thing took place in one day. Many of the Linklater movies happen in one day. I thought it would keep us honest too—and it does make you write harder. It can be limiting, but it made me work to come up with certain solutions for things; there are probably no flashbacks if the movie doesn’t take place in a day, you know what I mean? But honestly, making the movie in one day was more freeing than having the movie take place over 20 years.

Q: What about New York City?
CR: I love New York movies. I love Woody and Nora Ephron and Spike. But one thing I always notice about movies in New York—it’s not even a bad thing, but they always take place in one part of New York. It’s very segregated. It’s like they happen just in one part of the city. My New York shifts economically a lot, you know. One minute you’re in the projects, and one minute you’re at a press junket, and those things can be five minutes apart. In New York, you’re always five minutes away from the projects no matter where you are. It’s the beautiful thing about New York. Let’s hope that never disappears. The poor and the rich kind of live close by. And I wanted to see that in the movie.

Q: Talk about the scene where Andre takes Chelsea back to the neighborhood, because you get this sense that the old neighborhood is right there.
CR: It is right there. CNN’s studio and the Apollo Theater are ten minutes apart, you know what I mean?—and they’re in totally different worlds.

Q: Do you think Andre is totally comfortable with the fact that the old neighborhood is always a step away?
CR: You know it just is what it is. That scene—the return to the old block—works because it’s not a big deal to step from a junket in midtown into the projects, because it just happens. It’s just a normal thing. In a lot of ways the movie’s about the slight difference in black fame and white fame. And yeah, I got relatives that live in the projects. Most of my relatives don’t make a lot of money, and if I want to go see my aunt, or my cousin, I’m gonna have to probably go to a not great neighborhood to see them. And I don’t see them every day. I don’t even see them every month, but they’re used to seeing me, you know what I mean. It’s not a big thing. When I go to a family reunion, I don’t get served chicken first, like they’re serving an old person. It’s not like, “Oh, Chris Rock’s here.” I’m just Chrissy, and I gotta wait.

Q: But is it a big thing in the neighborhood when you visit?
CR: It’s a big thing when I go back to my neighborhood, but it’s kind of not much bigger than if I was a doctor. More people are coming to see my car than to see me honestly.   “Shit, it’s a Porsche,” you know. Some kids come that don’t know me, but they’ll come because they know I’m buying ice cream. But if you’re buying ice cream they’d be around you too. You buy them ice cream one time, it’s—you’re the ice cream guy.

Q: What movies did you find yourself watching in preparation for the film?
CR: Collateral’s a movie I watched a lot because it’s all at night, and most of this movie takes place at night. Another movie I watched a lot, another night movie, was Belly, directed by Hype Williams; every shot is just amazing. It has all these great slow-mos. Some people really know how to shoot the night. Some people really know how to make the night much more exciting than the day. And in a sense New York is kind of more—New York’s absolutely more beautiful at night than in the day, you could say.

Q: What was the toughest job on this movie as a director?
CR: The big challenge as a director is always just working with limited resources. And—by the way—it’s challenging but also freeing. It’s challenging ’cause you gotta really, really, really make absolute decisions on the fly. You really don’t have time to get coverage of everything. You just don’t. But it’s freeing because sometimes people direct in a way that’s just scared. Sometimes when you have too much money it’s just scared directing, and “Let’s get every angle, and let’s get everything we possibly can”, and it just comes out of a place of fear. Instead of creating, you’re just covering your ass. Not having a ton of money makes you think more clearly about the task at hand.

Q: Did the director part of you ever have to say to the writer part of you— “I know you love that scene, but we’re gonna move on?”
CR: Oh yeah. One of the problems was the actor actually had to have more power than the director because—the movie doesn’t work without the actor giving his best performance. Directors guide performances, but also me, as an actor, I had to make sure I absolutely had what I wanted. When I did a scene, I did it all the way—I made it funny until it wasn’t funny. And that’s what happens, you kind of—you reach a plateau. You get up there, and you keep going and going with it, and then it starts getting unfunny. And I think you have to always be trying to make sure you got as much funny out of each scene as possible. So, you know, in a lot of scenes the actor overrode the director.

Q: Was there any scene that was particularly challenging for you as an actor?
CR: The scene in the projects was challenging only because it wasn’t really written out. A lot of it was improvved, and it was—literally it was like Double Dutch, like “OK, where do I fit in? Where do I get in? Where do I get in? Where do I get in?” You got all these guys joking—joke after joke after joke coming—with these hungry, young comedians coming in like they’re in the ring, and they’re ChrisRocktrying to kill you. They want your job, you know what I mean? And I gotta show these boys, “Hey, I’m Chris motherfucking Rock, dude.” I gotta really bring it. I’m expected to be funnier than these guys. So that was a challenging scene just as an actor, and trying to be funnier than these guys while still being in character, and having it make sense in the context of the movie. Actually one of the hard parts is Rosario and I really like each other—and I mean in a respectful way—and a lot of time it wasn’t conducive for us to like each other in different parts of the movie. We have fun together—we’re friends. But a lot of times, you know, I’d watch myself and I could see—we’d have goo-goo eyes for each other. And I’d say, let’s tone it down…. I’ve heard Hanks and Meg Ryan had the same problem—like, “Okay, we’re not supposed to like each other until an hour from now.” So, that was—I don’t want to say hard—but it was challenging.

