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Carmen: A Hip HOpera

USA 2001
produced by
Craig Hutchison, Michael Elliot (executive), Loretha C. Jones (executive) for New Line/MTV
directed by Robert Townsend
starring Mekhi Phifer, Beyonce Knowles, Mos Def, Rah Digga, Joy Bryant, Wyclef Jean, Da Brat, Jermaine Dupri, Lil' Bow Wow (later Bow Wow), Casey Lee, Reagan Gomez-Preston, Sam Sarpong, Troy Winbush, Fred Williamson, Yuri Brown, Maurice G.Smith, Karen Lynn Scott, Patrice Fisher, Jane Yamamoto, Richard Yniguez, David L. Corley, Andray Johnson, K.K. Holiday
written by Michael Elliot, based on the novel Carmen by Prosper Mérimée, music by Kip Collins, music underscore by Stephen James Taylor, with occasional musical references to Georges Bizet, lyrics by Sekani Williams


review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Philadelphia: Hill (Mekhi Phifer) is your typical small-frye boring cop: Honest to a fault, loyal to his girlfriend (Reagen Gomez-Preston), and a cop with a passion. Then though he meets Carmen (Beyonce Knowles), a barroom floozie he's supposed to take to the station - instead she takes him to her apartment, has sex with him ... and the next day, she's gone but he's arrested for letting her escape, arrested by corrupt cop Miller (Mos Def), his main opponent on the force. Even though she has caused his arrest though, Carmen has fallen seriously in love with Hill, and awaits him with open arms once he's out - which is a good thing because his girlfriend has ditched him.

Once out though, it doesn't take Hill long to get into a fight with Miller - bad idea since he's still on parole, so it's off for Hill and Carmen to LA, where she tries to become an actress while he fails to get a job because he's a wanted man in Philly now. Eventually, their romance gets strained, and soon she feels more attracted to successful rapper Blaze (Casey Lee) than to out-of-work ex-cop Hill - and can you blame her? And then Miller shows up in LA ...

It all culminates backstage a Blaze concert, when Hill wants to talk everything over with Carmen while Miller waits in the gallery wanting to shoot Hill dead (Hill has concrete evidence Miller is the rotten apple on the force) - but as fate has it, Miller shoots Carmen instead, upon which Hill kills Miller in a fit of rage, then is arrested for killing both him and Carmen.


Oh boy! Whoever has thought this up has thought wrong!

Now turning the famous opera Carmen into a hip hop musical with blaxploitation undercurrends sounds like a bad idea but it could just work - only this movie doesn't! One problem is that whoever wrote the screenplay for this obviously did not understand the opera's story, and thus turned a big tale of love and betrayal, deceit and death into a banal love story, turning the fascinating title character into a bland good girl gone wrong - and this is so totally mirrored in the film's star Beyonce Knowles, who's certainly good-looking here, hot even, but she's hardly the stunner the role demands, lacks the sex appeal that would make men leave their wives. To paraphrase it rather badly, she's the girl you want to come home to rather than the girl you want to spend the night with.

As for the music: Some of it is groovy and funky as can be within the limits of mainstream hip hop, and the incorporation of a few of Bizet's original Carmen themes doesn't work half as bad as one would expect it to - but boy, some of the lyrics are embarrassingly bad, and it has to be credited to the performers to be able to deliver them without bursting into laughter.

Directionwise, the film is caught somewhere between production line music video and dull TV-show, meaning it lacks any real innovative ideas or even the intention of making this into something special.

But what's really wrong with this one, totally and utterly wrong, it takes itself 100% seriously, there is not a hint of irony here whatsoever - and this, above all else, sinks the film.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD