Tag Archives: NWA

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

Straight Outta Compton Media Compilation – Hits UK Screens 28th Aug 2015

Written by Marlon Palmer
12.08.15

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The buzz is growing and everyone is highly anticipating the soon to be released N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton.

Will it be real to life, tell the story in a truthful and as it happened fashion or will it be the usual Hollywood glossy affair that belies the real full facts and only covers a small fraction of the full story of many a black icon?
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So far the reviews are good and the film does have Ice Cube and Dre Dre themselves as producers of the film. The film also has a first rate director on board F. Gary Gray who knows how to make gritty, hard-hitting urban films from a mainstream perspective and then you also have power-producers like Will Packer who is the man of the moment when it comes to creating black films that sell at the box-office.

All bodes well for the film!

We thought we would give you a little flava of the film and let you make up your own mind.
So here is the raw red-band trailer, a featurette, media clips with producer and orginal NWA member Ice Cube and cast talking about the production of Straight Outta Compton.

Enjoy!

StraightOuttaCompton_Poster

In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war.

Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, Straight Outta Compton is directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off, The Italian Job). The drama is produced by original N.W.A. members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who are joined by fellow producers Matt Alvarez and Tomica Woods-Wright. Will Packer serves as executive producer of the film alongside Gray.

Produced by N.W.A members, Ice Cube and Dr.Dre.

 Straight Outta Compton will release in cinemas 28th August.

 

Straight Outta Compton – Red Band Trailer with Introduction from Dr. Dre and Ice Cube
(*Please be aware of scenes of a sexual nature and profanity)

 

Straight Outta Compton – ‘A Look Inside’ featurette:

 

Ice Cube Talks NWA on the Jimmy Kimmel Show

 

Ice Cube & Straight Outta Compton Cast Talk Film, Police Brutality and Favourite NWA songs

 

Straight Outta Compton Facebook: www.facebook.com/StraightOuttaComptonUK

IN UK CINEMAS 28th AUG 2015

Forthcoming Musical Biopics

written by Lee Pinkerton
25/07/14

If you like biographical films about your musical heroes as much as we do here at KushFilmsOnLine, then you’re in for a treat over the next few months. There is not one, or two, but three lined up for release before the end of the year, and three more in production which should hopefully find their way to us next year.

First to get a UK release is a documentary on the controversial inventor of Afro-beat –  Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

finding_fela_poster_art_pFinding Fela 
There have been literally dozens of documentaries on Jamaica’s reggae ambassador, but virtually nothing on his Nigerian equivalent –Fela Kuti the creator of Afro-beat. A film on this great man’s life is long overdue, especially since the young musical offspring of his creation has enjoyed such success of late.
Whilst drumming up support for his new Broadway musical, FELA! producer Stephen Hendel described Nigerian Afrobeat exponent Kuti as “without question one of the great composers and musicians and activists of the second half of the 20th century.”
Alex Gibney’s Finding Fela  is described as “A soulful ‘Felabration’ of the magnetic Kuti, with archive footage of the snake-hipped lothario interspersed with  live recording of the hugely successful FELA!, the first Broadway show to ever make the journey from New York to the bustling Nigerian capital city of Lagos.”
Gibney’s Finding Fela serves as a long overdue reassessment of a hugely influential artist who – until relatively recently – had been criminally overlooked by those outside of his home nation. The filmmakers have tried to provide as rounded and comprehensive a portrait of the Afrobeat pioneer as was possible given the relatively sparse archive footage available. Gibney flits between Hendel’s simplified stage production and Kuti’s real-life political persona: a man who taught his country that music could be their weapon against oppression.

Finding Fela enjoys a UK release on September 5th.  Look out for it

 

Get On Up get_on_up_large poster
Another musical pioneer who career has been strangely neglected on-screen, given his great musical influence and his iconic status is the ‘Hardest Working man in Showbusiness’, James Brown.  That is set to change with the release this year of Get On Up.  It chronicles the Godfather of Soul’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.
Chadwick Boseman stars in the title role, and Boseman has form when it comes to bio-pics, having previously played Jackie Robinson in movie 42, (which told the story of the first Black man in to play baseball in America major leagues). It also stars Oscar winner Viola Davis as Susie Brown, Octavia Spencer (who we recently saw in the powerful true story  Fruitvale Station), songstress Jill Scott as DeeDee Brown, and our very own Lennie James as Joe Brown.
If this movie is true to his life story then it should provide a bumpy ride, because as well as creating Funk, dining with Presidents, and (at his peak) owning private jets, a radio station and a record label, Brown’s life was peppered with accusations of wife-beating, drug abuse and imprisonment.