Q: Have shows like “Louie” and “Seinfeld” made it possible to do a movie like this?
CR: Well, shows like “Louie” and “Seinfeld,” and even reality TV and “Entourage” . . . doing a movie that’s behind the scenes of show business isn’t as inside as it used to be. Twenty years ago this is an art movie. A day in the life of a guy selling a movie—it’s like, who the hell knows what you’re talking about? But now there’s so much behind the scenes stuff—not just in TV and movies, but in magazines and whatnot, you can see there’s a real hunger for it. So yes, all of that stuff makes it easier to do this.

Q: One thing that really struck me about this movie is your character is really vulnerable.
CR: I thought playing somebody that didn’t have it together was a little more interesting. I’ve played safer people. Andre, you know, his movie is not gonna be received well, and he’s kind of a cheat, and he’s kind of an alcoholic, and he’s kind of a hack too. He gets by doing the least amount of work—and it certainly makes for a more interesting character to play, than if you’re playing someone who is kind of perfect.

Q: Did you see Andre at all as the road you didn’t take?
CR: He’s definitely in some ways the road I didn’t take. I never did the buddy cop, you know—I got offers, but that never appealed to me. I never did my fake Trading Places, or fake Beverly Hills Cop, or whatever. Eddie did that stuff—so I never wanted to copy that. I’ve always wanted to kind of blaze a new trail. I don’t think I have a Hammy the Bear. Though I am the zebra in Madagascar, it’s not exactly the same thing.

Q: You must’ve put a lot of thought into what you wanted your character to say about each performer he mentioned in his top five comedians of all time.
CR: I don’t want to say the scene where Andre lists his top five comedians was ad-libbed—that’s just how I feel about those people. Just like Andre says, I did see Eddie Murphy perform within a week of Michael Jackson, and Eddie Murphy was better. When Eddie Murphy was a stand-up, Eddie Murphy was as good as Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen—whoever—he was that dynamic a performer. Unfortunately, you know, people are probably never gonna see that again. He was that good. I feel that way about Charlie Chaplin. I think he invented this whole thing, and I love Woody, and Pryor is the most ruthlessly honest man who’s ever lived, you know. I frankly didn’t put a lot of thought into it when we were shooting that scene. All of that thought happened, you know, 30 years ago when I started doing stand-up.

Q: What’s the relationship in the movie between the stuff that you wrote and the stuff that you or somebody else improvised?
CR: I wrote a script and there is some improvisation. Now you can’t let everybody improv. Tracy Morgan can improv, you know what I mean. But what I tried to do, what I learned in this movie, what I’m trying to say all the time now is, “Yeah it’s my movie, yeah it’s my script—but it’s your part. I TopFive-production3wouldn’t even call it improvving, you just let people make the role their own. “Take this part from me,” you know what I mean. When you cast an actor I feel you gotta hire your boss. They have to be in charge of their part ’cause when the movie’s over—if they didn’t make it their part—you hired the wrong person. It has to be theirs. Like Rosario—that is her part man. Gabrielle Union—that is her part, she owned it, she had extensive notes through the whole process and made lots of improvements. Tracy, JB, the same. And in this movie more so than movies I directed in the past, I was really open to what the actors had to bring.

Q: How about for yourself?
CR: I did not stick to everything I wrote, no. I stuck to the emotion of the scene. That’s the big thing. “Okay—what should happen in this scene?” When you’re watching a good movie you don’t even need the sound, you know. How many times have you been flipping the channels and you’d be able to tell something sucks without hearing a word? You try to make the camera and the emotion of the actors tell the story. So I didn’t really get hung up per se on the words. There was a lot of “let me try it this way, let me try it that way.” And I’ve never done that in movies before. I’ve always kind of stuck to the script and always used to say the best ad lib is the one you wrote yesterday. That’s always been my motto. I got out of that. I got out of that. You can create while you’re there. It’s nice to have written something yesterday too, just in case. It’s nice to have a couple of bullets in your chamber. But yeah, you try to be in the moment, and it can always get better, so why not give it a shot.

Q: Did you like the guy you were playing?
CR: Do I like Andre Allen? No I did not like the guy I was playing. The guy was kind of a hack, and that’s enough for me. The guy took the easy road, the guy did things for money. I liked who he was becoming, so I like him at the end of the movie, but during the movie he’s not really likeable per se. He’s likeable because of his talent, but not, you know, for the man he is.

Q: Did he change at all in your head from when you wrote him and when you played him?
CR: Yeah, I did feel some sympathy for him as time went on. I mean it’s hard to turn down a lot of money, man. It’s hard. I’ve managed to do it, but it’s hard. You know, it’s hard to assume you’re gonna work tomorrow. I remember the first time I had a meeting with Scott Rudin, he’s like— “What’s your five year plan?” I’m like, “Dude, I’d be happy if I’m doing this next year,” you know. That’s the way I look at it. I try to look ahead financially, but you know, I can’t take things for granted in this business. So, yeah I did have more feeling for that guy.

