Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Posted by The Zodiac | Blog,Movie Reviews | Thursday 13 August 2015 11:51 pm
Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

[usr 4]

To see this movie for me was important on a few different levels. First off, I got to see on film the story of NWA from their foundation until the rise of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre as well as the death of Eazy-E. Secondly, for hip-hop, it’s especially important because the generation of now, which is focused solely on beats and this weeks dance craze, gets to see why the music genre was so integral to kids on the street. Today, the music is almost meaningless…even from self-confessed 2Pac-influenced signed artists who focus on nonsensical lyrics and how much a woman’s booty shakes. The story of Ice Cube, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, and Eazy-E showed why their voices during the Rodney King assault and LA Riots were the voice of the people. I’d love to see how the story of Drake would do in theaters.

Back to the movie. It begins in the mid 1980’s with Eazy-E nearly escaping a theme in the movie: horrible LAPD police officers. Anyone who had grown up on their music would know NWA was an early adopter of anti-authority with their album, Straight Outta Compton’s second song, “Fuck tha Police”. The build-up of how that came to be was well-scripted and shot because we had five kids from LA who wanted to walk the straight-and-narrow path legitimately but were plagued with rocks aka gangbangers on one hand and a hard place aka crooked cops in the other. Eazy-E was a drug dealer that found his last encounter to be a little too close for comfort and he runs into his buddy Dr. Dre who is DJing with DJ Yella under the World Class Wrecking Crew, a local crew they had in LA. But the manager named Lorenzo was too corny for them and only wanted to have them play R&B. Dre slips in Ice Cube to perform a on-off of “Gangsta Gangsta” which the crowd reacts to immediately. Eazy is a witness to this with his boy, MC Ren and when Dre approaches him with an idea to make his own music label and include all of their talent, he reluctantly agrees.

So, Eazy and the crew are established and Ice Cube’s boys from NYC, HBO are in the booth. The funny thing was how they had them dressed completely NY and the NWA crew as LA. Back in the 80’s and 90’s a whole East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop feud jumped off and the animosity in this scene showed the different styles of the crews even though Ice Cube was writing their lyrics. After a stand off, they didn’t have talent to record the song Cube had written so Dre suggested Eazy do it. The scene was perfect because it was well-known Eazy was a horrible rapper in the booth and had to be taught to hit his lines on time. They played on this well to where Yella and Cube were cracking jokes. A frustrated Eazy finally hits his notes and Dre responds, “That was dope, E!” The song, “Boyz N Tha Hood” became a huge seller and popular on the streets. This got the attention of notorious Ruthless Records, Jerry Heller; often accused of stealing money from Eazy and the crew all along. The movie didn’t hold back on this fact and built Jerry up as a creeper who knew a good thing when he saw it and took advantage. The only one blinded was Eazy. As the only one blinded, the crew started splintering. The rise and fall was beginning.

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This movie had everything in it regarding the group that you’d want to see. It highlighted many faults but not the known flaws of Dr. Dre with his handling of women physically. There was plenty of eye-candy at the pool parties and groupie parties and there was a great “Bye Felecia” line they played into it. Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson, Jr. did a great job playing his father. He gave a very human approach to Ice Cube to where you could see he was a good kid that wanted to express himself creatively and simply focus on his talents. His early introduction of being bussed from the hood into the White kid’s school showed his education and influence as well as what he could have (fancy cars, etc.) compared to what he did have (gangbanger jumping on the bus to give a PSA). The police were pivotal to the rise of NWA in their constant abuse and power-trips. The “Fuck Tha Police” entrance was brilliant and O’Shea, Jr. showed his dismay well with the lingering afterwards of abusive cops. His frustration continued with Jerry Heller’s buy out and Priority Records broken promises.

Corey Watson channels Dr. Dre to where at the end, I only saw Dre. His emotion toward family grief and Suge Knight’s intimidation and bullshit proved his determination. Suge thought it was all good when Dre. left to form Aftermath since he had all of Death Row to himself. Dre is now almost a billionaire because of his risk and skill and Suge Knight is blind and in prison….again. Look at that. And Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E showed how naive he was when it came to business yet he just wanted to trust. His NWA family was his real family and in the end, they had all reconciled. Who knows what the world would’ve gotten had NWA made one more record with Cube included?! DJ Yella was hilarious and the whole scene with “No Vaseline” showed how ruthless Ice Cube could be with the verbals. I believe MC Ren was underutilized. Being my favorite NWA lyricist, I wish he had a bigger impact since his songs on Eazy E’s and NWA’s album, especially NIGGAZ4LIFE, were explosive and had the best flow. They also didn’t use The D.O.C. enough since his impact on NWA and Dr. Dre is HUGE!! But it was good to hear his voice played out as well as acted on screen. Many nuances such as the Nation of Islam with Cube, Suge’s intimidation tactics, Cube recording with Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad production team for his first solo album, the effect of The Chronic when Eazy sees what could’ve been… It makes you want to go back to a time when hip-hop was THIS real! This raw! Something you didn’t just nod your head to the beat, but you nodded your head in agreement. It also showed how these were all just good kids and actually friendly guys who had a bigger plan.

