STRAIGHT 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…)
Long before he directed the new biopic STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, F. Gary Gray was already linked to members of N.W.A. He’d directed the video for the Ice Cube classic “It Was a Good Day” (1992), and later the action-movie-inspired “Natural Born Killaz” by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube (from the soundtrack to MURDER WAS THE CASE). When Gray started in features it was with Cube, who wrote, produced and starred in FRIDAY. And he also did the video for Dre’s “Keep Their Heads Ringin” from that soundtrack.
So in ’97, when he did his first action movie, he cast Dre in a small role as Black Sam, an underworld figure who provides guns for the protagonists, an all female crew of bank robbers.
Hear me out on this, but I do not consider N.W.A to be super respectful of women. Their songs talked endlessly about the bitches and/or hoes. FRIDAY also did some of that, in arguably a more playful way. The men are all doofuses, but Nia Long and Regina King aren’t, so you can’t take it completely seriously. But there’s a whole lot of humor about the women they do or don’t want to get laid by, and one hilariously has as her theme song “Hoochie Mama” by 2 Live Crew. “Big booty hoes – up wit it!”
Though 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.)
The extreme teaching movie DANGEROUS MINDS is exactly as corny as I remembered it, but not entirely without merit. It’s directed by John M. Smith (THE BOYS OF ST. VINCENT) and written by Ronald Bass (RAIN MAN, THE JOY LUCK CLUB, HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK), but it seems like maybe a more significant detail is that it’s produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (their next-to-last credit together). As with most of their movies it looks real pretty, starting with an opening montage in grainy, high contrast black and white like a French New wave film. Look at these stills, they’re beautiful in my opinion:
Too bad they didn’t shoot the whole movie that way, that would’ve made it pretty different from STAND AND DELIVER and LEAN ON ME and shit. I bet it would’ve made about 1/28th as much money and been way better reviewed.
CB4 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…)
Looking back at these movies from the summer of 1995 is really interesting to me, but it doesn’t seem like a very good summer for movies. I mean, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was really good. That was at the very beginning.
Now all the sudden it’s August and this G-rated Australian talking animal movie comes out. There were signs that it might be interesting for that sort of thing: It had a nice storybook look to it, and a new idea of digitally animating mouth movements and expressions on animals instead of just feeding them peanut butter.
But you guys, BABE is more than just better than expected, and ended up being a phenomenon. Even though it’s seen as a kid’s movie, it’s one of such precise, economical storytelling, such unique vision and such sweet sincerity that it ended up with 7 well deserved Oscar noms (short for nominations): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (James Cromwell supporting a bunch of farm animals!), Best Art Direction, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects (which it won – take that, only other nominee APOLLO 13).
And that was not just Oscar silliness, or the world getting swept up in some crazy 1995 shit. I just watched it again and 20 years later BABE is still a perfect movie.
George Miller’s THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK is from a John Updike novel, adapted by Michael Cristofer (THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES). It’s a comedy about women in small towns, not the #1 topic I want in a George Miller movie. And yet it’s very much a George Miller movie. The town of Eastwick could be the New England sister-city to the location-less town in BABE. Looks old fashioned and storybook-like, people act nice and family-oriented, but many of them are uptight and judgmental of non-conformists. The title trio don’t intend to get involved in witchcraft, and when they do that’s not even what turns them into pariahs. It’s actually just them being accused of being hoes.
Our heroines are women left single in three different ways: Alex (Cher) is a widow, Jane (Susan Sarandon) just finalized her divorce, and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) was simply abandoned with her pack of daughters. They’re all kind of sad about their situations but they have each other, they hang out together and vent and have fun. When they’re real old I’m sure they’ll have cheesecake together and then open a hotel in Miami called The Golden Palace. (read the rest of this shit…)
There are many things I don’t understand about the sci-fi world and story of VIRTUOSITY. It opens with Parker Barnes (Denzel Washington) in a Captain Panaka cosplay outfit chasing a killer through the business district, where everybody is in a suit carrying a briefcase, like they’re in The Matrix. It does turn out to be a virtual reality simulation and Parker turns out to be a prisoner, though he was formerly a cop until he accidentally killed an innocent(ish) journalist while killing the guy who killed his family.
But what is the reason for this simulation? I guess it’s supposed to be for training? But then why are they training prisoners? I guess because it’s still in Beta testing. With its current calibration, getting killed in the virtual world can cause the player to go into convulsions and die in real life. (You hear that, Wachowskis? See if you can take that idea and do something better with it.) (read the rest of this shit…)
It’s been a joke for quite some time that Tom Cruise, like Prince or Keanu Reeves, never ages. Actually, now he’s starting to show some age, and I like it. He has a few more lines on his face, a little more character. Good work, Tom. Also his new MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie is good.
It has been a tradition in the series to have a respectable actor in a position of authority over Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force team. In part 1, Jon Voight played the boss and mentor. In part 2, Anthony Hopkins sent Hunt on his missions. In part 3 there was Laurence Fishburne to question his actions, and in part ghost Tom Wilkinson was “the Secretary.” Now in part 5, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (M:I-RN), we have the most involved of all of these characters, Alec Baldwin as CIA director Alan Hunley. He gets the entire IMF agency disbanded and tries to capture or kill Hunt, who is still in the field trying to finish his last mission.
What I’m getting at is that Alec Baldwin’s famous narrator voice gets to deliver a very good Just How Badass Is He? speech for Ethan Hunt, which includes the appropriately hyperbolic phrase “he is the manifestation of destiny.” That’s one of the many advantages of having Christopher McQuarrie aboard as director and co-writer. The man made JACK REACHER. He loves a good Just How Badass Is He? speech. (read the rest of this shit…)
I was shocked and saddened today to stumble across the news that wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had died. I didn’t see this one coming. I thought he was gonna be one of the ones that gets to grow old.
I know some of you are serious wrestling fans to this day. That’s not me. But I’m one of the millions who was obsessed with WWF wrestling in the 1980s. It was a time when pro wrestling stopped being seen as a lowbrow fringe activity and was allowed to intersect with all parts of culture. Andy Warhol went to a Wrestlemania. Cindy Lauper and Alice Cooper became wrestling managers. A more experienced manager, Captain Lou Albano, played Lauper’s father in a video. Wrestlers released terrible albums, which I bought on vinyl. On Saturday mornings there was a cartoon called Hulk Hogan’s Rock-n-Wrestling, and every fourth Saturday Night NBC showed wrestling in place of SNL. When one of these Saturday Night’s Main Events took place in Seattle I was there. I was thrilled to see Andre the Giant in person (although he didn’t wrestle) and Brian Bosworth in the crowd. I was [undisclosed] years old and witnessing these larger than life individuals – cartoons of good, evil and awesome sculpted out of muscle and fat and encased in colorful spandex – was like catching a glimpse of the Greek gods. (read the rest of this shit…)