"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Straight Outta Compton

Monday, August 17th, 2015

tn_socSTRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a movie that will smother your mother and make your sister think it loves her. Or at least it will give them more of an idea of what N.W.A was all about. Unless they already know alot about N.W.A, which come to think of it I do expect of your mother and your sister. They’re pretty cool.

I’ve been thrilled about the idea of an N.W.A biopic for years. So far The Notorious B.I.G. is the only rapper to get one of these (the better-than-I-expected NOTORIOUS), though I remember when Steve James of HOOP DREAMS fame was supposed to be doing one on Grandmaster Flash starring Don Cheadle. A story from that era could be epic. And I would like to see an O.D.B. movie and possibly Public Enemy would work, but I don’t know if there’s much of an ending on that. N.W.A, to me, seems like the best choice for this treatment.

And their movie is pretty much what you’d expect. It captures some of the vitality and power of N.W.A and also has most of the weaknesses of biopics. I can’t honestly claim it all works as a movie, but it celebrates N.W.A without being totally embarrassing about it, so I couldn’t help but enjoy watching it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Battle of the N.W.A Parodies, part 2: Fear of a Black Hat

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

tn_fearofablackhatThough both were filmed in 1992, FEAR OF A BLACK HAT came out a year after CB4. It had a harder mountain to climb because it was a more independent movie without major movie or TV stars, big names on the soundtrack or celebrity cameos. The most recognizable actor in it is Larry B. Scott from REVENGE OF THE NERDS and SNAKE EATER II: THE DRUG BUSTER.

It’s the directorial debut of Rusty Cundieff, who also wrote it and stars. He’d previously written HOUSE PARTY 2, and we know him as an actor in 3:15, HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE and SCHOOL DAZE. He went on to direct TALES FROM THE HOOD and alot of TV, including 25 episodes of Chappelle’s Show and one of that Clueless show we discussed a few weeks ago. I remember he was also a correspondent on Michael Moore’s show TV Nation, and I have just learned that his one credit as a TV writer is one 2009 episode of CSI: NY. That’s weird.

Ice Cold (Cundieff), Tone Def (Mark Christopher Lawrence, CRIMSON TIDE, HALLOWEEN REMAKE II) and Tasty Taste (Scott) are the popular gangsta rap trio N.W.H. The “H” stands for “Hats,” because their trademark is wearing big silly hats. Unlike CB4, this one is fully documentary style, so throughout the movie they get to talk to the camera explaining their work, sometimes cutting to clips of videos and performances, or following them backstage, etc. The director and interviewer is Nina Blackburn (Kasi Lemmons, VAMPIRE’S KISS), who puts up with alot from them but is smarter than them, like the Source writer in CB4.

(And before we go on, you’re right, this is not as N.W.A-specific as CB4. Obviously they get the name from them, and they have a song called “Fuck the Security Guards.” But really they’re a mish-mash of every notable rap group of the time, from Ice-T to fuckin PM Dawn.)

(read the rest of this shit…)

Battle of the N.W.A Parodies, part 1: CB4

Monday, August 10th, 2015

tn_cb4CB4 is the comedic story of a fictional West Coast gangsta rap trio out of not-real Locash, CA. They exist in the same world as N.W.A (Ice Cube and Eazy E both appear as themselves in documentary style interview segments) but also they’re kind of supposed to be N.W.A. They dress like them, they have a similar “world’s most dangerous group” image, their videos are shot-for-shot imitations of N.W.A videos, and their hit song “Straight Outta Locash” is done over the music from “Straight Outta Compton,” but nobody accuses them of being a rip-off. Their song is not as good, in my opinion. They copy Cube’s line “Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube” not just once, but before each verse. Watering it down.

One of the more brazen boasts is “I fucked your sister, I fucked your cat / I would’ve fucked your mom but the bitch is too fat,” which is absurd enough, sure, but it’s not as deviously clever as Eazy’s actual line, “Straight outta Compton / is a brother that’ll smother your mother / and make your sister think I love her.”

One difference from N.W.A: they don’t have an exploitative white manager from outside the world of hip hop. They have Trustus (Willard E. Pugh, THE COLOR PURPLE, ROBOCOP 2).

