Archives for posts with tag: paul giamatti

Omar: Unrated out of 5

Well, well, well…the time has finally come for me to review Straight Outta Compton (2015), directed by F. Gary Gray but lets be honest, this movie is the brainchild of Dr. Dre aka Andre Romelle Young. Man, I gotta admit, this is a difficult review to write for many reasons. The main reason why this review is tough is that it’s just too hard to separate my love of N.W.A., Eazy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre’s music (not to mention all the people Dre has heavily influenced like Tupac, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, etc.) from what was depicted on the big screen. My love of hip-hop and rap would have me say, “10 out of 10 stars! This is a hip-hop movie done PERFECTLY!” but I can’t say that because to do so would be hypocritical. There are simply too many important thing left out of this movie and to further ignore them in writing this review would be an injustice. But we’ll get into that in a minute.

Before getting into all the heavy criticism, I’ll start with the positives because there are plenty of positives to be discussed. I stand by my early statements that this is the best hip-hop/rap movie I’ve ever seen. For starters, the casting and acting were phenomenal. I’ll be honest, I don’t know too much about MC Ren or Yella so I can’t speak to how faithfully Aldris Hodge and Neil Brown Jr. were in their portrayals but to the untrained eye they did a good job. Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., was about a perfect as a casting call gets, for obvious reasons. He channeled his father’s aura well. Jason Mitchell was DOPE as Eazy E! I was a bit doubtful when Eazy first appeared on screen but the guy has some acting skills. That piece of acting at the end of the film hit me on a deep emotional level. Corey Hawkins did a good job of channeling Dre to the extent that the script and plot allowed him too. I can’t say his portrayal was accurate to what Dre was like in real life but that’s not his fault. Paul Giamatti was great as always in the role of the white, corporate, scumbag, exploiter. Also shout-out to all the side characters! I don’t feel like googling their names but the guy who played Tupac looked uncannily similar, I really thought they just got hologram Tupac to star in the film. The guy who played Suge Knight was perfect and the guy who played Snoop Dogg may not have looked entirely accurate but his voice and flow were very well done.

The atmosphere of this film was awesome in that it did a good job of showing the harsh environment that was the necessary incubator in creating a group as revolutionary and in-your-face as N.W.A. Some specific examples to this are the numerous instances of police brutality, the L.A. race riots, and the heavy gang presence. They showed the social reality of the time that was essential to N.W.A.’s message. I read that before 2005’s awesome Hustle & Flowhip-hop/rap movies too often focused on glorifying the hood and the hood lifestyle instead of showing the desperate reality of the situation. This is one of those movies that shows the harsh nature that comes with living in the ghetto and the desire to find a way out by any means necessary (school, music, drug-dealing, etc). This movie also shows just how violently mainstream America reacted to N.W.A., a group that did nothing but speak the truth about their lives.

Another thing I liked about the movie was how they incorporated all the iconic music, labels, and figures that comes with making a film about west-coast hip-hop at the time. I loved seeing how bits of different iconic songs are pieced together or teased as the film progresses. Seeing Death Row Records or Tupac and Snoop Dogg in the studio are just example of things that today have huge status but at the time were just everyday occurrences. That was all really cool to see. I also HAVE to make a statement about all the RAIDERSSSS gear. Being a diehard Raiders fan, it was awesome seeing all the Raider influence.

This movie was a long film but it was impressive how it didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it is (2 hours and 30 minutes). Maybe this was because I love the subject matter so much but I really feel like the movie was just paced well. Every time it looked there was going to be a lull, something significant would happen.

I could honestly go on for much longer about what this film does right because it is undeniable that this film is well made and tells a hell of a story. For the purpose of this review I’ll leave the praise there and move on to the critical portion of this review.

If you didn’t already know, Dr. Dre is a bit of a temperamental ass in real life and that’s putting it mildly. Ice Cube and Eazy E were no saints as well. By no means am I judging them because I don’t have that authority or desire. Society can’t give people failing schools, failing institutions, failing social services, and deny them access to opportunities and expect them to grow up to be upstanding law-abiding citizens. This sort of reminds me of how middle-class and upper-class (predominantly white) pundits, citizens, and the media have no restraint when it comes to chastising people like Dez Bryant or Josh Gordon for things they say or do without acknowledging that they come from an entirely different world. (Btw I highly recommend this recent Rolling Stones interview with Dez Bryant: http://rol.st/1KeotM37). Also it’s a bit hypocritical to bump someone’s music, a product and reflection of their lifestyles, and then call them bad people for genuinely being what they say they are, what entertains us when it’s music but repulses us when it’s real.

That being said, what I have a problem with is erasing history. Specifically what I’m talking about in this instance is violence against women. This movie does an amazing job of talking about the horrifying state of race relations in this country but it says nothing about violence against women. In fact, this movie does worse than ignore the subject, it avoids and erases it entirely. Dr. Dre and Eazy E have a history of abusing women to brutal levels and the film says nothing. Until very recently (conveniently coinciding with the release of this film), Dre didn’t even apologize for his past. Dr. Dre is a figure who has largely remained immune from criticism for his repeated history of abusing women because he is such an influential character and that is an injustice.

Originally I was just going to give this movie a very high grade and dock it a few points for failing to acknowledge some important issues but that didn’t sit well with me. To have done that would be to continue to trivialize a very real and very pressing issue harming our society and ruining countless lives. The point of N.W.A. is that they are flawed individuals with awful circumstances who said, “So what?” and threw everything back in your face, to erase history goes entirely against this. I can accept and respect flawed individuals portrayed honestly SIGNIFICANTLY more than I can appreciate fabricated squeaky-clean images. That’s unfortunate in this instance because this really is an amazing story that was told powerfully well if we choose to ignore it’s few troublesome flaws.

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Liz: 4 out of 5 stars …… but also 1 out of 5 stars

Hello hello, I was supposed to write reviews for What We Do In the Shadows and Annie Hall all before this movie, but I have a lot to say for this one so I want to write my review for Straight Outta Compton (2015) first. Directed by F. Gary Gray (who also directed Friday, The Italian Job, and Law- Abiding Citizen — all great movies, go watch all three RIGHT NOW if you haven’t haha), this movie is a biographical drama starring O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (who looks EXACTLY like his father, whom he portrays in this movie… aww so cute), Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, and others.

Quick Liz summary: This film is about the growth/development of the hip-hop group from Compton, California, N.W.A, its individual members, and their relationships with each other.

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**quick trigger warning for domestic abuse/ violence against women*

So I decided to give Straight Outta Compton two separate star reviews because on one hand, I really enjoyed the movie, but on the other hand, I’m very critical of it for several reasons. I’m super indecisive too and I can’t possibly combine all the different feelings I had and arrive at an appropriate star rating. I’ll begin with my decision to give it 1 out of 5 stars.

Prior to this film’s release, I had seen a couple articles going around about the controversy surrounding the casting call for female extras for this film. See here for the actual wording of the casting call. To summarize for you, the agency used an A to D group scale and each individual group had different expectations for appearance for the women. The “A” girls should be “the hottest of the hot… great bodies.. very classy looking.” The “B” girls — “These are fine girls… small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned…” For “C” girls, they specifically say that these should be African American girls, whereas for “A” girls, they say that they could be black, white, asian, hispanic, etc. And finally “D” girls: again African American girls, “poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin type.” YIKES. Seeing this horrified me for sooooo many reasons. It’s so clearly colorist and racist and sexist, amongst other things, and just another example of how Hollywood continues to enforce certain looks and stereotypes, particularly for those of female bodies. To go off that, in the movie, the women seemed to just be there for the male gaze, usually half to fully naked throughout. And seeing them just reminds me of the casting call above.

My biggest problem with this movie. It’s a biographical drama and goes into the background history of the group, N.W.A., but also goes into each of the members’ individual lives– particularly Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube. Let me say that I’m not very knowledgable about any of these men; I never listened to N.W.A. or any other rap that much growing up (though knowing Omar has definitely turned that around in the last 6 years or so). Omar is super up to date on all of that though so definitely check out his review when that comes out. He’s told me a lot about them musically, but what I’m interested in the most is personal lives, and wow lol Straight Outta Compton conveniently left out Dr. Dre’s history of violence against women, as well as Eazy-E. I won’t go too much further into that here, but I’m critical of the movie for leaving this out and though Dr. Dre is undoubtedly a musical genius, it hurts to know that he, along with other celebrities, can get away with a history like that.


ALRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT, so now that I’m done with being very critical of the movie, I’m ready to talk about why I also gave this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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First of all- acting. It was an all-around phenomenal cast, but the shining star for me was Jason Mitchell, who plays Eazy-E. Throughout the movie, I felt that his performance was the most natural; he really fit into the role so well and played it perfectly for me. I’m sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone lol, but Eazy-E passed away on March 26, 1995 from complications from AIDS. (I’m gonna insert here that unprotected sex is dangerous!!!! Make sure y’all get tested and use appropriate protection and all that. Be safe!) Mitchell’s performance at the end of the movie as he portrayed Eazy-E at the end of his life was absolutely heart-breaking for me- I cried multiple times. I really think he deserves awards attention for this, because it blew me away. Apart from that, he was just able to show anger, kindness, love, and so many other human emotions all at once and it was great. What’s more impressive is that he hasn’t been in too many other movies/ roles before, so I’d love to see him in more projects in the future. None of the other performances hit me on such a high level like Mitchell, but I do want to say that no one else could have played Ice Cube other than his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. They look so eerily alike, and Jackson Jr, just had all his mannerisms down perfectly as well. It’s also not just that they look alike but his son really acted great in general.

There were also several hilarious moments, particularly when Eazy-E is rapping for the first time and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube can’t handle how.. not great it was. There’s also another scene where Ice Cube pushes a (topless) girl named Felicia out into the hallway and locks her out, saying “Bye, Felicia.” That was pretty funny at the moment, but I’ll pause here to be critical once again, because this scene was making fun out of a woman’s humiliation and that’s not funny at all.

I don’t have much to say for cinematography here because I wasn’t paying attention to that too much but I do want to mention that the scene where N.W.A. is performing in Detroit had great camerawork of the group on stage.

Finally, as I mentioned above, I’m not very knowledgeable on the history of rap, prominent groups, etc. Despite my problems with how the movie left out some huge biographical information, I thought that it did a good job of tying together the lives of Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre in that it all seemed to flow together easily. The movie did a great job of showing how music/ rap contributes in huge ways to the raising of social awareness, particularly on police brutality, discrimination against black people, and life in Compton for them.