Q: Can you envision a time when you won’t ever want to return to stand-up?
CR: Here’s the thing with stand-up—I love doing standup, it’s my most favorite thing in the world. But there’s a part of me that’s kind of painted myself in a corner. I’m kind of in the fastball business. The kind of stand-up I do, I don’t know how long I’m gonna be able to do it and hit like that. People don’t normally hit like that for long periods of time, you know? There is a line in the LL Cool J song ‘I’m Bad’ that goes: “I’m bad, other rappers know when I enter the center, they say, yo, yo, there he go!” And I’ve gotten to the point in comedy where when I enter the center, they say yo, yo, there he go. The center is where all the rappers hang out and the center is where they all rap. This was before there was even rap records. I’ll do stand-up as long as I’m bad, as long as when I enter all the comedians say—‘Yo, yo, there he go.’ I like being that guy. I’m shy about a lot of other things, and I’m humble and I love the craft, but man, I was bad for so long that now that I’m kind of good—I don’t ever want to go back to being the guy who sucked. I like my slot, I like that people expect me to be really good when I do it. So I hope and pray that I don’t spend too much money, and when I’m not throwing fastballs, when I’m not knocking people out—that I quit. But until then, I’m gonna do it. As long as I could hurt you, I’m gonna do it.

Q: Doesn’t that involve staying hungry in a way? How do you do that when you’re successful?
CR: Yeah, it does involve staying hungry, but to me stand-up ain’t about money, it ain’t about chicks, or whatever. It’s just—I like being good, man. I want to be good. I’m just hungry. First of all, you gotta not be satisfied. I don’t think I’ve ever touched Richard Pryor. I don’t think I’ve done anything as good as “Live on the Sunset Strip” or, you know, “Wanted,” or “Richard Pryor Live in Concert.” I don’t think I’ve done “Eddie Murphy: Raw” or “George Carlin: Class Clown,” you know what I mean?—there’s a whole level I could get to. I still got a ways to go, so a lot of the hunger is not monetarily motivated, the hunger is motivated by the craft. I want to be able to make people feel, and I haven’t done . . . I’ve had success, I’ve made people laugh really loud, I guess, but have I made them feel?—you know, that’s the real question.

Q: Is that something you cannot get from making movies?
CR: You can get it from making movies, but movies aren’t stand-up. If you go out to see a stand-up, a big stand-up, you go to Radio City Music Hall and see Dave Chappelle, and he’s amazing, what movie are you gonna see this year that’s as good as Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall? There’s a reason the ticket’s 12 dollars to see the movie and the tickets 80 bucks to see Dave Chappelle. Luther Vandross used to say—anybody can make people scream, but can you make people quiet? Can you quiet them down? I remember seeing Luther. I wasn’t on tour with Luther, I was actually on tour with Al B. Sure of all people. Remember Al B. Sure? I was Al B. Sure’s opening act, and we would do club dates during the week, and on the weekend he would open for Luther at the Budweiser Superfest, and I remember watching Luther Vandross following Patti LaBelle, following New Edition, following MC Hammer, following, you know, Babyface and The Deele, following all of this—following Rick James even—and Luther Vandross got 30,000 people in Fulton County Stadium to get quiet. He got them quiet doing, you know, “If This World Were Mine,” or whatever. Total command of the audience—and you can’t do that with no movie. There’s no movie as good as that, you know.

Q: Talk about Woody Allen.
CR: Woody owns New York. He does. I grew up like everybody else watching Woody. I’m aging myself, but I remember going to the movies in New York, they’d have the 4:30 movie and sometimes it’d be Monster Week on the 4:30 movie, or it’s Abbott and Costello week on the 4:30 movie. I remember when I was a kid it was Woody Allen week on the 4:30 movie and it was Sleeper and Take the Money and Run and all the silly ones—Play it Again, Sam—and I’ve just loved Woody since I was a kid. And I guess you can draw a connection between Andre Allen, and Alvy Singer—there’s some connection there. But there’s also a connection to Spike, and to Nora Ephron, and to Sidney Lumet.

Q: Is Andre based on anyone in particular?
CR: Andre’s not based on anyone in particular. He’s got just a little Eddie Murphy there, there’s a little Chris Tucker, you know, me, a little Kevin Hart, a little Martin, there’s a little of all of us in him. There’s a path we’ve all walked, you know. We all have our Hammy’s. We all have had the same battles more or less.

Q: Let’s talk about Kevin Hart’s part a little bit.
CR: Yes. So when you do anything in show business—you’re mostly encountering white people on the business side, unless you’re working for BET, or TV1 or something. Kevin, the part he plays—it’s loosely based on this agent at William Morris, Charles King, who’s Tyler Perry’s agent. He’s a black agent. I haven’t met a lot of black agents throughout the years, but the thing about Charles is he—I think he brings in more money than anybody else at the agency. But every now and then he gets slighted, you know . . . we talk every now and then and it’s just funny. I thought he was a funny character, so yes, Kevin Hart plays Charles King.