Another one: these guys aren’t exaggerated characters based on their real lifestyles. They’re straight up phonies dressing up like gangstas as a gimmick after their corny Native Tongues copycat act didn’t catch on. And they, uh, pretend they were in prison, which they weren’t , and that gets them into some awkward situations. Hmm. (read the rest of this shit…)

Get On Up

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

tn_getonupFor several years Spike Lee talked about doing a James Brown biopic starring Wesley Snipes. This was fairly recently, like while Wesley was locked up. Man, I couldn’t quite picture what that would be like, and I really wanted to find out. But I figured even if Wesley could pull off the role I wasn’t sure a movie about James Brown could ever work. Would a movie really be able to show his incredible genius without toning down what a horrible person he was?

When I heard somebody besides Lee was doing the James Brown biopic, and that it was the guy that did the fucking HELP, I was not happy. And who do they have playing The Godfather? Chadwick Boseman, same guy who already played Jackie Robinson in that other movie that that other white director did before Spike Lee could. I bet this Boseman guy has nightmares about getting stomped by Air Jordans.

And the trailers didn’t help. With quick clips of Boseman in a wig lip synching James Brown, you couldn’t really tell if he looked that much like him, same with the dialogue. And there was a version with interviews of rappers and Mick Jagger and stuff talking about how important James Brown is. What the fuck is this approach? Who is this demographic of fucking weirdos who have no idea who James Brown is but will see a movie about him if Mick Jagger recommends it? What, did they already see a video of Taylor Swift or Macklemore or somebody explaining how important Mick Jagger is? (read the rest of this shit…)

Jersey Boys

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

tn_jerseyboys“Frankie’s okay. He’s no Neil Sedaka.”

Here it is again, the ol’ New Movie Directed By Clint Eastwood But Without Him Acting In It rigmarole. It goes like this: New Clint movie comes out. It doesn’t seem like my kind of thing. It gets bad reviews (at least if it came out in recent years). I genuinely intend to see it in theaters, but I keep putting it off. There’s always something I’m more excited for that’s playing. Like, uh, I believe I might’ve seen some robot/dinosaur related picture around the time JERSEY BOYS came out. So I end up missing the movie in theaters. Months later it comes out on video. I’m not excited. I feel like I’m doing my homework. I watch it.

And then the Hey, this is pretty good!

I wouldn’t say this surprised me as much as J. EDGAR (which I still believe is totally underrated, and got 10% worse reviews even than JERSEY BOYS, according to Rotten Tomatoes) but I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. It’s a solid, entertaining biopic of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons based on a Broadway show of some kind. Vincent Piazza of Boardwalk Empire plays guitarist Tommy DeVito and then the guys from the stage version play the other three: John Lloyd Young as lead singer Frankie Valli, Erich Bergen as songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio and Michael Lomenda as bassist Nick Massi.

I thought it was gonna be a musical, but thankfully it’s not. It’s just a story about musical performers doing musical performances, recorded by the actors. I don’t know about the show, but the movie version only has one actual musical number and it’s during the end credits. In my opinion it is more of a blooper reel than an official part of the movie, because why would they be dancing around on a soundstage street singing songs, I mean it just doesn’t make sense.

The rest of the time it’s them singing “Sherry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” and stuff, and these are good songs. So it’s not a problem. (read the rest of this shit…)


Monday, November 17th, 2014

tn_whiplashWHIPLASH is one of those movies that you hear about playing at Sundance and what not and going over like gangbusters. But you have to take that praise with a grain of salt. You know those festival-goers, they can get excited about seeing something first, something brand new without a bunch of pre-release expectations, with a big audience, usually with the directors and actors there. Sometimes it’s a great movie and they get to call it first, other times nobody really cares as much when the movie comes to the civilian world. Sometimes it’s good but you feel a little let down from all the build up. Sometimes you don’t really know what anybody saw in it at all.

I had none of those problems with WHIPLASH. It would actually be hard to exaggerate how strong its effect was on me. You know how a hyperbolic critic would say they had to catch their breath after a movie? That was literally true for me. When the credits rolled I felt my skin tingling and then I realized I was breathing fast. Honest to God exhilaration from this movie.