Not long now till we find out, as Get On Up is released in the UK on September 26th

Jimi: All Is By My SideAll-is-by-my-side-movie-poster-295x441
This film stars rapper-turned-actor Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000 from rap group Outkast) in the title role of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix in this revealing biopic from Academy Award-winning writer-director John Ridley.
Covering a year in Hendrix’s life from 1966-67 as an unknown backup guitarist playing New York’s Cheetah Club to making his mark in London’s music scene up until his Monterey Pop triumph, the film presents an intimate portrait of the sensitive young musician on the verge of becoming a rock legend.
Benjamin’s previous acting credits include Be Cool, (the disappointing sequel to Get Shorty), and Four Brothers alongside Mark Walberg and Tyrese.  All Is By My Side  is also noteable as it was written and directed by John Ridley who wrote the screenplays for the films Undercover Brother (2002) and Cold Around the Heart (1997) and the story for Three Kings (1999). Ridley is also the author of seven published novels, his first, Stray Dogs, was made into the feature film U Turn (1997) directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, and Nick Nolte. Most recently he was also responsible for the screenplay for the Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave.
All is By My Side is slated for release in the UK on October 10th

That takes us up until the end of the year.  The next three movies have yet to have release dates and two are mired in controversy.

 

Nina!

Revealed - Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Revealed – Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Nina! is the story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. It is described as ‘a  rare and poignant love story about a tormented genius who eventually finds love and peace’.
In development for at least 5 years, Mary J. Blige was initially attached to star in the film, but she was eventually replaced by Zoe Saldana who brought more international box office gravitas to the production.
But fans weren’t too pleased at news of Saldana’s casting. While her acting may not be an issue, fans and critics say she doesn’t look the part noting her thin frame and fair skin. 
The one constant actor throughout the ordeal is our own David Oyelowo, who plays Simone’s Paris-based manager Clifton HendersonMike Epps plays Richard Pryor in the film.
During a recent interview Saldana discussed the role and took the time to respond to her critics.
” I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me, but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do.
Just like everybody else, I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone — I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully, people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing icon.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Saldana’s role isn’t the only thing causing a stir with the film.  Cynthia Mort, the director of the film, filed a lawsuit against the film’s producer claiming she was left out of certain key decisions.  Mort says as a result, she is not pleased with the direction of the film.  She is seeking monetary damages as well as “a declaration that the defendants can’t make decisions without her meaningful approval and consultation.”
No word yet on when the film will be released.

 

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

Unveiled by Dr. Dre, Ice Cube & director F. Gary Gray  - three of the cast members of NWA bio-pic

Unveiled by Dr. Dre & Ice Cube – three of the cast members of NWA bio-pic

Any true fan of hip-hop knows the importance of the group NWA.  With their 1988 debut album they put the West Coast of the US on the hip-hop map, and helped define the sub-genre of Gangsta Rap. Last month, Universal announced that Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about the gangsta rap pioneers, will finally get a release date after years in development. Is also worth noting that some 25 years later, two of the groups original members are still major players in the film and music industry.  The men in question, Ice Cube and Dr Dre, who are also producers of the film, tweeted out a photo of the cast.

Since director F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off, The Italian Job) held an open casting call for the film last April, the roles of Ice Cube, Dr Dre and Eazy-E have been cast, mostly with up and coming actors.  Ice Cube’s son, is slated to play his dad, who left the group in 1989 and went on to have an impressive solo career. Relative unknown Jason Mitchell will play role of Eazy-E. Corey Hawkins, who had a bit part in Iron Man 3, will play rapper-turned-headphone-impresario Dr Dre. (The roles of MC Ren and DJ Yella have not yet been cast.)
But this month, the casting of female roles caused major controversy.  A casting call for the movie was posted on the Facebook page of the Sande Alessi Casting company requesting the “hottest of the hottest” girls with “great bodies,” to the “fine” girls who “should be light-skinned,” right down to the girls who are “not in good shape” with “medium to dark skin tone,”
Understandably this request was met with accusations of  colorism and sexism.  Hopefully the production team can put this right, and get filming back on track in time for its scheduled release next year.

 

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

Miles Ahead
And last but by no means least, filming has just started on a picture that will tell the story of jazz legend Miles Davis. Miles Ahead doesn’t attempt to tell his whole life story, but instead will focus on the time when Davis was ending his 5-year “quiet period” out of the public eye. Most of the movie is set in 1979 New York, when Davis recruits reporter Dave Brill (played by Ewan McGregor) to retrieve a recording stolen from the musician’s home.  It will also feature flashbacks to Davis’s affair with former wife Frances Taylor from 1956 to 1966.

It is a very personal project for Don Cheadle who directs and stars in the title role, and co-wrote the script. It is Cheadle’s directorial debut.  Shooting has just started in Cincinnati, and was years in development due to difficulty raising the finance. Cheadle eventually turned to crowd funding, raising over $343,000 with a campaign on Indiegogo.

No idea when this will get a release, but in the meantime let’s look forward to the release Finding Fela in September.

Lee Pinkerton