Q: Do you think Tyler Perry’s gonna like your Madea joke?
CR: Yeah, Tyler Perry called me the other day, and he loved the movie, and he told me that Lionsgate wants him to do Boo—the fake Tyler Perry movie that, in Top Five, is getting released on the same day as Andre’s movie. So we had a long talk, and he’s just so busy working on the show for Oprah with the O Network. But the idea of Tyler Perry doing Boo—it wasn’t a parody of a Madea movie, it’s like a movie Madea actually could do. I would go see Boo in a minute. Madea in a haunted house sounds hysterical to me. It’s the perfect place for Madea. Boo. Put it this way, if Boo was opening December 12th, Top Five would not be opening December 12th. I wouldn’t go nowhere near Boo.

Q: Can you talk about how you pulled together this incredible cast?
CR: You know what, I called in some favors—the best thing about working with Scott Rudin is you learn the best people are just a phone call away. And until they say no, you gotta try to get them. TopFive-Production1Some guys are just my friends, and they kind of owed me one, you know. I’ve been in a bunch of Sandler movies obviously, so he had no problem repaying the favor. I’m in the Bee movie for Seinfeld, you know, so Jerry had no problem repaying the favor. I actually have always wanted to do more with Whoopi. But I called Whoopi, and she was right there. And I always wanted to work with Cedric. I love Cedric. I think Cedric—Cedric’s funny on TV, Cedric’s funny in the movies—but I think he’s funnier here than you’ve seen him. And by the way Cedric’s a darker guy in real life. I mean he’s a family man, he’s a good father, a good husband, but my man is—you know, he’s a little darker than what you normally see. Not that he’s the guy he plays in this movie, but…

Q: When you called him did you say I have something in particular?
CR: Yes, I said, “Yo, this is for you. This is the perfect part for you.” And when he saw the script, he was so happy ’cause people always want him to be kind of lovable Ced. And, you know, Ced’s from St. Louis man.

Q: How does a brotherhood among comedians balance with a rivalry?
CR: I guess we’re a little competitive—when you’re hanging out in one of these clubs and somebody’s going on before you and they get a lot of laughs, you can’t help but be a little competitive and want to do as good, if not better. But once you get off the stage, you realize there’s not a lot of us, there really isn’t; you know what they always say—the number one fear in the world is speaking to an audience. And we’re people who actually crave it, so you know, we’re an odd bunch. There definitely is a brotherhood. And it gets deeper and deeper, the longer you’ve done it, the more everybody becomes your brother. So comedians you didn’t even like at some point when you were younger—you’re like, “Oh, that guy’s a hack,” “Oh that guy, I hate his jokes”—but when you get in it 15 years, 20 years, you’re like anybody that lasts—he’s all right. He’s my brother.

Q: What’s the worst thing a comedian can say about another comedian?
CR: Joke thief is pretty bad. You know, being a hack is kind of subjective. I used to call guys hacks all the time when I was young. Now I’m a lot softer on that kind of thing. Unfunny is a big one because there are guys and women that kind of figure out the technicalities of being a comedian, and figure out the moves, but without being funny frankly—just without hitting people emotionally. All of those are bad things to say about another comedian, but I’m telling you right now, as I get older, I’m not as judgmental about comedians as I used to be. If you can last, I give you your props, I give you your credit man. When I’m on tour and I play Vegas, Carrot Top comes, I make sure he’s got a good seat. Props is not my thing, but that guy’s been putting it down for like 25 years. So I make sure he gets the respect he’s due, you know what I mean. And I make sure I talk to his people, and I’d expect the same wherever I go. We all treat each other with respect.

Q: Can you talk about some of the parallels between you and Andre?
CR: Here’s the big parallel—in the movie Andre makes most of his money playing a bear. You never see his face. In my real life I make most of my money playing a zebra. Yeah, I‘ve been in other movies, I’ve had success, but I’ve never made anywhere near as much as what I’ve been blessed to make with the three Madagascar movies. I don’t hate playing Marty, you know—it’s kind of a fun thing to do. But if that was my only success, I’d be in trouble. So there’s that. I’m from a poor neighborhood. I have all of those relationships that Andre has in the projects except the father one. Me and my father are fine—I have no animosity towards my father. He’s dead now, but I had a great relationship with my father. But, you know, the friend that owes me five grand, and the old girlfriend, and all that stuff—I’m sure people are gonna watch and go, “That’s me.”

Q: Let’s go back to the beginning of your career. You wrote before you performed, right?
CR: Yes, when I was a young kid, I wanted to be a comedy writer. It was the Dick Van Dyke Show…. The idea of being a comedy writer—I thought that was an amazing job. They write jokes, they write bits. But where I was from there’s no writers. Forget even comedy writers—there’s no writers at all. So the only avenue I saw to get into comedy was through stand-up. So I said to myself, “Okay, you gotta go to a club and audition. I guess that’s how you get into comedy.” But if I was a kid today I’d probably just be a writer.