The set up and the execution are very simple. Nerdy loner Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller, who I have liked since the remake of FOOTLOOSE) is a student drummer at an elite music conservatory in New York. He idolizes old timey jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and wants to get into the top band at the school, the one conducted by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, THE JACKAL). Fletcher is maybe some kind of genius teacher, but for sure a total fucking asshole. I’m not talking a strict teacher, a grouchy curmudgeon, a Joe Clark type guy that’s gonna turn out to have a heart of gold. I’m talking just… you want to punch this fucking guy in the face in the opening scene and I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna love him by the end. One of the most abusive, hateful non-murderers ever put on screen, and not in an endearing Billy Bob Thornton type of way. He doesn’t even give you the usual cinematic satisfaction of going too far and becoming a psycho in the criminal sense. It doesn’t turn into THE STEPFATHER or something. He’s just… a Total Fucking Asshole (TFA). (read the rest of this shit…)

For the Love of Dolly (and my trip to Dollywood)

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

tn_dollyNOTE: It’s October now, and you know what that means: Slasher Search and horror review avalanche. I have saved some action reviews to include for variety and will do some new releases but otherwise I’ll be on a strict slashers and monsters diet for the next 31 days. But before we kick that off I really need to polish off an unfinished project from months ago. Way back in May I visited the state of Tennessee, I had a great time, wanted to write a little about it, and found an excuse, starting with this documentary about Dolly Parton fans.

* * *

I used to think I hated country music. I mean, I watched the Mandrell Sisters Show and some Kenny Rogers movies in the ’80s, that’s about it. To me, Dolly Parton was just the lady from BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS and 9 TO 5 and stuff. It wasn’t until way after the fact that I noticed what a saint that lady was. Remember she did a song for TRANS AMERICA? She just seems so relentlessly positive and non-judgmental. Also, some of that stuff she sang when she was real young – “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors” – I realize now that I like some of that stuff.

(although come on Dolly, you gotta put the responsiblity for this one on your man, not on Jolene.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Batdance – celebrating 25 years of bustin

Monday, June 9th, 2014

tn_batdanceToday is June 9th, 2014 and I’m sure you know what that means: it’s the 25th anniversary of Prince’s “Batdance.” I don’t want to take away from your time celebrating with your families, and I’m sure the president will be making a speech and I don’t want to overlap too much with whatever he says, but I’d like to add a few thoughts real quick.

It’s the single that was released on this day in 1989, but I’m a movie reviewer, not an architecture dancer, so we’re gonna talk about the crazy ass music video. Do you remember it? A fuzzy TV signal flashes on a bat-symbol shaped screen. Now, you gotta understand, this was a time of feverish Batmania. America was enraptured by the upcoming Batman movie, which was advertised mainly with that symbol and no text other than “June 23.” Batman products of both official and illicit varieties were huge sellers. They would put a bat symbol on anything (and sometimes eyes on a bat symbol, if it was a bootleg t-shirt.) I remember they not only had Converse with bat symbols on them, they also had a phone that was shaped like Converse with bat symbols on them. So it is no surprise that Prince would own a TV screen shaped like a bat symbol. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a library of movies specifically composed for that aspect ratio. (read the rest of this shit…)


Friday, April 26th, 2013

tn_reincarnated“Snoop gets Lionized”  –headline I predict Rolling Stone or somebody will use for their review

Like anybody, when I heard that one of my all time favorite but past his album recording prime rappers Snoop Dogg was changing his name to Snoop Lion and doing a reggae record, I shook my head and laughed. Ah, what will he think of next? But I saw the trailer for this Vice-produced documentary about Snoop going to Jamaica to record the album and suddenly I had to take the whole idea more seriously. The movie looked good enough that I would’ve gone to see it in a theater if it had played here. Instead here it is on DVD in time to promote the album of the same name, which came out Tuesday.

BTISLAnd holy shit you guys, this is a great documentary. I watched it last weekend and it overshadowed all the other things I’ve been watching lately, most of which I liked. I loved it so much I decided to invent this new medal just to make sure you guys will know I’m not fuckin around. This is an acclaimed documentary now, otherwise it wouldn’t have won a prestigious medal like this. If you love Snoop Dogg, or are even open to the idea of Snoop Dogg, you gotta see this. Regardless of how anybody feels about the album this is a great document of a man trying to find himself, of a historic bridging of musical cultures and generations, of the process of songwriting, of an awesome trip to Jamaica.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Murder Was the Case: The Movie

Friday, September 28th, 2012

When I did my NATURAL BORN KILLERS retrospective a little while back there was one last piece I meant to write, which was about this short film directed by Dr. Dre. I could swear I read a long time ago that Oliver Stone wanted to play the short before NBK but the studio wouldn’t let him. I don’t know, I might’ve imagined it, because it’s not mentioned in the Killer Instinct book and all I can find on Google is references to Stone giving the short “props.”

MURDER WAS THE CASE comes form a song on Snoop’s first album Doggystyle, but it also spawned a hit soundtrack, and it’s on a DVD padded with other videos and various interview and performance clips, all poorly non-anamorphically transferred, but that seems to fit the material.
(read the rest of this shit…)