Tag Archives: Jason Mitchell

Film Review: Straight Outta Compton

Written by Jeff Bannis
26.08.15

 

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I’ve got to start by saying that Straight Outta Compton is the best rap film I’ve ever seen. Nothing that has gone before comes as close to capturing the stirring attack on body and brain that rap can deliver. That simple fact explains why this story of seminal rap group, NWA, has been the surprise hit of the summer in the US. It’s likely to do the same sort of business in the UK – the film is an undeniable success on many levels.

The depiction of the group’s formation and first successes are conveyed with so much energy and drive it’s difficult to think of a music film of any genre that comes close. The lead characters, Eazy-E, Dr Dre and Ice Cube are so well cast that anyone familiar with the era will know them without any introduction.

Cube, the group’s lead rapper and lyricist ( O’Shea Jackson Jr) Dre (Corey Hawkins), the musician and producer and Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), who provides the x-ingredient hip hop flavour every great rap group needs (nn) are all established in the film’s tight opening minutes. If this is your first contact with NWA you’ll understand exactly why they’re onscreen. If you know the band already, you won’t be distracted by thoughts about the actor living up the character – they’re each faultless.
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Both Cube and Dre have producer credits, which guaranteed access to NWA’s hits. The challenge was always going to be finding a director who could deliver a film strong enough not to be over-shadowed by the music.

Straight Outta Compton has an immensely cinematic approach, lacing striking visuals in even as the drama gets under way. Director F Gary Gray shows his roots as a cameraman, especially early on, when bikers wheelie past in a slow-motion tracking shot which flows effortlessly into normal speed. As gimmicky as that may sound in words, onscreen it is pulled off with real style and panache. It’s a little signpost to tell you that this is a Compton that you want to know more about – and the film delivers.

That hip hop culture was a newer, more vital version of punk rock is no new idea and the film sensibly avoids directly raising the issue. Inevitably however, comparisons will arise; young people with few resources using music as a means to express themselves, to project their views on the world and maybe even make some money? Hmm. The mission of our protagonists, especially Cube, is to put out “reality rap”  or Gangsta rap to its friends – to talk about the real social and economic problems they were facing as black teenagers. Like earning a living amid the low expectations of schools and employers, or escaping the attention of the repressive and aggressive police.

The significance of the group in their time can be encapsulated in two key things – firstly, their name, Niggaz With Attitudes, caused the media conniptions and the public to break a taboo every time they discussed them. And that was often, because the second thing was the track “Fuck Tha Police” which swept the board in the US and the world.

The FBI banned performance of the song on NWA’s first national tour. All over the country, the group were literally read the Riot Act before going onstage. The Detroit climax of this sequence provides the film’s midpoint and it had the audience at the screening itching to jump to their feet and raise a fist. I can’t recall the last time a mainstream film conveyed such a feeling of feelgood rebellion as this.
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If it’s true that American lives have no third act, someone forgot to tell NWA. The notoriety given by the Fuck Tha Police furore leads to recriminations which threaten their success. The group’s subsequent split and the emergence of Cube and Dre as respectively rap’s best lyricist and producer are drawn well, if with some ellipsis. The film would have flopped without Dre’s involvement – he might not have allowed the use of his music or contributed the sparkling new productions which lift it above others. The upshot was – perhaps – the omission of his horrendous attack on Dee Barnes.

This has been the understandable focus of critics of Straight Outta Compton. The macho world of rap still hasn’t totally accorded women the place they deserve in its hierarchy. Like rock sadly, gangsta isn’t chivalrous. It is a necessary debate around the film. Reality rap needs to really be reality. Suge Knight has to be the centre of evil morality for the film’s second half to have a chance of hanging together as a story. And opting for a narrower focus leads also to excluding the fact that Cube has had, since those days, a woman manager.

Ultimately, Straight Outta Compton is the story of NWA – not just Dr Dre’s story of ugly violence and eventual rehabilitation.

A landscape currently dominated by the #Blacklivesmatter movement however, can draw much strength from NWA’s strident response to police violence. Rap was changed forever by the video of Rodney King and the riots that followed his attackers’ escape from justice.

By then wracked by separation, NWA’s focus was on life as experienced by ghetto youth and their contribution demonstrates how little has changed. Their moment in the spotlight could hardly be more relevant today. It shouldn’t fall to those who will go on to enjoy this as full-blooded entertainment to defend every act of the real-life characters. The performances, the story and the unstoppable music are what Straight Outta Compton is all about.

© 2015 Jeff Bannis
www.Kushfilms.com

Straight Outta Compton in cinemas now

New films hitting the big screen Summer (July – Aug) 2015

Bought to you by Graeme Wood
01.07.15

 

As we enter the final phase of summer there are still a few blockbusters to be entertained by and even some more eclectic fare to look out for at the cinema. First up on Friday July 3rd is the much anticipated Amy Winehouse documentary “Amy”, celebrating the life and career of the much missed singer. Directed by Asif Kapadia the film has already provoked an angry response from Winehouse’s family who complained they have been portrayed unfairly though critic’s early reviews have heavily praised the film.

Watch the teaser trailer:


Channing Tatum is back this weekend (3rd July) in “MAGIC MIKE XXL the sequel to 2012’s smash hit featuring Tatum as a male stripper; the film finds Mike and the remaining ‘Kings of Tampa’ stripping team hitting the road for one final blow-out performance.

Reviews have been fair and it appears well worth watching ladies even if it’s just for the grinding!

Watch the trailer:

 

Also on release now from the British Film Institute is “Magician-The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles”, an entertaining and illuminating portrait of Orson Welles with contributions from those who knew him and rarely seen film clips illustrating the genius of one of cinema’s greatest writer/directors.

Check out the trailer:

 

He said he’d be back and he is! The much anticipated “Terminator Genisys opens Today 2nd July, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clark, Matt Smith, Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney the film reboots Terminator the film that bought sci-fi action films onto a whole new level back in the 1980’s and then with CGI laden Terminator 2 in the 90’s. This film goes back to the beginning and follows those first two classic Terminator movies thus side-stepping the lack-lustre 3rd and 4th vehicles, so we’re back in 1984 as Kyle Reese arrives once more to protect Sarah Connor but this time things are different as he is expected, they then jump to 2017 and mayhem breaks loose with alternate realties, new terminators and three different ageing versions of T1 (Arnie), everywhere you turn things are not what they seem!

Enjoy the trailer:

 

Arriving July 10th is “Love and Mercy the biopic of 60’s pop group Beach Boy Brian Wilson, starring John Cusack, Paul Dan, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks. It’s the 1960s and as Beach Boys leader Wilson struggles with his psychosis he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24 hour watch of shady therapist Dr Eugene Landy. This promises to be an interesting if unconventional look at Wilson’s life set against an unforgettable soundtrack of Beach Boys sounds.

View the trailer:

 

Also opening the same weekend (July 10th) is “TED 2“ Director Seth McFarlane’s follows the original hit with a sequel that promises more laughs as the living teddy bear attempts to prove his personhood in a court of law so that he and his wife can adopt a baby.

Starring: Mark Whalberg, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman & American football quarterback Tom Brady.

View the trailer:

 

Marvel’s latest super-hero arrives July 17th, although not the biggest name on Marvel’s roster of heroes “Ant-Man” could well provide the fast, furious, fun that summer hits require. While some have written this off following director Edgar Wright’s departure, incoming director Peyton Reed seems to have delivered what Marvel required for the next phase of their cinematic saga. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll and showing on big IMAX 3D screens around the country, this could be the next big-box office hit for Marvel.

View the trailer:

 

Also opening July 17th is director Tarsem Singh’s intriguing “Self/Less”, starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. The film offers the premise of a wealthy billionaire who, dying from cancer, attempts to cheat death by using a radical medical procedure to transfer his consciousness into the body of healthy young man.

See trailer:

 

July 24th brings the latest summer offering from Disney and Pixar with “Inside Out”, a tale of emotion as 11 year old Riley’s life is turned upside down when her parents move to San Francisco. Riley’s emotions try to guide her through this difficult life changing event utilising the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black and Bill Hader.

View the trailer:

 

July 24th also sees Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second summer offering “Maggie” arrive in cinemas, after witnessing his daughter become infected with a virus that transforms her into a zombie, small town farmer Wade (Schwarzenegger) will stop at nothing to save her. The film also stars Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson and Mattie Liptak.

See trailer:

 

Also opening this weekend is the eagerly awaited authentic boxing film “Southpaw” from director Antoine Fuqua starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Rita Ora and Naomie Harris. Gyllenhaal undergoes an amazing physical transformation to play boxer Billy ‘The Great’ Hope when his impressive career is destroyed by tragedy Billy must fight his way back to save himself and his daughter.

Be excited by the trailer:

 

Arriving 30th July is “Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation” which sees Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt up against The Syndicate an anti-IMF rogue force. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie this action sequel should provide those much needed essential summer thrills. Also in the cast are Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Ferguson.

Enjoy the ride:

 

On August 6th and a decade on from their first attempt to conquer the big screen Fox bring us Marvel’s first family “The Fantastic Four”. Director John Trank’s attempt looks to try something different as four young outsiders acquire amazing abilities following a trip to an alternate universe. While the trailer promises some amazing visuals it seems to lack the charm and fun that fans might expect from the Fantastic Four. The cast includes Michael B Jordan, Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Jamie Bell and Toby Kebbell.

View the trailer:

 

Opening August 7th is director Joel Edgerton’s mystery horror ‘The Gift’, following a young married couple whose lives are thrown into a tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past delivers a mysterious gift and a horrifying secret! The cast features Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton and Rebecca Hall.

View the trailer:

 

August 12th brings director Chris Columbus ‘Pixels’ to screens from a story by Adam Sandler. When aliens intercept video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as an act of war they attack Earth using the games as models. In order to defeat the aliens the President enlists the aid of former video game champ, Brenner (Sadler), to lead a team of players to save the planet. Starring Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan.

View the trailer:

 

August 14th sees talented British director Guy Ritchie’s big screen version of small screen classic “The Man From U.N.C.L.E in cinemas. Man of Steel’s Henry Cavill takes on the famous role of Napoleon Solo and actor Arnie Hammer plays Illya Kuryakin. A big screen U.N.C.L.E. movie has been in development for many years but no one has yet been able to deliver something that could satisfy the studio and fans alike. Ritchie has a good track record with his Sherlock movies so let’s hope he can deliver something that is true to the spirit of the original while being action packed and fun.

View the trailer:

 

August 27th sees ‘Straight Outta Compton hit theatres, a biographical drama directed by F. Gary Gray that revolves around the rise and fall of the Compton, California hip-hop group N.W.A. (N**gers With Attitude) In 1980s California, a group of young men form the hip-hop group N.W.A. and their journey sees them revolutionize music and pop culture with their brutally honest songs about life in the ‘hood’. The film stars Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Keith Stanfield and Alexandra Shipp.

Here you go:

 

Finally, August 28th sees another sequel “Hitman:Agent 47” arrive, originally based on the video game series, the first Hitman was a hit with fans. This time another genetically engineered assassin targets a mega-corporation that wants to use his genetic code to create an army of killers.

Directed by Aleksander Bach and starring British actor Rupert Friend (Starred Up), Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware and Ciaran Hinds.

View the trailer:

*All opening dates correct at time of writing.

Have a great cinematic summer!