Q: Do you remember seeing any comedy performers that made you have that moment?
CR: When I was a kid, I really liked Eddie Murphy a lot. He was just a big influence on me. But honestly there were just guys that weren’t even that famous—like I remember seeing Keenen Wayans on “The Tonight Show”—and just seeing a black guy, a young guy with a suit on telling jokes with Johnny Carson…I was like, “Wow—how’d he do that?” You know, he had some joke about projects or something, and I thought that was amazing. I remember Robert Townsend before Hollywood Shuffle, he was in one of those Rodney Dangerfield young comedian specials. And I remember Arsenio—I believe he was on Merv Griffin or something, was he the sidekick on Merv Griffin? I just remember seeing this kind of sprinkling of brown faces and saying, “Okay, this isn’t impossible.” It’s like, “Maybe this could happen,” you know? Franklin Ajaye was a guy who would be on “The Tonight Show” every now and then—a really good comedian, really deadpan too. Like—how many deadpan black guys are there? It’s like one—Franklin Ajaye. So, yeah, these guys piqued my interest a little bit.

Q: Who was the first one of those guys you met?
CR: The weird thing is, I met the biggest one before I met the other ones. I met Eddie first, I met Eddie Murphy in—hard time even remembering, probably like ’87, ’88. No my dad died in ’88 so I must’ve met him in ’87. And Eddie let me hang out with his entourage. Back in the day Eddie used to roll big. He still rolls kind of big. I remember—I was out in LA, never been to LA, never been on a plane, never been in a hotel—all this other stuff, right? And when I get to his office, Keenen Wayans is there, Robert Townsend is there, Arsenio Hall is there. It’s like all of black comedy was there—Paul Mooney, who I met for the first time there. We ended up going to the Comedy Act Theater, and I saw Robin Harris for the first time. So I met all those guys through Eddie. I got exposed to all of that through Murphy.

Q: Where’s Reality TV in your consciousness as you were writing this movie?
CR: You can’t escape Reality TV. You just can’t. I tried to make it as real as possible, and I think Gabrielle succeeded in making herself as real as possible. In a weird way Reality TV’s kind of like rap music. It’s this thing we keep expecting to leave, and then you look up it’s 10 years later, you look up it’s 15 years later…and it’s still there. That’s where we are with Reality TV. Is it gonna be here five years from now? Yeah. Is it gonna be here 20 years from now?—it ain’t going nowhere. Now, hopefully at some point people make it better, and that’s what happened with rap music.   Some of the early records are great, but you know I think Kanye West has taken it to another level. And Jay-Z’s taking it to another level. And the Outkasts are taking it to another level. And I think somebody’s gonna do that with reality TV.

Q: Is there a relationship between rap and stand-up?
CR: There’s a relationship to me in the sense that you can watch any comedian and tell what they listen to. You can’t watch Eddie Murphy up there and not know that this guy is from the era of R&B—just by the outfit he’s wearing, you know this is a peer of Michael Jackson and Prince, right? Me, and Chappelle, and Kev, and other guys—we’re from hip-hop. We’re from sneakers on stage. We’re from stalking the stage. We’re not trying to fit in. Before hip-hop, people—especially black entertainers…. White entertainers were rebellious from the beginning. But the whole black experience until, you know, ’89, was about fitting in, and how much like white people you could be. And rappers are like, “White people?—that’s nice—but I’m a rapper, I’m black, I’m getting ready to do this thing…if you like it, great, if you don’t like it, fine.” And I’m from that era.

Q: Where did the top five idea come from?
CR: Get a bunch of guys together in a barbershop, and they’ll be doing top fives. Top five running backs—Earl Campbell, Tony Dorsett, O.J., Jim Brown, Walter Peyton—and it’s, “What? No Barry Sanders?!” It’s like that. It always happens. Always when you get a bunch of guys—especially a bunch of black guys—together you know, and girls even, the “top five” conversations are gonna come up.

Q: Did anyone throw a surprising top five at you while you were making the movie?
CR: It always depends on what was going on in your era, you know what I mean? The old guys are gonna have Big Daddy Kane and Rakim on their list, and the young guys are gonna have, you know, Young Jeezy, or Kanye, or even Drake. I’ve heard people put Drake, and I’m like Drake? Okay. But that’s a young person talking. So.

Q: Do you have a top five?
CR: I’m a little older, so my top five is…Jay Z would be in my top five, and Ice Cube would be in my top five, and—let me see—Kanye would be in my top five, and Mr. Scarface would be in my top five, and Run DMC. Okay that’s five. And then you know, my sixth man, I don’t know. LL Cool J. Yeah—I don’t care. Dis me, yeah. Go ahead, get mad.