In the end, I enjoyed myself as an NWA fan and hiphop buff. RIP Eazy-E and it’s great his widow, Dre and Cube were able to pull this film off and make it a success. Now…PLEASE create a Public Enemy movie!

Fantastic 4 (2015)

Posted by The Zodiac | Blog,Movie Reviews | Sunday 9 August 2015 4:19 am
Fantastic 4

Fantastic 4 (2015)

[rating=3]

So, critics were panning the new Fantastic 4 movie since the casting had begun so I know they were salivating when it was released and giving it negative reviews. A lot of it is true; I can’t lie. But I think they also went over the top a bit in their critique of this film. Ok, sure another origin story about these guys is told but in the way they did it in the first 1/3rd of the film, it made a lot of sense. The young genius, Richard Reed was a little kid building a transporter in his parent’s garage and recruits the help of classmate Ben Grimm, the son of some trashy parents who own a trashy junk yard. So, we have the genius and the hard-edge. Unlikely match but being social outcasts, they become friends and build on this piece of science. Years later, after their first attempt at the transporter shows they’ve transported a toy car but only rocks came back meant they were close. Now, they’re at a science fair where they meet Martin Querns from “OZ” but here, he’s pretending to be Susan Storm’s adopted and Johnny Storm’s father. They’re intrigued by Reed and Ben’s demo and give Reed a full ride to their institution which is government-funded and backed.

While there, Reed gets closer to the team which consists of Susan Storm, Johnny (by way of bribery by his father to get is piece of crap Toyota MR2 back), and the previously ousted Von Doom who is now a social outcast looking like a grunge cover band lead trombonist. Querns visits him and gives him another chance to make their Transporter work. Von Doom is interested in Quern’s daughter instead and that’s what convinces him. Potential to #hulksmash. Back in the lab, Von Doom and the team work to get the transporter finalized and after sending Caesar from Planet of the Apes on a test run into who-knows-where with camera equipment, they’ve determined what looks like Arizona during dusk will be safe for human travel after Caesar comes back safely. That’s when the government comes in patting backs, chewing an endless piece of gum (or a case of serious TMJ), and trying to take over. Not with the program, Reed and the team figure they’ll do it first to get the credit so he calls Ben out of the blue who uses an Uber to get to the institution in record speed.

So, they all go into the pods to enter into the dimension of Arizona and take off. Sue at the helm holds down the fort and when they get there, they discover Arizona has putrid green slime in the ground. Most likely from transported New Jersey waste barrels…maybe even the ones that affected The Toxic Avenger and The Hills Have Eyes characters. Either way, it’s probably best to snap a few pics, grab a sample and leave. But Noooooooo…!!! They figure it’s a good idea to walk a half mile in the goop and figure out what’s the problem. The Black man knew better and stayed behind. The rest? “Let’s see what this new dimension is about!” So, of course, shit goes haywire and that’s where all hell breaks loose. Sure, a few make it back and explode in the lab causing poor Sue to become invisible, Johnny looking like Ghost Rider, Reed stretched out looking like my old Stretch Armstrong action figure and Ben wound up being a really cool Thing. All is lost? Nah…the government has plans for these kids until Reed escapes and promises a return.

From this point, Phase 2 steps in and it’s cool but Phase 3 enters Dr. Doom and it’s soooo rushed!! I mean, Dr. Doom should be as badass as his comic character and although his powers are awesome and violent, his look? Well…they tried too hard to make him look like he fell in epoxy resin. I don’t know…it’s an origin story so maybe the thought is next movie: he’ll have a metal face. There was only one real battle scene and it was pretty quick. So, forget action. Sue’s hair proves how many reshoots there were and everyone seemed disinterested. It wasn’t as bad and it’s worth a watch but not a rewatch. The Thing is really cool but he hardly says anything! He just agrees with shit and keeps a grudge. Johnny is all about those 5 seconds and the Mara chick from House of Cards is great as Sue. In fact, all of the people rock their characters nicely. It’s just not as cohesive as it could be and when the credits come up (FAST!!), you’re left with a face like “…what? It’s over already?” You leave, get your ticket validated and don’t really think about it. I swear there were parts in the trailer that weren’t in the movie…like Thing falling out of the helicopter. But maybe I dozed off. I don’t know. I would’ve rated it 2.5 stars out of 5 but I rounded up.