Q: How did you get started in stand-up?
CR: I started in stand-up literally February 11th, 1984. I know the date because it was the date Eddie Murphy tickets went on sale at Radio City Music Hall. And I was online waiting for tickets to see Eddie Murphy—back when they had lines for tickets, no internet, no nothing, right. Line is like three blocks long, it’s ridiculous, right. I get there late. And the line’s so long you got a paper and you’re just reading—like, “Okay I’m gonna be here for a while.” And while I was on line they announced that it was sold out, so I’m walking off line, I’m reading the Times ’cause I was that kind of kid, and I saw the listing of comedy clubs, and I had nothing to do, so I walked to this comedy club Catch a Rising Star. It happened to be audition night, which meant there were, I don’t know, 30 wannabe comedians outside waiting to pick a number. I got number seven, which meant I got to audition that night at about 12:00. By that time here was probably 50 wannabe comedians there. And that’s a long freaking day, right—for a guy who lives with his parents too, by the way. To not be home that whole time. And I auditioned that night, a couple friends came, and I passed the audition my very first time on stage. And they had to tell me that I passed—I didn’t even know what it meant. This guy Mike Egan told me—you can work anytime you want. You should come tomorrow, you should come every night, you should work—you’re gonna be a comedian. And I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s the only thing in life I’ve ever done well. I’ve never, ever succeeded at anything professionally or personally, but in this stand-up thing—it’s never let me down.

Q: What would you say is your brand of comedy?
CR: I don’t know—whenever I hear a guy talk about his brand of comedy I start to throw up. It’s for other people to say, you know what I mean. I’m a comedian, they did comedy before me, they’ll do comedy after me. To one guy, I’m so edgy, but to another guy, I’m not edgy at all. It’s for other people to say. I do what I do, I’m not clean, but I’m not dirty either. I guess I’m rated R, but I’m not porno. I do what I do. I try to make it a truthful experience, a non-silly experience with me. I’m gonna talk about some serious stuff, and we’re gonna laugh at stuff we don’t normally laugh at. That’s when you come to see me, I think.

Q: Did you do anything for your 30th anniversary as a stand-up?
CR: You know, they used to put the number on the MTV awards, like “It’s the 15th MTV awards.” Then at one point they realized, “This shit ain’t cool. This doesn’t make young people watch us….” For my 20th, my wife threw me a party. But I hosted the Oscars the same year as my 20th, like right around the same time. And that was kind of the way I celebrated. ’Cause I remember I had gotten offered the Oscars a bunch of times and I always turned it down. And I was like, you know what—it’s been 20 years…it’s time to do this grown up job. It’s an odd way to celebrate, but that was kind of my celebration—to say to myself, “You really did it.” You can’t get a bigger gig…it’s like—“I just did stand-up in front of 40 million people for my 20th anniversary.”

Executive Music Producer: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson / Co-Producers: Shawn “Jay Z” Carter & Kanye West. Produced by: Scott Rudin & Eli Bush / Written and Directed by: Chris Rock
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, Jay Pharoah, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd, Leslie Jones
Release Date: 8th May 2015
Run Time: 102 mins
Certificate: 15
Social channels for Top Five are:
#TopFiveMovie | #ChrisRock


Chris Rock’s Top Five hits UK Cinemas 8th May



KUSH PROMOTIONS is proud to announce the release of the Paramount Pictures distributed film TOP FIVE written by and starring the irresistible Chris Rock.


Paramount Pictures announces the UK release of the new Chris Rock comedy film “Top Five” on Friday 8th May. Pulsing with the rhythm of his greatest stand-up, Chris Rock’s TOP FIVE takes things to the next level, revelling in the high and the low, and blending a star-studded comedic romp with an irresistible romance. TOP FIVE digs under the surface of show business, politics, rap, and the exigencies of being black and famous today—holding it all up to the light in the way only Chris Rock can. Mingling echoes of Woody Allen and Dick Gregory with the energy of Kanye West and Jay Z, TOP FIVE is an original and radically new kind of American movie.

Written, directed, and starring Chris Rock, TOP FIVE tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) forces him to confront the comedy career—and the past—that he’s left behind.  Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, Jay Pharaoh, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd, Leslie Jones. The film is produced by Scott Rudin and Eli Bush. The Co-Producers are Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Kanye West; the Executive Music Producer is Questlove.

Executive Music Producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson / Co-Producers Shawn “Jay Z” Carter & Kanye West. Produced by Scott Rudin & Eli Bush / Written and Directed by Chris Rock

Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, Jay Pharoah, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd, Leslie Jones

Released: Friday 8th May 2015
Certifictae: 15

More info coming soon on our events pages on where you can see this acclaimed funny life story: http://www.kushfilms.com/events/find-top-five-cinema-locations/

Follow Top Five online here:




Chris Rock’s Top Five

By Zeba Blay

TOP-FIVE-FILMFrom Saturday Night Live to hilarious comedy specials to blockbusters including Lethal Weapon 4 and the Madagascar franchise, Chris Rock has proved to be one of Hollywood’s funniest men.

Yet with his third directorial effort, Top Five (the title references a running joke in the movie about the top five rappers of all time), Rock reminds us he’s a comic with far more depth than he receives credit for. He plays Andre Allen, a comedian and recovering alcoholic gearing up for the release of his first-ever dramatic movie. With cameos from a bevy of celebs, Rock, 49, tells a story that’s as brutally honest and intelligent as it is funny, exploring the highs and lows of fame. The star recently talked with ESSENCE about his own pre-release jitters, working with leading lady Rosario Dawson and his future as a filmmaker.

ESSENCE: There was a bidding war for Top Five at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. That buzz has triggered talk about awards, including the Oscars. That has to feel incredibly satisfying—and maybe a little scary?

CHRIS ROCK: I’m just happy people like the movie. When we showed it at Toronto, I had just finished the final mix four days earlier. I had no idea what the reaction would be. Getting an Oscar would be nice, but I can’t even begin to process that. I’ll be happy with a Soul Train Award!

ESSENCE: Your character Andre feels very familiar. Watching him felt like seeing Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and Kevin Hart all rolled into one. Was that intentional?

C.R.: He is a gumbo of me and all those comedic greats. We’ve all gone through this whole “Black comedian” experience. But no one’s told that story. Ever. Shows like Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm or even Seinfeld don’t fully tell our story. So I wanted to capture that.

ESSENCE: Top Five really goes beyond capturing our story and into elevating it. You showed a nuanced style of directing, which is different from what one might expect from a comic in general and from Chris Rock specifically. What inspired you to dig deeper?

C.R.: I did a movie with Julie Delpy called 2 Days in New York. Watching her direct and write had an impact on me. Although that film wasn’t a [commercial success], we got great feedback. That made me realize, Oh. okay, this is the lane i should be in.

ESSENCE: Another surprising element in the film is Rosario Dawson. She’s an amazing actress but she’s never been known for comedy.

C.R.: Offstage Rosario is really funny! I don’t wanna say she plays herself, “cause she does great acting, but this character’s probably closer to her than anything she’s played.

ESSENCE: This project seems to have a dramatic tone. Are you heading in a more serious direction, especially as an actor?

C.R.: I’m Pookie from New Jack City. I’ve done drama, just not in a long time. Hey, I love 12 Years a Slave, but I would have loved it more if I was the slave. I’m inspired by what actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Don Cheadle do. Would I love those kinds of opportunities? Sure. But people don’t think of me that way.

ESSENCE: Naturally, a conversation about a movie called Top Five is not complete without asking you your top five rappers. Who are they?

C.R.: [Laughs] Jay Z, Nas, Rakim, Ice Cube and Kanye West!

Top Five hits the UK on the 8th May 2015 and of course Kush Promotions & PR will be handling all urban marketing and PR for the release.

Stay tuned to www.kushfilms.com for further news & competitions.

Must say I was disappointed that Chris has Jay-Z as his No1 rap artiste – is he sure about that?

The original article features in the January 2015 issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newstands now.

©  Essence Magazine December 2014

2015 Early Releases Box Office Report

Written by Graeme Wood



Although the critical acclaim for Selma is still making headlines its box office power seems to be slowing down somewhat, falling from the US Top 10 which is currently being topped by Fifty Shades of Grey, Kingsman; Secret Service and the Spongebob Movie. Paramount should be pleased with ‘Selma’s overall performance through its total US gross standing at $48,494,000 since its opening in December. The film has also performed well in the UK, now entering its third week of release, with a gross of £1,763,050, an initial £70,000 of this coming from its early preview screenings.

In comparison to the years other Oscar nominated movies Selma is behind American Sniper and The Theory of Everything but ahead of Whiplash (grossing £573,000). This time last year, 12 Years A Slave in comparison debuted with £2.51m but 12 Years had a Bafta nomination and huge marketing campaign behind it.

Meanwhile back in the states, Black or White the Kevin Costner, Viola Davis drama has made a strong entrance at No 10 with a US Box Office total so far of $20,090,000, just ahead of that at No.9 sits the Kevin Hart comedy ‘The Wedding Ringer’ with a total of $60,043,000.

The UK box-office for early February was led by Disney’s Big Hero 6, Kingsman and the Shaun the Sheep Movie but Fifty Shades of Grey, launched over Valentine’s Weekend opened to big business taking in £4.6 million on its opening night and $94.4m on its US debut. Impressive figures that distributor Universal Pictures is bound to be pleased with.

The Theory of Everything continues to do well at the UK box office, no doubt helped by its BAFTA nominations and award wins, with a current box office total of £18,944,146 and seven weeks after opening still playing on a lot of multiplexes. In comparison though the critically panned and predictable Liam Neeson thriller ‘Taken 3’ has also managed to bring in huge numbers with a box office total of £17,180,518, after only 6 weeks on release.

In the US Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ has performed well giving its distributor Paramount who bid for the rights a gross of $25,317,291 following its opening in December 2014, though for comparison Kevin Harts The Wedding Ringer which opened mid-January in the US has so far pulled in a gross of $59,743,000 the film opens in the UK this week, Top Five will be on UK screens sometime in May (a film Kush Promotions should be marketing).

Comedies aimed specifically at the African / American market continue to perform well at the US box office and account for about 13% of the US domestic film market. December alone had seven African-American films ranking among the Top 100 films and grossing nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in the domestic market.

So what else should we be looking forward to at the cinema over the next month or so? Well first up we have Michael Mann’s Blackhat action thriller, starring Chris (Thor) Hemsworth and Viola Davis. Set amongst a global back drop the plot involves a blackmail scheme to hack and blow up nuclear plants. This should prove entertaining if predictable fare for audiences and in the US the film under performed scoring only $7,89,395 at the box office.

View the trailer: Blackhat

Hollywood Hates Chris?

Written by: Graeme Wood


chris-rock2Comedian Chris Rock has never been shy of controversy and his recent appearances have certainly proved it, during an interview on the Late Show this month he brought up choke holds and did a ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ gesture when fellow guest Sting appeared, quipping that he was afraid of ‘the Police’.

He then chipped in with the WWE have better standards than the NYPD because of their ban on choke holds before adding ‘no better way to calm down angry Black people than British royalty!”, referring to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s timely visit to New York.

The comedian was being interviewed to promote his new movie Top Five but has also been making headlines following his thoughtful essay printed in December’s Hollywood Reporter. In the essay"Top Five" New York Premiere Rock looks back on his career within Hollywood, the future of the industry and comments on L.A.’s race problems.

Rock recalls how he was invited into the movie Beverly Hill Cop II by Eddie Murphy after Murphy had seen his stand-up routine. Rock went onto to stress how he had attempted to pay it back “I try to help young black guys coming up because those people took chances on me. Eddie didn’t have to put me in Beverly Hills Cop!

Keenen Ivory Wayans didn’t have to put me in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. I’d do the same for a young white guy, but here’s the difference; someone’s gonna help the white guy. Multiple people will. The people whom I’ve tried to help, I’m not sure anybody was going to help them.” Rock mentions how he recommended Saturday Night Lives’ Leslie Jones to several big name managers before SNL’s Lorne Michael brought her onto the show.

“It’s a white industry,” Rock wrote. “Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is”. In what reads as a thoughtful, critical deconstruction on the Hollywood system Rock gives his views on how difficult it can be for Black actresses to break into the industry and springs to the defence of Mexicans living in L.A.;

“Forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is; Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You’re in L.A. you’ve got to try not to hire Mexicans. It’s the most liberal town in the world, and there’s Rock2a part of it that’s kind of racist – not racist like “F—you, nigger” racist, but just an acceptance that there’s a slave state in L.A. There’s this acceptance that Mexicans are gong to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn’t exist anywhere else. You’re telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that’s true?”

Rock however, was optimistic for the industry’s future; “there are black guys who are making it: Whatever Kevin Hart wants to do right now, he can do; I think Chiwetel Ejiofor is a really respected actor who is getting a lot of great shots just because he’s really good; if Steve McQueen wants to direct a Marvel movie, they would salivate to get him. Change just takes time”.

Rock’s assertion that Hollywood is a white industry could be seen as a provocative but correct conclusion given that Black films account for a tiny fraction of the big studio’s output. Budgets tend to be small, and distribution is limited largely to domestic theatres.

There is room for debate however as a Bloomberg Businessweek report recently concluded that in each year between 1990 to 2009, at least five African-American films were among the 100 biggest moneymakers in the US and Canada. Comedy remains an important genre at the Black box office with December alone showing seven African-American films ranked among the top 100 so far this year grossing nearly a quarter-billion dollars in the domestic market. According to a report from the Motion Picture Association of America, the demand for African-American film makes financial sense, drawing support from increasingly diverse audiences as well as the sizeable proportion of African-Americans in the U.S. movie-going population. Blacks account for about 13 percent of the domestic film audiences, and the average black person sees about four films in theatres a year.

But Rock asserts; “I really don’t think there’s any difference between what black audiences find funny and what white audiences find funny but everyone likes to see themselves on-screen, so there are some instances where there’s a black audience laughing at something that a white audience wouldn’t laugh at because a black audience is really just happy to see itself”. “Now, not only are black movies making money, they’re expected to make money – and they’re expected to make money on the same scale as everything else.”

Rock’s movie Top Five which he wrote and directed was made outside of the big ‘studio system’ because, Rock says, of how the industry views ‘Black movies’. The film co-stars Rosario Dawson, top fiveKevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union and Tracy Morgan. Rock plays Andre Allen, a famous comedic actor trying in vain to create interest in his new film, “Uprize”, an earnest, misbegotten epic about the Haitian Revolution. The film digs under the surface of show business, politics, rap and the exigencies of being black and famous in today’s world. The movie opened in the US in December to rave reviews and comparisons with Woody Allen’s best work.

“Top Five” arose from a quiet beginning, Rock didn’t tell many people he was writing it and he shot it independent of any studio, while the cast was augmented by comedians he considers to be friends. The movie had its première at the Toronto International Film Festival last September where it inspired a standing ovation and an auction for the distribution rights which were won by Paramount for a reported 12 ½ million dollars!

The film is due to open in the UK in March 2015 and we are currently talking to the distributor; so hopefully Kush Promotions will be working on the PR/Marketing campaign for the film.

Stay tuned to www.kushfilms.com for further news.

Read Chris Rock’s full essay on the state of Hollywood in the Hollywood Reporter here; http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/top-five-filmmaker-chris-rock-753223

Read Entertainment Weekly’s Review of Top Five here;